Motorized Mini Excavator Rises From Sheets of Plywood

Fathers of Hackaday, we’ve got bad news — you’ve been out-fathered. Behold the mechanism of your undoing: a working miniature excavator, executed in plywood.

To be fair, the rules of the game have changed lately. Time was when a nipper would ask for the impossible, and we dads would never have to deliver. But with CNC routers, 3D-printing, and industrial-grade CAD software you can use for free, the possibility hurdle is getting ever shorter. Still, when his son put in this request, [Alex Lovegrove] really delivered. Everything on this excavator works, from tracks to boom to bucket. There are hundreds of parts, mostly machined from plywood but with a smattering of 3D-printed gears and brackets. The tracks and slew gear are powered by gear motors, while linear actuators stand in for hydraulic rams on the boom. The videos below show the machine under test and the unbearable cuteness of it being loved.

Hacker parents need not despair, of course. There’s plenty of room left for your imagination to run amok. For inspiration, check out this working railway system, or any of the several backyard roller coasters we’ve featured.

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Junkyard RC Conversion Looks Like Mad Max Extra

Over the years we’ve noticed that there is a subset of hackers out there who like to turn real life vehicles into remote controlled cars. These vehicles are generally destroyed in short order, either by taking ridiculous jumps, or just smashing them into stuff until there’s nothing left. In truth that’s probably what most of us would do if we had access to a full size RC car, so no complaints there.

As a rule, the donor vehicles for these conversions are usually older and cheap. That only makes sense, why spend a lot of money on a vehicle you intend on destroying? But even still, the RC conversion [William Foster] has recently completed may take the cake. We don’t know how much of the “antiquing” of his donor vehicle was intentionally done, but on the whole, the thing looks like it got dragged from the bottom of a lake somewhere. Presumably, he got a great deal on it.

The video posted to YouTube is primarily about [William] driving his creation around (sometimes from the back seat, no less), but towards the second half of the video there’s a quick rundown on the hardware used to make this pile of rust move.

A standard RC transmitter and receiver combination are used to control a pair of Arduinos mounted in the center console, which are in turn hooked up to external stepper drivers. The wheel is turned via a chain and sprocket arrangement, and the pedals are pushed with homebrew contraptions that look like they are made from lead screws intended for 3D printers.

All in all, it appears [William] has cooked up a fairly responsive control system with commodity hardware you could get on Amazon or eBay. Not sure we’d be backseat driving this thing personally, but to each their own.

We recently covered a Jeep that got a similar remote control upgrade, but these super-sized remote controlled vehicle builds are not just limited to the ground either.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Adaptive Guitar

Due to a skiing accident, [Joe]’s new friend severed the motor nerves controlling her left arm. Sadly she was an avid musician who loved to play guitar — and of course, a guitar requires two hands. Or does it? Pressing the string to play the complex chords is more easily done using fingers, but strumming the strings could be done electromechanically under the control of a foot pedal. At least that’s the solution [Joe] implemented so beautifully when his friend’s family reached out for help.

There are just so many things to enjoy while reading through [Joe]’s project logs on his hackaday.io page, which he’s entered into the Hackaday Prize. He starts out with researching how others have solved this problem. Then he takes us through his first attempts and experiments. For example, an early discovery is how pressing the strings on the fretboard pulls the string down where the picks are located, causing him to rethink his initial pick design. His criteria for the pick actuators leads him to make his own. And the actuators he made are a thing of beauty: quiet, compact, and the actuator body even doubles as part of a heat sink for his custom controller board. During his pick design iterations he gets great results using spring steel for flexibility leading up to the pick, but thinking of someday going into production, he comes up with his own custom-designed, laser-cut leaf springs, different for each string.  Needing Force Sensitive Resistors (FCRs) for the foot pedal, he iterates to making his own, laying out the needed interlinked traces on a PCB (using an Eagle script) and putting a piece of conductive rubber over it all. And that’s just a sample of the adventure he takes us on.

In terms of practicality, he’s made great efforts to make it compact and easy to set up. The foot pedal even talks to the control board on the guitar wirelessly. Non-damaging adhesives attach magnets and velcro to the guitar so that the control board and pick bridge can be precisely, yet easily, attached single-handedly. The result is something easy to manage by someone with only one working hand, both for set-up and actual playing. See it for yourself in the video below.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: 3D Printed Linear Actuator Does 2kg+

The rabbit hole of features and clever hacks in [chiprobot]’s NEMA17 3D Printed Linear Actuator is pretty deep. Not only can it lift 2kg+ of mass easily, it is mostly 3D printed, and uses commonplace hardware like a NEMA 17 stepper motor and a RAMPS board for motion control.

The main 3D printed leadscrew uses a plug-and-socket design so that the assembly can be extended easily to any length desired without needing to print the leadscrew as a single piece. The tip of the actuator even integrates a force sensor made from conductive foam, which changes resistance as it is compressed, allowing the actuator some degree of feedback. The force sensor is made from a 3M foam earplug which has been saturated with a conductive ink. [chiprobot] doesn’t go into many details about his specific method, but using conductive foam as a force sensor is a fairly well-known and effective hack. To top it all off, [chiprobot] added a web GUI served over WiFi with an ESP32. Watch the whole thing in action in the video embedded below.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Customizable Linear Actuators

The current state of robotics, 3D printers, and CNC machines means any shade tree roboticist has the means to make anything move. Do you want a robotic arm? There are a dozen designs already available. Need an inverted powered pendulum? There are a hundred senior projects on that every semester. There is, however, one type of actuator that is vastly underutilized. Linear actuators aren’t ‘maker’ friendly, and building a customized linear actuator is an exercise in pain.

A die for aluminum extrusion

For their Hackaday Prize entry, the folks at Deezmaker are changing the state of linear actuators. They’ve created ‘Maker Muscle’, a linear actuator that’s fully customizable to nearly any length, power, speed, motor, or any other spec you could think of.

There were a few design goals for Maker Muscle. It must be modular, customizable, low-cost, and must allow for a lot of mounting options for use with t-slot aluminum extrusion. The answer to this is a completely custom aluminum extrusion. Basically, the motor mounts at one end, the actuator itself pokes out the other, and you can mount this device via the t-slot tracks around the edge of the extrusion. Think of it as the linear actuator version of MakerSlide, except instead of using this extrusion in CNC machines, it’s designed for moving shafts back and forth.

Already, Deezmaker has a working prototype and they’ve already moved onto a Kickstarter campaign for Maker Muscle. It’s a great idea, and we can’t wait to see what this neat product will be used for. You can check out a short demo video of Maker Muscle in action below.

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Hidden Bookshelf Door Shows Incredible Motion

Who didn’t dream of a hidden door or secret passage in the house when they were kids? Some of us still do! [SPECTREcat] had already built a secret door in a fully functioning bookcase with a unique opening mechanism. The intriguing mechanism allows the doors to start by sliding slightly away form one another before hinging into the hidden space. Their operation was, however, was manual. The next step was to automate the secret door opening mechanism with electronics.

The project brain is an off-the-shelf Arduino Uno paired with a MultiMoto Arduino shield to drive 4 Progressive Automations PA-14 linear actuators. These linear actuators have 50lb force, allowing the doors to fully open or close within 10 seconds and maintain a speed that wouldn’t throw the books off the bookcases.

Not wanting to drill a hole through the bookshelf for a switch or other opening mechanisms, [SPECTREcat] added a reed switch that is activated on the other side by a DVD cover with a magnet inside. In addition to that, there is a PIR sensor on the inside room to automatically close the doors if no motion is detected for 2 hours. Dont worry, there’s also a manual switch inside just in case.

Using one of the items on the shelf to trigger the secret passage is a classic move. He could also have used a secret knock code, like the Secret Attic Library Door we covered in the past. Check out the video below to see the hinge and slide movement in action.

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PLC and Linear Actuators Automate Double-Hung Windows

Very few residential architectural elements lend themselves to automation, with doors and windows being particularly thorny problems. You can buy powered doors and windows, true, but you’ll pay a pretty penny and have to go through an expensive remodeling project to install them. Solving this problem is why this double-hung window automation project caught our eye.

Another reason we took an interest in this project is that [deeewhite] chose to use a PLC to control his windows. We don’t see much love for industrial automation controllers around here, what with the space awash in cheap and easy to use microcontrollers. They have their place, though, and a project like this is a good application for a PLC. But the controller doesn’t matter at all if you can’t move the window, for which task [deeewhite] chose 12V linear actuators. The fact that the actuators are mounted in the center of the window is probably necessary given the tendency of sashes to rack in their frames and jam; unfortunately, this makes for a somewhat unsightly presentation. [deeewhite] also provides the ladder logic for his PLC and discusses how he interfaces his system with Alexa, a WeMo and IFTT.

We’d love to see this project carried forward a bit with actuators hidden under the window trim, or a rack and pinion system built into the window tracks themselves. This is a pretty good start and should inspire work on other styles of windows. While you’re at it, don’t forget to automate the window blinds.

[via r/DIY]