DIY Tuning Capacitors From Washers And 3D-Printed Parts

The inside of classic radios holds wonders that the sterile chips and SMD components of today’s circuits can’t hold a candle to. Chunky resistors and capacitors, vacuum tubes with cathodes aglow, and seemingly free-form loops of wire forming inductors will all likely make an appearance. But the most fascinating bit of any old radio was connected to the tuning knob: the big variable capacitor with its interdigitating metal plates. Watching one at work, with its plates evenly and finely spaced, is still a joy to behold.

In an attempt to recapture a little of that magic, [Jeremy S. Cook] came up with this home-brew variable tuning capacitor. The frame is built mainly from 3D-printed parts, which supports a shaft made from a common bolt. Plates are fashioned from stainless steel fender washers cut in half; the fixed plates are press-fit into the frame while the rotary plates ride on the shaft. The spacing between the rotary plates is maintained by printed spacers, which also serve to lock the rotor into one solid unit. [Jeremy]’s prototype, for which he provides STL files, can be tuned between about 7 and 15 pF. Check out the build in the video below.

We love the look of this, and we can imagine custom tuning caps would come in handy for certain retro radio builds. The tuning range is a little narrow, but that could be fixed with more plates or closer spacing. That might be a tall order with thick steel washers, but we’ve seen really thin aluminum machined and closely spaced before, so this might be one approach to higher capacitance. Continue reading “DIY Tuning Capacitors From Washers And 3D-Printed Parts”

Hacklet 102 – Laundry Projects

Ah laundry day. The washing machine, the dryer, the ironing, and the folding. No one is a fan of doing laundry, but we (I hope) are all fans of having clean clothing. Hackers, makers, and engineers are always looking for ways to make a tedious task a bit easier, and laundry definitely is one of those tedious tasks. This week we’re checking out some of the best laundry projects on Hackaday.io!

laundrifyWe start with [Professor Fartsparkles] and Laundrify. Anyone who’s shared a washer and dryer with house or apartment mates will tell you how frustrating it can be. You bring your dirty laundry downstairs only to find the machines are in use. Wait too long, and someone has jumped in front of you. Laundrify fixes all that. Using a current sensor, Laundrify can tell if a machine is running. An ESP8266 monitors the current sensor and sends data up to the cloud – or in this case a Raspberry Pi. Users access this laundry as a service system by opening up a webpage on the Pi. The page includes icons showing the current status of each machine. If everything is in use, the users can join a queue to be notified when a machine is free.

 

borgmachineNext up is [Jose Ignacio Romero] with Borg Washing Machine. [Jose] came upon a washer that mechanically was perfect. Electrically was a different story. The biggest issue was the failing mechanical timer, which kept leaving him with soapy wet clothing. Washing machine timers boil down to mechanically timed multipole switches. They’re also expensive to replace. [Jose] did something better – he built an electronic controller to revitalize his washer. The processor is a PIC16F887. Most of the mains level switching is handled by relays. [Jose] programmed the new system using LDmicro, which is a ladder logic implementation for microcontrollers. For the uninitiated, ladder logic is a programming language often used on industrial Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) systems. The newly dubbed borg machine is now up and running better than ever.

 

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Next we have [Michiel Spithoven] with Hot fill washing machine. In North America, most washing machines connect to hot and cold water supplies. Hot water comes from the home’s water heater. This isn’t the case in The Netherlands, where machines are designed to use electricity to heat cold water. [Michiel] knew his home’s water heater was more efficient than the electric heater built into his machine. [Michiel]  hacked his machine green by building an automated mixing manifold using two solenoid valves and a bit of copper pipe. The valves are controlled by a PIC microprocessor which monitors the temperature of the water entering the machine. The PIC modulates the valves to keep the water at just the right temperature for [Michiel’s] selected cycle. [Michiel] has been tracking the efficiency of the new system, and already has saved him €97!

 

laundrespFinally we have [Mark Kuhlmann] with LaundrEsp. [Mark’s] washing machine has a nasty habit of going off-balance and shutting down. This leaves him with soggy clothing and lost time re-running the load. [Mark] wanted to fix the problem without directly modifying his machine, so he came up with LaundrEsp. When the machine is running normally, a “door locked” light is illuminated on the control panel. As soon as the washer shuts down – due to a normal cycle ending or a fault, the door unlocks and the light goes out. [Mark] taped a CdS light detecting resistor over the light and connected it to an ESP8266. A bit of programming with Thinger.io, and [Mark’s] machine now let’s him know when it needs attention.

If you want to see more laundry projects check out our brand new laundry project list! If I missed your project, don’t take me to the cleaners! Drop me a message on Hackaday.io, and I’ll have your project washed, folded, and added to the list in a jiffy. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

One Man’s Quest To Spend Less TIme In The Basement

[Lars] has a second floor apartment, and the washing machines and clothes dryers are in the basement. This means [Lars] has spent too much time walking down to the basement to collect his laundry, only to find out there is 15 minutes left in on the cycle. There are a few solutions to this: leave your load in the washer like an inconsiderate animal, buy a new, fancy washer and dryer with proprietary Internet of Things™ software, or hack together a washer and dryer monitoring solution. We all know what option [Lars] chose.

Connecting a Pi to the Internet and serving up a few bits of data is a solved problem. The hard part is deciding which bits to serve. Washers and dryers all have a few things in common: they both use power, they both move and shake, they make noise, and their interfaces change during the wash cycle. [Lars] wanted a device that could be used with washers and dryers, and could be used with other machines in the future. He first experimented with a microphone, capturing the low rumble of a washer sloshing about and a dryer tumbling a load of laundry. It turns out an accelerometer works just as well, and with a sensor securely fastened to a washer or dryer, [Lars] can get a pretty good idea if it’s running or not.

With a reliable way to tell if a washer or dryer is still running, [Lars] only had to put this information on his smartphone. He ended up using PushBullet, and quickly had an app on his phone that told him if his laundry was done.


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New Brain For An Old Washing Machine

When the washing machine at [hydronucleus]’s place went on the fritz, he went straight to the toolbox to try to repair it. The problem was with the old mechanical control unit, so [hydronucleus] got an Arduino out of the parts bin to create a brand new electronic controller for his washing machine. (Imgur Link)

drumThe old mechanical controller functioned like a player piano. A rotating drum with ridges actuate different cycles in the washing machine. Some of the cycles weren’t working properly so [hydronucleus] ripped them out. With the help of a schematic posted on the washing machine itself, the cycles were able to be programmed into the Arduino.

The other obstacle in this repair was getting enough relays together to switch everything in the washing machine. This was solved with a Sainsmart 16 relay block, which has more than enough relays for the job. [hydronucleus] wired up an LCD and a pushbutton to control it and his washing machine is as good as new! The cost of the repair certainly beats a new machine, too. Although if it finally gives up the ghost completely, he could always turn it into a windmill.

Want to read more about [hydronucleus]’s washing machine hack? Check out his Reddit thread!