Magnets Turn Flexible PCB Into Electric Grasshopper

Just because something doesn’t seem to have an apparent purpose, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try making it anyway. As flexible PCBs become cheaper and easier to order from low-scale fab houses, we’re seeing hobbyists experiment with new uses for them such as [Carl Bugeja]’s jumping circuit.

The circuit is based a coil printed on the flexible PCB itself acting as an electromagnet, but unlike other designs which use the same trick, in this one the coil is made to be the static side of an actuator. Attached to the circuit with folding arms is a stack of two permanent magnets, which work as the moving part. Since the magnets make up most of the mass of the circuit, as they’re pushed down and sprung back up, it causes the whole thing to leap around just under one centimeter off the table like a little electric grasshopper.

This is far from [Carl]’s first appearance here on Hackaday, and he’s been clearly busy exploring new uses for flexible PCBs with their properties as electromagnets, from making POV displays with them to small robots that move around through vibration. We’re excited to see what else he can come up with, and you can see this one in action after the break.

Continue reading “Magnets Turn Flexible PCB Into Electric Grasshopper”

Inverse Kinematics Robot Arm Magna-Doodles The Time For You

Following a surge of creativity fueled by the current lockdown, [Diglo] writes in with his tabletop clock driven by a robotic arm drawing on a Magna Doodle tablet. And if you have one of those still lying around with some old toys and don’t mind cannibalizing it for the project, you too can follow along the source files to build your own.

The clock works by exploiting the principle that Magna Doodle tablets work by being drawn on with a magnetic stylus. That way, to draw on one of them you don’t need to add a point of articulation to bring the pen up and down, [Diglo] simply attached a controllable electromagnet to the end of a two-dimensional SCARA arm. In total, the whole build uses three stepper motors, two to control the movement of the arm, and one on the back of the tablet to sweep a magnetic bar which “erases” it.

This clock is similar to another we’ve featured a few years ago, which also used a Magna Doodle, but greatly improves on the idea. If a Magna Doodle seems too childish to build a magnetic clock however, there’s always ferrofluidic displays to try to dip your fingers into, but we really think you should watch this one in action after the break first.

Continue reading “Inverse Kinematics Robot Arm Magna-Doodles The Time For You”

This V8 Makes A Shocking Amount Of Power

As a work of art, solenoid engines are an impressive display of electromagnetics in action. There is limited practical use for them though, so usually they are relegated to that realm and remain display pieces. This one from [Emiel] certainly looks like a work of art, too. It has eight solenoids, mimicking the look and internal workings of a traditional V8.

There’s a lot that has to go on to coordinate this many cylinders. Like an internal combustion engine, it takes precise timing in order to make sure that the “pistons” trigger in the correct order without interfering with each other through the shared driveshaft. For that, [Emiel] built two different circuit boards, one to control the firing of each solenoid and another to give positional feedback for the shaft. That’s all put inside a CNC-machined engine block, complete with custom-built connecting rods and shafts.

If you think this looks familiar, it’s because [Emiel] has become somewhat of an expert in the solenoid engine realm. He started off with a how-to for a single piston engine, then stepped it up with a V4 design after that. That leaves us wondering how many pistons the next design will have. Perhaps a solenoid version of the Volkswagen W12?

Continue reading “This V8 Makes A Shocking Amount Of Power”

A Tin Can Phone, But With Magnets

The tin can phone is a staple of longitudinal wave demonstrations wherein a human voice vibrates the bottom of a soup can, and compression waves travel along a string to reproduce the speaker in another can at the other end. All the parts in this electrical demonstration are different, but the concept is the same.

Speakers are sound transducers that turn electrical impulses into air vibrations, but they generate electricity when their coil vibrates. Copper wires carry those impulses from one cup to another. We haven’t heard of anyone making a tin can phone amplifier, but the strictly passive route wasn’t working, so an op-amp does some messy boosting. The link and video demonstrate the parts and purposes inside these sound transducers in an approachable way. Each component is constructed in sequence so you can understand what is happening and make sense of the results.

Can someone make a tin can amplifier transformer? We’d like to see that. In another twist of dual-purpose electronics, did you know that LEDs can sense light?

Continue reading “A Tin Can Phone, But With Magnets”

Tracking Wasted Time With A Ferrofluid Clock

We know this project is supposed to be about developing a fine-looking ferrofluid clock, and not about the value of procrastination. But after watching the video below, see if you don’t think that procrastination has taken these two students further than expected.

We first ran into [Simen] and [Amund] several months ago when they launched their ferrofluid project in a fit of “There’s got to be more to life than studying.” It seemed then that building a good-looking, functional ferrofluid display would be a temporary distraction, but the problems posed proved to be far deeper and thornier than either of the electrical engineering students expected. The idea is simple: contain a magnetic fluid between two transparent panels and create pixels using an array of electromagnets to move dots of the fluid around. The implementation, however, was another matter, with the ferrofluid itself proved to be the biggest obstacle. All the formulas they tried seemed to coagulate or degrade over time and tended to stain the glass. While the degradation was never fully sorted, they managed to work around the staining by careful cleaning of the glass and using a saturated brine solution to fill the container.

Backed by 252 electromagnets and drivers on ten custom PCBs, the video below shows the (mostly) finished panel in action as a clock. We’re impressed by the smoothness of the movements of each pixel, even if there’s a bit of drooping at the bottom thanks to gravity. As for the future of the project, that’s unclear since [Simen] is headed off for a NASA internship. We’re not sure if that was despite or because of this procrastination-driven project, but we congratulate him either way and look forward to hearing more from both of them in the future.

Continue reading “Tracking Wasted Time With A Ferrofluid Clock”

Solenoid Engine Adds Three “Pistons”

The earliest piston engines typically had only one cylinder, and at best, produced horsepower measured in single digits. But once you have a working engine, it’s a relatively short step to adding cylinders and increasing the power output. [Emiel] made a similar upgrade to one of his engines recently, upgrading it from one cylinder to four. But this isn’t an internal combustion engine, it gets its power from electric solenoids.

We featured his single-cylinder build about a month ago, and since then he’s been busy with this impressive upgrade. The new engine features four cylinders arranged in a V4 pattern. Of course, this greatly increases the mechanical complexity. To start, he had to machine a crankshaft to connect all four “pistons” to a shared output shaft. He also had to build a set of cams in order to time the firing of the cylinders properly, so they don’t work against one another.

The build is just as polished and impressive as the last, which is saying a lot. [Emiel] has a quality machine shop and built the entire motor from scratch, including winding the solenoids, machining the connecting rods and shafts, and building a very picturesque wooden base for the entire contraption to sit on. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Continue reading “Solenoid Engine Adds Three “Pistons””

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.

Continue reading “Build Your Own Solenoid Engine”