Using Statistics Instead Of Sensors

Statistics often gets a bad rap in mathematics circles for being less than concrete at best, and being downright misleading at worst. While these sentiments might ring true for things like political polling, it hides the fact that statistical methods can be put to good use in engineering systems with fantastic results. [Mark Smith], for example, has been working on an espresso machine which can make the perfect shot of coffee, and turned to one of the tools in the statistics toolbox in order to solve a problem rather than adding another sensor to his complex coffee-brewing machine.

To make espresso, steam is generated which is then forced through finely ground coffee. [Mark] found that his espresso machine was often pouring too much or too little coffee, and in order to improve his machine’s accuracy in this area he turned to the linear regression parameter R2, also known as the coefficient of determination. By using a machine learning algorithm tuned to this value, which assesses predictable variation in a data set, a computer can more easily tell when the coffee begins pouring out of the portafilter and into the espresso cup based on the pressure and water flow in the machine itself rather than using some other input such as the weight of the cup.

We have seen in the past how seriously [Mark] takes his coffee-making, and this is another step in a series of improvements he has made to his equipment. In this iteration, he has additionally produced a simulation in JupyterLab to better assist him in modeling the system and making even more accurate predictions. It’s quite a bit more effort than adding sensors, but since his espresso machine already included quite a bit of computing power it’s not too big a leap for him to make.

3D ASCII art

Online Tool Turns STLs Into 3D ASCII Art

If you look hard enough, most of the projects we feature on these pages have some practical value. They may seem frivolous, but there’s usually something that compelled the hacker to commit time and effort to its doing. That doesn’t mean we don’t get our share of just-for-funsies projects, of course, which certainly describes this online 3D ASCII art generator.

But wait — maybe that’s not quite right. After all, [Andrew Sink] put a lot of time into the code for this, and for its predecessor, his automatic 3D low-poly generator. That project led to the current work, which like before takes an STL model as input, this time turning it into an ASCII art render. The character set used for shading the model is customizable; with the default set, the shading is surprisingly good, though. You can also swap to a black-on-white theme if you like, navigate around the model with the mouse, and even export the ASCII art as either a PNG or as a raw text file, no doubt suitable to send to your tractor-feed printer.

[Andrew]’s code, which is all up on GitHub, makes liberal use of the three.js library, so maybe stretching his 3D JavaScript skills is really the hidden practical aspect of this one. Not that it needs one — we think it’s cool just for the gee-whiz factor.

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A model roller coaster

3D Printed Model Roller Coaster Accurately Simulates The Real Thing

While they don’t give the physical thrill of a real one, model roller coasters are always fun to watch. However, they actually make a poor analog of a full-sized ride, as gravitational force and aerodynamic drag don’t scale down in the same way, model roller coasters usually move way faster than the same design would in the real world. [Jon Mendenhall] fixed this deficiency by designing a model roller coaster that accurately simulates a full-sized ride.

The track and cart are all made of 3D printed pieces, which altogether took about 400 hours to print. The main trick to the system’s unique motion is that the cart is motorized: a brushless DC motor moves it along the track using a rack-and-pinion system. This means that technically this model isn’t a roller coaster, since the cart never makes a gravity-powered drop; it’s actually a small rack railway, powered by a lithium-ion battery carried on board the cart. An ESP32 drives the motor, receiving its commands through WiFi, while the complete setup is controlled by a Raspberry Pi that runs the cart through a predetermined sequence.

The design of the track was inspired by the Fury 325 roller coaster and simulated in NoLimits 2. [Jon] wrote his own software to generate all the pieces to be printed based on outputs from the simulator. This included all the track pieces as well as the large A-frames holding it up; some of these were too long to fit in [Jon]’s 3D printers and had to be built from smaller pieces. The physics simulation also provided the inputs to the controller in the form of a script that contains the proper speed and acceleration at each point along the track.

The end result looks rather slow compared to other model roller coasters, but actually feels realistic if you imagine yourself inside the cart. While it’s not the first 3D printed roller coaster we’ve seen, it’s probably the only one that accurately simulates the real thing. If you’re more interested in a roller coaster’s safety systems, we’ve featured them too.

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A functioning model of the Wunderwaffe DG-2 from Call of Duty: Zombies.

DIY Wunderwaffe And Others Make Up This Open-Source Arsenal

Unless you stay up all night and have a dozen printers going, it’s probably way too late to make one of these beautiful prop weapons designed by [Andrew] of The Ray Gun Project in time for Halloween. Most of them are from Call of Duty: Zombies, though there is an awesome little disco grenade from Fortnite as well.

All of the projects are fantastic, but we chose to highlight the Wunderwaffe DG-2 from COD: Zombies because, well, vacuum tubes. For those unfamiliar with the ‘waffe’s operation, those vacuum tubes act as ammo magazines. Once they’re empty, you power them down with that big red switch and eject them one at a time with the lever, just like in the game.

Inside is a Feather M0 Express that runs the RGB LEDs and uses a Hall effect sensor to read magnets in the quick-change ammo magazine. You can see how it works in the demo video after the break.

There are BOMs for several of the prop weapons, along with assembly drawings and support forums for anyone who wants to build their own. Don’t feel like gathering all the bits and bobs yourself? [Andrew] is selling hardware packs for the ray gun, but you’ll have to scrounge the parts yourself if you want to build the Wunderwaffle.

Are you a Grinch who wants to keep kids off of your lawn? Scare ’em off with a giant NERF gun.

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Emulating A Power Grid

The electric power grid, as it exists today, was designed about a century ago to accommodate large, dispersed power plants owned and controlled by the utilities themselves. At the time this seemed like a great idea, but as technology and society have progressed the power grid remains stubbornly rooted in this past. Efforts to modify it to accommodate solar and wind farms, electric cars, and other modern technology need to take great effort to work with the ancient grid setup, often requiring intricate modeling like this visual power grid emulator.

The model is known as LEGOS, the Lite Emulator of Grid Operations, and comes from researchers at RWTH Aachen University. Its goal is to simulate a modern power grid with various generation sources and loads such as homes, offices, or hospitals. It uses a DC circuit to simulate power flow, which is visualized with LEDs. The entire model is modular, so components can be added or subtracted easily to quickly show how the power flow changes as a result of modifications to the grid. There is also a robust automation layer to the entire project, allowing real-time data acquisition of the model to be gathered and analyzed using an open source cloud service called FIWARE.

In order to modernize the grid, simulations like these are needed to make sure there are no knock-on effects of adding or changing such a complex system in ways it was never intended to be changed. Researchers in Europe like the ones developing LEGOS are ahead of the curve, as smart grid technology continues to filter in to all areas of the modern electrical infrastructure. It could also find uses for modeling power grids in areas where changes to the grid can happen rapidly as a result of natural disasters.

A Model Of Dry Humor

If you want to see a glorious combination of model bananas in a treehouse mixed with a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor, you will appreciate [Studson]’s build video. Video also after the break. He is making an homage to Donkey Kong 64 from 1999, which may be a long time ago for some folks’ memory (Expansion Pak). Grab a piece of your favorite banana-flavored fruit and sit tight for joke delivery as dry as his batch of baked bark.

The treehouse uses a mixture of found material and crafting supplies. In a colorful twist, all the brown bark-wielding sticks are green, while the decorative greenery came from a modeling store shelf. It all starts with a forked branch pruned from the backyard and a smooth-sided container lid that might make you look twice the next time you nuts are buying a bin of assorted kernels. If you thought coffee stirrers couldn’t be used outside their intended purpose, prepare to have your eyes opened, but remember to wear eye protection as some of the wood clippings look like they could achieve escape velocity. The key to making this look like an ape abode, and not a birdhouse, is the color choices and finishing techniques. Judging by the outcome and compared to the steps, making a model of this caliber is the sign of an expert.

If you wish to binge on wooden Donkey Kong, we can grant your desire, but if you prefer your treehouses life-sized, this may launch your imagination.

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3D-Printed Scale Model Of Perseverance Rover Seems As Complicated As The Real One

Sometimes the best way to figure out how something works is to make a model of it. 3D-modeling software makes it possible to do the job in silico, and sometimes that’s enough. But to really get inside the designer’s head, executing a physical model, like this quarter-scale RC-controlled Perseverance rover, is a great way to go.

If you’re looking for cutting-edge tech or groundbreaking design, this build will probably not light your fire. But a closer look will show not only great details about how JPL designs robots that can operate on Mars, but some great design and 3D-printing tips too.¬†[Dejan]’s modeling process started with the 3D renderings of Perseverance available on the NASA website, which went into SolidWorks via Blender. [Dejan] was intent on capturing all the details of the rover, even those that ended up just for looks. But there’s plenty of functionality, too — the running gear looks and functions just like the six-wheel double-bogie design used on Perseverance, as well as Curiosity before it. This revealed an interesting fact that we didn’t previously realize — that the hull is suspended from a single pivot point on each side, while a linkage across the deck both prevents the body from pivoting and provides differential control of the drive bogies on either side of the rover.

The video below shows both the impressive amount of 3D printing needed to make all the model’s parts as well as the involved assembly process. It also shows the Arduino-controlled model being piloted around via radio control. There’s a lot to learn from this model, and [Dejan]’s craftsmanship here is top-notch too. We’ve seen such builds before from him, like this 3D-printed SCARA arm, a CNC hot-wire foam cutter, and an automated wire bender.

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