CNC Mod Pack Hopes To Make Something Useful From A Cheap Machine Tool

It is probable that many of us have noticed a variety of very cheap CNC mills in the pages of Chinese tech websites and been sorely tempted. On paper or as pixels on your screen they look great, but certainly with the more inexpensive models there soon emerges a gap between the promise and the reality.

[Brandon Piner] hopes to address this problem, with his CNC Mod Pack, a series of upgrades to a cheap mill designed to make it into a much more useful tool. In particular he’s created a revised 3D-printed tool holder and a set of end stop switches. The tool holder boasts swappable mounts on a dovetail fitting with versions for both a laser diode and a rotary tool, allowing much better tool positioning. Meanwhile the end stops are a necessary addition that protects both tool and machine from mishaps.

The same arguments play out in the world of small CNC mills as do in that of inexpensive 3D printers, namely that the economy of buying the super-cheap machine that is nominally the same as the expensive one starts to take a knock when you consider the level of work and expense needed to make your purchase usable. But with projects like this one the barrier to achieving a quality result from an unpromising start is lowered, and the enticing prospect is raised of a decent CNC machine for not a lot.

Hexabitz, Modular Electronics Made Easier

Over the years there have been a variety of modular electronic systems allowing the creation of complex circuits by the interconnection of modules containing individual functions. Hexabitz, a selection of interlocking polygonal small PCBs, is just such a system. What can it bring to the table that others haven’t done already?

The problem facing designers of modular electronics is this: all devices have different requirements and interfaces. To allow connection between modules that preserves all these connections requires an ever-increasing complexity in the inter-module connectors, or the application of a little intelligence to the problem. The Hexabitz designers have opted for the latter angle, equipping each module with an STM32 microcontroller that allows it to identify both itself and its function, and to establish a mesh network with other modules in the same connected project. This also gives the system the ability to farm off computing tasks to individual modules rather than relying solely upon a single microcontroller or single-board computer.

An extremely comprehensive array of modules can be had for the system, which lends it some interesting possibilities, however, it suffers from the inherent problem of modular electronic systems, that it is less easy to incorporate non-standard functions. If they can crack a prototyping module coupled with an easy way to tell its microcontroller to identify whatever function is upon it, they might have a winner.

A 3D-Printed Robot Actuator

Somehow, walking robots at our level never really seem to deliver on the promise that should be delivered by all those legs. Articulation using hobby servos is simple enough to achieve, but cumbersome, slow, and not very powerful. [Paul Gould] has a plan to make a better, 3D-printed articulated robot actuator.

His solution is both novel and elegant, a fairly conventional arm geometry that has at its joints a set of brushless motors similar to but a little larger than the kind you might be more familiar with on multirotors, paired with 3D-printed cycloidal gearboxes. Magnetic encoders provide the necessary positional feedback, and the result is a unit that is both compact and powerful.

With such a range of small brushless motor controllers on the market, it’s at first sight unexpected that he’s designed his own controller board. But this gives him complete control over his software, plus the CAN bus that ties everything together. He’s given us a video which we’ve placed below the break, showing the build process, the impressive capabilities of his system, and a selection of builds including a robot dog complete with tail. This is definitely a project to watch.

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Friday Hack Chat: All About The Hackaday Prize

Right now we’re neck deep in the Hackaday Prize. What’s the Hackaday Prize? It’s the Academy Awards of hardware creation, or at least that’s what we’re calling it until we get a cease and desist from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Already we’ve seen over eight hundred entries in the Hackaday Prize, and there are still months to go. We’re already through the Open Hardware Design Challenge, and twenty fantastic projects from that are moving onto the final round. Yesterday, we announced the winners of the Robotics Module challenge, and again we were blown away. These are the greatest bits of hardware anywhere, and we couldn’t have imagined anything more awesome.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking all about The Hackaday Prize. This is your chance to be a hardware hero and finally get some recognition for what you’ve been working on. Right now, we’re in the Power Harvesting Challenge in this year’s Hackaday Prize, and we want to see what you can come up with that will get energy from solar, thermal, wind, or random electromagnetic energy. This is your time to shine, and we can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Of course, you might have a few questions on what it takes to make a successful Hackaday Prize entry. For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re going to sit down with [Stephen Tranovich], the person coordinating this year’s Prize, to see what makes a successful entry. This is your chance to find out what it takes to become the next great hardware hacker, and it’s all going down this Friday in the Hack Chat.

Some of the things we’ll be talking about in this week’s Hack Chat:

  • What makes a winning entry?
  • How can you get publicity for your project?
  • Want to bounce your project ideas off the community?
  • What’s the story behind the seed funding confusion from this year?

You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the discussion. You can do that by leaving a comment on the Hack Chat Event Page and we’ll put that in the queue for the Hack Chat discussion.join-hack-chat

Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week is just like any other, and we’ll be gathering ’round our video terminals at noon, Pacific, on Friday, June 15th.  Here’s a clock counting down the time until the Hack Chat starts.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Modular Robotics: When You Want More Robots in Your Robot

While robots have been making our lives easier and our assembly lines more efficient for over half a century now, we haven’t quite cracked a Jetsons-like general purpose robot yet. Sure, Boston Dynamics and MIT have some humanoid robots that are fun to kick and knock over, but they’re far from building a world-ending Terminator automaton.

But not every robot needs to be human-shaped in order to be general purpose. Some of the more interesting designs being researched are modular robots. It’s an approach to robotics which uses smaller units that can combine into assemblies that accomplish a given task.

We’ve been immersing ourselves in topics like this one because right now the Robotics Module Challenge is the current focus of the Hackaday Prize. We’re looking for any modular designs that make it easier to build robots — motor drivers, sensor arrays, limb designs — your imagination is the limit. But self contained robot modules that themselves make up larger robots is a fascinating field that definitely fits in with this challenge. Join me for a look at where modular robots are now, and where we’d like to see them going.

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Friday Hack Chat: Control Schemes For Robotics

The Hackaday Prize is in full swing if you haven’t heard. It’s the Academy Awards of Open hardware, and the chance for you — yes, you — to create the next great piece of hardware and a better future for everyone. Right now, we’re in the Robotics Module Challenge portion of the prize. This is your chance to build a module that could be used in robotics projects across the world! Show off your mechatronic skills and build a robotics module that’s transferable to other builds!

Not coincidentally, for this week’s Hack Chat, we’re talking all about Robotics Modules. We’re taking a deep dive into actuation and control schemes for robotics, and you’re invited to take part. Everyone wants affordable robotics, and stepper and servo motors are no longer the domain of high-budget industrial robots. Everyone can build a robot, but how do you do that? That’s what we’re going to find out this Friday in the Hack Chat!

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat is [Ryan Walker]. He holds a diploma in Mechatronics and Robotics from BCIT. He’s worked on everything from prosthetics to industrial automation, and his current hobbies include designing and building control algorithms that drive electronics and enable cheap hardware to excel! If you want to learn about robotics, this is the Hack Chat for you.

In this chat, we’ll be talking about:

  • Control schemes
  • How to actuate your projects
  • Wheels, tweels, and ways to make your project move
  • Automating robotics

You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the discussion. You can do that by leaving a comment on the Hack Chat Event Page and we’ll put that in the queue for the Hack Chat discussion.join-hack-chat

Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week is just like any other, and we’ll be gathering ’round our video terminals at noon, Pacific, on Friday, April 27th.  Here’s a clock counting down the time until the Hack Chat starts.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Robotics Module Challenge: Build Robot, Win Prizes

Brand new today, we’re going to go all in with the Robotics Module Challenge! This is the newest part of the 2018 Hackaday Prize which is only six weeks old, and already we’ve seen almost six hundred incredible entries. But a new challenge means a fresh start and a perfect time for you to begin your entry.

This is your call to build a module that can be used in robotics projects across the world. Twenty module designs will be awarded $1,000 and and chance at the five top prizes including the $50,000 grand prize!

Robotics is the kitchen sink of the world of electronics. You have to deal with motors, sensors, spinny lidar doohickies, computer vision, mechatronics, and unexpected prototyping issues accounting for the coefficient of friction of 3D printed parts. Robotics is where you show your skills, and this is your chance to show the world what you’ve got.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were some more ways to skip around the hard parts? That is the Robotics Module Challenge in a nutshell. We want to see great modular Open Hardware designs that can be used by roboticists all over the world. This might be a motor controller, a chassis or limb design system, a sensor network scheme, a communications system, data collection and delivery — basically anything related to robotics. Build a prototype that shows how your module is used and document all the info needed to incorporate and riff on your design in other robot builds.

Start your entry now and show us your take on a great bit of Open Hardware.

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