Your Work Won’t Move with a Magnetic Drill Press Vise

Setting up your workpiece is often the hardest part of any machining operation. The goal is to secure the workpiece so it can’t move during machining in such a way that nothing gets in the way of the tooling. Magnetic chucks are a great choice for securely and flexibly holding down workpieces, as this simple shop-built electromagnetic vise shows.

It looks like [Make It Extreme] learned a thing or two about converting microwave oven transformers to electromagnets when they built a material handling crane for the shop. Their magnetic vise, designed for a drill press but probably a great choice for securing work to a milling machine, grinder, or even a CNC router, has a simple but sturdy steel frame. Two separate platforms slide on the bed of the vise, each containing two decapitated MOTs. Wired to mains power separately for selective control and potted in epoxy, the magnets really seem to do the job. The video below shows a very thick piece of steel plate cantilevered out over one magnet while having a hole cut; that’s a lot of down force, but the workpiece doesn’t move.

Like the idea of a shop-made vise but would rather go the old-fashioned way? Check out [Make It Extreme]’s laminated bench vise, which also makes an appearance in this video.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Mini DRO For A Lathe

A manual lathe has dial wheels to control the feed of the main carriage and the cross slide to help take cuts on the workpiece. These feed wheels always have some backlash and require frequent resetting of the “zero”. The usual process would be to take measurements on the workpiece with either a vernier caliper or a micrometer at intervals which requires stopping the machine, adding up to increased machine time. The addition of a digital readout not only simplifies the process, but also reduces machining time substantially. Since the DRO magnetic strips are directly attached to the cross slide, the effects of backlash are mitigated.

[Igor] has just such a manual lathe and built his own mini DRO unit from scratch a couple of years back. Most DRO’s have encoder strips and sensors attached to the cross slide with a larger display unit attached separately on a stalk, with wires running between the two. [Igor] kept things simple by building a unit that fit within the space constraints he had. His unit consists of just two sensor modules – each attached directly to the slide. The main unit houses a linear hall sensor, electronics, buttons, a small LCD and batteries. The second axis unit houses just the sensor with a cable connecting it to the main unit for data and power. At the heart of the system is a pair of NSE-5310 linear hall sensor encoder chips. These work in conjunction with multipole magnetic strips. The encoder provides a 12-bit output, and the magnetic strips have poles spaced 2 mm apart. This translates to a theoretical resolution of almost 0.5 microns, but of course, the machine mechanics limit the actual results. The encoder chips talk to an ATtiny2313 over the I2C bus. Three buttons and the power supply round-up the hardware. To run it off a single 1.5 V rechargeable battery, [Igor] used a boost converter to get 3.3 V. The 5 V needed for the LCD is obtained by a voltage doubler connected to a PWM output from the microcontroller and regulated by a Zener diode. The second sensor unit connects via a TRRS 3.5 mm socket.

He added a Bluetooth module as an after thought, but ran out of GPIO pins as well as program space and had to get creative to make it work. The plan was to transmit the data to an Android tablet which would work as a large, remote, wireless display. He never did use that feature though, being satisfied with the small LCD display. There’s several things that went wrong in the build, and if he were to replicate the project again, several changes and improvements would help. So if anyone plans on doing something similar, do check up [Igor]’s project logs first.

Other Machine Co. Changes Name, Logo, Apparently Nothing Else

The name Other Machine Co. is now dead. In a post to the company blog, Other Machine Co. is now Bantam Tools. This news comes just months after the announcement that [Bre Pettis], one-third of the founders of MakerBot, investor in Glowforge, and undeservingly the most hated man in the 3D printer community, purchased Other Machine Co.

Over the past few years, the Othermill, Other Machine Co.’s main product, has gained a reputation for being a very, very nice CNC mill capable of producing PCBs with 6 mil trace and space. Additionally, the Othermill was excellent at very fine CNC work including wax carving jewelry, very neat inlay work on wood, and any other CNC task that doesn’t involve anything harder than aluminum and can fit inside the machine itself.

As of right now, the only change to the Othermill is the name — it’s now the Bantam Tools Desktop PCB Milling Machine. According to a Wired press release, this name change also comes with a change in focus. Bantam Tools will not focus on hobbyist makers, but instead to professionals that need PCBs and other small milling jobs done right now. For the record, I cannot recall the Othermill ever being advertised directly to ‘hobbyist makers’ — it has always seemed the target audience was professionals, or at least people who would make money from the stuff produced on their mill.

Other changes to the Othermill have been in the works for months. Since the time of the acquisition, Other Machine Co. / Bantam have introduced a PCB probing system, a desperately needed fine dust collection system, and automated material thickness probing. These new projects for Bantam mills are compatible with the old Othermill.

Hackaday Prize Entry: A Manual, CNC Pick And Place Machine

Everyone who wants a 3D printer probably already has one, and even laser cutters and CNC machines are making their way into garages and basements ’round the world. Pick and place machines are the next great frontier of personal manufacturing, and even though that’s a long way off, [Tegwyn]’s project for this year’s Hackaday Prize is bringing us that much closer to popping down 0201 LEDs reliably.

This project is a manual pick and place machine — otherwise known as ‘tweezers’. It’s a bit more complicated than that, because the entire idea behind [Tegwyn]’s build is to decouple a human’s fine motor skills from the ability to place components on a board. To do that, this project is using an off-the-shelf, blue light special CNC machine. There’s not much to it, just a bit of aluminum extrusion and some threaded rods. However, with the addition of a vacuum pump, a hollow needle, and a few manual controls to move the axes around, the operator has very fine control over where a resistor, cap, or LED goes.

There are a few neat additions to the, ‘put a vacuum pump on a CNC machine’ idea. This is a 4 axis machine, giving the user the ability to rotate the part around a pad. There’s also a microscope hooked up to a small monitor mounted to the machine. If you’re assembling hundreds of boards, this is not the machine you want. If, however, you only need a handful, don’t mind spending a few hours placing parts, and don’t want to go insane with tiny QFN packages, this is a great build and a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

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DSLogic Plus Teardown and Review

The DSLogic open source logic analyzer is on its second release (the plus version) and [OpenTechLab] has a comprehensive review of the new model, which, unlike the original model, includes a different method of connecting probes and provides a separate ground for each input pin.

The device is pretty simple inside with an FPGA, a RAM, and a USB microcontroller. There’s also a configuration EEPROM and a switching power supply. The device stores up to 256 megabits internally and can sample 400 million samples per second on 4 of its 16 channels. [OpenTechLab] even puts the board under a microscope and maps out the input circuit.

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DPS5005 Makes Digital Power Supply a Snap

Few pieces of gear are more basic to electronics than some kind of power supply. It might be a box of batteries, or it might be a high-end lab supply. [Andreas] took a DPS5005 power supply module that has USB and Bluetooth and used it to build a very capable switching power supply which he then used to build a source measuring unit.

The user interface on the diminutive module is simplistic, so [Andreas] appreciated the PC-based software that can control the supply remotely. The module can output up to 50V, but you should plan accordingly as it does need 1.1 times the maximum voltage output on the input. It will work with lower input voltages, but it just won’t be able to output as high a voltage.

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A Digital LCD Makeover For An Analogue CRT Spectrum Analyser

[Seb Holzapfel, VK2SEB] has a rather nice spectrum analyser, a Hewlett Packard 141T. It’s an entirely analogue instrument though, so it lacks some of the sophisticated features you might expect to see on its modern counterparts.

One feature the HP does have is a vertical deflection output that in effect allows the trace to be reproduced on an oscilloscope. [Seb] has taken that and applied it to an STM32F746 Discovery board with its associated LCD touchscreen to produce an interface for the HP that includes modern features such as trace normalisation and a waterfall view. Along the way he’s had to make a voltage level converter to render the HP’s scan output into a range acceptable for the ST board.

He goes into detail on his software for the project, which he is at pains to remind us is still very much a work in progress. He notes that the HP has a range of other outputs (on those “D” sockets that include co-axial connectors) that provide information about its band and scan settings, so there is ample possibility for further customisation.

If you are interested in this project then the code is all available via GitHub, otherwise you can watch his video below the break. He’s labelled it as “Part 1”, so we look forward to more on this project.

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