Microbatteries On The Grid

Not everybody has $6500 to toss into a Tesla Powerwall (and that’s a low estimate), but if you want the benefits of battery storage for your house, [Matt]’s modular “microbattery” storage system might be right up your alley. With a build-as-you-go model, virtually any battery can be placed on the grid in order to start storing power from a small solar installation or other power source.

The system works how any other battery installation would work. When demand is high, a series of microinverters turn on and deliver power to the grid. When demand is low, the batteries get charged. The major difference between this setup and a consumer-grade system is that this system is highly modular and each module is networked together to improve the efficiency of the overall system. Its all tied together with a Raspberry Pi that manages the entire setup.

While all of the software is available to set this up, it should go without saying that working with mains power is dangerous, besides the fact that you’ll need inverters capable of matching phase angle with the grid, a meter that handles reverse power flow, a power company that is willing to take the power, and a number of building code statutes to appease. If you don’t have all that together, you might want to go off-grid instead.

Light The Way To Every Component

How do you organize your stock of components and modules? If an unruly pile of anti-static bags and envelopes from China stuffed into a cardboard box sounds familiar, then you need help from [Dimitris Tassopoulos]. He’s organized his parts into drawers and created a database, then linked it via an ESP8266 and a string of addressable LEDs to light up the individual drawer in which any given component resides. It’s a genius idea, as you can see in action in the video below the break.

Behind the scenes is a web server sitting atop an SQL database, with a PHP front end. It’s running on a Banana Pi board, but it could just as easily be running on any other similar SBC. The ESP8266 has a REST API to which the webserver connects when a component is sought, and from that it knows which LED to light.

The LED strip is not the tape with which most readers will be familiar, but a string of the type we might be more used to as Christmas lights. These have a 100mm spacing between LEDs, allowing them to be easily positioned behind each drawer. The result is a very effective parts inventory system. We’re not entirely sure that it would entirely banish the tide of anti-static bags here, but we’re impressed nevertheless.

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DIY Photo Backup In The Field

They say a file isn’t backed up if it isn’t backed up twice. This is easy enough to do if you have access to your computer and a network, but if you’re a photographer you might end up in a place without either of these things and need a way to back up the files you just created. For that you’ll need a specialized photo backup tool which you can easily build yourself.

While commercial offerings are available which back up files locally from a camera’s SD card to another medium, they suffer from a high price. [André]’s solution can be had for a fraction of that cost. Using a Raspberry Pi Zero, a tiny USB hub, and a high capacity jump drive, a photographer can simply plug in an SD card and the Pi will handle the backups with varying levels of automation. The software that [André] made use of is called Little Backup Box written by [Dmitri Popov] and can be used typically as an automatic backup for any other device as well.

This is a great solution to backing up files on the go, whether they’re from a camera or any device that uses an SD card. Removable storage is tiny and easily lost, so it’s good to have a few backups in case the inevitable happens. Raspberry Pis are an ideal solution to data backup, and can even be battery powered if you’re really roughing it for a few days.

3D-Printed Magazines Tame The SMD Tape Beast

Chances are pretty good that you’ve got a box or a bin somewhere in your shop with coils of SMD component tapes in it. If you’re lucky, the coils are somewhat contained in their conductive Mylar bags; if you’re more like us, the tapes are flopping around loose in an attempt to seemingly tie themselves together. In either case, these 3D-printed SMD magazines will bring a little order to the chaos, and make board assembly a little bit easier.

When we saw [Robin Reiter]’s build, we thought these would be cassettes for some sort of pick-and-place machine. But while they certainly look like they could be adapted to an automated PnP setup, [Robin]’s main goal was to provide organized storage for loose tapes. Each magazine has a circular reservoir to hold the coiled tape, with an exit slot at the front and a wedge that directs the cover tape in the opposite direction. This removes the cover tape to expose the components, clears it away from the pickup area, and as a bonus, allows the component tape to be advanced just by pulling back on the cover. Each magazine has a spring-loaded latch that clips onto a base that looks a bit like a DIN-rail; the weighted base holds several magazines and makes it easy to set up a manual pick-and-place session. The video below shows all the details.

For certain personality types, this really scratches an itch. We love the modular design, and the organization that these would bring to our shop would really help clean things up a bit. And if [Robin] were ever to take this design to the next level, adding something like this could be useful.

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A Guide To Shop Equipment Nobody Thinks About: Clean, Organized, And Efficient

When planning out a workspace at home, the job, or at a makerspace, we all tend to focus on the fun parts. Where the equipment will go, how you’ll power it, what kind of lights you’ll get, etc, etc. It’s easy to devote all your attention to these high-level concepts, which often means the little details end up getting addressed on the fly. If they get addressed at all.

But whether we want to admit it or not, an organized workspace tends to be more efficient. That’s why [Eric Weinhoffer] has put together a blog post that details all those mundane details that we tend to forget about. It’s not exactly exciting stuff, and contains precisely as much discussion about whiteboards as you probably expect. That said, it’s thorough and clearly comes from folks who’ve had more than a little experience with setting up an efficient shop.

So what’s the first thing most shops don’t have enough of? Labels. [Eric] says you should put labels on everything, parts bins, tools, machines, if it’s something you need to keep track of, then stick a label on it. This does mean you’ll likely have to buy a label maker, but hey, at least that means a new gadget to play with.

Of course, those self-stick labels don’t work on everything. That’s why [Eric] always has a few rolls of masking tape (such as the blue 3M tape you might be using on your 3D printer bed) and some quality markers on hand to make arbitrary labels. Apparently there’s even such a thing as dry erase tape, which lets you throw an impromptu writing surface anywhere you want.

[Eric] also suggests investing in some collapsible cardboard bins which can be broken down and stored flat when not in use. If you’ve got the kind of situation where you’ll always have more or less the same amount of stuff then plastic is probably your best bet, but in a more dynamic environment, being able to collapse the bins when they aren’t in use is a capability we never even realized we needed until now.

As you might imagine, the post also touches on the issues of keeping sufficient safety gear available. We’ve talked about this in the past, but it’s one of those things that really can’t be said too many times. Having a wall of meticulously labeled storage bins is great, but it’s going to be the last thing on your mind if you manage to get an eye full of superglue.

Tiny Forklift Makes Unusable Space Usable

Houses with crawlspaces are fairly common in some geographic regions. The crawlspace can make it easier to access things like plumbing and electrical wiring, and can even be used as storage in homes that don’t (or can’t) have a basement. Along with improved building ventilation, these some of the perks compared to homes built on a solid slab of concrete. These crawlspaces aren’t exactly easy to get around in, though, but [Dave] has an easier way to get stuff in and out of these useful, but small, spaces.

Enter the crawl space forklift. Made with largely off-the-shelf components, the robot includes a few standard motors and linear actuators to move around and operate the front fork. That’s all pretty standard, but this build really shines with its use of FPV camera, monitor, and transmitter that allow the pilot to navigate the robot in the small space using remote control. For those safety-conscious among us, there is also a fire extinguisher ball on board which self-activates in case the robot catches on fire under his house.

This is a great, high-quality build that shows how common parts can make something revolutionary with the right idea. Identifying a problem and then building a solution, while not forgetting to spring for some safety equipment, can really make a difference even with something as simple as unoccupied space in a home. They can tackle tasks around the home, too.

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Custom Storage Boxes, From Cardboard And 3D Printed Bits

It’s not that storage boxes and organizers are hard to find. No, the problem this project set out to solve was more nuanced than that. The real trouble [theguymasamato] had was that his storage options — wide shelves and deep drawers — weren’t well suited to storing a lot of small and light objects. The result was a lot of wasted space and poor organization. To make matters worse, his big drawers had oddball dimensions, meaning that store bought organizers weren’t a good fit either.

To solve these problems, [theguymasamato] decided to design his own stackable boxes to store small and light objects far more efficiently than before. The design also allows the boxes to be made in a variety of sizes without changing any of the 3D printed parts. Carefully measured and cut cardboard is critical, but that’s nothing a utility knife and ruler can’t solve. The only other requirements are a few simple plastic parts, and some glue. He can fit six of these inside a single one of his drawers with enough room to access and handle them, but without wasting space.

Cardboard is really versatile stuff. Not only has it been behind some amazingly complex devices such as this tiny working plotter, but we’ve seen it form major components in the remarkably ambitious cardboard CNC.