Anyone with more than one cat can tell you that the
joy mischief they bring into your life is much more than twice that of a single cat. And if those felines have different dietary needs, you can end up where [Benjamin Krejci] found himself, which resulted in this fancy RFID cat feeder.
For a little backstory, [Ben]’s furry friends [Luna] and [Fermi] have vastly different eating styles, with the former being a grazer and the latter more of a “disordered eater,” to put it politely. [Fermi] tends to eat until she vomits, which is fun, and muscles her pickier sister away from the bowl if there’s anything left in it. [Ben]’s idea was to leverage [Luna]’s existing RFID chip, which he figured would be a breeze. But the vet-inserted chip is designed to be read by a high-power reader directly in contact with the cat’s skin, which made reliably reading the chip a challenge.
Several round of design iteration resulted in the current configuration, with a large antenna coil poised above and behind the food dispenser. [Luna] has no choice but to put the back of her neck and shoulder blades almost directly in contact with the coil, which makes it easier to read the 134.2-kHz chip with a long-distance RFID module. If [Luna]’s chip is found, the lid on the food bowl opens gently and quietly, so as not to spook the mild-mannered cat. The lid stays open as long as [Luna] is in place thanks to some IR sensors, but as soon as she backs out, the lid comes down to keep [Fermi] from gorging herself.
Hats off to [Ben] for working through the problem and coming up with what looks like a fine solution. We suppose he could have tried something easier like weighing the two cats to distinguish between them, but this seems like a cleaner solution to us.
Like the incandescent bulb before it, the compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb is rapidly fading into obscurity as there are fewer and fewer reasons to use them over their LED successors. But there are plenty of things to do with some of the more interesting circuitry that made these relatively efficient light bulbs work, and [mircemk] is here to show us some of them.
Fluorescent bulbs require a high voltage to work properly, and while this was easy enough for large ceiling installations, it was a while until this hardware could be placed inside a bulb-sized package. When removed, the high voltage driver from the CFL is used in this case to drive a small inductive heating coil circuit, which can then be used to rapidly heat metals and other objects. After some testing, [mircemk] found that the electronics on the CFL circuit board were able to easily handle the electrical load of its new task.
When old technology fades away, there are often a lot of interesting use cases just waiting to be found. [mircemk] reports that he was able to find these light bulbs at an extremely low price due to low demand caused by LEDs, so anyone needing a high voltage driver board for something like a small Tesla coil might want to look at a CFL first.
Surface mount components have been a game changer for the electronics hobbyist, but doing reflow soldering right requires some way to evenly heat the board. You might need to buy a commercial reflow oven — you can cobble one together from an old toaster oven, after all — but you still need something, because it’s not like a PCB is going to solder itself. Right?
Wrong. At least if you’re [Carl Bugeja], who came up with a clever way to make his PCBs self-soldering. The idea is to use one of the internal layers on a four-layer PCB, which would normally be devoted to a ground plane, as a built-in heating element. Rather than a broad, continuous layer of copper, [Carl] made a long, twisting trace covering the entire area of the PCB. Routing the trace around vias was a bit tricky, but in the end he managed a single trace with a resistance of about 3 ohms.
When connected to a bench power supply, the PCB actually heats up quickly and pretty evenly judging by the IR camera. The quality of the soldering seems very similar to what you’d see from a reflow oven. After soldering, the now-useless heating element is converted into a ground plane for the circuit by breaking off the terminals and soldering on a couple of zero ohm resistors to short the coil to ground.
The whole thing is pretty clever, but there’s more to the story. The circuit [Carl] chose for his first self-soldering board is actually a reflow controller. So once the first board was manually reflowed with a bench supply, it was used to control the reflow process for the rest of the boards in the batch, or any board with a built-in heating element. We expect there will be some limitations on the size of the self-soldering board, though.
We really like this idea, and we’re looking forward to seeing more from [Carl] on this.
Continue reading “Internal Heating Element Makes These PCBs Self-Soldering” →
Admittedly, not a lot of people have a regular need to varnish coils. It’s mainly something that Tesla coil builders and other high-voltage experimenters are concerned with. But since that group probably constitutes a not insignificant fraction of the Hackaday audience, and because there are probably more applications for this homebrew coil varnishing setup, we figured it would be a good idea to share it.
For [Mads Barnkob], coil maintenance isn’t something to take lightly. If you check out his Kaizer Power Electronics channel on YouTube, you’ll see that he has quite a collection of large, powerful Tesla coils, some of which are used for demos and shows, and others that seem to be reserved mainly for blowing stuff up. To prevent one of his coils from joining the latter group, keeping the coat of insulating varnish on the secondary coil windings in tip-top condition is essential.
The setup seen in the video below helps with that tedious chore. Built entirely from scraps and junk bin parts, the low-speed, low-precision lathe can be set up to accommodate coils of all sizes. In use, the lathe turns the coil very slowly, allowing [Mads] to apply an even coat of varnish over the coil surface, and to keep it from sagging while it dries.
[Mads]’ setup is probably not great for coil winding as it is, but for coil maintenance, it’s just the thing. If your needs are more along the lines of a coil winder, we’ve got a fully automated winder that might work for you.
Continue reading “Junkbox Build Keeps Tesla Coils Perfectly Varnished” →
As ferrite technology has progressed into a mastery of magnetic permeability, the size of inductors has gone down to the point at which they are now fairly nondescript components. There was a time though when inductors could be beautiful creations of interleaving layers of copper wire in large air-cored inductors, achieved through clever winding techniques. It’s something that’s attracted the attention of [Brett], who’s produced a machine capable of producing something close to the originals.
Part of the write-up is an investigation of the history, these coils were once present even at the consumer level but are now the preserve of only a few highly secretive companies. They are still worth pursuing though because they can deliver the high “Q” factor that is demanded in a high quality tuned circuit. The rest of the write-up dives in detail into the design of the wire feeder, and the Arduino motor control of the project. There should be enough there for any other experimenters to try their hands at layered inductors, so perhaps we’ll see this lost art make a comeback.
Custom coils are a regular requirement for anything from radios, to musical instruments, to switching power supplies, so it’s not surprising that quite a few projects featuring them have made it here. One of the more unusual of late has been one that winds toroids.
[mircemk] is quite a wizard when it comes to using coils of wires in projects, especially when their application is within easy-to-build metal detectors. There are all kinds of ways to send signals through coiled wire to detect metal objects in the ground, and today [mircemk] is demonstrating a new method he is experimenting with which uses a smartphone to detect the frequency changes generated by the metal detector.
Like other metal detectors, this one uses two coils of wire with an oscillator circuit and some transistors. The unique part of this build, though, is how the detector alerts the user to a piece of metal. Normally there would be an audible alert as the frequencies of the circuit change when in the presence of metal, but this one uses a smartphone to analyze the frequency information instead. The circuit is fed directly into the headphone jack on the smartphone and can be calibrated and used from within an Android app.
Not only can this build detect metal, but it can discriminate between different types of metal. [mircemk] notes that since this was just for experimentation, it needs to be calibrated often and isn’t as sensitive as others he’s built in the past. Of course this build also presumes that your phone still has a headphone jack, but we won’t dig up that can of worms for this feature. Instead, we’ll point out that [mircemk] has shown off other builds that don’t require any external hardware to uncover buried treasure.
Continue reading “Metal Detector Gets Help From Smartphone” →
Induction cook tops are among the most efficient ways of cooking in the home that are commercially available to the average person. Since the cook surface uses magnetic fields to generate heat in the cookware itself, there is essentially no heat wasted. There are some other perks too, such as faster cooking times and more fine control, not to mention that it’s possible to build your own induction stove. All you need is some iron, wire, and a power source, and you can have something like this homemade induction cooker.
This induction heater has a trick up its sleeve, too. Instead of using an air coil to generate heat in the cookware, this one uses an iron core instead. The project’s creator [mircemk] built an air core induction stove in the past, and this new one is nearly identical with the exception of the addition of the iron core. This allows for the use of less wire, and uses a driver circuit called a Mazzilli ZVS driver running through some power MOSFETs to power the device. A couple inductors limit the current to 20A, but it appears to work just as well as the previous stove.
This build puts a homemade induction stove well within reach of anyone with an appropriate power supply and enough wire and inductors to build the coils. [mircemk] has made somewhat of a name for himself involving project that use various coils of wire, too, like this project we featured recently which uses two overlapping air-core coils to build an effective metal detector.
Continue reading “Induction Heater Uses New Coil” →