Robotic Arm Rivals Industrial Counterparts

We’ve seen industrial robotic arms in real life. We’ve seen them in classrooms and factories. Before today, we’ve never mistaken a homemade robotic arm for one of the price-of-a-new-home robotic arms. Today, [Chris Annin] made us look twice when we watched the video of his six-axis robotic arm. Most of the DIY arms have a personal flare from their creator so we have to assume [Chris Annin] is either a robot himself or he intended to build a very clean-looking arm when he started.

He puts it through its paces in the video, available after the break, by starting with some stretches, weight-lifting, then following it up and a game of Jenga. After a hard day, we see the arm helping in the kitchen and even cracking open a cold one. At the ten-minute mark, [Chris Annin] walks us through the major components and talks about where to find many, many more details about the arm.

Many of the robotic arms on Hackaday are here by virtue of resourcefulness, creativity or unusual implementation but this one is here because of its similarity to the big boys.

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3D Printing Aluminum with Nanoparticles

We love our 3D printers. But sometimes we really wish we could print in metal. While metal printing is still out of reach for most of us, HRL Labs announced a powdered aluminum printing process that they claim is a breakthrough because it allows printing (and welding) of high-strength aluminum alloys that previously were unprintable and unweldable.

The key is treating the metal with special zirconium-based nanoparticles. The nanoparticles act as nucleation sites that allow the aluminum to form the correct microstructure. The full paper on the process appears in Nature.

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Pouring 1200° Tea: Foundry in a Fire Extinguisher

Let’s face it — the design of most home foundries leaves something to be desired. Most foundries are great at melting metal, but when it comes to pouring the melt, awkward handling can easily lead to horrific results. That’s why we appreciate the thought that went into this electric melting pot foundry.

Sure, electric foundries lack some of the sex-appeal of gas- or even charcoal-fueled foundries, but by eschewing the open flames and shooting sparks, [Turbo Conquering Mega Eagle] was able to integrate the crucible into the foundry body and create what looks for all the world like a Thermos bottle for molten aluminum.

The body is a decapitated fire extinguisher, while the crucible appears to just be a length of steel pipe. An electric stove heating element is wrapped around the crucible, PID control of which is taken care of by an external controller and solid state relay. Insulated with Pearlite and provided with a handle, pours are now as safe as making a nice cup of 1200° tea.

You’ll perhaps recall that [Turbo Conquering Mega Eagle] has a thing for electric foundries, although we have to say the fit and finish of the current work far exceeds his previous quick-and-dirty build using an old electric stove.

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The Tuna Fish Sandwich Foundry

Can you build a foundry out of a loaf of bread and a can of tuna fish? As it turns out, yes you can. And not only can you melt aluminum in said foundry but you can also make a mold from plain beach sand and cast a usable part.

Through the magic of backwoods engineering and that can-do Canadian attitude, [AvE] demonstrates in his inimitable style how a pyrolized loaf of sourdough bread can serve as a perfectly acceptable foundry, using a tuna can as a crucible. We covered [AvE]’s carbon foam creation process before and showed some of its amazing properties, including the refractory characteristics requisite for foundry service. Once reduced to carbon foam, the bread can easily handle the flame of a propane torch and contain the heat long enough to melt aluminum. And using nothing more than beach sand, [AvE] was able to lost-foam cast a knob-like part. Pretty impressive results for such a low-end, field expedient setup.

Normally we warn our more tender-eared readers about [AvE]’s colorful language, lest they succumb to the vapors when he lets the salt out. But he showed remarkable restraint with this one, even with his cutting mat aflame. Pretty SFW, so enjoy seeing what you can do with nothing.

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Custom Aluminum Wheels Teach a Thing or Two about Casting

For some mobile projects like small carts or rolling cabinets, your standard casters from Harbor Freight will do just fine. But some projects need big, beefy wheels, and these custom cast aluminum wheels certainly make a statement. Mostly, “Watch your toes!”

To be honest, [Brian Oltrogge]’s wheels are an accessory in search of a project, and won’t be crushing feet anytime soon. He made them just to make them, but we have no beef with that. They’ve got a great look that hearkens back to a time when heavy metal meant something else entirely, and things were made to last. Of course, being cast from aluminum sort of works against that, but there are practical limits to what can be done in the home foundry. [Brian] started with a session of CAD witchcraft followed by machining the cores for his molds. Rather than doing this as lost foam or PLA, he milled the cores from poplar wood. His sand mix is a cut above what we usually see in home-brew sand casting — sodium silicate sand that can be cured with carbon dioxide. All his careful preparation meant the pour went off without a hitch, and the wheels look great.

We’ve featured quite a few metal casting projects recently, some that went well and some that didn’t. [Brian] looks like he knows what he’s doing, and we appreciate the workmanship that he puts on display here.

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Need to Hold Something? Build a Custom Vise

The only thing better than making a cool project is making a cool project that helps make more projects! Case in point, [Greg Stephens] and [Alex] wanted to colorize steel bearings for use in a Newton’s Cradle desk toy. After trying out a torch and not liking it, [Greg] and [Alex] decided to build custom aluminum vise to hold the sphere while it sits in the magnetic induction forge.

Their vise–they call it the Maker’s Vise0–isn’t just a one-off project to help make the cradle. [Alex] and [Greg] aspire to create a tool useable for a wide variety of projects. They wanted it to be oil-less and it had to be customizable. Ideally it would also have an acceptable grip strength, be easy to use, and look good on the bench.

[Greg] and [Alex] have set up a Hackaday.io project, and their logs show a lot of progress with two finished iterations of the vise and a variety of 3D-printed and cast parts to go with. Recently they brought in a 2,000-lb. load test and tested it on their vise collection, including the two prototypes. Version one rated at 500 lbs. reasonable clamping pressure–meaning they didn’t exert themselves to max out the pressure. Version two sits at 800 lbs., still nothing like a desk vise but far stronger than a Panavise, for instance.

Their magnetic induction forge project was also a success, with the team able to quickly change the color of a steel ball. Check out a video after the break…

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Sexiest Tiny Metal Core-XY 3D Printer

That’s a lot of qualifications, but we’re pretty sure that you can’t accuse us of hyperbole in the title: this is one of the tightest little 3D printer builds we’ve ever seen. Add in the slightly esoteric CoreXY kinematics and the thick aluminum frame, and it’s a speed demon in addition to being a looker.

[René] had built a few 3D printers before, so he had a good feel for the parameters and design tradeoffs before he embarked on the DICE project. Making a small print volume, for instance, means that the frame can be smaller and thus exponentially more rigid. This means that it’s capable of very fast movements — 833 mm/s is no joke! It also looks to make very precise little prints. What could make it even more awesome? Water-cooled stepper motors, magnetic interchangeable printheads, and in-built lighting.

The build looks amazing, and there is video documentation of the whole thing on [René]’s site, including a full bill of materials and designs. It’s certainly not the cheapest 3D printer we’ve ever seen, and the tiny build platform makes it a bad choice for a general-purpose machine, but if you need a second printer and you want one with style, the DICE looks hard to beat.

Thanks [Laimonus Mockus] for the tip!