Thunder Pack Is A Bolt Of Lightning For Wearables

Do you need portable power that packs a punch? Sure you do, especially if you want to light up the night by mummifying yourself with a ton of LED strips. You aren’t limited to that, of course, but it’s what we pictured when we read about [Jeremy]’s Thunder Pack. With four PWM channels at 2.3 A each, why not go nuts? [Jeremy] has already proven the Thunder Pack out by putting it through its paces all week at Burning Man.

Click to embiggen!

After a few iterations, [Jeremy] has landed on the STM32 microcontroller family and is currently working to upgrade to one with enough flash memory to run CircuitPython.

The original version was designed to run on a single 18650 cell, but [Jeremy] now has three boards that support similar but smaller rechargeable cells for projects that don’t need quite as much power.

We love how small and powerful this is, and the dongle hole is a great touch because it opens up options for building it into a wearable. [Jeremy] made a fantastic pinout diagram and has a ton of code examples in the repo. If you want to wade into the waters of wearables, let whimsical wearables wizard [Angela Sheehan] walk you through the waves.

A Smart Controller For Your DIY UV Cure Box

Resin 3D printers are finally cheap enough that peons like us can finally buy them without skipping too many meals, and what means we’re starting to see more and more of them in the hands of hackers. But to get good results you’ll also want a machine to cure the prints with UV light; an added expense compared to more traditional FDM printers. Of course you could always build one yourself to try and save some money.

An earlier prototype build of the interface.

To that end, [sjm4306] is working on a very impressive controller for all your homebrew UV curing needs. The device is designed to work with cheap UV strip lights that can easily be sourced online, and all you need to bring to the table is a suitable enclosure to install them in. Here he’s using a metal paint can with a lid to keep from burning his eyes out, but we imagine the good readers of Hackaday could come up with something slightly more substantial while still taking the necessary precautions to not cook the only set of eyes you’ll ever have.

Of course, the enclosure isn’t what this project is really about. The focus here is on a general purpose controller, and it looks like [sjm4306] has really gone the extra mile with this one. Using a common OLED display module, the controller provides a very concise and professional graphical user interface for setting parameters such as light intensity and cure time. While the part is cooking, there’s even a nice little progress bar which makes it easy to see how much time is left even if you’re across the room.

At this point we’ve seen a number of hacked together UV cure boxes, but many of them skip the controller and just run the lights full time. That’s fine for a quick and dirty build, but we think a controller like this one could help turn a simple hack into a proper tool.

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Tool Writes Your PWM Code For You

The good thing about computers is they do your work for you, right? If you are a programmer, that doesn’t always seem to be a true statement. [Runtimemicro] has the answer, at least if you are writing PWM code for the Arduino. Their free application lets you set a few parameters, visually see the results, and then generates code for you. You can see a video of the tool in operation, below.

According to their site, the tool works for timers 1 through 5 on an Arduino Nano, Uno, or Mega2560. The app appears to work on Windows, but it doesn’t look like it would have any trouble running under Wine on other platforms.

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Flicker Detector Lets You Hear What You Can’t See

Have you ever looked at modern LED lighting and noticed, perhaps on the very edge of your perception, that they seemed to be flickering? Well, that’s because they probably are. As are the LEDs in your computer monitor, or your phone’s screen. Pulse width modulation (PWM) is used extensively with LEDs to provide brightness control, and if it’s not done well, it can lead to headaches and eyestrain.

Looking to quantify just how much flashing light we’re being exposed to, [Faransky] has created a simple little gadget that essentially converts flashing light into an audio tone the human ear can pick up. Those LEDs might be blinking on and off fast enough to fool our eyes, but your ears can hear frequencies much higher than those used in common PWM solutions. In the video after the break, you can see what various LED light sources sound like when using the device.

The electronics here are exceptionally simple. Just connect a small solar panel to an audio amplifier, in this case the PAM8403, and listen to the output. To make it a bit more convenient to use, there’s an internal battery, charger circuit and USB-C port; but you could just as easily run the thing off of a 9 V alkaline if you wanted to build one from what’s already in the parts bin.

Who knows? If you carry this thing around long enough, you might even hear the far less common binary code modulation in action (but probably not).

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OpenDog: Adding Force Sensitive Feet

[James Bruton] OpenDog remains one of the most impressive home-built robotics projects we’ve seen here on Hackaday, and it’s a gift that just keeps on giving. This time he’s working on adding force sensing capabilities to OpenDog’s legs to allow for more dynamic movement control.

The actuators in the legs are three-phase outrunner motors that drive ball-screws via a belt. This configuration is non-backdrivable, meaning the legs cannot be moved when an external force is, which could lead to mechanical failures. He as tested other backdrivable leg configurations with other robots, but did not want to rebuild OpenDog completely. The solution [James] went with is a redesigned foot with an inbuilt switch, to confirm that the foot is touching the ground, and a load cell attached in the middle of the bottom leg segment. The load cell is bolted rigidly onto the leg segment, which allows it to sense when the leg is carrying load, without damaging the load cell itself.

Unfortunately all the serial ports on OpenDog’s main Teensy 3.6 controller are already used, so he converted the signal from the load cell to PWM, to allow it to be read by a normal GPIO pin. This works well in isolation, but when [James] switches on the motors, the PWM signal from the load sensor gets flooded by interference, making it unreadable. To solve this problem, he wants to implement a CAN bus, which will allow for more inputs and outputs and hopefully solve the interference problem. However, [James] has no experience with the CAN protocol, so learning to use it is going to be a project on its own.

OpenDog is turning into a very lengthy, time-consuming project, [James] says that the lessons learned from it have been invaluable for a number of other projects. This is something to keep in mind with everything we tackle. Choose projects were the experience gained and/or relationships developed are worth it on their own, even when the project fails in a conventional sense. This way you can never really lose.

Proprietary Fan Blows, Gets PWM Upgrade

Proprietary components are the bane of anyone who dares to try and repair their own hardware. Nonstandard sizes, lack of labeling or documentation, and unavailable spare parts are all par for the course. [Jason] was unlucky enough to have an older Dell computer with a broken, and proprietary, cooling fan on it and had to make some interesting modifications to replace it.

The original fan had three wires and was controlled thermostatically, meaning that a small thermistor would speed up the the fan as the temperature increased. Of course, the standard way of controlling CPU fans these days is with PWM, so he built a circuit which essentially converts the PWM signal from the motherboard into a phantom thermistor. It’s even more impressive that it was able to be done with little more than a MOSFET and a Zener diode.

Unfortunately, there was a catch. The circuit only works one way, meaning the fan speed doesn’t get reported to the motherboard and the operating system thinks the fan has failed. But [Jason] simply disabled the warning and washed his hands of that problem. If you don’t want to use a CPU fan at all, you can always just dunk your entire computer in mineral oil.

Beat The Streets With This Text Spraying Robot

In the midst of striking for climate change awareness, you may need some extra hands. That’s what [Anred Zynch] thought when they built Strettexter, the text-spraying writing robot that sprays onto streets.

The machine is loaded with 8 spray cans placed into a wooden box (a stop line with a wooden ledge to prevent the cans from falling out) and is fixed on top of a skateboard. It uses a PWN/Servo shield soldered onto an Arduino Uno connected to 8 servo motors (TowerPro SG90s) to control each of the spray bottles. A table converts every character into 5×8 bit fonts to fit the size of the spraying module. The device also includes a safety switch, as well as an encoder for measuring the horizontal distance traveled.

The Strettexter is activated by pulling on the skateboard once it’s been set up and connected to power (for portability, it uses a 8000mAh power bank). In its current configuration, the words stretch out pretty long, but some additional testing will probably lead to better results depending on the constraints of your canvas. The shorter the words, the more difficult it is for the white text to be legible, since there is significant spacing between printed bits.

We don’t condone public vandalism, so use this hack at your own discretion.

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