The Thin-Film Flexible 6502

While our attention is mostly directed towards ever smaller-integrated silicon circuits providing faster and faster computing, there’s another area of integrated electronics that operates at a much lower speed which we should be following. Thin-film flexible circuitry will provide novel ways to place electronics where a bulky or expensive circuit board with traditional components might be too expensive or inappropriate, and Wikichip is here to remind us of a Leuven university team who’ve created what is claimed to be the fastest thin-film flexible microprocessor yet. Some of you might find it familiar, it’s our old friend the 6502.

The choice of an archaic 8-bit processor might seem a strange one, but we can see the publicity advantage — after all, you’re reading about it here because of it being a 6502. Plus there’s the advantage of it being a relatively simple and well-understood architecture. It’s no match for the MHz clock speeds of the original with an upper limit of 71.4 kHz, but performance is not the most significant feature of flexible electronics. The production technology isn’t quite ready for the mainstream so we’re unlikely to be featuring flexible Commodore 64s any time soon, but the achievement is the impressive feat of a working thin-film flexible microprocessor.

Meanwhile, if you’re curious about the 6502, we took a look at the life of its designer, [Chuck Peddle].

Put A New Spin On Your 3D Printed Parts

Once you get tired of printing keychains and earbud holders with your 3D printer, you’ll want to design things a bit more sophisticated. How about things that rotate? [3DSage] has a good how-to about how to integrate a simple motor and controller into a few different size boxes. Combined with some 3D printed linkages, these boxes can turn your project — printed or otherwise — into something that spins.

To demonstrate, he created a few cat toys, played with an idea for a magic trick, and refit a selfie light into… something. We have no doubt you can find something to do with these little motor modules. The boxes vary mostly in how big the battery packs are. There are also several interesting side pieces like a 3D holder for rechargeable button cells and their charger.

In addition, he also demonstrates how to use the motor as a (rather poor) generator. Attaching a water wheel wasn’t a success until he used compressed air to run the wheel. You would have thought water would have done the trick.

The video stresses that you should solder connections, but you don’t have to. Honestly, we think if you are building moving stuff with a 3D printer, you should probably just go ahead and learn to solder. It isn’t that hard and there are plenty of reasons to learn.

Of course, you could 3D print the motor itself. Adapting motor modules for different uses isn’t a new idea, of course, but it is always great to see more ways to apply basic components.

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Round LCDs Put To Work In Rack Mount Gauge Cluster

Like many of you, we’re intrigued by the possibilities offered by the availability of affordable round LCD panels. But beyond the smartwatches they were designed for, it’s not always easy to come up with an appropriate application for such non-traditional displays. Digital “steam gauges” are one of the first ideas that come to mind, so it’s perhaps no surprise that’s the direction [Tom Dowad] took his project. But rather than just one or two gauges, he decided to go all out and put eight of them in a 1U rack mountable unit.

What do you need eight faux-analog gauges for? Beats us, but that’s not our department. Now [Tom] has a whole row of indicators that can be used to show whatever it is he likes to keep an eye on. The fact that the device is actually controlled via MIDI may provide us a clue that there’s a musical component at play (no pun intended), but then, it wouldn’t be the first time we’d seen MIDI used simply as a convenient and well supported way of synchronizing gadgets. Continue reading “Round LCDs Put To Work In Rack Mount Gauge Cluster”

Screwed Up: Can Technology Be A Substitute For Regular Maintenance

The bane of life for anyone who possesses a well-used pile of spanners is the humble nut and bolt. Durable and easy to fasten, over our lifetimes we must screw and unscrew them by the million. When they do their job they’re great, but too often they seize up solid, or more alarmingly, gradually undo themselves over time due to vibration or thermal stress. There are a host of products such as locking nuts or thread sealant to deal with this problem, but the Fraunhofer Institute have an idea which might just remove the worry surrounding important fastenings. Their work has resulted in a solar-powered bolt with an embedded sensor that phones home when the connection loosens, allowing an engineer to be dispatched with a spanner to tighten it up.

The sensor itself is a washer which reports the force placed upon it, when this reduces an alert is sent. Communication is via Fraunhofer’s own MIoTy low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) protocol, but we’d imagine that one of the many competitor technologies could also serve.

This is an interesting idea that could no doubt result in targeted maintenance catching faulty fastenings early and averting disaster in the infrastructure projects such as bridges and wind turbines that they mention. We worry slightly though, because these types of structures have lives not in the few years of most tech products but in centuries. Will an IoT bolt head sensor still be phoning home in a few decades time, or will the system rely on old bolts being replaced at regular intervals of a decade? It’s not unknown for disasters to be the result of failures in fastenings a century old, so we sincerely hope that authorities in charge of whatever bridge relies on these won’t be tempted to skimp on their replacements. Perhaps a guy with a spanner every few years might be a more dependable option.

A vape pen, broken into parts, all laid out on a cutting mat

2022 Hackaday Prize: Disposable Vape Pens Turned Project Parts

Disposable vape pens, a sub-genre of electronic cigarettes, have been a fad for a few years now – they’re small self-contained devices with a rechargeable battery and some vape liquid inside. As the battery discharges and the liquid runs out, the entire vape pen is typically thrown out. [Dimitar] wants to change that, however, and teaches us how to reuse as much of the vape pen as possible – as yet another underappreciated source for parts we can use in our projects.

In an extensive intro worklog, he breaks down and documents a vape pen’s inner workings, coupled with a video we’ve placed below the break showing ways to disassemble them. In these, he shows how we can reuse the casing and the plastic parts, should any of us be interested in a project that happens to fit the e-cig form factor. Attention is paid to the sensor that triggers the evaporation – it may look like a microphone, but is actually a purpose-built pressure-sensor with a high-side switch! He tears into one of these in a separate video, showing how to reuse it as a capacitive touch controller. He also aiming to assemble a small database of related resources on GitHub, currently, hosting the files for the protection circuit he developed as part of his recommendations for safely reusing vape pen Li-ion batteries.

[Dimitar]’s journey is ongoing, and we can’t wait to see some fun uses for these components that he will certainly stumble upon on his way! For instance, here’s a hacker using an e-cig battery to power a pair of RGB LED-adorned sunglasses, replacing the AAAA battery they originally came with. We’ve seen hackers make guides on reusing each and every part of microwave ovens, printers and laptops, and we ourselves have talked about reusing ATX power supplies and computer mice.

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The module on a green PCB, connected to the Pixhawk controller, powering the servo rail

Anxieties Of Hardware Bringup During Parts Shortage

[Dirksavage88] tells us a story about developing a simple BEC in times of chip shortage. He needed a small 5V/3A regulator board for a servo rail on his drone, and decided to use one of the new integrated-inductor modules from Texas Instruments. Hardly requiring any external parts, such modules are exceptionally nice to use for all your power rail needs, albeit at a slightly increased cost – the downside is that, as the parts shortage hit, most of them have been out of stock. Originally priced at about $7 USD, the asking price for these specific modules, LMZM33603, has climbed as high as $800. Somehow, he obtained a few of these modules nevertheless, and went on designing a board.

It can be daunting to test your very first PCBs when the silicon you’re putting on it is effectively irreplaceable for your purposes. TI is known for their wacky footprints, and this module is no exception – the solder paste application took a bit of time, and seeing small solder balls around the module after reflow didn’t exactly reassure him. Thankfully, when he powered it all up, the module worked wonders, and took its rightfully earned spot in his drone’s servo turret. He says we can expect the next revision of his design in 2024, or whenever it is that the reported 100 week lead time is due. In case some of us could use them, Eagle files are available on GitHub!

Quite a few of us are lucky enough to have enough crucial parts for what we need, but most of us got a good few projects shelved until better times – take this WiFi-enabled wall charger project, for instance. Even bigger projects are suffering, from SmoothieBoard to Raspberry Pi. Just a year ago, we had our readers share their chip shortage stories.

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Watch A Complete Reflector Telescope Machined From A Single Block Of Glass

If this is the easy part of making a complete reflector telescope from a single piece of glass, we can’t wait to get a load of the hard part!

A little backstory may be in order for those who don’t follow [Jeroen Vleggaar]’s Huygens Optics channel on YouTube. A few months ago, he released a video discussing monolithic telescopes, where all the reflective and refractive surfaces are ground into a single thick block of glass. Fellow optical engineer [Rik ter Horst] had built a few tiny monolithic Schmidt-Cassegrain reflectors for use in cube sats, so [Jeroen] decided to build a scaled-up version himself.

The build starts with a 45 mm thick block of crown glass, from which a 50 mm cylinder is bored with a diamond hole saw. The faces of the blank are then ground into complex curves to reflect incoming light, first off the parabolic rear surface and then onto the hyperbolic secondary mirror ground into the center of the front face. A final passage through a refracting surface in the center of the rear face completes the photons’ journey through the block of glass, squeezing a 275 mm focal length into a compact package.

All this, of course, vastly understates the work required to pull it off. Between the calculations needed to figure out the surface shapes in the first place to the steps taken to machine a famously unforgiving material like glass, every step is fraught with peril. And because the design is monolithic, any mistakes mean starting all over again. Check out the video below and marvel at the skills needed to get results like this.

What strikes us most about [Jeroen]’s videos is the mix of high-tech and age-old methods and materials used in making optics, which we’ve seen him put to use to make everything from tiny Tesla valves to variable-surface mirrors.

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