You don’t have to look hard to find a broken microwave. These ubiquitous kitchen appliances are so cheap that getting them repaired doesn’t make economical sense for most consumers, making them a common sight on trash day. But is it worth picking one of them up?
The [DuctTape Mechanic] certainly thinks so. In his latest video, he shows how the exhaust fan from a dead microwave can easily and cheaply be adapted to blow smoke and fumes out of your workshop. While it’s obviously not going to move as much air as some of the massive shop fans we’ve covered over the years, if you’re working in a small space like he is, it’s certainly enough to keep the nasty stuff moving in the right direction. Plus as an added bonus, it’s relatively quiet.
Now as you might expect the exact internal components of microwave ovens vary wildly, so there’s no guarantee your curbside score is going to have the same fan as this one. But the [DuctTape Mechanic] tries to give a relatively high-level overview of how to liberate the fan, interpret the circuit diagram on the label, and wire it up so you can plug it into the wall and control it with a simple switch. Similarly, how you actually mount the fan in your shop is probably going to be different, though we did particularly like how he attached his to the window using a pair of alligator clips cut from a frayed jumper cable.
Once you make the leap to resin-based 3D printing, you’ll quickly find that putting parts out in the sun to cure isn’t always a viable solution. The best way to get consistent results is with a dedicated curing chamber that not only rotates the parts so they’re evenly exposed to the light, but allows you to dial in a specific curing time. A beeper that goes off when the part is done would be handy as well. Wait, this is starting to sound kind of familiar…
As you might expect, [Stynus] isn’t the first person to notice the similarities between an ideal UV curing machine and the lowly microwave oven. But his conversion is certainly one of the slickest we’ve ever seen. The final product doesn’t look like a hacked microwave so much as a purpose-built curing machine, thanks in large part to the fact that all of the original controls are still functional.
The big break there came when [Stynus] noticed that the control panel was powered by a one-time programmable PIC16C65B microcontroller. Swapping that out for the pin-compatible PIC16F877A opened up the possibility of writing custom firmware to interface with all the microwave’s original hardware, he just needed to reverse engineer how it was all wired up. It took some time to figure out how the limited pins on the microcontroller ran the LED display and read the buttons and switches at the same time, but we’d say the final result is more than worth the work.
With full control over the microwave’s hardware, all [Stynus] had to do was strip out all the scary high voltage bits (which were no longer functional to begin with) and install an array of UV LEDs. Now he can just toss a part on the plate, spin the dial to the desired curing time, and press a button. In the video below, you can see he’s even repurposed some of the buttons on the control panel to let him do things like set a new default “cook” time to EEPROM.
Microwave oven design and manufacturing have been optimized to the point where the once-expensive appliances are now nearly disposable. Despite the economics, though, some people can’t resist fixing stuff, especially when you get a chance to do it in style. Thus we present this microwave repair with its wholly unnecessary yet fabulous adornments.
The beginning of the end for [dekuNukem]’s dirt cheap second-hand microwave started where many of the appliances begin to fail first — the membrane keyboard. Unable to press the buttons reliably anymore, [dekuNukem] worked out the original keypad’s matrix wiring arrangement and whipped up a little keypad from some pushbutton switches and a scrap of perfboard. Wired into the main PCB, it was an effective and cheap solution, if a bit on the artless side.
To perk things up a bit, [dekuNukem] turned to duckyPad, a hot-swappable macropad with mechanical switches and, of course, RGB LEDs. Things got interesting from here; since duckyPad outputs serial data, an adapater was needed inside the microwave. An STM32 microcontroller and a pair of ADG714 analog switches did the trick, with power pulled from the original PCB.
The finished repair is pretty flashy, and [dekuNukem] now has the only microwave in the world with a clicky keypad. And what’s more, it works.
We’re all hopefully a little more concerned about health these days, but with that concern comes a growing demand for products like hand sanitizer, disinfectant, and masks. Some masks are supposed to be single-use only, but with the shortage [Bob] thought it would be good if there were a way to sanitize things like masks without ruining them. He was able to modify a microwave oven to do just that.
His microwave doesn’t have a magnetron anymore, which is the part that actually produces the microwaves for cooking. In its place is an ultraviolet light which has been shown to be effective at neutralizing viruses. The mask is simply placed in the microwave and sterilized with the light. He did have to make some other modifications as well since the magnetron isn’t always powered up when cooking, so instead he wired the light into the circuit for the turntable so that it’s always powered on.
Since UV can be harmful, placing it in the microwave’s enclosure like this certainly limits risks. However, we’d like to point out that the mesh on the microwave door is specifically designed to block microwaves rather than light of any kind, and that you probably shouldn’t put your face up to the door while this thing is operating. Some other similar builds have addressed this issue. Still, it’s a great way to get some extra use out of your PPE.
We are used to microwave receivers requiring complex chipsets and exacting PCB layouts, but as [CHZ-soft] has shown, it does not always have to be that way. With nothing more complex than a germanium point-contact diode and an oscilloscope, you can quickly, easily, and cheaply resolve microwave signals, as we are shown with a 2.4GHz wireless mouse.
Of course, there’s nothing new here, what we’re being shown is the very simplest incarnation of a crystal set. It’s a wideband device, with only the length of the wires providing any sort of resonance, but surprisingly with the addition of a very selective cavity resonator it can be turned into a useful receiver. Perhaps the most interesting take-away is that the germanium point-contact diode — once a ubiquitous component — has almost entirely disappeared. In most applications it has been supplanted by the Schottky diode, but even those usually don’t quite possess the speed in the point contact’s home ground of radio detection. This is a shame, because there are still some bench-level projects for which they are rather useful.
So if you have a point contact diode and AM radio doesn’t attract, give it a go as a microwave detector. And if the point contact diode has attracted your interest then you may want to read our piece on Rufus Turner, who brought us its archetype, the 1N34A.
When building a new project, common wisdom suggests to avoid “reinventing the wheel”, or doing something simple from scratch that’s easily available already. However, if you can build a high-voltage wheel, so to speak, it might be fun just to see what happens. [Dan] decided to reinvent not the wheel, but the speaker, and instead of any conventional build he decided to make one with parts from a microwave and over 6,000 volts.
The circuit he constructed works essentially like a Tesla coil with a modulated audio signal as an input. The build uses the high voltage transformer from the microwave too, which steps the 240 V input up to around 6 kV. To modulate that kind of voltage, [Dan] sends the audio signal through a GU81M vacuum tube with the support of a fleet of high voltage capacitors. The antenna connected to the magnetron does tend to catch on fire somewhere in the middle of each song, so it’s not the safest device around even if the high voltage can be handled properly, but it does work better than expected as a speaker.
If you want a high-voltage speaker that (probably) won’t burn your house down, though, it might be best to stick to a typical Tesla coil. No promises though, since working with high voltages typically doesn’t come with safety guarantees.
Since 2010, the United States military has been operating a pair of small reusable spaceplanes that conduct secretive long-duration flights in low Earth orbit. Now officially operating under the auspices of the newly formed Space Force, the X-37Bs allow the military to conduct in-house research on new hardware and technology with limited involvement from outside agencies. The spaceplane still needs to hitch a ride to space on a commercial rocket like the Atlas V or the Falcon 9, but once it’s separated from the booster, the remainder of the X-37B’s mission is a military affair.
So naturally, there’s a lot we don’t know about the USSF-7 mission that launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 17th. The duration of the mission and a complete manifest of the experiments aboard are classified, so nobody outside the Department of Defense truly knows what the robotic spacecraft is up to. But from previous missions we know the craft will likely remain in orbit for a minimum of two years, and there’s enough public information to piece together at least some of the investigations it will be conducting.
Certainly one the most interesting among them is an experiment from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) that will study converting solar power into a narrow microwave beam; a concept that has long been considered the key to unlocking the nearly unlimited energy potential offered by an orbital solar array. Even on a smaller scale, a safe and reliable way to transmit power over the air would have many possible applications. For example it could be used to keep unmanned aerial vehicles airborne indefinitely, or provide additional power for electric aircraft as they take-off.
Performing an orbital test of this technology is a serious commitment, and shows that all involved parties must have a fairly high confidence level in the hardware. Unfortunately, there isn’t much public information available about the power beaming experiment currently aboard the X-37B. There’s not even an indication of when it will be performed, much less when we should expect to see any kind of report on how it went. But we can make some educated guesses based on the work that the Naval Research Laboratory has already done in this field.