Hackers being as a rule practical people, we sometimes get a little guff when we run a story on an art installation, on the grounds of not being sufficiently hacky. We understand that, but sometimes the way an artist weaves technology into their pieces is just too cool to pass us, as with this thread-printing art piece entitled On Framing Textile Ambiguities.
We’ll leave criticism of the artistic statement that [Nathalie Gebert]’s installation makes to others more qualified, and instead concentrate on its technical aspects. The piece has four frames made mainly from brass rods. Three of the frames have vertical rods that are connected to stepper motors and around which is wrapped a single thread. The thread weaves back and forth over the rods on one frame, forming a flat surface that constantly changes as the rods rotate, before heading off to do the same on the others. The fourth frame has a platen that the thread passes over with a pen positioned right above it. As the thread pauses in its endless loop, the pen clicks down onto it, making a dot of color. The dots then wend their way through the frame, occasionally making patterns that are just shy of recognizable before morphing into something new. The video below shows it better than it can be easily described.
Love it or hate it, you’ve got to admit that it has some interesting potential as a display. And it sort of reminds us of this thread-art polar robot, although this one has the advantage of being far simpler.
The variety of ways that people find to show the passage of time never ceases to amaze us. Just when you think you’ve seen them all, someone comes up with something new and unusual, like the concentric rings of this automated perpetual calendar.
What we really like about the design that [tomatoskins] came up with is both its simplicity and its mystery. By hiding the mechanism, which is just a 3D-printed internal ring gear attached to the back of each ring, it invites people in to check it out closely and discover more. Doing so reveals that each ring is hanging from a pinion gear on a small stepper motor, which rotates it to the right point once a day or once a month. Most of the clock is made from wood, with the rings themselves made using the same technique that woodturners use to create blanks for turning bowls — or a Death Star. We love the look the method yields, although it could be even cooler with contrasting colors and grains for each segment. And there’s nothing stopping someone from reproducing this with laser-cut parts, or adding rings to display the time too.
Another nice tip in this write up is the trick [tomatoskins] used to label the rings, by transferring laser-printed characters from paper to wood using nothing but water-based polyurethane wood finish. That’s one to file away for another day.
We bet you have all some cool part in your bin that is just gnawing at you to build something cool. That doodad, possibly from a garage sale, surplus store, or clearance rack deserves a project fitting of its near-infinite potential. [isaac879] finally marries a giant ball bearing with his passion for photography in the form of a pan-tilt camera mount for his Canon DSLR. The problem with tossing your golden-ticket part into a project is that not everyone has a MacGuffin, or a brand new one might be bank-breakingly expensive, so he does us a favor and makes a drop-in replacement that you can print and fill with 6mm brass bbs. This sort of thing is why we love hackers.
The camera mount has the features we expect to see in a robust stepper mount, such as infinite spinning, time delay, and an Xbox controller interface. Inside the base is the industrial bearing or its plastic replica, and that wide base won’t be tipping over anytime soon. Gearing all around is of the herringbone style, of the type you find in classroom pencil sharpeners because they transfer power smoothly. Speaking of things going smoothly, we enjoyed his assembly montage where every part fits together perfectly and there is not a naughty word to be uttered. Just like real life.
There are a surprising wealth of parts inside of old laptops that can be easily scavenged, but often these proprietary tidbits of electronics will need a substantial amount of work to make them useful again. Obviously things such as hard drives and memory can easily be used again, but it’s also possible to get things like screens or batteries to work with other devices with some effort. Now, there’s also a way to reuse the trackpad as well.
This build uses a PS/2 touchpad with a Synaptics chip in it, which integrates pretty smoothly with an Arduino after a few pins on the touchpad are soldered to. Most of the work is done on the touchpad’s built in chip, so once the Arduino receives the input from the touchpad it’s free to do virtually anything with it. In this case, [Kushagra] used it to operate a stepper motor in a few different implementations.
If you have this type of touchpad lying around, all of the code and schematics to make it useful again are available on the project page. An old laptop in the parts bin is sure to have a lot of uses even after you take the screen off, but don’t forget that your old beige PS/2 mouse from 1995 is sure to have some uses like this as well.
The influx of cheap laser cutters from China has been a boon to the maker movement, if at the cost of a lot of tinkering to just get the thing to work. So some people just prefer to roll their own, figuring that starting from scratch means you get exactly what you want. And apparently what [Mike Rankin] wanted was a really, really small laser cutter.
The ESP32 Burninator, as [Mike] lovingly calls his creation, is small enough to be in danger of being misplaced accidentally. The stage relies on tiny stepper-actuated linear drives, available on the cheap from AliExpress. The entire mechanical structure is two PCBs — a vertical piece that holds the ESP32, an OLED display, the X-axis motor, and the driver for the laser, which comes from an old DVD burner; a smaller bottom board holds the Y-axis and the stage. “Stage” is actually a rather grand term for the postage-stamp-sized working area of this cutter, but the video below shows that it does indeed cut black paper.
When we first caught a glimpse of this ball juggling platform, we were instantly hooked by its appearance. With its machined metal linkages and clear polycarbonate platform, its got an irresistibly industrial look. But as fetching as it may appear, it’s even cooler in action.
You may recognize the name [T-Kuhn] as well as sense the roots of the “Octo-Bouncer” from his previous juggling robot. That earlier version was especially impressive because it used microphones to listen to the pings and pongs of the ball bouncing off the platform and determine its location. This version went the optical feedback route, using a camera mounted under the platform to track the ball using OpenCV on a Windows machine. The platform linkages are made from 150 pieces of CNC’d aluminum, with each arm powered by a NEMA 17 stepper with a planetary gearbox. Motion control is via a Teensy, chosen for its blazing-fast clock speed which makes for smoother acceleration and deceleration profiles. Watch it in action from multiple angles in the video below.
Hats off to [T-Kuhn] for an excellent build and a mesmerizing device to watch. Both his jugglers do an excellent job of keeping the ball under control; his robotic ball-flinger is designed to throw the ball to the same spot every time.
Like most of us, I sometimes indulge in buying a part for its potential or anticipated utility rather than for a specific project or purpose. That’s exactly how I ended up with the WSX100 Wi-Fi Stepper, a single board device intended to be one of the fastest and easiest ways to get a stepper motor integrated into a project. Mine came from their Crowd Supply campaign, which raised money for production and continues to accept orders.
What’s It For?
The main reason the Wi-Fi Stepper exists is to make getting a stepper motor up and running fast and simple, in a way that doesn’t paint a design into a corner. The device can certainly be used outside of prototyping, but I think one of its best features is the ability to help quickly turn an idea into something physical. When prototyping, it’s always better to spend less time on basic bits like driving motors.
In a way, stepper motors are a bit like RGB LEDs or LCD displays were before integrated drivers and easy interfaces became common for them. Steppers require work (and suitable power supplies) to get up and running, and that effort can be a barrier to getting an idea off the ground. With the Wi-Fi Stepper, a motor can be fired up and given positional commands (or set to a speed and direction) in no time at all. By sending commands over WiFi, there isn’t even the need to wire up any control logic.