[Thomas Sanladerer] Gets New Threads

If you do much practical 3D printing, you eventually need some sort of fastener. You can use a screw to bite into plastic. You can create a clearance hole to accommodate a bolt and a nut or even build in a nut trap. You can also heat-set threaded inserts. Which is the best? [Thomas] does his usual complete examination and testing of the options in a recent video you can watch below.

[Thomas] uses inserts from [CNCKitchen] and some cheap inserts for 3D printing and some for injection molding. There are differences in the configuration of the teeth that bite into the plastic. [Thomas] also experimented with thread adapters that grab a 3D-printed thread.

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Physical Neural Network Can Be Trained Like A Digital One

Here’s an unusual concept: a computer-guided mechanical neural network (video, embedded below.) Why would one want a mechanical neural network? It’s essentially a tool to explore what it would take to make physical materials work in nonstandard ways. The main part is a lattice of interlinked mechanical components. When one applies a certain force in a certain direction on one end, it causes the lattice to deform in a non-intuitive way on the other end.

To make this happen, individual mechanical elementsĀ  in the lattice need to have their compliance carefully tuned under the guidance of a computer system. The mechanisms shown can be adjusted on demand while force is applied and cameras monitor the results.

This feedback loop allows researchers to use the same techniques for training neural networks that are used in machine learning applications. Ultimately, a lattice can be configured in such a way that when side A is pressed like this, side B moves like that.

We’ve seen compliant structures that move in unexpected ways before, and they are always fascinating. One example is this 3D-printed door latch that translates a twisting motion into a linear one. Research into physical neural networks seems like it might open the door to more complex systems, or provide insights into metamaterial design.

You can watch the video below just under the page break, or if you prefer, skip the intro and jump straight into How It Works at [2:32].

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This Block Of Rubber Can Count To Ten

Complex behaviors can arise from simple mechanics, and that’s demonstrated by a block of rubber that acts as a counter.

The block contains beams, and by controlling how the block is compressed, the vertical beams shift in a stable and consistent way, acting as a mechanical counter. It’s a straightforward implementation of the work of two physicists from the Netherlands: [Martin van Hecke] and [Lennard Kwakernaak].

This device brings flexures to mind, which are also examples of obtaining complex and useful behavior from seemingly simple objects. We’ve seen flexures used as latches and counters, and we’ve seen 3D printed flexures as a kind of linear actuator.

You can check out the research paper for more details on the rubber beam counter. [Kwakernaak] aims to create a much more complex structure with elements that interact across a plane instead of in a single direction. Such a device would, in effect, be a simple computer.

Watch the beam counter in action in the short video embedded below. See how the elements of the green rubber block move while constrained by an outer frame that helps control the force that is applied. The thin beams flip from left to right, one at a time with each press.

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The Chess Computer From 1912

Who was [Leonardo Torres Quevedo]? Not exactly a household name, but as [IEEE Spectrum] points out, he invented a chess automaton in 1920 that would foreshadow the next century’s obsession with computers playing chess.

Don’t confuse this with the infamous Mechanical Turk, which appeared to be a chess computer but was really a guy hiding inside a fake chess computer. The Spanish engineer’s machine really did play a modified end game. The chessboard was vertical, and pegs represented pieces. There were mechanical arms to move the pegs. The device actually dates back to 1912, with a public demonstration in Paris in 1914. Given [Quevedo’s] native language, the machine was called El Ajedrecista.

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The BSides: More Curious Uses Of Off-the-shelf Parts

Off-the-shelf stock parts are the blocks from which we build mechanical projects. And while plenty of parts have dedicated uses, I enjoy reusing them in ways that challenge what they were originally meant for while respecting the constraints of their construction. Building off of my piece from last time, I’d like to add to your mechanical hacking palette with four more ways we can re-use some familiar off-the-shelf parts. Continue reading “The BSides: More Curious Uses Of Off-the-shelf Parts”

Flip-Segment Digital Clock Is A Miniature Mechanical Marvel

Clocks are such mundane objects that it’s sometimes hard for them to grab your attention. They’re there when you need them, but they don’t exactly invite you to watch them work. Unless, of course, you build something like this mechanical flip-segment clock with a captivating exposed mechanism

“Eptaora” is the name of this clock, according to its inventor [ekaggrat singh kalsi]. The goal here was to make a mechanical flip-segment display as small as possible, which meant starting with the smallest possible printable screw hole and scaling the design up from there. Each segment is controlled by a multi-lobed cam which bears on a spring-loaded cam follower. When the cam rotates against the follower, a segment is flipped up from the horizontal rest position to the vertical display position. A carryover mechanism connects two adjacent displays so that each pair of digits can be powered by a single stepper, and the finished clock is quite small — a little bit larger than the palm of a hand. The operation seems quite smooth, too, which is always a bonus with clocks such as these. Check out the mesmerizing mechanism in the video below.

We’d have sworn we covered a similar clock before — indeed [ekaggrat] says the inspiration for this clock came from one with a similar mechanism — but we couldn’t find it in the back catalog. Oh sure, there are flip-up digital clocks and all manner of mechanical seven-segment displays, but this one seems to be quite unique, and very pleasing.

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Seven Segments, But Not As We Know Them

We’ve seen a lot of clever re-imagining of the classic 7-segment display, and proving there is still room for something new isĀ [Jack]’s 7-segment “DigiTag” display.

This 3D printable device has a frame into which is slotted three sliders. These sliders can be adjusted individually, mixing and matching the visibility of colored and uncolored areas, to create digits 0-9. We’ve seen some unusual 7-segment-inspired displays before, using from one motor for the whole digit to ones that need one motor per segment, but nothing quite like this approach.

While this particular design relies on the user to manually “dial in” each digit, the resulting key-like assembly (and unique shape for each digit) seems like it could have some interesting applications — a puzzle box design comes to mind.

If you have any ideas of your own on how this could be used, don’t keep them to yourself! Let us know in the comments, below.