Digital Preservation For Old Batteries

The times they are a-changin’. It used to be that no household was complete without a drawer filled with an assortment of different sizes and types of batteries, but today more and more of our gadgets are using integrated rechargeable cells. Whether or not that’s necessarily an improvement is probably up for debate, but the fact of the matter is that some of these old batteries are becoming harder to find as time goes on.

Which is why [Stephen Arsenault] wants to preserve as many of them as possible. Not in some kind of physical battery museum (though that does sound like the sort of place we’d like to visit), but digitally in the form of 3D models and spec sheets. The idea being that if you find yourself in need of an oddball, say the PRAM battery for a Macintosh SE/30, you could devise your own stand-in with a printed shell.

The rather brilliantly named Battery Backups project currently takes the form of a Thingiverse Group, which allows other alkaline aficionados to submit their own digitized cells. The cells that [Stephen] has modeled so far include not only the STL files for 3D printing, but the CAD source files in several different flavors so you can import them into your tool of choice.

Like the efforts to digitally preserve vintage input devices, it’s not immediately clear how many others out there are willing to spend their afternoons modeling up antiquated batteries. But then again, we’ve long since learned not to underestimate the obscure interests of the hacker community.

Hackaday Podcast 083: Soooo Many Custom Peripherals, Leaving Bluetooth Footprints, And A Twirlybird On Mars

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams ogle the greatest hacks from the past 168 hours. Did you know that Mars Rover didn’t get launched into space all alone? Nestled in it’s underbelly is a two-prop helicopter that’s a fascinating study in engineering for a different world. Fingerprinting audio files isn’t a special trick reserved for Shazam, you can do it just as easily with an ESP32. A flaw in the way Bluetooth COVID tracing frameworks chirp out their anonymized hashes means they’re not as perfectly anonymized as planned. And you’re going to love these cool ways to misuse items from those massive parts catalogs.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (~65 MB)

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3D Printed Doggie Braces

[Tye’s] dog Lucifur unfortunately has degenerative arthritis causing her a lot of pain in her feet. The vet suggested orthotic carpal braces to help alleviate the pain, but they come at a price tag of at least $1600. Given her current budgetary limitations, [Tye] decided to try the DIY route.

The first task was to cast Lucifur’s paws in plaster to make a mold of her feet in both the weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing orientations. According to [Tye], the non-weight-bearing orientation is more representative of the shape of a “normal” paw, but she also needed to model the weight-bearing orientation to better design the braces for walking.

Then it was time to print a PLA-based dog splint from a design she found on Thingiverse. Since PLA softens when it’s in boiling water, the splint can be easily molded to Lucifur’s paw. This is where the paw molds [Tye] made earlier come in handy, since nobody would want Lucifur wearing a PLA splint fresh out of boiling water. Finally, she added a bit of super glue to the heel of the splint in hopes that it will hold up better over time.

We certainly can’t recommend DIY solutions to medical problems and [Tye] made sure she stressed the importance of following the recommendations of your vet if you’re ever in her position. Either way, we hope Lucifur finds some momentary reprieve, and that she can eventually receive those $1600 braces she desperately needs.

Printed TS100 Case Beats The Heat With A Bearing

As we’ve said many times in the past, the creation of custom cases and enclosures is one of the best and most obvious applications for desktop 3D printing. When armed with even an entry-level printer, your projects will never again have to suffer through the indignity of getting hot glued into a nondescript plastic box. But if you’re printing with basic PLA, you need to be careful that nothing gets too hot inside.

Which was a problem when [Oleg Vint] started work on this 3D printed case for the popular TS100 soldering iron. But with the addition of a standard 608 bearing, the case provides a safe spot for the iron to cool off before it gets buttoned back up for storage. Of course, you can also use the flip-out perch to hold the iron while you’re working.

The bearing stand that served as inspiration for the case.

As [Oleg] explains on the Thingiverse page for the case, he actually blended a few existing projects together to arrive at the final design. Specifically, the idea of using the 608 bearing came from a printable TS100 stand originally designed in 2017 by [MightyNozzle]. Released under Creative Commons, [Oleg] was able to mash the bearing stand together with elements from several other printable TS100 cases to come up with his unique combined solution.

In a physical sense, this project is a great example of the sort of bespoke creations that are made possible by desktop 3D printing. But it’s also a testament to the incredible community that’s sprung up around this technology. While the logistics of it still could use some work, seeing hackers and makers swap and combine their designs like this is extremely inspiring.

[Thanks Arturo182]

3D Printering: The Search For Better Search

There’s no question that a desktop 3D printer is at its most useful when it’s producing parts of your own design. After all, if you’ve got a machine that can produce physical objects to your exacting specifications, why not give it some? But even the most diligent CAD maven will occasionally defer to an existing design, as there’s no sense spending the time and effort creating their own model if a perfectly serviceable one is already available under an open source license.

But there’s a problem: finding these open source models is often more difficult than it should be. The fact of the matter is, the ecosystem for sharing 3D printable models is in a very sorry state. Thingiverse, the community’s de facto model repository, is antiquated and plagued with technical issues. Competitors such as Pinshape and YouMagine are certainly improvements on a technical level, but without the sheer number of models and designers that Thingiverse has, they’ve been unable to earn much mindshare. When people are looking to download 3D models, it stands to reason that the site with the most models will be the most popular.

It’s a situation that the community is going to have to address eventually. As it stands, it’s something of a minor miracle that Thingiverse still exists. Owned and operated by Makerbot, the company that once defined the desktop 3D printer but is today all but completely unknown in a market dominated by low-cost printers from the likes of Monoprice and Creality, it seems only a matter of time before the site finally goes dark. They say it’s unwise to put all of your eggs in one basket, and doubly so if the basket happens to be on fire.

So what will it take to get people to consider alternatives to Thingiverse before it’s too late? Obviously, snazzy modern web design isn’t enough to do it. Not if the underlying service operates on the same formula. To really make a dent in this space, you need a killer feature. Something that measurably improves the user experience of finding the 3D model you need in a sea of hundreds of thousands. You need to solve the search problem.

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A Power Bank For Soldering On The Go

If you have a portable gadget, the chances are you’ve probably used power banks before. What few could have predicted when these portable battery packs first started cropping up is that they would one day be used to power soldering irons. Dissatisfied with the options currently available on the market, [Franci] writes in with his own power bank specifically designed for use with his TS80 portable soldering iron.

The electronics side of this build is simple and easy to replicate, with 4 18650 Li-ion cells standard to most high-capacity power banks and an off-the-shelf Fast Charge module serving as the brains of the operation. The beauty of this project however lies in the design of the actual case, completely custom-made from scratch to be 3d printed.

Unlike most power banks, where the outputs stick out to the side and leave the connectors prone to being bumped and damaged, [Franci] engineered his case so the ports are stacked on top and facing inwards. That way, USB plugs are contained within the footprint of the power bank’s body, and therefore protected from bending or snapping off in the socket. He also gracefully provides all instructions needed to make your own, including a wiring guide and a reminder about safety when dealing with battery packs.

If you’re unfamiliar with the TS80 soldering iron, we’ve featured the younger sibling of the TS100 in a previous post. And if you think this power bank is too simple for you, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Prusa Launches Their Own 3D Model Repository

If you own a 3D printer, you’ve heard of Thingiverse. The MakerBot-operated site has been the de facto model repository for 3D printable models since the dawn of desktop 3D printing, but over the years it’s fallen into a state of disrepair. Dated and plagued with performance issues, many in the community have been wondering how long MakerBot is still going to pay to keep the lights on. Alternatives have popped up occasionally, but so far none of them have been able to amass a large enough userbase to offer any sort of real competition.

Sorting models by print time and material required.

But that might soon change. [Josef Průša] has announced a revamped community for owners of his 3D printers which includes a brand-new model repository. While clearly geared towards owners of Prusa FDM printers (support for the new SLA printer is coming at a later date), the repository is not exclusive to them. The immense popularity of Prusa’s products, plus the fact that the repository launched with a selection of models created by well known designers, might be enough to finally give Thingiverse a run for its money. Even if it just convinces MakerBot to make some improvements to their own service, it would be a win for the community.

The pessimists out there will say a Prusa-run model database is ultimately not far off from one where MakerBot is pulling the strings; and indeed, a model repository that wasn’t tied to a particular 3D printer manufacturer would be ideal. But given the passion for open development demonstrated by [Josef] and his eponymous company, we’re willing to bet that the site is never going to keep owners of other printers from joining in on the fun.

That being said, knowing that the users of your repository have the same printer (or a variant, at least) as those providing the designs does have its benefits. It allows for some neat tricks like being able to sort designs by their estimated print time, and even offers the ability to upload and download pre-sliced GCode files in place of traditional STLs. In fact, [Josef] boasts that this is the world’s only repository for ready-to-print GCode that you can just drop onto an SD card and print.

Regular Hackaday readers will know that we’ve been rather critical of the decisions made by MakerBot over the last few years, but to be fair we aren’t exactly alone in that respect. The community desperately needs a repository for printable models that’s in somebody else’s hands, and frankly we’re thrilled with the idea it could be [Josef Průša] leading the charge. His printers might not be perfect, and they certainly aren’t cheap, but they definitely don’t fail to impress. Here’s hoping this latest venture will be the same.

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