Hackaday Podcast 082: DJ CNC, NFC Black Box, Sound Of Keys, And Payin’ For 3D Prints

Hackaday editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys check in on the best hacks from the past week. All the buzz is the algorithm that can reverse engineer your house keys from the way they sound going into the lock. Cardboard construction goes extreme with an RC car build that’s beyond wizard-level. Speaking of junk builds, there’s a CNC mill tipped on its side grinding out results worlds better than you expect from something made with salvaged CD-ROM drives. And a starburst character display is a clever combination of laser cutting and alternative using UV-cured resin as a diffuser.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

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Prop-Driven Cardboard RC Car Doesn’t Skimp On Performance

[Kryzer Channel] takes making a DIY RC car to a whole new level with this prop-driven electric car that is made almost entirely out of cardboard (YouTube video, also embedded below.) By attaching an electric motor with a push prop to the back of the car, [Kryzer] avoids the need for any kind of drive system or gearing. Steering works normally thanks to some scratch-built linkages, but the brake solution is especially clever.

Braking is done by having a stocky servo push a reinforced stub downward, out of a hole in the center of the car. This provides friction against the road surface. After all, on an RC car a functional brake is simply not optional. Cutting the throttle and coasting to a stop works for a plane, but just won’t do for a car.

Winding thread around metal components then saturating with CA glue makes a durable assembly.

Layers of corrugated cardboard and hot glue make up the bulk of the car body, and some of the assembly techniques shown off are really slick and make the video really worth a watch. For example, the construction of the wheels (starting around 2:24) demonstrates making them almost entirely out of cardboard, saturated with CA glue for reinforcement, with a power drill acting as a makeshift lathe for trimming everything down. A section of rubber inner tube provides the tire surface and a piece of hard plastic makes a durable hub. Wraps of thread saturated in CA glue, shown here, is another technique that shows up in several places and is used in lieu of any sort of fasteners.

The well-edited video (embedded below) is chock full of clever assembly and construction. Unsurprisingly, this is not [Krazer]’s first cardboard vehicle: their video channel has other impressive cardboard models and racers to show off.

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Telepresence Robot Navigates Upgrades

As time marches on and a good percentage of us are still isolating from society at large, the progress of technology isn’t kept as stagnant. Earlier this year we featured a project about a much-needed small telepresence robot with an exceptionally low barrier for entry, and with the progress of time it has received several upgrades and some crowdfunding, all while preserving its original intent of a simple and easily-operated way of keeping in contact with others.

The new robot is still based on the cardboard design that holds a smartphone and drives it around using a microcontroller platform, but thanks to its small size and low power requirement this seems to suit it nicely. Improvements over the original design include a more robust one-size-fits-all phone mount and a more refined cardboard body. Also, since the small size is a little bit of a downside when navigating anywhere that isn’t a desk or counter, the new version makes it easier to make modifications such as adding a pedestal which can elevate the phone and improve the experience of the remote driver. A number of other optional modifications are possible as well, including a grabbing arm.

While telepresence robots unfortunately are needed now more than ever, we are happy to see people like [Ross] take on projects like this which will hopefully help improve our shared situation by allowing us to have a more involved level of contact with people we would otherwise prefer to see in person. If you’d like to build your own without waiting on the crowdfunding, be sure to check out the original project we featured back in April.

A Shrine For All The 555 Lovers

For many of our readers, the classic 555 timer holds a special place in their heart, and cursed be the fool who dares to use an Arduino in its place. For the seriously devoted ones, or those who simply like a novelty decorative item, [acerlaguinto7] built just the right thing: a giant, actually functional, cardboard 555 timer IC.

Taking all the measurements of the original IC, [acerlaguinto7] scaled it up by factor 22 and started cutting out pieces of cardboard — also considering the orientation notch — and added the markings to emulate TI’s NE555P. Next he took a bunch of aluminum cans apart and shaped them into the pins, again staying as close as possible to the original. To top it all off, he put an actual NE555 inside the giant counterpart, and hooked it up to the soda can pins, turning it into a fully operational, oversized timer IC.

Obviously, giant conductive pins like that scream for some dead bug blinky light that even the shakiest of hands could manage to solder, and [acerlaguinto7] certainly delivers, as you can see in the video after the break. One nifty way we could see this taken further would be integrating this breadboard implementation as replacement for the 555 inside — or then just connect it to the giant Raspberry Pi.

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Get Back Out There, Robotically

When interacting with reality at a distance is the best course of action, we turn to robots. Whether that’s exploring the surface of Venus, the depths of the ocean, or (for the time being) society at large, it’s often better to put a robot out there than an actual human being. We can’t all send robots to other planets, but we can easily get them in various other places with telepresence robots.

This tiny telepresence robot comes to us from [Ross] at [Crafty Robot] who is using their small Smartibot platform as a basis for this tiny robot. The smartibot drives an easily-created cardboard platform, complete with wheels, and trucks around a smartphone of some sort which handles the video and network capabilities. The robot can be viewed and controlled from any other computer using a suite of web applications that can be found on the project page.

The Smartibot platform is an inexpensive platform that we’ve seen do other things like drive an airship, and the creators are hoping that as many people as possible can get some use out of this quick-and-easy telepresence robot if they really need something like this right now. The kit seems like it would be useful for a lot of other fun projects as well.

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The Flexible Permanence Of Copper Tape Circuits

Somewhere between shoving components into a breadboard temporarily and committing them to a piece of protoboard or a PCB lies the copper tape method. This flexible Manhattan-style method of circuitry formed the basis for [Bunnie Huang]’s Chibitronics startup, and has since inspired many to stop etching boards and start fetching hoards of copper tape.

[Hales] hit the ground running when he learned about this method, and has made many a copper tape circuit in the last year or so. He offers several nice tips on his site that speak from experience with this method, and he’ll even show you how to easily work an SMD breakout board into the mix.

Generally speaking, [Hales] prefers plywood as the substrate to paper or cardboard for durability. He starts by drawing out the circuit and planning where all the tape traces will go and how wide they need to be. Then he lays out copper traces and pads, rubs the tape against the substrate to make it adhere strongly, and reinforces joints and laps with solder before adding the components. As you can see, copper tape circuits can get pretty complicated if you use Kapton tape as insulation between stacked layers of traces.

Copper and Kapton (polyimide) tape are just two of the many useful tapes you may not be aware of. Stick with us a moment and check out [Nava Whiteford]’s exploration of various adhesive marvels.

Custom Storage Boxes, From Cardboard And 3D Printed Bits

It’s not that storage boxes and organizers are hard to find. No, the problem this project set out to solve was more nuanced than that. The real trouble [theguymasamato] had was that his storage options — wide shelves and deep drawers — weren’t well suited to storing a lot of small and light objects. The result was a lot of wasted space and poor organization. To make matters worse, his big drawers had oddball dimensions, meaning that store bought organizers weren’t a good fit either.

To solve these problems, [theguymasamato] decided to design his own stackable boxes to store small and light objects far more efficiently than before. The design also allows the boxes to be made in a variety of sizes without changing any of the 3D printed parts. Carefully measured and cut cardboard is critical, but that’s nothing a utility knife and ruler can’t solve. The only other requirements are a few simple plastic parts, and some glue. He can fit six of these inside a single one of his drawers with enough room to access and handle them, but without wasting space.

Cardboard is really versatile stuff. Not only has it been behind some amazingly complex devices such as this tiny working plotter, but we’ve seen it form major components in the remarkably ambitious cardboard CNC.