Putting More Tech Into More Hands: The Robin Hoods of Hackaday Prize

Many different projects started with the same thought: “That’s really expensive… I wonder if I could build my own for less.” Success is rewarded with satisfaction on top of the money saved, but true hacker heroes share their work so that others can build their own as well. We are happy to recognize such generosity with the Hackaday Prize [Robinhood] achievement.

Achievements are a new addition to our Hackaday Prize, running in parallel with our existing judging and rewards process. Achievements are a way for us to shower recognition and fame upon creators who demonstrate what we appreciate from our community.

Fortunately there is no requirement to steal from the rich to unlock our [Robinhood] achievement, it’s enough to give away fruits of price-reduction labor. And unlocking an achievement does not affect a project’s standings in the challenges, so some of these creators will still collect coveted awards. The list of projects that have unlocked the [Robinhood] achievement will continue to grow as the Hackaday Prize progresses, check back regularly to see the latest additions!

In the meantime, let’s look at a few notable examples that have already made the list:

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CalClock Keeps You Tied To The Mast

Now that most of what we do revolves around our phones and/or the internet, it’s nearly impossible to take a short break from work to check the ol’ calendar without being lured by the sirens on the shore of social media. Well, [samvanhook] was tired of being drawn in when all he really needs is a vague idea of what’s coming up for him in the next 12 hours. Enter the CalClock.

Thanks to color-coded segments, [sam] can tell at a glance if he has something coming up soon in Google Calendar, or if he can dive back into work. When nothing is scheduled, the segments are simply unlit.

We love the mid-century minimal look and craftsmanship of CalClock. This beauty runs on a Raspi Zero W, which fetches the 411 through the gooCal API and lights up the appropriate NeoPixels arrayed behind standard clock movement-driven hands.  [sam] could have diffused the NeoPixels with a single sheet of acrylic, but he went the extra mile to route and sand little acrylic ice cubes for all 24 segments.

Want more control of your day? [sam] took the time to upload both the clock face model and the code so you can. If you need help just getting started each day, check out this calendar-polling Raspi alarm clock.

DIY Scrap Guitar Really Shreds

[Keith Decent] recently got himself involved in a plywood challenge, and decided to make a single-pickup electric guitar. Since he is a prolific hoarder of scrap wood, the result is a lovely stack of laminates from many sources, including reclaimed cabinet doors. Really though, the wood is just the beginning—nearly every piece of this texture-rich axe started life as something else.

He’s made a cigar box guitar before, but never a bona fide solid-body electric. As you might guess, he learned quite a bit in the process. [Keith] opted for a neck-through design instead of bolting one on and using a truss rod. The face pieces are cut from his old bench top, which has a unique topology thanks to several years of paint, glue, and other character-building ingredients.

We love the geometric inlay [Keith] made for the pick guard, and the fact that he used an offcut from the process as a floating bridge. He also made his own pickup from bolts, an old folding rule, and reclaimed magnet wire from discarded wall wart transformers. Once he routed out the body and installed the electronics, [Keith] cut up an old painting he’d done on plywood to use as the back panel. Our only complaint about this beautiful guitar is that he didn’t design the back piece to be dinosaur side out. Shred past the break to give her a listen.

[Keith] wound his pickup with a little help from a drill, but a DIY pickup winder might have caused him less grief.

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This Dust Collector Will Blow You Away.

As [Marius Hornberger] was working in his woodshop, a thunderous bang suddenly rocked the space. A brief search revealed the blower for the dust collector had shifted several inches despite being stoutly fastened down. Turns out, the blower had blown itself up when one of the impeller fins came loose. Time to revise and build a bigger, better dust collector!

[Hornberger] is thorough in describing his process, the video series chronicles where he went astray in his original design and how he’s gone about improving on those elements. For instance, the original impeller had six fins which meant fewer points to bear the operating stresses as well as producing an occasionally uncomfortable drone. MDF wasn’t an ideal material choice here either, contributing to the failure of the part.

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The End of the Candy Rainbow

About a decade ago [Windell Oskay] and [Lenore Edman] spun out of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories to work on CandyFab, an inexpensive 3D printer that used sugar as its medium. Wondering what happened to CandyFab? It’s been nearly that long since we last wrote about their work and Maker technology has moved on; nowadays 3D printers run the gamut from very inexpensive to production ready. The CandyFab project and nascent company are now shuttered, but there is a epilogue with some interesting lessons.

The CandyFab 6000

First of all, the saga of the CandyFab series of printers (above on the same page) is worth a read. Some of what these machines were capable of is still quite impressive by modern standards. Sure your Monoprice Mini Delta may be easy to use, fully assembled, functional when you take it out of the box, and quiet. But what if you need to print something up to 8.5″ x 11″ x 17″? The CandyFab 5000 can do that. Or even a humongous 24″ x 13.5″ x 9″? The CandyFab 4000 can do it, and for a measly $37 (if you printed a solid cube exactly the size of the build volume)! Sugar may have downsides but it’s still a pretty clever medium for some uses.

CandyFab credits the rise of MakerBot coupled with the complexity of iterating from a pile of “surplus junk” (their words) to something kitable. Reading their post-mortem brings to mind familiar problems from today’s hardware world. A spike of fantastic early publicity lead to the need to handle press while rapidly iterating from the aforementioned surplus parts to a reliable and manufacturable design. Then the complexity of balancing a day job and other side projects with the prospect of CandyFab as a business. Ultimately the need for the project in the first place (accessible inexpensive 3D printers) was alleviated by the market and the project came to a graceful close.

Give the post a read, we’re sure you’ll learn something!

A Plywood Laptop For Your Raspberry Pi

[Rory Johnson] writes in to tell us about PlyTop Shell, a Creative Commons licensed design for a laser cut wooden laptop that he’s been working on since 2016. It’s designed to accommodate the Raspberry Pi (or other similarly sized SBCs), and aims to provide the builder with a completely customizable mobile computer. He’s got a limited run of the PlyTop up for sale currently, but if you’ve got the necessary equipment, you can start building yours while you wait for that new Pi 3B+ to arrive.

Originally [Rory] was working on a 3D printed design, but quickly ran into problems. The vast majority of 3D printers don’t have nearly the build volume to print out a laptop case in one shot, so the design needed to be broken up into multiple smaller pieces and then grafted together into the final case. Not only did this take a long time and a lot of material, but the final result had the rather unfortunate appearance of a plastic quilt.

Eventually he got hooked up with a maker collective in Minneapolis that had a laser cutter, and the PlyTop was born. There’s still a 3D printed component in the design that goes in the screen hinge, but the rest of the PlyTop is cut out of a three 2′ x 4′ sheets of 1/8″ Baltic birch plywood. As you might expect, plenty of fasteners are required, but [Rory] has a complete Bill of Materials (complete with purchase links) for everything you’ll need to turn the cut pieces into a fully fledged laptop. He’s considering selling kits in the future, but is still working on the logistics.

In keeping with the idea of complete flexibility, there’s no defined layout for the internals of the PlyTop. Rather, there’s an array of star-shaped openings on the bottom plate that allow the builder to connect hardware components up in whatever way works for them. [Rory] actually suggests just holding everything down with zip ties to allow for ease of tinkering.

He’s also come up with a list of suggested hardware for the keyboard, touchpad, and display; but those are really just suggestions. The design is open enough that it shouldn’t take much work to adapt to whatever gear you’ve got laying around.

Of course, this isn’t the first open source laptop we’ve seen here at Hackaday. It isn’t even the first wooden one. But we love the lines of the PlyTop and the focus on complete customization.

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Motorized Mini Excavator Rises From Sheets of Plywood

Fathers of Hackaday, we’ve got bad news — you’ve been out-fathered. Behold the mechanism of your undoing: a working miniature excavator, executed in plywood.

To be fair, the rules of the game have changed lately. Time was when a nipper would ask for the impossible, and we dads would never have to deliver. But with CNC routers, 3D-printing, and industrial-grade CAD software you can use for free, the possibility hurdle is getting ever shorter. Still, when his son put in this request, [Alex Lovegrove] really delivered. Everything on this excavator works, from tracks to boom to bucket. There are hundreds of parts, mostly machined from plywood but with a smattering of 3D-printed gears and brackets. The tracks and slew gear are powered by gear motors, while linear actuators stand in for hydraulic rams on the boom. The videos below show the machine under test and the unbearable cuteness of it being loved.

Hacker parents need not despair, of course. There’s plenty of room left for your imagination to run amok. For inspiration, check out this working railway system, or any of the several backyard roller coasters we’ve featured.

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