Detergent DRM Defeated On Diminutive Dishwasher

Has it really come to this? Are we really at the point that dishwashers have proprietary detergent cartridges that you’re locked into buying at inflated prices?

Apparently so, at least for some species of the common kitchen appliance. The particular unit in question goes by the friendly name of Bob, and is a compact, countertop unit that’s aimed at the very small kitchen market. [dekuNukem] picked one of these units up recently, and was appalled to learn that new detergent cartridges would cost an arm and a leg. So naturally, he hacked the detergent cartridges. A small PCB with an edge connector and a 256-byte EEPROM sprouts from each Bob cartridge; a little reverse engineering revealed the right bits to twiddle to reset the cartridge to its full 30-wash count, leading to a dongle to attach to the cartridge when it’s time for a reset and a refill.

With the electronics figured out, [dekuNukem] worked on the detergent refill. This seems like it was the more difficult part, aided though it was by some fairly detailed specs on the cartridge contents. A little math revealed the right concentrations to shoot for, and the ingredients in the OEM cartridges were easily — and cheaply — sourced from commercial dishwashing detergents. The cartridges can be refilled with a properly diluted solution using a syringe; the result is that each wash costs 1/75-th of what it would if he stuck with OEM cartridges.

For as much as we despise the “give away the printer, charge for the ink” model, Bob’s scheme somehow seems even worse. We’ve seen this technique used to lock people into everything from refrigerator water filters to cat litter, so we really like the way [dekuNukem] figured everything out here, and that he saw fit to share his solution.

Building A Dishwasher From Scratch

[Billy] was no fan of doing the dishes, but also found commercial solutions lacking. The options on the market simply didn’t fit his cookware and flatware. Instead of compromising, he set out to build a dishwasher of his own design. 

The build consists of a whole heap of hardware all lumped in a sizeable plastic tub. A washing machine solenoid lets water into the system, and it’s heated by an element in the base of the tub. It’s then pumped through a garden sprinkler head to give the dishes a good all-over spraying. At the end of a wash cycle, the drain pump then dumps the water to let everything dry off. An ESP8266 and a bank of relays are in place to run the show, with the user selecting wash programs via buttons and a small screen.

It may have taken a couple of years to come together, but [Billy’s] dishwasher seems to get the job done. Files are on Github for those interested, however we’d caution against attempting such a build unless you’re familiar working with plumbing and mains electricity. The other benefit of building your own dishwasher is that you’re less likely to have to patch it against widespread exploits – the security is instead up to you. Video after the break.

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Actuator Opens The Door To Drier Dishes

Dishwashers are great at washing dishes and even rinsing them, most of the time. Where they tend to fail is in the drying part. Somehow these things dry hot enough to warp stoneware dishes, but not so well that things are actually dry when you open the door. Blame it on the lack of air movement.

Ideally, the dishwasher cycle is started soon after dinner time so it can be finished and opened up before it’s time for bed. But if you do that, then you miss all the dishes from late-night snacking and the occasional wine glass. Wait until bedtime to start it, and it has to sit several hours with moisture inside. Obviously, the answer is to listen for the victory beeps at the end of the cycle, and use a slow but forceful actuator to push the door open.

[Ivan Stepaniuk] is listening for the dishwasher’s frequencies with a microphone, amplifying them with a trusty LM386, and using an STM32 blue pill to crunch the audio. [Ivan] has plans to incorporate an ESP8266 board for IoT, presumably to get a notification when the door has been opened successfully. Check out the demo after the break.

Yes, dishwashers are great until they aren’t, and some little part breaks. But why pay for a new detergent compartment cover when you can just print one?

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Robotic Dishwashers And Dishwashing As A Service

There’s a story that goes back to the 1980s or so about an engineering professor who laid down a challenge to the students of his automation class: design a robot to perform the most mundane of household tasks — washing the dishes. The students divided up into groups, batted ideas around, and presented their designs. Every group came up with something impressive, all variations on a theme with cameras and sensors and articulated arms to move the plates around. The professor watched the presentations respectfully, and when they were done he got up and said, “Nice work. But didn’t any of you idiots realize you can buy a robot that does dishes for $300 from any Sears in the country?”

The story may be apocryphal, but it’s certainly plausible, and it’s definitely instructive. The cultural impression of robotics as a field has a lot of ballast on it, thanks to decades of training that leads us to believe that robots will always be at least partially anthropomorphic. At first it was science fiction giving us Robbie the Robot and C3PO; now that we’re living in the future, Boston Dynamics and the like are doing their best to give us an updated view of what robots must be.

But all this training to expect bots built in the image of humans or animals only covers a narrow range of use cases, and leaves behind the hundreds or thousands of other applications that could prove just as interesting. One use case that appears to be coming to market hearkens back to that professor’s dishwashing throwdown, and if manufacturers have their way, robotic dishwashers might well be a thing in the near future.

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Repairs You Can Print: Racing The Clock For A Dishwasher Fix

No matter how mad your 3D printing skills may be, there comes a time when it makes more sense to order a replacement part than print it. For [billchurch], that time was the five-hour window he had to order an OEM part online and have it delivered within two days. The race was on — would he be able to model and print a replacement latch for his dishwasher’s detergent dispenser, or would suffer the ignominy of having to plunk down $30 for a tiny but complicated part?

As you can probably guess, [bill] managed to beat the clock. But getting there wasn’t easy, at least judging by the full write-up on his blog. The culprit responsible for the detergent problem was a small plastic lever whose pivot had worn out. Using a caliper for accurate measurements, [bill] was able to create a model in Fusion 360 in just about two hours. There was no time to fuss with fillets and chamfers; this was a rush job, after all. Still, even adding in the 20 minutes print time in PETG, there was plenty of time to spare. The new part was a tight fit but it seemed to work well on the bench, and a test load of dishes proved a success. Will it last? Maybe not. But when you can print one again in 20 minutes, does it really matter?

Have you got an epic repair that was made possible by 3D printing? We want to know about it. And if you enter it into our Repairs You Can Print Contest, you can actually win some cool prizes to boot. We’ve got multiple categories and not that many entries yet, so your chances are good.

2017: The Year Of The Dishwasher Security Patch

As if Windows Update wasn’t bad enough, one has to deal with a plethora of attention-hungry programs and utilities all begging for a continual stream of patches from the Internet. It’s exhausting, but unfortunately also par for the course. Many of these updates are to close security vulnerabilities that could otherwise expose your computer to undesirables. The Internet of Things will only expand the amount of hardware and software you need to keep updated and protected on a daily basis. Now, it’s your dishwasher that’s under attack.

The Register reports that Jens Regel discovered the bug in a Miele dishwasher with a webserver. It’s a basic directory traversal attack that can net the intruder the shadow password file. Armed with this, it’s simple to take over the embedded Linux system and wreak havoc on your local network.

It’s not particularly surprising – we’ve talked about IoT security and its pitfalls before. The problem is, a dishwasher is not a computer. Unlike Microsoft, or Google, or even the people behind VLC, Miele don’t have infrastructure in place to push out an update to dishwashers worldwide. This means that as it stands, your only real solutions are to either disconnect the dishwasher from your network, or lock it behind a highly restrictive firewall. Both are likely to impede functionality. Of course, as always, many will ask why a dishwasher needs to be connected to the Internet at all. Why indeed.

Making A Spray Booth From An Old Dishwasher

For several years, [Randy]’s spray paint booth was a simple cardboard box. Sure, it kept the overspray contained to a small area, but there was a lot of room for improvement. Luckily, after replacing his dishwasher he had the makings of an excellent spray paint booth that can be put together in a few hours.

The build began by tearing apart the old dishwasher and getting rid of just about everything; the door, plumbing, and electrical were all discarded leaving [Randy] with a plastic husk. After installing a small fluorescent light, plugging the drain hole, and making a simple lazy Suzan, [Randy] had a proper spray booth on his hands.

[Randy] opted not to put in a ventilation system; he was, after all, working with non-toxic vapors. If you’re planning on gutting a dishwasher for use with some nasty chemicals, it might be a good idea to use the drain hole as a ventilation port.