Tape Cutting Bot Trims the Tedium

If you have ever had to assemble a batch of electronic kits, you will know the tedious nature of cutting the tape containing your components. It’s easy enough to count four or five surface-mount resistors and snip them off with a pair of scissors once or twice, but when you are faced with repeating the task a hundred or more times, its allure begins to pale.

[Overflo] faced just such a problem when assembling hundreds of kits for a workshop at the upcoming 34C3 event in Germany. The solution? A tape-cutting robot, of course! (YouTube video, embedded below.)

At the heart of the machine is a pair of scissors operated by a stepper motor, snipping away at the component tape fed by another stepper. An infra-red light barrier sensor counts sprocket holes, and the whole is under the control of an Arduino Pro Mini. An especially clever trick is that the strip passes over a marker pen, allowing different components in a kit to be identified by a color code.

This isn’t the first such approach to this problem we’ve encountered, here’s one that cuts component tape with a laser.

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A Screwdriver for the Lazy

The TS100 soldering iron is a sleek handheld device with a tiny display. Now the same people behind it have introduced a motion-controlled screwdriver, the ES120. While we are fans of large electric screwdrivers for working on large projects, we aren’t sure we need a $90 screwdriver for little fasteners. However, if you watch the video review from [Marco], you’ll see it has an interesting user interface that might be useful in other projects. [Marco] is also a bit of a cut up, so you’ll get to see how well the little tool can froth milk, provide transportation, or change a flat. [Marco] also does a tear down if you want to see what’s inside the beast.

What caught our attention was the user interface. We’ve had precision power screwdrivers before, in particular we’ve used the General Tools 500 which costs about $20 and has a two position switch. One direction causes the bit to rotate clockwise and the other direction rotates the tool counterclockwise. The ES120 by comparison only has a single button.

When you hold the button, you twist the screwdriver as though you were using an ordinary tool. The accelerometer in the ES120 detects this rotation and begins rotating in the same direction. The tool can produce four levels of torque and has an automatic setting, as well.

Even [Marco] admits that the ES120 isn’t going to replace his normal screwdrivers. Perhaps if you were dealing with hundreds of fasteners a day though, it would make sense. Then again, we have lots of tools and toys we really don’t need, so if you just want a new shiny gadget to show off, the ES120 looks well made and appears to function well.

What we’d really like to see is someone hack the ES120 into something cool like a coil winder. Of course, if you are in a hacking mood, you can always build your own cheap power driver. Perhaps, though, the ES120 might make it easier for some people to start their cars.

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Part Soldering Iron, Part Hand-Held Oscilloscope

If you are in the market for a temperature controlled soldering iron, an attractive choice of the moment is the TS-100 iron available by mail-order from China. This is an all-in-one iron with a digital temperature controller built into its handle, featuring a tiny OLED display. It’s lightweight, reasonable quality, and all its design and software are available and billed as open source (Though when we reviewed it we couldn’t find an open source licence accompanying the code.) This combination has resulted in it becoming a popular choice, and quite a few software hacks have appeared for it.

The latest one to come our way is probably best described as coming from the interface between genius and insanity without meaning to disparage the  impressive achievement of its author. [Befinitiv] has implemented a working oscilloscope on a TS-100, that uses the soldering iron tip as a probe and the OLED as a display. It requires a small modification to the hardware to bring the iron contact into an ADC pin on the microcontroller, and there is currently no input protection on it so the iron could easily be fried, but it works.

It is strongly suggested in the write-up that this isn’t a production-ready piece of work and that you shouldn’t put it on your iron. At least, not without that input protection and maybe a resistive divider. But for all that it’s still an impressive piece of work, a working soldering iron that becomes a ‘scope on a menu selection. Take a look at the ‘scope-iron in action, we’ve posted a video below the break.

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Laser-Cut Modular Toolbox

[ystoelen] created this modular wooden toolbox out of laser-cut 5mm plywood secured with leather hinges bolted into place. The leather strips secure the various tool boards with grommets connecting to plastic plugs. The toolboards use cross-shaped holes with laser-cut plugs and strips of elastic securing the tools, allowing each board to be uniquely configured depending on what tool is being stored there. There is a larger, “main” board, onto which smaller boards can be placed depending on what tools you’ll need.

While this is a clever approach to tool transport, we have some concerns about this project. Usually the problem with a box full of tools is that you’ve overloaded it and can’t readily lift it up. Often this involves a steel toolbox that won’t break, no matter what happens. But a plywood construct isn’t nearly that strong, and if overloaded or dropped it’s gonna take some damage.

For more toolbox inspirations, read our posts on a machine shop in a toolbox as well as this Transformers-themed portable workbench.


Smooth and Steady Cuts with an Improvised Power Feeder

Some woodworking operations require stock to be fed at a smooth, steady rate, for which purpose a power feeder is usually employed. They’re expensive bits of gear, though, and their cost can usually be borne only by high-output production shops. But when you need one, you need one, and hacking a power feeder from a drill and a skate wheel is a viable option.

It should come as no surprise that this woodshop hack comes to us from [Matthias Wandel], who never seems to let a woodworking challenge pass him by. His first two versions of expedient power feeders were tasked with making a lot of baseboard moldings in his new house. Version three, presented in the video below, allows him to feed stock diagonally across his table saw, resulting in custom cove moldings. The completed power feeder may look simple — it’s just a brushless drill in a wooden jig driving a skate wheel — but the iterative design process [Matthias] walks us through is pretty fascinating. We also appreciate the hacks within hacks that always find their way into his videos. No lathe? No problem! Improvise with a drill and a bandsaw.

Surprised that [Matthias] didn’t use some of his famous wooden gears in this build? We’re not. A brushless motor is perfect for this application, with constant torque at low speeds. Want to learn more about BLDC motors? Get the basics with a giant demo brushless motor.

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Making a Gun Without a 3D Printer

Around four years ago the world was up in arms over the first gun to be 3D printed. The hype was largely due to the fact that most people don’t understand how easy it is to build a gun without a 3D printer. To that end, you don’t even need access to metal stock, as [FarmCraft101] shows us with this gun made out of melted aluminum cans.

The build starts off by melting over 200 cans down into metal ingots, and then constructing a mold for the gun’s lower. This is the part that is legally regulated (at least in the US), and all other parts of a gun can be purchased without any special considerations. Once the aluminum is poured into the mold, the rough receiver heads over to the machine shop for finishing.

This build is fascinating, both from a machinist’s and blacksmith’s point-of-view and also as a reality check for how easy it is to build a firearm from scratch provided the correct tools are available. Of course, we don’t need to worry about the world being taken over by hoards of angry machinists wielding unlicensed firearms. There’s a lot of time and effort that goes into these builds and even then they won’t all be of the highest quality. Even the first 3D printed guns only fired a handful of times before becoming unusable, so it seems like any homemade firearm, regardless of manufacturing method, has substantial drawbacks.

Thanks to [Rey] for the tip!

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Reviving a $25 Generator

[Jennies Garage] found a used and abused inverter based generator in the clearance section of his local home improvement store. The generator had been returned on a warranty claim and was deemed uneconomical to fix. Originally $799, [Jennies Garage] picked it up for just $25. He documented his quest to get the device running with a trio of videos.

The generator had spark, but didn’t want to fire. The only obvious problem was the fact that the machine had been overfilled with oil. There was little or no compression, but that is not uncommon with modern small engines – many of them have a compression release mechanism which makes them easier to start.

With all the obvious problems eliminated, the only thing left to do was tear into the engine and figure out what was wrong. Sure enough, it was a compression issue. The overfull oil condition had forced engine oil up around the piston rings, causing them to stick, and snapping one of the rings. The cylinder bore was still in good shape though, so all the engine needed was a new set of rings.

That’s when the problems started. At first, the manufacturer couldn’t find the rings in their computer system. Then they found them but the rings would take two weeks to ship. [Jennies Garage] isn’t the patient type though. He looked up the piston manufacturer in China. They would be happy to ship him complete pistons – but the minimum order quantity was 5000. Then he started cross-referencing pistons from other engines and found a close match from a 1960’s era 90cc motorcycle. Ironically, it’s easier to obtain piston rings for an old motorcycle than it is to find them for a late model generator.

The Honda rings weren’t perfect – the two compression rings needed to be ground down about 1/2 a millimeter. The oil ring was a bit too thick, but thankfully the original oil ring was still in good shape.

Once the frankenpiston was assembled, it was time to put the repair to the test. [Jennies Garage] reassembled the generator, guessing at the torque specs he didn’t have. The surgery was a complete success. The generator ran perfectly, and lit up the night at the [Jennies Garage] cabin.

If you’re low on gas, no problem. Did you know you can run a generator on soda? Want to keep an eye on your remote generator? Check out this generator monitor project.

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