Radio Build Goes Outside The Box

It’s easy to get caught up in a build and forget that the final version usually needs some sort of enclosure, especially things with sensitive electronics in them. The [Director of Legal Evil] at the LVL1 Louisville Hackerspace notes as much in his recent radio build. It seems as though the case was indeed an afterthought, but rather than throwing it in a nondescript black project enclosure it was decided to turn the idea of a project enclosure itself inside-out.

The radio build is based on an SI4732 radio receiver which is a fairly common radio module and is easily adaptable. It needs a microcontroller to run though, so a Maple STM32 platform was chosen to do all of the heavy lifting. The build includes a screen, some custom analog controls, and a small class D audio amplifier, but this is the point it begins to earn its name: the Chaos Radio. While playing around with the project design in CAD, a normal design seemed too bland so one was chosen which makes the radio look like the parts are exploding outward from what would have been a more traditional-style enclosure.

While the project includes a functioning radio receiver, we have to complement the creator for the interesting display style for this particular set of hardware. It can get boring designing the same project enclosures time after time, so anything to shake things up is often welcomed especially when it puts all of the radio components on display like this. In fact, it’s reminiscent of some of [Dmitry]’s projects, an artist known for deconstructing various common household appliances like this CD Player.

Thanks to [Jose] for the tip!

Binary Calculator For All 0b10 Types

You know the old joke: There are 10 types of people in the world — those who understand binary, and those who don’t. Most of us on Hackaday are firmly in the former camp, which is why projects like this circuit sculpture binary calculator really tickle our fancies.

Inspired by the brass framework and floating component builds of [Mohit Bhoite], [dennis1a4] decided to take the plunge into circuit sculpture in an appropriately nerdy way. He wisely decided on a starter build, which was a simple 555 timer circuit, before diving into the calculator. Based on an ATMega328P in a 28-pin DIP, the calculator is built on an interesting hybrid platform of brass wire and CNC-routed wood. The combination of materials looks great, and we especially love the wooden keycaps on the six switches that make up the keyboard. There’s also some nice work involved in adapting the TLC5928 driver to the display of 16 discrete LEDs; suspended as it is by fine magnet wires, the SSOP chip looks a bit like a bug trapped in a spider web.

Hats off to [dennis1a4] for a great entry into our soon-to-conclude Circuit Sculpture Contest. The entry deadline is (today!) November 10, so it might be a bit too late for this year. But rest assured we’ll be doing this again, so take a look at all this year’s entries and start thinking about your next circuit sculpture build.

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Making Your Own Maple Syrup Just Got A Little Easier

[ctstarkdesigns] had fond memories of collecting maple syrup as a child. At the same time, he also remembered the work involved: from lugging buckets around on an unstable snow mobile to accidentally burning the mixture and making all the effort for naught. So he set out to make things a little easier this time around by building his own evaporator.

The build starts as many do, with a surplus 44-gallon drum. With an off-the-shelf kit, and some cutting and welding, it’s readily repurposed into a stove capable of burning wood in a roaring fire. From there, it’s a simple matter of making a few further incisions to install warming trays, used to hold the takings from the maple trees. There, the mixture can be boiled down into the tasty, delicious substance that goes so perfectly on pancakes.

The build has the dual benefits of both easing the boiling process and keeping the user warm while doing so. Already, the rig has proven itself as an adept heater, and we’re sure it will only prove more popular once it’s producing sweet maple syrup en mass. If that’s not enough, consider building an entirely automated system in your back yard!

Hackaday Prize Entry: A Cheap STM32 Dev Board

Dev boards sporting a powerful ARM microcontroller are the future, despite what a gaggle of Arduino clones from China will tell you. Being the future doesn’t mean there’s not plenty of these boards around, though. The LeafLabs Maple has been around since 2009, and is a fine board if you want all that Processing/Wiring/Arduino goodies in a in an ARM dev board. The Maple has been EOL’d, and that means it’s time for a few new boards that build on what LeafLabs left behind.

This Hackaday Prize entry is for an almost-clone of the Leaflabs Maple Mini. It sports a newer microcontroller, but still has the same bootloader and pinout. The best part? It costs less than four dollars.

The microcontroller inside this Maple Mini clone is the STM32F103, a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 running at 72 MHz with 128K of Flash and 20K of SRAM. That’s enough for just about everything you would want to throw at it. It also follows the pinout of the original Maple Mini, and the team also has a version that’s a slight improvement of the original Maple.

The big deal is, of course, the price of the board. It’s four bucks, or about the same price as an Arduino clone from the usual online retailers. Now, finally, there’s a reason for you to wash your hands of the Arduino too.

Field Expedient Bandsaw Mill Deals With Leftover Logs

When a questionable tree threatened his house, [John Heisz] did the sensible thing and called in a professional to bring it down. But with a flair for homebrew tools, [John] followed up with a seemingly non-sensible act and built a quick and dirty DIY bandsaw mill to turn the resulting pile of maple logs into usable lumber.

A proper bandsaw mill is an expensive tool. Prices start in the mid-four figures for a stripped down version and can easily head into the multiple tens of thousands for the serious mills. [John] makes it clear that his mill is purpose-built to deal with his leftover logs, and so he made no attempt at essentials like a way to index the blade vertically. His intention was to shim the logs up an inch after each cut, or trim the legs to move the blade down. He also acknowledges that the 2-HP electric motor is too anemic for the hard maple logs – you can clearly see the blade bogging down in the video below. But the important point here is that [John] was able to hack a quick tool together to deal with an issue, and in the process he learned a lot about the limitations of his design and his choice of materials. That’s not to say that wood is never the right choice for tooling – get a load of all the shop-built tools and jigs in his build videos. A wooden vise? We’d like to see the build log on that.

We’ve featured a surprising number of wooden bandsaws before, from benchtop to full size. We’re pretty sure this is the first one purpose built to mill logs that we’ve featured, although there is this chainsaw mill that looks pretty handy too.

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Hackaday Links: April 5, 2015

[Dino] found something pretty cool at Walmart. It’s a USB Lighter; basically a car cigarette lighter that’s powered by a battery and charged via USB. A few bucks will buy you a battery, charge controller, and USB plug that will deliver over 2 amps at 3.7 Volts.

Speaking of battery chargers, here’s something from [Thomas]. He works in a hospital, and the IV pumps have a terrible charging circuit. After a few dozen chargers, they’ll give a battery error on the screen. They’re not bad, only unbalanced. [Thomas] made a simple rig with a Tenergy battery charger to rebalance the packs. No link, but here’s a pic. It beats paying $34 for a new battery pack.

Those Silhouette Cameo blade cutters don’t get enough respect. You can make vinyl stickers or an Arduino-themed pop up card.

Retroreflective spraypaint. Volvo has developed something called Lifepaint. It’s for bicycles and bicycle riders. Apparently, it’s clear when you spray it on, but if you shine a light on it – from a car’s headlight – it will reflect back. Any cool ideas here?

The Art of Electronics, 3rd edition, is finally out. Didn’t we hear about this a few months ago? Yes, we did. It’s shipping now, though, and there’s a sample. It’s chapter nine, voltage regulation and power conversion.

Ah, April Fool’s. I’m still proud of the Prince post, but there were some great ones this year. RS Components had Henry the Hover Drone, but we really like the protoboard with ground planes.

The market wasn’t always flooded with ARM dev boards. For a while the LeafLabs Maple was the big kid on the block. Now it’s reached end of life. If only there were a tree whose name ended in ~ino…

Theremin Takes The Touch Out Of Multitouch

Multitouch builds are all the rage now, so it’s not surprising someone would come up with a multi-touchless interface sooner or later. [Hanspeter] did just that; his Multi-touchless ribbon controller, a.k.a. Polymagnetophonic Theremin is multi-touch without the touch.

[Hanspeter]’s touchless ribbon controller uses an array of 24 Hall effect sensors that activate whenever a magnet mounted on a thimble is placed near a build. These sensors go to an ARM-equipped Maple Mini to record multitouch events and send them out over Ethernet.

Even though [Hanspeter] is only using his “multi-touchless ribbon sensor” as a theremin, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be put to other uses. It’s entirely possible to place several of these magnetic sensors in an array and build a real Minority Report interface where the user interacts with a computer without touching anything.

After the break is a video demo showing off how much control [Hanspeter] can get with the thimble/magnet setup. There’s also a few demo songs made with SuperCollider showing off a trio of sitar/Moog/harpsichord synths.

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