Some design choices on manufacturing equipment really leave you scratching your head for a while, as recently happened to [Chris Cecil] when the belt on a reflow oven’s conveyer snapped. Although the solution seems simple enough, getting a new belt on the thing would involve essentially taking the entire machine apart, before reassembling it again. Thus the frayed belt went through the oven over and over until during a recent production run of Smoothieboard controller boards until [Chris] heard a funny noise and the conveyer ground to a halt.
Moving the conveyer by hand kind of worked, but with a more permanent fix urgently needed to finish the production run, two stepper motors took the place of the belt, which just left driving these steppers to keep the conveyer moving in sync. Lacking a simple Arduino board to toss at it, and with a Smoothieboard being absolute overkill, [Chris] figured that a humble NE555 timer IC ought to do the job just as well.
Using a project on Hackaday.io by [KushagraK7] as the starting point, and a 1992-vintage NE555 IC harvested from an old project, [Chris] managed to put together a basic stepper driver that uses the NE555 to provide the timing signal. In addition to restoring basic functionality like starting and stopping the conveyer belt, [Chris] added a new feature with the reversing of the conveyer direction. Along with some cobbled together components to physically rotate the conveyer’s two rollers, it restored the reflow oven to working condition.
And one day the prototyped driver board will be updated to a proper PCB. It’s only temporary, after all :)
Continue reading “Fixing A Reflow Oven’s Conveyer Belt With An NE555 And Stepper Motors” →
That big grandfather clock in the library might be an impressive piece of mechanical ingenuity, and an even better example of fine cabinetry, but we’d expect that the accuracy of a pendulum timepiece would be limited to a sizable fraction of a minute per day. Unless, of course, you work at CERN and built “the most accurate pendulum clock on the planet.”
While we’re in no position to judge [Daniel Valuch]’s claim, we’re certainly inclined to believe him, mainly because the 1950s-era Czechoslovakian pendulum clock his project was based on, the Elektročas HH3, was built specifically as a master clock for labs, power plants, and broadcast use. The pendulum of this mid-century beauty is made of the alloy invar, selected for its exceptionally low coefficient of thermal expansion. This ensures the pendulum doesn’t change length with temperature, but it still only brings the clock into the 0.1 second/day range.
Clearly that’s not good enough for a clock at CERN, the European Laboratory for Nuclear Research, where [Daniel] works as an RF engineer. With access to a 10-MHz timebase from a cesium fountain atomic clock — no less a clock than the one that’s used to define the SI second, by the way — [Daniel] looked for ways to sync the clock up to it. Now, we know what you’re thinking — he must have used some kind of PLL to give an electromagnetic “kick” to the bob to trim the pendulum’s period. Good guess on the PLL, but the trimming method is a little cruder — [Daniel] uses a stepper motor attached to the clock’s frame to pay out or retract a length of fine chain into a cardboard dish attached to the pendulum’s rod. The change in mass changes the pendulum’s center of gravity, which changes its effective length, and allows the clock to be tuned a couple of seconds per day.
It seems like [Daniel] is claiming that his chain-corrected clock won’t drift more than a second from the cesium clock for 158 million years. Again, we’ll take his word for it, but it’s a wonderfully ad hoc approach to tuning the clock, and we appreciate its simplicity.
For anyone with even the slightest bit of engineering interest, wind turbines are hard to resist. Everything about them is just so awesome, in the literal sense of the word — the size of the blades, the height of the towers, the mechanical guts that keep them pointed into the wind. And as if one turbine isn’t enough, consider the engineering implications of planting a couple of hundred of these giants in a field and getting them to operate as a unit. Simply amazing.
Unfortunately, the thing that makes wind turbines so cool — their enormity — can make them difficult to wrap your head around. To fix that, [3DprintedLife] built a working miniature wind turbine that goes a bit beyond most designs of a similar size. The big difference here is variable pitch blades, a feature the big turbines rely on to keep their output maximized over a broad range of wind conditions. The mechanism here is clever — the base of each blade rides in a bearing and has a small cap head screw that rides in a hole in a triangular swash block in the center of the hub. A small gear motor and lead screw move the block back and forth along the hub’s axis, which changes the collective pitch of the blades.
Other details of full-sized wind turbines are replicated here too, like the powered nacelle rotation and the full suite of wind speed and direction sensors. The generator is a NEMA 17 stepper; the output is a bit too anemic to actually power the turbine’s controller, but that could be fixed with gearing changes. Still, all the controls worked as planned, and there’s room for improvement, so we’ll score this a win overall.
Looking for a little more on full-size wind turbines? You’re in luck — our own [Bryan Cockfield] shared his insights into how wind farm engineers deal with ice and cold.
Continue reading “3D Printed Wind Turbine Has All The Features, Just Smaller” →
Anyone with an outdoor cat in their life knows their propensity for bringing home offerings, in the form of critters in various stages of the process of becoming ex-critters. And anyone with a hacker in their life knows that there’s a tendency to throw technology at this problem. But sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best.
Take this simple stepper-powered cat door lock. For [Jason Winfield], the essential problem with his outdoor cat’s late-night demands for reentry was having to manually unlock the cat door after a quick visual check that no midnight snacks were along for the ride. Such activity tends to make it hard to get back to sleep. One natural reaction to this would be to completely automate the process with machine learning to recognize the offering and deny entry; we’ve seen exactly that before, after all. But recognizing that the disruptive part was the getting up to check bit, [Jason] just whipped up a simple stepper-driven lock with an ESP8266 microcontroller. With a 3D-printed case and a battery pack, and a nearby Wi-Fi camera, the lock denies entry to the cat until he gets a look at it, at which point he simply hits the lock’s webpage to unlock the door. The video below would show the lock in action, except the cat buggered off once it got a whiff of the doings. Cat’s gonna cat.
What we appreciate about this project is its simplicity. It solves the problem with the minimum feature set, which is something we see too little of sometimes. It’s also got some nice ideas, like the non-captive bolt that can be removed to unlock the door if the battery dies. Smart thinking, [Jason], and sweet dreams.
Continue reading “Simple Wi-Fi Cat Door Solves The Extra Critter Problem, And Nothing More” →
Clocks are a mainstay of hackers and makers, as they provide a way to explore creative designs while still maintaining a functional aspect to the project. [Brett Oliver] follows this tradition in making a cyclotron clock that uses a perpetual rotating digit concept from a 1900s desk flip calendar.
Each digit of the clock has a rotating chamber that’s big enough to fit a group of tiles inside that have digits printed on either face. The tiles are sized and stacked in such a way that the rotation of the chamber allows the next tile to slide in front of the old one. Specific digits are revealed by rotating the chamber a number of times.
Each of the four digits positions has a 28BYJ-48 stepper motor to rotate the chamber, with each motor being driven by a ULN2003 driver module. The main microcontroller is a ESP32 WROOM, and an I2C compatible DS3231 real time clock (RTC) module keeps time. All of the motors are driven off of an LM2596 module that provides 7 V, while the ESP32 and RTC are powered from a USB connector.
The different modes and the ability to set time is done through a panel that has various buttons and knobs. The whole clock is mounted on a custom wooden base that has cutouts for the panels and cabling. [Brett Oliver] has done a great job of documentation, going into detail about the mechanics and electronics of the build. Design files, including STLs of the various components, are also available for download. Be sure to check out the video after the break.
We’ve featured a flip calendar with a similar operating principle before which clearly shows the inner workings of the mechanism.
Continue reading “A Flipping, Perpetually-Rotating Clock” →
Clocks are such mundane objects that it’s sometimes hard for them to grab your attention. They’re there when you need them, but they don’t exactly invite you to watch them work. Unless, of course, you build something like this mechanical flip-segment clock with a captivating exposed mechanism
“Eptaora” is the name of this clock, according to its inventor [ekaggrat singh kalsi]. The goal here was to make a mechanical flip-segment display as small as possible, which meant starting with the smallest possible printable screw hole and scaling the design up from there. Each segment is controlled by a multi-lobed cam which bears on a spring-loaded cam follower. When the cam rotates against the follower, a segment is flipped up from the horizontal rest position to the vertical display position. A carryover mechanism connects two adjacent displays so that each pair of digits can be powered by a single stepper, and the finished clock is quite small — a little bit larger than the palm of a hand. The operation seems quite smooth, too, which is always a bonus with clocks such as these. Check out the mesmerizing mechanism in the video below.
We’d have sworn we covered a similar clock before — indeed [ekaggrat] says the inspiration for this clock came from one with a similar mechanism — but we couldn’t find it in the back catalog. Oh sure, there are flip-up digital clocks and all manner of mechanical seven-segment displays, but this one seems to be quite unique, and very pleasing.
Continue reading “Flip-Segment Digital Clock Is A Miniature Mechanical Marvel” →
We see a lot of simple pen plotter projects around here, and while we appreciate them one and all, most of them are a little on the slow side. That’s OK — a glacial pace is sometimes all that’s needed, as long as it gets the job done. But there’s nothing wrong with putting the pedal to the metal, so to speak. And that’s exactly what this super-fast Arduino-based plotter is all about.
As the story goes, [IV Projects] felt the need for speed after building an earlier pen plotter project that worked, but failed to excite. With the additional goal of keeping the plotter easy to build with cheap parts, the design centers on a “grit roller drive” for the Y-axis — the one that actually moves the paper back and forth. And move it does, using Dremel tool sanding drums on a lightweight shaft to maximize acceleration. In fact, all the moving parts are kept as lightweight as possible, and the results really show — the three steppers really sing when this plotter is in action.
There are some really clever details in [IV Projects]’ design. We particularly like the way the pen lift mechanism works, and the surprise appearance of a clothespin spring as a belt tensioner was a real treat. Judging by the pile of rejected prototype parts, it took quite a bit of work to get this design right. If you’d like to build your own, STLs are available for the printed parts.
If you’re interested in what the other end of the speed scale looks like, check out this bare-minimum pen plotter.
Continue reading “This Arduino Pen Plotter Is Built For Speed” →