A Twisted Tale Of Woven Wires

A little over a year ago, we ran a contest that challenged readers to leave the comfort of their PCBs and breadboards. We wanted to see circuits built in three dimensions, with extra points awarded for creativity and artistic flair. Truth be told there was initially some concern that the “Circuit Sculpture” contest was a bit too abstract for the Hackaday community, but the overwhelming number of absolutely gorgeous entries certainly put those doubts to rest.

In a recent video, [Michael Aichlmayr] walks viewers through the creation of his mesmerizing entry Wonderlandscape, which ended up taking honorable mention in the Circuit Sculpture contest for Best Metalworks. Though this is much more than just a simple walk-through of a project. Sure you’ll see how brass bar stock was artfully twisted and wrapped to create a metallic winterscape that looks like it could have come from Bob Ross’s hitherto unknown cyberpunk period, but that’s only half the story.

The brass bar was twisted by hand with pliers.

In the video, [Michael] recalls how he discovered the burgeoning electronic sculpture community, and points to a few exceptional examples that got him hooked on finding the beauty that’s usually hidden inside of a plastic enclosure. Eventually he heard about the Circuit Sculpture contest, and decided it was the perfect opportunity to build something of his own. That’s right, Wonderlandscape is his very first attempt at turning electronics into art.

But the best may be yet to come. [Michael] explains that, due to the time constraints of the contest, he had to use metal stock purchased from the crafts store. But his ultimate goal is actually to melt down salvaged brass and bronze components and make his own wire and rods. We can’t wait to see what he’ll be able to accomplish when he starts working with his own custom made metal, and are eagerly awaiting the future video that he says will go over the techniques he’s been working on.

This story is a great reminder of how stepping out of your comfort zone once and awhile can be a good thing. Entering the contest with no previous experience was a risk to be sure, but [Michael] came out the other side more experienced and with a few new friends in the community. So why not enter our latest contest and see where it takes you?

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Hackaday Links: April 19, 2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic at least seems to be on a downward track, the dystopian aspects of the response to the disease appear to be on the rise. As if there weren’t enough busybodies and bluenoses shaming their neighbors for real or imagined quarantine violations on social media, now we have the rise of social-distancing enforcement drones. These have been in use in hot zones around the world, of course, but have only recently arrived in the US. From New Jersey to Florida, drones are buzzing about in search of people not cowering in fear in their homes and blaring messages about how they face fines and arrest for seeking a little fresh air and sunshine. We’re all in favor of minimizing contact with potentially infected people, but it seems like these methods might be taking things a bit too far.

If you somehow find yourself with some spare time and want to increase your knowledge, or at least expand your virtual library, Springer Publishing has some exciting news for you. The journal and textbook publisher has made over 400 ebook titles available for free download. We had a quick scan over the list, and while the books run the gamut from social sciences to astrophysics, there are plenty of titles that are right in the wheelhouse of most Hackaday readers. There are books on power electronics, semiconductor physics, and artificial intelligence, as well as tons more. They all seem to be recent titles, so the information isn’t likely to be too dated. Give the list a once-over and happy downloading.

Out of all the people on this planet, the three with the least chance of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 blasted off from Kazakhstan this week on Soyuz MS-16 to meet up with the ISS. The long-quarantined crew of Anatoly Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner, and Chris Cassidy swapped places with the Expedition 62 crew, who returned to Earth safely in the Soyuz MS-15 vehicle. It’s a strange new world they return to, and we wish them and their ISS colleagues all the best. What struck us most about this mission, though, was some apparently surreptitiously obtained footage of the launch from a remarkably dangerous position. We saw some analysis of the footage, and based on the sound delay the camera was perhaps as close as 150 meters to the launchpad. It’s hard to say if the astronauts or the camera operator was braver.

And finally, because neatness counts, we got this great tip on making your breadboard jumpers perfectly straight. There’s something satisfying about breadboard circuits where the jumpers are straight and exactly the length the need to be, and John Martin’s method is so simple you can’t help but use it. He just rolls the stripped jumpers between his bench and something flat; he uses a Post-it note pad but just about anything will do. The result is satisfyingly straight jumpers, ready to be bent and inserted. We bet this method could be modified to work with the stiffer wire normally used in circuit sculptures like those of Mohit Bhoite; he went into some depth about his methods during his Supercon talk last year, and it’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet.

Put Down New Roots From Home With A Free-Form Tree Of Life

Mandalas are meditative objects that mean many things to myriad religions. Psychologist Carl Jung equated them with the concept of the Self as a whole, and put forth the notion that an urge to create mandalas signifies a period of intense personal growth.

[Sander van de Bor] took up the mandala challenge at the beginning of 2020 and decided to create several of them in free-form electronic style. If you’re looking for a healthy new way to deal, [Sander] has step-by-step instructions for making your own light-up tree of life by wrangling a wad of wires into a trunk and branches. Big bonus if you already find soldering to be soothing.

[Sander] starts by forming a circle from brass rod. This is the base for the rest of the build and will tie all the LED grounds together. The tree is twisted from a cluster of enameled copper wires that are eventually soldered together to distribute power from a coin cell out to the six SMT LEDs.

You could argue that the tree should be ground because it’s rooted to Earth, but you could also argue that the circle should be ground because the circle of life is a grounding force. Something to think about while you design and build your own, eh?

If electronic sculpture becomes your new thing, explore all the angles with the master manipulator, [Mohit Bhoite].

Hackaday Podcast 048: Truly Trustworthy Hardware, Glowing Uranium Marbles, Bitstreaming The USB, Chaos Of Congress

Hackaday editors Elliot WIlliams and Mike Szczys kick off the first podcast of the new year. Elliot just got home from Chaos Communications Congress (36c3) with a ton of great stories, and he showed off his electric cargo carrier build while he was there. We recount some of the most interesting hacks of the past few weeks, such as 3D-printed molds for making your own paper-pulp objects, a rudimentary digital camera sensor built by hand, a tattoo-removal laser turned welder, and desktop-artillery that’s delivered in greeting-card format.

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!

Direct download (69 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

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Bend It Like Bhoite: Circuit Sculptures Shatter The Bounds Of Flatland

As electronics hobbyists, we live in a somewhat two-dimensional world. Our craft is so centered around the printed circuit board that our design tools are specifically geared to spit out files tailored to the board house, who can then ship us a study in fiberglass and copper. We daub on flux and solder, add components, apply heat, and like magic, our circuits come to life, all within a few millimeters above and below the PCB.

Breaking out of this self-imposed Flatland can be therapeutic. At least that’s how Mohit Bhoite sees his free-form circuit sculptures, which he spoke about at length at the Hackaday Superconference this year. By way of disclosure, I have to admit to being a longtime fan of Mohit’s work, both at his day job as a designer at Particle, and with his spare time hobby of creating sculptures from electronic components and brass wire which can be followed on his Twitter feed. He ended up joining us for a circuit sculpture Hack Chat just before heading to Supercon, too, so not only was I looking forward to meeting him, I was sure his talk would reveal the secrets of his art and give me the inspiration to start doing some of my own. I wasn’t disappointed on either score.

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Circuit Sculpture Teaches Binary, Plays PONG

We sure wish we’d had a teacher like [Volos Projects]. He built this beautiful circuit sculpture to teach his students how to count in binary and convert it to decimal and hexadecimal. If you don’t already know binary, you get to learn it on DIP switches and a dead-bugged ATMega328 in the video after the break. Lucky you!

Once the students have the hang of entering binary input on the switches, they can practice it on the four-banger calculator. This educational sculpture can also take text input and scroll it, but it takes a bit of work. You have to look up the ASCII value of each character, convert the decimal to binary, and program it in with the switches. There’s one more function on the menu — a one-player PONG game to help the students relax after a long day of flipping switches.

Funny enough, this project came to be after [Volos Projects] came upon the DIP switch in his parts box and wasn’t quite sure what it was called. How great is it that he learned something about this part, and then used that knowledge to build this machine that uses the part to teach others? It’s surely the best fate that parts bin curiosities can hope for.

Don’t have the patience for circuit sculpture? You can make a pretty nice binary calculator with a bit of paper and a lot of compressed air.

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Hackaday Links: December 15, 2019

When you’re right, you’re right. Back in January, we predicted that exoskeletons were about to break out as a mainstream product, and gave several examples of prototypes poised to become products. So it was with interest that we read about Sarcos Robotics and their new Guardian XO, a cyber suit aimed at those doing heavy lifting tasks. The wearable, full-body exoskeleton is supposed to amplify the wearer’s effort 20-fold, making a 200-pound load feel like lifting 10 pounds. It runs untethered for two hours on hot-swappable battery packs, and will be offered for lease to civilian heavy industries and the military for $100,000 a year. Honestly, it seems like you could hire a fair number of meat-robots for that sum, but still, it’s an interesting technology and a promising development.

Aficionados of 3D printing know all too well the limitations of the technology. While we’ve come a long way with things like a print in place, multiple materials, embedded electronics, and even direct 3D printing of complex mechanisms like electric motors, there’s been a long-standing obstacle to turning the 3D printer into the replicators of the Star Trek universe: batteries. But even that barrier is falling, and a new paper shows just how far we’ve come to printing batteries right into our designs. Using an off-the-shelf Prusa Mk 3 and specially formulated lithium iron phosphate/PLA and silicon dioxide/PLA filaments, the group was able to print working batteries in one shot. It’s exciting news because previous 3D-printed batteries required special printers or laborious post-processing steps. We’ll be watching for developments here.

Speaking of laboratory work, anyone who has been around labs is probably familiar with LabVIEW, the de facto standard for programming data capture and automation applications in the laboratory setting. The graphical programming language makes it easy to throw together a quick interface, and many lab-rats regret not having the expensive, proprietary environment available for their after-hours hacking. That might no longer be true, though, with special LabVIEW licensing for non-commercial users. It looks like there are two levels: LabVIEW Home Edition and a Community Edition of LabVIEW, which is currently in Beta. Either way, it’s good news for LabVIEW fans.

Friend of Hackaday Eric Strebel released a video the other day that we just had to comment on. It has nothing to do with electronics – unless you’re into circuit sculpture, that is. In the first of a two-part series, Eric covers the basics of modeling with brass and copper, using both wire and tubing. He has some great tips, like work-hardening and straightening copper wire by stretching it, and the miniature roll bender seen at 7:40 looks like something that could easily be 3D-printed. We recently did a Hack Chat on circuit sculpture with Mohit Bhoite, and saw his Supercon talk on the subject, so this video really got the creative juices flowing.

If you’re local to the Elkhorn, Wisconsin area, consider stopping by the Elkhorn Mini Maker Faire on February 15 and 16. Elkhorn looks like it has a nice central location between Milwaukee and Madison, and doesn’t appear too far from Chicago either, which is probably why they drew 1,200 people to the inaugural Faire last year. They’re looking to get that up to 2,000 people this year and over 150 booths, so if you’ve got something hackish to show off, check it out. The organizers have even set up a Hackaday.io event page to coordinate with the Hackaday community, so drop them a line and see what you can do to pitch in.

And finally, this one has us scratching our head. Activist group Extinction Rebellion (XR) has claimed they’ve “decommissioned” thousands of electric scooters in French cities. Why they’ve done this is the puzzler; they claim that the scooters-for-hire are an “ecological disaster” due to the resources needed to produce them compared to their short lifespan. We haven’t done the math. What is interesting, though, is the mode of decommissioning: XR operatives simply defaced the QR code on the scooters, rendering them un-rentable with the vendor’s smartphone app. Scooter companies might want to look into alternative rental methods if this keeps up.