It used to be that when we featured one of [Frank Olson]’s DIY ribbon microphone builds, it was natural to focus on the fact that he was building them almost exclusively from wood. But despite how counterintuitive it may seem, and for as many comments as we get that his microphones shouldn’t work without metal in the ribbon motors, microphones like this wooden RCA Model 77 reproduction both look and sound great.
But ironically, this homage features a critical piece that’s actually not made of wood. The 77’s pickup pattern was cardioid, making for a directional mic that picked up sound best from the front, thanks to an acoustic labyrinth that increased the path length for incoming sound waves. [Frank]’s labyrinth was made from epoxy resin poured into a mold made from heavy paper, creating a cylinder with multiple parallel tunnels. The tops and bottoms of adjacent tunnels were connected together, creating an acoustic path over a meter long. The ribbon motor, as close to a duplicate of the original as possible using wood, sits atop the labyrinth block’s output underneath a wood veneer shell that does its best to imitate the classic pill-shaped windscreen of the original. The video below, which of course was narrated using the mic, shows its construction in detail.
If you want to check out [Frank]’s other wooden microphones, and you should, check out the beautiful Model 44 replica that looks ready for [Sinatra], or the Bk-5-like mics he whipped up for drum kit recording.
[Li Zhang] and his colleagues at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) have developed a blob of goo that can navigate complex surroundings, grow an ‘arm’, grasp a wire and move it, encapsulate a small object and carry it. As explained in the research paper, the secret is in the non-Newtonian material the bots are made of.
You can make a similar concoction at home, usually called “slime”, with corn starch and water. Deformed slowly, it will move like a fluid. Deformed rapidly, it behaves like an elastic solid. CUHK’s version is polyvinyl alcohol, glass coated NdFeB microparticles (neodymium magnets), and borax.
This dual behavior lets the robot do amazing things. Placed on a surface, they made the blob extend pseudopods by dragging underneath with a magnet, then used a circular field to make it grasp and transport a wire. They used a similar technique in the other axis to swallow an object. The CUHK group are promoting this as a way to retrieve foreign objects in the body (like an accidentally swallowed button cell).
Nd magnets are made by sintering Nd2O3 or NdFeB in a strong magnetic field. Nd2O3 is available from SigmaAldrich at only slightly eye watering prices. Polyvinyl alcohol and borax are easily available. This seems like a hobbyist do-able project (Nd is toxic, use precautions).
Not too many people build their own microphones, and those who do usually build them out of materials like plastic and metal. [Frank Olson] not only loves to make microphones, but he’s also got a thing about making them from wood, with some pretty stunning results.
[Frank]’s latest build is a sorta-kinda replica of the RCA BK-5, a classic of mid-century design. Both the original and [Frank]’s homage are ribbon microphones, in which a thin strip of corrugated metal suspended between the poles of magnets acts as a transducer. But the similarities end there, as [Frank] uses stacked layers of walnut veneer as the frame of his ribbon motor. The wood pieces are cut with a vinyl cutter, stacked up, and glued into a monolithic structure using lots of cyanoacrylate glue. The video below makes it seem easy, but we can imagine getting everything stacked neatly and lined up correctly is a chore, especially when dealing with neodymium magnets. Cutting and corrugating the aluminum foil ribbon is no mean feat either, nor is properly tensioning it and making a solid electrical contact.
On second thought, [aeropic]’s mechanism isn’t really all that mechanically complicated, but there sure was a lot of planning and ingenuity that went into it. The front has a 3D-printed bezel with the familiar segment cutouts, each of which is fitted with a pivoting segment, black on one side and white on the other.
Behind the bezel is a vertical shaft with three wheels, one behind each horizontal segment, and a pair of horizontal shafts, each with two wheels behind each vertical segment. The three shafts are geared to turn together by a single stepper in the base. Each wheel has ten magnets embedded in the outer circumference, with the polarity oriented to flip the segment in front of it to the right orientation for the current digit. It’s probably something that’s most easily understood by watching the video below.
We’ve seen quite a few of these mechanical seven-segment displays lately — this cam-and-servo mechanism comes to mind. We love them all, of course, but the great thing about [aeropic]’s display is how quiet it is — the stepper is mostly silent, and the segments make only a gentle clunk when they flip. It’s very satisfying.
[Tom Stanton] is right about one thing: flywheels make excellent playthings. Whether watching a spinning top that never seems to slow down, or feeling the weird forces a gyroscope exerts, spinning things are oddly satisfying. And putting a flywheel to work as a battery makes it even cooler.
Of course, using a flywheel to store energy isn’t even close to being a new concept. But the principles [Tom] demonstrates in the video below, including the advantages of magnetically levitated bearings, are pretty cool to see all in one place. The flywheel itself is just a heavy aluminum disc on a shaft, with a pair of bearings on each side made of stacks of neodymium magnets. An additional low-friction thrust bearing at the end of the shaft keeps the systems suitably constrained, and allows the flywheel to spin for twelve minutes or more.
[Tom]’s next step was to harness some of the flywheel’s angular momentum to make electricity. He built a pair of rotors carrying more magnets, with a stator of custom-wound coils sandwiched between. A full-wave bridge rectifier and a capacitor complete the circuit and allow the flywheel to power a bunch of LEDs or even a small motor. The whole thing is nicely built and looks like a fun desk toy.
We love it when someone takes an idea they’ve seen on Hackaday and runs with it, taking it in a new and different direction. That’s pretty much what we’re here for, after all, and it’s pretty gratifying to see projects like this wooden ribbon microphone come to life.
Now, we’re not completely sure that [Maya Román] was inspired by our coverage of [Frank Olson]’s homage to the RCA Model 44 studio mic rendered in walnut veneer, but we’re going to pat ourselves on the back here anyway. The interesting thing with [Maya]’s build is that she chose completely different materials and design styles for her project. Where [Frank] built as much of his mic from wood as possible, [Maya] was fine with a mixed media approach — CNC-milled plywood for the case and stand, laser-cut acrylic for the ribbon motor frame, and 3D-printed pieces here and there as needed. The woven brass cloth used as a windscreen is a nice detail; while the whole thing looks — and sounds — great, we think it would be even better with a coat of dark stain to contrast against the brass, as well as a nice glossy coat of polyurethane.
The video below shows the whole design and build process, which was a final project for [Maya]’s audio production class this semester at college. Here’s hoping that it got as good a grade as we would give it.
Most of the hacks we see around these parts have to do with taking existing components and cobbling them together in interesting new ways. It’s less often that we see existing components gutted and repurposed, but when it happens, like with this reimagined rotary encoder, it certainly grabs our attention.
You may recall [Chris G] from his recent laser-based Asteroids game. If not you should really check it out — the build was pretty sweet. One small problem with the build was in the controls, where the off-the-shelf rotary encoder he was using didn’t have nearly enough resolution for the job. Rather than choosing a commodity replacement part, [Chris] rolled his own from the mechanical parts of the original encoder, like the shaft and panel bushing, and an AS5048A sensor board. The magnetic angle sensor has 14 bits of resolution, and with a small neodymium ring magnet glued to the bottom of the original shaft, the modified encoder offers far greater resolution than the original contact-based encoder.
The sensor breakout board is just the right size for this job; all that [Chris] needed to do to get the two pieces together was to 3D-print a small adapter. We have to admit that when we first saw this on Hackaday.io, we failed to see what the hack was — the modified part looks pretty much like a run-of-the-mill encoder. The video below shows the design and build process with a little precision rock blasting.