Hackaday Links: February 28, 2021

In an announcement that came as a surprise to few, NASA now says that landing humans on the Moon by 2024 is no longer likely. Acting administrator Steve Jurczyk lays the blame at the feet of Congress, for failing to provide the funds needed for Human Landing Systems development, a critical step needed to meet the aggressive overall timeline. The announcement doesn’t mark the end of the Artemis program; in fact, NASA is continuing to work on a realistic timeline for getting boots back on the lunar surface, and a decision on which of the three submitted proposals for a lunar lander will be further developed should be coming in the next few months. As far as we can see, this is simply an adjustment to the original timeline for a landing, but given the stunning recent success of Perseverance showing just what robots can do, we’d expect pushback from some quarters on the need for human exploration.

The entry-level 3D design market was thrown into considerable turmoil last year when Autodesk changed the licensing terms for its flagship Fusion 360 package. Hobbyists who had been enjoying relatively unfettered access to the powerful suite chafed at the new restrictions, leaving many to threaten to jump ship, apparently without much thought given to the dearth of alternative products. That may be changing now that Dassault Systèmes has announced two new versions of SolidWorks aimed at the maker and student segments. The Makers offer is intended for hobbyists who want to design for benchtop manufacturing methods like 3D-printing. The Students offer is aimed at engineering and design students looking to gain experience with the tools they’ll be expected to have mastered by the time they enter the job market. It looks like the Makers offer will be at least partly contingent on the interest expressed by the community, so you might want to make your feeling know on the subject. If the Makers edition comes to pass in the second half of this year, it will likely target a $99/year price point.

We stumbled upon an interesting YouTube series the other day that stirred the creative juices. We all probably remember the first time we learned about the Mandelbrot set, the fractal number set that looks something like a lumpy kidney bean and continues to do so no matter how far you zoom into it. The image may be complex but the math behind it is simple enough to implement in software that it’s often done as an exercise for CS students and other unfortunates. But implementing a Mandelbrot set generator in logic is possible too, which WildEngineering did in this video series. Rather than implement this as discrete logic gates, he used a neat logic simulator called Digital, which looks like a handy tool to learn all by itself. The Mandelbrot generator concepts are really instructive too, and it sure seems like the next logical step would be to gather the needed 74xx-series chips and start breadboarding. We’d love to give it a whirl ourselves, but won’t be heartbroken if someone beats us to it.

If it sometimes appears that we at Hackaday get a little frustrated with the comments section of the articles we write, rest assured that we know that we have the best readers on the planet, hands down. Where the toxicity of other corners of the Internet is often unbearable, our readers truly do make this a fabulously collaborative environment, on the whole.

In fact, some commenters even go so far as to basically write their own articles in response to one of ours, and when that happens we like to point it out. The article that spawned the effort was Kristina Panos’ excellent “What If I Never Make Version Two?”, a recent piece that dips a toe into the psychology of hacking. Peter Walsh picks up on the theme with his Hackaday.io page entitled “The Psychology of Version Two”, which we really enjoyed. After a brief look at the neurochemistry of happiness, Peter dives into some “brain hacks” to assess the need for a version 2. There are some great tips, and we really enjoyed both the original article and Peter’s response.

Miles The Spider Robot

Who doesn’t love robotic spiders? Today’s biomimetic robot comes in the form of Miles, the quadruped spider robot from [_Robox].

Miles uses twelve servos to control its motion, three on each of its legs, and also includes a standard HC-SR04 ultrasonic distance sensor for some obstacle avoidance capabilities. Twelve servos can use quite a bit of power, so [_Robox_] had to power Miles with six LM7805 ICs to get sufficient current. [_Robox_] laser cut acrylic sheets for Miles’s body but mentions that 3D printing would work as well.

Miles uses inverse kinematics to get around, which we’ve seen in a previous project and is a pretty popular technique for controlling robotic motion. The Instructable is a little light on the details, but the source code is something to take a look at. In addition to simply moving around [_Robox_] developed code to make Miles dance, wave, and take a bow. That’s sure to be a hit at your next virtual show-and-tell.

By now you’re saying “wait, spiders have eight legs”, and of course you’re right. But that’s an awful lot of servos. Anyway, if you’d rather 3D print your four-legged spider, we have a suggestion.

Hackaday Links: CES Is Over

CES is over, and once again we have proof technology does not improve our lives. Here’s the takeaway from the @internetofshit. There’s a garbage can where you can drop your DNA sample. This is obviously not a Bay Area startup, because they just leave DNA samples on the sidewalk there. The ‘smart cooler’ market is heating up (literally) with a cooler that’s also a grill. Someone duct taped an air filter to a roomba, so your air filter can go to where all the dirty air is in your house. Internet of Rubik’s Cubes. The world’s first autonomous shower made an appearance. Now you can take a shower over the Internet. What a time to be alive.

Need some more bad news from CES? We have more proof the entire tech industry is astonishingly sexist. How so? Well, VR sex simulators can win best of show. That’s a given, obviously. But a ‘smart’ sex toy designed by and for women was selected for a CES 2019 Innovation Award in the Robotics and Drone category. This award was given, then rescinded, by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) because it was, ‘immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with the CTA’s image’. We presume they mean the latter, but we’re not sure.

Sometimes, though, there are actual engineers behind some of the gadgets on display at CES. Bell (yes, the aerospace company) unveiled the Bell Nexus, a five-seat VTOL ‘taxi’ powered by six ducted fans. These fans are powered by a hybrid electric power system. We assume a turboshaft connected to a generator powering electric motors. Most interestingly, speculation is that this will be the vehicle Uber’s Elevate air taxi program. This initiative by Uber intends to turn a random parking lot in LA into the busiest airport in the world. This is what the official marketing material from Uber says, I am not making this up, and it’s beyond stupid. You know what, just have Uber buy the Santa Monica airport, close it down, and turn it into an air taxi hub. This is the dumbest and funniest possible future imaginable.

Okay, CES is terrible, but here’s something for you. You can get a free ‘maker license’ of Solidworks. Just go here and enter promo code ‘918MAKER’. This info comes from reddit.

The Impossible Project was founded in 2008 as an initiative to remanufacture Polaroid film and refurbish cameras. The project was a rousing success with many supporters. It is a beacon of hope for anyone who wants to keep obsolete formats alive. Now, another format will live on. MacEffects, a company (or eBay store) in Indiana is remanufacturing color ribbons for Apple ImageWriter II printers. The ImageWriter II was the dot-matrix printer in your elementary school’s computer lab if you’re in the Oregon Trail generation, and yes, it could print color pictures. It could print very high-quality color pictures. The problem is getting color ribbons, and now you can get new ones. We’re very interested in seeing the art that can be made with a color ribbon in an ImageWriter, so if you have a portfolio, send it on in. If you have an ImageWriter, try to print something. It’s a serial printer, not a parallel printer.

3D Printing Brings A Child’s Imagination To Life

Telling somebody that you’re going to make their dreams come true is a bold, and potentially kind of creepy, claim. But it’s one of those things that isn’t supposed to be taken literally; it doesn’t mean that you’re actually going to peer into their memories, extract an idea, and then manifest it into reality. That’s just crazy talk, it’s a figure of speech.

Original sketch of the CURV II

As it turns out, there’s at least one person out there who didn’t get the memo. Remembering how his father always told him about the elaborate drawings of submarines and rockets he did as a young boy, [Ronald] decided to 3D print a model of one of them as a gift. Securing his father’s old sketchpad, he paged through until he found a particularly well-developed idea of a personal sub called the CURV II.

The final result looks so incredible that we hear rumors manly tears may have been shed at the unveiling. As a general rule you should avoid making your parents cry, but if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it in style.

Considering that his father was coming up with detailed schematics for submarines in his pre-teen days, it’s probably no surprise [Ronald] has turned out to be a rather accomplished maker himself. He took the original designs and started working on a slightly more refined version of the CURV II in SolidWorks. Not only did he create a faithful re-imagining of his father’s design, he even went as far as adding an interior as well as functional details such as the rear hatch. Continue reading “3D Printing Brings A Child’s Imagination To Life”

The White Rabbit Nixie Clock

Instructables user [hellboy] — a recent convert to the ways of the laser cutter — is a longtime admirer of Nixie tubes. In melding these two joys, he has been able to design and build this gorgeous work of art: The White Rabbit Nixie Clock.

Going into this build, [hellboy] was concerned over the lifespan of the tubes, and so needed to be able to turn them off when not needed. Discarding their original idea of having the clock open with servos, [hellboy]’s clock opens by pressing down on a bar and is closed by snapping the lid shut — albeit slightly more complicated than your average timepiece. Given the intricacy of the mechanism, he had to run through numerous prototypes — testing, tweaking and scrapping parts along the way.

With the power of steam-bending, [hellboy] lovingly moulded walnut planks and a sundry list of other types of wood to define the ‘rabbit’ appearance of the mechanism, and the other parts of the clock’s case. Once again, designing the clock around a row of six pivoting Nixie tubes was no mean feat — especially, as [hellboy] points out, when twenty or so wires need to rotate with them! After a few attempts, the Nixie tubes, their 3mm blue LEDs and associated wires were properly seated.

Continue reading “The White Rabbit Nixie Clock”

See This Slick RC Strandbeest Zip Around

Bevel gears used to mount motors vertically.

Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest design is a favorite and for good reason; the gliding gait is mesmerizing and this RC version by [tosjduenfs] is wonderful to behold. Back in 2015 the project first appeared on Thingiverse, and was quietly updated last year with a zip file containing the full assembly details.

All Strandbeest projects — especially steerable ones — are notable because building one is never a matter of simply scaling parts up or down. For one thing, the classic Strandbeest design doesn’t provide any means of steering. Also, while motorizing the system is simple in concept it’s less so in practice; there’s no obvious or convenient spot to actually mount a motor in a Strandbeest. In this project bevel gears are used to mount the motors vertically in a central area, and the left and right sides are driven independently like a tank. A motor driver that accepts RC signals allows the use of an off the shelf RC transmitter and receiver to control the unit. There is a wonderful video of the machine zipping around smoothly, embedded below.

Continue reading “See This Slick RC Strandbeest Zip Around”

Disco Flashlight Binary Analog Clock?

As multitools have lots of different functions in one case, so [Shadwan’s] clock design incorporates a multitude of features. He started the design as a binary clock using a Fibonacci spiral for the shape. However, the finished clock has four modes. The original binary clock, an analog clock, a flashlight (all lights on), and a disco mode that strobes multiple lights.

[Shadwan] used Rhino to model the case and then produced it using a laser cutter. The brains are — small wonder — an Arduino. A 3D-printed bracket holds everything together. You can see the result in the video below.

Continue reading “Disco Flashlight Binary Analog Clock?”