It’s a little known secret that when the Hackaday writers gather in their secret underground bunker to work on our plans for world domination, we often take breaks to play our version of the corporate “Buzzword Bingo”, where paradigms are leveraged and meetings circle back to loop in offline stakeholders, or something like that. Our version, however, is “Comment Line Bingo”, and right in the middle of the card is the seemingly most common comment of all: “You should have used a 555,” or variations thereof.
So it was with vicious glee that we came across the Trollduino V1.0 by the deliciously named [Mild Lee Interested]. It’s the hardware answer to the common complaint, which we’ll grant is often justified. The beautiful part of this is that Trollduino occupies the same footprint as an Arduino Uno and is even pin-compatible with the microcontroller board, or at least sort of. The familiar line of components and connectors sprout from the left edge of the board, and headers for shields line the top and bottom edges too. “Sketches” are implemented in hardware, with jumpers and resistors and capacitors of various values plugged in to achieve all the marvelous configurations the indispensable timer chip can be used for. And extra points for the deliberately provocative use of Comic Sans in the silkscreen.
One of the very first examples for an MCU or SoC usually involves the famous ‘Blinky‘ example, where an LED is pulsed on and off with a fixed delay. This is actually a lot more complicated than the ‘Pushy‘ example which we looked at in the first installment of this series. The reason for this is that there’s actually quite a story behind a simple call to delay() or its equivalent.
The reason for this is that there are many ways to implement a delay function on a microcontroller (MCU), each of which comes with their own advantages and disadvantages. On an STM32 MCU, we get to choose between essentially an active delay (while loop), one implemented using the SysTick timer and using one of the peripheral timers. In the latter two cases we also have to use interrupts.
In this article we’ll take a look at all three approaches, along with their advantages and disadvantages.
Feature creep is typically something to be avoided, since watching a relatively simple project balloon into a rat’s nest of complexity often leads to ineffective, or even abandoned, projects. On the other hand, if you can maintain a tight focus, it’s not always a bad thing. [cbm80Amiga] shows us how to drill down and add specific features in this single-button timer without losing focus on what the original project was all about.
The timer is based on an Arduino Pro Mini and an HX1230 LCD with a simple piezo speaker for audible alerts. A single button controls operation of the timer, with short presses incrementing each digit and long presses moving on to the next digit. Controlling button presses this finely is a project in its own, but then [cbm80Amiga] moves on to other features such as backlight control, low power modes which allow it to operate for around two years on a single battery charge, preset times for various kitchen uses, and different appearance settings.
Honestly we aren’t sure how you could cram any more features on this timer without fundamentally altering the designed simplicity. It doesn’t fall into the abyss of feature creep while being packed with features, and it’s another example of how keeping things simple is often a recipe for success.
When firefighters are battling a blaze, it’s difficult for them to find each other in the smoky darkness. To help stand out they wear glow-in-the-dark decals on their helmets, but since they spend so much of their down time stowed away in a dark locker, they don’t always have a chance to charge up.
[Bin Sun]’s firefighter friend inspired them to build a portable charging system that can stuff those helmet decals full of photons in a matter of minutes. Although phosphorescent materials will charge in any light, they charge the fastest with ultraviolet light. This uses a pair of UV LED strips controlled by an off-the-shelf programmable timer, and powered with an 18-volt drill battery stepped down to 12 V. The timer makes it easy for [Bin Sun]’s friend to schedule charge times around their shifts, so the battery lasts as long as possible while keeping the decals ready to glow.
We love that [Bin Sun] seems to have thought of everything. The light strips are nestled into 3D-printed holders that also house small magnets. This makes it easy to position the lights on either side of the locker so both the front and back decals soak up the light.
“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”? How we wonder why you’d resort to singing a ditty to time your handwashing when you can use your social isolation time to build a touch-free electronic handwash timer that the kids — and you — might actually use.
Over the last few months, pretty much everyone on the planet has been thrust into strange, new, and oftentimes scary practices to limit the spread of the SARS-CoV-2virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. Judging by the number of people we’ve seen leaving public restrooms without a visit to the washbasin before the outbreak began — and sadly all too often since — we collectively have a lot of work to do in tightening up our handwashing regimens. Time on target and plenty of friction are the keys to that, and [Denis Hennessy]’s “WashTimer” aims to at least help you out with the former. His build is as simple as can be: an Arduino driving an LED matrix when a proximity sensor fires. Wave your dirty paws in front of the unit as you start to scrub up, and the display goes through a nicely animated 20-second countdown, at which time it’s safe to rinse off.
[Denis] purposely made this design as simple and as customizable as possible. Perhaps you’ve got a Neopixel ring lying about rather than the LED matrix, or maybe an ultrasonic sensor would work better for you. Be creative and take this design where it needs to go to suit your needs. We can’t stress enough that handwashing is your number one defense; if you don’t need to moisturize your hands at least three times a day, you’re probably not washing often or long enough. And 20 seconds is way longer than you think it is without a prompt.
Resin 3D printers are finally cheap enough that peons like us can finally buy them without skipping too many meals, and what means we’re starting to see more and more of them in the hands of hackers. But to get good results you’ll also want a machine to cure the prints with UV light; an added expense compared to more traditional FDM printers. Of course you could always build one yourself to try and save some money.
To that end, [sjm4306] is working on a very impressive controller for all your homebrew UV curing needs. The device is designed to work with cheap UV strip lights that can easily be sourced online, and all you need to bring to the table is a suitable enclosure to install them in. Here he’s using a metal paint can with a lid to keep from burning his eyes out, but we imagine the good readers of Hackaday could come up with something slightly more substantial while still taking the necessary precautions to not cook the only set of eyes you’ll ever have.
Of course, the enclosure isn’t what this project is really about. The focus here is on a general purpose controller, and it looks like [sjm4306] has really gone the extra mile with this one. Using a common OLED display module, the controller provides a very concise and professional graphical user interface for setting parameters such as light intensity and cure time. While the part is cooking, there’s even a nice little progress bar which makes it easy to see how much time is left even if you’re across the room.
At this point we’ve seen a number of hacked together UV cure boxes, but many of them skip the controller and just run the lights full time. That’s fine for a quick and dirty build, but we think a controller like this one could help turn a simple hack into a proper tool.
The price of resin printers has dropped significantly in the last couple of years, and it’s down to the point where you can pick up a fairly decent DLP machine for less than $500. While this is great news, you still need several things beyond resin for successful prints, like a way to do post-process UV curing.
It’s a great idea, but unfortunately prints don’t cure as fast as fingernails. So the first order of business was to bypass the dual 555-based timing system by wiring the UV LEDs directly to power. The manufacturer never intended for the lights to run continuously, so to keep the board from melting, [Inhibit] added in a small 12 V computer fan for cooling. There’s even a little printed grille with angled fins to keep UV light from leaking out and burning nearby retinas.