“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.
With the popularity of Nixie clocks, we’d be forgiven for thinking that the glowing tubes are only good for applications with a stately pace of change. But we forget that before they became the must-have hobbyist accessory, Nixies were used in all kinds of scientific instruments, from frequency counters to precision multimeters. In such applications, update rates in the hundreds or thousands of Hertz aren’t uncommon, and the humble Nixie handled display refreshes with ease.
If you ever wanted to know about the physics of gas-discharge displays like the Nixie, the fifteen minutes starting at about 5:13 will give you everything you need. That basic problem boils down to the half-life of excited neon, or how long it takes for half the population of excited molecules to return to the ground state. That, in turn, dictates how long a given cathode will continue to visibly glow after it’s turned off, which determines how many digits will appear illuminated at once.
To answer that, they engaged a company in Prague with a camera capable of a mind-blowing 900,000 frames per second. Even though they found a significant afterglow period for each cathode, even at 100 kHz it’s clear which digit is the one that’s currently illuminated. They also looked at the startup of digits in a cold Nixie versus one that’s warmed up, leading to some fascinating footage at around 26:30.
We appreciate [Dalibor]’s attention to detail, not only in the craftsmanship of his custom tubes but in making sure they’re going to do their job. He recently did a failure analysis on some of his high-end clocks that showed the same care for his product and his brand.
Reading the temperature of your environment is pretty easy right? A quick search suggests the utterly ubiquitous DHT11, which speaks a well documented protocol and has libraries for every conceivable microcontroller and platform. Plug that into your Arduino and boom, temperature (and humidity!) readings. But the simple solution doesn’t hit every need, sometimes things need to get more esoteric.
For years we’ve been watching [Edward]’s heroic efforts to build accessible underwater sensing hardware. When we last heard from him he was working on improving the accuracy of his Arduino’s measurements of the humble NTC thermistor. Now the goal is the same but he has an even more surprising plan, throw the ADC out entirely and sample an analog thermistor using digital IO. It’s actually a pretty simple trick based on an intuitive observation, that microcontrollers are better at measuring time than voltage.
The circuit has a minimum of four components: a reference resistor, the thermistor, and a small capacitor with discharge resistor. To sense you configure a timer to count, and an edge interrupt to capture the value in the timer when its input toggles. One sensing cycle consists of discharging the cap through the discharge resistor, enabling the timer and interrupt, then charging it through the value to measure. The value captured from the timer will be correlated to how long it took the cap to charge above the logic-high threshold when the interrupt triggers. By comparing the time to charge through the reference against the time to charge through the thermistor you can calculate their relative resistance. And by performing a few calibration cycles at different temperatures ([Edward] suggests at least 10 degrees apart) you can anchor the measurement system to real temperature.
The project is built around a ticking four-digit display. The blue LEDs give it a modern touch, and it’s attached on top of an Arduino Pro Mini 3.3V. This enables the whole module to be powered by a coin cell, for an incredibly compact and tidy timer that is barely bigger than the display itself. There’s also a buzzer attached, which chirps each second, somewhat heightening the stress level in the immediate vicinity.
With a functioning timer, [deshipu] then went for comedy points, by hooking it up to a trio of bananas. This is widely considered more courteous than attaching it to a detonator circuit and actual dynamite, and is key to staying off government watchlists.
It’s a piece that would be amusing at a Halloween party or similar, and is easily completed by any beginner learning Arduino. It goes without saying that, while this is amusing, it’s a build that should very much not be bandied about in public or used for a prank. In this day and age, even touting a custom clock can draw unwelcome attention, so it’s important to be careful. Video after the break.
The Arduino is built into a 3D printed enclosure, with several buttons for input. Rather unconventionally, a small e-paper display was chosen for the interface. This has the benefits of being easily readable outdoors during the day, as well as using very little power.
The device is simple to use, and makes training alone a breeze. The distance to be run can be selected, and the unit emits a series of beeps to indicate to the runner when to begin. The timer is placed at the finish line, and detects the runner passing by with an ultrasonic sensor.
It’s a useful build for sprint timing, and could be made even more versatile with a remote start function. If you need to time Hot Wheels instead of sprinters, don’t worry – there’s a build for you too. Video after the break.