Hitting the electronic surplus shop is probably old hat to most of our readership. Somewhere, everyone’s got that little festering pile of hardware they’re definitely going to use some day. An old fax is one thing, but how would your partner feel if you took home an entire pallet-sized gene sequencing rig? Our friend [kaspar] sent along an interesting note that the folks at Swiss hackerspace Hackteria got their hands on an Illumina HiSeq 2000 last year (see funny “look what we got!” photo at top) and have generated a huge amount of open documentation about whats inside and how to use it.
Okay first off, what the heck is this machine anyway? The HiSeq is designed to automatically perform the sequencing step of Illumina’s proprietary multi step gene sequencing process (see manufacturer’s glossy for more), and to do so with minimal human intervention. That means that the unit contains a microfluidics system to manipulate samples, an extremely high performance optical scan system complete with controllable stage, imager, fluorescence modes, etc, and lots of other things this author isn’t sufficiently trained to guess at.
The folks at Hackteria have done a pretty thorough teardown of the system and produced block diagrams of most of its modules. They’ve also run some of the tools and recorded logs of what they were up to, including the serial commands sent to and from the machine to control certain subsystems. Of course a tool like this was meant to be driven by Illumina’s specific software, but unusually those are available and surprisingly usable which is how the aforementioned logs were captured. Right now it looks like Hackteria has put together tools to use the system as a fluorescent microscope.
Oddly the most interesting thing here might be how available these systems are. It appears that they’re being replaced en masse and have become easily available in the range of thousands of dollars on the secondary market. At that price point they’re almost worth snapping up for the enclosure and parts! But we prefer Hackteria’s goal of enabling the Citizen Scientist to make use of these incredible machines for their intended purpose. Who knows what exciting projects we’ll find when hackers start sequencing their cats!
Thanks for the tip [kaspar]!
Whenever [MakerMan] hits our tip line with one of his creations, we know it’s going to be something special. His projects are almost exclusively built using scrap and salvaged components, and really serve as a reminder of what’s possible if you’re willing to open your mind a bit. Whether done out of thrift or necessity, he proves the old adage that one man’s trash is often another’s treasure.
We’ve come to expect mainly practical builds from [MakerMan], so the beautiful ceiling light which he refers to as a “Kinetic Chandelier”, is something of a change of pace. The computer controlled light is able to fold itself up like an umbrella while delivering a pleasing diffuse LED glow. He tells us it’s a prototype he’s building on commission for a client, and we’re going to go out on a limb and say he’s going to have a very satisfied customer with this one.
Like all of his builds, the Kinetic Chandelier is almost entirely built out of repurposed components. The support rods are rusty and bent when he found them, but after cutting them down to size and hitting them with a coat of spray paint you’d never suspect they weren’t purpose-made. The light’s “hub” is cut out of a chunk of steel with an angle grinder, and uses bits of bike chain for a flexible linkage.
Perhaps most impressive is his DIY capstan which is used to raise and lower the center of the light. [MakerMan] turns down an aluminum pulley on a lathe to fit the beefy gear motor, and then pairs that with a few idler pulleys held in place with bits of rebar welded together. It looks like something out of Mad Max, but it gets the job done.
Finally, he salvages the LED panels out of a couple of cheap work lights and welds up some more rebar to mount them to the capstan at the appropriate angle. This gives the light an impressive internal glow without a clear source when viewed from below, and really gives it an otherworldly appearance.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a hacker put together their own chandelier, or even the first time we’ve seen it done with scrap parts. But what [MakerMan] has put together here may well be the most objectively attractive one we’ve seen so far.
Continue reading “Beautiful Moving Origami Light Made from Scrap”
For hackers, cheap (and arguably disposable) consumer hardware makes for a ready supply of free or low-cost components. When you can walk into a big box store and pick up a new low-end laptop for $150, how many are going to spend the money to repair or upgrade the one they have now? So the old ones go to the bin, or get sold online for parts. From an ecological standpoint our disposable society is terrible, but at least we get some tech bargains out of the deal.
Case in point, the dirt cheap 32 GB eMMC SSDs [Jason Gin] recently scored. Used by Hewlett Packard on their line of budget laptops, he was able to snap up some of these custom drives for only $12 each. Only problem was, since they were designed for a very specific market and use case, they aren’t exactly the kind of thing you can just slap in your computer’s drive bay. He had to do some reverse engineering to figure out how to talk to them, and then some impressive fine-pitch soldering to get them plugged in, but in the end he got some very handy drives for an exceptionally low price.
[Jason] starts by figuring out the drive’s pinout using the cornerstone of the hacker’s electronic toolkit: the multimeter. By putting one lead on an obvious ground point such as the PCB’s screw holes, you can work through the pins on the connector and make some educated guesses as to what’s what. Ground pins will read as a short, but the meter should read power and data pins as a forward-biased diode. With a rough idea of the pin’s identities and some luck, he was able to figure out that it was basically a standard SATA connection in a different form factor.
To actually hook it up to his computer, he pulled the PCB off of a dead SATA hard drive, cut it down to size, and was able to use fine magnet wire to attach the conductors in the drive’s ribbon cable to the appropriate pads. He sealed everything up with a healthy dose of hot glue to make sure it didn’t pull loose, and then ran some drive diagnostics on his cobbled together SSD to make sure it was behaving properly. [Jason] reports the drive isn’t exactly a speed demon, but given the low cost and decent performance he still thinks it’s worth the work to use them for testing out different operating systems and the like.
[Jason] seems to have something of an obsession with eMMC hacking. Last time we heard from him, he was bringing a cheap Windows tablet back from the dead by replacing its shot eMMC chip.
It might not be obvious unless you’ve taken one apart, but most of the TVs and monitors listed as “LED” are simply LCD panels that use a bank of LEDs to illuminate them from behind. Similarly, what are generally referred to as “LCDs” are LCD panels that use fluorescent tubes for illumination. To get a true LED display with no separate backlight, you need OLED. Confused? Welcome to the world of consumer technology.
With those distinctions in mind, the hack that [Zenodilodon] recently performed on a broken “LED TV” is really rather brilliant. By removing the dead white LED backlights and replacing them with RGB LED strips, he not only got the TV working again, but also imbued it with color changing abilities. Perfect for displaying music visualizations, or kicking your next film night into high gear with a really trippy showing of Seven Samurai.
In the video after the break, [Zenodilodon] starts his RGB transplant by stripping the TV down to its principal parts. The original LEDs were toasted, so they might as well go straight in the bin alongside their driver electronics. But the LCD panel itself was working fine (tested by shining a laser pointer through it to see if there was an image), and the plastic sheets which diffuse the LED backlight were easily salvaged.
With the old LEDs removed, [Zenodilodon] laid out his new strips and soldered them up to the external controller. He was careful to use all white wires, as he was worried colored wires might reflect the white light and be noticeable on the display. After buttoning the TV back up, he went through a few demonstrations to show how the image looked with the white LEDs on, as well as some interesting effects that could be seen when the LEDs are cycling through colors.
The RGB strips don’t light up the display as well as the original backlight did, as there are some obvious dark spots and you can see some horizontal lines where the strips are. But [Zenodilodon] says the effect isn’t too bad in real-life, and considering it was a cheap TV the image quality was probably never that great to begin with.
On the flip side, if you find an LED TV or monitor in the trash with a cracked screen, it might be worth taking it home to salvage its super-bright white LEDs for your lighting projects.
Continue reading “Trashed TV Gets RGB LED Backlight”
It seems as if everyone has finally decided to stop pretending that standing in front of a desk for 8+ hours was something anyone actually wanted to do, and once again embrace the classic adjustable office chair. But whether you’re writing code in a cubicle or are one of those people who apparently makes a living by having people watch them play video games, one thing is certain: your chair needs to be cool enough to make up for the years shaved off your life by sitting in it all day.
Case in point, these chairs that were made out of seats salvaged from a Porsche 996 by [Colby Newman]. You might never be able to afford the car they came out of on your salary, but at least you can pretend you’re power shifting into fifth while doing your TPS reports.
The first step, and arguably the most important one, was getting the seats from a Porsche. [Colby] wisely cautions the reader that they should avoid seats with air bags, as the last thing you want is your chair to explode while you’re streaming Fortnite. This is especially true if you are looking to salvage the seats yourself from the junkyard, as special care needs to be taken on how you remove them from the vehicle.
Assuming you got the seat without blowing yourself up, the next step is to mate it to the adjustable base. This part is going to depend on the make and model of vehicle you got the seats out of, but in this case it was fairly easy to use some flat steel bars to adapt the tubular frame of the Porsche’s seat to the base from the donor office chair. [Colby] put everything together with nuts and bolts, but this could potentially be an excuse to drag out the welder.
We’ve previously seen the driver seat salvaged from a wrecked car for use in a simulator, and a standard office chair upgraded with force feedback. We wonder who will be the first to combine all these ideas into one ultimate office racing chair…
Spinners built into games of chance like roulette or tabletop board games stop on a random number after being given a good spin. There is no trick, but they eventually rest because of friction, no matter how hard your siblings wind up for a game-winning turn. What if the spinning continued forever and there was no programming because there was no controller? [Ludic Science] shows us his method of making a perpetual spinner with nothing fancier than a scrapped hard disk drive motor and a transformer. His video can also be seen below the break.
Fair warning: this involves mains power. The brushless motor inside a hard disk drive relies on three-phase current of varying frequencies, but the power coming off a single transformer is going to be single-phase AC at fifty or sixty Hz. This simplifies things considerably, but we lose the self-starting ability of the motor and direction control, but we call those features in our perpetual spinner. With two missing phases, our brushless motor limps along in whatever direction we initiate, but the circuit couldn’t be much more straightforward.
This is just the latest skill on a scrapped HDD motor’s résumé (CV). They will run with a 9V battery, or work backwards and become an encoder. If you want to use it more like the manufacturer’s intent, consider this controller.
Continue reading “Scrapped Motors Don’t Care About Direction”
It may not be the typical fare that we like to feature, but you can’t say this one isn’t a hack. It’s a camp trailer fashioned from the back half of a wrecked Honda Civic, and it’s a pretty unique project.
We don’t know about other parts of the world, but a common “rural American engineering” project is to turn the bed and rear axle of an old pickup truck into a trailer. [monickingbird]’s hacked Civic is similar to these builds, but with much more refinement. Taking advantage of the intact and already appointed passenger compartment of a 1997 Civic that had a really bad day, [monickingbird] started by lopping off as much of the front end as possible. Front fenders, the engine, transmission, and the remains of the front suspension and axle all fell victim to grinder, drill, and air chisel. Once everything in front of the firewall was amputated, the problem of making the trailer safely towable was tackled. Unlike the aforementioned pickup trailers, the Civic lacks a separate frame, so [monickingbird] had to devise a way to persuade the original unibody frame members to accept his custom trailer tongue assembly. Once roadworthy, the aesthetics were tackled — replacing the original interior with a sleeping area, installing electrics and sound, and a nice paint job. Other drivers may think the towing vehicle is being seriously tailgated, but it seems like a comfy and classy way to camp.
Now that the trailer is on the road, what to do with all those spare Civic parts? Sure, there’s eBay, but how about a nice PC case featuring a dashboard gauge cluster?