The Open Makers Cube: Have Hack, Will Travel

Don’t bother denying it, we know your workbench is a mess. A tangled pile of wires, tools, and half-completed projects is standard decor for any hardware hacker. In fact, if you’ve got a spotless work area, we might even be a bit skeptical about your credentials in this field. But that’s not to say we wouldn’t be interested in some way of keeping the electronic detritus in check, perhaps something like the Open Makers Cube created by [technoez].

This all-in-one hardware hacking station uses DIN rails and 3D-printed mounting hardware to allow the user to attach a wide array of tools, gadgets, and boards to the outside surface where they’re easily accessible. The OpenSCAD design includes mounts for the usual suspects like the Raspberry Pi, Arduino Uno, and general purpose breadboards. Of course, your own custom mounts are just a few lines of code away.

The Cube also includes a lighted magnifying glass on a flexible arm so you can zoom in on what you’re working on, a simple “helping hands” attachment, and provisions for internal USB power. It even features angled feet so the front side of the cube is held at a more comfortable viewing angle. All of which is held together by a lightweight and portable frame built from square aluminum tubing.

We can understand if you’ve got some doubts about the idea of mounting all of your tools and projects to the side of a jaunty little cube. But even if the jury is still out on the mobile workspace concept, one thing is for sure: the Open Makers Cube is easily one of the best documented projects we’ve seen in recent memory. Thanks to NopSCADlib, [technoez] was able to generate an exploded view and Bill of Materials for each sub-assembly of the project. If you’ve ever needed proof that NopSCADlib was worth checking out, this is it.

The DIN Rail And How It Got That Way

Unless you’ve spent some time in the industrial electrical field, you might be surprised at the degree of integration involved in the various control panels needed to run factories and the like. Look inside any cabinet almost anywhere in the world, and you’ll be greeted by rows of neat plastic terminal blocks, circuit breakers, signal conditioners, and all manner of computing hardware from programmable logic controllers right on to Raspberry Pis and Arduinos.

A well-crafted industrial control panel can truly be a thing of beauty. But behind all the electrical bits in the cabinet, underneath all the neatly routed and clearly labeled wires, there’s a humble strip of metal that stitches it all together: the DIN rail. How did it come to be, and why is it so ubiquitous?

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Bench Power Supply Packs A Lot Into A DIN-Rail Package

We’re not sure why we’ve got a thing for DIN-rail mounted projects, but we do. Perhaps it’s because we’ve seen so many cool industrial control cabinets, or maybe the forced neatness of DIN-mounted components resonates on some deep level. Whatever it is, if it’s DIN-rail mounted, chances are good that we’ll like it.

Take this DIN-mounted bench power supply, for instance. On the face of it, [TD-er]’s project is yet another bench supply built around those ubiquitous DPS switching power supply modules, the ones with the colorful displays. Simply throwing one of those in a DIN-mount enclosure isn’t much to write home about, but there’s more to this project than that. [TD-er] needed some fixed voltages in addition to the adjustable output, so a multi-voltage DC-DC converter board was included inside the case as well. The supply has 3.3, 5, and 12 volt fixed outputs along with the adjustable supply, and thanks to an enclosed Bluetooth module, the whole thing can be controlled from his phone. Plus it fits nicely in a compact work area, which is a nice feature.

We haven’t seen a lot of DIN-rail love around these pages — just this recent rotary phase converter with very tidy DIN-mounted controls. That’s a shame, we’d love to see more.

Arduino Controlled Dahlander Motor Switch

 

Dahlander Switch

[Jean-Noel] is fixing a broken Lurem woodworking machine. This machine uses a three-phase Dahlander motor, which has three operation modes: stop, half speed, and full speed. The motor uses a special mechanical switch to select the operating mode. Unfortunately, the mechanical bits inside the switch were broken, and the motor couldn’t be turned on.

To solve the problem without sourcing a new switch, [Jean-Noel] built his own Arduino based Dahlander switch. This consists of three relays that select the wiring configuration for each speed mode. There’s also a button to toggle settings, and two lamps to show what mode the motor is currently in.

The Arduino runs a finite-state machine (FSM), ensuring that the device transitions through the modes in the correct order. This is quite important, since the motor could be damaged if certain restrictions aren’t followed. The state machine graph was generated using Fizzim, a free tool that generates not only FSM graphs, but also Verilog and VHDL code for the machines.

The final product is housed in a DIN rail case, which allows it to be securely mounted along with the rest of the wiring. The detailed write-up on this project explains all the details of the motor, and the challenges of building this replacement switch.