Hackaday Links: September 29, 2019

In a sure sign that we’ve arrived in the future, news from off-world is more interesting this week than Earth news. When the InSight probe landed on Mars last year, it placed the first operating magnetometer on the Red Planet. Since then, the sensitive instrument has been logging data about the planet’s magnetic field, and now there are reports that researchers have discovered a chain of pulsations in the magnetic field. Pulsations in planetary magnetic fields aren’t all that strange; pulse trains that occur only at Martian midnight are, though. Researchers haven’t got a clue yet about what this means. We assume they’ve eliminated artifacts like something on the lander being turned on at local midnight, so when they figure it out it should be fascinating.

In more news from the future, Boston Dynamics is trolling us again. We covered the announcement early this week that they’re putting their Spot quadruped robot on sale – sort of. Turns out you need to be selected to qualify based on the application you have in mind, plus have several Ferraris full of cash to spend. While everyone was watching the adorable antics of Spot as it wandered through improbably industrial vignettes, Boston Dynamics also released this slightly terrifying video of their Atlas robot running through a gymnastics routine.  It starts with a headstand and a front roll and ends with a slipt leap and whatever the gymnastics equivalent of a figure skating axel jump is. Yes, it has a special roll cage attached to make the tumbles a bit smoother, but it’s still some remarkable stuff.

How are your RF design skills? If they’re good enough to design an RF power amp, you might want to check out this homebrew RF design challenge. Put on by NXP Semiconductors, the design must use one of their new LDMOS RF power transistors. They’ll send you samples so you can build your design, and you stand to win up to $3000 plus $1000 worth of NXP products. The contest opened back in May but is running through the middle of November, so you’d better hurry.

Speaking of RF, wouldn’t it be interesting to see a snapshot of the RF spectrum over the entire planet? ElectroSense thinks so, and they’re working on a crowdsourcing model to set up a globe-spanning network of connected RF sensors. The idea is similar to what FlightAware does for monitoring the locations of aircraft with a distributed network of ADS-B receivers. But where FlightAware only monitors a narrow slice of spectrum, ElectroSense wants it all – DC to 6 GHz. You can build a sensor from an SDR and a Raspberry Pi and start contributing to the effort, which only has a handful of sensors at the moment.

Has affordable metal 3D-printing finally arrived? For certain values of affordability, it soon will, when One Click Metal launches their new selective laser melting printer. Thomas Sanladerer did a video with the principals, and the prototype looks promising. SLM is not a new process, but patents on the core process recently ran out, so startups like One Click Metal are jumping into the market. Their printer won’t be cheap — you’ll still need to write a check with many zeroes — but with more players, the price should come down.

And finally, what’s this world coming to when a startup specializing in building giant fighting robots can’t make a go of it? MegaBots is shutting down, and while that’s certainly bad news for its founders and employees, it’s great news for anyone in the market for used battle bots. The company’s flagship bot, the 15-ton Eagle Prime, is currently up for auction on eBay. Bidding started at $1 with no reserve, but if you were looking for a steal, you’re a bit late. The high bid is currently $100,100, which is still an incredible buy considering it cost $2.5 million to build. You’ll have to pay for shipping, but you’ll have a super-destructive mecha of your own to drive around. And think how cool you’ll look rolling into some kid’s backyard birthday party. Presumably one you’ve been invited to.

Codename Colossus: The HMC Boudicca

[Michael Sng], founder of [Machination Studio], wanted to create a toy line unlike anything the world has seen.  He has recently completed the first production prototype in the Codename Colossus toy line: the HMC Boudicca. The egg-shaped HMC Boudicca is tank-like with a definite Metal Slug vibe, but it’s almost a disservice calling it a toy.

The HMC Boudicca is over 20″ tall. It is composed of over 400 parts, a majority of which are 3D-printed or laser-cut. Internal parts are FDM while the external pieces are SLS printed. It is a kinetic piece that walks in a hexapodal fashion, so there are lots of servos, motors, sensors, and LEDs, that are controlled by an Arduino. A lot of work and attention to detail was put into this prototype. The HMC Boudicca was designed to be easily disassembled with a Phillips screwdriver. The electronic components are all plug-in devices, so no soldering is required when it comes time to replace a sensor or servo.

Codename Colossus is a toy line that is made to order and intended to be artisanal in nature. Each piece will be individually hand-painted and assembled like the HMC Boudicca. While no official prices are posted yet on the site, we assume these are not going to be cheap. In fact, the site states that each piece will have a 2% markup from the previously sold price to help maintain the value of the pieces and control cost inflation. This could be a source of contention for potential buyers. It underscores [Michael’s] philosophy that Codename Colossus is meant to be a collectible work of art, an antithesis to mass production.

Regardless of the business strategy, we are interested in seeing any additional designs for this series. It would be fun to see a whole bunch of these marching as one robot army!

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The FrankenCamera: Digitizing Old School Film Into Something New

After being awarded a generous sum of money from a scholarship fund, [Ollie] decided to utilize some of the cash to convert an analog camera into a device that could store photos onto an SD card. The result was this FrankenCamera that was pieced together from multiple electronic parts to create a new photograph-taking machine.

The Konica Auto S3 rangefinder was chosen due to its stellar fixed 38mm f1.8 lens and unobtrusive internal leaf shutter. A Sony NEX-5 was dismantled and the components were removed and transplanted into the Konica Auto S3. This included a circuit board, SD card slot, and battery connector.

The housing for the electronics was 3D printed from CAD files that were developed in SolidWorks. Designs were sent to a company in London who did the actual SLS printing.

Once completed, the camera operated just like any digital camera, but with the added twist of knowing that it was created from an old school camera frame with new electronic parts, making it a nice hacked together work of functional art.

Videos of the working FrankenCamera can be seen below:

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