Digital Caliper Talks For Accessibility, With This App

A good instrument stays with its owner for a lifetime, becoming part of their essential trusted toolkit to be consulted as a matter of habit. If you use a caliper to measure dimensions¬† you’ll know this, and a quick glance at its scale or digital display will be second nature. But if you aren’t fortunate enough to have the eyesight to see the caliper, then it’s off-limits, and that’s something [Naomi Wu] has addressed with her open-source accessible speaking caliper app. It’s an Android app that connects to digital calipers that contain Bluetooth connectivity, and as well as speaking aloud the caliper reading it also displays it in very large text on the device screen. As well as the source link from which you can build the app, it’s available for installation directly from the Google Play Store.

If you’re used to [Naomi] from her video tours of the electronics businesses in her native Shenzhen, her eye-catching wearable projects, or her exploits with an industrial CNC machine in her living room, you might be interested to know that aside from this app she’s been a long-time proponent of open-source in China. She was responsible among other projects for the Sino:bit educational computer board, which holds the distinction for her of having secured the first ever Chinese OSHWA certification.

You can see the caliper app in action below the break.

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No Assembly Required For This Compliant Mechanism Dial Indicator

If you’ve ever had the good fortune — or, after a shop mishap, the misfortune — to see the insides of a dial indicator, you’ll know the workings of these shop essentials resemble nothing so much as those of a fine Swiss watch. The pinions, gears, and springs within transmit the slightest movement of the instrument’s plunger to a series of dials, making even the tiniest of differences easy to spot.

Not every useful dial indicator needs to have those mechanical guts, nor even a dial for that matter. This compliant mechanism 3D-printed dial-free indicator is perfect for a lot of simple tasks, including the bed leveling chores that [SunShine] designed it for. Rather than print a bunch of gears and assemble them, [SunShine] chose to print the plunger, a fine set of flexible linkage arms, and a long lever arm to act as a needle. The needle is attached to a flexible fulcrum, which is part of the barrel that houses the plunger. Slight movements of the plunger within the barrel push or pull on the needle, amplifying them into an easily read deflection. When attached to the head of a 3D-printer and scanned over the bed, it’s easy to see even the slightest variation in height and make the corresponding adjustments. Check it out in the video below.

We’re big fans of compliant mechanisms, seeing them in everything from robot arms and legs to thrust vectoring for an RC plane. This might look like something from a cereal box, and it certainly doesn’t have the lasting power of a Starrett or Mitutoyo, but then again it costs essentially nothing, and we like that too.

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Vernier Calipers And Micrometer Screw Gauges, Measuring Without Compromise

I needed a temperature controller module recently, so off I went to Banggood to order one. As one does I found myself browsing, one thing led to another, and I bought a micrometer screw gauge. While micrometers are pretty expensive devices, reflecting their high precision engineering and construction, this micrometer cost me only about ¬£8, or just under $10, definitely in the spirit of our long-running series of reviewing very cheap tools in search of a diamond in the rough. But perhaps more importantly, this is also the cue for an examination of high precision dimensional measurement. So I’ve assembled a collection of micrometers and vernier calipers of varying quality, and it’s time to dive in and measure some very small things.

Some of you will be metrology enthusiasts with an array of the finest devices available, but I am guessing that many of you will not. The ubiquitous precision measurement device in our community appears to be the digital caliper, a sliding clamp with an LCD display, an instrument that can be had in its most basic form for a very small outlay indeed. For the purposes of this piece though we’re not looking at digital devices but their analogue precursors. If you want a feel for metrology and you’d like some of those heritage tools that parents pass onto their kids then it’s time to learn something about the vernier caliper and the micrometer. Continue reading “Vernier Calipers And Micrometer Screw Gauges, Measuring Without Compromise”

2D-Scanner Records Surfboard Profiles For Posterity

[Ryan Schenk] had a problem: he built the perfect surfboard. Normally that wouldn’t present a problem, but in this case, it did because [Ryan] had no idea how he carved the gentle curves on the bottom of the board. So he built this homebrew 2D-scanner to make the job of replicating his hand-carved board a bit easier.

Dubbed the Scanbot 69420 – interpretation of the number is left as an exercise for the reader, my dude – the scanner is pretty simple. It’s just an old mouse carrying a digital dial indicator from Harbor Freight. The mouse was gutted, with even the original ball replaced by an RC plane wheel. The optical encoder and buttons were hooked to an Arduino, as was the serial output of the dial indicator. The Arduino consolidates the data from both sensors and sends a stream of X- and Z-axis coordinates up the USB cable as the rig slides across the board on a straightedge. On the PC side, a Node.js program turns the raw data into a vector drawing that represents the profile of the board at that point. Curves are captured at various points along the length of the board, resulting in a series of curves that can be used to replicate the board.

Yes, this could have been done with a straightedge, a ruler, and a pencil and paper – or perhaps with a hacked set of calipers – but that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. And we can certainly see applications for this far beyond the surfboard shop.

Hacked Calipers Make Automated Measurements A Breeze

Now, digital calipers with wired interfaces to capture the current reading are nothing new. But the good ones are expensive, and really, where’s the fun in plugging a $75 cable into a computer? So when [Max Holliday] was asked to trick out some calipers for automating data capture, he had to get creative.

[Max] found that cheap Harbor Freight digital calipers have the telltale door that covers a serial connector, making them a perfect target for hacking. A little Internet sleuthing revealed the pinout for the connector as well as some details on the serial protocol used by most digital calipers: 24-bit packets is six four-bit words.¬†[Max] used his SAM32, a neat open-source board with both a SAMD51 and an ESP32 that can run CircuitPython. An inverting buffer interfaces the serial lines to the board, which is just the right size to mount on the back of the caliper head. It’s hard to tell how [Max] is triggering readings, but the SAM32 is mounted as a USB device and sends keystrokes directly to a spreadsheet – yes, with the ESP32 it could have been wireless, but his client specifically requested a wired setup. Taking multiple readings is easy now that the user never has to swap calipers for a pen.

Cheap calipers like these are pretty hackable – you can add Bluetooth, turn them into DROs for a milling machine, or even make them talk.

Digital Multimeasure Helps You Get The Job Done

In any mechanical field of work, accurate measurement is key to success. [Patrick Panikulam] knows this well, and decided to build a device that would be useful for some of the more tricky measurement tasks he was encountering.

[Patrick]’s digital multi-functional measurement tool packs a bunch of useful hardware into a pocket-sized form factor. There’s a Sharp IR distance sensor for non-contact measurements, a rotary wheel encoder for measuring distances along curved lines, and an MPU6050 IMU packing accelerometers and gyroscopes for measuring angles and surface levels. Control is via touch buttons, so measurements can be taken without disturbing the position of the device.

The use cases for such a device are many and varied. [Patrick] reports using it to verify that his 3D printer bed is leveled, as well as using it to measure curved surfaces in order to accurately cut stickers to suit. It’s got the hardware to serve as a digital protractor, too.

Combining a variety of useful hardware into a compact form factor, while also taking into account usability, has netted [Patrick] a handy tool. It’s not dissimilar from commercial measurement tools available online, and yet is completely built from off-the-shelf parts. Truly a handy device to have in any hacker’s toolbox!

 

 

Digital Protractor Makes Angular Measurements A Snap

Old school vernier calipers served engineers and machinists well for a long time — and did a perfectly good job. Digital models then came along and were easier to read. They now rule the roost, despite their thirst for batteries. Humans are naturally wired to make the least effort possible at all times. That’s why you always drive to the store that’s only a few blocks from your doorstep. In this vein, you may find a digital protractor preferable to the classic printed type.

[Nirav Jadav]’s project is a simple one but serves as a good learning experience for those getting to grips with microcontrollers. An Arduino Pro Mini serves as the brains, reading signals from an MPU6050 gyroscope. Measured angles are displayed on a small OLED screen.

To use the protractor, first the reference button must be pressed, then the device may be rotated to measure the angle. Relying on a gyroscope means that it’s likely less accurate than a printed device, particularly if it isn’t recalibrated every few measurements to account for drift.

However, like many projects to grace these pages, its value lies not in its usability, but in the journey of creation. To build such a device requires programming ability, an understanding of interfacing with external peripheral devices, as well as how to drive a graphical display. These skills are highly useful in a wide variety of projects, and they’ll serve [Nirav] well in projects to come.

Once you’ve built your digital protractor, why not have a stab at building a digital measuring tape?

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]