Hackaday Prize China Finalists Announced

In the time since the Hackaday Prize was first run it has nurtured an astonishing array of projects from around the world, and brought to the fore some truly exceptional winners that have demonstrated world-changing possibilities. This year it has been extended to a new frontier with the launch of the Hackaday Prize China (Chinese language, here’s a Google Translate link), allowing engineers, makers, and inventors from that country to join the fun. We’re pleased to announce the finalists, from which a winner will be announced in Shenzhen, China on November 23rd. If you’re in Shenzen area, you’re invited to attend the award ceremony!

All six of these final project entries have been translated into English to help share information about projects across the language barrier. On the left sidebar of each project page you can find a link back to the original Chinese language project entry. Each presents a fascinating look into what people in our global community can produce when they live at the source of the component supply chain. Among them are a healthy cross-section of projects which we’ll visit in no particular order. Let’s dig in and see what these are all about!

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Shapeshifter – An Open Source Drum Machine

With microcontrollers growing ever more powerful each new generation, things that were mere pipedreams before are now readily possible. The Shapeshifter drum machine is a perfect example.

Shapeshifter’s design is open-source, with everything available on Github for the curious musical tinkerers out there. The device is built around a PCB with only through-hole components, making assembly easy for even the least experienced enthusiasts out there. A Teensy 3.6 is then slotted into the socket on the board, providing 180MHz of grunt to run the show. It’s an excellent choice, as the Teensy platform has a huge range of libraries which make it simple to work with audio.

Being open-source, not only is it a cinch to make your own, but there’s plenty of room to remix the design to your personal tastes. There’s even a breadboarding area and the capability to add an expansion card for even more possibilities. Some users have even gone so far as to add displays and filter mods to really open things up.

We love a good drum machine at Hackaday, from the Amstrad-based to pocket-sized wonders. If you’ve got a build of your own, be sure to drop it in the tips line.

Portrait Painter Turns G-Code Into Artworks

Portrait painting is, by and large, a human endeavour. But, like any and all skills, there are machines ready and willing to take a crack at it. [Jose Salatino] has built just such a machine, and the results are impressive.

Samples of the artwork created by [Jose’s] portrait painter.
[Jose’s] portrait painter relies on a Cartesian CNC setup, with an X-Y gantry fitted with a retractable brush carrier. The carrier holds four brushes, allowing the device to paint with different sized strokes as per the artistic requirements. An algorithm is used to turn images into a series of brushstrokes, which are then turned into G-code to drive the system. Colors are mixed just like a human painter would, with the brush dipping into a series of paint pots. Using the hue-saturation-brightness (HSB) color system makes this easy.

While it’s much slower than your average printer, the goal here isn’t to create photorealistic images, but to create something with artistic appeal. The artworks painted by the ‘bot have a remarkable likeness to oil paintings by human artists, thanks to using similar techniques. We’re sure [Jose’s] experience as an oil painter helped out here, too.

We’ve seen other ‘bots produce custom artworks before, too. Video after the break.

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Dry Your Clothes In One Minute Or Less

If you’re like most people, then washing clothes is probably a huge pain for you. Figuring out the odd number of minutes necessary to run a wash and dry cycle, trying desperately not to end up with clothes that are still wet, and worst of all having to wait so long for your clothes to be clean can be a real hassle.

One team of inventors decided to build Eleven, a dryer that dries and sanitizes clothes in a minute or less. As explained in their demo video, clothes are placed around the center tube and dried by the airflow initiated by Eleven. Fragrance and ozone is injected to prevent bacteria from causing bad smells.

The team experimented with ultrasonics and microwave-vacuum system, and ultimately decided to use a method that controls the flow of air within the fabric. A steam generator sprays the clothes with a disinfectant while a filter quarantines the chemicals to a receptacle within the device.

They also installed sensors to monitor the performance of the machine remotely, allowing users to track their clothes and the health of the machine even when they aren’t home. Something we’ve previously seen done in the DIY space.

It might not be the futuristic heat-free clothes dryer we were promised, but Eleven certainly looks like a step in the right direction.

Soldering Your Own Soldering Iron

A device that even DIY enthusiasts don’t usually think to DIY is the humble soldering iron. Yet, that’s exactly what one Hackaday.io user did by building a USB-powered soldering pen with better performance than a $5 Chinese soldering pen.

The project draws inspiration from another Weller RT tip-based soldering pen by [vlk], although this project has a simpler display than an OLED. Slovakia-based maker [bobricius] was inspired by the DiXi ATSAMD11C14-based development board. The project uses the same 32-bit ATMEL ARM microcontroller with a USB bootloader, which makes updating the firmware a lot easier.

Two buttons control the heat (+/-) and the jack for the Weller RT soldering tip controls the power out with PWM. For the display, 20 Charlieplexed 3014 LEDs are used to show the temperature from 0-399. The last missing LED is left out since 5 GPIO pins can only drive 20 LEDs.

Assuming that the main heating controls stay the same as [vlk]’s project, the pen uses a current sensor and heating controller for PID control of a heating module, which connects to the SMT connector for the Weller RT soldering iron tip. The temperature sensor uses a an op-amp for amplification of the signal from a type K thermocouple.

While there aren’t currently GERBER files for the PCB yet, the project is based on the open-source OLED display soldering pen project by [vlk], whose schematic for the device is published.

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Building A Wind Power Generator In Your Backyard

For many environmental enthusiasts, horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs) — the kind that look like windmills slowly spinning in the distance — are a pretty familiar sight. Unfortunately, there are quite a few caveats that make them harder to adopt despite the fact that harvesting renewable energy sources is more sustainable than relying on natural gas and fuels that can be depleted. Since they face in one axis, they need to be able to track the wind, or else trade off the ability to maximize energy output. In turbulent and gusty conditions, as well, HAWTs face accelerated fatigue when harvesting.

The development of the vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) solves several of these issues. In addition, the turbines are typically closer to the ground and the gearbox replacement is simpler and more efficient. Maintenance is more accessible due to the size of the turbines, so no heavy machinery is typically necessary to access crucial components on-site. In addition, the gearbox by nature of its operation takes on less fatigue and is able to function in turbulent winds, which reduces the rate of failure.

For a simple version of a VAWT that you can build yourself, [BlueFlower] has published several mechanical drawings that detail the layout of the design. The wind power generator uses 24 magnets, copper wire fashioned into coils, and a metal plate for the main generator. The coils are arranged in a circular formation on a static plate, while the magnets are equally spaced on a moving circular plate. As the magnets pass over coils, the flux induces a current, which increases as the plates spin faster.

The blades of the generator are made from blue foam with a metal bar running through it for structure. Three of the blades are attached with triangular bars to a central rod, which also holds the spinning magnetic plate.

In [BlueFlower]’s initial trials using the VAWT for charging a battery they were able to generate a max power of 15W on boost mode and 30-70W when charging in PWM mode. Not bad for a home-made wind power generator!

There aren’t only pros to the design, however. While VAWTs may be cheaper, more mobile, and more resistant to wear and tear, there are some design features that prevent the generators from functioning as well as HAWTs at harvesting energy. The blades don’t produce torque at the same time, with some blades simply being pushed along. This produces more drag on the blades when they rotate, limiting the efficiency of the entire system. In addition, higher wind speeds are typically found at higher altitudes, so the VAWTs will perform better if installed on a towering structure. Vibration forces close to the ground can also wear out the bearings, resulting in more maintenance and costs.

 

 

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Modular Camera Remote Is Highly Capable

Many cameras these days have optional remotes that allow the shutter release to be triggered wirelessly. Despite this, [Foaly] desired more range, and more options for dealing with several cameras at once. As you’d expect, hacking ensued.

[Foaly] uses Silver modules to photograph rocket launches safely.
The system goes by the name of Silver, and is modular in nature. Each Silver module packs a transmitter and receiver, and can send and receive trigger orders to any other module in range. This allows a module to be used to trigger a camera, or be used as a remote to control other modules. There’s even a PC interface program that controls modules over USB.

Modules are also capable of sharing configuration changes with other modules in the field, making it easy to control a large battery of cameras without having to manually run around changing settings on each one. Oh, and it can run as a basic intervalometer too.

LoRa is used for wireless communications between modules, giving them excellent range. [Foaly] successfully used the remotes at ranges over 500 meters without any dropouts, capturing some great model rocket takeoffs in the process.

Silver is a highly robust project that should do everything the average photographer could ever possibly need, and probably a good deal more. Firmware and board files are available for those eager to make their own.

We’ve seen several very impressive camera augmentations entered into the 2019 Hackaday Prize, from ultra high-speed LED flash modules to highly flexible automatic trigger systems.