A robotic machine turning the wheel of a safe

Adventures In Robotic Safe Cracking

When [Zach Hipps] was faced with a locked safe and no combination, it seemed like calling a locksmith was the only non-destructive option. Well, that or doing something crazy like building a safe-opening robot. Since you’re reading this on Hackaday, we bet you can guess which path he took.

So far, [Zach] has managed to assemble the custom chuck and spindle for the safe cracker. This construction is then mated with an appropriately precise Trinamic controller for the motor, which is perfect for this heist project. After some early consternation around the motor’s stall detection capabilities, the project was able to move forward with extra microcontroller code to ensure that the motor disengages when sensing a ‘hard stop’ during cracking.

Precision is absolutely essential in a project like this. When dealing with a million potential combinations, any potential misconfiguration of the robot could cause it to lose its place and become out-of-sync with the software. This was encountered during testing — while the half-assembled robot was (spoilers) able to open a safe with a known combination, it was only able to do so at slow speed. For a safe with an unknown combination, this slow pace would be impractical.

While the robot isn’t quite ready yet, the Part 1 video below is a great introduction to this particular caper. While we wait for the final results, make sure to check out our previous coverage of another auto dialing robot cracking the code in less than a minute.

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Threaded Wires Save Phone Numbers

If you thought programming your 1990s VCR was rough, wait until you see this Russian telephone autodialer that [Mike] took apart over on the mikeselectricalstuff YouTube channel (video below the break). [Mike] got this 1980s Soviet-era machine a few years ago, and finally got around to breaking into it to learning what makes it tick. The autodialer plugs into the phone line, much like an old-school answering machine. It provides the user with 40 pre-set telephone numbers, arranged in two banks of 20, and a speaker to monitor the connection process. It uses pulse dialing — no touch tones. What’s surprising is how you program the numbers. Given that this was build in the 1980s Soviet Union, he wasn’t expecting a microcontroller. But he wasn’t expecting transformer core “rope” memory, either.

The phone normally sits on a platform on the left side of the machine. Raising up the platform exposes a bank of toroidal cores, arranged in seven rows of four. Each row corresponds to a dialed digit, and the four cores used to encode a single digit. At the top and bottom of the programming board are two 40-pin connectors, each pin corresponding to one of the preset phone numbers. A bunch of patch wires would have been provided, and you program each number by threading a long wire through the appropriate cores, connecting it at the top and bottom connectors much like a modern solderless breadboard. It’s also interesting to see the components and construction technique of this circuit board. For example, the diodes have the strip on the Anode end, not the cathode as we’re normally used to today. The transistor cans are mounted upside down like dead spiders.

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