Quality Control, Done Anywhere

Modern society has brought us all kinds of wonders, including rapid intercontinental travel, easy information access, and decreased costs for most consumer goods thanks to numerous supply chains. When those supply chains break down as a result of a natural disaster or other emergency, however, the disaster’s effects can be compounded without access to necessary supplies. That’s the focus of Field Ready, a nonprofit that sets up small-scale manufacturing in places without access to supply chains, or whose access has been recently disrupted.

As part of this year’s Hackaday Prize, a each of our four nonprofit partners outline specific needs that became the targets of a design and build challenge. Field Ready was one of those nonprofits, and for the challenge they focused on quality control for their distributed manufacturing system. We took a look at Field Ready back in June to explore some of the unique challenges associated with their work, which included customers potentially not knowing that a product they procured came from Field Ready in the first place, leading to very little feedback on the performance of the products and nowhere to turn when replacements are needed.

The challenge was met by a dream team whose members each received a $6,000 microgrant to work full time on the project. The’ve just made their report on an easier way of tracking all of the products produced, and identifying them even for those not in the organization. As a result, Field Ready has a much improved manufacturing and supply process which allows them to gather more data and get better feedback from users of their equipment. Join us after the break for a closer look at the system and to watch the team’s presentation video.

Continue reading “Quality Control, Done Anywhere”

Clock Is Not Readable By Humans

Not every build needs to be immediately useful or revolutionary. Plenty of builds are just for fun, for education, or even purposefully useless but still challenging. This clock, for example, might fit into all three categories. It’s a clock that displays time through a QR code, making it completely inscrutable unless you have a device which likely has its own readable clock on it already.

The QR Code clock comes to us from [Aaron] and is based on the now-ubiquitous ESP32 WiFi chip. The ESP32 is connected to a 64×64 LED matrix which is updated every second with a code for the current time. With single-second resolution that means that even with a method for reading a QR code by hand, like you sometimes can with barcodes, there’s no way to read it without a smartphone since it changes so rapidly.

Of course [Aaron] recognizes the flaw in his design in his video in which he notes tongue-in-cheek that with this clock you would never have to look at a smartphone again, since the clock is right there on the wall. We appreciate the humor and also that [Aaron] has made all of his source code available in case you would like to use this as an example project for using QR codes for more useful purposes. For now, though, we’ll just forward you along to some other useless machines.

Thanks to [willmore] for the tip!

Continue reading “Clock Is Not Readable By Humans”

Fitting Snake Into A QR Code

QR codes are usually associated with ASCII text like URLs or serial numbers, but did you know you can also encode binary data into them? To demonstrate this concept, [MattKC] embarked on a journey to create a QR code that holds an executable version of Snake. Video after the break.

As you might expect, the version 40 QR code he ended up using is much larger than the ones you normally see. Consisting of a 171 by 171 grid, it’s the largest version that can still be read by most software. This gave [MattKC] a whopping 2,953 bytes to work with. Not a lot of space, but still bigger than some classic video games of the past.

To start, he first wrote Snake to run in a web browser using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which was able to fit in the available space. Modern browsers do a lot of the lifting with built-in features, and [MattKC] wanted more of a challenge, so he decided to instead create a Windows executable file. His first attempts with compiled C code were too large, which led down the rabbit trail of x86 Assembly. Here he found that his knowledge of Assembly was too limited to create a small enough program without investing months into the project. He went back to C and managed to compress his executable using Crinkler, a compressing linker commonly used in the demoscene. This shrunk the file down to 1,478 bytes.

Zbar, a command-line barcode reader for Windows was used to test the final Snake QR code. [MattKC] discovered a bug in Zbarcam that prevented it from reading binary data via a webcam input, so through the power of open source, he submitted a bug fix which is now integrated into the official release.

All the files are available for anyone to play with on [MattKC]’s website. The video below goes into a lot of detail on the entire journey. Since this project proves software can be embedded in QR codes, it means that malware could also be hidden in a QR code, if there is an exploitable bug somewhere in a smartphone QR reader app.

QR codes are an interesting tool with a variety of uses. Take a deep dive into how they work, generate a 3D printable version, or build a QR jukebox, if you want to learn more.

Continue reading “Fitting Snake Into A QR Code”

Hands On With A Batteryless E-Paper Display

E-paper displays are unusual in that power is only needed during a screen update. Once the display’s contents have been set, no power whatsoever is required to maintain the image. That’s pretty nifty. By making the display driver board communicate wirelessly over near-field communication (NFC) — which also provides a small amount of power — it is possible for this device to be both wireless and without any power source of its own. In a way, the technology required to do this has existed for some time, but the company Waveshare Electronics has recently made easy to use options available for sale. I ordered one of their 2.9 inch battery-less NFC displays to see how it acts.

Continue reading “Hands On With A Batteryless E-Paper Display”

Warm Up To Cooking With A Recipe-Randomizing Toaster

Did you get a thermal printer when they were hot stuff, but then your interest cooled when you couldn’t decide what to do with it? Something similar happened to [Sunyecz22], and the poor printer sat unused until that magical day when the perfect use for it popped up — a random recipe receiver in the form of a toaster.

[Sunyecz22] was tired of searching for recipes every week before going to the grocery store. Between the millions of recipe options on the internet and the 1000-word essays that precede them all, the process was like a part-time job. Now all they have to do is push the little lever down and wait for a recipe to get toasted into some thermal paper. It doesn’t print the full recipe, only the essentials, and we love that. You get the name, the prep time, a rating, and a QR code that links to the recipe page.

This toaster runs on a Raspberry Pi Zero W that fetches recipes using the Spoonacular API and sends the deets to the printer. The lever makes use of some old pen springs to activate a limit switch and start the recipe-getting process. We think it would be extra cool if it stayed down until the recipe popped up. Butter your way past the break to see a short demo video.

We must say, this toaster is way more helpful than the talkie toaster from Red Dwarf.

Continue reading “Warm Up To Cooking With A Recipe-Randomizing Toaster”

Divvy Out The Crypto With This Physical Bitcoin Faucet

For those unfamiliar with the term, a “Bitcoin Faucet” is usually used as an incentive in software that wants your attention. Complete a captcha or look at and advertisement and you get one millionth of a BTC, that sort of thing. You’re never going to get rich off of one of them, but most people aren’t going to turn down free money either. The latest project from [TJ Bruno] follows that same concept and brings it into the physical world. But you still aren’t going to get rich off of it.

The hardware used for this corporeal Bitcoin Faucet is pretty simple. All you need is a Raspberry Pi, a camera module, and a 2.8″ touch LCD. Naturally you could use a larger screen if you wanted, but then it wouldn’t fit inside of the very slick 3D printed stand that [TJ] developed. We might consider upgrading to a slightly speedier Pi though, in the demonstration video it looks like the Zero is struggling pretty hard to handle the GUI.

Using the Faucet is straightforward enough. You tap the screen and place a QR code representing your Bitcoin wallet on the device’s tray, where it’s scanned by the camera. In a few seconds the Faucet shows a QR code on its own screen that will point your phone’s browser to the transaction details so you can verify your digital coinage is on the way.

You might be wondering why you’d want to have a device that sits there waiting to pay out fractions of a BTC to anyone who’s willing to flash their wallet at it. We’re not entirely sure, though it might make for an interesting way to raise awareness about cryptocurrency. In this particular case though, [TJ] says he was just looking for a project that would give him an excuse to hone his Python skills. Nothing wrong with that around these parts.

Watching the growth of cryptocurrency from our unique vantage point, we can see how the hacker’s interest in Bitcoin as changed over the years. Where we once saw people excited about building custom mining rigs, we now see counters that tick down as the last coins are put into circulation. Looking at projects like this, it seems hackers are happy enough to just give the things away in an interesting way.

Generate 3D Printable QR Codes With This Web Tool

Since most people are carrying a camera-equipped computer in their pockets these days, QR codes can be a great way to easily share short snippets of information. You can put one on your business card so people can quickly access your contact information, or on your living room wall with your network’s SSID and encryption key. The design of QR codes also make them well suited to 3D printing, and thanks to a new web-based tool, you can generate your own custom STL in seconds.

Created by [Felix Stein], the website provides an easy to use interface for the many options possible with QR codes. Obviously you have full control over the actual content of the code, be it a simple URL or a something more specific like a pre-formatted SMS message. But you can also tweak physical parameters like size and thickness.

Once you’re happy with the 3D preview, you can have the website generate an STL for either single or multi-extrusion printers. For those of us who are puttering along with single extruder machines, you’ll need to swap the filament color at the appropriate layer manually. With so many variables involved, you’ll also need figure out which layer the swap should happen on your own.

Incidentally, this is an excellent example of where STL leaves something to be desired. When using a format like 3MF, color and material information could be baked right into the model. Once opened in a sufficiently modern slicer, all the tricky bits would automatically sorted out. Or at least, that’s what Prusa Research is hoping for.