Peeking Inside A VW Gearbox Reveals Die Casting Truths

Recently, I was offered a 1997 Volkswagen Golf for the low, low price of free — assuming I could haul it away, as it suffered from a thoroughly borked automatic transmission. Being incapable of saying no to such an opportunity, I set about trailering the poor convertible home and immediately tore into the mechanicals to see what was wrong.

Alas, I have thus far failed to resurrect the beast from Wolfsburg, but while I was wrist deep in transmission fluid, I spotted something that caught my eye. Come along for a look at the nitty-gritty of transmission manufacturing!

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What If You Could Design Your Own Aluminum Hand?

[Ian Davis] has decided to start over on his hand. [Ian] is missing four fingers on his left hand and has for a year now been showcasing DIY prosthetics on his YouTube channel. Back in July, we covered [Ian]’s aluminum hand.

Why aluminum? [Ian] found himself reprinting previous versions’ 3D printed plastic parts multiple times due to damage in the hinged joints, or UV damage rendering them brittle. With an ingenious splaying mechanism and some sensors powered by an Arduino, [Ian] has been wearing the custom machined aluminum hand on a daily basis.

However, as with many makers, he had that itch to revisit and refine the project. Even though the last version was a big jump in quality of life, he still found room for improvement. One particular problem was that the sensors tended to shift around and made it hard to get an accurate reading. To overcome this, [Ian] turned to a molding process. However, adding a stabilizing silicon layer meant that the design of the prosthetic needed to change. With several improvements in mind, [Ian] started the process of creating the plaster positive of his palm, working to create a silicon negative. The next step from here was to create a fiberglass shell that can go over the silicone with sensor wires embedded into the fiberglass shell.

It has been amazing to see the explosion in 3D printed prosthetics over the past few years and hope the trend continues. We look forward to seeing the next steps in [Ian’s] journey towards their ideal prosthetic!

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This DIY Drill Press Is Very Well Executed

Plenty of projects we see here could easily be purchased in some form or other. Robot arms, home automation, drones, and even some software can all be had with a quick internet search, to be sure. But there’s no fun in simply buying something when it can be built instead. The same goes for tools as well, and this homemade drill press from [ericinventor] shows that it’s not only possible to build your own tools rather than buy them, but often it’s cheaper as well.

This mini drill press has every feature we could think of needing in a tool like this. It uses off-the-shelf components including the motor and linear bearing carriage (which was actually salvaged from the Z-axis of a CNC machine). The chassis was built from stock aluminum and bolted together, making sure to keep everything square so that the drill press is as precise as possible. The movement is controlled from a set of 3D printed gears which are turned by hand.

The drill press is capable of drilling holes in most materials, including metal, and although small it would be great for precision work. [ericinventor] notes that it’s not necessary to use a separate motor, and that it’s possible to use this build with a Dremel tool if one is already available to you. Either way, it’s a handy tool to have around the shop, and with only a few modifications it might be usable as a mill as well.

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Under Pressure: How Aluminum Extrusions Are Made

At any given time I’m likely to have multiple projects in-flight, by which of course I mean in various stages of neglect. My current big project is one where I finally feel like I have a chance to use some materials with real hacker street cred, like T-slot extruded aluminum profiles. We’ve all seen the stuff, the “Industrial Erector Set” as 80/20 likes to call their version of it. And we’ve all seen the cool projects made with it, from CNC machines to trade show displays, and in these pandemic times, even occasionally as sneeze guards in retail shops.

Aluminum T-slot profiles are wonderful to work with — strong, lightweight, easily connected with a wide range of fasteners, and infinitely configurable and reconfigurable as needs change. It’s not cheap by any means, but when you factor in the fabrication time saved, it may well be a net benefit to spec the stuff for a project. Still, with the projected hit to my wallet, I’ve been looking for more affordable alternatives.

My exploration led me into the bewilderingly rich world of aluminum extrusions. Even excluding mundane items like beer and soda cans, you’re probably surrounded by extruded aluminum products right now. Everything from computer heatsinks to window frames to the parts that make up screen doors are made from extruded aluminum. So how exactly is this ubiquitous stuff made?

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Broken Smartphones: Laptops In Disguise

Modern smartphones are a dizzying treatise on planned obsolescence. Whether it’s batteries that can’t be removed without four hours and an array of tiny specialized tools, screens that shatter with the lightest shock, or (worst of all) software that gets borked purposefully to make the phone seem older and slower than it really is, around every corner is some excuse to go buy a new device. The truly tragic thing is that there’s often a lot of life left in these old, sometimes slightly broken, devices.

This video shows us how to turn an old smartphone into a perfectly usable laptop. The build starts with a screen and control board that has USB-C inputs, which most phones can use to output video. It’s built into a custom aluminum case with some hinges, and then attached to a battery bank and keyboard in the base of the laptop. From there, a keyboard is installed and then the old phone is fixed to the back of the screen so that the aluminum body doesn’t interfere with the WiFi signal.

If all you need is internet browsing, messaging, and basic word processing, most phones are actually capable enough to do all of this once they are free of their limited mobile UI. The genius of this build is that since the phone isn’t entombed in the laptop body, this build could easily be used to expand the capabilities of a modern, working phone as well. That’s not the only way to get a functioning laptop with parts from the junk drawer, either,  if you’d prefer to swap out the phone for something else like a Raspberry Pi.

Thanks to [NoxiousPluK] for the tip!

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Aluminium Pucks Fuel Hydrogen Trucks

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.

Kurt Koehler has a better idea: make the hydrogen on demand, in the vehicle, using a solid catalyst and a simple chemical reaction. Koehler is the founder of Indiana-based startup AlGalCo — Aluminium Gallium Company. After fourteen years of R&D and five iterations of his system, the idea is really starting to float. Beginning this summer, these pucks are going to power a few trucks in a town just outside of Indianapolis.

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The Next Best Thing To A Cybertruck

While production of the Tesla Cybertruck won’t start production until 2021 (at the earliest), you can always try to build your own. Unless you have a really big spare parts drawer, though, it probably won’t be full sized, but you can at least build a model if you have a shop as well-stocked as [Emiel]. He took some time to build a model cybertruck out of a single sheet of aluminum. (Video, embedded below. You might want to turn on subtitles.)

This project is a great example of the fact that some projects that seem simple on the surface require some specialized tools to get just right. To start, the aluminum sheet was cut with a laser to get into the appropriate shape and include details like windows, and the bending points were marked with an engraver to help the bending process along. The one tool that [Emiel] was missing was a brake, but he got great results with a set of metal bending pliers.

Finishing the model didn’t go particularly smoothly, either. He had planned to braze the metal together, but the heat required kept warping the body panels. The solution was to epoxy it together and sand down the excess, and the results are hopefully stronger than brazing would have been since he added a cloth to the epoxy for extra strength. The windows are made from polycarbonate (and didn’t break during the durability test), and we hope that when [Emiel] is ready to put in a motor he uses one of his custom-built electric motors. Continue reading “The Next Best Thing To A Cybertruck”