These Gorgeous Robot Parts are Hand-Made

[Dickel]’s robot MDi #4 has been in progress for several years, but what we wanted to draw your attention to is the way the parts have been fabricated and what kind of remarkable results are possible with careful design, measurement, cutting, and finishing. Much of MDi #4 was made by hand-cutting and drilling sheets of high impact polystyrene (HIPS) with a utility knife and layering them as needed. Epoxy and aluminum provide gap filling and reinforcement of key sections, and fiberglass took care of one of the larger sections.

The process [Dickel] follows is to prototype using cardboard first. Parts are then designed carefully in CAD, and printed out at a 1:1 scale and glued to sheets of polystyrene. Each sheet is cut and drilled by hand as necessary. Layers are stacked and epoxied, embedding any hardware needed in the process. Two examples of embedding hardware include sealing captive nuts into parts with epoxy, or using aluminum to add reinforcement. After some careful sanding, the pieces look amazing.

Scroll down a bit on that project page and you’ll see plenty of great photos of the process [Dickel] used. A video highlighting the head and a video showing the careful work that goes into making each part are embedded below.

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Hackaday Links: February 4th, 2018

Here’s something remarkably displeasant. Can you cook a steak with glue? [Dom] and [Chris] from ExplosiveDischarge have cooked a steak using a huge, huge amount of two-part epoxy. The chemistry behind this is just the exothermic reaction when two-part epoxy kicks off, and yes, the steak (a very thin cut) was sufficiently wrapped and protected from the hot sticky goo. What were the results? An overcooked steak, actually. This isn’t a sous vide setup where the temperature ramps up to 50°C and stays there — the temperature actually hit 80°C at its peak. There are a few ways to fix this, either by getting a thicker cut of steak, adding some bizarre water cooling setup to keep the temperature plateaued at a reasonable temperature.

This is your weekly reminder for the Repairs You Can Print contest.

We’ve got a twofer for awesome remote-controlled hovering stuff. The first is a 1:8 scale Harrier. This plane designed and built by [Joel Vlashof] will be a reasonably accurate model of a Harrier, capable of VTOL. It’s built around a huge 130mm EDF, powered by 2x6s lipos, and stabilized with a kk2.1 flight controller with VTOL software. This is as accurate a Harrier that you’re going to get in such a small format, and has the cool little spinny vanes that allow the beast to transition from vertical to horizontal flight.

Want some more cool hovering things? [Tom Stanton] is building a remote controlled Chinook. Yes, that helicopter with two main rotors. The usual way of doing this is with proper helicopter control systems like collectives and Jesus nuts. [Tom]’s building this version with standard quadcopter technology, mounting a motor to a servo, and doubling it up, and mounting it on a frame. In effect, this RC Chinook is the tail boom of a tricopter doubled up on a single frame. It does fly, and he’s even built a neat foamboard body for it.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is going to do something next Tuesday, sometime in the afternoon, east coast time. Whatever happens, it’s going to be spectacular.

Hey, it’s time for a poll. I need to decide between ‘tide pod’ and ‘solo jazz’. For what I’m doing, the cost and effort are the same, I just need to know which is more aesthetic, cool, or whatever. Right now it’s 50:50. One must be crowned victorious!

Here’s the stupidest thing you’re going to see all year. That’s someone looping a quadcopter in front of a Frontier A320 (Probably. Seems too big for a 319 and too small for a 321) on approach. This guy is 3.6 miles East of runway 25L at McCarran Internation in Las Vegas, at an altitude far above the 400-foot limit. Judging from the video and the wingspan, this quad came within 200 feet of a plane carrying at least 150 people. It’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever seen, so don’t do it. It’ll be great to see the guy responsible for this in jail.

Vacuum Molding with Kitchen Materials

Vacuum pumps are powerful tools because the atmospheric pressure on our planet’s surface is strong. That pressure is enough to crush evacuated vessels with impressive implosive force. At less extreme pressure differences, [hopsenrobsen] shows us how to cleverly use kitchen materials for vacuum molding fiberglass parts in a video can be seen after the break. The same technique will also work for carbon fiber molding.

We’ve seen these techniques used with commercially available vacuum bags and a wet/dry vac but in the video, we see how to make an ordinary trash bag into a container capable of forming a professional looking longboard battery cover. If the garbage bag isn’t enough of a hack, a ball of steel wool is used to keep the bag from interfering with the air hose. Some of us keep these common kitchen materials in the same cabinet so gathering them should ’t be a problem.

Epoxy should be mixed according to the directions and even though it wasn’t shown in the video, some epoxies necessitate a respirator. If you’re not sure, wear one. Lungs are important.

Fiberglass parts are not just functional, they can be beautiful. If plastic is your jam, vacuums form those parts as well. If you came simply for vacuums, how about MATLAB on a Roomba?

Thank you [Jim] who gave us this tip in the comments section about an electric longboard.

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Exploring Options for DIY Waterproofing

TL;DR — Don’t use silicone to pot electronics.

That’s the conclusion [GreatScott!] comes to after trying out several methods for waterproofing electronics. His efforts stem from a recent video in which he discovered that water and electricity sometimes actually do mix, as long as the water is distilled and the electronics in the drink are relatively simple. He found that the main problem was, unsurprisingly, electrolytic corrosion, so he set out to experiment with various waterproofing coatings. In a series of careful experiments he goes through the pros and cons of both conformal coatings and potting compounds. The conformal tests used simple clear nail polish on an ESC board; that worked pretty well, but it was a little hard to reach all the nooks and crannies. He also tried potting with a thick black silicone compound, but that ended up never really curing in the middle. A final attempt with legitimate two-part epoxy potting compound sealed up the ESC tight, although we doubt the resulting brick would perform well on a quadcopter.

If you want to explore potting a bit further, check out this introduction to the basics.

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Visual 3D Print Finishing Guide

With 3D printers now dropping to record low prices, more and more people are getting on the additive manufacturing bandwagon. As a long time believer in consumer-level desktop 3D printing, this is a very exciting time for me; the creativity coming out of places like Thingiverse or the 3D printing communities on Reddit is absolutely incredible. But the realist in me knows that despite what slick promotional material from the manufacturers may lead you to believe, these aren’t Star Trek-level replicators. What comes out of these machines is often riddled with imperfections (from small to soul crushing), and can require considerable cleanup work before they start to look like finished pieces.

If all you hope to get out of your 3D printer are some decent toy boats and some low-poly Pokemon, then have no fear. Even the most finicky of cheap printers can pump those out all day. But if you’re looking to build display pieces, cosplay props, or even prototypes that are worth showing to investors, you’ve got some work cut out for you.

With time, patience, and a few commercial products, you can accomplish the ultimate goal: turning a 3D printed object into something that doesn’t look like it was 3D printed. For the purposes of this demonstration I’ll be creating a replica of the mobile emitter used by the “Emergency Medical Hologram” in Star Trek: Voyager. I can neither confirm nor deny I selected this example due to the fact that I’m currently re-watching Voyager on Netflix. Let’s make it look good.

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The Illuminated Waterways of the United States

A recent convert to the ways of the laser cutter, redditor [i-made-a-thing] was in want of a project and — stumbling on some waterways maps on Etsy — launched into fabricating an illuminated map of all the waterways in the United States.

The map itself was laser-cut out of 1/4 inch plywood at his local makerspace. Thing is, smaller rivers and tributaries were too narrow at the scale [i-made-a-thing] wanted, so he ended up spending several hours in Photoshop preparing the image so larger rivers would be laser-cut — and not break off– while the rest would be etched onto the surface. After testing the process by making a few coasters, he was ready to get started on the real deal.

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Bodging on More Flash Memory

[Curmudegeoclast] found himself running out of flash memory on a Trinket M0 board, so he decided to epoxy and fly-wire a whopping 2 MB of extra flash on top of the original CPU.

We’ll just get our “kids these days” rant out of the way up front: the stock SAMD21 ARM chip has 256 kB (!) of flash to begin with, and is on a breakout board with only five GPIO pins, for a 51 kB / pin ratio! And now he’s adding 2 MB more? That’s madness. The stated reason for [Curmudegeoclast]’s exercise is MicroPython, which takes up a big chunk of flash just for the base language. We suspect that there’s also a fair amount of “wouldn’t it be neat?” in the mix as well. Whatever.

The hack is a classic. It starts off with sketchy wires soldered to pins and breadboarded up with a SOIC expander board. Following that proof of concept, some degree of structural integrity is brought to the proceedings by gluing the flash chip, dead-bug, on top of the microcontroller. We love the (0805?) SPI pullup resistor that was also point-to-point soldered into place. We would not be able to resist the temptation to entomb the whole thing in hot glue for “long-term” stability, but there are better options out there, too.

This hack takes a minimalist board, and super-sizes it, and for that, kudos. What would you stuff into 2 MB of free flash on a tiny little microcontroller? Any of you out there using MicroPython or CircuitPython care to comment on the flash memory demands? 256 kB should be enough for anyone.