Building An RC Air Boat from Garbage

What do you get when you combine an old optical drive, some empty soda bottles, and a microcontroller? Well…nothing, really. That’s still just a pile of rubbish. But if you add in a battery, an RC receiver, and some motors, you’re getting dangerously close to a fun little toy to kick around the pond as [Antonio Rizzo] recently demonstrated.

A couple of plastic bottles lashed together make up the hull of the boat, and [Antonio] has used the internal frame of an old optical drive bent at a 90 degree angle to hold the two small DC motors. In a particularly nice touch, the drive’s rubber anti-vibration bushings are reused as motor mounts, though he does admit it was just dumb luck that the motors were a perfect fit.

For the electronics, [Antonio] has paired a custom motor controller up with the uChip, a diminutive Arduino-compatible microcontroller in a narrow DIP-16 package. Wireless communication is provided by an off-the-shelf cPPM receiver such as you might see used in a small plane or quadcopter.

The whole build is powered by a common 18650 lithium-ion battery, which could also be easy enough to recover from the trash given how common they are in laptop batteries; though if you threw a new cell into this build we wouldn’t hold it against you. Everything is put into a high-tech plastic sandwich bag to provide minimum of waterproofing with the minimum of effort.

If using a commercial RC receiver and transmitter is a bit too mainstream for your tastes, you could always roll your own radio.

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The Woeful World of Worldwide E-Waste

How large is the cache of discarded electronics in your home? They were once expensive and cherished items, but now they’re a question-mark for responsible disposal. I’m going to dig into this problem — which goes far beyond your collection of dead smartphones — as well as the issues of where this stuff ends up versus where it should end up. I’m even going to demystify the WEEE mark (that crossed out trashcan icon you’ve been noticing on your gadgets), talk about how much jumbo jets weigh, and touch on circular economies, in the pursuit of better understanding of the waste streams modern gadgets generate.

Our lives are encountering an increasing number of “how do I dispose of this [X]” moments, where X is piles of old batteries, LCDs, desktop towers, etc. This leads to relationship-testing piles of garbage potential in a garage or the bottom of a closet. Sometimes that old gear gets sold or donated. Sometimes there’s a handy e-waste campaign that swings through the neighborhood to scoop that pile up, and sometimes it eventually ends up in the trash wrapped in that dirty feeling that we did something wrong. We’ve all been there; it’s easy to discover that responsible disposal of our old electronics can be hard.

Fun fact: the average person who lives in the US generates 20 kg of e-waste annually (or about 44 freedom pounds). That’s not unique, in the UK it’s about 23 kg (that’s 23 in common kilograms), 24 kg for Denmark, and on and on. That’s quite a lot for an individual human, right? What makes up that much waste for one person? For that matter, what sorts of waste is tracked in the bogus sounding e-waste statistics you see bleated out in pleading Facebook posts? Unsurprisingly there are some common definitions. And the Very Serious People people at the World Economic Forum who bring you the definitions have some solutions to consider too.

We spend a lot of time figuring out how to build this stuff. Are we spending enough time planning for what to do with the gear once it falls out of favor? Let’s get to the bottom of this rubbish.
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The E-Waste Apocalypse Looms

What does post-apocalyptic technology look like? Well, that kind of depends on the apocalypse. Regardless of the cause, we’ll need to be clever and resourceful and re-learn ancient crafts like weaving and pottery-making. After all, the only real apocalyptic constants are the needs of the survivors. Humans need clothing and other textiles. Fortunately, weaving doesn’t require electricity—just simple mechanics, patience, and craftsmanship.

If it turns out the apocalypse is scheduled for tomorrow, we’ll have piles and piles of e-waste as fodder for new-old looms. This adorable loom is a mashup of old and new technologies that [Kati Hyyppä] built at an artist residency in Latvia, a country with a rich historical tapestry of textile-making. It combines a cheerful orange telephone with an old cassette player and some telescoping rods from a radio antenna. [Kati] reused the phone’s hang-up switch to trigger tunes from a deconstructed toddler toy every time the receiver is lifted. Check it out after the beep break.

And yeah, you’re right, it does use batteries. But the looming part doesn’t require power, only the music. In case of apocalypse, just scrounge up a solar panel.

If you’d rather be prepared to have to make your own clothes someday, print this loom beforehand.

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Harvesting Copper from Microwave Ovens

Obsolete appliances were once a gold mine of parts, free for the taking with a few snips of your diagonal cutters. Times have changed, though, and most devices yield only a paltry supply of parts, so much so that only by harvesting raw materials can you get much value out of them. And so we have this example of reclaiming copper from used microwave ovens.

The primary source of copper in most microwaves is the transformer, which we usually see re-tasked for everything from spot welders to material handling electromagnets. But the transformer is not the only source of the red metal; [eWaste Ben] also harvests it from relay coils and the main coil and shading coils of the fan motor.  The bounty is melted down in an electric foundry and cast in a graphite mold into a lovely ingot.

Unless you’re into repeatedly casting copper trinkets, a large bar of reclaimed copper might not be something you have a burning need to possess. But bearing in mind that copper can go for about $2.50 a pound at the scrap yard, there’s some money to be made, especially with dead microwaves essentially free for the taking. As [Ben] points out, taking the extra step to melt and cast the copper harvested from microwaves makes no sense if all you’re going to do is sell the scrap, but it’s nice to know how to do it just the same.

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A Functioning 3D Printer For 10€

There was a time when crowdfunding websites were full of 3D printers at impossibly low prices. You knew that it would turn out to be either blatant vaporware or its delivery date would slip into the 2020s, but still there seemed always to be an eager queue ready to sign up. Even though there were promised models for under $200, $150, and then $100, there had to be a lower limit to the prices they were prepared to claim for their products. A $10 printer on Kickstarter for example would have been just a step too far.

There is a project that’s come close to that mark though, even though the magic figure is 10 euros rather than 10 dollars, so just short of 12 dollars at today’s exchange rate. [Michele Lizzit] has built a functioning 3D printer for himself, and claims that magic 10€ build price. How on earth has he done it? The answer lies in extensive use of scrap components, in this case from broken inkjet printers and an image scanner. These provide all the mechanical parts for the printer, leaving him only having to spend his 10€ on some hot end parts and the printer’s electronics. In an unusual move, the frame of the machine appears to come from a set of cardboard biscuit boxes, a master stroke of junk box construction.

The claimed resolution is 33µm, and using the position encoders from the inkjet printers he is able to make it a closed loop device. We salute his ingenuity in building such an impressive printer from so little, and were we ever locked by the bad guys in a room full of IT junk and lacked a handy escape device, we’d wish to be incarcerated with [Michele] any day over [Angus MacGyver] or [Sgt. Bosco BA Baracus].

You can see the printer in action in the video below the break.

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An Ugly but Functional Pi Laptop

It’s got a face only its mother could love. Or a Hackaday writer, since this ugly e-waste laptop proudly sports a Jolly Wrencher on its back.

All joking aside, this is a great example of doing what you can with what you’ve got. [starhawk] is limited on funds, and a regular laptop is beyond his means. But being light in the wallet is no reason to go without when you can scrounge parts from friends and family. The base of the laptop is a mini USB keyboard, with the top formed mainly by a 7″ HDMI panel. The back of the display is adorned with a Raspberry Pi 3, a USB hub, a little sound dongle, and the aforementioned Jolly Wrencher. The whole thing is powered by a cast-off power supply brick — no exploding batteries to worry about!

Other Pi-based laptops we’ve covered may be sleeker, but we’ve got to admit that [starhawk]’s keyboard is probably the better choice for working on the next great American novel. And a Linux laptop for next to nothing? That’s a win in our book.

Camera Slider Helps get the Shots with E-Waste Controller

A camera slider is an accessory that can really make a shot. But when your business is photography rather than building camera accessories, quick-and-dirty solutions often have to suffice. Thus the genesis of this camera slider controller.

The photographer in question in [Paulo Renato], and while his passion may be photography, he seems to have a flair for motorized dollies and sliders. This controller is a variable-speed, reversible, PIC-based design that drives an eBay gearmotor. The circuit lives on a scrap of perfboard, and it along with batteries and a buck converter are stuffed into the case-modded remains of an old KVM switch. Push buttons salvaged from another bit of e-waste act as limit switches, and a little code provides the magic. We like the hacked nature of the controller, but we wonder about the wisdom of using the former KVM’s USB ports to connect the controller to the drivetrain; it’s all fun and games until you plug a real USB device into it. In sum, though, a nice build with nice results. Check out his other videos for more on the mechanicals.

Camera slider rigs aplenty have graced our pages, including one made mostly of wood and one controlled by a fancy iPad app.

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