Do you remember [Sam Smith]’s Metabolizer from a few years back? In case you’ve forgotten, this baby takes trash and turns it into printed plastic objects, and it’s solar-powered to boot. Although the Metabolizer didn’t win the 2018 Hackaday Prize, [Sam] and his machine won many achievements that year, including the Open Hardware Challenge. It’s fantastic to see the project still improving.
To recap, the sun hits the solar panels and charge up the battery bank. Once there’s enough power to start the reaction, it gets dumped into a heating element that turns biomass into biochar. This smoke is cooled, collected, refined, and fed into a small gas generator, which produces DC power to run a 3/4-horsepower shredder and the trash printer.
[Sam] likens this beast to a Rube Goldberg machine in that it performs an overly-complicated chain reaction to do a simple task. We certainly see his point, but we think that this machine is worth so much more than those classic machines, which tend to do nothing useful at all and tend to consume many resources in the process. On the contrary, the Metabolizer’s chain reaction starts with sunshine and ends with useful objects that keep plastic out of landfills. Honestly, it’s more akin to a compost heap with a PhD in Biology and a handful of steroids and a 3D printer attached.
Unfortunately, [Sam] couldn’t get a prototype working in time for the Prize, and he turned to Patreon to gain support after the $1,000 ran out. Three years and a ton of improvements later, [Sam] has a working prototype that’s cheaper, more efficient, and easier to build. But can it be built relatively easily by someone other than [Sam]? Consider the gauntlet thrown down.
Not happy with your standard-style compost pile? You need a DIY trommel to sift out the bad stuff.
There’s nothing like a little weekend project, especially one that ends up better than you expected. And when you literally build a robotic arm out of workshop scraps, so much the better.
Longtime readers will no doubt recognize the build style used here as that of [Norbert Heinz], aka “Homofaciens” on YouTube. [Norbert] has a way of making trash do his bidding, and has shown us all kinds of seemingly impossible feats of mechatronics with just what’s lying around. In this case, his robot arm is made from scrap wooden roofing battens, or what we’d call furring strips here in the US. The softwood isn’t something you’d think would make a great material for building robots, but [Norbert] makes its characteristics work for him, like using wax-lubricated holes for hinge points. Steppers and lead screws cannibalized from an old CNC build, along with the drive electronics, provide the motion. It’s a bit — compliant — but precise enough to pick up nuts and stack them nicely. The video below gives an overview of the build, and detailed instructions are available too.
We always appreciated [Norbert]’s minimalist builds, and seeing what can be accomplished with almost nothing is always inspirational. If you’re not familiar with his work, check out his cardboard and paperclip CNC plotter, his tin can encoders, or his plasma-powered printer.
Continue reading “Minimalist Robot Arm Really Stacks Up”
It’s a common enough situation, that when an older piece of equipment dies, and nobody wants to spend the money to repair it. Why fix the old one, when the newer version with all the latest bells and whistles isn’t much more expensive? We all understand the decision from a business standpoint, but as hackers, it always feels a bit wrong.
Which is exactly why [tommycoolman] decided to rebuild the office’s recently deceased Duplo CC-330 heavy duty business card cutter. It sounds like nobody really knows what happened to the machine in the first place, but since the majority of the internals were cooked, some kind of power surge seems likely. Whatever the reason, almost none of the original electronics were reused. From the buttons on the front panel to the motor drivers, everything has been implemented from scratch.
An Arduino Mega 2560 clone is used to control four TB6600 stepper motor drivers, with a common OLED display module installed where the original display went. The keypad next to the screen has been replaced with 10 arcade-style buttons soldered to a scrap of perfboard, though in the end [tommycoolman] covers them with a very professional looking printed vinyl sheet. There’s also a 24 V power supply onboard, with the expected assortment of step up and step down converters necessary to feed the various electronics their intended voltages.
In the end, [tommycoolman] estimates it took about $200 and 30 hours of work to get the card cutter up and running again. The argument could be made that the value of his time needs to be factored into the repair bill as well, but even still, it sounds like a bargain to us; these machines have a four-figure price tag on them when new.
Stories like this one are important reminders of the all wondrous things you can find hiding in the trash. Any time a machine like this can be rescued from the junkyard, it’s an accomplishment worthy of praise in our book.
No matter who you are, you produce garbage of some kind or another. Two students decided they wanted to create a smart garbage can that could alert them when the can is full or even when it is stinky.
We will go on on the record: we didn’t know that an alcohol sensor could tell if your garbage is stinky, so if that works, that’s a new one on us. However, it makes a certain kind of sense because garbage ferments. We thought garbage smelled because of hydrogen sulfide and methane.
Trash cans have a tough life, so if you really want to duplicate this, you’ll probably want to mount things a bit more securely. The software, however, runs everything through a cloud service and from there can use Blynk for a phone app and IFTTT to ship things to a spreadsheet, should you care to track your garbage history statistics.
Continue reading “A Really Garbage Project”
Dumpster diving is a time honored tradition in the hacking community. You can find all sorts of interesting hardware in the trash, and sometimes it’s even fully functional. But even the broken gadgets are worth taking back to your lair to strip for parts. If you’re as lucky as [Jamz], you might be able to mash a few devices together and turn them into something usable.
In this case, [Jamz] scored a LG 27UK650 monitor with a cracked display and a Dell OptiPlex 7440 “All-in-One” computer that was DOA. Separately these two pieces of gear were little more than a pile of spare parts waiting to be liberated. But if the control board could be salvaged from the monitor, and the working LCD pulled from the Dell…
After taking everything apart, [Jamz] made a frame for this new Frankenstein monitor using pieces of aluminum channel from the hardware store and 3D printed side panels. With the Dell LCD mounted in the skeletal frame, the control board from the LG monitor was bolted to the back and wired in. Finally the center section of the LG monitor’s back panel was cut out and mounted to the new hybrid display with a 3D printed frame.
Admittedly, these were some pretty solid finds as far as trash goes. You won’t always be so lucky. But if you can keep an open mind, the curb is littered with possibilities. How about some impressive home lighting that started life as a cracked flat screen TV?
Sorting trash into the right categories is pretty much a daily bother. Who hasn’t stood there in front of the two, three, five or more bins (depending on your area and country), pondering which bin it should go into? [Alvaro Ferrán Cifuentes]’s SeparAItor project is a proof of concept robot that uses a robotic sorting tray and a camera setup that aims to identify and sort trash that is put into the sorting tray.
The hardware consists of a sorting tray mounted to the top of a Bluetooth-connected pan and tilt platform. The platform communicates with the rest of the system, which uses a camera and OpenCV to obtain the image data, and a Keras-based back-end which implements a deep learning neural network in Python.
Training of the system was performed by using self-made photos of the items that would need to be sorted as these would most closely match real-life conditions. After getting good enough recognition results, the system was put together, with a motion detection feature added to respond when a new item was tossed into the tray. The system will then attempt to identify the item, categorize it, and instruct the platform to rotate to the correct orientation before tilting and dropping it into the appropriate bin. See the embedded video after the break for the system in action.
Believe it or not, this isn’t the first trash-sorting robot to grace the pages of Hackaday. Potentially concepts like these, that rely on automation and machine vision, could one day be deployed on a large scale to help reduce how much recyclable material end up in landfills. Continue reading “Automate Sorting Your Trash With Some Healthy Machine Learning”
We aren’t suggesting you go digging through the trash looking for empty cans, but if you’ve already got some empty cans in the privacy of your own home, you could certainly do worse than turning them into unique enclosures for your electronics projects. Better than sitting in the landfill, surely.
This hack from [Robin Hartley] turns an empty Cadbury hot chocolate can into a portable speaker that’s sure to get some attention. But don’t be fooled: a surprisingly amount of engineering went into this project in the form of a 3D printed structure on the inside of the can. Even if you aren’t big on the idea of putting your next project into a piece of literal trash, there’s something to be said for how professionally everything fits together in this build.
The key to this build is the 3D printed “skeleton” that holds the speaker and circuit board in place. An especially nice touch is how [Robin] designed the mount for the speaker: as it had no flange to attach to, he made a two piece clamp that screws together around the rear of the speaker and holds it in place.
You may wonder why somebody who’s clearly as well versed in CAD and 3D printing as [Robin] is might want to use an empty can as an enclosure; surely he could just design and print a case? Undoubtedly. But the goal here is to reuse what would otherwise be trash, and that occasionally means taking the “scenic” route as it were.
To take this concept to the next level, check out the upcycled speaker box we recently covered. We’ve seen some gorgeous home audio builds that started as a curbside find, but depending on how lucky you are, it’s almost like cheating.
Continue reading “Empty Can Upcycled Into Portable Speaker”