We’re all familiar with getting feedback from a rotating shaft, for which we usually employ a potentiometer or encoder. But there’s another device that, while less well-known, has some advantages that just might make it worth figuring out how to include it in hobbyist projects: the synchro.
If you’ve never heard of a synchro, don’t feel bad; as [Glen Akins] explains, it’s an expensive bit of kit most commonly found in avionics gear. It’s in effect a set of coaxial transformers with a three-phase stator coil and a single-phase rotor. When excited by an AC reference voltage, the voltage induced on the rotor coil is proportional to the cosine of the angle between the rotor and stator. It seems simple enough, but the reality is that synchros present some interfacing challenges.
[Glen] chose a surplus altitude alert indicator for his experiments, a formidable-looking piece of avionics. Also formidable was the bench full of electronics needed to drive and decode the synchro inside it — a 26-volt 400-Hz AC reference voltage generator, an industrial data acquisition module to digitize the synchro output, and an ESP32 dev board with a little OLED display to show the results. And those are impressive; as seen in the video below, the whole setup is capable of detecting tenth-of-a-degree differences in rotation.
The blog post has a wealth of detail on using synchros, as does this Retrotechtacular piece from our own [Al Williams]. Are they practical for general hobbyist use? Probably not, but it’s still cool to see them put to use.
Continue reading “Not A Pot, Not An Encoder: Exploring Synchros For Rotational Sensing”
Most of the hacks we see around these parts have to do with taking existing components and cobbling them together in interesting new ways. It’s less often that we see existing components gutted and repurposed, but when it happens, like with this reimagined rotary encoder, it certainly grabs our attention.
You may recall [Chris G] from his recent laser-based Asteroids game. If not you should really check it out — the build was pretty sweet. One small problem with the build was in the controls, where the off-the-shelf rotary encoder he was using didn’t have nearly enough resolution for the job. Rather than choosing a commodity replacement part, [Chris] rolled his own from the mechanical parts of the original encoder, like the shaft and panel bushing, and an AS5048A sensor board. The magnetic angle sensor has 14 bits of resolution, and with a small neodymium ring magnet glued to the bottom of the original shaft, the modified encoder offers far greater resolution than the original contact-based encoder.
The sensor breakout board is just the right size for this job; all that [Chris] needed to do to get the two pieces together was to 3D-print a small adapter. We have to admit that when we first saw this on Hackaday.io, we failed to see what the hack was — the modified part looks pretty much like a run-of-the-mill encoder. The video below shows the design and build process with a little precision rock blasting.
Continue reading “Magnetic Angle Sensor Mods Make Encoder Better For Blasting”
“Surely sharpening a knife can’t be that hard” one might think, as they destroy the edge on their pocket knife by flailing it wildly against a whetstone of indeterminate grain. In reality, knife sharpening is as nuanced a practice as virtually any other field, and getting a quality finish is much harder than it seems. It also gets increasingly complex with different blades, as [Turbo Conquering Mega Eagle] shows with is customized knife sharpening jig.
The hardest part in any blade sharpening is getting the proper bevel angle. A heavy angle is good for heavy-duty tools like axes, but for fine work like shaving a more sharp angle is required. Usually, a table-mounted jig is required but due to production constraints, a handheld one was used. It’s made with push rods and a cam follower from an airplane engine (parts are plentiful since this particular engine breaks all the time) and can impart very specific bevel angles on blades. For example, machetes have a heavy angle near the handle but a finer point towards the tip, and this tool helps streamline sharpening many knives quickly.
If you want to try your hand at another project that’s not as straightforward as it might seem, you might want to build a knife from scratch before you make an attempt at a sharpening tool. It’s just as nuanced a process, but with a little practice can be done with only a few tools.
Continue reading “Specialized Knife Sharpener From Old Airplane”
Take apart a few old DVD drives, stitch them together with cable ties, add a pen and paper, and you’ve got a simple CNC plotter. They’re quick and easy projects that are fun, but they do tend to be a little on the “plug and chug” side. But a CNC plotter that uses polar coordinates? That takes a little more effort.
The vast majority of CNC projects, from simple two-axis plotters to big CNC routers, all tend to use Cartesian coordinate systems, where points on a plane are described by their distances from an origin point on two perpendicular axes. Everything is nice and square, measurements are straightforward, and the math is easy. [davidatfsg] decided to level up his CNC plotter a bit by choosing a polar coordinate system, with points described as a vector extending a certain distance from the origin at a specified angle. Most of the plotter is built from FischerTechnik parts, with a single linear axis intersecting the center point of a rotary drawing platform. Standard G-code is translated to polar coordinates by a Java applet before being sent to a custom Arduino controller to execute the moves. Check out the video below; it’s pretty mesmerizing to watch, and we can’t help but wonder how a polar 3D-printer would work out.
Have polar coordinates got you stumped? It can be a bit of an adjustment from Cartesian space for sure. It can be worth it, though, showing up in everything from cable plotters to POV fidget spinners and even to color space models.
Continue reading “A Polar Coordinate CNC Plotter Even Descartes Could Love”
They hold together everything from the most delicate watch to the largest bridge. The world is literally kept from coming apart by screws and bolts, and yet we don’t often give a thought to these mechanisms. Part of that is probably because we’ve gotten so good at making them that they’re seen as cheap commodities, but the physics and engineering behind the screw thread is interesting stuff.
We all likely remember an early science lesson wherein the basic building blocks of all mechanisms laid out. The simple machines are mechanisms that use an applied force to do work, such as the inclined plane, the lever, and the pulley. For instance, an inclined plane, in the form of a splitting wedge, directs the force of blows against its flat face into a chunk of wood, forcing the wood apart.
Screw threads are another simple machine, and can be thought of as a long, gently sloped inclined plane wrapped around a cylinder. Cut a long right triangle out of paper, wrap it around a pencil starting at the big end, and the hypotenuse forms a helical ramp that looks just like a thread. Of course, for a screw thread to do any work, it has to project out more than the thickness of a piece of paper, and the shape of the projection determines the mechanical properties of the screw.
Continue reading “Mechanisms: The Screw Thread”
Need a sturdy angle gearbox to handle power transmission for your next big project? Why not harvest a rear axle from a car and make one yourself?
When you think about it, the axle of a rear-wheel drive vehicle is really just a couple of 90° gearboxes linked together internally, and a pretty sturdy assembly that’s readily available for free or on the cheap. [Donn DIY]’s need for a gearbox to run a mower lead him to a boneyard for the raw material. The video below shows some truly impressive work with that indispensable tool of hardware hackers, the angle grinder. Not only does he amputate one of the half axles with it, he actually creates almost perfect splines on the remaining shortened shaft. Such work is usually done on a milling machine with a dividing head and an end mill, but [DonnDIY]’s junkyard approach worked great. Just goes to show how much you can accomplish with what you’ve got when you have no choice.
We’re surprised to not see any of [DonnDIY]’s projects featured here before, as he seems to have quite a body of hacks built up. We hope to feature some more of his stuff soon, but in the meantime, you can always check out some of the perils and pitfalls of automotive differentials.
Continue reading “Hacked Car Axle Yields Custom 90° Gearbox”
You have to be careful with CNC; it’s a slippery slope. You start off one day just trying out a 3D printer, and it’s not six months before you’re elbow deep in a discarded Xerox looking for stepper motors and precision rods. This is evident from [Dan] and his brother’s angle aluminum CNC build.
Five or six years ago they teamed up to build one of those MDF CNC routers. It was okay, but really only cut foam. So they moved on to a Rostock 3D printer. This worked much better, and for a few years it sated them. However, recently, they just weren’t getting what they needed from it. The 3D printer had taught them a lot of new things, 3D modeling, the ins of running a CNC, and a whole slew of making skills. They decided to tackle the CNC again.
The new design is simple and cheap. The frame is angle aluminum held together with screws. The motion components are all 3D printed. The spindle is just an import rotary tool. It’s a simple design, and it should serve them well for light, low precision cuts. We suspect that it’s not the last machine the pair will build. You can see it in action in the video after the break.
Continue reading “A CNC You Could Pop-Rivet Together”