Creating Lookalike Valves With Resin Casting

Valves (tubes) certainly have a die hard fan base in the electronic community, praised for their warm sound, desirable distortion characteristics and attractive aesthetic. However, sometimes you just want the look of a valve for a prop or a toy, without actually needing the functionality. For those cases, this project from [Ajaxjones] might be just the ticket.

The build consists of taking an existing valve, combining it with a 3D printed base, and using this to create a silicone mould. 3D printed parts and dressmaker’s pins are then used to create the internal parts of the valve, and are inserted into the mould. Clear resin is then degassed, and poured into the mould to create the part. Once cured, the part is removed and the base painted to complete the look. An LED is then installed into a void in the base to give the piece a warm glow as you’d expect.

It’s a simple tutorial to producing high-quality clear plastic parts, and one that should prove useful to many prop builders and cosplayers alike. If you’re wanting to take your resin game to the next level, consider trying some overmolded parts. Video after the break.

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Finely Machined Valve Controls Miniature RC Hydraulics

Hydraulic components are the industrial power transmission version of LEGO. Pumps, cylinders, valves – pretty much everything is standardized, and fitting out a working system is a matter of picking the right parts and just plumbing everything together. That’s fine if you want to build an excavator or a dump truck, but what if you want to scale things down?

Miniature hydraulic systems need miniature components, of which this homebrew hydraulic valve made by [TinC33] is a great example. (Video embedded below.) If you’re curious about why anyone would need these, check out the tiny hydraulic cylinders he built a while back, wherein you’ll learn that miniature RC snowplows are a thing. The video below starts with a brief but clear explanation about how hydraulic circuits work, as well as an explanation of the rotary dual-action proportional valve he designed. All the parts are machined by hand in the lathe from aluminum and brass stock. The machining operations are worth watching, but if you’re not into such things, skip to final assembly and testing at 13:44. The valve works well, providing very fine control of the cylinder and excellent load holding, and there’s not a leak to be seen. Impressive.

[TinC33] finishes the video with a tease of a design for multiple valves in a single body. That one looks like it might be an interesting machining challenge, and one we’d love to see.

Thanks to [mgsouth] for the tip.

Everything You Probably Didn’t Know About FOV In HMDs

VR headsets have been seeing new life for a few years now, and when it comes to head-mounted displays, the field of view (FOV) is one of the specs everyone’s keen to discover. Valve Software have published a highly technical yet accessibly-presented document that explains why Field of View (FOV) is a complex thing when it pertains to head-mounted displays. FOV is relatively simple when it comes to things such as cameras, but it gets much more complicated and hard to define or measure easily when it comes to using lenses to put images right up next to eyeballs.

Simulation of how FOV can be affected by eye relief [Source: Valve Software]
The document goes into some useful detail about head-mounted displays in general, the design trade-offs, and naturally talks about the brand-new Valve Index VR headset in particular. The Index uses proprietary lenses combined with a slight outward cant to each eye’s display, and they explain precisely what benefits are gained from each design point. Eye relief (distance from eye to lens), lens shape and mounting (limiting how close the eye can physically get), and adjustability (because faces and eyes come in different configurations) all have a role to play. It’s a situation where every millimeter matters.

If there’s one main point Valve is trying to make with this document, it’s summed up as “it’s really hard to use a single number to effectively describe the field of view of an HMD.” They plan to publish additional information on the topics of modding as well as optics, so keep an eye out on their Valve Index Deep Dive publication list.

Valve’s VR efforts remain interesting from a hacking perspective, and as an organization they seem mindful of keen interest in being able to modify and extend their products. The Vive Tracker was self-contained and had an accessible hardware pinout for the express purpose of making hacking easier.  We also took a look at Valve’s AR and VR prototypes, which give some insight into how and why they chose the directions they did.

EF50: The Tube That Changed Everything

From today’s perspective, vacuum tubes are pretty low tech. But for a while they were the pinnacle of high tech, and heavy research followed the promise shown by early vacuum tubes in transmission and computing. Indeed, as time progressed, tubes became very sophisticated and difficult to manufacture. After all, they were as ubiquitous as ICs are today, so it is hardly surprising that they got a lot of R&D.

Prior to 1938, for example, tubes were built as if they were light bulbs. As the demands on them grew more sophisticated, the traditional light bulb design wasn’t sufficient. For one, the wire leads’ parasitic inductance and capacitance would limit the use of the tube in high-frequency applications. Even the time it took electrons to get from one part of the tube to another was a bottleneck.

There were several attempts to speed tubes up, including RCA’s acorn tubes, lighthouse tubes, and Telefunken’s Stahlröhre designs. These generally tried to keep leads short and tubes small. The Philips company started attacking the problem in 1934 because they were anticipating demand for television receivers that would operate at higher frequencies.

Dr. Hans Jonker was the primary developer of the proposed solution and published his design in an internal technical note describing an all-glass tube that was easier to manufacture than other solutions. Now all they needed was an actual application. While they initially thought the killer app would be television, the E50 would end up helping the Allies win the war.

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How To Make A Pilotron, The Forgotten Tube

The vacuum tube is largely ignored in modern electronic design, save for a few audio applications such as guitar and headphone amps. The transistor is smaller, cheaper, and inordinately easier to manufacture. By comparison, showing us just how much goes into the manufacture of a tube, [glasslinger] decided to make a wire-element pilotron – from scratch!

To say this is an involved build is an understatement. Simply creating the glass tube itself takes significant time and skill. [glasslinger] shows off the skills of a master, however – steadily working through the initial construction, before showing off advanced techniques necessary to seal in electrodes, produce the delicate wire grid, and finally pull vacuum and seal the tube completely.

The project video is an hour long, and no detail is skipped. From 2% thoriated tungsten wire to annealing torches and grades of glass, it’s all there. It’s enough that an amateur could reproduce the results, given enough attempts and a complete shop of glassworking equipment.

The pilotron may be a forgotten design, but in 2018 it once again gets its day in the sun. Overall, it’s a testament to [glasslinger]’s skill and ability to be able to produce such a device that not only looks the part, but is fully functional on an electronic level, as well.

There’s a few people out there still building valves the old fashioned way, and we’d love to see more – tip ’em if you got ’em. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Morris for the tip!]

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Let No Eyebrow Go Unsinged With A Wrist-Mounted Flamethrower

We’ll say it just once, and right up front: wrist-mounted flamethrowers are a bad idea. An itchy nose and a brief moment of forgetfulness while sporting one of these would make for a Really Bad Day. That said, this flaming gauntlet of doom looks like a lot of fun.

We’ve got to hand it to [Steve Hernandez] – he put a lot of work into the Flame-O-Tron 9000. Building on his prior art in the field, [Steve] went a bit further with this design. The principle is the same – butane plus spark equals fun – but the guts of this flamethrower are entirely new. A pipe bomb custom fuel tank is used rather than the stock butane can, and a solenoid valve controls fuel flow. Everything lives in a snazzy acrylic case that rides on a handmade leather bracer, and controls in the hand grip plus an Arduino allow the user to fire short bursts of flame or charge up for a real fireball. See what you think of the final product in the short video after the break; it sounds as though even if the fuel runs out, the high-voltage would make a dandy stun gun.

Maybe we should lay off the safety nagging on these wrist rockets. After all, we’ve seen many, many, many of them, with nary a report of injury.

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Shop-Made Pneumatic Cylinders From PVC And Plywood

You see a lot of pneumatic actuators in industrial automation, and for good reason. They’re simple, powerful, reliable, and above all, cheap. Online sources and fluid-power suppliers carry a bewildering range of actuators, so why would anyone bother to make their own pneumatic cylinders? Because while the commercial stuff is cheap, it’s not PVC and plywood cheap.

Granted, that’s not the only reason [Izzy Swan] gives for his DIY single-acting cylinder. For him it’s more about having the flexibility to make exactly what he needs in terms of size and shape. And given how ridiculously easy these cylinders are, you can make a ton of them for pennies. The cylinder itself is common Schedule 40 PVC pipe with plywood endcaps, all held together with threaded rod. [Izzy] cut the endcaps with a CNC router, but a band saw or jig saw would do as well. The piston is a plywood plug mounted to a long bolt; [Izzy] gambled a little by cutting the groove for the O-ring with a table saw, but no fingers were lost. The cylinder uses a cheap bungee as a return spring, but an internal compression spring would work too,. Adding a second air inlet to make the cylinder double-acting would be possible as well. The video below shows the cylinder in action as a jig clamp.

True, the valves are the most expensive part of a pneumatic system, but if nothing else, being able to say you made your own cylinders is a win. And maybe you’ll get the fluid-power bug and want to work up to DIY hydraulics.

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