Flexible Prototyping For E-Textiles That Doesn’t Cost An Arm And A Leg

Let’s face it: pretty much everything about e-textiles is fiddly. If wearables were easy, more people would probably work in that space. But whereas most circuit prototyping is done in two dimensions, the prototyping of wearables requires thinking and planning in 3D. On top of that, you have to figure out how much conductive thread you need, and that stuff’s not cheap.

[alch_emist] has a method for arranging circuits in 3D space that addresses the harsh realities of trying to prototype wearables. There’s that whole gravity thing to deal with, and then of course there are no straight lines anywhere on the human body. So here’s how it works: [alch_emist] made a bunch of reusable tie points designed to work with an adhesive substrate such as felt. They laser-cut a set of acrylic squares and drilled a hole in each one to accommodate a neodymium magnet. On the back of each square is a small piece of the hook side of hook-and-loop tape, which makes the tie points stay put on the felt, but rearrange easily.

We love the idea of prototyping with felt because it’s such a cheap and versatile fabric, and because you can easily wrap it around your arm or leg and see how the circuit will move when you do.

Not quite to this planning stage of your next wearable project? Magnets and conductive thread play just as well together in 2D.

Fit Your LCDs With Lenses For That Vintage CRT Look

For as big, bulky, and power-hungry as they were, CRTs were an analog joy of the early days of TV, video games, and computers. The crackling high-voltage, the occasional whiff of ozone, the whizzing electrons lancing through a vacuum to excite a phosphorescent image — by comparison, thin-film LCDs are sterile and boring.

Sadly, CRTs are getting harder to come by these days, and at the extreme ends of the size spectrum, may never have been available at all. Thankfully, if your project demands a retro CRT look, fitting your LCD with a custom lens might just do the trick. The link leads to the first article in a series by [jamhamster] on the travails of lensmaking, which even when not practiced for precision lens production can still be tricky. After going through the basics of material selection — acrylic, but not cold-formed, please; such sheets have internal stresses that tend to express themselves as cracks while grinding. The grinding method is as ingenious as it is simple: a blank is fitted to a flat arbor and ground down by spinning it against a belt sander, on the side without the platen. A little WD40 for lubrication and thermal management helped while progressing to finer grit belts, with a final treatment using plastic polish yielded a shape very reminiscent of an old CRT face. There’s a Twitter video that shows the simulated CRT.

Further installments of the series detail the optical properties of these lenses,  options for bonding them to an LCD, and tying all the steps into a coherent method. We think the results speak for themselves, and suspect that these “emulated” CRTs often draw a double-take.

Thanks to [John] for the tip.

Digital X-Ray Scanner Teardown Yields Bounty Of Engineering Goodies

We’ll just go ahead and say it right up front: we love teardowns. Ripping into old gear and seeing how engineers solved problems — or didn’t — is endlessly fascinating, even for everyday devices like printers and radios. But where teardowns really get interesting is when the target is something so odd and so specialized that you wouldn’t normally expect to get a peek at the outside, let alone tramp through its guts.

[Mads Barnkob] happened upon one such item, a Fujifilm FCR XG-1 digital radiography scanner. The once expensive and still very heavy piece of medical equipment was sort of a “digital film system” that a practitioner could use to replace the old-fashioned silver-based films used in radiography, without going all-in on a completely new digital X-ray suite. It’s a complex piece of equipment, the engineering of which yields a lot of extremely interesting details.

The video below is the third part of [Mads]’ series, where he zeroes in on the object of his desire: the machine’s photomultiplier tube. The stuff that surrounds the tube, though, is the real star, at least to us; that bent acrylic light pipe alone is worth the price of admission. Previous videos focused on the laser scanner unit inside the machine, as well as the mechatronics needed to transport the imaging plates and scan them. The video below also shows experiments with the PM tube, which when coupled with a block of scintillating plastic worked as a great radiation detector.

We’ve covered a bit about the making of X-rays before, and a few of the sensors used to detect them too. We’ve also featured a few interesting X-ray looks inside of tech, from a Starlink dish to knock-off adapters.

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Transparent Hard Drive Gives Peek At The Platters

Solid-state drives (SSDs) are all the rage these days, and for good reason. But that doesn’t mean the era of the spinning disk is over, as traditional mechanical hard drives still offer a compelling value for mass storage applications where access times aren’t as critical. But the components inside these “slow” mechanical drives are still moving at incredible speeds, which [The Developer Guy] has nicely illustrated with his transparent hard drive.

Now unfortunately the technology to produce a fully transparent hard drive doesn’t exist, but laser cutting a new top plate out of acrylic is certainly within the means of the average hacker. The process is pretty straightforward: cut out a piece of clear plastic in the same shape and size as the drive’s original lid, put the appropriate mounting holes in it, and find some longer screws to accommodate the increased thickness.

Because this is just for a demonstration, [The Developer Guy] doesn’t need to worry too much about dust or debris getting on the platters; but we should note that performing this kind of modification on a drive you intend on actually using would be a bad idea unless you’ve got a cleanroom to work in.

In the videos below [The Developer Guy] records the drive while it’s in use, and at one point puts a microscope on top of the plastic to get a close-up view of the read/write head twitching back and forth. We particularly liked the time-lapse of the drive being formatted, as you can see the arm smoothly moving towards the center of the drive. Unfortunately the movement of the platters themselves is very difficult to perceive given their remarkably uniform surface, but make no mistake, they’re spinning at several thousand RPM.

Have an old mechanical drive of your own that you’re not sure what to do with? We’ve seen them turned into POV clocks, impromptu rotary encoders, and even surprisingly powerful blower fans.

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Clock-of-Clocks Adds Light-Pipe Hands For Beauty And Function

We’ve gotten used to seeing “meta clocks,” clocks that use an array of analog clock faces and piece together characters using the hands of the clocks. They’re very clever, and we always like to see them, especially when they come with detailed build instructions like this one does.

What’s also nice about [Erich Styger]’s “MetaClockClock” display is the twist on the original concept. Where most clock-of-clocks depend on the contrast between the hands and the faces of the analog movements, [Erich] added light to the mix. Hidden inside the bezel of each clock is a strip of RGB LEDs; coupled with the clear acrylic hands of the clock, which act as light pipes, each clock can contribute different shapes of different colors to the display. Each clock is built around a dual-shaft stepper motor of the kind used in car dashboard gauges; the motors each live on a custom PCB, while the LEDs are mounted on a ring-shaped PCB of their own. Twenty-four of the clocks are mounted in a very nice walnut panel, which works really well with the light-pipe hands. The video below shows just some of the display possibilities.

[Erich] has documented his build process in extreme detail, and has all the design files up on GitHub. We won’t say that recreating his build will be easy — there are a lot of skills needed here, from electronics to woodworking — but at least all the information is there. We think this is a beautiful upgrade to [Erich]’s earlier version, and we’d love to see more of these built.

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Elegant And Portable DIY Nightlight Becomes A Fixture For Hacker’s Kids

When [itzikdiy]’s kids asked for a night light for their room, he got the bright idea to build something that straddles the line between portable and permanent. This fixture-less fixture plugs directly into a wall socket and is turned on and off with a handsome rocker switch on the bottom.

This lovely little lamp is mostly made from scrap — the oak on the front appears to have come from an old cabinet door, and the other two ring-shaped pieces are made from pine. [itzikdiy] even took the acrylic from broken panel lamps. Everything was cut with a Dremel and a circle-cutter attachment except the oak, which required a jigsaw. We think it looks great, especially with the different grain directions — call it art deco woodworking.

When it was all said and done, [itzikdiy] found it was too heavy to hang by the plug alone, so he added an L-shaped support beneath the power supply that holds it more evenly against the wall. [itzikdiy] also made a pair of hooks that snap into a pair of slots on the sides of the outlet itself. The solution is simple, sturdy, and effective without disrupting the lines of the lamp at all. Carve out a little bit of time to watch the build video after the break.

We know that someone of your hulking intelligence has no fear of the dark. But if you think you could use a nightlight in the bathroom for those 2 AM trips, look no further.

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Putting Lasers To Work Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, March 3 at noon Pacific for the Putting Lasers to Work Hack Chat with Jonathan Schwartz!

Laser cutting equipment runs the gamut in terms of cost, with low-end, almost disposable units that can be had for a song to high-power fiber lasers that only big businesses can afford. But the market has changed dramatically over the years, and there’s now a sweet-spot of affordable laser cutters that can really do some work. And while plenty of hobbyists have taken the plunge and added such a laser cutter to their shops, still others have looked at these versatile tools and realized that a business can be built around them.

For the next Hack Chat, we’ll be sitting down with Jonathan Schwartz. He started with laser cutters at his maker space, and quickly became the “laser guy” everyone turned to for answers. With about 10 years of experience, Jon set up American Laser Cutter in Los Angeles, to provide bespoke laser engraving and cutting services. He has built a business around mid-range laser cutters, and he’s ready to share what he’s learned. Join us as we talk about the machines, the materials, and the services that are part of a laser cutting business, and find out some of the tricks of the laser-jockey’s trade.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, March 3 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

 

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