Modular Vacuum Table Custom-Fits The Parts

[enhydra] needed to modify a bunch of side inserts from some cheap ABS enclosures, and to save time and effort, he created a simple vacuum table with swappable inserts to precisely fit the parts. Suction is provided by a shop vacuum (plugged in near the bottom in the photo above) and it worked very well! Sealing and gaskets weren’t even required.

A vacuum table provides a way to hold workpieces flat and secure while a CNC machine does its thing, and because no clamps are involved, it can really speed up repetitive work. [enhydra]’s solution combines a vacuum table with a jig that ensures every rectangular piece is held exactly where the machine expects it to be, making the whole process of modifying multiple units significantly more efficient.

The whole thing — vacuum table and modular top — was straightforward to CNC cut out of what looks like particle board and worked as-is, no added gaskets or seals required, making this a very economical solution.

Vacuum tables can be pretty versatile and applied in more than one way, so keep that in mind the next time you’re wondering how best to approach a workshop problem. We’ve seen a well-engineered table used to speed up PCB milling, and we’ve also seen a DIY vacuum table combined with a heat gun and plastic plates from the dollar store make a bare-bones thermoforming rig.

A High-Powered Vacuum Cleaner For Tough Jobs

Vacuum cleaners are great for tidying up the home, but they typically can’t deal with the bulky, gross messes of a proper workshop. [CraftAndu] is currently building a sailing vessel, and has found that there’s simply too much sawdust for a regular vacuum to take on. Thus, he built a mighty vacuum of his own that’s able to deal with such conditions.

The core of the build is a giant 3.8 kW dust collector that’s used as part of a workshop dust extraction system. It’s of the type you’d normally use to suck up dust from machine tools. It’s then fitted with a long flexible hose that goes to the vacuum handle itself. The handle is made up of lengths of sewage pipe and several adaptors to fit it all together and hook up to the flexible tube. It’s also fitted with a set of wheels to allow it to be easily skated about the floor of the shop.

It’s a neat way to suck up all the lightweight sawdust that collects around the workshop. However, [CraftAndu] notes that even with the 3.8 kW extraction system powering it, it’s still quicker to use a broom for bigger detritus like wood chips and the like.

A lot of people think that vacuum projects suck, but we’ve always had a soft spot for them. Pun intended, and you’ll find the video after the break!

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Digging Out An Underground Workshop

[Michael] of Teaching Tech moved, and with a large crawlspace under the house, he decided to turn it into a workshop.

There were a few challenges that needed to be addressed first. He had to dig out the crawlspace to provide a level surface, though the depth was limited by the concrete footers the building stands on. The house is sitting on and around large amounts of limestone, which is excellent from a stability standpoint but causes problems for [Michael]. Water can easily travel through limestone, meaning it ends up in his newly dug-out crawlspace. He dug trenches for water to exit and laid down gravel. After a few attempts to level the floor, he found some recycled plastic floor mats and finally got them where he liked them.

Wheeling his tools down a long and steep hill to the shop looks like most of the challenge. But with a few additions to the shop, like hard tube dust extractions and a french cleat system, he has an incredibly functional dedicated shop space.

If your crawlspace is too small for people, a tiny remote-controlled forklift could turn it into the storage space you need.

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Custom 3D Printer Cart Hides Clever Features

Even if you’ve got a decent sized workshop, there’s only so much stuff you can have sitting on the bench at one time. That’s why [Eric Strebel], ever the prolific maker, decided to build this slick cart for his fairly bulky Ultimaker 3 Extended printer. (Video, embedded below.) While the cart is obviously designed to match the aesthetics of the Ultimaker, the video below is sure to have some useful tips and tricks no matter which printer or tool you’re looking to cart around the shop in style.

[Eric] made a second video on sketching out the design.
On the surface this might look like a pretty standard rolling cart, and admittedly, at least half of the video is a bit more New Yankee Workshop than something we’d usually be interested in here on Hackaday. But [Eric] has built a number of neat little details into the cart that we think are worth mentally filing away for future projects.

For example, we really liked his use of magnets to hold the plastic totes in place, especially his method of letting the magnets align themselves first before locking everything down with screws and hot glue. The integrated uninterruptible power supply is also a nice touch, as it not only helps protect your prints in the event of a power outage, but means you could even move the cart around (very carefully…) as the printer does its thing.

But perhaps the most interesting element of the cart is that [Eric] has relocated the Ultimaker’s NFC sensors from the back of the printer and into the cart itself. This allows the printer to still read the NFC chip built into the rolls of Ultimaker filament, even when they’re locked safely away from humidity in a sealed box.

Now all you’ve got to do is apply for the loan it will take to pay for all of the MDF you’ll need to build your own version. At this point, we wouldn’t be surprised if encasing your 3D printer in metal would end up being cheaper than using wood.

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A Hydraulic Bench Vise, Made On The Bench

When we sit down to a build video and see that it’s from [Workshop From Scratch], we know it’ll be a good one, full of plenty of gratuitous metal-wrangling with the promise of an ingenious and useful take on a workshop essential at the end. The home made hydraulic bench vise is the latest from that particular workshop, so settle down with the video below the break for a treat.

Unlike the lead screw we’d expect from a more conventional vise, this one uses a hydraulic pull cylinder and its associated compressor which is powered by compressed air. A substantial vise frame is constructed around the cylinder from thick steel plate, with some careful welding and grinding to ensure a smooth finish.¬† The result is substantial clamping force with a very smooth and quick action, which doesn’t overhang the edge of the bench in the way a more traditional one does. The hydraulic tube is tucked away through a hole in the bench, and the foot-operated pump lies out of sight on the floor.

Looking at this vise with blacksmith-trained eyes, it raises the question of how it might perform were something in it to be hammered. Overhanging vises are vulnerable to splitting when hammered, so there’s the possibility that this one with its flat mounting might fare a little better. Either way it would be an asset to any workshop.

When it comes to vises, [Workshop From Scratch] is where we saw that magnetic vise earlier last year.

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Remoticon Video: Learning The Basics Of Software-Defined Radio (SDR)

Have you dipped your toe into the SDR ocean? While hacker software-defined radio has been a hot topic for years now, it can be a little daunting to try it out for the first time. Here’s your change to get your legs under you with the SDR overview workshop presented by Josh Conway during the 2020 Hackaday Remoticon.

Josh’s presentation starts with a straightforward definition of SDR before moving to an overview of the hardware and software that’s out there. Hardware designs for radios can be quite simple to build, but they’ll be limited to a single protocol — for instance, an FM radio can’t listen in on 433 Mhz wireless doorbell. SDR breaks out of that by moving to a piece of radio hardware that can be reconfigured to work with protocols merely by making changes to the software that controls it. This makes the radio hardware more expensive, but also means you can listen (and sometimes transmit) to a wide range of devices like that wireless doorbell or automotive tire pressure sensors, but also radio-based infrastructure like airplane transponders and weather satellites.

This is the quickstart you want since it explains  a lot of topis at just the right depth. The hardware overview covers RTL-SDR, ADALM-PLUTO, HackRF, KerberosSDR, and BladeRF (which we just featured over the weekend used on the WiFi procotol). For software, Josh recaps GQRX, SDR#, SDRAngel, ShinySDR, Universal Radio Hacker, Inspectrum, SigDigger, RPITX, GnuRadio Companion, and REDHAWK. He also takes us through a wide swath of the antenna types that are out there before turning to questions from the workshop attendees.

If SDR is still absent in your toolbox, now’s a great time to give it another look. Once you’ve made it through the ‘hello world’ stage, there’s plenty to explore like those awesome RF Emissions testing tricks we as in another Remoticon talk.

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Remoticon Video: Basics Of RF Emissions Debugging Workshop

These days we’re surrounded by high-speed electronics and it’s no small feat that they can all play nicely in near proximity to each other. We have RF emissions standards to thank, which ensure new products don’t spew forth errant signals that would interfere with the data signals traveling through the ether. It’s long been the stuff of uber-expensive emissions testing labs, and failure to pass can leave you scratching your head. But as Alex Whittimore shows in this workshop from the 2020 Hackaday Remoticon, you can do a lot of RF emissions debugging with simple and inexpensive tools.

Professionally-made probes in several sizes
Build your own probes from magnet wire

You can get a surprisingly clear picture of what kind of RF might be coming off of a product by probing it on your own workbench. Considering the cost of the labs performing FCC and other certifications, this is a necessary skill for anyone who is designing a product headed to market — and still damn interesting for everyone else. Here you can see two examples of the probes used in the process. Although one is a pack of professional tools and other is a bit of enameled wire (magnet wire), both are essentially the same: a loop of wire on which a magnetic field will induce a very small current. Add a Low-Noise Amplifier (LNA) and you’ll be up and measuring in no-time.

I really enjoyed how Alex started his demo with “The Right WayTM” of doing things — using a proper spectrum analyzer to visualize data from the probes. But the real interesting part is “The Hacker WayTM” which leverages an RTL-SDR dongle and some open-source software to get the same job done. Primarily that means using SDRAngel and QSpectrumAnalyzer which are both included in the DragonOS_LTS which can be run inside of a virtual machine.
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