Hackaday Podcast 040: 3D Printed Everything, Strength V Toughness, Blades Of Fiber, And What Can’t Coffee Do?

Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams opine on the coolest hacks we saw this week. This episode is heavy with 3D printing as Prusa released a new, smaller printer, printed gearboxes continue to impress us with their power and design, hoverboards are turned into tanks, and researchers suggest you pour used coffee grounds into your prints. Don’t throw out those “toy” computers, they may be hiding vintage processors. And we have a pair of fantastic articles that cover the rise and fall of forest fire watchtowers, and raise the question of where all those wind turbine blades will go when we’re done with them.

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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Coffee Makes 3D Printing Better

While we know some 3D printer operators who need coffee, Washington State University is showing an improved PLA material that incorporates used coffee waste. Regular PLA is not known for being especially strong, though It isn’t uncommon for vendors to add things to their PLA to change its characteristics.

The new material containing about 20% coffee waste showed an over 400% increase in toughness (25.24 MJ/m3) versus standard PLA. Why coffee waste? We aren’t sure. They didn’t add grounds, but rather a dry and odorless material left over after coffee grounds are processed for biodiesel production.

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Make That Special Cup Of Coffee By Completely Tweaking The Coffee Machine

An interesting part of working on the Building Management and Control (BMaC) project – as previously covered on this site – was the reverse-engineering and ultimately the gaining of full control over the coffee machines at the office. Not the boring filter coffee machines, mind you, but the fully automatic espresso machine type that grinds beans, makes coffee, adds milk, and much more. Depending on one’s budget, naturally.

These little marvels of engineering contain meters of tubing, dozens of sensors, valves, ceramic grinders, and heating elements. The complexity of this machinery made us think that maybe there was more that we could do with these machines beyond what their existing programming and predefined products would allow. Naturally, there was.

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Schrödinger Quantum Percolator Makes Half Decent Coffee

I couldn’t decide between normal and decaffeinated coffee. So to eliminate delays in my morning routine, and decision fatigue,  I’ve designed the Schrödinger Quantum Percolator — making the state of my coffee formally undecidable until I drink it.

At its core, the Quantum Percolator contains a novel quantum event detector that uses electron tunneling to determine whether to use caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee. The mechanical components are enclosed in an opaque box, so I can’t tell which type of coffee is being used.

The result is coffee that simultaneously contains and does not contain caffeine – at least until you collapse the caffeination probability waveform by drinking it. As the expression goes, you can’t have your quantum superposition of states and drink it too!

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Bust A Move Doesn’t Have To Be Such A Grind

PC gamers have the benefit of the mouse and keyboard, which are highly flexible when it comes to input devices for gaming. What’s more, the freedom of the platform means that it’s easy to whip up whatever mad controller you can dream of to best suit the games you’re playing. Enter [Tom Tilley] with the aptly-named Hipster Game Controller.

Yes, this is a controller made out of a coffee grinder. The hand-crank setup makes it perfect for imitating the game board in that puzzle classic, Bust-A-Move. [Tom] interfaces the controller in a perfectly hacky way – the scroll wheel from a mouse is removed from the case and zip tied to the shaft of the grinder, allowing the rotation of the grinder to turn the wheel. The mouse wheel is then mapped as the aim control in the game – it really is that simple. An arcade button is also fitted into a mug and wired into the left mouse button to act as the trigger.

[Tom] notes that while you can fill the grinder up while you play, it makes playing the game very hard work. It’s a hacky build to show that sometimes, you don’t need a microcontroller and lines of code – just a mouse, some wire, and a healthy dose of ingenuity.

And, as it turns out, [Tom]’s been quite the Bust-a-Move fan for a few years now. Video after the break.

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Stovetop Milk Steamer Is Beautiful, Effective

The Moka pot is an industrial design classic, hailing from Italy in the early part of the 20th century. To this day, it remains an excellent way to brew top quality coffee at home with affordable equipment. However, if your tastes for coffee lie more towards lattes than espresso, you’re out of luck – unless you’ve got one of these.

[Create] started with a classic Moka pot for this project, and set out to build a stovetop milk steamer. The top reservoir is quickly cut away, and a tap fitted atop the lower water reservoir. This allows the flow of steam from the lower reservoir to be controlled. A steel pipe is then fitted to the tap, which is bent, crushed, and soldered to form a nozzle for steaming the milk. It’s then finished off with beautiful wooden handles for a nice aesthetic touch.

While we’re not sure the soldering process or tap used are food grade, there are workarounds for that, and it’s a project that could easily be pulled off in a weekend. What’s more, you can celebrate your new creation with a delicious hot cappuccino. What could be better? Now all you need is your own special roast. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]

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Tracking The Office Coffee Machines Using Current Draw

Coffee is the lifeblood of hackers, IT workers, and apparently, IT workers who are also hackers. [Omerfarukz] is clearly the latter. He works as part of a large team spread over multiple floors, all with coffee machines, any one of which is fair game. The problem is knowing which one has coffee that is ready to pour. He needed a non-invasive way to monitor the coffee machines.

Coffee machine sensor voltage chartAfter contemplating a few solutions, he opted for one which wouldn’t offend the coffee gods. The machines use a high current to produce their heat, so he adapted some old remote control power sockets for the machines to plug into which would now monitor the current. A high current means the coffee is brewing and he knew that brewing takes one minute per cup, so the duration of the high current tells him the number of cups.

Having had no success with a current sensing transformer, he opted for an ACS712 chip, at heart a Hall effect sensor which outputs a voltage proportional to the test current. That goes to the IO pins of an ATtiny, and from there via serial to an ESP8266 and thence to Google Firebase for processing and notifying of IT workers in need of stimulation. For those wishing to partake, he’s posted the circuit on Github.

We’ve seen a few other non-invasive ways to do this monitoring. For example, there’s weighing the machines using a bathroom scale and the more manual phone-notifying alarm button.