In November 2017, we showed you [Chris Annin]’s open-source 6-DOF robot arm. Since then he’s been improving the arm and making it more accessible for anyone who doesn’t get to play with industrial robots all day at work. The biggest improvement is that AR2 had a closed-loop control system, and AR3 is open-loop. If something bumps the arm or it crashes, the bot will recover its previous position automatically. It also auto-calibrates itself using limit switches.
AR3 is designed to be milled from aluminium or entirely 3D printed. The motors and encoders are controlled with a Teensy 3.5, while an Arduino Mega handles I/O, the grippers, and the servos. In the demo video after the break, [Chris] shows off AR3’s impressive control after a brief robotic ballet in which two AR3s move in hypnotizing unison.
[Chris] set up a site with the code, his control software, and all the STL files. He also has tutorial videos for programming and calibrating, and wrote an extremely detailed assembly manual. Between the site and the community already in place from AR2, anyone with enough time, money and determination could probably build one. Check out [Chris]’ playlist of AR2 builds — people are using them for photography, welding, and serving ice cream. Did you build an AR2? The good news is that AR3 is completely backward-compatible.
The AR3’s grippers work well, as you’ll see in the video. If you need a softer touch, try emulating an octopus tentacle.
Continue reading “Open-Source Arm Puts Robotics Within Reach”
Time is probably our most important social construct. Our perception of passing time changes with everything we do, and when it comes down to it, time is all we really have. You can choose to use it wisely, or sit back and watch it go by. If you want to do both, build a clock like this one, and spectate in sleek, sophisticated style.
[ChristineNZ]’s mid-century-meets-steampunk clock uses eight ILC1-1/8Ls, which are quite possibly the largest VFD tubes ever produced (and still available as new-old stock). In addition to the time, it displays the date, relative humidity, and temperature in both Celsius and Fahrenheit. A delightful chime sounds every fifteen minutes to remind you that time’s a-wastin’.
The seconds slip by in HH/MM/SS format, each division separated by a tube dedicated to dancing the time away. The mesmerizing display is driven by an Arduino Mega and a MAX6921 VFD driver, and built into a mahogany frame. There isn’t a single PCB in sight except for the Mega — all the VFDs are mounted on wood and everything is wired point-to-point. Sweep past the break to see the progressive slideshow build video that ends with a demo of all the functions.
Those glowing blue-green displays aren’t limited to clocking time. They can replace LCDs, or be scrolling marquees.
Continue reading “Captivating Clock Tells Time With Tall Tubes”
You know, we hadn’t realized how tired we were of vertical laser harps until we saw [Jonathan Bumstead]’s entry into the 2019 Hackaday Prize. It’s all well and good to imitate the design of the inspiring instrument. But the neat thing about synths is that they aren’t confined to the physics of the acoustic instruments they mimic. This project elevates the laser harp into functional sculpture territory. It’s a piece of art that produces art.
And this art harp is entirely self-contained, with built-in MIDI, amplifier, and speakers. The brains of this beauty are an Arduino Mega and an Adafruit music maker shield, which give it twenty different instrument voices. Each of the six layers has two lasers, two mirrors, and two photo-resistors mounted in the corners of the plywood skeleton. The lasers and photo-resistors are mounted back to back in opposite corners, with mirrors in the other two corners to complete the paths. [Jonathan] cleverly diffused the laser light with milky slivers of film canister plastic.
This isn’t [Jonathan]’s first optical rodeo. Previous experience taught him the importance of being able to readjust the lasers on the fly, because every time he moved it, the laser modules would go out of alignment. This time, he built kinematic mounts that let him reposition the lasers using four screws that each push a corner.
There are a lot of nice touches here, especially the instrument selector wheel. [Jonathan] explains it and the rest of the harp in a fantastic demo/build video that’s just burning a hole in the space after the break.
Continue reading “Square Laser Harp Is Hip”
Normally when we bring you news of a retrocomputing design, it will centre around a single processor. At its heart will be a 6502, a Z80, or perhaps a 6809. There will be a host of support chips, some memory as RAM or ROM, and a bunch of interfaces. [Erturk Kocalar]’s RetroShield project for the Arduino Mega breaks all of those rules, because it supports all three of those classic processors, has no support chips, no memory, and no external interfaces beyond the shield connection to the Mega. What on earth is going on!
A closer look reveals that the project is a set of shields that use the Mega’s power to emulate all the support chips and peripherals you’d have seen on the original hardware. And while it would be impressive to have a single board with support for all three CPUs, in fact there is a PCB for each one. But that makes it no less interesting a project for those with an interest in 8-bit processors, because the focus becomes the software rather than a quest to find out-of-production silicon.
So far there is some limited demo software, and his website goes into some detail on the interfacing and code required. The Arduino can only clock the 8-bit CPU at 95kHz in software which may sound a bit low to those familiar with 1980s home computers, but it’s best to think of this as an experimentation platform and give up dreams of playing Elite. An exciting prospect comes in giving the 8-bit machine access to Arduino shields, if improbable hardware is your bag.
If this has captured your interest, you might also wish to take a look at the $4 Z80 single board computer which has a similar ethos.
It’s fair to say that building electronic gadgets is easier now than it ever has been in the past. With low-cost modular components, there’s often just a couple dozen lines of code and a few jumper wires standing between your idea and a functioning prototype. Driving stepper motors is a perfect example: you can grab a cheap controller board, hook it up to a microcontroller, and the rest is essentially just software. But recently [mechatronicsguy] wondered if even that was more hardware than was technically necessary to get the job done.
It’s not that he was intentionally looking to make things more complicated for himself, of course. His rationale was entirely economic; if you’re looking to drive a dozen or more stepper motors, even the “cheap” controllers can add up. So he started to wonder if he could skip the controller entirely and connect the stepper motor directly to the digital pins of an Arduino. Generally speaking this is a bad idea, but if you’re careful and are willing to take the risk, [mechatronicsguy] is living proof it’s possible
So what’s the trick to running a whopping seventeen individual stepper motors directly from the digital pins of an Arduino Mega? Well, to start with you’re not going to be running the beefy NEMA 17 motors like you might find in a 3D printer. [mechatronicsguy] is using the diminutive (and dirt cheap) 28BYJ-48, a light duty stepper used in many consumer products. Even with this relatively tiny motor, you need to crack open the case and cut a trace on the PCB to switch it from unipolar to bipolar.
Beyond that, you need to be careful. [mechatronicsguy] reports he’s had success running as many as ten of them at once, but realistically the fewer operating simultaneously the better. This is actually made easier due to the relatively poor specs of the 28BYJ-48 motor; its huge eleven degree step size means its not really susceptible to the same kind of slippage you’d get on a NEMA 17 when powered down. This means you can cut power to all but the actively moving motor and be fairly sure they’ll all stay where you left them.
With as popular as the 28BYJ-48 stepper is, there are several projects this “quick and dirty” method of interfacing could potentially work with. This small “barn door” star tracker is an obvious example, but we’ve also seen some very nice robotic arms built with these low-cost motors which could benefit from the technique.
If you have a small logistics problem, we have the solution for you. [Leon] built a tiny little forklift with LED lighting, working forks, and remote control using a combination of 3D printing tech, some CNC work, and fine soldering skills.
The electronics for this build are based around a few servos and a pair of geared DC motors and are driven via an Arduino Mega. Connectivity and remote controllability are what you would expect from an Arduinified project. There’s an HC-05 Bluetooth module on the board and remote control is handled by a custom Android app.
Of note in this project are the forks that actually work, almost like a real forklift. This allows the mini Arduino forklift to pick up mini pallets, drop them somewhere, and have mini DIY enthusiasts come up to build mini-furniture for mini-Etsy, which will be prominently featured in the mini foyer of a mini two-story walkup. No, it’s not mini-gentrification; this mini forklift is helping the mini local economy.
You can check out the entire build video below, filmed in the usual maker demo method of speeding up the entire build process but somehow keeping the no-talking audio. We have a lot to thank [Jimmy DiResta] for, and it’s not just cinematography. All the files for this forklift are up on the Github should you want to build your own.
Continue reading “Miniature 3D Printed Forklift Is Quite Pallet-able”
The Arduino Mega is a useful tool for the maker. Generally, once one has come up with plans for blinking LEDs that require more IO than is available on the Arduino Uno, one graduates to the Mega and goes for broke. However, it’s not typically what we’d consider as our first choice for video work. [Stephane] begs to differ, and coded this Bad Apple!! demo for the Arduino Mega 2560.
For those unfamiliar, video on the Arduino is actually somewhat of a solved problem – merely requiring a pair of resistors and some nifty code. The real meat of this hack is the video storage itself. It’s been done before, but by streaming data off an SD card or serial link. [Stephane] was determined to store everything on the Arduino itself, and thus the hack begun. Video data is stored as 1 bit per pixel, as it’s a simple black and white video as per the original inspiration. LZ77 compression was used to cram the data down without requiring too much RAM, which is a limited resource on the Mega. It’s video only, as the Mega is tapped out handling 3 minutes and 39 seconds of video storage, but future work may include syncing with a second Arduino to deliver the soundtrack.
It’s a hack that shows off [Stephane]’s ability to get impressive performance out of limited platforms. We’ve seen this before, with his excellent Star Fox port to the Arduboy. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Bad Apple!! Via The Arduino Mega”