One thing we sometimes forget in our community is that many of the tecniques and machines that we take for granted are still something close to black magic for many outsiders. Here’s a tip: leave a 3D printer running next time you take a group of visitors round a hackerspace, and watch their reaction as a Benchy slowly emerges from the moving extruder. To us it’s part of the scenery, but to them it’s impossibly futuristic and their minds are blown.
Nearly 15 years after the dawn of the RepRap project we have seen a huge advancement in the capabilities of affordable 3D printers, and now a relatively low three-figure sum will secure a machine from China that will churn out prints whose quality would amaze those early builders. We’ve reached the point in our community at which many people are on their third or fourth printer, and this has brought with it an unexpected side-effect. Where once a hackerspace might have had a single highly prized 3D printer, now it’s not unusual to find a pile of surplus older printers on a shelf. My hackerspaces both have several, and it’s a sight I’ve frequently seen on my travels around others. Perhaps it’s a sign of a technology maturing when it becomes ewaste, and thus it seems affordable 3D printing has matured. Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: How Do You Keep The 3D Printer From Becoming EWaste”→
Paradise means something different for everyone, it could be a sitting by a fire on a rainy night or lying on a sun-kissed beach. But for us, and makers like [liltreat4you], it’s a well stocked scrap pile out behind the house. After buying a racing wheel and pedals for his Xbox, he took a trip out to his little slice of paradise and found nearly all the hardware he needed to build a professional looking race simulator. According to his breakdown, most of the money he spent on this build ended up going into that sweet red paint job and the speed-enhancing stickers.
Not all of us are as lucky as [liltreat4you], and we probably won’t just happen upon a driver’s seat out of a Mazda, or a bunch of perfectly bent metal pipes from an old trampoline out on the back forty. But trolling Craigslist or cruising around for flea markets can still get you parts like these for cheap, so try not to be too discouraged if your backyard isn’t quite as well stocked.
Once he had the metal pipes and seat from the car, the rest of the build came together pretty quickly. After building an oval out of his salvaged pipes, he attached the seat and the arms that would eventually hold the steering wheel and display. A plate was also added at the bottom for the pedals to sit on. By using long bolts, [liltreat4you] was even able to add a degree of adjustment to the wheel position. Being that he got his seat out of a real car, there’s the usual adjustment you’d expect there as well.
Speaking of which, [liltreat4you] casually mentions that you should disconnect the battery of the donor vehicle before taking out the seat, as it’s possible that the removal of the seat or the disconnection of the seat harness can cause the airbags to deploy. We can neither confirm nor deny this, but it’s probably safe advice to follow.
More than one member of the Hackaday team has significant involvement in a hackspace, as member, director, or even founder. We talk about hackspaces quite rarely on these pages though, not because we don’t have anything to say on the matter but because even when we write in general terms our fellow members invariably think it’s all about them rather than the hackspace world at large.
For once I’m going to break the silence, and not only talk about hackspaces, but talk about my own hackspace in specific terms. Because, fellow Oxford Hackspace members, this isn’t about you personally though I’m using our home to illustrate a point. The topic is a thorny issue that must affect all spaces, that of donations of physical items. People want to help their hackspace, they have a pile of what they consider to be good stuff, and when they’re having a clear-out they make a donation. But, as we all know, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and vice-versa. Continue reading “The Complex Issue Of Hackspace Donations”→
There it was, after twenty minutes of turning the place over, looking through assorted storage boxes. A Thinwire Ethernet network. About the smallest possible Thinwire Ethernet network as it happens, a crimped BNC lead about 100mm long and capped at each end by a T-piece and a 50 ohm terminator. I’d been looking for a BNC T-piece on which to hook up another terminator to a piece of test equipment, and I’d found two of them.
As I hooked up the test I wanted to run I found myself considering the absurdity of the situation. I last worked somewhere with a Thinwire network in the mid 1990s, and fortunately I am likely to never see another one in my life. If you’ve never encountered Thinwire, be thankful. A single piece of co-ax connecting all computers on the network, on which the tiniest fault causes all to fail.
So why had I held on to all the parts to make one, albeit the smallest possible variant? Some kind of memento, to remind me of the Good Old Days of running round an office with a cable tester perhaps? Or was I just returning to my past as a hoarder, like a Tolkienic dragon perched atop a mountain of electronic junk, and not the good kind of junk?
[HomoFaciens] is always making us feel silly about our purchases. Did we really need to buy a nice set of stepper motors for that automation project? Couldn’t we have just used some epoxy and a threaded rod to make an encoder? Did we need to spend hours reading through the documentation for an industrial inkjet head? Couldn’t we just have asked ourselves, “What would [HomoFaciens] do?” and then made a jailhouse tattoo gun attached to a broken printer carriage and some other household tech trash?
In his continuing work for his Hackaday prize entry, which we have covered before, his latest is a ink (…drop? ) printer. We think the goal is a Gingery book for CNC. He begins to combine all his previous work into a complete assembly. The video, viewable after the break, starts by explaining the function of a salvaged printer carriage. A motor attached to a belt moves the carriage back and forth; the original linear encoder from the printer is used for positional feedback.
The base of the printer is a homemade y-carriage with another salvaged printer motor and encoder driving a threaded rod. The positional feedback for this axis is provided by a optical mouse gliding on a sheet of graph paper. The printer nozzle is a cup of ink with a solenoid actuated needle in it. When the needle moves in a hole at the bottom, it dispenses ink.
As always, [HomoFaciens] makes something that is the very definition of a hack. Commenters will have to go elsewhere to leave their favorite debasement.
Hackers can be a diverse bunch. My old hackerspace had folks ranging from NSA employees (ahem, independent security contractors) to space-probe pilots to anarchist vegan punks. And we all got along because we shared a common love for what we’re doing. One summer night we were out late in Adams Morgan and my vegan-punk friend reaches into the trash can and pulls out a discarded pepperoni Jumbo Slice.
“Wait a minute! Vegans don’t eat pepperoni pizza with cheese.” But my friend was a “freegan” — a vegan who, for ethical reasons, won’t buy meat or milk but who also won’t turn it down if it’s visibly going to waste. It’s actually quite a practical and principled moral proposal if you think about it: he’s not contributing to the use of animals that he opposes, but he gets to have a slice of pizza just the same. And fishing a slice of pizza, in a cardboard container, off the top of the trashcan isn’t as gross as you’d imagine, although it pays to be picky.
A Fracker is Born
That was the night that we realized we all had something deeper in common: we were all “frackers”. If you’ve been around hackers long enough, you’ll have noticed this tendency, but maybe you’ve never put a name to it. Tearing something apart, even if you might break it in the process, isn’t a problem if you fished it out of the e-waste stream to begin with. If you’re able to turn it into something, so much the better. It’s all upside. Need practice de-soldering tricky ICs? Looking for a cheap target to learn reverse engineering on? Off to the trashcan! No hack is too dirty, no method too barbaric. It’s already junk, and you’re a fracker.
Do you have a junk shelf where you keep old heatsinks in case you need to cut some up and use it? Have you used a heat gun more frequently for harvesting parts than for stripping paint? Do you know that certain satisfaction that you get from pulling some old tech out of the junk pile and either fixing it up again or, better yet, making it do something else? You might just be a fracker too.
[Hackett] calls it a “transmission problem.” You’ve scavenged the pieces for your build, but nothing fits. Metric and standard hardware clash, a successful weld is as reliable as duct-taping. You’ll hear about plenty of these obstacles as [Hackett] tries to tackle a tripod build in this video.
He was contacted by a group looking to make a bicycle-mounted portable projector. Their request: build them an easy-to-use tripod on a shoestring budget that is strong enough to hold a 30-pound projector. Garbage and scrap turn into a functional device as [Hackett] grinds and welds the tripod together.
The video’s greatest contribution, however, is the advice near the end.
You need to retrain your eye, so you’re not looking at a thing as to what it is, what it’s branded, what it’s originally intended for. What you’re looking at is what it is at the core, and once you start looking at things for what they really, really are, you have the power to completely remake the world.
A desire to re-contextualize everyday stuff is probably the reason you’re a Hackaday reader. Hopefully [Hackett’s] succinct advice strikes some chords and encourages you to keep abstracting and re-purposing the world around you. If you’re new to hacking and need somewhere to start, why not build a robot?