Blender? No, Grinder

[Leandro Felipe] is no stranger to the dirty hack, and this video of his conversion of a blender into a handheld rotary grinding tool is no exception. (Embedded below.) But the end result is something pretty useful — a lighter and more maneuverable rotary grinder that’s got a lot more grunt to boot.

(The video is in Portuguese, but the captions work pretty well, once you get over the fact that the robots translate “grinding tool” as “rectifier” a lot of the time. And anyway, you’re here for the hacks.)

The highlights are a handmade coupling that mates the blender motor with the flexible shaft and chuck, purchased separately. And the flattened-out PVC pipe used as a mounting bracket. And him using the motor itself against a file to “lathe” down the drive shaft. And…

The tip of the day comes when he holds the blender motor in a metal vise to test it out. Metal and spinning magnets — what’s the worst that could happen?  Sparks, smoke, and a trip to the thrift store for another used blender.

If you just want to see the finished piece, you can jump ahead to the end. But it’s basically, get yourself a speed-adjustable blender, couple it to the shaft of an off-the shelf grinder, and you’re set.

It’s an idea so conceptually easy, you might wonder if Hackaday has ever showcased a blender dr3mel before. We have. What else can you power with a blender motor?

Thanks [Danjovic] for the tip!

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Watch Blender Plugin Make Animated PCB Traces (and More)

[Staacks]’s Blender plugin to animate growth is behind the sweet animation seen above. It’s an add-on that cleverly makes creating slick growth animations easier when using Blender. It isn’t limited to PCB images either, although they do happen to make an excellent example of the process.

The add-on isn’t limited to animating PCB traces.

The idea is that one begins with an image texture with a structure showing a bunch of paths (like a maze, or traces on a PCB), and that gets used as an input. The plugin then uses a path finding algorithm to determine how these paths could grow from an origin point, and stores the relevant data in the color channels of an output image. That output is further used within Blender as the parameters with which to generate the actual animation, resulting in the neat self-creating PCB seen above. That PCB isn’t just for show, by the way. It’s the PCB for [Staacks]’s smart doorbell project.

Blender is an amazingly comprehensive tool for modeling and animation, and while we’ve covered using it to create high-quality KiCad renders, this kind of animation is really something else.

Here is the GitHub repository for the Blender growth tool if you’re interested in giving it a spin. If you’d like to see more first, watch the video embedded below for a showcase of what it’s capable of, and how it works.

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3D Objects Without Scanning

There are many scanners — both commercial and homemade — that can take a variety of scans or images of a 3D object and convert it into something like a 3D printable file. When the process works, it works well, but the results can be finicky at best and will require a lot of manual tuning. According to [Samuel Garbett], you might as well just draw your own model using Blender. He shows you how using a Red Bull can which, granted, isn’t exactly the most complicated thing ever, but it isn’t the simplest either.

He does take one photo of the can, so there is a camera involved at some point. He also takes measurements using calipers, something you probably already have laying around.

Since it is just a can, there aren’t many required pictures or measurements as, say, a starship model. Once you have the measurements, of course, you could use the tool of your choice and since we aren’t very adept with Blender, we might have used something we think is easier like FreeCAD or OpenSCAD. However, Blender has a lot of power, so we suspect making the jump from can to the USS Enterprise might be more realistic for a Blender user.

Besides, it is good to see how other tools work and we were surprised that Blender could be relatively simple to use. Every time we see [Jared’s] channel, we think we should learn more about Blender. But if you have your heart set on a real scanner, there are plenty of open source designs you can print.

Art With Technology Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, June 16 at noon Pacific for the Art with Technology Hack Chat with Cory Collins!

As hackers, we naturally see the beauty of technology. We often talk in terms of the aesthetics of a particular hack, or the elegance of one solution over another, and we can marvel at the craftsmanship involved in everything from a well-designed PCB to a particularly clever reverse-engineering effort. Actually using technology to create art is something that’s often harder for us to appreciate, though, and looking at technological art from the artist’s side can be pretty instructive.

Cory Collins is an animator and artist with a long history of not only putting tech to work to create art, but also using it as the subject of his pieces. Cory’s work has brought life to video games, movies, and TV shows for years; more recently, he has turned his animation skills to developing interactive educational material for medical training. He has worked in just about every physical and digital medium imaginable, and the characters and scenes he has created are sometimes whimsical, sometimes terrifying, but always engaging.

Cory will stop by the Hack Chat to talk about what he has learned about technology from the artist’s perspective. Join us as we dive into the creative process, look at how art influences technology and vice versa, and learn how artistic considerations can help us address the technical problems every project eventually faces.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, June 16 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Putting Perseverance Rover’s View Into Satellite View Context

It’s always fun to look over aerial and satellite maps of places we know, seeing a perspective different from our usual ground level view. We lose that context when it’s a place we don’t know by heart. Such as, say, Mars. So [Matthew Earl] sought to give Perseverance rover’s landing video some context by projecting onto orbital imagery from ESA’s Mars Express. The resulting video (embedded below the break) is a fun watch alongside the technical writeup Reprojecting the Perseverance landing footage onto satellite imagery.

Some telemetry of rover position and orientation were transmitted live during the landing process, with the rest recorded and downloaded later. Surprisingly, none of that information was used for this project, which was based entirely on video pixels. This makes the results even more impressive and the techniques more widely applicable to other projects. The foundational piece is SIFT (Scale Invariant Feature Transform), which is one of many tools in the OpenCV toolbox. SIFT found correlations between Perseverance’s video frames and Mars Express orbital image, feeding into a processing pipeline written in Python for results rendered in Blender.

While many elements of this project sound enticing for applications in robot vision, there are a few challenges touched upon in the “Final Touches” section of the writeup. The falling heatshield interfered with automated tracking, implying this process will need help to properly understand dynamically changing environments. Furthermore, it does not seem to run fast enough for a robot’s real-time needs. But at first glance, these problems are not fundamental. They merely await some motivated people to tackle in the future.

This process bears some superficial similarities to projection mapping, which is a category of projects we’ve featured on these pages. Except everything is reversed (camera instead of video projector, etc.) making the math an entirely different can of worms. But if projection mapping sounds more to your interest, here is a starting point.

[via Dr. Tanya Harrison @TanyaOfMars]

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Remoticon Video: KiCad To Blender PCB Renders

We seem to want our PCB design software to do everything these days, and it almost delivers. You can not only lay it all out, check electrical and design rules, and even spit out a bill of materials, but many PCB tools produce 3D models that are good enough to check parts clearance or are useful in designing enclosures. But when it comes to producing photorealistic output, whether for advertising or just for eye-candy, you might want to turn to 3D design tools.

In this workshop, Anool Mahidharia takes the output of KiCad’s VRML export, gets it rendering in Blender, and then starts tweaking the result until you’re almost not sure if it’s the real thing or a 3D model. He starts off with a board in KiCad, included in the project’s GitHub repo, and you can follow along through the basic import, or go all the way to copying the graphics off the top of an ATtiny85 and making sure that the insides of the through-plated holes match the tops.

If you don’t know Blender, maybe you don’t know how comprehensive a 3D modelling and animation tool it is. And with the incredible power comes a notoriously steep learning curve up a high mountain. Anool doesn’t even try to turn you into a Blender expert, but focuses on the tweaks and tricks that you’ll need to make good looking PCB renders. You’ll find general purpose Blender tutorials everywhere on the net, but if you want something PCB-specific, you’ve come to the right place.

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Projecting Halloween Peril

Every holiday has a few, dedicated individuals committed to “going all out.” Whether they’re trying to show up the neighbors, love the look, or just want to put a smile on the faces of those passing by; the results are often spectacular. A recent trend in decorations has been away from analog lights and ornaments and towards digital light shows via a projector. [Georgia Clegg] and [Luma Bakery] have written up a fantastic guide detailing the involved process of house projection for those feeling the holiday spirit.

There is more to the effect than simply pointing a projector at a home and running a video clip. The good displays make use of the geometry of the home and the various depths of the walls don’t distort the picture. The house itself is mapped into the image being displayed.

There are generally two approaches to mapping: point of view mapping and neutral/orthographic mapping. The first is just setting the projector in a fixed position and designing the graphics in such a way that they will look correct. The downside is that if there are multiple projectors, each projector will need to be separately designed for and they cannot be moved or adjusted. The second maps the house in an actual 3d sense and figures out how to display the content according to the viewpoint that the projector is currently at. This means you can create one source content and simply export it for the various projectors.

As you can imagine, the second is much more involved and this is where [Georgia Clegg] has stepped in. There’s a whole series that covers creating your house in MeshRoom, cleaning it up in Blender, creating the videos in After Effects, and setting up your projector to keep it running through the season.

We’ve seen other amazing projector mapping displays with lasers here at Hackaday. Now you can make one yourself. Just don’t get bogged down refurbishing your vector projector along the way.
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