Ethernet For Hackers: Equipment Exploration

Last time, we talked about the surface-level details of Ethernet. They are fundamental to know for Ethernet hacking, but they’re also easy to pick up from bits and pieces online, or just from wiring up a few computers in your home network. Now, there’s also a bunch of equipment and standards that you will want to use with Ethernet – easy to find whether used or new, and typically as easy to work with. Let’s give you a few beacons!

Routers And Switches

Whenever you see a box with a few Ethernet ports, it’s either referred to as a router, or a switch, sometimes people will even use the word “hub”! Fortunately, it’s simpler than it may seem. A router is a smart device, typically with an OS, that ties two or more networks together – routing packers from one network to another, and typically taking care of things like handing out local IP addresses via DHCP. A switch merely helps Ethernet devices exchange packets between each other on the same level – it’s typically nowhere near as smart as a router gets. Oftentimes, a home router will contain a switch inside, so that you can plug in multiple of your home devices at once. That’s the main difference – a switch merely transmits packets between Ethernet-connected devices, while a router is a small computer taking care of packet forwarding between networks and possibly including an Ethernet switch on the side.
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Mega-CNC Router Carves Styrofoam Into A Full-Size Flying Delorean

When you own an enormous CNC router, you’ve got to find projects that justify it. So why not shoot for the sky — literally — and build the 1980s-est possible thing: a full-scale flying Delorean.

Attentive readers will no doubt remember [Brian Brocken] from his recent attempt to bring a welding robot out of retirement. That worked quite well, and equipped with a high-speed spindle, the giant ABB robot is now one of the biggest CNC routers we’ve ever seen. As for the flying Delorean, short of the well-known Mr. Fusion mod, [Brian] had to settle for less fictional approaches. The project is still in its early phase, but it appears that the flying car will basically be a huge quadcopter, with motors and propellers hidden under the chassis. That of course means eschewing the stainless steel of the OEM design for something lighter: expanded polystyrene foam (EPS).

The video below shows the fabrication of most of the body, which starts as large blocks of EPS and ends up as shaped panels and an unthinkable amount of dust. Individual pieces are glued together with what looks like plain old PVA adhesive. The standard Delorean “frunk” has been replaced by a louvered assembly that will act as an air intake; we presume the rear engine cover will get the same treatment. Interestingly, the weight of the finished model is almost exactly what Fusion 360 predicted based on the 3D model — a mere 13.9 kg.

[Brian] is currently thrust-testing motors and propellers and has some interesting details on that process in his write-up. There’s obviously a lot of work left on this project, and a lot more dust to be made, and we’ll be eagerly following along. Continue reading “Mega-CNC Router Carves Styrofoam Into A Full-Size Flying Delorean”

Impulse Buying A 3040 CNC Machine, What Could Go Wrong?

[joekutz] made an impulse purchase of a CNC machine. It was a 3040 CNC that looked reasonably complete and had an attractive price, what could possibly go wrong? As it happens, [joekutz] really didn’t know what he was in for. Sometimes the price is good, but you pay in other ways. But where some would see defeat, [joekutz] sees an opportunity to document the restoration.

Dial indicators are useful tools for measuring how straight some parts aren’t.

The 3040 are relatively cheap and simple CNC machines that have been available from a variety of overseas retailers for years. They have 30 cm by 40 cm beds (hence the name) and while there are many variations, they all work about the same. [joekutz] expected that getting his up and running and converted to open source would be a fun weekend project, but it ended up taking far longer than that. In fact, it turns out that the machine was damaged in surprising and unexpected ways.

[joekutz] has a series of videos demonstrating the process of diagnosing and repairing the various things wrong with this device. In the first video, he dismantles the machine and discusses the next steps. In the second video, he takes some time to repair some dial indicators that will be critical for measuring the various things wrong with the CNC parts. Video number three delves into finding out the horrible things wrong with the machine, and the fourth is where repairs begin, including bending shafts and sanding blocks back into service.

Those videos are embedded below, and while the machine isn’t quite restored yet, progress is promising. We’ve seen easy and effective upgrades for such CNC machines before, but if you happen to be in more of a repair and restore situation, give [joekutz]’s work a look because it might just save you some time and frustration.

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Adding Two Axes Makes CNC Router More Than The Sum Of Its Parts

The problem with building automated systems is that it’s hard to look at any problem and not see it in terms of possible automation solutions. Come to think of it, that’s probably less of a bug and more of a feature, but it’s easy to go overboard and automate all the things, which quickly becomes counterproductive in terms of time and money.

If you’re clever, though, a tactical automation solution can increase your process efficiency without breaking the budget. That’s where [Christopher Helmke] seems to have landed with this two-axis add-on fixture for his CNC router. The rig is designed to solve the problem of the manual modification needed to turn off-the-shelf plastic crates into enclosures for his line of modular automation components,¬†aspects of which we’ve featured before. The crates need holes drilled in them and cutouts created in their sides for displays and controls. It’s a job [Christopher] tackled before with a drill and a jigsaw, with predictable results.

To automate the job without going overboard, [Christopher] came up with a tilting turntable that fits under the bed of the CNC router and sticks through a hole in the spoil board. The turntable is a large, 3D printed herringbone gear driven by a stepper and pinion gear. A cheap bearing keeps costs down, while a quartet of planetary gears constrain the otherwise wobbly platform. The turntable also swivels 90 degrees on a herringbone sector gear; together, the setup adds pitch and roll axes to the machine that allow the spindle access to all five sides of the crates.

Was it worth the effort? Judging by the results in the video below, we’d say so, especially given the number of workpieces that [Christopher] has to process. Add in the budget-conscious construction that doesn’t sacrifice precision too much, and this one seems like a real automation win.

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Automate Away The Drudgery Of CNC Manufacturing

One of the keys to making money with manufacturing is to find something that you can make a lot of. Most small manufacturers have one or two “bread and butter” items that can be cranked out in quantity, which of course has a quality all its own. The problem with that approach, though, is that it runs the risk of being boring. And what better way to avoid that than by automating your high-volume job, with something like this automated¬† CNC work cell?

Looks like money.

[Maher Lagha] doesn’t offer too much in the way of build details, but the video below pretty much tells the tale. The high-volume items in this case are customized wooden coasters, the kind a restaurant would buy for their bar or a business would give away as swag. The small 3-axis CNC router at the center of the work cell is the perfect choice for making these — one at a time. With no desire to be tied to the machine all day to load raw stock and unload completed coasters, [Maher] came up with automated towers that hold stacks of pallets. Each pallet, which acts as a fixture for the workpiece through multiple operations, moves from the input stack into the router’s work envelope and to the output stack using a combination of servos and pneumatics. The entire work cell is about a meter on a side and contains everything needed for all the operations, including air for the pneumatics and dust extraction.

Each coaster requires two tools to complete — one for surfacing and one for lettering — and [Maher] has two ways to tackle that. The first is to allow a stack of coasters to go through the first operation, change tools, and switch the roughed-in stock back to the input stack for the second round of machining. The other is just to build another work cell dedicated to lettering, which seems to be in progress. In fact, it looks as if there’s a third work cell in the works in [Maher]’s shop. The coaster business must be pretty good.

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ADSL Router As Effects Pedal

Moore’s law might not be as immutable as we once though thought it was, as chip makers struggle to fit more and more transistors on a given area of silicon. But over the past few decades it’s been surprisingly consistent, with a lot of knock-on effects. As computers get faster, everything else related to them gets faster as well, and the junk drawer tends to fill quickly with various computer peripherals and parts that might be working fine, but just can’t keep up the pace. [Bonsembiante] had an old ADSL router that was well obsolete as a result of these changing times, but instead of tossing it, he turned it into a guitar effects pedal.

The principle behind this build is that the router is essentially a Linux machine, complete with ALSA support. Of course this means flashing a custom firmware which is not the most straightforward task, but once the sound support was added to the device, it was able to interface with a USB sound card. An additional C++ program was created which handles the actual audio received from the guitar and sound card. For this demo, [Bonsembiante] programmed a ring buffer and feeds it back into the output to achieve an echo effect, but presumably any effect or a number of effects could be programmed.

For anyone looking for the source code for the signal processing that the router is now performing, it is listed on a separate GitHub page. If you don’t have this specific model of router laying around in your parts bin, though, there are much more readily-available Linux machines that can get this job done instead.

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Dissecting A T1 Line

When it comes to internet connections, here in 2022 so many of us have it easy. Our ISP provides us with a fibre, cable, or DSL line, and we just plug in and go. It’s become ubiquitous to the extent that many customers no longer use the analogue phone line that’s so often part of the package. But before there was easy access to DSL there were leased lines, and it’s one of these that [Old VCR] is dissecting. The line in question is a T1 connection good for 1.536 Mbit/s and installed at great cost in the days before his cable provider offered reliable service, but over a decade later is now surplus to requirements. The ISP didn’t ask for their router back, so what else to do but give it the hacking treatment?

In a lengthy blog post, he takes us through the details of what a T1 line is and how it’s installed using two copper lines, before diving into the router itself. It’s an obsolete Samsung device, and as he examined the chips he found not the MIPS or ARM processors we’d expect from domestic gear of the period, but a PowerPC SoC from Freescale. Connecting to the serial port reveals it as running SNOS, or Samsung Network Operating System from an SD card, and some experimentation finds a default password reset procedure through the bootloader commands. The rest of the piece is dedicated to exploring this OS.

There was a time before the advent of the Raspberry Pi and similar cheap Linux-capable boards, that hacking a router was the way to get a cheap embedded Linux system, but now it’s much more done to liberate a router from the clutches of manufacturer and telco. Still, it’s very much still part of the common fare here at Hackaday.