Racing Cars On A PCB

Carl Friedrich Gauss was, to put it mildly, a polymath responsible for a large percentage of the things we take for granted in the modern world. As a physicist and mathematician he pioneered several fields of study including within the field of magnetism. But since he died decades before the first car was built, it’s unlikely he could have imagined this creation, a magnetic slot-car race track called the Gauss Speedway by [Jeff McBride], which bears the name of the famous scientist.

The Gauss Speedway takes its inspiration from a recent development in robotics, where many small robots can travel around a large area with the help of circuit traces integrated into their operating area. With the right current applied to these traces, magnetic fields are generated which propel the robots. [Jeff] wanted to build something similar, integrated into a printed circuit board directly, and came up with the slot car idea. The small cars have tiny magnets in them which interact with the traces in the PCB, allowing the cars to move with high precision around the track. He did abandon the traditional slot car controller in favor of a push-button style one directly on the PCB too, which means everything is completely integrated.

While this was more of a demonstration or proof-of-concept, some of the features of this style of robot can be seen in this video, which shows them moving extremely rapidly with high precision, on uneven surfaces, or even up walls. Magnetic robots like these are seeing quite a renaissance, and we’ve even seen some that use magnetism to shape-shift.

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Fail Of The Week — Accidental Demagnetization

There’s a trick in the world of plastic enclosures. The threaded insert is a small cylinder of metal with threads on the inside and a rough edge on the outside. To make a plastic part with a hole for securely connecting bolts that can be repeatedly screwed without destroying the plastic, you take the threaded insert and press it (usually with the help of a soldering iron to heat the insert)  into a hole that’s slightly smaller than the insert. The heat melts the plastic a little bit and allows for the insert to go inside. Then when it cools the insert is snugly inside the plastic, and you can attach circuit boards or other plastic parts using a bolt without stripping the screw or the insert. We’ve seen Hackaday’s [Joshua Vasquez] installing threaded inserts with an iron, as well as in a few other projects.

This trick is neat. And I’ve now proven that it does not work with neodymium magnets.

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Make Your Own Reed Switches

[Lucid Science] shows us how to make some simple reed switches. Reed switches are simple components that detect a magnetic field and can close or open a circuit once detected. While not really a thing of beauty, these DIY reed switches should help you out if you just can’t wait to order some or you fancied trying your hands at making some components from scratch.

Reed switches normally come in very small form factors so if you need something small then this may not be for you however the video does show you on a macro scale the fundamental workings of a reed switch. To make your own reed switch you need only a few parts: some copper, enamelled wire and magnets. They really are simple devices however sometimes it’s easy to overlook how simple some things are when they are so small that you can’t really see how they work.

Making your own components from scratch is probably the best way to understand the inner workings of said component. In the past we have seen some pretty awesome self built components from these beautiful DIY Nixie tubes to even making your own LEDs

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Call For Hack Chat Hosts

Every week features an AMA of sorts. This is the Hack Chat, a chatroom where we sit down with the best in the business to talk about manufacturing techniques, engineering, and how to build the best hardware around. Over the last few months, we’ve hosted a few hardware celebrities, from [Sprite_TM] talking about the ESP32, [Lady Ada] and MicroPython, [Roger Thornton] of Raspberry Pi discussing how to build everyone’s favorite Linux computer, [Samy Kamkar] talking about reverse engineering, and heard [bunnie’s] take on making and breaking hardware.

Now we’re looking for new co-hosts to lead a discussion and be the expert in the room. If you have the skills, we want to hear from you.

We’re looking for experts to lead a discussion on what they’re doing. If you have a new hardware product and want to share the story of taking it to production while getting some feedback from the Hackaday community, this is the place to do it. We’re looking for a wide range of people who will allow us to pick their brains. If you’ve ever designed a 16-layer PCB, we want to know how (and why) you did it. If you’re into building robotics, we want to hear from you. If you’re an embedded systems wizard, this is your time to shine.

If you want to get in on this, send us an email. We’re doing one Hack Chat a week, every Friday, sometime around noon, Pacific time. This is a great opportunity for you to share what you know with one of the best hardware communities on the Internet. It’s also great practice if you’re thinking about presenting at the Hackaday SuperConference in November.

This Week: How do Magnets Work Anyway?

Do you know how magnets work? Of course you don’t, nobody does. But one of the people with the deepest knowledge on the topic is Jeremy Chan who is a Prototype Engineer at Nano Magnetics Ltd. This Friday at noon PST Jeremy leads a Hack Chat on magnetism.

What is there to talk about? Jeremy will cover how magnets are manufactured and magnetized. He’ll cover the different grades of magnets, and the different magnetic sensing mechanisms. He’ll also go into some of the most interesting magnetic phenomenon. How often do you get to hang out with a magnet expert? See you this Friday!

Back To Basics: What’s The Deal With Magnets?

I consider myself a fairly sharp guy. I’ve made a living off of being a scientist for over 20 years now, and I have at least a passing knowledge of most scientific fields outside my area. But I feel like I should be able to do something other than babble incoherently when asked about magnets. They baffle me – there, I said it. So what do I do about it? Write a Hackaday post, naturally – chances are I’m not the only one with cryptomagnetonescience, even if I just made that term up. Maybe if we walk through the basics together, it’ll do us both some good understanding this fundamental and mysterious force of nature.

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Levitating Objects In Paramagnetic Liquids

Two weekends ago was the Bay Area Maker Faire, and lacking a venue to talk to people who actually make things, we had a meetup at a pub. This brought out a ton of interesting people, and tons of interesting demos of what these people were building. By either proclivity or necessity, most of these demos were very blinkey. The demo [Grant McGregor] from Monterey Community College brought was not blinkey, but it was exceptionally cool. He’s levitating objects in paramagnetic liquids with permanent magnets.

Levitating objects in a paramagnetic solution around a magnetic field has been an intense area of research for the Whitesides Research Group for a few years now, with papers that demonstrate methods of measuring the density of objects in a paramagnetic solution and fixing diamagnetic objects inside a magnetic field. [Grant] is replicating this research with things that can be brought to a bar in a small metal box – vials of manganese chlorate with bits of plastic and very strong neodymium magnets. The bits of plastic in these vials usually float or sink, depending on exactly what plastic they’re made of. When the paramagnetic solution is exposed to a magnetic field, the density of the solution changes, making the bits of plastic sink or float.

It’s a bizarre effect, but [Grant] mentioned a nurd rage video that shows the effect very clearly. [Grant]’s further experiments will be to replicate the Whitesides Research Group’s experiment to fix a diamagnetic object inside a magnetic field. As for any practical uses for this effect, you might be able to differentiate between different types of plastic (think 3D printing filament) with just a vial of solution and a strong magnet.

[Grant] was heading out of the pub right when I ran into him, but he did stick around long enough to run into the alley behind the pub and record an interview/demo. You can check that out below.

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Subwoofer Makes Cornstarch Dance

People tend not to think about the non-Newtonian properties of foodstuffs, but we’re glad at least one person did. When it comes to cornstarch, it’s indeterminate viscosity when mixed with water made it the perfect solution for a pretty neat trick: making a liquid move in reaction to a subwoofer. The unique motion can be attributed to the physical properties of the solution: when enough force is applied quickly, it acts as a solid. Otherwise, it flows like a liquid. The erratic bouncing of the sound waves combined with a little tactile manipulation create varying degrees and speeds of applied pressure, which in turn create a mass of flowing shapes that almost appear to be alive.

We’ve covered weird fluids before, but this is perhaps most similar to SnOil, a game that uses ferrofluids to achieve a similar result. SnOil, however, does not depend of vibrations to create shapes in the fluid, it uses small electromagnets and magnetically charges liquid instead. We love the ordered appearance of the SnOil unit, but the chaotic motion of the cornstarch and it’s non-Newtonian properties make it appear almost otherworldly. We wonder how ferrofluids would react in a situation similar to the cornstarch above, since it would respond to both the vibration and the voice coil’s magnetic field.

[via Neatorama]