A vape pen, broken into parts, all laid out on a cutting mat

2022 Hackaday Prize: Disposable Vape Pens Turned Project Parts

Disposable vape pens, a sub-genre of electronic cigarettes, have been a fad for a few years now – they’re small self-contained devices with a rechargeable battery and some vape liquid inside. As the battery discharges and the liquid runs out, the entire vape pen is typically thrown out. [Dimitar] wants to change that, however, and teaches us how to reuse as much of the vape pen as possible – as yet another underappreciated source for parts we can use in our projects.

In an extensive intro worklog, he breaks down and documents a vape pen’s inner workings, coupled with a video we’ve placed below the break showing ways to disassemble them. In these, he shows how we can reuse the casing and the plastic parts, should any of us be interested in a project that happens to fit the e-cig form factor. Attention is paid to the sensor that triggers the evaporation – it may look like a microphone, but is actually a purpose-built pressure-sensor with a high-side switch! He tears into one of these in a separate video, showing how to reuse it as a capacitive touch controller. He also aiming to assemble a small database of related resources on GitHub, currently, hosting the files for the protection circuit he developed as part of his recommendations for safely reusing vape pen Li-ion batteries.

[Dimitar]’s journey is ongoing, and we can’t wait to see some fun uses for these components that he will certainly stumble upon on his way! For instance, here’s a hacker using an e-cig battery to power a pair of RGB LED-adorned sunglasses, replacing the AAAA battery they originally came with. We’ve seen hackers make guides on reusing each and every part of microwave ovens, printers and laptops, and we ourselves have talked about reusing ATX power supplies and computer mice.

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Remoticon 2021 // Arsenijs Tears Apart Your Laptop

Hackaday’s own [Arsenijs Picugins] has been rather busy hacking old laptops apart and learning what can and cannot be easily reused, and presents for the 2021 Hackaday Remoticon, a heavily meme-loaded presentation with some very practical advice.

Full HD, IPS LCD display with touch support, reused with the help of a dedicated driver board

What parts inside a dead laptop are worth keeping? Aside from removable items like RAM stick and hard drives, the most obvious first target is the LCD panel. These are surprisingly easy to use, with driver boards available on the usual marketplaces, so long as you make sure to check the exact model number of your panel is supported.

Many components inside laptops are actually USB devices, things like touch screen controllers, webcams and the like are usually separate modules, which simply take power and USB. This makes sense, since laptops already have a fair amount of external USB connectivity, why not use it internally too? Other items are a bit trickier: trackpads seem to be either PS/2 or I2C and need a bit more hardware support. Digital microphones mostly talk I2S, which means some microcontroller coding.

Some items need a little more care, however, so maybe avoid older Dell batteries, with their ‘spicy pillow’ tendencies. As [Arsenijs] says, take them when they are ripe for the picking, but not too ripe. Batteries need a little care and feeding, make sure you’ve got some cell protection, if you pull raw cells! Charging electronics are always on the motherboard, so that’s something you’ll need to arrange yourself if you take a battery module, but it isn’t difficult, so long as you can find your way around SMBus protocol.

These batteries are too ripe. Leave them alone.

Older laptops were much more modular and some even designed for upgrade or modification, and this miniaturization-driven trend of shrinking everything — where a laptop now needs to be thin enough to shave with — is causing some manufacturers to move in a much more proprietary direction regarding hardware design.

This progression conflicts with our concerns of privacy, repairability and waste elimination, resulting in closed boxes filled with unrepairable, non-reusable black boxes. We think it’s time to take back some of the hardware, so three cheers to those taking upon themselves the task to reverse engineer and publish reusability information, and long may it be possible to continue.

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Metal mechanoid security patrol ride-on made from scrap

Homemade Scrapyard Security Mech Gives Uncle Super Powers

[Handy Geng] is back again with another bonkers build, that we just can’t not cover. His Uncle came to visit the workshop one day and said he’d love to go there every day, and could even watch over it when [Handy Geng] was away. But being an older chap and needing a stick to get around, he would not be much use if ‘bad guys’ decided to pay a visit. The obvious solution was to build a ride-on security mech which Uncle could ride on, (video, embedded below) and use to defend the shop from bandits.

The build starts with him unloading a large pair of tracked wheel units from his truck, which caused a chuckle around these parts when we tried to imagine the scrap yard he’d just visited! The build video is more of a spot-weld-come-assembly log, with the less interesting sub assembly construction omitted. If he’d included all the details, this video would have been hours long. Though, we’d probably watch that anyway.

Features of the final construction include, but not limited to, dual motors for on-the-spot turns, night-time patrol lights, dual pneumatic fists for attack mode, dual water cannons for a more gentle approach and rear facing speakers blasting out Chinese opera for the ultimate deterrent. Practical touches include an integrated glasses case for the ready-readers, and a walking cane holder, so the mech was Uncle-ready. He seemed impressed from the grin on his face!

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Hong Kong Hacker Builds Electric Vehicle From Waste

Recycled Parts Round Out Soap Shaped Electric Car

[Handy Geng] has a knack for fitting his creations with a large percentage of recycled material. And as is exemplified by the video below the break, he also loves to mix the practical with the whimsical.

Using parts salvaged from motor scooters, trash heaps, and likely many other sources, [Handy] has put together a small vehicle that he himself describes as looking like a bar of soap as it slips across the floor. You’ll agree when you see the independent front and rear steering at work, allowing the car’s front and rear to be driven and steered on their own. Crabbing sideways, driving diagonally, and we’re guessing spinning in place are possible.

What’s also clear in the video below is that [Handy] is a talented fabricator. While not taking himself too seriously (keep an eye out for the 360° selfie cam!) he clearly takes pride in the work. [Handy]’s workshop and skill set show that at the core, he’s quite serious about his craft. We appreciate the creative use of scrap materials used in such an inspiring build. The turn signals and “communicator” hand is absolutely marvelous.

If building with recycled materials is your thing, then you’ll love the Trash Printer, too. Thanks to [Fosselius] for the tip!

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Review: Inkplate 6PLUS

While the price of electronic paper has dropped considerably over the last few years, it’s still relatively expensive when compared to more traditional display technology. Accordingly, we’ve seen a lot of interest in recovering the e-paper displays used in electronic shelf labels and consumer e-readers from the likes of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Unfortunately, while these devices can usually be purchased cheaply on the second hand market, liberating their displays is often too complex a task for the average tinkerer.

Enter the Inkplate. With their open hardware ESP32 development board that plugs into the e-paper displays salvaged from old e-readers, the team at e-radionica is able to turn what was essentially electronic waste into a WiFi-enabled multipurpose display that can be easily programmed using either the Arduino IDE or MicroPython. The $99 Inkplate 6 clearly struck a chord with the maker community, rocketing to 926% of its funding goal on Crowd Supply back in 2020. A year later e-radionica released the larger and more refined Inkplate 10, which managed to break 1,000% of its goal.

For 2021, the team is back with the Inkplate 6PLUS. This updated version of the original Inkplate incorporates the design additions from the Inkplate 10, such as the Real-Time-Clock, expanded GPIO, and USB-C port, and uses a display recycled from newer readers such as the Kindle Paperwhite. These e-paper panels are not only sharper and faster than their predecessors, but also feature touch support and LED front lighting; capabilities which e-radionica has taken full advantage of in the latest version of their software library.

With its Crowd Supply campaign recently crossing over the 100% mark, we got a chance to go hands-on with a prototype of the Inkplate 6PLUS to see how e-radionica’s latest hacker friendly e-paper development platform holds up.

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ESP32 Inkplate Gives Kindle Displays A Second Chance

Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of hackers repurpose their Kindle or similar e-reader to reap the benefits of its electronic paper display. Usually this takes the form of some software running on the reader itself, since cracking the firmware is a lot easier than pulling out the panel and figuring out how to operate it independently. But what if somebody had already done that hard work for you?

Enter the Inkplate. By pairing a recycled Kindle display with an ESP32, Croatian electronics company e-radionica says they’ve not only created an open hardware e-paper display that’s easy for hackers and makers to use, but keeps electronic waste out of the landfill. Last year the $99 USD 6 inch version of the Inkplate ended its CrowdSupply campaign at over 920% of its original goal. The new 9.7 inch model is priced at $129, and so far managed to blow past its own funding goal just hours after the campaign went live. Clearly, the demand is there.

The new model’s e-paper display isn’t just larger, it also features a higher 1200 x 825 resolution and reduced refresh time. Outside of the screen improvements, you’ll also find more GPIO pins, an RTC module to keep more accurate time, and a USB Type-C port for both programming and power. You also get a choice of languages to use, with both Arduino and MicroPython libraries available for interfacing with the display. Interestingly, the Inkplate also features a so-called “Peripheral Mode” that allows you to draw graphics primitives on the screen using commands sent over UART.

While we’ve recently seen some very promising efforts to repurpose old e-paper displays, the turn-key solution offered by the Inkplate is admittedly very compelling. If you’re looking for an easy way to jump on the electronic paper bandwagon that works out of the box, this might be your chance.

[Thanks to Krunoslav for the tip.]

A Recycled Robot Arm For All!

It’s mind boggling how much e-waste we throw out. Perfectly good components, mass produced for pennies. And at the end of their life, going straight to a landfill or some poor country to be melted down. Don’t you wish you could help?

Stepper motors are a dime a dozen when it comes to e-waste, and there’s tons of cool projects you can do with a stepper motor — [Madivak] is just starting on a robot arm design over at Hackaday.io that makes use of recycled components.

It’s fairly early in development, but that means it’s a great time to start following it on the project site. The robotic arm is being designed for his final year project in his undergrad degree. Besides the steppers, he’s using his school’s Utilimaker 3D printer to manufacture all of the other mechanical components with control coming from DRV8825 stepper drivers and the Freescale Freedom KL25Z dev kit. Check out the clips after the break to see current state of the build.

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