Print Chess Pieces, Then Defeat The Chess-Playing Printer

Chess is undoubtedly a game of the mind. Sadly, some of the nuances are lost when you play on a computer screen. When a game is tactile, it carries a different gravity. Look at a poker player shuffling chips, and you’ll see that when a physical object is on the line, you play for keeps. [Matou], who is no stranger to 3D printing, wanted that tactility, but he didn’t stop at 3D printed pieces. He made parts to transform his Creality Ender 3 Pro into a chess-playing robot.

To convert his printer, [Matou] designed a kit that fits over the print head to turn a hotend into a cool gripper. The extruder motor now pulls a string to close the claw, which is a darn clever way to repurpose the mechanism. A webcam watches the action, while machine vision determines what the player is doing, then queries a chess AI, and sends the next move to OctoPrint on a connected RasPi. If two people had similar setups, it should be no trouble to play tactile chess from opposite ends of the globe.

Physical chess pieces and computers have mixed for a while and probably claimed equal time for design and gameplay. There are a couple of approaches to automating movement from lifting like [Matou], or you can keep them in contact with the board and move them from below.

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Retrofitting USB-C To An IPod Nano

Some hacks serve a critical need, while others are just for the challenge or fun of it. We suspect the latter was the real reason [David Buchanan] converted a first generation iPod Nano from its original 30 pin connector to USB-C.

USB-C mounted

[David] bought the iPod with a dead battery, so when he opened the iPod to get the old battery out, he noticed there was enough space to fit a USB-C connector. The original Apple 30 pin connector runs USB 2.0 through four of the pins, so [David] used the original USB cable and identified the appropriate pins and traces with a continuity tester. The connector was destructively removed with side cutters, ripping off all but one of the pads in the process. A hot air station might have made things easier, but we assume he did not have one on hand. The USB-C connector was scavenged from a cheap USC-C to USB Micro adaptor and mounted by soldering the housing directly to the PCB’s ground plane. The three remaining terminals were soldered to the traces with enamel wire.

With the new battery installed, [David] confirmed that both charging and data transfer worked. The IC that handles the button and scroll pad interfered slightly with the new connector, so he filed away some of the IC’s excess. Any open pads close to the new connector was covered with Kapton tape to avoid shorts. The large hole in the enclosure for the 30 pin connection was partly filled in with five-minute epoxy. The final assembled product looks almost factory produced and works as it’s supposed to, so we call this a win.

Retrofitting USB-C connectors in various electronic devices has become a popular hack over the past two years. We’ve seen it done on everything from Thinkpads to soldering irons. Continue reading “Retrofitting USB-C To An IPod Nano”

Measure 1024 Times, Cut Once

Typically, someone’s first venture into coding doesn’t get a lot of attention. Then again, most people don’t program a CNC table saw right out of the gate. [Jeremy Fielding] wasn’t enticed with “Blink” or “Hello, world,” and took the path less traveled. He tackled I/O, UX, and motion in a single project, which we would equate to climbing K2 as a way to get into hiking. The Python code was over 500 lines, so we feel comfortable calling him an over-achiever.

The project started after he replaced the fence on his saw and wondered if he could automate it, and that was his jumping-on point, but he didn’t stop there. He automated the blade height and angle with stepper motors, so the only feedback is limit switches to keep it from running into itself. The brains are a Raspberry Pi that uses the GPIO for everything. There is a manual mode so he can use the hand cranks to make adjustments like an ordinary saw, but he loses tracking there. His engineering background shines through in his spartan touchscreen application and robust 3D model. The built-in calculator is a nice touch, and pulling the calculations directly to a motion axis field is clever.

We’ve covered [Jeremy]’s DIY dynamometer and look forward to whatever he builds next. Until then, check out a light-duty approach to CNC that cuts foam in two-and-a-half dimensions.

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You Bring It, This Blings It: Retrofitting A Hot Foil Stamping Machine

Hot foil stamping is a method often used to embellish and emboss premium print media. It’s used on things like letterhead and wedding invitations to add a touch of luxury. The operation is actually quite simple, where a custom die is heated, pressed into a heat transfer foil, and then transferred on to the print media. Some of the very first manuscripts used gold leaf embossing to decorate intricate calligraphy. You can also see it often used to decorate the sides of religious texts.

Professional foil stamping machines are often pricey and the cheaper ones you can get from eBay are usually poorly made. [Lindsay Wilson] found this out when he purchased a low-cost hot foil stamping machine that was too difficult to use reliably. It got shelved for years until he had another hot foil stamping project. This time he was prepared. He took the machine apart and robust-ified it by attaching it to a heavy-duty arbor press. He also retrofit the heating assembly with his own temperature controller to improve the accuracy for the foils he wanted to use.

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Retro Flip Clock Gets A Retrofit

Retro tech is almost always ripe for the hacking — be it nostalgia, an educational teardown, or acknowledging and preserving the shoulders upon which we stand. Coming across an old West-German built flip clock, YouTuber [Aaron Christophel] retrofitted the device while retaining its original mechanical components!

No modern electronics are complete without LEDs of some kind, so he has included a strip in the base of the clock face for visibility and cool factor. He doesn’t speak to the state of the clock beforehand, but he was able to keep the moving bits of the clock working for its second shot at life.

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Not So Simple LED Upgrade For Microscope

[Amen] obtained a microscope whose light source was an incandescent bulb, but the light from it seemed awfully dim even at its brightest setting. Rather than hunt down a replacement, he decided to replace the bulb with a 1W LED mounted on a metal cylinder. The retrofit was successful, but there were numerous constraints on his work that complicated things. The original bulb and the LED replacement differed not just in shape and size, but also in electrical requirements. The bulb was also part of an assembly that used a two-pronged plug off to the side for power. In the end, [Amen] used 3D printing, a bit of metal work, and a bridge rectifier on some stripboard to successfully replace his microscope’s incandescent bulb assembly with an LED. He even used a lathe to make connector pins that mated properly with the microscope’s proprietary power connector, so that the LED unit could be a drop-in module.

Working on existing equipment always puts constraints on one’s work, usually due to space limitations, but sometimes also proprietary signals. For example, a common issue when refitting a projector with an LED is to discover that the projector expects a stock bulb, and refuses to boot up without one. Happily, the microscope didn’t care much about the bulb itself, and with the LED positioned in roughly the same position as the original bulb’s filament [Amen] obtained smooth and even lighting across the field of view with no changes made to the microscope itself.

Converting Film Camera To Digital The Hard Way

[Robin] is a hobby photographer with some very nice old film camera gear. But who has the money or patience for developing film these days? (Well, lots of people, especially artists, but that’s a different Hackaday article.) So to update his old gear without breaking the bank, he glommed a Sony Nex digital camera onto the back of a nice old Nikon, and documented the process for us.

A friend of mine once said, “never underestimate what a good engineer can do with a file and patience.” [Robin]’s hack essentially consists of grinding the Sony’s CMOS sensor to fit exactly where the film plane would be in the old Nikon. For him, this meant relocating the IR filter glass, because it wouldn’t fit with the shutter, and then slowly and accurately trimming down the edges of the CMOS sensor’s retaining frame until it was just right.

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