Building An Edge Lit Sign From The Scrap Pile

Whether in a shop window or mounted to the top of consoles in NASA’s Mission Control Center, edge lit acrylic is a popular choice for making high visibility signs. Partly because of their striking hologram-like appearance, but also because they’re exceptionally cheap and easy to produce. Just how cheap and easy? Take a look at this recent video from [Hack Modular] for a perfect example.

Now you might think you’d need something like a CNC router to produce a sign like this, and for more complex images, that’s arguably the case. But if you’re only concerned with text, and have a fairly steady hand, you can pull off the etching step with nothing more exotic than a printed template and a razor blade. Of course, the LCD style font that [Hack Modular] picked for this sign is particularly well suited to hand cutting — if you’re interested in edge lit calligraphy, this method probably isn’t what you’re looking for.

This linear LED provides a more consistent light.

With the text carved into the acrylic, the only missing ingredient is light. For that, [Hack Modular] is using a 12 volt linear LED strip light. That is, instead of being dotted with individual LEDs like traditional strips, it provides a continuous band of light that’s perfect for this application. That gets stuck down to a scrap piece of wood, and a rusty angle bracket from an old Meccano set is used to hold the acrylic right on the center-line. If you think the final product looks like something that was created from trash, don’t feel bad, that was the intent.

The end result looks great. In fact, if we’re being honest, it’s a lot better than we would have thought was possible using hand tools. Granted the choice of font has a lot to do with that, but then again, we wouldn’t mind if all our edge lit acrylic signs ended up looking like big seven-segment displays either.

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Meccano Max Gets Hacked

There are plenty of “smart” toys out in the marketplace, some with more features than others. Nevertheless, most makers desire complete control over a platform, something that’s often lacking in any commercial offering. It was just this desire that motivated [MrDreamBot] to start hacking the Meccano Max.

Meccano Max is a small-statured companion robot, at about 30 centimeters high. Not content with the lack of an API, [MrDreamBot] decided to first experiment with creating an Arduino library to run Max’s hardware. With this completed, work then began on integrating a Hicat Livera devboard into the hardware. This is an embedded Linux system with Arduino compatibility, as well as the ability to stream video and connect over WiFi. Thus far, it’s possible to control Max through a browser, while viewing a live video feed from the ‘bot. It’s also possible to customize the expressions displayed on Max’s face.

Oftentimes, it pays to replace stock hardware rather than try and work with the limitations of the original setup, and this project is no exception. With that said, we’re still hoping someone out there will find a way to get Jibo back online. Look after your robot friends! Video after the break.

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Meccano Piston Pump Made With A Syringe

[Mohamed Sami] built a syringe pump out of Meccano building set parts. It consists of a simple framework with a DC motor mounted on it that actuates the syringe when powered. A check valve harvested from an ordinary household spray bottle keeps the syringe from sucking back liquid that it has just pumped out, so it can keep pumping forever. A lead-acid battery powers the whole thing.

Syringe pumps are typically used to deliver precisely measured quantities of substances. Right now [Mohamed]’s rig is just an uncontrolled pump, but he hopes to get a better understanding of and control over how much liquid gets pumped. Adding an encoder to the DC motor would be a start, was his thought — or even better would be a stepper.

You’d be surprised how many syringe pump projects we publish. Not just another syringe pump, but simple hydraulic projects and even using the syringe barrel as a logic probe’s enclosure.

Arduino Laser Pinball Is On Target

Have you ever wanted to roll your own pinball machine? It’s one of those kinds of builds where it’s easy to go off the deep end. But if you’re just getting your feet wet and want to mess around with different playfield configurations, start with something like [joesinstructables]’ Arduino Laser Pinball.

It’s made from meccano pieces attached with standoffs, so the targets are easy to rearrange on the playfield. [joesinstructables] wanted to use rollover switches in the targets, but found that ping pong balls are much too light to actuate them. Instead, each of the targets uses a tripwire made from a laser pointing at a photocell. When the ping pong ball enters the target, it breaks the beam. This triggers a solenoid to eject the ball and put it back into play. It also triggers an off-field solenoid to ring a standard front-desk-type bell one to three times depending on the target’s difficulty setting.

The flippers use solenoids to pull the outside ends of levers made from meccano, which causes the inside ends to push the ball up and away from the drain. Once in a while a flipper will get stuck, which you can see in the demo video after the break. An earlier version featured an LCD screen to show the score, but [joesinstructables] can’t get it to work for this version. Can you help? And do you think a bouncy ball would actuate a rollover switch?

This isn’t the first pinball machine we’ve covered. It’s not even the first one we’ve covered that’s made out of meccano. Here’s an entire Hacklet devoted to ’em. And remember when an Arduino made an old table great again?

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Amazing Meccano Pinball Machine Fully Functional Before Meeting Its Fate

[Brian Leach] of the South East London Meccano Club has put an impressive amount of ingenuity into making his pinball machine almost entirely out of Meccano parts. He started in 2013 and we saw an earlier version of the table back in 2014, but it has finally been completed. It has all the trappings of proper pinball: score counter, score multiplier with timeout, standing targets, kickouts, pot bumpers, drop targets, and (of course) flippers and plunger.

The video (embedded below) is very well produced with excellent closeups of the different mechanisms as [Brian] gives a concise tour of the machine. Some elements are relatively straightforward, others required workarounds to get the right operation, but it’s all beautifully done. For example, look at the score counter below. Meccano electromagnets are too weak to drive the numbers directly, so a motor turns all numbers continuously with a friction drive and electromagnets are used to stop the rotation at specific points. Reset consists of letting the numbers spin freely to 9999 then doing a last little push for a clean rollover to zero.


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A Meccano Pinball Machine

This pinball table is almost entirely out of Meccano Construction Set parts. [Brian Leach]’s Meccano Pinball Machine features a digit counter, a kick out hole, flippers, and a timer.

The digit counter is likely the most complex part of the build. By sending it an electrical signal, either the ones, tens, or hundreds digit can be incremented. The electrical signal engages an electromagnet, which connects a motor to the wheel to increment the score. A mechanism ensures the next digit is incremented when a digit rolls over from 9 to 0, and allows the counter to be zeroed.

Rolling the ball over the set of rollover switches increments the score. A mechanism is used to ensure that the switch will trigger with a small weight. Arcing was an issue, which was reduced by adding a snubber to suppress the transient.

The pinball machine was demoed at the South East London Meccano Club, and is a great demonstration of what can be built with the construction kit. After the break, check out a video of the pinball machine.

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