Hackaday Links: July 1, 2018

Remember when computer mice didn’t have scroll wheels? The greatest mouse of all time, the Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer 3.0, is back in production. This mouse was released in 2003, before the popularity of ‘gaming’ mice from the likes of Razer, and at the time it was the standard mouse for RTS and FPS professional gamers. After producing a few million of these mice, the molds died or the sensors were out of stock, Microsoft stopped shipping the Intellimouse Explorer 3.0, and the ones that were out in the wild slowly died. Now this fantastic mouse is back, and it’s only going to set you back $40. Believe me when I say this is one of the greatest user interface devices ever created, right up there with the Model M keyboard.

Another week, another update on building an airplane in a basement. [Peter Sripol] has basically finished the fuselage of his homebuilt ultralight with working elevator, rudder, and landing gear that looks like it might hold up.

The Pebble was one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns ever, and now it’s dead. Pebble was bought by Fitbit for $40M, and now the Pebble servers are off, as of June 30th. Of course there are community-based projects to keep the Pebble working, notably the rebble project.

It’s time for Steam’s summer sale, and your wallet is crying. The standout deal is the Steam Link, a sort of ‘thin client for Steam’ that plugs into your TV, looks on the network for your battlestation, and allows you to play Fortnite or whatever on the big screen. The Steam Link normally sells for $50, but with the summer sale it’s two dollars and fifty cents.

Here are a few experiments in CNC joinery. [Mirock] has a CNC machine and a few pieces of wood, and explored what is possible when you want to join two boards at ninety degrees to each other. Why is this interesting? One of the joints on this simple box project consists of a circle with a hole on one board, and a pin on the other. This is basically a Knapp joint, a ‘dovetail’ of sorts that was developed in the 1860s. This was the first popular machine-made joint in woodworking, and if you ever see it on an antique, it solidly dates that piece to any time between 1870-1900. Of course, now that you can just buy a CNC router, an infinite variety of joints are possible, and [Mirock] can experiment with all sorts of combinations of pins and tails and mortises and tenons.

Building An Ultralight In A Basement is Just So Beautiful to See

[Peter] is at it again. Not content with being one of the best RC confabulators on YouTube, and certainly not content with the first airplane he built in his basement, [Peter Sripol] is building another airplane in his basement.

The first airplane he built was documented on YouTube over a month and a half. It was an all-electric biplane, built from insulation foam covered in fiberglass, and powered by a pair of ludicrously oversized motors usually meant for large-scale RC aircraft. This was built under Part 103 regulations — an ultralight — which means there were in effect no regulations. Anyone could climb inside one of these without a license and fly it. The plane flew, but there were a few problems. It was too fast, and the battery life wasn’t really what [Peter] wanted.

Now [Peter] is onto his next adventure. Compared to the previous plane, this has a more simplified, traditional construction. It’s a high wing monoplane with an aluminum frame. There are two motors again, although he’s still in the process of finding lower kV motors. This plane should also fly slower, longer, something you really want in an ultralight.

As far as tools required for this build, it’s surprising how few are needed to put the plane together. Of course, there are a few excessively large pop rivet guns and there will be some extra special aviation-grade bolts, but the majority of this plane will be made out of standard aluminum, insulation foam, a bit of wood, and some fiberglass. Watching [Peter] churn out high-end fabrication with these simple parts is so satisfying. If you have a drill press with a cross slide vise, you too can build a plane in your basement.

This is shaping up to be a truly fantastic build. [Peter] has already proven that yes, he can indeed build an airplane in his basement. This time, though, he’s going to have a plane that will stay in the air for more than just a few minutes.

Continue reading “Building An Ultralight In A Basement is Just So Beautiful to See”

Aluminum No Match For 3D Printed Press Brake Dies

If you’re looking for a get-rich-quick scheme, you can scratch “Doing small-scale manufacturing of ultralight aircraft” off your list right now. Turns out there’s no money in it. At least, not enough money that you can outsource production of all the parts. Not even enough to setup a huge shop full of customized machining tools when you realize you have to make the stuff yourself. No, this sounds like one of those “labors of love” we always hear so much about.

So how does one do in-house manufacturing of aircraft with a bare minimum of tools? Well, since you’re reading this on Hackaday you can probably guess that you’ve got to come up with something a bit unorthodox. When [Brian Carpenter] of Rainbow Aviation needed a very specific die to bend a component for their aircraft, he decided to try designing and 3D printing one himself.

Printing a die on the Zortrax M200

He reasoned that since he had made quick and dirty dies out of wood in the past, that a 3D printed one should work for at least a few bends before falling apart. He even planned to use JB Weld to fill in the parts of the printed die which he assumed would start cracking and breaking off after he put it through a few cycles. But even after bending hundreds of parts, wear on the dies appears to be nearly non-existent. As an added bonus, the printed plastic dies don’t mar the aluminum pieces they are bending like the steel dies do.

So what’s the secret to printing a die that can bend hundreds of pieces of aluminum on a 20 ton brake without wearing down? As it turns out…not a whole lot. [Brian] attributes the success of this experiment to designing the die with sufficiently accurate tolerances and having so high of an infill that it may as well be solid plastic.

In fact, the 3D printed die worked out so well that they’ve now expanded the idea to a cheap Harbor Freight brake. Before this tool was going more or less unused as it didn’t have features they needed for the production of their parts, namely a radius die or backstop. But by 3D printing these components [Brian] was able to put the tool back to work.

We’ve previously covered the art and science of bending sheet metal, as well as a homebuilt brake that let’s you do it on a budget even Rainbow Aviation would scoff at. So what are you waiting for? Go build an airplane.

Thanks to [Oahupilot] for the tip.

Continue reading “Aluminum No Match For 3D Printed Press Brake Dies”

Hackaday Links: November 19, 2017

[Peter]’s homebuilt ultralight is actually flying now and not in ground effect, much to the chagrin of YouTube commenters. [Peter Sripol] built a Part 103 ultralight (no license required, any moron can jump in one and fly) in his basement out of foam board from Lowes. Now, he’s actually doing flight testing, and he managed to build a good plane. Someone gifted him a ballistic parachute so the GoFundMe for the parachute is unneeded right now, but this gift parachute is a bit too big for the airframe. Not a problem; he’ll just sell it and buy the smaller model.

Last week, rumors circulated of Broadcom acquiring Qualcomm for the sum of One… Hundred… Billion Dollars. It looks like that’s not happening now. Qualcomm rejected a deal for $103B, saying the offer, ‘undervalued the company and would face regulatory hurdles.’ Does this mean the deal is off? No, there are 80s guys out there who put the dollar signs in Busine$$, and there’s politicking going on.

A few links posts ago, I pointed out there were some very fancy LED panels available on eBay for very cheap. The Barco NX-4 LED panels are a 32×36 panels of RGB LEDs, driven very quickly by some FPGA goodness. The reverse engineering of these panels is well underway, and [Ian] and his team almost have everything figured out. Glad I got my ten panels…

TechShop is gone. With a heavy heart, we bid adieu to a business with a whole bunch of tools anyone can use. This leaves a lot of people with TechShop memberships out in the cold, and to ease the pain, Glowforge, Inventables, Formlabs, and littleBits are offering some discounts so you can build a hackerspace in your garage or basement. In other TechShop news, the question on everyone’s mind is, ‘what are they going to do with all the machines?’. Nobody knows, but the smart money is a liquidation/auction. Yes, in a few months, you’ll probably be renting a U-Haul and driving to TechShop one last time.

3D Hubs has come out with a 3D Printing Handbook. There’s a lot in the world of filament-based 3D printing that isn’t written down. It’s all based on experience, passed on from person to person. How much of an overhang can you really get away with? How do you orient a part correctly? God damned stringing. How do you design a friction-fit between two parts? All of these techniques are learned by experience. Is it possible to put this knowledge in a book? I have no idea, so look for that review in a week or two.

Like many of us, I’m sure, [Adam] is a collector of vintage computers. Instead of letting them sit in the attic, he’s taking gorgeous pictures of them. The collection includes most of the big-time Atari and Commodore 8-bitters, your requisite Apples, all of the case designs of the all-in-one Macs, some Pentium-era PCs, and even a few of the post-97 Macs. Is that Bondi Blue? Bonus points: all of these images are free to use with attribution.

Nvidia is blowing out their TX1 development kits. You can grab one for $200. What’s the TX1? It’s a really, really fast ARM computer stuffed into a heat sink that’s about the size of a deck of cards. You can attach it to a MiniITX breakout board that provides you with Ethernet, WiFi, and a bunch of other goodies. It’s a step above the Raspberry Pi for sure and is capable enough to run as a normal desktop computer.

How To Build An Airplane In A Month And A Half

For the last few weeks, RC pilot extraordinaire [Peter Sripol] has been working on his biggest project to date. It’s effectively a manned RC plane, now legally a Part 103 ultralight. Now all that work is finally bearing fruit. [Peter] is flying this plane on some short hops down a grass runway. He’s flying it, and proving that you can build a plane in a basement, in under two months, constructed almost entirely out of insulation foam.

[Peter] has been documenting this build on his YouTube channel, and although the materials for this plane are mostly sourced from either Home Depot or Lowes, the construction is remarkably similar to what you would expect to find in other homebuilt aircraft. This thing has plywood gussets, the foam is wearing a thin layer of fiberglass, and the fasteners are from Aircraft Spruce.

The power system is another matter entirely. The engines (all two of them!) are electric and are designed for very large RC aircraft. These engines suck down power from a massive battery pack in the nose, and the twin throttles are really just linear potentiometers hacked onto servo testers. There’s a surprising amount of very important equipment on this plane that is just what [Peter] had sitting around the workshop.

As far as the legality of this ultralight experiment is concerned, [Peter] is pretty much above-board. This is a Part 103 ultralight, and legally any moron can jump in an ultralight and fly. There are some highly entertaining YouTube videos attesting this fact. However, in one of [Peter]’s livestreams, he flew well after sunset without any strobes on the plane. We’re going to call this a variant of go-fever, technically illegal, and something that could merit a call from the FAA. We’re going to give him a pass on this, though.

This build still isn’t done, though. The pitot tube is held onto the windshield with duct tape. The plane was slightly nose heavy, but shifting the batteries around helped with that. [Peter] is running the motors on 12S batteries, and the prop/motor combo should be run on 14S batteries — $1200 of batteries are on order. The entire plane needs a paint job, but there’s no indication that will ever be done. With all that said, this is a functional manned aircraft built in a basement in less than two months.

With the plane complete and ground tests quickly moving on to flight tests, it’s only fitting to mention [Peter]’s GoFundMe page for a parachute. [Peter] is going to fly this thing anyway, and this is a great way to deflect Internet concern trolls. [Peter]’s just short of the $2600 needed for a parachute, but if the funds received go over that amount by a few hundred, a ballistic parachute will save [Peter] and the plane.

Hackaday Links: October 1, 2017

Remember when you first saw a USB port in a standard wall outlet? It was a really great idea at the time, but how’s that 500mA charge holding up now? Fresh from a random press release, here’s a USB 3.0 wall outlet, with USB A and C ports. 5A @ 5V. Future proof for at least several years, I guess.

This is what you call ‘pucker factor’. An Air France A380 traveling from CDG to LAX suffered an uncontained engine failure somewhere over Greenland. Everyone on board is fine, except for the fact they had to spend the night in Goose Bay, Canada. Want the best Twitter/YouTube account of being a passenger? Here you go. Want to know why it landed in Goose Bay? This video is about ETOPS which really doesn’t apply in this instance but it’s a sufficient introduction to diverting airplanes after engine failures.

There are mysterious pylons going up alongside bridges and tunnels in NYC (auto-playing video). No one knows what they are, and the transportation board for New York is hiding behind a cloud of secrecy. We do know there are ‘fiber optics necessary for Homeland Security items’ inside, so place your bets. It’s facial recognition, or at the very least license plate readers. You know, exactly what New York and dozens of other cities have been doing for years.

Did somebody lose a balloon? A Raspberry Pi high-altitude balloon was found on the beach in south-west Denmark.

[Peter] is building an ultralight in his basement. We’ve covered the first part of the build, and we’ve been keeping tabs on him with semi-weekly updates. Now he’s fiberglassed the fuselage and started construction of the wings. Updates of note this week: he’s found a shop with an 8-foot CNC hot wire cutter for the wings. That really cuts down on the build time and it’s actually pretty cheap. One interesting part of this build is a ‘landing gear ejection system’, or a spring thing that allows the landing gear to fall away with the tug of a wire. Why would anyone want a landing gear ejection system? In case he needs to land in a soybean field. A flat bottom means a smoother and more survivable landing. If anyone is still concerned about [Peter]’s safety, this is a put up or shut up situation. Pitch in ten bucks for a parachute if you’re so concerned.

Hoverbike Kalashnikov! What? It’s a guy’s name. No big deal.

Open Hardware Summit is this week in Denver. What will be the highlights of the event? Well, last year, OSHWA announced the creation of an Open Hardware license. This is an all-encompassing license for Open Source Hardware that’s trying to solve some very, very hard problems. Copyright doesn’t work with hardware (except for boat hulls) like it does with software, and this Open Hardware license is the best we’ve got going for us. We’re going to get an update on how well this license is propagating. Also on deck for Summit attendees is a field trip to Sparkfun and Lulzbot. Want to see the world’s second largest 3D printer bot farm? It’ll be awesome.

Hackaday Links: September 17, 2017


Mergers and acquisitions? Not this time. Lattice Semiconductor would have been bought by Canyon Bridge — a private equity firm backed by the Chinese government — for $1.3B. This deal was shut down by the US government because of national security concerns.

[Jan] is the Internet’s expert in doing synths on single chips, and now he has something pretty cool. It’s a breadboard synth with MIDI and CV input. Basically, what we’re looking at is [Jan]’s CVS-01 chip for a DCO, DCF, and DCA), a KL5 chip for an LFO, and an envelope chip. Tie everything together with a two-octave captouch keyboard, and you have a complete synthesizer on a breadboard.

As an aside relating to the above, does anyone know what the cool kids are using for a CV/Gate keyboard controller these days? Modular synths are making a comeback, but it looks like everyone is running a MIDI keyboard into a MIDI-CV converter. It seems like there should be a –simple, cheap– controller with quarter-inch jacks labeled CV and Gate. Any suggestions?

World leaders are tweeting. The Canadian PM is awesome and likes Dark Castle.

Way back in July, Square, the ‘POS terminal on an iPad’ company posted some data on Twitter. Apparently, fidget spinner sales peaked during the last week of May, and were declining through the first few weeks of summer. Is this proof the fidget spinner fad was dead by August? I have an alternate hypothesis: fidget spinner sales are tied to middle schoolers, and sales started dropping at the beginning of summer vacation. We need more data, so if some of you could retweet this, that would be awesome.

Remember [Peter Sripol], the guy building an ultralight in his basement? This is going to be a five- or six-part video build log, and part three came out this week. This video features the installation of the control surfaces, the application of turnbuckles, and hardware that is far too expensive for what it actually is.