Counting Without Transistors

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The Hackaday Prize is all about Building Hope. We want to see hardware creators change the world with microcontrollers and breadboards. That’s a noble goal, but it also doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. That’s exactly what [Yann] is doing with a pile of surplus Soviet components, a bunch of bodge wire, and exactly zero transistors. He’s building a hexadecimal display module using only relays and diodes. It’s absurd, but still very very cool.

The inspiration for this build comes from homebrew computing. With this, there’s a recurring problem of displaying the status of a bus. Sure, a bank of …read more

Fail of the Week: The Spot Welder Upgrade That Wasn’t

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Even when you build something really, really nice, there’s always room for improvement, right? As it turns out for this attempted upgrade to a DIY spot welder, not so much.

You’ll no doubt recall [Mark Presling]’s remarkably polished and professional spot welder build that we featured some time ago. It’s a beauty, with a lot of thought and effort put into not only the fit and finish but the function as well. Still, [Mark] was not satisfied; he felt that the welder was a little underpowered, and the rewound microwave oven transformer was too noisy. Taking inspiration from an old …read more

When Detecting Lines Is Harder Than Expected

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[Conor Patrick] is no stranger to hardware development, and he’s had an interesting project for the past few months. He’s attempting to create a tool to convert images of technical drawings (such as footprints for electronic components) into digital formats that can be imported into other tools. This could automate turning a typical footprint drawing like the one shown into an actual part definition in a CAD program, which could really speed up the creation of custom parts.

Key to the entire concept is the detection of lines in a black-and-white technical drawing. To some people this won’t sound like …read more

GuerillaClock Could Save This City Thousands

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They say necessity is the mother of invention. But if the thing you need has already been invented but is extremely expensive, another mother of invention might be budget overruns. That was the case when [klinstifen]’s local government decided to put in countdown clocks at bus stops, at a whopping $25,000 per clock. Thinking that was a little extreme, he decided to build his own with a much smaller price tag.

The project uses a Raspberry Pi Zero W as its core, and a 16×32 RGB LED matrix for a display. Some of the work is done already, since the …read more

Blueprints Make It Easy To Make (Some) Alexa Skills

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If you can code, you can create an Alexa skill — the programs that allow an Amazon Echo or similar device interact with you. What if you can’t code or you are just too lazy to do all the setup? Amazon now has Blueprints that can help anyone make a skill. The only problem is the skills you can create are pretty limited. In addition, they are only available to your Alexa devices.

The idea is simple. You start with a template — OK, a blueprint. This is a model application that does something like giving you a compliment or …read more

3D Drone Video

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If you enjoy flying quadcopters, it is a good bet that you’ll have a drone with a camera. It used to be enough to record a video for later viewing, but these days you really want to see a live stream. The really cool setups have goggles so you can feel like you are actually in the cockpit. [Andi2345] decided to go one step further and build a drone that streams 3D video. You can see a video of the system, below.

Outdoors, there’s probably not a lot of advantage to having a 3D view, but it ought to be …read more

Got a Burning Idea For An EMF Camp Presentation? Now’s Your Chance!

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Sometimes the world of tech conference presentations can seem impossibly opaque, a place in which there appears to be an untouchable upper echelon of the same speakers who pop up at conference after conference. Mere mortals can never aspire to join them and are destined to forever lurk in the shadows, their killer talk undelivered.

Thankfully, our community is not like that. There is a rich tradition of events having open calls for participation, and the latest we’d like to bring to your attention comes from the British EMF Camp, to be held at the end of August. EMF, (standing …read more

Roomba-Riding Beer Butlers Will Serve Us All

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[Josh] isn’t one to refuse a challenge, especially when robots are involved. The latest dare from friends and family? Build a beer robot that can bring beverages at everyone’s beck and call.

The build consists of two main parts: the refrigerated cooler and the butler part, which comes courtesy of a Roomba Discovery from a fellow roboticist. [Josh] is basing the design on double-walled and insulated restaurant coolers. He built the refrigerated beverage hold from two stainless steel trash cans, sized an inch or so apart in diameter, and filled the gap with expanding foam insulation. He then cut away …read more

Building a POV Display On A PC Fan

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We’ve covered plenty of persistence of vision (POV) displays before, but this one from [Vadim] is rather fun: it’s built on top of a PC fan. He’s participating in a robot building competition soon and wanted to have a POV display. So, why not kill two birds with one stone and build the display onto a fan that could also be used for ventilation?

The display is a stand-alone module that includes a battery, Neopixels, Arduino and an NRF240L01 radio that receives the images to be displayed. That might seem like overkill, but putting the whole thing on a platform …read more

Nerf blaster goes next-level with propane power

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There are no shortage of Nerf gun mods out there. From simply upgrading springs to removing air restrictors, the temptation of one-upping your opponents in a Nerf war speaks to many!

Not content with such lowly modifications [Peter Sripol] decided that his blaster needed to see some propane action.

[Peter] completely stripped out the existing firing mechanism before creating a new combustion chamber from some soldered copper pipe. He added a propane tank and valve on some 3D-printed mounts, and replaced the barrel to produce some intense firepower.

To ignite the fuel inside the combustion chamber, some taser circuitry creates …read more

Fast LED Matrix Graphics For The ESP32

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Many of you will have experimented with driving displays from your microcontroller projects, and for most people that will mean pretty simple status information for which you’d use standard libraries and not care much about their performance. If however any of you have had the need for quickly-updating graphics such as video or game content, you may have found that simpler software solutions aren’t fast enough. If you are an ESP32 user then, [Louis Beaudoin] may have some good news for you, because he has ported the SmartMatrix library to that platform. We’ve seen his demo in action, and the …read more

Home Made 5-Axis CNC Head Is A Project To Watch

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[Reiner Schmidt] was tired of renting an expensive 5-axis CNC head for projects, so he decided to build his own. It’s still a work in progress, but he’s made remarkable progress so far. The project is called Bridge Boy, and it is designed to use a cheap DC rotary mill to cut soft materials like plastic, wood and the like. Most of it is 3D printed, and he has released the Autodesk 360 plans that would allow you to start building your own. His initial version uses an Arduino with stepper drivers, and is designed to fit onto the end …read more

Zippo Keeps Your Bits Safe

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[Laura Kampf] found a new use for an old Zippo lighter by turning it into a carrier for her screwdriver bits. There are several multitools out there which can accept standard screwdriver bits. The problem is carrying those bits around. Leaving a few bits in your pocket is a recipe for pocket holes and missing bits.

[Laura’s] solution uses her old Zippo lighter. All she needs is the case, the lighter element itself can be saved for another project. A block of aluminum is cut and sanded down to a friction fit. Laura uses a band saw and bench sander …read more

Real-Time Polarimetric Imager from 1980s Tech

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It’s easy to dismiss decades old electronics as effectively e-waste. With the rapid advancements and plummeting prices of modern technology, most old hardware is little more than a historical curiosity at this point. For example, why would anyone purchase something as esoteric as 1980-era video production equipment in 2018? A cheap burner phone could take better images, and if you’re looking to get video in your projects you’d be better off getting a webcam or a Raspberry Pi camera module.

But occasionally the old ways of doing things offer possibilities that modern methods don’t. This fascinating white paper from [David …read more

A Polar Coordinate CNC Plotter Even Descartes Could Love

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Take apart a few old DVD drives, stitch them together with cable ties, add a pen and paper, and you’ve got a simple CNC plotter. They’re quick and easy projects that are fun, but they do tend to be a little on the “plug and chug” side. But a CNC plotter that uses polar coordinates? That takes a little more effort.

The vast majority of CNC projects, from simple two-axis plotters to big CNC routers, all tend to use Cartesian coordinate systems, where points on a plane are described by their distances from an origin point on two perpendicular axes. …read more

This Is Your Last Chance To Design The Greatest In Open Hardware

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This is the last weekend to get in on the Open Hardware Design Challenge, the first challenge of the 2018 Hackaday Prize. We’re looking for the boldest idea you can come up with. We want to see the beginnings of the next great bit of Open Hardware, and this is your chance to do it.

The Hackaday community has thrown itself into The Hackaday Prize and so far we have more than five hundred entries in the running to Build Hope and become the next great piece of Open Hardware. Next week, we’ll choose the top twenty projects to advance …read more

eTextile Spring Break Tackles Signal Blocking, Audio Generation, and Radio Transmissions

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Finding a killer application for e-textiles is the realm of the hacker and within that realm, anything goes. Whether it’s protecting your digital privacy with signal shielding, generating audio with a wearable BeagleBone or 555 timer, or making your favorite garment into an antenna, the eTextile Spring Break is testing out ways to combine electronics and fabric.

You may be asking yourself “What are e-textiles good for?”. Well, that’s an excellent question and likely the most common one facing the industry today. I’m afraid I won’t be able to give a definitive answer. As an e-textile practitioner, I too am …read more

Laser projector ditches galvanometer for spinning drum

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Laser projectors like those popular in clubs or laser shows often use mirror galvanometers to reflect the laser and draw in 2D. Without galvos, and on a tight budget, [Vitaliy Mosesov] decided that instead of downgrading the quality, he would seek an entirely different solution: a spinning mirror drum.

He fires a laser at a rotating drum with twelve mirror faces, each at a different adjustable vertical angle. The laser will hit a higher or lower point on the projection surface depending on which mirror it’s reflecting off – this creates resolution in the Y direction.

Timing the pulsing of …read more

Life On Contract: Lowering Your Cost without Dropping Your Price

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Last time in Life on Contract, I discussed ways to figure out a starting point on how much to charge for your services. However, sometimes you and a client may wish to work together but for some reason they cannot (or do not wish to) pay what you have decided to charge. If you are inexperienced, it can be tempting to assume you have overpriced yourself and discount down to what they are willing to pay. But if your price is a number you have chosen for reasons you can explain, dropping it is not something you should do …read more

This Vapour Deposition Chamber Isn’t Vapourware

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If you are an astronomer with an optical reflecting telescope, the quality of your mirror is one of your most significant concerns. Large observatories will therefore often have on-site vapour deposition plants to revitalise their reflectors by depositing a fresh layer of aluminium upon them. You might think that such a device would be the preserve only of such well-funded sites, but perhaps [Michael Koch]’s work will prove you wrong. He’s created his own vapour deposition system (Google Translate link of the German original) from scratch, and while it might be smaller than the institutional equivalents it is no less …read more

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