Hackaday Podcast Ep004 – Taking The Blue Pill, Abusing Resistors, And Not Finding Drones

Catch up on your Hackaday with this week’s podcast. Mike and Elliot riff on the Bluepill (ST32F103 boards), blackest of black paints, hand-crafted sorting machines, a 3D printer bed leveling system that abuses some 2512 resistors, how cyborgs are going mainstream, and the need for more evidence around airport drone sightings.

Stream or download Episode 4 here, and subscribe to Hackaday on your favorite podcasting platform! You’ll find show notes after the break.

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Delta Robot Is Sorting Golf Balls And Taking Names

It’s a common situation faced by every hard-working American – you get home after a long day at the calcium mines, and find yourself stuck with a pile of colored golf balls that simply aren’t going to sort themselves. Finally, you can put away your sorting funnels and ball-handling gloves – [Anthony] has the solution.

That’s right – it’s a delta robot, tasked with the job of sorting golf balls by color. A Pixy2 object tracking camera is used to survey the table, with the delta arms twitching around to allow the camera to get an unobstructed view. Once the position of the balls is known, a bubble sort is run and the balls rearranged into their correct color order.

[Anthony] readily admits the bubble sort is very inefficient at this task; it was an intentional choice so it could be later compared with other sorting methods. [Anthony] also goes into detail, sharing the development process of the suction gripper as well as discussing damping methods to reduce noise.

Delta machines are always fun to watch, and are a good choice for sorting machines. We’ve seen some really tiny ones, too. Video after the break.

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Robot Sorts Beads by Color

If you know anyone who does crafts, they probably have a drawer with a  few million beads loose and mixed together. You’ll sort them out one day, right? Probably not. Unless, of course, you build a robot to do the dirty work for you. That’s what [Kalfalfa] did, using some Phidgets boards, a camera and Open CV. You can see a video of the cardboard machine doing its thing below.

Maybe it is because we are more electronics-minded, but we were impressed with the mechanism to grab just one bead at a time from the hopper. If you watch the video, you’ll see what we mean. However, sometimes a bead jams and a magnetic sensor figures that out so the controller can reverse a bit and try again.

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Automatic MtG Card Sorter Separates Rags from Riches

Like many of us, [Michael Portera] was an avid trading card collector as a kid. Also like many of us, life got in the way, and the collections sat ignored in boxes until our mothers threatened to get rid of them (or skipped the threat altogether and sold them at a garage sale for next to nothing).

[Michael] was recently reunited with his collection of Magic cards, which vary in value as much as baseball or any other kind of collectible card. Now that his Friday nights are otherwise occupied, he decided to sell them off. But first, he had to know how much they’re worth.

Manually sorting and pricing hundreds of cards would take longer than he’d like, so he built a sorter to automate the process. It takes a stack of MtG cards and uses servos and little tires to move them, one by one, into position. A short Python script runs the servos, tells a Raspi 3 camera take a picture of each one, and uploads it to Amazon AWS. Once the pictures are there, [Michael] uses a second script to grab the card title text from the picture and fetch the value through TCGPlayer’s pricing API.

This machine probably isn’t for purists or people with a bunch of originals and re-issues of the same card. We probably should have mentioned that he took out all the Black Lotuses and other obviously valuable cards first. Someone still has to assess the condition of each card, but at two seconds per card, it’s quite the time twister saver. Time Walk past the break to see it in action.

Tired of using dice or scratch paper for your life counter? Summon some Nixie tubes and make a cooler one.

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Sculptural Grade M&M Sorter

Sorting M&Ms is really only a major concern if you happen to be working on a Van Halen tour, but it’s a fun exercise nonetheless. It’s for this reason we see plenty of sorting projects come our way, varying from the breadboard and cardboard variety, all the way up to final university projects. Today, [Karl] has blessed us with their sculptural-grade offering, and the attention to detail is stunning.

The project has been in gestation in [Karl]’s mind, on and off, for 10 years or so. The big problem centered around reliably separating out one M&M at a time from a hopper of many. From time to time, [Karl] would speak with other builders using similar techniques to his failed experiments, who often reported that the secret to their machine’s reliability was… careful video editing. It was only when a parts sorter flashed across the Hackaday feed that [Karl] found the mechanism that would work to make his project a reality.

Now that the individual candies could readily be separated and fed through a machine, the rest of the project came together quickly. A color sensor was combined with servos and a stepper motor to duct M&Ms into separate flasks.

The real value of this build, however, is in the overall attention paid to the aesthetics of the final product. The device was built to be a kinetic sculpture, able to run reliably with the minimum of attention at the behest of even an untrained user. By carefully optimising the mechanisms inside and building an attractive enclosure, [Karl] has developed something we’d be proud to show off in a living room.

 

Punch Cards

Before the Commodore 64, the IBM PC, and even the Apple I, most computers took input data from a type of non-magnetic storage medium that is rarely used today: the punched card. These pieces of cardstock held programs, data, and pretty much everything used to run computers in the before-time. But with all of that paper floating around, how did a programmer or user keep up with everything? Enter the punch card sorter and [Ken Shirriff[‘s eloquent explanation of how these machines operate.

Card sorters work by reading information on the punched card and shuffling the cards into a series of stacks. As [Ken] explains, the cards can be run through the machine multiple times if they need to be sorted into more groups than the machine can manage during one run, using a radix sort algorithm.

The card reader that [Ken] examines in detail uses vacuum tubes and relays to handle the logical operation to handle memory and logic operations. This particular specimen is more than half a century old, rather robust, and a perfect piece for the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

It’s always interesting to go back and examine (mostly) obsolete technology. There are often some things that get lost in the shuffle (so to speak). Even today, punched cards live on in the automation world, where it’s still an efficient way of programming various robots and other equipment. Another place that it lives on is in voting machines in jurisdictions where physical votes must be cast. Hanging chads, anyone?

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Quick Candy Sorting Machine

OCD. Sometimes things just get to you, like those pesky bags of randomly assorted candies. [Torsten] decided to build a sorting machine capable of sorting Skittles or M&Ms into separate cups by color at around 80 pieces per minute. It’s a great implementation, using an Arduino Duo. He based the code on the principles of a finite-state machine, in order to make it as quick as possible.

It works as you would expect: When a candy piece is loaded, the color is determined using an RGB sensor. A 360-degree servo is used to move the chute to the proper position, and interestingly, the system preemptively releases the candy before the chute is in position in order to maximize the speed. If you watch closely, you can see this behavior in the video (embedded after the break).

[Torsten] includes a complete bill of materials, if you’d like to try it for yourself. He also included a list of possible improvements.

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