It’s Pi All The Way Down With This Pi-Powered Pi-Picking Robot

While most of us live in a world where the once ubiquitous Raspberry Pi is now as rare as hens’ teeth, there’s a magical place where they’ve got so many Pis that they needed to build a robotic dispenser to pick Pi orders. And to add insult to injury, they even built this magical machine using a Raspberry Pi. The horror.

This magical place? Australia, of course. There’s no date posted on the Pi Australia article linked above, but it does mention that there’s a Pi 4 Model B running the show, so that makes it at least recent-ish. Stock is stored in an array of tilted bins that a shuttle mechanism accesses via an X-Y gantry. The shuttle docks in front of a bin and uses a stepper-controlled finger to flip a box over the lip holding them in its bin. Once in the shuttle, the order is transported to an array of output bins, where a servo operates a flap to unceremoniously dump the product out for packing and shipping. There’s a video of a full cycle below, but a word of warning — the stepper motors on the X-Y gantry really scream, so you might want to lower the volume.

The article goes into more detail on not only the construction of “Bishop” — named after the heroic synthetic organism from Aliens — but also the challenges faced during construction. It turns out that even when you try to use gravity to simplify a system like this, things can go awry very easily. There’s also a fair bit of detail on the software, which surprisingly centers around LinuxCNC. And there are plans to take this further, with another bot to do the packing, sealing, and labeling of the order. If they need all that automation down there, we guess we found all the missing Pis.

Continue reading “It’s Pi All The Way Down With This Pi-Powered Pi-Picking Robot”

Automate Parts Kitting With This Innovative SMD Tape Slicer

Nobody likes a tedious manual job prone to repetitive stress injury, and such tasks rightly inspire an automated solution. This automatic SMD tape cutter is a good example of automating such a chore, while leaving plenty of room for further development.

We’re used to seeing such tactical automation projects from [Mr Innovative], each of which centers on an oddly specific task. In this case, the task involves cutting a strip containing a specific number of SMD resistors from a reel, perhaps for assembling kits of parts. The mechanism is simple: a stepper motor with a rubber friction wheel to drive the tape, and a nasty-looking guillotine to cut the tape. The cutter is particularly interesting, using as it does a short length of linear bearing to carry a holder for a razor blade that’s mounted perpendicular to the SMD tape. The holder is mounted to a small motor via a crank, and when the proper number of parts have been fed out, the motor rotates one revolution, driving the angled blade quickly down and then back up. This results in a shearing cut rather than the clipping action seen in this automated wire cutter, also by [Mr Innovative].

Curiously, there seems to be no feedback mechanism to actually measure how many resistors have been dispensed. We assume [Mr Innovative] is just counting steps, but it seems easy enough to integrate a photosensor to count the number of drive sprocket holes in the tape. It also seems like a few simple changes would allow this machine to accommodate SMD tapes of different sizes, making it generally useful for SMD kitting. It’s still pretty cool as a tactical project, though, and does a great job inspiring future improvements.

Continue reading “Automate Parts Kitting With This Innovative SMD Tape Slicer”

Hackaday Links Column Banner

Hackaday Links: December 22, 2019

It’s hard to believe it, but the Raspberry Pi has been on the market for only seven years now. The single-board computer has become so entrenched in the hobby electronics scene that it’s hard to imagine life without it, or what we did before it came along. And with the recent announcement that the 30 millionth Raspberry Pi was recently manufactured, now we have some clarity on the scale of its success. Just roll that number around in your head for a bit – that’s one Pi for every nine or so people in the USA. Some of the other facts and figures in the linked article boggle the mind too, like Eben Upton figured they’d only ever sell about 10,000 units, or that the factory in Wales where most Pis are made can assemble 15,000 units a day.

Speaking of manufacturing, have you ever considered what goes into getting a small-scale manufactured product ready for shipping? The good folks over at Gigatron know all about the joys of kitting, and have put together an interesting un-unboxing video for their flagship TTL-only retro computer. It’s a nice riff on the unboxing videos that are somehow popular on YouTube these days, and shows just how much effort they put into getting a Gigatron out the door. All told, it takes about an hour to ship each unit, and the care put into the process is evident. We especially like the part where all the chips are placed into antistatic foam in the same orientation they’ll be on the completed board. Nice touch.

Last time we checked in on the Lulzbot saga, the open source 3D printer manufacturer had been saved from complete liquidation by a company named FAME 3D. Now we’re getting the first solid details about where things go from here. Not only will thirteen of the remaining Lulzbot employees be staying on, but FAME 3D plans to hire 50 new employees to get operations back up as quickly as possible. The catch? The “F” in FAME 3D stands for Fargo, North Dakota, where Fargo Additive Manufacturing Equipment 3D is based. So Lulzbot will be moving north from Loveland, Colorado in the coming months.

For the last few years, adventure travelers making the pilgrimage to Shenzhen to scour the electronics markets have stuffed a copy of Andrew “Bunnie” Huang’s The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen into their soon-to-be-overflowing backpacks. The book is a goldmine of insider information, stuffed with maps and translation tables critical for navigating a different culture with no local language skills. Bunnie’s book has only been available in dead-tree format and now that all but the last few copies have been sold, he decided to make a web version available for free. We’d have to think a tablet or phone would be a bit harder to use in the heat of negotiation than the nice spiral-bound design of the print copy, but the fact that the insider information will now be widely available probably makes this a net positive.

And finally, if you’ve ever nearly been run over by an EV or hybrid silently backing out of a parking space, you’ll no doubt appreciate attempts to legislate some sort of audible presence to these vehicles. But what exactly should an electric vehicle be made to sound like? Volkswagen has begun to address that question, and while you can certainly read through the fluff in their press release, all you really need to do is listen to the sample. We’ve got to say that they pretty much nailed what a car of the future should sound like. Although they might have missed a real opportunity here.

The Perils Of Developing The Hackaday Superconference Badge

In case you haven’t heard, the best hardware conference in the world was last weekend. The Hackaday Superconference was three days of hardware hacking, soldering irons, and an epic hardware badge. Throw in two stages for talk, two workshop areas, the amazing hallwaycon and the best, most chill attendees you can imagine, and you have the ultimate hardware conference.

Already we’ve gone over the gory details of what this badge does, and now it’s time to talk about the perils of building large numbers of an electronic conference badge. This is the hardware demoscene, artisanal manufacturing, badgelife, and an exploration of exactly how far you can push a development schedule to get these badges out the door and into the hands of eager badge hackers and con attendees.

The good news is that we succeeded, and did so in time to put a completed badge in the hand of everyone who attended the conference (and we do have a few available if you didn’t make it to the con). Join me after the break to learn what it took to make it all happen and see the time lapse of the final kitting process.

Continue reading “The Perils Of Developing The Hackaday Superconference Badge”

Custom Cut Resistor Bandoliers

Through-hole resistors come on tape that we’re now calling bandoliers. Since [Spencer] is selling a boatload of his RC2014 backplane computer kits on Tindie, he’s been chopping up a lot of resistor bandoliers. It’s a boring and monotonous job.

Fortunately, a lot of people have had a bandolier cutting problem over the years, and there are some hobbyist-grade robots that will do this work for you. One of the more popular robots tasked for bandolier cutting is a laser cut robot. However, if you already have a laser cutter, why not just use the laser to cut the bandoliers? It’s brilliant in its simplicity.

[Spencer] spent a little bit of time designing a template to turn his laser cutter into a cutter for through hole resistors. No, he’s not trimming the leads — this is just a device to cut resistors into groups mini bandoliers of a handful of resistors. The tool is made out of plywood, with a smaller top piece held down with magnets to keep the resistors aligned.

The entire template is up on Thingiverse, and it’s great if you need to cut hundreds of resistors to kit dozens of projects. If you’re only doing one or two, scissors will be the way to go, but if you’re cursed with the monotony of trimming hundreds there’s no better way to get things done than to put a robot to work.

Automated Parts Counter Helps Build A Small Business

We love to see projects undertaken for the pure joy of building something new, but to be honest those builds are a dime a dozen around here. So when we see a great build that also aims to enhance productivity and push an entrepreneurial effort along, like this automated small parts counter, we sit up and take notice.

The necessity that birthed this invention is [Ryan Bates’] business of building DIY arcade game kits. The mini consoles seen in the video below are pretty slick, but kitting the nuts, bolts, spacers, and other bits together to ship out orders was an exercise in tedium. Sure, parts counting scales are a thing, but that’s hardly a walk-away solution. So with the help of some laser-cut gears and a couple of steppers, [Ryan] built a pretty capable little parts counter.

The interchangeable feed gears have holes sized to move specific parts up from a hopper to a chute. A photointerrupter counts the parts as they fall into plastic cups on an 8-position carousel, ready for bagging. [Ryan] also has a manual counter for wire crimp connectors that’s just begging to be automated, and we can see plenty of ways to leverage both solutions as he builds out his kitting system.

While we’ve seen more than a few candy sorting machines lately, it’s great to see someone building hardware to streamline the move from hobby to business like this. We’re looking forward to seeing where [Ryan] takes this from here.

Continue reading “Automated Parts Counter Helps Build A Small Business”

Kits To Fund Hackerspaces

[Overflo] recently tipped us about HackerspaceShop; his plan to help fund the Viennese and European hackerspaces by creating a marketplace for electronic kits. The idea is to not only sell kits, but to also create an easy way for others to sell their own kits through the platform, which is pretty awesome if you ask us.

Their kit they sent us to play with is a sun tracking flower developed by [daniel schatzmayr] in the metalab hackerspace. All and all, it’s a pretty awesome kit that’d be perfect for any geeky girlfriend, and of course, it’s arduino controlled. Whether or not that is a good or a bad thing is up to the hackaday trolls to decide, but it does have an FTDI header; something we’d personally like to see on a lot more of these electronic kits.

Currently there’s not to big a catalog on their site but hey, wickedlasers started out as a guy selling modified laser pointers and Hewett Packard started out as two guys selling a better function generator. It’s always awesome when a hacker uses their skills to become an entrepreneur, especially for a good cause.

Good luck [overflo]!