Shop-Made Pneumatic Cylinders From PVC And Plywood

You see a lot of pneumatic actuators in industrial automation, and for good reason. They’re simple, powerful, reliable, and above all, cheap. Online sources and fluid-power suppliers carry a bewildering range of actuators, so why would anyone bother to make their own pneumatic cylinders? Because while the commercial stuff is cheap, it’s not PVC and plywood cheap.

Granted, that’s not the only reason [Izzy Swan] gives for his DIY single-acting cylinder. For him it’s more about having the flexibility to make exactly what he needs in terms of size and shape. And given how ridiculously easy these cylinders are, you can make a ton of them for pennies. The cylinder itself is common Schedule 40 PVC pipe with plywood endcaps, all held together with threaded rod. [Izzy] cut the endcaps with a CNC router, but a band saw or jig saw would do as well. The piston is a plywood plug mounted to a long bolt; [Izzy] gambled a little by cutting the groove for the O-ring with a table saw, but no fingers were lost. The cylinder uses a cheap bungee as a return spring, but an internal compression spring would work too,. Adding a second air inlet to make the cylinder double-acting would be possible as well. The video below shows the cylinder in action as a jig clamp.

True, the valves are the most expensive part of a pneumatic system, but if nothing else, being able to say you made your own cylinders is a win. And maybe you’ll get the fluid-power bug and want to work up to DIY hydraulics.

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Fridge Alarm Speaks, and Saves Power & Food

One of the most power-hungry devices in our homes, besides the air conditioner or heater, is our refrigerator and freezer. It’s especially so if the door doesn’t close all the way or the magnetic seal doesn’t seat properly. [Javier] took to solving a recurring problem with his personal fridge by attaching an alarm to the door to make sure that it doesn’t consume any more power than it absolutely needs.

At its core the device is straightforward. A micro switch powers a small microcontroller only when the door is open. If the door is open for too long, the microcontroller swings into action. The device then powers up a small wireless card (which looks like a variant of the very well-documented ESP module), that communicates with his microwave of all things, which in turn alerts him with an audible, spoken alarm that the refrigerator hasn’t closed all the way. It’s all powered with a battery that will eventually need to be recharged.

While there are certainly easier ways to implement an alarm, the use of the spoken alarm is a nice touch for this project, and the power savings that can be realized are not insignificant. There’s also the added benefit that [Javier] can prevent his freezer from frosting over. If you’re in the mood for other great fridge hacks, there are other exciting, novel, and surely one-of-a-kind ways to trick out your refrigerator.

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Pneumatic Origami

Odds are that if you’ve been to the beach or gone camping or somewhere in between, you are familiar with inflatable products like air mattresses. It’s nothing spectacular to see a rectangle inflate into a thicker, more comfortable rectangle, but what if your air mattress inflated into the shape of a crane?

We’ve seen similar ideas in quadcopters and robots using more mechanical means, but this is method uses air instead. To make this possible, the [Tangible Media Group] out of [MIT’s Media Lab] have developed aeroMorph — a program that allows the user to design inflatable constructs from paper, plastic or fabric with careful placement of a few folding joints.

These designs are exported and imprinted onto the medium by a cartesian coordinate robot using a heat-sealing attachment. Different channels allow the medium to fold in multiple directions depending on where the air is flowing, so this is a bit more complicated than, say, a bouncy castle. That, and it’s not often you see paper folding itself. Check it out!

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Custom Hydraulic Cylinders from Off-the-Shelf Components

When your project needs power, you might need to turn to hydraulics. There is a lot of mystery about fluid power, but there is also a huge supply chain devoted to getting you the parts you need to power your project. Off-the-shelf components may not fit your application though, in which case it might be handy to know how to build your own custom hydraulic cylinders.

While it’s true that custom cylinder builds are pretty common, it’s still interesting to see the process [MakeItExtreme] used. Starting with an off-the-shelf piston and gland, this double-acting cylinder build is a pretty straightforward exercise in machining. The cylinder is threaded at the rod end and a cap is welded onto the piston end. Threaded bosses for fittings are welded on, the business end of the rod is threaded, and everything is assembled. The cylinder turned out to be pretty powerful as the video below shows.

As a product of the prolific team at [MakeItExtreme], we can tell this cylinder is destined for another even more interesting build. It’s hard to guess where this one will end up, but we’ll bet it ends up in another tool in their shop. Maybe it end up powering a beefed-up version of their recent roll bender.

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This robot will school you at freethrows

People spend years of their lives practicing on the courts to get the kind of accuracy that this robot achieves. It is able to shoot freethrows thanks to stereoscopic camera analysis of the target. We know what you’re thinking; big deal, it knows the distances which makes the calculations easy. That’s not the case, look a bit closer in the image above. The basket itself is mounted on a robotic platform and creates a randomly moving target. It looks like shots are only taken when the basket is stationary. But still, that means the system is able to calculate accurate throws when the basket is not only at varying distances, but also when it is not directly in front and not square to the arm of the robot. The accuracy relies on analyzing the square on the backboard of the basket. Because two cameras give different perspectives, edge and corner detection of both images allow the system to extrapolate the location of the target.

After the fold there’s a video of this robot being demonstrated to the public. Apparently the yellow-armed-monster isn’t suitable for public consumption because the developers have covered it with the body of a plush seal.

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