A metal watch is held in a man's fingers. The watchface has a laser etched chess board with miniature chess pieces made of brass enacting a match. The time is told on an etched chess clock to the right hand side of the timepiece and a small window on the rightmost "clock" shows the date.

A Little Chess With Your Timepiece

Some things remain classics, even after centuries, and chess and watches have certainly stood the test of time. [W&M Levsha] decided to combine them both in this “Chess Club” watch containing a miniature chess game frozen in time.

[W&M Levsha] used an off-the-shelf wristwatch for the mechanism and case, but rearranged the parts and built a custom watchface that’s much nicer than the original. The new watchface was cut and etched on a fiber laser after disassembly of the original watch.

The real magic happens when [W&M Levsha] turns those teeny little chess pieces on the lathe. The knight was a two piece affair with the horse head being laser cut out of brass sheet and then soldered onto a turned base. As you can see from the video embedded below, all of the chess pieces inside the watch could fit on the maker’s fingernail! It’s probably a good thing that this tiny set isn’t playable since trying to play on a board that size would be an exercise in patience.

We’ve seen machined chess sets here before at a larger scale, but if you’re more into 3D printing, how about teaching your printer to play?

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Powercore Aims To Bring The Power Of EDM To Any 3D Printer

The desktop manufacturing revolution has been incredible, unleashing powerful technologies that once were strictly confined to industrial and institutional users. If you doubt that, just look at 3D printing; with a sub-$200 investment, you can start making parts that have never existed before.

Sadly, though, most of this revolution has been geared toward making stuff from one or another type of plastic. Wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly whip up an aluminum part as easily and as cheaply as you can print something in PLA? That day might be at hand thanks to Powercore, a Kickstarter project that aims to bring the power of electric discharge machining (EDM) to the home gamer. The principle of EDM is simple — electric arcs can easily erode metal from a workpiece. EDM machines put that fact to work by putting a tool under CNC control and moving a precisely controlled electric arc around a workpiece to machine complex shapes quickly and cleanly.

Compared to traditional subtractive manufacturing, EDM is a very gentle affair. That’s what makes EDM attractive to the home lab; where the typical metal-capable CNC mill requires huge castings to provide the stiffness needed to contain cutting forces, EDM can use light-duty structures and still turn out precision parts. In fact, Powercore is designed to replace the extruder of a bog-standard 3D printer, and consists almost entirely of parts printed on the very same machine. The video below shows a lot of detail on Powercore, including the very interesting approach to keeping costs down by creating power resistors from PCBs.

While we tend to shy away from flogging crowdfunded projects, this one really seems like it might make a difference to desktop manufacturing and be a real boon to the home lab. It’s also worth noting that this project has roots in the Hackaday community, being based as it is on [Dominik Meffert]’s sinker EDM machine.

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Two pairs of steel parallel pliers sit on a rough wooden benchtop. The pair on the left is open and the pair on the right is closed, demonstrating the parallel nature of the pliers' jaws over their entire range of motion. There are three brass pins flush with the steel surface of the handles and you can just barely make out the brass and copper filler material between the steel outer surfaces of the handles.

Producing A Pair Of Parallel Pliers

A regular pair of pliers is fine most of the time, but for delicate work with squarish objects you can’t go wrong with a pair of parallel pliers. [Neil Paskin] decided to make his own pair from scratch. (YouTube)

The jaws were machined down from round stock in [Paskin]’s mill before heat treating and tempering. The steel portions of the handles were cut from 16 gauge plate steel and half of them were stamped on a fly press to make the bridging section around the pivot bolt. The filler for the handles is copper on one side and brass on the other as [Paskin] didn’t have enough brass of the correct size to do both.

The steel and filler were joined with epoxy and copper pins before beveling the edges and sanding to give a comfortable contour to the handles. The bolts for the pliers started as ordinary hex bolts before being machined down on the lathe to a more aesthetically-pleasing shape and size. The final touches included electrolytically etching a logo into the bridge and then spraying down the pliers with a combination lubricant and corrosion preventative spray. This is surely a pair of pliers worth handing down through the generations.

For more mesmerizing machining, checkout this pocket safe or this tiny adjustable wrench.

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Hackaday Links: February 12, 2023

So, maybe right now isn’t the best time to get into the high-altitude ballooning hobby? At least in the US, which with the downing of another — whatever? — over Alaska, seems to have taken a “Sidewinders first, threat identification later” approach to anything that floats by. The latest incident involved an aircraft of unknown type, described as “the size of a small car” — there’s that units problem again — that was operating over Prudhoe Bay off the northern coast of Alaska. The reason that was given for this one earning a Sidewinder was that it was operating much lower than the balloon from last week, only about 40,000 feet, which is well within the ceiling of commercial aviation. It was also over sea ice at the time of the shootdown, making the chance of bothering anyone besides a polar bear unlikely. We’re not taking any political position on this whole thing, but there certainly are engineering and technical aspects of these shootdowns that are pretty interesting, as well as the aforementioned potential for liability if your HAB goes astray. Nobody ever really benefits from having an international incident on their resume, after all.

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Machining With Electricity Explored In The Hack Chat

As a Hackaday reader, it’s safe to assume you’ve got a better than average understanding of electricity. There’s also an excellent chance you’re familiar with machining, and may even have a lathe or old mill in the workshop. But combining the two, and actually machining a piece of metal with electricity, isn’t something that many home gamers can boast first-hand experience with.

Daniel Herrington

Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an interest. To help answer the burning (or at least, sparking) questions from the community, CEO and founder of Voxel Innovations Daniel Herrington stopped by this week’s Hack Chat to talk about the cutting edge of both electric discharge machining (EDM) and the closely related field of electrochemical machining (ECM). While his company uses the technology to produce components at incredible scales, Daniel got his start tinkering in the garage like so many of us, enabling him to provide both a professional and hobbyist prospective on the technologies.

Naturally, the first big question to be addressed was the difference between EDM and ECM. Put simply, electric discharge machining uses high-voltage to literally blast away material from the workpiece. The resulting finish is generally rough, and progress through the material tends to be slow, but it’s relatively simple to implement.

In contrast electrochemical machining could be thought of as a sort of reverse electroplating process, as the material being removed from the workpiece is dissolved and transferred to the cathode — though in practice the flow of pressurized electrolyte keeps it from actually plating the negatively charged tool. ECM is a faster process than EDM and allows for an exceptionally smooth surface finish, but is considerably more challenging from a technical perspective. Continue reading “Machining With Electricity Explored In The Hack Chat”

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Hackaday Links: January 15, 2023

It looks like the Martian winter may have claimed another victim, with reports that Chinese ground controllers have lost contact with the Zhurong rover. The solar-powered rover was put into hibernation back in May 2022, thanks to a dust storm that kicked up a couple of months before the start of local winter. Controllers hoped that they would be able to reestablish contact with the machine once Spring rolled around in December, but the rover remains quiet. It may have suffered the same fate as Opportunity, which had its solar panels covered in dust after a planet-wide sandstorm and eventually gave up the ghost.

What’s worse, it seems like the Chinese are having trouble talking to the Tianwen-1 orbiter, too. There are reports that controllers can’t download data from the satellite, which is a pity because it could potentially be used to image the Zhurong landing site in Utopia Planitia to see what’s up. All this has to be taken with a grain of dust, of course, since the Chinese aren’t famously transparent with their space program. But here’s hoping that both the rover and the orbiter beat the odds and start doing science again soon.

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3D Printing Aids Metal Polishing

While a machinist can put a beautiful finish on a piece of metal with their lathe or mill, to achieve the ultimate finish, a further set of polishing procedures are necessary. Successively finer abrasives are used in a process called lapping, which removes as far as possible any imperfections and leaves eventually a mirrored smoothness. It’s not without problems though, particularly at the edge of a piece it can result in rounded-off corners as the abrasive rubs over them. [Adam the machinist] has a solution, and he’s found it with a 3D printer.

To avoid the rounded edges, the solution involves fitting a piece of metal or wood flush with the surface to be lapped, such that the pressure doesn’t act upon the corner. This can be inconvenient, and the solution avoids it by 3D printing a custom piece that fits over the entire machined object providing a flat surface surrounding the edges. We see it being used with a demonstration piece that has three separate surfaces in the same plane to lap,something that would have been challenging without the 3D printed aid.

Lapping isn’t a process we see too often here. But it has cropped up as an extreme overclocking technique.

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