Industrial Design Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, September 8 at noon Pacific for the Industrial Design Hack Chat with Eric Strebel!

At Hackaday, we celebrate all kinds of hardware hacks, and we try not to judge based on appearance. After all, every product starts out on the breadboard, or as a prototype built with hot glue and tape. What’s important is getting it to work, at least at first. But there comes a time when you’ve got to think about how to make your project look like something people want to use, how to position controls and displays in a logical and attractive way, and how to make sure your thing can actually be built.

Turning a project into a product is the job of an industrial designer. Pretty much everything you use, from the toothbrush by your sink to the car you drive to work in bears the marks of industrial design, some more successfully than others. Eric Strebel has been doing industrial design for years, and he keeps feeding us a steady diet of design tips and tricks through his popular YouTube channel. He’ll stop by the Hack Chat to get a little more in-depth on industrial design principles, and how you can make your projects look as good as they work.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, September 8 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.

Formula 1 TV Broadcasting In 1:87 Scale

[Gerrit Braun], co-founder of the [Miniatur Wunderland] model railway and miniature airport attraction in Hamburg, takes his model building seriously. For more than five years, he and his team have been meticulously planning, testing, and building a 1:87 scale of Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix. Models at the Wunderland are crafted to the Nth detail and all reasonable efforts, and some unreasonable ones, are taken to achieve true-to-life results. In the video down below, part of Gerrit’s diary of the project, he discusses the issues and solutions to simulating realistic television broadcasts (the video is in German, but it has English language subtitles).

The goal is to model the large billboard-sized monitor screens set up at viewing stands. In real life, these displays are fed with images coming in from cameras located all over the circuit, the majority of which are operated by a cameraman. The miniaturization of cameras has come a long way in recent years — the ESP32-CAM module or the Raspberry Pi cameras, for example. But miniaturizing the pan-and-tilt actions of a cameraman, while perhaps possible, would not be reliable over the long time (these exhibits at Wunderland are permanent and operate almost daily). Instead, the team is able to use software to extract a cropped window from high-resolution video, and moving the position of this cropped window simulates the pointing of the camera. More details are in the video.

The skill and creativity of [Gerrit] and his team is incredible. Other videos on this project cover topics like the sound system, PCB techniques used for the roads, and the eye-popping use of an electric standing desk to lift an entire city block so workers can gain access to the area. Fair warning — these are addictive, and the video below is #76 of an unfinished series. We wrote about Wunderland back in 2016 when [Gerrit] and his twin brother [Frank] teamed with Google Maps to make a street view of their replica cities. Thanks to [Conductiveinsulation] who sent us the tip, saying that the discussion about interconnected triangular PCB tiles on this week’s Podcast #122 reminded him of this for some reason. Have any of our readers visited Miniatur Wunderland before? Let us know in the comments below.

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Hyper Links And Hyperfunctional Text CAD

Strong opinions exist on both sides about OpenSCAD. The lightweight program takes megabytes of space, not gigabytes, so many people have a copy, even if they’ve never written a shape. Some people adore the text-only modeling language, and some people abhor the minimal function list. [Johnathon ‘Zalo’ Selstad] appreciates the idea but wants to see something more robust, and he wants to see it in your browser. His project CascadeStudio has a GitHub repo and a live link so you can start tinkering in a new window straight away.

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Circuit Simulation In Python

Using SPICE to simulate an electrical circuit is a common enough practice in engineering that “SPICEing a circuit” is a perfectly valid phrase in the lexicon. SPICE as a software tool has been around since the 70s, and its open source nature means there are more SPICE tools around now to count. It also means it is straightforward enough to use with other software as well, like integrating LTspice with Python for some interesting signal processing circuit simulation.

[Michael]’s latest project involves simulating filters in LTspice (a SPICE derivative) and then using Python/NumPy to both provide the input signal for the filter and process the output data from it. Basically, it allows you to “plug in” a graphical analog circuit of any design into a Python script and manipulate it easily, in any way needed. SPICE programs aren’t without their clumsiness, and being able to write your own tools for manipulating circuits is a powerful tool.

This project is definitely worth a look if you have any interest in signal processing (digital or analog) or even if you have never heard of SPICE before and want an easier way of simulating a circuit before prototyping one on a breadboard.

Vintage Print Processor Fixed With 3D Printing

If you don’t know what a print processor is, don’t feel bad. There’s precious few people out there still running home darkrooms, and the equipment used for DIY film development is about as niche as it gets today. For those looking to put together their own darkroom in 2019, buying second hand hardware and figuring out how to fix it on your own is the name of the game, as [Austin Robert Hermann] found out when he recently purchased a Durst Printo Print Processor on eBay.

The auction said the hardware was in working order, but despite the fact that nobody would ever lie on the Internet, it ended up being in quite poor condition. Many of the gears in the machine were broken, and some were simply missing. The company no longer supports these 1990’s era machines, and the replacement parts available online were predictably expensive. [Austin] determined his best course of action was to try his hand at modeling the necessary gears and having them 3D printed; two things he had no previous experience with.

Luckily for [Austin], many of the gears in the Printo appeared to be identical. That meant he had several intact examples to base his 3D models on, and with some educated guesses, was able to determine what the missing gears would have looked like. Coming from an animation background, he ended up using Cinema 4D to model his replacement parts; which certainly wouldn’t have been our first choice, but there’s something to be said for using what you’re comfortable with. Software selection not withstanding, he was able to produce some valid STLs which he had printed locally in PLA using an online service.

Interestingly, this is a story we’ve seen play out several times already. Gears break and wear down, and for vintage hardware, that can be a serious problem. But if you’ve got a couple intact gears to go by, producing replacements even on an entry level desktop 3D printer is now a viable option to keep these classic machines running.

3D Printering: When An STL File Is Not Quite Right

STL files are everywhere. When there’s something to 3D print, it’s probably going to be an STL. Which, as long as the model is good just as it is, is no trouble at all. But sooner or later there will be a model that isn’t quite right in some way and suddenly project progress hits a snag.

When models interface with other physical things, those other components may not always be exactly as the designer expected. Being mindful about such potential inconsistencies during the design phase can help prevent problems, but it’s not always avoidable. The reason it’s a problem is because an STL file represents a solid model as a finished unit; it is not really intended to be rolled back into CAD programs for additional design changes.

STL files can be edited, but just like re-modeling a component from scratch, it can be a tricky process for those who don’t live and breathe this stuff. I’ll describe a few common issues related to STLs that can hold up getting that new project together, along with ways to deal with them. Thanks to 3D printing becoming much more commonplace, basic tools are within reach of even the least CAD-aware among us.

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3D-Printing Saves Collectible Lures From A Fishy Ending

Give a man a fishing lure, and he catches fish until he loses the lure. Give a fisherman a 3D-printer, and he can print all the fishing lures he wants, especially replicas of those that are too valuable to actually use.

It may seem strange that some people collect fishing lures rather than use them, but when you look at [Hunter]’s collection, it’s easy to see why. Lures can be very artistic, and the Heddon River Runts in his collection are things of beauty and highly prized. They’re also highly effective at convincing fish to commit suicide, so rather than risk the originals, he and his dad 3D-printed replicas.

After modeling the body of the lure in Blender, they modified it with air pockets for buoyancy and located holes for attaching the treble hooks and lip spoon, which was fabricated from a scrap of brass from a rifle casing. The finished lure lacks the painted details and some of the charm of the original River Runt, but it has something Mr. Heddon couldn’t dream of in 1933 when he introduced it — it glows in the dark, thanks to the phosphorescent PLA filament used. That seems to be irresistible to the bass, who hit the lure so often that they got sick of taking pictures. See it in action in the video below.

[Hunter] and his dad have been busy exploring what 3D printing can do, replicating all sorts of Heddon lures. They’ve even got plans to design and print their own lures. But maybe archery is more your sportsman thing than fishing, in which case this PVC pipe compound bow or a recurve bow from skis would be something to check out.

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