Review: WAINLUX K8, A Diode Laser That’s Ready To Work

Rarely a week goes by that some company doesn’t offer to send us their latest and greatest laser. You know the type — couple of aluminum extrusions, Class 4 diode flopping around in the breeze, and no enclosure to speak of unless you count the cardboard box they shipped it in. In other words, an accident waiting to happen. Such gracious invitations get sent to the trash without a second thought.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that the average Hackaday reader would be able to render such a contraption (relatively) safe for use around the shop. Build a box around it, bolt on a powerful enough fan to suck the smoke out through the window, and you’ve turned a liability into a legitimate tool. But the fact remains that we simply can’t put our stamp on something that is designed with such a blatant disregard for basic safety principles.

The earlier WAINLUX JL4 — lucky rabbit foot not included.

That being the case, a recent email from WAINLUX nearly met the same fate as all those other invitations. But even at a glance it was clear that this new machine they wanted to send out, the K8, was very different from others we’d seen. Different even from what the company themselves have put out to this point. This model was fully enclosed, had a built-in ventilation fan, an optional air filter “sidecar”, and yes, it would even turn off the laser if you opened the door while it was in operation. After reading through the promotional material they sent over, I had to admit, I was intrigued.

It seemed like I wasn’t the only one either; it was only a matter of days before the Kickstarter for the WAINLUX K8 rocketed to six figures. At the time of this writing, the total raised stands at just under $230,000 USD. There’s clearly a demand for this sort of desktop laser, the simplicity of using a diode over a laser tube is already appealing, but one that you could actually use in a home with kids or pets would be a game changer for many people.

But would the reality live up to the hype? I’ve spent the last couple of weeks putting a pre-production WAINLUX K8 through its paces, so let’s take a look and see if WAINLUX has a winner on their hands.

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Review: Beepy, A Palm-sized Linux Hacking Playground

In the long ago times, when phones still flipped and modems sang proudly the songs of their people, I sent away for a set of Slackware CDs and embarked on a most remarkable journey. Back then, running Linux (especially on the desktop) was not a task to be taken lightly. The kernel itself was still in considerable flux — instead of changing some obscure subsystem or adding support for a niche gadget you don’t even own, new releases were unlocking critical capabilities and whole categories of peripherals. I still remember deciding if I wanted to play it safe and stick with my current kernel, or take a chance on compiling the latest version to check out this new “USB Mass Storage” thing everyone on the forums was talking about…

But modern desktop Linux has reached an incredible level of majority, and is now a viable choice for a great number of computer users. In fact, if you add Android and Chrome OS into the mix, there are millions and millions of people who are using Linux on daily basis and don’t even realize it. These days, the only way to experience that sense of adventure and wonderment that once came pre-loaded with a Linux box is to go out and seek it.

Which is precisely how it feels using using the Beepy from SQFMI. The handheld device, which was formerly known as the Beepberry before its creators received an all-too-predicable formal complaint, is unabashedly designed for Linux nerds. Over the last couple of weeks playing with this first-run hardware, I’ve been compiling kernel drivers, writing custom scripts, and trying (though not always successfully) to get new software installed on it. If you’re into hacking around on Linux, it’s an absolute blast.

There’s a good chance that you already know if the Beepy is for you or not, but if you’re still on the fence, hopefully this in-depth look at the hardware and current state of the overall project can help you decide before SQFMI officially starts taking new orders for the $79 gadget.

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Miniware TS1C: A Cordless Soldering Iron With A Station

Most soldering irons in the market seem to fall into a few distinct categories. They either provide a full-blown station to which the soldering iron is wired, powered straight by mains, or an iron powered by DC power. The Miniware TS1C takes up an interesting position here in that it features both a station you put the iron into and adjust the temperature, as well as a fully cordless iron. Sounds too good to be true, perhaps, but a recent Tom’s Hardware review by [Les Pounder] seems to think it has real merit.

Behind the glossy exterior and marketing, we find a cordless soldering iron that uses a supercapacitor to power itself when it is not inserted into the station, with communication between the iron and station performed using Bluetooth. This way, you can keep an eye on both the tip temperature and the remaining charge left, which [Les] found to be sufficient for soldering about 80 smaller joints, with the marketing claiming it can solder 180 size 0805 SMD parts with one charge.

The advantage of having a station is that it is the part that is wired to a power bank or wall wart, with the temperature setting performed using a chunky dial. The station also provides a place for the iron in between soldering sessions, but in order to recharge the iron, the brass bands near the front have to be pushed into the holder for them to make contact. This also makes one-handed removal of the iron from the holder not as easy as you’d hope.

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Cheap Ham Radio Improves The Low End UI If Not The RF

There was a time when buying a new radio was something many hams could never afford to do. Then came the super cheap — and super controversial — VHF and UHF radios from China. But as they say, you get what you pay for. The often oddly named handhelds like Baofeng and Wouxun are sometimes odd to work with and may have questionable RF outputs. A new radio has a less tongue-twisting English name and many improved features for about $50 — the Talkpod A36Plus and [Josh] shows us how they work in a video that you can see below.

The new features are generally good. For example, the radio can pick up AM in the aircraft band, something most of these cheap radios won’t do. It works on VHF and UHF bands but also picks up FM broadcasts. The USB-C connector is welcome, and the screen is large and colorful. It has 500 channels and IP5 water resistance.

There were a few issues, though. If you want to use it as a scanner, it’s not very fast. The radio comes with a programming cable, but apparently, it uses an odd USB chipset that may give you some driver issues. The biggest problem, though, is that it has, according to the video, excessive spurious emissions. The power isn’t that high, and the antenna probably filters off some of it, too. But creating interference across the band isn’t very polite.

How bad are the harmonics? Well, [Josh] hooks up a spectrum analyzer and also shows how a radio tuned to the second harmonic easily picks up the transmission. Of course, no radio is perfect, but it seems like it does have very strong harmonic emissions. Of course, it may or may not be any worse than similar cheap radios. They are probably all above the legal limits, and it is just a matter of degrees.

These little radios won’t directly work the world — you need an HF radio for that, generally. They will let you connect to local repeaters, though. Some of those cheap radios can lead to interesting projects, too.

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Ice Wrenchers, Wrencher Chocolates, And The Vaquform DT2

What do you do when you find some friends have bought a vacuum forming machine? Make novelty chocolates and ice cubes, of course! This was my response when I had the opportunity to play with a Vaquform DT2 all-in-one vacuum forming machine, so what follows is partly a short review of an exciting machine, and partly an account of my adventures in edible merchandise creation.

The vaquform machine, on a neutral white background
The Vaquform machine in all its glory.

Vacuum forming, the practice of drawing a sheet of heat-softened plastic film over a model to make a plastic shell copy of it, is nothing new in our community. It’s most often found in hackerspaces in the form of home made vacuum forming tables, and usually requires quite a bit of experimentation to get good results. The Vaquform machine I was lucky enough to be able to try is an all in one machine that puts the whole process into a compact desktop machine of similar size to a typical 3D printer. It’s a machine of two parts with a moveable carriage between them for the plastic sheet; a vacuum table on its base, and a heater unit suspended above it. The unique selling point is that it’s an all-in-one computer controlled unit that does as much as possible for you, it simply requires the user to place a sheet in the carriage and follow the instructions.

When I first saw the machine I didn’t really have anything to try it with, so of course I resorted to producing a Wrencher or two. Because what it makes are essentially moulds, it made sense to produce something Wrencher-shaped with them, and thus the chocolate and ice plan formed. The first mould was made with laser-cut Wrenchers in 2mm acrylic, stacked on two more layers of uncut acrylic to make a bar with an inset Wrencher on top, while the second one used a 3D-printed array of larger stand-alone Wrenchers with channels between them. Would my first attempt at vacuum forming make usable moulds or not? Only one way to find out. Continue reading “Ice Wrenchers, Wrencher Chocolates, And The Vaquform DT2”

Review: InfiRay P2 Pro Thermal Camera

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Hackaday is constantly hounded by companies that want us to review their latest and greatest gadget. After all, getting us to post about their product is cheaper, easier, and arguably more effective than trying to come up with their own ad campaign. But if you’ve been with us for awhile, you’ll also know that in-house reviews aren’t something we actually do very often.

The reason is simple: we’re only interested in devices or products that offer something useful or unique to this community. As such, the vast majority of these offers get ignored. I’ll give you an example. For whatever reason, multiple companies have been trying desperately to send me electric bikes with five-figure price tags this year. But since there’s no obvious way to turn that into useful content for the readers of Hackaday, I’m still stuck pedaling myself around like it’s the 1900s. I kid of course…I haven’t dared to get on a bike in a decade.

So I don’t mind telling you that, when InfiRay contacted me about reviewing their P2 Pro thermal camera, the email very nearly went into the trash. We’ve seen these kind of phone-based thermal cameras before, and it seemed to be more of the same. But after taking a close look at the specs, accessories, and claims laid out in the marketing material, I thought this one might be worth checking out first-hand.

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Thermal Camera Reviewed

We keep thinking about buying a better thermal camera, as there are plenty of advantages. While [VoltLog’s] review of the Topdon TC002 was interesting though, it has a connector for an iPhone. Even if you aren’t on Android, there is a rumor that Apple may (or may be forced to) change connectors which will make it more difficult to connect. Of course, there will be adapters, and you can get a USB C version of the same camera.

Technically, the camera is pretty typical of other recent cameras in this price range, and they probably all use the same image sensor. The camera provides 256×192 images.

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