SV Seeker Is Recycling Batteries

SV Seeker is a home-made boat currently being built by [Doug Jackson] just north of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s a bit different than what you might imagine as a typical DIY boat, though. You see, Seeker is a 75 ft steel boat, intended to work as a research vessel. Doug and his crew proudly refer to Seeker as “The boat the internet built”, and he’s our kind of people. We’ve covered them before, the first time way back in 2013. Doug’s Youtube channel does double duty, both teaching the rest of us all the skills he’s learned while building, and also serving as the eventual user and repair manual for the boat.
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DIY Bread Slice Paper Goes Against The Grain

It’s the dead of winter here in the northern hemisphere, and between the pandemic and the polar vortex, we’re getting pretty tired of staring at the same four walls and eating incessantly. It’s the perfect recipe for trying something new and low-calorie, like baking a loaf of bread-shaped note paper from the stuff in the recycling bin.

[SusanLand] likes to make paper out of whatever discarded things she has on hand, including old jeans. When she tried making paper out of nothing but toilet paper tubes, it didn’t work so well, but it gave her an idea for cooking up some offbeat stationery.  She beefed up the pulp with shredded office paper and corn starch, and dialed in the whole wheat hue with a pinch of yellow and orange paper. Once the pulp was ready, she poured it into bread-shaped molds made from a plastic milk jug.

This tidy introduction to making your own paper covers everything from pulping techniques to drying methods. Once the slices are dry, [SusanLand] embellishes them with a scoring tool, colored pencils, and a handful of seeds to complete the look. Check out that process in the videos after the break.

Don’t want to make paper out of your paper? Use it to weigh your car, or fold up a fleet of airplanes.

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When Appliance Hackers Hit The Music Scene

The art-music-technology collective “Electronicos Fantasticos!” (commonly known as Nicos) is the brain child of artist/musician [Ei Wada] in Japan. They revive old, retired and out-dated electrical appliances as new “electro-magnetic musical instruments” creating not just new ways to play music, but one that also involves the listener as a musician, gradually forming an interactive orchestra. They do this by creatively using the original functions of appliances like televisions and fans, hacking them in interesting ways to produce sound. The project started in the beginning of 2015, leading to the creation of a collaborative team — Nicos Orchest-Lab — around the end of that year. They have since appeared in concerts, including a performance at “Ars Electronica”, the world’s largest media arts festival in 2019.

For us hackers, the interesting bits can be found in the repository of their Work, describing sketchy but tantalising details of the musical instruments. Here are a few of the more interesting ones, but do check out their website for more amazing instruments and a lot of entertaining videos.

CRT-TV Gamelan – A percussion instrument made from old CRT monitors. Coloured stripes projected on the screen cause changes in static-electricity picked up by the players hands, which then propagates to an electrical coil attached to their foot. This signal is then patched to a guitar amplifier.

Electric Fan Harp – They take out the fan blade, and replace it with a “coded disk” containing punched holes. Then they shine a bulb from under the rotating disk, and the interrupted light is picked up by an optical receiver held by the player. Controlling the fan speed and the location of the receiver pickup, they can coax the fan to produce music – based on the idea “What if Jimi Hendrix, the god of electric guitars, played electric fans as instruments?”

Barcoder – This one is quite simple but produces amazing results, especially when you pair up with another Barcoder musician. The output of the barcode reader is pretty much directly converted to sound – just wave the wand over printed barcode sheets. And it works amazingly well when pointed at striped shirts too. Check out the very entertaining videos of this gizmo. This led to the creation of the Barcodress – a coded dress which creates an interactive music and dance performance.

 

The Striped Shirtsizer

Striped Shirtsizer – This one is a great hack and a synth with a twist. A camera picks up video signals, which is then fed to the “Audio” input of an amplifier directly. In the video on the project page, [Ei Wada] explains how he accidentally discovered this effect when he wrongly plugged the “yellow” video out connector to the audio input of his guitar amplifier. At an outdoor location, a bunch of people wearing striped shirts then become an interactive musician-audience performance.

The Kankisenthizer

Kankisenthizer a.k.a Exhaust Fancillator  – This one consists of an array of industrial exhaust fans – although one could just as well use smaller instrument cooling fans. On one side is a bright light, and on the other a small solar cell. Light fluctuations picked up by the solar cell are then fed to the guitar amplifier. The array consists of fans with different numbers of blades. This, coupled with changing the fan speed, results in some amazing sound effects.

There’s a whole bunch more, and even though the “instructions” to replicate the instruments aren’t well documented, there’s enough for anyone who’s interested to start experimenting.

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The X-PC, A Stylish Re-Imagining Of An Old Laptop

There’s one certainty wherever schoolchildren come into contact with computers: the hardware will inevitably emerge worse for the encounter. The school laptops managed by [Neil Lambert] certainly suffered, losing keys and power supplies aplenty. Faced with a pile of broken machines, he came up with the X-PC, a stylish all-in-one desktop computer built around the innards of a laptop.

Inside a modern laptop there is surprisingly little in the way of parts, now that removable media drives are largely a thing of the past and once the battery has been removed from the equation. When the keyboard and trackpad are subtracted and replaced with USB equivalents the inner workings are reduced to a relatively compact motherboard and hard drive alongside the screen.

The screen is encased in a lasercut frame that also mounts the motherboard. It includes a lasercut cover that folds over the top in a living hinge to create an A-frame case that also holds the power supply. As an extra bonus the centre of the A provides handy storage for a keyboard.

Most of us will have encountered enough older laptops with broken parts to recognise the value in this build, seeing how it can transform junk into a useful machine. This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone try a similar build.

The Dark Side Of Solar Power

Everybody loves solar power, right? It’s nice, clean, renewable energy that’s available pretty much everywhere the sun shines. If only the panels weren’t so expensive. Even better, solar is now the cheapest form of electricity for companies to build, according to the International Energy Agency. But solar isn’t all apples and sunshine — there’s a dark side you might not know about. Manufacturing solar panels is a dirty process from start to finish. Mining quartz for silicon causes the lung disease silicosis, and the production of solar cells uses a lot of energy, water, and toxic chemicals.

The other issue is that solar cells have a guanteed life expectancy of about 25 years, with average efficiency losses of 0.5% per year. If replacement begins after 25 years, time is running out for all the panels that were installed during the early 2000s boom. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) projects that by 2050, we’ll be looking at 78 million metric tons of bulky e-waste. The IREA also believe that we’ll be generating six million metric tons of new solar e-waste every year by then, too. Unfortunately, there are hardly any measures in place to recycle solar panels, at least in the US.

How are solar panels made, anyway? And why is it so hard to recycle them? Let’s shed some light on the subject.

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From Trash PPE To New PPE

As the coronavirus pandemic circles the world, a fact of daily life for millions of people has become the wearing of a face mask. Some people sport colorful fabric masks, but for many, this means the ubiquitous Chinese disposable mask. They have become the litter of our time, which as [blorgggg] notes is something that shouldn’t have to be the case. Their plastic can be recycled and made into other useful things, for example, ear savers similar to the ones many of us were 3D printing earlier in the year.

As you might imagine diving into a pile of used masks can be a little unhygienic, so the first step is to disinfect with alcohol. Then the various layers can be separated and the outer polypropylene ones collected and stacked between baking parchment to be melted on a skillet. The result is a polypropylene sheet that can be laser cut if it is thick enough, and from this are cut the ear savers. It’s not quite as neat a cut as the acrylic sheet we may be used to, but it’s adequate for the task.

While on the subject of masks, earlier in the year we presented a series in whose first part we dissected a selection.

School Project Turns Plastic Waste Into Bricks

Many plastics are, in theory at least, highly recyclable. Unfortunately, in reality, most plastic ends up as waste instead, harming the environment and providing no ongoing value to society. Wanting to investigate possible ways to repurpose this material, [Rehaan33] built a rig to create bricks out of waste plastic for a school project.

The aim of the project is to take waste plastic, in this case high-impact polystyrene, and reform it into a brick that could be used as a low-cost building material. The material is shredded, before being packed into a steel mould and heated to 270 degrees in an oven. As polystyrene is a thermoplastic, it can readily be heated in this way for reforming without harming the material’s properties. Once heated, the mould is placed into the press rig, which uses parts of an old drill press to force down a steel plate, helping shape the final form of the brick.

While you’re unlikely to see old soda bottles used to build a skyscraper in New York any time soon, such techniques could be a good way to help eliminate plastic waste in impoverished areas and stem the flow of plastic into the world’s oceans. The project served as a useful learning experience, allowing [Rehaan33] to pick up skills in metalworking, machine design, and working with thermoplastics. Recycling plastics is a key area of interest for many, particularly in the 3D printing space, with many exploring ways to reuse thermoplastics in more efficient ways. If you’ve got your own project turning waste plastics into useful material, be sure to let us know!