Custom Coil Lets Mouse Charge Without Wires

It’s 2021, shouldn’t all of our devices be able to pull the power they need from the ether? [Sasa Karanovic] certainly thinks so, which is why he recently took it upon himself to add wireless charging capabilities to his desktop computer peripherals. The Qi transmitter and receiver modules are relatively cheap and easy to come by, the trick is in getting them installed.

The keyboard gets non-invasive Qi charging.

For the keyboard, [Sasa] took the path of least resistance. The receiver coil lives inside a little 3D printed box attached to the back, and power is routed through a hacked up right-angle USB cable. It’s a simple addition that doesn’t make any permanent changes to the keyboard; perfect for those who don’t want to risk toasting their gear.

But that wasn’t really an option for the mouse. Obviously the Qi hardware would have to go on the inside, but at a glance it was clear there wasn’t enough room to mount the stock coil. So [Sasa] pulled the original coil apart and rewound it around a small 3D printed jig. This resulting coil was perfectly sized to fit inside the flat area on the left side of the mouse with no apparent degradation in charging ability. Wiring the module up to an unpopulated pad on the PCB allowed him to easily inject the 5 V output into the device’s existing charging circuitry.

We’ve seen plenty of aftermarket Qi charging coils take up permanent residence in various gadgets, but rewinding the coil is a neat trick that we’ve only seen pulled off a couple times in the past. Something to file away mentally should you ever want to wirelessly power up one of your projects.

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New Part Day: Espressif ESP32-S3

Since Espressif Systems arrived in our collective consciousness they have expanded their range from the ESP8266 to the ESP32, and going beyond the original WROOM and WROVER modules to a range of further ESP32 products. There’s a single-core variant and one that packs a RISC-V core in place of the Tensilica one, and now they’ve revealed their latest product. The ESP32-S3 takes the ESP to a new level, packing as it does more I/O, onboard USB, and an updated version of the two Tensilica cores alongside Bluetooth version 5. It’s still an ESP32, but one that’s more useful, and it’s worth a closer look because we expect it to figure in quite a few projects.

Espressif's block diagram for the chip.
Espressif’s block diagram for the chip.

Sadly the data sheet does not seem to have been released, but we do have some tidbits to consider. Espressif are anxious to tell us about its “AIOT” capabilities thanks to the vector instructions in the EXTensa LX7 cores (PDF) that were not present in the previous model’s LX6. They claim that this will speed up software neural networks; this does have an air of marketing about it but we’ll withhold judgement until we see it in use. The new core certainly will offer a performance improvement across the board though, which should be of interest to all ESP32 developers. Meanwhile the ultra-low-power core that existing ESP32 developers will be familiar with remains.

Then there is that USB support, which appears in the feature block diagram but has little information elsewhere. It’s listed as USB OTG which raises the possibility of the ESP32 being the host, but what it should also bring is the ability to emulate other USB devices. We’ve seen badges mount as WebUSB devices using STM32 clones as peripherals for an ESP32, but in future these tricks should be possible on the Espressif chip itself.

Probably the most anticipated piece of the new device’s specification comes in the addition of 10 new I/O lines. This has historically been a weakness of the ESP line, that it’s an easy chip with which to run out of available pins. These extra lines will make it more competitive with for example the STM32 series of microcontrollers that have larger package options, and will also mean that designs can have more in the way of peripherals without the use of port expanders.

In summary then, the latest member of the ESP32 family delivers a significant and useful update, and brings some of the features first seen in the single core version to the more powerful line of chips. Sadly it doesn’t have the hoped-for on-chip RAM boost, but it brings enough in the way of new capabilities to be of interest. At the moment it doesn’t look like the ESP32-S3 is available to order, but we hope to have engineering samples soon and should be bringing you a hands-on report in due course.

Tighten This Bolt In Any Direction You Want

Metal lathes are capable machines that played a large role in the industrial revolution, and an incredible tool to have at your disposal. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be used to have a little fun, as demonstrated by [Oleg Pevtsov] who made a bidirectional bolt as a machining exercise just because he could.

Both videos after the break are in Russian, but the video and auto generated subtitles are enough to get the main points across. The bolt is an M42 size with a 40 mm pitch, with grooves cut in both directions to allow left-handed and right-handed nuts to be threaded. The large pitch means that instead of a single continuous groove like a normal bolt, ten separate grooves need to be cut for each threading direction to cover the bolt surface. Since this was all machined on a manual lathe, a dial indicator was required to maintain accurate spacing. It took [Oleg] four painstaking attempts to get it right, but the end result looks very good. Instead of a fixed cutter, he used a trimming router mounted on a custom clamp.

[Oleg] also machined three different brass nuts to go on the bolt with a fixed cutter. First left-hand and right hand threaded nuts were made, followed by a bidirectional nut. Due to the large pitch and careful machining, all three nuts will spin down the bolt under the force of gravity alone. Although the bidirectional nut doesn’t move as smoothly as the other two, it can change rotation and translation direction at random.

While this is a one-of-a-kind fidget toy, have any of our readers seen a bidirectional bolt or lead screw in the wild? We can imagine that the ability to move two nuts in opposite directions on a single lead screw might have some practical applications.

It’s possible to make incredible parts on a manual lathe. A handbuilt V10 engine and a pneumatic hexacopter model are just two examples of what’s possible with enough skill, knowledge, and patience. Sadly it is a fading form of craftsmanship, rendered mostly obsolete outside of hobby projects by CNC machines.

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Casting Skateboard Wheels With A 3D Printed Mold

We’ll admit that most of the Hackaday staff wouldn’t get too far on a skateboard, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the impressive DIY wheels that [Chris McCann] has managed to cast using 3D printed molds. From unique color combinations to experimental materials, the process certainly opens up some interesting possibilities for those looking to truly customize their rides. Though it’s worth noting there’s a certain element of risk involved; should a set of homemade wheels fail at speed, it could go rather poorly for the rider.

Both the STL and STEP files for the mold have been released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license, meaning anyone with a 3D printer can follow along at home. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as clicking print and coming back to a usable mold. Because of the layer lines inherent to FDM 3D printing, the inside of the mold needs to be thoroughly sanded and polished. [Chris] mentions that printing the mold in ABS and using vapor smoothing might be a workable alternative to elbow grease and PLA, but he hasn’t personally tried it yet.

Once you’ve got the three part mold printed, smoothed, and coated with an appropriate release agent like petroleum jelly, it’s time to make some wheels. The core of each wheel is actually 3D printed from PETG, which should give it pretty reasonable impact resistance. If you have access to a lathe, producing aluminum cores shouldn’t be too difficult either. With the core loaded into the mold, urethane resin is poured in through the top until all the empty space is filled.

But you’re not done yet. All those little air bubbles in the resin need to be dealt with before it cures. [Chris] puts his filled molds into a pressure chamber, though he mentions that vacuum degassing might also be a possibility depending on the urethane mixture used. After everything is solidified, the mold can easily be taken apart to reveal the newly cast wheel.

While there’s often some trial and error involved, 3D printing and resin casting are an undeniably powerful combination. If you can master the techniques involved, you can produce some very impressive parts that otherwise would be exceptionally difficult to produce on a hacker’s budget. Especially when you’re ready to start casting molten metal.

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Bringing Full Colour PCB Art To Production

One of the Holy Grails in the world of electronic badges has been full-colour PCB art as a logical progression from the limited palette of traditional PCB artwork. In the progression towards achieving this goal there have been a variety of techniques applied, and it’s become an expensive commercial possibility rather than an unachievable dream. Has it become practical for mere mortals then? [Tom Clement] has put together a write-up of his progression towards achieving full-colour PCB artwork on a limited production run , and it makes for a fascinating read.

The board in question is the Pixel badge, an improved commercial version of the CampZone 2019 I-Pane badge we reviewed last year. It’s a very bright large multicolour LED matrix that has caught the eye of campgoers at events ever since the original, and has generated enough demand for a new production run. As well as a few electronic enhancements it replaces the original’s dithered monochrome silkscreen rear art with a full-colour design, and it is that with which the write-up is concerned.

It starts with UV printing, and goes through the various iterations of the process until a satisfactory result is achieved. We learn about the effect of reflow temperatures on UV printing inks, it seems that white ink discolours with temperature and the inventive solution is to transfer all the whites to the PCB silkscreen layer. He closes with a discourse on alignment, and we start to appreciate the achievement behind producing this badge. A colour print isn’t necessary for the Pixel’s eye-searing light show, but the point of badges is as much to show off the cutting edge of the art.

As the regular Hackaday reader will know, colour PCB art is a long-time topic of interest here at Hackaday.

A Xilinx Zynq Linux FPGA Board For Under $20? The Windfall Of Decommissioned Crypto Mining

One of the exciting trends in hardware availability is the inexorable move of FPGA boards and modules towards affordability. What was once an eye-watering price is now merely an expensive one, and no doubt in years to come will become a commodity. There’s still an affordability gap at the bottom of the market though, so spotting sub-$20 Xilinx Zynq boards on AliExpress that combine a Linux-capable ARM core and an FPGA on the same silicon is definitely something of great interest. A hackerspace community friend of mine ordered one, and yesterday it arrived in the usual anonymous package from China.

There’s a Catch, But It’s Only A Small One

The heftier of the two boards, in all its glory.
The heftier of the two boards, in all its glory.

There are two boards to be found for sale, one featuring the Zynq 7000 and the other the 7010, which the Xilinx product selector tells us both have the same ARM Cortex A9 cores and Artix-7 FPGA tech on board. The 7000 includes a single core with 23k logic cells, and there’s a dual-core with 28k on the 7010. It was the latter that my friend had ordered.

So there’s the good news, but there has to be a catch, right? True, but it’s not an insurmountable one. These aren’t new products, instead they’re the controller boards for an older generation of AntMiner cryptocurrency mining rigs. The components have 2017 date codes, so they’ve spent the last three years hooked up to a brace of ASIC or GPU boards in a mining data centre somewhere. The ever-changing pace of cryptocurrency tech means that they’re now redundant, and we’re the lucky beneficiaries via the surplus market.

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Exploring Custom Firmware On Xiaomi Thermometers

If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that hackers love to know what the temperature is. Seriously. A stroll through the archives here at Hackaday uncovers an overwhelming number of bespoke gadgets for recording, displaying, and transmitting the current conditions. From outdoor weather stations to an ESP8266 with a DHT11 soldered on, there’s no shortage of prior art should you want to start collecting your own environmental data.

Now obviously we’re big fans of DIY it here, that’s sort of the point of the whole website. But there’s no denying that it can be hard to compete with the economies of scale, especially when dealing with imported goods. Even the most experienced hardware hacker would have trouble building something like the Xiaomi LYWSD03MMC. For as little as $4 USD each, you’ve got a slick energy efficient sensor with an integrated LCD that broadcasts the current temperature and humidity over Bluetooth Low Energy.

You could probably build your own…but why?

It’s pretty much the ideal platform for setting up a whole-house environmental monitoring system except for one detail: it’s designed to work as part of Xiaomi’s home automation system, and not necessarily the hacked-together setups that folks like us have going on at home. But that was before Aaron Christophel got on the case.

We first brought news of his ambitious project to create an open source firmware for these low-cost sensors last month, and unsurprisingly it generated quite a bit of interest. After all, folks taking existing pieces of hardware, making them better, and sharing how they did it with the world is a core tenet of this community.

Believing that such a well crafted projected deserved a second look, and frankly because I wanted to start monitoring the conditions in my own home on the cheap, I decided to order a pack of Xiaomi thermometers and dive in.

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