Printable Case For Pinecil And TS100 Soldering Irons (Mis)Uses A 608 Bearing

[PjotrStrog]’s rugged Pinecil / TS100 storage case is the perfect printable accessory to go with a hacker’s choice of either the Pine64 Pinecil, or the Miniware TS100 soldering irons. There are some thoughtful features beyond just storing the iron, too!

A standard 608 bearing makes for a handy heat-resistant stand.

Some of you may have spotted a 608 bearing in the image above, and might be wondering what it is for. In proud hacker tradition of using things for something other than their intended purpose, the bearing makes a heat-resistant stand to hold the iron while in use.

This design has a pretty deep history that illustrates the value of sharing one’s designs and allowing others to remix and refine ideas. [PjotrStrog]’s work makes use of the earlier and highly thoughtful TS100, Pinecil, TS80 & TS80p cases with options by [Termiman], which themselves are based on bearing-equipped TS100 case by [Olvin] that we covered back in 2020.

We loved the Pine64 Pinecil soldering iron, and this looks like a fantastic printable storage and carry option. There are a few pieces of hardware needed to put the rugged version together, but [PjotrStrog] also offers a less rugged design with fewer hardware needs, so check that out as well.

Mouse Enjoys Its Freedom

Although it took a little while to standardize on the two-button-with-scroll-wheel setup, most computers have used a mouse or mouse-like device to point at objects on the screen since the 80s. But beyond the standard “point and click” features of the mouse, there have been very few ground-breaking innovations beyond creature comforts. At least, until the “Space Mushroom” mouse from [Shinsaku Hiura] hit our tips line.

This mouse throws away most of the features a typical mouse might have in favor of a joystick-like interface that gives it six degrees of freedom instead of the usual two — while still being about mouse-sized and held in the hand. It doesn’t even have a way of mapping motion directly to movements on the screen. Instead, it maps each degree of freedom to a similar movement of the mouse itself using these three joystick sensors physically linked together, with some underlying programming to translate each movement into the expected movement on the screen.

While this might not replace a standard mouse for every use case anytime soon, it does seem to have tremendous benefit in 3D modeling software, CAD, or anything where orienting a virtual object is the primary goal. Plus, since there’s no limit to the number of mice that can be attached to a computer (beyond USB limitations) this mouse could easily be used in conjunction with a normal mouse much like macro keyboards being used alongside traditional ones.

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Alpakka: A Creative Commons Game Controller

Input Labs’ mission is to produce open-source Creative Commons hardware and software for creating gaming controllers that can be adapted to anyone. Alpakka is their current take on a generic controller, looking similar to a modern Xbox or PlayStation controller but with quite a few differences. The 3D printed casing has a low-poly count, angular feel to it, but if you don’t like that you can tweak that in blender to just how you want it. Alpakka emulates a standard USB-attached keyboard, mouse, and Xinput gamepad in parallel so should just work out of the box for both Linux and Windows PC platforms. The firmware includes some built-in game profiles, which can be selected on the controller.

No special parts here, just 3D prints, a PCB and some nuts and bolts

The dual D-pads, augmented with an analog stick, is not an unusual arrangement, but what is a bit special is the inventive dual-gyro sensor arrangement –which when used in conjunction with a touch-sensitive pad — emulates a mouse input. Rest your thumb on the right-hand directional pad and the mouse moves, or else it stays fixed, kind of like lifting a mouse off the pad to re-center it.

The wired-only controller is based around a Raspberry Pi Pico, which has plenty of resources for this type of application giving a fast 250 Hz update rate. But to handle no fewer than nineteen button inputs, as well as a scroll wheel, directional switch, and that analog stick, the Pico doesn’t have enough I/O, needing a pair of NXP PCAL6416A I2C IO expanders to deal with it.

The PCB design is done with KiCAD, using a simple 3D printed stand to hold the PCB flat and the through-hole components in place while soldering. Other than a few QFN packages which might be a problem for some people, there is nothing tricky about hand-soldering this design.

We’ve been seeing custom game controllers as long as we’ve been hacking, here’s an interesting take on the mouse-integration theme. If you’re comfortable rolling the hardware side of things, but the firmware is a sticking point, then perhaps look no further than this neat RP2040 firmware project.

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3D Printed Light Pipe Turns Overly-Bright LED Into Design Harmony

There are a number of ways to efficiently and elegantly limit an LED’s brightness, but [Tommy] found that using a light pipe or diffuser can integrate better with a device, especially when the device itself is mostly 3D printed in the first place.

Infill has an effect on appearance. 20% infill on the left, 100% infill on the right.

For some problems the Goldilocks approach is the way to go. [Tommy] designed a small array of different LED cover options, and tested each to see what yielded the best results for his printed kit. Some of the biggest takeaways include:

  • 100% infill is best for even results (although interesting shadows happen at less than 100% infill.)
  • Interesting things happen with 7 to 11 mm of top layers of clear PLA, when illuminated from below with a 5 mm high-brightness LED. An even diffusion of light starts to give way to a circular gradient as the upper layer gets thicker.
  • LEDs emit their light mainly upward in a round pattern. Corners will always be darker, even more so if the guide is not round. This effect becomes noticeably more pronounced as the light guide grows in size, putting a practical upper limit on its effective dimensions.

[Tommy] explores these kinds of issues because he designs and builds electronic synth instruments, and they are mostly 3D printed. He explores efficiency and is always happy to share his findings about what works and doesn’t work.

Of course, the usual ways to deal with an overly-bright LED are to limit its current or control its brightness by driving it with a PWM signal. The right approach depends on the application and the scale of the design, and there are actually quite a few ways to crack this nut. Luckily, our own [Inderpreet Singh] is here to tell you all about how best to control LED brightness.

Antenna Mount Designed For On-The-Go SDR

Software-defined radio is all the rage these days, and for good reason. It eliminates or drastically reduces the amount of otherwise pricey equipment needed to transmit or even just receive, and can pack many more features than most affordable radio setups otherwise would have. It also makes it possible to go mobile much more easily. [Rostislav Persion] uses a laptop for on-the-go SDR activities, and designed this 3D printed antenna mount to make his radio adventures much easier.

The antenna mount is a small 3D printed enclosure for his NESDR Smart Dongle with a wide base to attach to the back of his laptop lid with Velcro so it can easily be removed or attached. This allows him to run a single USB cable to the dongle and have it oriented properly for maximum antenna effectiveness without something cumbersome like a dedicated antenna stand. [Rostislav] even modeled the entire assembly so that he could run a stress analysis on it, and from that data ended up filling it with epoxy to ensure maximum lifespan with minimal wear on the components.

We definitely appreciate the simple and clean build which allows easy access to HF and higher frequencies while mobile, especially since the 3D modeling takes it a step beyond simply printing a 3D accessory and hoping for the best. There’s even an improved version on his site here. To go even one step further, though, we’ve seen the antennas themselves get designed and then 3D printed directly.

Ultimate Game And Watch Has Support For NES

We’ve talked about feature creep plenty of times around here, and it’s generally regarded as something to be avoided when designing a prototype. It might sound good to have a lot of features in a build, but this often results in more complexity and more difficulty when actually bringing a project to fruition. [Brendan] has had the opposite experience with this custom handheld originally designed for Game and Watch games, though, and he eventually added NES and Game Boy functionality as well.

As this build was originally intended just for Game and Watch games, the screen is about the size of these old games, and while it can easily mimic the monochrome LCD-style video that would have been present on these 80s handhelds, it also has support for color which means that it’s the perfect candidate for emulating other consoles as well. It’s based around a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W and the enclosure is custom printed and painted. Some workarounds for audio had to be figured out, though, since native analog output isn’t supported, but it still has almost every feature for all of these systems.

While we’ve seen plenty of custom portable builds from everything from retro consoles to more modern ones, the Game and Watch catalog is often overlooked. There are a few out there, but in this case we appreciate the feature creep that allowed this build to support Game Boy and NES games as well.

Radial Vector Reducer Rotates At Really Relaxed Velocity

When [Michael Rechtin] learned about Radial Vector Reducers, the underlying research math made his head spin, albeit very slowly. Realizing that it’s essentially a cycloidal drive meshed with a planetary gear set, he got to work in CAD and, in seemingly no time, had a design to test. You can see the full results of his experiment in the video below the break. Or head on out to Thingiverse to download the model directly.

[Michael] explains that while there are elements of a cycloidal drive, itself a wonderfully clever gear reduction mechanism, the radial vector reducer actually has more bearing surfaces, and should be more durable as a result. Two cycloidal disks are driven by a planetary gear reduction for an even greater reduction, but they don’t even spin, they just cycle in a way that drives the outer shell, setting them further apart from standard cycloidal drives.

How would this 3D printed contraption hold up? To test this, [Michael] built a test jig with a NEMA 23 stepper providing the torque, and an absurd monster truck/front loader wheel — also printed — to provide traction in the grass and leaves of his back yard. He let it drive around its tether for nearly two weeks before disassembling it to check for wear. How’d it look? You’ll have to check the video to find out.

If you aren’t familiar with cycloidal drives, check out this fantastic explanation we featured. As for planetary drives, what better way to demonstrate it than by an ornamental planetary gear clock!

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