A weld bead laid down with homemade CO2

Cooking Up A Batch Of Homebrew Welding Gas

You know the feeling — you’re making good progress on a weekend project, you’re really in the groove, things are going right. Right up until you run out of That One Thing™ that you can’t do without, the only store that sells it is closed, and you get a sudden case of whiplash as your progress hits a virtual brick wall.

Of course, every challenge holds the opportunity to hack your way around it, which is how [Lucas] ended up building this carbon dioxide generator. The “IG” in MIG welding stands for the “inert gas” that floods the weld pool and keeps the melted metal — the “M” in MIG — from rapidly oxidizing and ruining the weld. Welders often use either straight CO2 or a mix of CO2 and argon as a MIG shielding gas, which they normally get from a commercial gas supplier, generally on non-weekend days.

[Lucas] turned to grade-school chemistry for his CO2 generator, using the vigorous reaction of baking soda and vinegar to produce the gas. Version one was sketchy as all get-out; the second iteration still had some sketch factor thanks to the use of ABS pipe, but the inclusion of a relief valve should prevent the worst from happening. After some fiddling with how to get the reagents together in a controlled fashion, [Lucas] was able to generate enough CO2 to put down a decent bead — a short one, to be sure, but the video below shows that it worked.

Could this be scaled up to something for practical use? Probably not. But it’s cool to see what’s possible, and something to file away for a rainy day. And maybe [Lucas] can use this method to produce CO2 for his homemade laser tube. But again, probably not.

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SYPHCOM, the compact CO2 sensor

Compact Sensor Keeps You Safe By Watching CO2 Levels

Remember when work meetings were just a bunch of people filling up a small, poorly ventilated room with their exhaled breath? Back in the good old days, all you had to worry about was being lulled to sleep by a combination of the endless slide deck and the accumulation of carbon dioxide. Now? Well, the stakes may just be a little bit higher.

In either situation, knowing the CO2 level in a room could be a handy data point, which is where a portable CO2 sensor like this one could be useful. Or at least that’s [KaRMaN]’s justification for SYPHCOM, the “simple yet powerful handheld carbon dioxide meter.” The guts of the sensor are pretty much what you’d expect — an Arduino Pro Micro, a SenseAir S8 CO2 sensor board, and the necessary battery and charging circuits. But the build does break the mold in a couple of interesting places. One is in the choice of display — a 1980s-era LED matrix display. The HDSP2000 looks like it belongs in a nice bench meter, and is surprisingly legible without a filter. It looks like it flickers a bit in the video below, but chances are that’s just a camera artifact.

The other nice part of this build is the obvious care [KaRMaN] put into making it as small as possible. The layout of boards and components is very clever, making this a solid, compact package, even without an enclosure. We’ve seen CO2 sensors with more features, but for a quick check on air quality, SYPHCOM looks like a great tool.

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3D Printing Espresso Parts

Virtually any hobby has an endless series of rabbit holes to fall into, with new details to learn around every corner. This is true for beekeeping, microcontrollers, bicycles, and gardening (just to name a few), but those involved in the intricate world of coffee roasting and brewing turn this detail dial up to the max. There are countless methods of making coffee, all with devout followers and detractors alike, and each with its unique set of equipment. To explore one of those methods and brew a perfect espresso, [Eric] turned to his trusted 3D printer and some compressed gas cylinders.

An espresso machine uses high pressure to force hot water through finely ground coffee. This pressure is often developed with an electric pump, but there are manual espresso machines as well. These require expensive parts which can withstand high forces, so rather than build a heavy-duty machine with levers, [Eric] turned to compressed CO2 to deliver the high pressure needed.

To build the pressure/brew chamber, he 3D printed most of the parts with the exception of the metal basked which holds the coffee. The 3D printed cap needs to withstand around nine atmospheres of pressure so it’s reasonably thick, held down with four large bolts, and holds a small CO2 canister, relief valve, and pressure gauge.

To [Eric]’s fine tastes, the contraption makes an excellent cup of coffee at minimal cost compared to a traditional espresso machine. The expendable CO2 cartridges only add $0.15 to the total cost of the cup and for it’s simplicity and small size this is an excellent trade-off. He plans to improve on the design over time, and we can’t wait to see what he discovers. In the meantime, we’ll focus on making sure that our beans are of the highest quality so they’re ready for that next espresso.

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Scratch-Built CO2 Laser Tube Kicks Off A Laser Cutter Build

When we see a CO2 laser cutter build around these parts, chances are pretty good that the focus will be on the mechatronics end, and that the actual laser will be purchased. So when we see a laser cutter project that starts with scratch-building the laser tube, we take notice.

[Cranktown City]’s build style is refreshingly informal, but there’s a lot going on with this build that’s worth looking at — although it’s perhaps best to ignore the sourcing of glass tubing by cutting the ends off of an old fluorescent tube; there’s no mention of what became of the mercury vapor or liquid therein, but we’ll just assume it was disposed of safely. We’ll further assume that stealing nitrogen for the lasing gas mix from car tires was just prank, but we did like the rough-and-ready volumetric method for estimating the gas mix.

The video below shows the whole process of building and testing the tube. Initial tests were disappointing, but with a lot of tweaking and the addition of a much bigger neon sign transformer to power the tube, the familiar bluish-purple plasma made an appearance. Further fiddling with the mirrors revealed the least little bit of laser output — nowhere near enough to start cutting, but certainly on the path to the ultimate goal of building a laser cutter.

We appreciate [Cranktown City]’s unique approach to his builds; you may recall his abuse-powered drill bit index that we recently covered. We’re interested to see where this laser build goes, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted.

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What Uses More Power Than Argentina But Doesn’t Dance The Tango?

There’s been a constant over the last few weeks’ news, thanks to Elon Musk we’re in another Bitcoin hype cycle. The cryptocurrency soared after the billionaire endorsed it, at one point coming close to $60k, before falling back to its current position at time of writing of around $47k. The usual tide of cryptocurrency enthusiasts high on their Kool-Aid hailed the dawn of their new tomorrow, while a fresh cesspool of cryptocurrency scam emails and social media posts lapped around the recesses of the Internet.

This Time It’s Different!

The worst phrase that anyone can normally say about a financial bubble is the dreaded phrase “This time it’s different“, but there is something different about this Bitcoin hype cycle. It’s usual to hear criticism of Bitcoin for its volatility or its sometime association with shady deals, but what’s different this time is that the primary criticism is of its environmental credentials. The Bitcoin network, we are told, uses more electricity than the Netherlands, more than Argentina, and in an age where global warming has started to exert an uncomfortable influence over our lives, we can’t afford such extravagance and the emissions associated with them.

Here at Hackaday we are more concerned with figures than arguments over the future of currency, so the angle we take away from it all lies with those power stats. How much energy does Argentina use, and is the claim about Bitcoin credible?

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Day Clock Monitors Air Quality Of The Great Indoors

As the world settles into this pandemic, some things are still difficult to mentally reckon, such as the day of the week. We featured a printed day clock a few months ago that used a large pointer to provide this basic psyche-grounding information. In the years since then, [Jeff Thieleke] whipped up a feature-rich remix that adds indoor air quality readings and a lot more.

Like [phreakmonkey]’s original day tripper, an ESP32 takes care of figuring out what day it is and moves a 9 g servo accordingly. [Jeff] wanted a little more visual action, so the pointer moves a tad bit every hour. A temperature/humidity sensor and a separate CO₂ sensor output their readings to an LCD screen mounted under the pointer. Since [Jeff] is keeping this across the basement workshop from the bench, the data is also available from a web server running on the ESP32 via XML and JSON, and the day clock can get OTA updates.

Need a little more specificity than just eyeballing a pointer? Here’s a New Times clock that gives slightly more detail.

Used Soda Stream Cylinder Becomes DIY Canned Air

Soda Stream machines use a cylinder of compressed CO2 to carbonate beverages, and cylinders that are “empty” for the machine’s purposes in fact still have a small amount of gas left in them. User [Graldur] shared a clever design for using up those last gasps from a cylinder by turning it into a makeshift compressed air gun, the kind that can blow crumbs or dust out of inconvenient spots like the inside of a keyboard. It’s 3D printed in PETG with a single seal printed in Ninjaflex.

[Graldur]’s 3D printed assembly screws onto the top of an “empty” cylinder and when the bottom ring is depressed like a trigger, the valve is opened slightly and the escaping gas is diverted through a narrow hole in the front. As a result, it can be used just as you would a can of compressed air. The gas outlet even accommodates the narrow plastic tubes from WD-40 cans (or disposable compressed air cans, for that matter) if more precision is required.

The design is intended for use with nearly-empty cylinders, but even so, [Graldur] also points out that it has been designed such that it can never fully actuate the cylinder’s release valve no matter how hard one presses, so don’t modify things carelessly. We also notice the design keeps the user’s hand and fingers well away from the business end of things.

This device also reminds of somewhat of a past experiment which used 3D printing to create serviceable (albeit low pressure) 3D printed compressed air tanks in custom shapes.