Ventbot fans with 3D printed brackets and control circuit board with ESP32 breakout and multicolored 3D printed cases

Ventbots Are Fans Of HVAC And Home Automation

[WJCarpenter] had a common HVAC problem; not all the rooms got to a comfortable temperature when the heater was working to warm up their home. As often happens with HVAC systems, the rooms farthest from the heat source and/or with less insulation needed a boost of heat in the winter and cooling in the summer too. While [WJCarpenter] is a self-reported software person, not a hardware person, you will enjoy going along on the journey to build some very capable vent boosters that require a mix of each.

Ventbot control circuit board with ESP32 breakout in a red 3D printed case

There’s a great build log on here, but for those who need more of a proper set of instructions, there’s a step-by-step guide that should allow even a beginner hardware hacker to complete the project over on Instructables. There you’ll find everything you need to build ESPHome controlled, 3D printed, PC fan powered vent boosters. While they can be integrated into Home Assistant, we were interested to learn that ESPHome allows these to run stand-alone too, each using its own temperature and pressure sensor.

The many iterations of hardware and software show, resulting in thoughtful touches like a startup sequence that checks for several compatible temperature sensors and a board layout that accommodates different capacitor lead spacings. Along the way, [WJCarpenter] also graphed the noise level of different fans running at multiple speeds and the pressure sensor readings against the temperatures to see if they could be used as more reliable triggers for the fans. (spoiler, they weren’t) There are a bunch of other tips to find along the way, so we highly recommend going through all that [WJCarpenter] has shared if you want to build your own or just want some tips on how to convert a one-off project to something that a wider audience can adapt to their own needs.

Ventbot graphing of temperature, pressure, and fan noise

See a video after the break that doesn’t show the whole project but includes footage of the start-up sequence that tests each fan’s tachometer and the customizable ramp-up and ramp-down settings. Continue reading “Ventbots Are Fans Of HVAC And Home Automation”

What’s Black, White, And Red On 20 Sides?

You won’t need to pack a full set of dice for your next game with this DIY Multifunctional Eink Gadget. [Sasa Karanović] brings us a fun device that combines a few essential aspects of tabletop gaming, D6, D12, and D20 dice rolling and a hero dashboard. While they have grand plans for a BLE networked future application, we admire the restraint to complete a V1 project before allowing scope-creep to run amok. Well played!

For this project, [Sasa] realized it needed to be battery powered and just choosing the right display for a battery powered application can be daunting. Even if you aren’t building this project, the video after the break includes a nice intro to electronic ink and low power microcontrollers for the uninitiated. We even see a graph of the completed board’s power draw from the button wake up, display refresh, and low power sleep. The project has some neat tips for building interaction into case design with the use of the display and a flexible bezel as integrated buttons. Continue reading “What’s Black, White, And Red On 20 Sides?”

A miniature 486 desktop PC running Lemmings

Tiny 3D Printed Gaming PC Contains Real Retro Hardware

Emulators are easy and convenient, but for some retrocomputing enthusiasts nothing comes close to running classic software on actual era-appropriate hardware. This can become a problem, though, for those into vintage PC gaming: old PCs and their monitors are notoriously large and heavy, meaning that even a modest collection will quickly fill up a decent family home. There is a solution however, as [The Eric Experiment] demonstrates in his latest video. He designed and built a 3D-printed mini PC that runs on an actual 486 processor.

An ordinary desktop motherboard would have required a rather large case to begin with, so [Eric] started his project by buying an old industrial PC board. Such a device has the processor and all main motherboard components sitting on an ISA card, which then connects to other ISA cards through a backplane. This way, a complete system with expansion cards can be made way more compact than even the sleekest desktop PCs of the time. An SD-card-to-IDE converter makes for an extremely slim hard drive replacement, while a Gotek floppy emulator allows the system to boot as if there’s actually a floppy drive present.

A small 486 tower case being assembled
Even the side panels slide in exactly like they do on real PC cases.

All of this is pretty neat to begin with, but by far the most impressive parts of the Tiny 486 project are the enclosures that [Eric] designed for the PC and its accompanying monitor. Both were modelled off real-world examples and are accurate down to the smallest details: the tilting stand that clips onto the base of the monitor for instance, or the moving latch on the faux 5.25″ floppy drive. That latch operates a cleverly hidden door that reveals the USB connector for the floppy emulator. The compulsory seven-segment LED display on the mini tower’s front panel now finally serves a useful purpose – indicating which floppy image is currently active.

Sporting an Intel 486-DX4 100 MHz processor, 32 MB of RAM, a Tseng ET4000 video card and an ESS Audiodrive for sound, the tiny 486 can run DOS or Windows 95, although performance in the latter is a bit limited due to the lack of a local-bus video card. It’s perfectly fine for most DOS games though, and a lot more practical than a full-sized desktop PC.

There are several ways to make a tiny game PC, like using PC/104 standard boards or repurposing old network equipment. The crucial part needed to turn it into a gaming machine is a proper sound card, which you can even build from scratch if needed. Thanks for the tip, [Nathan]!

Continue reading “Tiny 3D Printed Gaming PC Contains Real Retro Hardware”

Kitchen timer project in a angled green 3d printed case with a 7 segment display and knob.

Printing A Brutalist Kitchen Timer

A kitchen timer is one of those projects that’s well defined enough to have a clear goal, but allows plenty of room for experimentation with functionality and aesthetics. [Hggh]’s exploration of the idea is a clean, Brutalist kitchen timer.

The case for [Hggh]’s kitchen timer is 3D printed with openings for a TM1637 four digit, seven segment display and for a KY-040 rotary encoder with knob attached. The internals are driven by an ATmega328P powered from a 18650 cell with a DW01-P battery protection chip and a TP4056 chip for charging. On the back of the case is a power switch and USB-C connector for power. It looks like the 3D printed case was sanded down to give it a smooth matte surface finish.

All the project files, including the STLs, OpenSCAD code, and KiCAD design, are available on GitHub. This Brutalist kitchen timer project is a nice addition to some of the kitchen timers we’ve featured in the past, including a minimalist LED matrix timer and a Nixie timer with keypad.

A 3D-printed case for the ZX Spectrum with a mechanical keyboard

The ZX Spectrum Finally Gets A Proper Keyboard

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum is fondly remembered by many for being their first introduction into the wonderful world of computing. Its advanced capabilities coupled with a spectacularly low price made it one of the great home computers of the 1980s, at least in the UK and nearby countries. What was less spectacular about the Spectrum was its awful keyboard: although a step up from the flat membrane keyboards of earlier Sinclair computers, the Spectrum’s tiny rubbery keys made typing anything more than a few characters a bit of a chore.

If you’re planning to do any serious programming on your Spectrum, you might therefore want to check out [Lee Smith]’s latest project in which he redesigns the Spectrum’s case to include a proper mechanical keyboard. [Lee] got this idea when he was looking for ways to fix a few Spectrums with broken or missing cases, and stumbled upon several projects that aim to recreate classic Sinclair machines using modern components. He took a keyboard PCB meant for the ZX Max 128 project, populated it with some high-quality switches, and added a modified set of keycaps from the ManuFerHi N-Go.

A new ZX Spectrum case, opened to show the keyboard connecting to the mainboard
The new keyboard plugs into the original connectors and doesn’t require any board-level modifications.

Together, those parts formed a modern, comfortable keyboard that still had the proper labelling on all keys. This is rather essential on the Spectrum, since each key is also used to generate symbols and BASIC keywords: for instance, the “K” key also functions as LIST, +, LEN and SCREEN$.

With the keyboard design settled, [Lee] set to work on the rest of the case: he designed and 3D-printed a sleek enclosure that takes the new keyboard as well as an original Spectrum mainboard. The resulting system is called the ZX Mechtrum, and looks fabulous with its matte black exterior and the obligatory four-coloured rainbow. A replaceable rear panel also allows several board-level modifications, like composite video or VGA output, to be neatly incorporated into the design.

We wrote an extensive retrospect on the Spectrum on its 40th anniversary earlier this year. If, somehow, you actually like the Spectrum’s original rubbery keyboard, then you can also modify the whole thing to work with modern computers.

Continue reading “The ZX Spectrum Finally Gets A Proper Keyboard”

Wearable colour eink display in watch format showing additional internal details

Bendable Colour EPaper Display Has Touch Input Too

The Interactive Media Lab at Dresden Technical University has been busy working on ideas for user interfaces with wearable electronics, and presents a nice project, that any of us could reproduce, to create your very own wearable colour epaper display device. They even figured out a tidy way to add touch input as well. By sticking three linear resistive touch strips, which are effectively touch potentiometers, to a backing sheet and placing the latter directly behind the Plastic Logic Legio 2.1″ flexible electrophoretic display (EPD), a rudimentary touch interface was created. It does look like it needs a fair bit of force to be applied to the display, to be detectable at the touch strips, but it should be able to take it.

The rest of the hardware is standard fayre, using an off-the-shelf board to drive the EPD, and an Adafruit Feather nRF52840 Sense board for the application and Bluetooth functionality. The casing is 3D printed (naturally) and everything can be built from items many of us have lying around. The video below shows a few possible applications, including interestingly using the display as part of the strap for another wearable. Here is also is a report on adding interactive displays to smart watches. After all, you can’t have too many displays.

Many wearables projects can be found in the HaD archives, including this dubious wearable scope, a method for weaving OLED fibres into garments. Finally, for a good introduction to wearable DIY tech, you could do worse than this Supercon talk from Sophy Wong.

Continue reading “Bendable Colour EPaper Display Has Touch Input Too”

Printed TS100 Case Beats The Heat With A Bearing

As we’ve said many times in the past, the creation of custom cases and enclosures is one of the best and most obvious applications for desktop 3D printing. When armed with even an entry-level printer, your projects will never again have to suffer through the indignity of getting hot glued into a nondescript plastic box. But if you’re printing with basic PLA, you need to be careful that nothing gets too hot inside.

Which was a problem when [Oleg Vint] started work on this 3D printed case for the popular TS100 soldering iron. But with the addition of a standard 608 bearing, the case provides a safe spot for the iron to cool off before it gets buttoned back up for storage. Of course, you can also use the flip-out perch to hold the iron while you’re working.

The bearing stand that served as inspiration for the case.

As [Oleg] explains on the Thingiverse page for the case, he actually blended a few existing projects together to arrive at the final design. Specifically, the idea of using the 608 bearing came from a printable TS100 stand originally designed in 2017 by [MightyNozzle]. Released under Creative Commons, [Oleg] was able to mash the bearing stand together with elements from several other printable TS100 cases to come up with his unique combined solution.

In a physical sense, this project is a great example of the sort of bespoke creations that are made possible by desktop 3D printing. But it’s also a testament to the incredible community that’s sprung up around this technology. While the logistics of it still could use some work, seeing hackers and makers swap and combine their designs like this is extremely inspiring.

[Thanks Arturo182]