An Arduino-Free Automatic Alcohol Administrator

With all the hands-free dispenser designs cropping up out there, the maker world could potentially be headed for an Arduino shortage. We say that in jest, but it’s far too easy to use an Arduino to prototype a design and then just leave it there doing all the work, even if you know going in that it’s overkill.

[ASCAS] took up the challenge and built a cheap and simple dispenser that relies on recycled parts and essential electronics. It uses an IR proximity sensor module to detect dirty digits, and a small submersible pump to push isopropyl alcohol, sanitizer, or soap up to your hovering hand. The power comes from a sacrificial USB cable and is switched through a transistor, so it could be plugged into the wall or a portable power pack.

We admire the amount of reuse in this project, especially the nozzle-narrowing ballpoint pen piece. Be sure to check out the build video after the break.

Hopefully, you’re all still washing your hands for the prescribed 20 seconds. If you’re starting to slip, why not build a digital hourglass and watch the pixels disappear?

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Hands-Free Oreo Dispenser, Now With Milk

A while back, [Emiel] aka [The Practical Engineer] created a hands-free Oreo dispenser for his shop. This was a necessary addition to his fleet of handy tools, and allowed him to multitask much more effectively by using a sander, for example, at the same time that he needed to eat a cookie. Of course, this time-saving device was missing one crucial element: milk. [Emiel] is back in this video to show off his milk-dispensing upgrade to his original Oreo dispenser.

A few ideas were considered before [Emiel] decided to build a separate unit for the milk dispenser, so as not to create a gigantic mess any time an Oreo was delivered, and also to maintain some decorum in the shop. He rebuilt the Oreo dispenser with a 3D printer and then also 3D printed the milk dispenser. The chin-activated switch inside the device turns on a small pump which squirts milk into the user’s mouth, presumably after an Oreo has been delivered.

There are a few problems with the build, but most are easily solved by replacing non-food-grade parts with plastic that is more safe for being around consumables. The only other thing we can see here is that it might be a little hard to keep things clean, both inside and out, but most Oreo-related builds like this one have at least some problem with cleanliness that isn’t impossible to keep up with.

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Syringe Pump Turns CNC Machine Into A Frosting Bot

“Amazing how with only the power of 3D-printing, two different computers, hundreds of dollars in CNC machinery, a lathe, and modern microcontroller magic, I can almost decorate a cupcake as well as a hyperactive ten-year-old.”  We can think of no better way to sum up [Justin]’s experiment in CNC frosting application, which turns out to only be a gateway to more interesting use cases down the road.

Granted, it didn’t have to be this hard. [Justin] freely admits that he took the hard road and made parts where off-the-shelf components would have been fine. The design for the syringe pump was downloaded from Thingiverse and does just about what you’d expect – it uses a stepper motor to press down on the plunger of a 20-ml syringe full of frosting. Temporarily attached in place of the spindle on a CNC router, the pump dispenses onto the baked goods of your choice, although with an irregular surface like a muffin top the results are a bit rough. The extruded frosting tends to tear off and drop to the surface of the cake, distorting the design. We’d suggest mapping the Z-height of the cupcake first so the frosting can dispense from a consistent height.

Quality of the results is not really the point, though. As [Justin] teases, this hardware is in support of bioprinting of hydrogels, along with making synthetic opals. We’re looking forward to those projects, but in the meantime, maybe we can all just enjoy a spider silk beer with [Justin].

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A Contact Lens Launcher That Knows The Weather

They say that necessity is the “Mother of Invention”, but over the years we’ve started to suspect that her cousin might be an underutilized microcontroller. How else can you explain projects like the latest from [MNMakerMan], which takes the relatively simple concept of a contact lens holder and manages to turn it into an Internet-connected electronic appliance? Not that we’re complaining, of course.

He started out with a simple 3D printed holder for his wall that would let him pull out his daily lenses, which worked well enough and gained some popularity on Thingiverse. But he wondered if there wasn’t some way he could use a servo to automate the process. While he was at it, he might as well play with some of the components he’s been meaning to get some hands-on experience with, such as those little OLED displays all the cool kids are using.

Modifying his original design to incorporate servos in the bottom, he added a central compartment that would house an ESP8266 and a simple proximity sensor made from an IR LED and photodiode. The sensor tends to be a little twitchy, so he left a potentiometer inside the device so he can fine tune it as needed.

Strictly speaking the OLED display isn’t actually required for this project, but since he had a WiFi capable microcontroller sitting there doing basically nothing all day anyway, he added in a feature that shows the weather forecast. It’s not much of a stretch to say that the first thing you’d want to see in the morning after regaining the sense of sight is a readout of what the day’s weather will be, so we think it’s a fairly logical extension of the core functionality. Bonus points if he eventually adds in a notification to remind him it’s time to order more lenses when the dispenser starts getting low.

If you don’t have any contact lenses you need dispensed, never fear. A similar concept can be used to fire off your customized swag at hacker events. Don’t have any of that either? Well in that case you can always build a candy dispenser for Halloween.

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Building A Semiautomatic Swag Launcher

Regular readers of Hackaday have certainly seen the work of [Jeremy Cook] at this point. Whether you remember him from his time as a writer for this fine online publication, or recognize the name from one of his impressive builds over the last few years, he’s a bona fide celebrity around these parts. In fact, he’s so mobbed with fans at events that he’s been forced to employ a robotic companion to handle distributing his personalized buttons for his own safety.

Alright, that might be something of a stretch. But [Jeremy] figured it couldn’t hurt to have an interesting piece of hardware handing out his swag at the recent Palm Bay Mini Maker Faire. Anyone can just put some stickers and buttons in a bowl on a table, but that’s hardly the hacker way. In the video after the break, he walks viewers through the design and construction of this fun gadget, which takes a couple unexpected turns and has contains more than a few useful tips which are worth the cost of admission alone.

Outwardly the 3D printed design is simple enough, and reminds us of those track kits for Matchbox cars. As you might expect, getting the buttons to slide down a printed track was easy enough. Especially when [Jeremy] filed the inside smooth to really get them moving. But the goal was to have a single button get dispensed each time the device was triggered, but that ended up being easier said than done.

The first attempt used magnets actuated by two servos, one to drop the button and the other to hold up the ones queued above it. This worked fine…at first. But [Jeremy] eventually found that as he stacked more buttons up in the track, the magnets weren’t strong enough to hold them back and they started “leaking”. This is an excellent example of how a system can work perfectly during initial testing, but break down once it hits the real world.

In this case, the solution ended up being relatively simple. [Jeremy] kept the two servos controlled by an Arduino and a capacitive sensor, but replaced the magnets with physical levers. The principle is the same, but now the system is strong enough to hold back the combined weight of the buttons in the chute. It did require him to cut into the track after it had already been assembled, but we can’t blame him for not wanting to start over.

Just like the arcade inspired candy dispenser, coming up with a unique way of handing out objects to passerby is an excellent way to turn the ordinary into a memorable event. Maybe for the next iteration he can make it so getting a button requires you to pass a hacker trivia test. Really make them work for it.

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Always Have A Square To Spare

Some aspects of humanity affect all of us at some point in our lives. Whether it’s getting caught in the rain without an umbrella, getting a flat tire on the way to work, or upgrading a Linux package which somehow breaks the entire installation, some experiences are truly universal. Among these is pulling a few squares of toilet paper off the roll, only to have the entire roll unravel with an overly aggressive pull. It’s possible to employ a little technology so that none of us have to go through this hassle again, though.

[William Holden] and [Eric Strebel] have decided to tackle this problem with an innovative bearing of sorts that replaces a typical toilet paper holder. Embedded in the mechanism is a set of magnetic discs which provide a higher resistance than a normal roll holder would. Slowly pulling out squares of paper is possible, but like a non-Newtonian fluid becomes solid when a higher force is applied, the magnets will provide enough resistance when a higher speed tug is performed on the toilet paper. This causes the paper to tear rather than unspool the whole roll, and also allows the user to operate the toilet paper one-handed.

This is a great solution to a problem we’ve all faced but probably forgot about a minute after we experienced it. And, it also holds your cell phone to keep it from falling in the toilet! If you’d like to check out their Kickstarter, they are trying to raise money to bring the product to market. And, if you want to upgrade your toilet paper dispenser even further, there’s also an IoT device for it as well, of course.

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Automatic Soap Dispenser Hides Arduino Board

If you’ve been hanging out here at Hackaday for awhile, you’ve certainly seen projects that were based around the concept of putting a miniature computer inside the carcass of some other piece of electronics. In fact at this point it’s something of a running joke, certainly we must have seen an Arduino or Raspberry Pi shoehorned into every type of consumer gadget ever built by this point. But if you thought this would be another example of that common trope by the headline, you might be in for something of a surprise.

[zapta] didn’t put an Arduino inside this GOJO LTX-7 soap dispenser, it was already in there to begin with. That’s right, apparently we’ve hit the point that even cheap soap dispensers are now running on programmable microcontrollers. While we can’t blame those of you who are no doubt groaning and/or rolling their eyes thanks to this particular case of computational gluttony, it does mean we’re able to report with a straight face something which frankly would have passed as an April Fool’s joke in previous years: the development of an open source soap dispensing firmware.

So how does one upload a new Arduino sketch to their GOJO soap dispenser? It’s not like the thing has a USB port on the side for convenient hacking. As explained by [zapta], it involves stripping the dispenser all the way down until the electronics board is free, and then adding in a programming header to make subsequent firmware fiddling a bit easier. Writing a new firmware to the ATTiny48 powered board will require an external ISP (the Atmel AVRISP MKII was used for this hack, though any should work), but it’s otherwise pretty painless.

[zapta] has done an excellent job documenting the different components on the board, and reverse engineered enough of the critical aspects (such as the motor controller and proximity sensor) to write a new open source firmware which can be flashed to the GOJO LTX-7. Beyond allowing you to “Open Source All the Things”, using this new firmware does have some practical advantage in that you can configure how much soap is dispensed per activation. Going further, we’d be exceptionally interested in hearing about anyone who manages to come up with a firmware that enables some hitherto impossible soap dispensing trickery.

We’ve seen hacks involving dispensers of all types, from Halloween games that spit out candy to gadgets which let dogs get their own treats, but a soap dispenser hack is something truly new for us. More proof that there’s still plenty of hardware out there just waiting to be hacked!