Glorious Body of Tracked ‘Mad Mech’ Started as Cardboard

[Dickel] always liked tracked vehicles. Taking inspiration from the ‘Peacemaker’ tracked vehicle in Mad Max: Fury Road, he replicated it as the Mad Mech. The vehicle is remote-controlled and the tank treads are partly from a VEX robotics tank tread kit. Control is via a DIY wireless controller using an Arduino and NRF24L01 modules. The vehicle itself uses an Arduino UNO with an L298N motor driver. Power is from three Li-Po cells.

The real artistic work is in the body. [Dickel] used a papercraft tool called Pepakura (non-free software, but this Blender plugin is an alternative free approach) for the design to make the body out of thin cardboard. The cardboard design was then modified to make it match the body of the Peacemaker as much as possible. It was coated in fiberglass for strength, then the rest of the work was done with body filler and sanding for a smooth finish. After a few more details and a good paint job, it was ready to roll.

There’s a lot of great effort that went into this build, and [Dickel] shows his work and process on his project page and in the videos embedded below. The first video shows the finished Mad Mech being taken for some test drives. The second is a montage showing key parts of the build process.

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Secret Book Light Switch

You enter a study and see a lightbulb hanging on the bookshelf. You try all the switches in the room — nothing is turning it on. Remembering you’re in [lonesoulsurfer]’s home, you realize that you’re going to have to start yanking on every book in sight.

While often associated with the likes of Bat-caves and other complicated hidden passageways, turning a shelved book into a secret switch isn’t complex in its own right. [lonesoulsurfer] is basing their build on one by B.Light Design revolving around a fan switch, some aluminium strips, a block terminal, fishing line, a hinge, and — of course — a book with a dust jacket and something to trigger.

Bend the aluminium into an angle bracket and drill a hole to attach the fan switch — ensuring the whole is small enough to fit behind and not distinguish the book you’re using. Cutting the hinge to the size of the book and screwing a strip of aluminium to it, both this lever and the fan switch’s bracket are then mounted on the shelf. Once a length of fishing twine is tethered to the lever and fitted through the book’s pages to the fan switch — ensuring the line is taut — sliding the dust jacket back onto the book completes the disguised switch!

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3D Printering: Print Smoothing Tests with UV Resin

Smoothing the layer lines out of filament-based 3D prints is a common desire, and there are various methods for doing it. Besides good old sanding, another method is to apply a liquid coating of some kind that fills in irregularities and creates a smooth surface. There’s even a product specifically for this purpose: XTC-3D by Smooth-on. However, I happened to have access to the syrup-thick UV resin from an SLA printer and it occurred to me to see whether I could smooth a 3D print by brushing the resin on, then curing it. I didn’t see any reason it shouldn’t work, and it might even bring its own advantages. Filament printers and resin-based printers don’t normally have anything to do with one another, but since I had access to both I decided to cross the streams a little.

The UV-curable resin I tested is Clear Standard resin from a Formlabs printer. Other UV resins should work similarly from what I understand, but I haven’t tested them.

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Look Out Nest — Here Comes the WIoT-2

[Dave] is an avid hacker and no stranger to Hackaday. When he decided to give his IoT weather display an upgrade, he pulled out all the stops.

The WIoT-2 is less of a weather station and more of an info center for their house — conveniently located by their front door — for just about anything [Dave] or his partner need to know when entering or exiting their home. It displays indoor temperature and humidity, date, time, garbage collection schedule, currency exchange rates, whether the garage door is open or closed, the hot tub’s temperature, a check in for his kids, current weather data from a custom station [Dave] built outside his house, and the local forecast.

WIoT-2’s display is a Nextion TFT and the brains behind the operation is a NodeMCU 8266. He made extensive use of Blynk to handle monitoring of the various feeds, and will soon be integrating master control for all the networked outlets in the house into the system. He found setting up the hardware to be fairly clear-cut but notes that he cannot have the screen powered on when uploading sketches to the NodeMCU.  He circumvented the problem by adding a latching switch to the screen’s power line.

[Dave] curated a robust explanation of his build that includes tips, tricks, code — and a how-to to boot! If you’re not already starting your own build of this info suite, you may be tantalized by some of his other projects.

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DIY Text-to-Speech with Raspberry Pi

We can almost count on our eyesight to fail with age, maybe even past the point of correction. It’s a pretty big flaw if you ask us. So, how can a person with aging eyes hope to continue reading the printed word?

There are plenty of commercial document readers available that convert text to speech, but they’re expensive. Most require a smart phone and/or an internet connection. That might not be as big of an issue for future generations of failing eyes, but we’re not there yet. In the meantime, we have small, cheap computers and plenty of open source software to turn them into document readers.

[rgrokett] built a RaspPi text reader to help an aging parent maintain their independence. In the process, he made a good soup-to-nuts guide to building one. It couldn’t be easier to use—just place the document under the camera and push the button. A Python script makes the Pi take a picture of the text. Then it uses Tesseract OCR to convert the image to plain text, and runs the text through a speech synthesis engine which reads it aloud. The reader is on as long as it’s plugged in, so it’s ready to work at the push of a button. We can probably all appreciate such a low-hassle design. Be sure to check out the demo after the break.

If you wanted to use this to read books, you’d still have to turn the pages yourself. Here’s a BrickPi reader that solves that one.

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Lamp’s Ghostly Glow Benefits From Happy Mistake

[cyborgworkshop]’s youngest sister is a fan of a character in a popular video game (Thresh from League of Legends) who wields an iconic lantern with a mystical green glow. He resolved to make a replica of that lantern. Perhaps as a gift for the cherished family member? Certainly not! [cyborgworkshop]’s goal was the simple joy of having something “to lord over her.” Ah, ain’t siblings grand?

Why the glow powder turned pink in clear varnish is a bit of a mystery.

There were some interesting things learned in the process of making the ghostly green lamp. The first part of the build log is all about post-processing the lantern model, which was 3D printed at a chunky 0.48 mm layer height, but the rest is about getting the ghostly green glow to come out the way it did. [cyborgworkshop] used both glow in the dark paint and glow in the dark powder to really make the object pop, but the process involved some trial and error. Originally he mixed the glow powder into some clear varnish, and despite the mixture turning pink for some mysterious reason, a small sample spot appeared to turn out fine. However, after applying to the lantern and waiting, the varnish remained goopy and the glow powder settled out of the mixture. He ended up having to remove it as best he could and tried a heavy application of the glow paint instead. This ended up being a real blessing in disguise, because the combination resulted in a gritty stone-like texture that glowed brightly! As [cyborgworkshop] observes, sometimes mistakes end up being the highlight of a piece.

After more glow powder for highlighting, the finishing touches were a thin black wash to mute the powder’s whiteness, and a clear coat. The result looks great and a short video is embedded below. Oh, and if anyone has an idea why glow powder would turn pink when mixed into varnish, let us know in the comments!

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DIY Peristaltic Pump Keeps the Booze Flowing

A few months ago we showed you a bar bot built by [GreatScott] that uses peristaltic pumps to food-safely move the various spirits and mixers around behind the curtain. The bar bot uses three of them, and at $30 each for pumps with decent flow rate, they added a lot to the parts bill. These pumps are pretty much the ideal choice for a bar bot, so what do you do? [GreatScott] decided to see if it was worth it to make them instead.

Peristaltic pumps are simple devices that pump liquids without touching them. A motor turns a set of rollers that push a flexible tube against a wall. As the motor turns, the rollers move liquid through the tube by squeezing it flat from the outside in turns. Typically, the more you pay for an off-the-shelf peristaltic, the higher the flow rate.

[GreatScott] figured it was cheaper to buy the motor and the control circuitry. He chose a NEMA-17 for their reputation and ubiquity and a DRV8825 controller to go with it. The pump is driven by an Arduino Nano and a pot controls the RPM. After trying to design the mechanical assembly from scratch, he found [Ralf]’s pump model on Thingiverse and modified it to fit a NEMA-17.

The verdict? DIY all the way, assuming you can print the parts. [GreatScott] was trying to beat the purchased pumps’ flow rate of 100mL/minute and ended up with 200mL/minute from his DIY pump. Squeeze past the break for the build video and demonstration.

Is there a bar bot build on your list? No? Is it because you’re more of a single-malt scotch guy? Build a peristaltic pachyderm to pour your potion.

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