DIY Thermal Imager Uses DIY Gaussian Blur

Under the right circumstances, Gaussian blurring can make an image seem more clearly defined. [DZL] demonstrates exactly this with a lightweight and compact Gaussian interpolation routine to make the low-resolution thermal sensor data display much better on a small OLED.

[DZL] used an MLX90640 sensor to create a DIY thermal imager with a small OLED display, but since the sensor is relatively low-resolution at 32×24, displaying the data directly looks awfully blocky. Gaussian interpolation to improve the display looks really good, but it turns out that the full Gaussian interpolation isn’t a trivial calculation write on your own. Since [DZL] wanted to implement it on a microcontroller, the lightweight implementation was born. The project page walks through the details of Gaussian interpolation and how some effective shortcuts were made, so be sure to give it a look.

The MLX90640 sensor also makes an appearance in the Open Thermal Camera, one of the entries for the 2019 Hackaday Prize. If you’re interested in thermal imaging, don’t miss this teardown of a thermal imaging camera.

Build Your Own Solenoid Engine

A solenoid engine is a curiosity of the electrical world. By all measures, using electricity to rotate something can be done almost any other way with greater efficiency and less hassle. But there’s just something riveting about watching a solenoid engine work. If you want to build one of your own and see for yourself, [Emiel] aka [The Practical Engineer] has a great how-to.

For this build though he used a few tools that some of us may not have on hand, such as a lathe and a drill press. The lathe was used to make the plastic spool to hold the wire, and also to help wind the wire onto the spool itself rather than doing it by hand. He also milled the wood mounts and metal bearings as well, and the quality of the work really shows through in the final product. The final touch is the transistor which controls power flow to the engine.

If you don’t have all of the machine tools [Emiel] used it’s not impossible to find substitute parts if you want to build your own. It’s an impressive display piece, or possibly even functional if you want your build to have a certain steampunk aesthetic (without the steam). You can even add more pistons to your build if you need extra power.

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Tinker Pilot Project Cranks Cockpit Immersion To 11

One of the more interesting ideas being experimented with in VR is 1:1 mapping of virtual and real-world objects, so that virtual representations can have physically interaction in a normal way. Tinker Pilot is a VR spaceship simulator project by [LLUÍS and JAVI] that takes this idea and runs with it, aiming for the ability to map a cockpit’s joysticks, switches, and other hardware to real-world representations. What does that mean? It means a virtual cockpit with flight sticks, levers, and switches that have working physical versions that actually exist exactly where they appear to be.

A few things about the project design caught our eye. One is the serial communications protocol intended to interface easily with microcontrollers, allowing for feedback between the program and any custom peripherals. (By the way, this is the same approach Kerbal Space Program took with KSPSerialIO, which enables custom mission control hardware at whatever level of complexity a user may wish to implement.)

The possibilities are demonstrated starting around 1:09 in the teaser trailer (embedded below) in which a custom controller is drawn up in CAD, then 3D-printed and attached to an Arduino, and finally the 3D model is imported into the cockpit as a 1:1 representation of the actual working unit, with visual positional feedback.

Unlike this chair experiment we saw which attached a Vive Tracker to a chair, there is no indication of needing positional trackers on individual controls in Tinker Pilot. In a cockpit layout, controls can be reasonably expected to remain in fixed positions relative to the cockpit, meaning that they can be set up as 1:1 representations of a physical layout and otherwise left alone. The kind of experimentation that is available today even to individual developers or small teams is remarkable, and it’s fascinating to see the ideas being given some experimentation.

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A Better Embroidery Machine, With 3D Printing And Common Parts

In concept, an everyday sewing machine could make embroidery a snap: the operator would move the fabric around in any direction they wish while the sewing machine would take care of slapping down stitches of colored thread to create designs and filled areas. In practice though, getting good results in this way is quite a bit more complex. To aid and automate this process, [sausagePaws] has been using CNC to take care of all the necessary motion control. The result is the DIY Embroidery Machine V2 which leverages 3D printed parts and common components such as an Arduino and stepper drivers for an economical DIY solution.

It’s not shown in the photo here, but we particularly like the 3D printed sockets that are screwed into the tabletop. These hold the sewing machine’s “feet”, and allow it to be treated like a modular component that can easily be removed and used normally when needed.

The system consists of a UI running on an Android tablet, communicating over Bluetooth to an Arduino. The Arduino controls the gantry which moves the hoop (a frame that holds a section of fabric taut while it is being embroidered), while the sewing machine lays down the stitches.

[sausagePaws]’s first version worked well, but this new design really takes advantage of 3D printing as well as the increased availability of cheap and effective CNC components. It’s still a work in progress that is a bit light on design details, but you can see it all in action in the video embedded below.

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Add An Ant To Your Desk For Some Compact PCB Manufacturing

Usually when one thinks of using a CNC machine for producing PCBs, one thinks of those big, bulky CNC machines that pretty much fill an entire desk. But what if a CNC machine could be small enough to fit on a desk without getting in the way, yet still be useful enough to make single- and double-sided PCBs? This was the idea behind The Ant, the compact PCB manufacturing machine which [Mattia] and [Angelo] designed and open sourced.

In addition to the above linked Bitbucket repository for the project, the ‘Ant Team’ has a YouTube channel on which they have a range of rather professionally edited videos on the project, ranging from constructing the little machine, to various updates and more  Also see the video that is attached after the link for a visual introduction to the project.

Support and community interaction is mostly performed via the Reddit group for the project, where the diminutive machine finds a welcoming community as it continues to evolve. The machine itself is specified at this point as being able to built from commercially available and 3D printed parts, requiring no further tools for cutting or shaping. The precision is about 0.2 mm trace spacing.

Optical alignment for double-sided boards is achieved using a USB micro camera and the bCNC software, while the cost for materials is said to be quite inexpensive when compared with commercial solutions

Honestly, after seeing the machine in action, wouldn’t you want to have a CNC machine that’s so small and good-looking on your desk? If there’s one thing one might want to add, it’s probably a way to deal with the copper dust that’s produced while creating PCBs. Having to clean that off the desk after each PCB manufacturing session would get a bit cumbersome, we imagine.

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The Theremin Gets A Voice

Every once in a while, we come across a project that adds a ridiculously good twist on an existing design. This is exactly what [Xiao Xiao] and the team at LAM research group at the Institut d’Alembert in Paris have done. Their project T-VOKS is a singing and Speaking Theremin that is sure to drive everyone in the office crazy. (YouTube link, embedded below for your viewing pleasure.)

For the uninitiated, the Theremin is an electronic music instrument that does not require physical contact. Instead, it uses two antennas to sense the distance of the operators hands and uses that to modulate the pitch and volume of the output audio. From music concerts to movie background music to even scaring the neighbours, this instrument can do it all.

T-VOKS is a different take on the instrument, and it interfaces with a voice synthesizer to sing. There is an additional sensor that is used for the syllable sequencing, and the video below shows the gadget in operation. The icing on the cake is the instrument playing, or should that be singing in an actual concert. There is also a research paper detailing the operation on Dropbox[PDF] if you need the nitty-gritty.

We wonder how a TTS engine would work with this idea and hope to see some more projects like it in the future. Fore those looking to get started, have a look at the build guide for a DIY theremin.

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Yet Another DIY Handheld Pi Gaming Console

The Raspberry Pi is a great platform for running retro video games, and with the addition of some buttons, a TFT screen and some speakers it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to get a working console up and running. If you have access to even a cheap 3D printer, a good-looking DIY console is well within reach for not a lot of money. YouTube user [DIY Engineering] has a bunch of consumer-grade fabrication tools and has designed and built a high-end but still DIY RetroPi gaming console, the RKDR II.

Among the tools that [DIY Engineering] has are both a FDM and DLP 3D printer, a reflow oven, a couple of different CNC machines and a laser cutter. They are all consumer grade, but not necessarily cheap – especially combined! [DIY Engineering] uses Fusion3D to model the case, bezel and circuit board, the latter of which is a 4 layer board designed in Eagle and sent off to be fabbed. The buttons, D-pad, screen and battery are bought off the shelf, but everything else is DIY. Check out the video for the details – the tools used, and the design files, are linked in the information section under the video on YouTube.

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