When working on simple DC systems, a small low-cost multimeter from the hardware store will get the job done well enough. Often they have the capability for measuring AC, but this is where cheap meters can get tripped up. Unless the waveform is a perfect sinusoid at a specific frequency, their simple algorithms won’t be able to give accurate readings like a high-quality meter will. [hesam.moshiri] took this as a design challenge, though, and built an AC multimeter to take into account some of the edge cases that come up when working with AC circuits, especially when dealing with inductive loads.
The small meter, an upgrade from a previous Arduino version that is now based on the ESP32, is capable of assessing root mean square (RMS) voltage, RMS current, active power, power factor, and energy consumption after first being calibrated using the included push buttons. Readings are given via a small OLED screen and have an accuracy rate of 0.5% or better. The board also includes modern design considerations such as galvanic isolation between the measurement side of the meter and the user interface side, each with its own isolated power supply. The schematics and bill-of-materials are also available for anyone looking to recreate or build on this design.
With the project built on an easily-accessible platform like the ESP32, it would be possible to use this as a base to measure other types of signals as well. Square and triangle waves, as well as signals with a large amount of harmonics or with varying frequencies, all need different measurement techniques in order to get accurate readings. Take a look at this classic multimeter to see what that entails.
Belts on a 3D printer should be tight enough, but not too tight. That can be an iffy thing to get right for someone who lacks familiarity with CNC platforms. Prusa Research aims to make it a bit easier with a web app that can measure tension via your mobile phone’s microphone and diagnose belt tightness, at least for their MK4 and XL printers.
Using different tools to analyze belt tightness (including belt acoustics) have been tried in the past with mixed results, but this is a pretty focused approach that aims to give exact guidance for specific printer models. It’s pretty useful to provide someone with a reliable go/no-go number, after all.
What happens to a printer if a belt’s tension is not right? Well, there’s actually a pretty forgiving range within which the printer will mostly work fine, but not as well as it could be. Loose belts can have novices chasing other problems, and overly-tightened belts definitely put extra strain on parts. It’s one of those things that’s worth a little extra work to get right.
Everything about belt tension for Prusa printers is covered in their documentation, but did you know there’s also neat 3D printable tension meter for Prusa MK3 and Mini printers? It’s meant to be printed in Prusament PETG (printing in other materials may have different results) but it’s a pretty neat idea for a tool.
If you have a Prusa MK4 or XL and want to try their new method, go here and allow access to your device’s microphone. Then select a printer model and an axis to test. Gently strum the upper part of the belt (avoid touching the bottom belt in the process) and watch live results telling you whether the belt is too tight, too loose, or just right. Prusa have a video demonstrating the process, also embedded below.
There are all kinds of old wives’ tales surrounding proper battery use floating around in the popular culture. Things like needing to fully discharge a battery every so often, unplugging devices when they’re fully charged, or keeping batteries in the fridge are all examples that have some kernel of truth to them but often are improperly applied. If you really want to know the truth about a specific battery, its behavior, and its features, it helps to dig in and actually take some measurements directly like [Tyler] has done with a vast array of embedded batteries in IoT devices.
[Tyler] is a firmware engineer by trade, so he is deeply familiar with this type of small battery. Battery performance can change dramatically under all kinds of scenarios, most important among them being temperature. But even the same type of battery can behave differently to others that are otherwise identical, which is why it’s important to have metrics for the batteries themselves and be able to measure them to identify behaviors and possible problems. [Tyler] has a system of best practices in place for monitoring battery performance, especially after things like firmware upgrades since small software changes can often have a decent impact on battery performance.
While working with huge fleets of devices, [Tyler] outlines plenty of methods for working with batteries, deploying them, and making sure they’re working well for customers. A lot of it is extremely useful for other engineers looking to develop large-scale products like this but it’s also good knowledge to have for those of us rolling out our own one-off projects that will operate under battery power. After all, not caring for one’s lithium batteries can have disastrous consequences.
Those who work in different spaces may have different definitions of the term “high voltage”. For someone working on the GPIO pins of a Raspberry Pi it might be as little as 5 volts, someone working on a Tesla coil might consider that to be around 20 kV, and an electrical line worker might not reference something as HV until 115 kV. What we could perhaps all agree on, though, is that getting 300 volts out of a USB power supply is certainly a “high voltage” we wouldn’t normally expect to see in that kind of context, but [Aylo6061] needed just such a power supply and was eventually able to create one.
In this case, the high voltages will eventually be used for electrophoresis or electrowetting. But before getting there, [Aylo6061] has built one of the safest looking circuits we’ve seen in recent memory. Every high voltage part is hidden behind double insulation, and there is complete isolation between the high and low voltage sides thanks to a flyback converter. This has the benefit of a floating ground which reduces the risk of accidental shock. This does cause some challenges though, as voltage sensing on the high side is difficult while maintaining isolation, so some clever tricks were implemented to maintain the correct target output voltage.
The control circuitry is based around an RP2040 chip and is impressive in its own right, with USB isolation for the data lines as well. Additionally the project code can be found at its GitHub page. Thanks to a part shortage, [Aylo6061] dedicated an entire core of the microprocessor to decoding digital data from the high voltage sensor circuitry. For something with a little less refinement, less safety, and a much higher voltage output, though, take a look at this power supply which tops its output voltage around 30 kV.
If one is serious about testing the stiffness of materials or parts, there’s nothing quite like doing your own tests. And thanks to [JanTec]’s 3-Point Bending Test rig, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel should one wish to do so.
Some simple hardware, a couple spare pieces of 3030 T-slot extrusion, a few 3D-printed parts, and a dial indicator all come together to create a handy rig that will let one get straight to measuring.
Here is how it works: stiffness of a material is measured by placing a sample between two points and applying a known force to the middle of the sample. This will cause the material to bend, and measuring how far a standardized sample deforms under a known amount of force (normally accomplished by a dial indicator) is how one can quantify a material’s stiffness.
When a material talks about its Young’s modulus (E) value, it’s talking about stiffness. A low Young’s modulus means a material is more elastic, a high value means the material is more stiff. (This shouldn’t be confused with strength or toughness, which are more about resistance to non-recoverable deformation, and resistance to fracture, respectively.)
In early March of 2023, a paper was published in Nature, with the researchers claiming that they had observed superconductivity at room temperature in a conductive alloy, at near-ambient pressure. While normally this would be cause for excitement, what mars this occasion is that this is not the first time that such claims have been made by these same researchers. Last year their previous paper in Nature on the topic was retracted after numerous issues were raised by other researchers regarding their data and the interpretation of this that led them to conclude that they had observed superconductivity.
According to an interview with one of the lead authors at the University of Rochester – Ranga Dias – the retracted paper has since been revised to incorporate the received feedback, with the research team purportedly having invited colleagues to vet their data and experimental setup. Of note, the newly released paper reports improvements over the previous results by requiring even lower pressures.
Depending on one’s perspective, this may either seem incredibly suspicious, or merely a sign that the scientific peer review system is working as it should. For the lay person this does however make it rather hard to answer the simple question of whether room-temperature superconductors are right around the corner. What does this effectively mean?
Hackers frequently find themselves reverse-engineering or interfacing to existing hardware and devices, and when that interface needs to be a physical one, it really pays to be able to take accurate measurements.
This is easy to do when an object is big enough to fit inside calipers, or at least straight enough to be laid against a ruler. But what does one do when things are complex shapes, or especially small? That’s where [Cameron]’s DIY digital optical comparator comes in, and unlike commercial units it’s entirely within the reach (and budget) of a clever hacker.
The Comparatron is based off a CNC pen plotter, but instead of a pen, it has a USB microscope attached with the help of a 3D-printed fixture. Serving as a background is an LED-illuminated panel, the kind useful for tracing. The physical build instructions are here, but the image should give most mechanically-minded folks a pretty clear idea of how it fits together.