Hackaday Podcast 080: Trucks On A Wire, Seeing Sounds, Flightless Drone, And TEA Laser Strike

Hackaday editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys flip through the index of great hacks. This week we learn of a co-existence attack on WiFi and Bluetooth radios called Spectra. The craftsmanship in a pneumatic drone is so awesome we don’t care that it doesn’t fly. Building a powerful TEA laser is partly a lesson in capacitor design. And join us in geeking out at the prospect of big rigs getting their juice from miles of overhead wires.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (~65 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 080: Trucks On A Wire, Seeing Sounds, Flightless Drone, And TEA Laser Strike”

HAWT Wind Turbine Is Mostly 3D Printed

Wind turbines are a great source of renewable energy, and a great DIY project, too. They can be built with all kinds of materials and the barrier for entry is low for the beginner. [Fab] has built just such a device, taking advantage of modern construction techniques, and dubbed it the WinDIY.

The WinDIY design is mostly 3D printed, with a familiar three-bladed design. The diameter of the rotor is 1.2 m, meaning that braking and regulating the turbine is required for safety in high winds. [Fab] is aiming to achieve this control with a combination of mechanical and electronic braking, as well as variable-pitch blades. The benefit of 3D printing the design is it allows iterations to be made quickly, particularly of parts with complex geometries that would be too time-consuming or expensive to machine otherwise.

[Fab]’s writeup goes into great detail on topics like the design of the pitch control systems and other minutae, which should serve as a great reference for anyone else working on a similar project. If you’re looking for something with more of a sci-fi future vibe, consider attempting a vertical-axis build instead.

3D-Printing Bigger Wind Turbines

Many decades ago, a much younger version of me was in the car with my dad and my brother, cruising down the highway on some errand or another. We were probably all in the front seat, and none of us were wearing seatbelts; those were simpler times. As we passed under an overpass, my dad said, “Do you know why the overpasses on these roads are so high?” Six-year-old me certainly didn’t, but it was clear dad did and had something to say about it, so we just shook our heads and waited for the lesson. “Because that’s how big nuclear missiles are.” He then went into an explanation of how the Interstate Highway System in the USA, then still in its infancy, was designed to make sure the armed forces could move around the country, so overpasses needed to allow trucks with big loads to pass.

It was an interesting lesson at the time, and over the years I’ve continued to be impressed with the foresight and engineering that went into the Interstate system here in the US. It’s far from perfect, of course, and it’s only recently that the specifications for the system have started to put a pinch on things that seem totally unrelated to overpass dimensions — namely, the size and efficiency of wind turbines.

Continue reading “3D-Printing Bigger Wind Turbines”

Books You Should Read: The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

For many of us, our passion for electronics and science originated with curiosity about some device, a computer, radio, or even a car. The subject of this book has just such an origin. However, how many of us made this discovery and pursued this path during times of hunger or outright famine?

That’s the remarkable story of William Kamkwamba that’s told in the book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Remarkable because it culminates with his building a windmill (more correctly called a wind turbine) that powered lights in his family’s house all by the young age of fifteen. As you’ll see, it’s also the story of an unyielding thirst for knowledge in the face of famine and doubt by others.

Continue reading “Books You Should Read: The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind”

Wind Farms In The Night: On-Demand Warning Lights Are Coming

There appears to be no shortage of reasons to hate on wind farms. That’s especially the case if you live close by one, and as studies have shown, their general acceptance indeed grows with their distance. Whatever your favorite flavor of renewable energy might be, that’s at least something it has in common with nuclear or fossil power plants: not in my back yard. The difference is of course that it requires a lot more wind turbines to achieve the same output, therefore affecting a lot more back yards in total — in constantly increasing numbers globally.

Personally, as someone who encounters them occasionally from the distance, I find wind turbines mostly to be an eyesore, particularly in scenic mountainous landscapes. They can add a futuristic vibe to some otherwise boring flatlands. In other words, I can not judge the claims actual residents have on their impact on humans or the environment. So let’s leave opinions and emotions out of it and look at the facts and tech of one issue in particular: light pollution.

This might not be the first issue that comes to mind when thinking about wind farms. But wind turbines are tall enough to require warning lights for air traffic safety, and can be seen for miles, blinking away in the night sky. From a pure efficiency standpoint, this doesn’t seem reasonable, considering how often an aircraft is actually passing by on average. Most of the time, those lights simply blink for nothing, lighting up the countryside. Can we change this?

Continue reading “Wind Farms In The Night: On-Demand Warning Lights Are Coming”

Hackaday Podcast 040: 3D Printed Everything, Strength V Toughness, Blades Of Fiber, And What Can’t Coffee Do?

Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams opine on the coolest hacks we saw this week. This episode is heavy with 3D printing as Prusa released a new, smaller printer, printed gearboxes continue to impress us with their power and design, hoverboards are turned into tanks, and researchers suggest you pour used coffee grounds into your prints. Don’t throw out those “toy” computers, they may be hiding vintage processors. And we have a pair of fantastic articles that cover the rise and fall of forest fire watchtowers, and raise the question of where all those wind turbine blades will go when we’re done with them.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (59 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 040: 3D Printed Everything, Strength V Toughness, Blades Of Fiber, And What Can’t Coffee Do?”

What Will We Do With The Turbine Blades?

As the global climate emergency continues to loom over human civilization, feverish work is underway around the world to find technical and political solutions to the problem. Much has been gained in recent years, but as global emissions continue to increase, there remains much left to do to stave off the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Renewable energy has led the charge, allowing humanity to continue to enjoy the wonders of electricity with a reduced environmental impact. The future looks promising, with renewable sources becoming cheaper than traditional fossil fuel energy plants in many cases, both in the US and abroad. At the same time, the rise of renewable technologies has brought new and varied challenges to the fore, which must be dealt with in kind. Take wind energy, for instance. Continue reading “What Will We Do With The Turbine Blades?”