It is not uncommon for a Hackaday writer to trawl the comments section of a given article, looking for insights or to learn something new. Often, those with experience in various fields will share kernels of knowledge or raise questions on a particular topic. Recently, I happened to be glazing over an article on aluminium casting with interest, given my own experience in the field. One comment in particular caught my eye.
And no, the water won’t cause a steam explosion. There’s a guy on youtube (myfordlover, I think) who disproves that myth with molten iron, pouring the iron into water, pouring water into a ladle of molten iron and so on. We’ll be happy to do a video demonstrating this with aluminum if so desired.
Having worked for some time in an aluminium die casting plant, I sincerely hope [John] did not attempt this feat. While there are a number of YouTube videos showing that this can be done without calamity, there are many showing the exact opposite. Mixing molten aluminium and water often ends very poorly, causing serious injury or even fatalities in the workplace. Let’s dive deeper to see why that is.
We’ve all been there — you see somebody do something cool on YouTube and you just have to give it a go. For [lonesoulsurfer], the drop-everything-and-build happened to be a little four-legged walker robot that runs on a single servo. Though it may be simple, there really is nothing like seeing a robot you created take its first steps.
[lonesoulsurfer]’s walker is made mostly from scrap aluminium and other scavenged parts like coat hangers, paper clips and the metal bits and bobs from banana jacks. The Dremeled and bent body would likely be the hardest to imitate for a first-time builder, but any sturdy chassis that allows for things screwed and bolted to it should work. Also, don’t expect it to work right away. It will take a bit of tuning to get the gait right, but it’s all part of the fun. So is modifying a 180° servo for continuous rotation.
We really like the way this robot walks — it saunters around like a long bulldog and looks like it can handle almost any terrain. Watch it walk after the break, and stick around for the build video.
How cool would it be if there was a material that couldn’t be cut or drilled into? You could make the baddest bike lock, the toughest-toed work boots, or the most secure door. Really, the list of possibilities just goes on and on.
The material is made of aluminium foam that’s embedded with a bunch of small ceramic spheres. It works by inducing retaliatory vibrations into the cutting tools, which turns the tools’ force back on themselves and quickly dulls their edges.
The creators have named the material Proteus after the elusive and shape-shifting prophet of Greek mythology who would only share his visions of the future with those who could get their arms around him and keep him still. It sounds like this material could give Proteus a run for his money.
The ceramic spheres themselves aren’t indestructible, but they’re not supposed to be. Abrading the spheres only makes Proteus stronger. As the cutting tool contacts them, they’re crushed into dust that fills the voids in the aluminium foam, strengthening the material’s destructive vibratory effect. The physical inspiration for Proteus comes from protective hierarchical structures in nature, like the impact-resistant rind of grapefruit and the tendency of abalone shells to resist fracture under the impact of shark teeth.
How It’s Made
At this point, Proteus is a proof of concept. Adjustments would likely have to be made before it can be produced at any type of scale. Even so, the recipe seems pretty straightforward. First, an aluminium alloy powder is mixed with a foaming agent. Then the mixture is cold compacted in a compressor and extruded in dense rods. The rods are cut down to size and then arranged along with the ceramic spheres in a layered grid, like a metallurgical lasagna.
The grid is spot-welded into a steel box and then put into a furnace for 15-20 minutes. Inside the furnace, the foaming agent releases hydrogen gas, which introduces voids into the aluminium foam and gives it a cellular structure.
According to their paper, the researchers tried to penetrate the material with an angle grinder, a water jet cutter, and a drill. Of these, the drill has the best chance of getting through because the small point of contact can find gaps more easily, so it’s less likely to hit a ceramic sphere. The researchers also made cylindrical samples without steel cladding which they used to test the compressive strength and prove Proteus’ utility as a structural material for beams and columns. It didn’t fare well initially, but became less compressible as the foam matrix collapsed.
The creation process lends some leeway for customization, because the porosity of the aluminium foam can be varied by changing the bake time. As for the drill bit problem, tightening up security is as easy as adjusting the size and/or density of the ceramic spheres.
In the video after the break, you can watch a chunk of Proteus eat up an angle grinder disc in under a minute. Some may argue about the tool wielder’s technique, but we think there’s something to be said for any material that can destroy a cutting disc that fast. They don’t claim that Proteus is completely impenetrable, but it does look impressive. We wish they would have tried more cutting tools like a gas torch, or experimented with other destructive techniques, like plastic explosives, but we suppose that research budgets only go so far.
If you’ve ever tried to solder to aluminum, you know it isn’t easy without some kind of special technique. [SimpleTronic] recently showed a method that chemically plates copper onto aluminum and allows you to solder easily. We aren’t chemists, so we aren’t sure if this is the best way or not, but the chemicals include salt, copper sulfate (found in pool stores), ferric chloride as you’d use for etching PCBs, and water.
Once you have bare aluminum, you prepare a solution from the copper sulfate and just a little bit of ferric chloride. Using salt with that solution apparently removes oxidation from the aluminum. Then using the same solution without the salt puts a copper coating on the metal that you can use for soldering. You can see a video of the process below.
In the race toward a future free from fossil fuels, hydrogen is rapidly gaining ground. On paper, hydrogen sounds fantastic — it’s clean-burning with zero emissions, the refuel time is much faster than electric, and hydrogen-fueled vehicles can go longer distances between refuels than their outlet-dependent brethren.
The reality is that hydrogen vehicles usually need fuel cells to convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. They also need pressurized tanks to store the gases and pumps for refueling, all of which adds weight, takes up space, and increases the explosive potential of the system.
Etching aluminium is a simple process, readily accessible to the average maker. [MakeFailRepeat] started with an aluminium bar, and applied sticky-backed vinyl to the surface. This was then lasercut with the coin artwork, and the pieces removed to leave a negative space design for etching. With the resist layer in place, the aluminium was placed in a bath of salt water, and attached to the positive electrode of a DC supply or battery. With the negative electrode attached to a bolt, the aluminium is left to etch, with care taken to avoid over-etching. As a final finishing step, the coins were then placed in a cobbled-together rock tumbler, using scrap 3D printer filament as media.
Though much of it is hidden from view, welding is a vital part of society. It’s the glue that holds together the framework of the cars we drive, the buildings we occupy, the appliances we use, and the heavy machinery that keeps us moving forward. Every year, the tireless search continues for stronger and lighter materials to streamline our journey into the future of transportation and space exploration.