Thrust Vectoring With Compliant Mechanisms Is Hard

Thrust vectoring is one way to control aerial vehicles. It’s become more popular as technology advances, finding applications on fifth-generation fighter aircraft, as well as long being used in space programmes the world over.[RCLifeOn] decided to try and bring the technology to a prop-powered RC aircraft, in an unconventional way.

After attending a lecture on compliant mechanisms and their potential use in space vehicles for thrust vectoring control, [RCLifeOn] decided to try applying the concept himself. His test mechanism is a fixed-wing with a single-piece motor mount that has enough flex in the right places to allow the motor (and propeller) to be moved in two axes, achieving thrust vectoring control.

After printing a compliant motor mount in a variety of materials, one was selected for having the right balance of strength and flexibility. The vectoring mechanism was fitted to a basic flying wing RC aircraft, and taken to the field for testing. Unfortunately, success was not the order of the day. While the mechanism was able to flex successfully and vector the motor in bench testing, it was unable to hold up to the stresses of powered flight. The compliant mechanism failed and the plane nosedived to the ground.

[RCLifeOn] suspects that the basic concept is a difficult proposition to engineer properly, as adding strength would tend to add weight which would make flight more difficult. Regardless, we’d love to see further development of the idea. It’s not the first time we’ve seen his 3D-printed flight experiments, either. Video after the break.

Posted in classic hacks, compliant mechanism, drone hacks, Thrust vectoring | Leave a comment

Cycloid Drawing Machine Uses Sneaky Stepper Hack

Stepper motors are great for projects that require accurate control of motion. 3D printers, CNC machines and plotters are often built using these useful devices. [InventorArtist] built a stepper-based cycloid drawing machine, and made use of a nifty little hack along the way.

The machine uses a rotating turntable to spin a piece of drawing paper. A pen is then placed in a pantograph mechanism, controlled by another two stepper motors. The build uses the common 28BYJ-48 motor, which are a unipolar, 5-wire design. A common hack is to open these motors up and cut a trace in order to convert them to bipolar operation, netting more torque at the expense of being more complex to drive. [InventorArtist] worked in collaboration with [Doug Commons], who had the idea of instead simply drilling a hole through the case of the motor to cut the trace. This saves opening the motor, and makes the conversion a snap.

[InventorArtist] was able to create a machine capable of beautiful spirograph drawings, and develop a useful hack along the way. Reports are that a jig is in development to make the process foolproof for those keen to mod their own motors. We expect to see parts up on Thingiverse any day now. We’ve also covered the basic version of this hack before.

[Thanks to Darcy Whyte for the tip!]

Posted in classic hacks, cycloid, cycloidal, pantograph, spirograph, stepper motor | Leave a comment

The Smallest Hacker Camps Are The Most Satisfying, And You Can Do One Too

Two of my friends and I crammed into a small and aged European hatchback, drove all day along hundreds of miles of motorway, and finally through a succession of ever smaller roads. We were heading for a set of GPS co-ordinates in the north of Scotland, along with all of our camping gear.

There’s nothing like the hacker camp we’re looking for. After heading down a lane barely wider than the car, we drove through a farmyard with a sheepdog lying in the middle of the road (the reclining mutt seemed unconcerned as we edge the car around). We had arrived at GampGND, one of Europe’s smallest hacker camps.

A Village Becomes A Camp For A Weekend

If you’ve ever been to one of the larger camps, you may have encountered the Scottish Consulate village. The Scottish hackerspaces come together with a characteristic irreverent humour, and from where I’m sitting they really get that hacker camps are about having fun. CampGND is their start-of-season shakedown, at which they assemble what is in effect the Scottish Consulate village on a farm in the depths of rural Aberdeenshire for a weekend of fun and hacks. We were lucky enough to be able to make it to the camp, and we are much indebted to them for the experience.

So how does a hacker camp of about twenty people work, in contrast to one of several thousand? There are no villages, no talks, and no attractions, for a start. Instead it’s a much more intimate and social affair, of communal sitting around the table working on projects — or catching up on a bit of Hackaday editing, in my case. It was fun watching the work of the GB1GND special event amateur radio station (I corrupted the youth with a deplorable piece of radio culture from the long-ago CB days, by reminding them that a DTMF keypad can be used to play “Yankee Doodle” — 4426462, if you are curious). And of course we spent much time sitting around the fire in the evening drinking Scottish beer, toasting marshmallows, and talking the usual tall tales and interesting stuff of a hackerspace conversation.

Coming from Oxford Hackspace and MK Makerspace in central southern England it was particularly interesting to share experiences with the folks from 57 North in Aberdeen and Edinburgh HackLab. The mechanics of running a space are universal wherever in the world you may be, and it is both refreshing to find the support of those with the same experiences, and interesting to hear their fresh perspectives. The catering was communal, for which we are again indebted, as we’d done the usual hacker camp thing of bringing along a few less palatable essentials.

Small Hacker Camps Are Not Just For The Few

We had an excellent time over the weekend, and though our drive required an unexpected Travelodge due to traffic congestion in the English Midlands it was very much a journey worth making. The point of this article though is not to urge you all to head for CampGND next year, while our hosts were very hospitable this is by its nature a small camp whose logistics would be taxed by a huge influx of Hackaday readers. Instead, it should be seen as a blueprint, a demonstration that you don’t need several thousand people and a huge venue to mount a successful hacker camp. If you can put on a hacker camp village for your hackerspace you can put together an event like CampGND, all you need is to find a field with the appropriate permission, bring in a few facilities, and assemble twenty of your friends. Every hackerspace should ask themselves whether they can do the same as the Scottish Consulate and prepare for their summer with a mini hacker camp, because it’s an experience worth having.

Posted in CampGND, cons, hacker camp, Scotland, Scottish Consulate | Leave a comment

Enforce Speed Limits with a Rusty Bike

They say you can’t manage what you can’t measure, and that certainly held true in the case of this bicycle that was used to measure the speed of cars in one Belgian neighborhood. If we understand the translation from Dutch correctly, the police were not enforcing the speed limit despite complaints. As a solution, the local citizenry built a bicycle with a radar gun that collected data which was then used to convince the police to enforce the speed limit on this road.

The bike isn’t the functional part of this build, as it doesn’t seem to have been intended to move. Rather, it was chosen because it is inconspicuous (read: rusty and not valuable) and simply housed the radar unit and electronics in a rear luggage case. The radar was specially calibrated to have less than 1% error, and ran on a deep cycle lead acid battery for around eight days. Fitting it with an Arduino-compatible shield and running some software (provided on the github page) is enough to get it up and running.

This is an impressive feat of citizen activism to provide the local police with accurate data to change a problem in a neighborhood. Not only was the technology put to good use, but the social engineering involved with hiding expensive electronics in plain sight with a rusty bicycle is a step beyond what we might have thought of as well.

Thanks to [Jo_elektro] for the tip!

Posted in arduino, bicycle, bike, car, neighborhood, police, radar, radar gun, speed, transportation hacks | Leave a comment

Open Source Headset With Inside-Out Tracking, Video Passthrough

The folks behind the Atmos Extended Reality (XR) headset want to provide improved accessibility with an open ecosystem, and they aim to do it with a WebVR-capable headset design that is self-contained, 3D-printable, and open-sourced. Their immediate goal is to release a development kit, then refine the design for a wider release.

An early prototype of the open source Atmos Extended Reality headset.

The front of the headset has a camera-based tracking board to provide all the modern goodies like inside-out head and hand tracking as well as the ability to pass through video. The design also provides for a variety of interface methods such as eye tracking and 6 DoF controllers.

With all that, the headset gives users maximum flexibility to experiment with and create different applications while working to keep development simple. A short video showing off the modular design of the HMD and optical assembly is embedded below.

Extended Reality (XR) has emerged as a catch-all term to cover broad combinations of real and virtual elements. On one end of the spectrum are completely virtual elements such as in virtual reality (VR), and towards the other end of the spectrum are things like augmented reality (AR) in which virtual elements are integrated with real ones in varying ratios. With the ability to sense the real world and pass through video from the cameras, developers can choose to integrate as much or as little as they wish.

Terms like XR are a sign that the whole scene is still rapidly changing and it’s fascinating to see how development in this area is still within reach of small developers and individual hackers. The Atmos DK 1 developer kit aims to be released sometime in July, so anyone interested in getting in on the ground floor should read up on how to get involved with the project, which currently points people to their Twitter account (@atmosxr) and invites developers to their Discord server. You can also follow along on their newly published Hackaday.io page.

Posted in ar, Atmos, computer hacks, developer kit, Extended reality, eye tracking, hand tracking, head tracking, inside out tracking, Virtual Reality, vr, wearable hacks, XR | Leave a comment

A Robotic Whiteboard Cleaner Keeps The Board Ready To Go

Wiping a whiteboard can be a tedious chore. Nobody wants to stick around after a long meeting to clean up, and sensitive information is often left broadcast out in the open. Never fear, though – this robot is here to help.

Wipy, as the little device is known, is a robotic cleaner that scoots around to keep whiteboards clear and ready for work. With brains courtesy of an Arduino Uno, it uses an IR line-following sensor to target areas to wipe, rather then wasting time wiping areas that are already clean. It’s also fitted with a time-of-flight sensor for ranging, allowing it to avoid obstacles, or busy humans that are writing on the board.

If Wipy lacks anything, it’s probably discretion. Despite its cute emoji-like face, it’s not really capable of tact, or knowing when it’s not needed. It’s recommended to keep Wipy powered down until you’re completely finished, lest it barge in and start wiping off important calculations before you’re done.

Fundamentally, it’s a fun build, and a great way to learn how to use a variety of sensors. If you’ve done something similar, be sure to let us know on the tips line. Else, consider automating the writing side of things, too. Tongue-in-cheek infomercial after the break.

Posted in robot, robots hacks, whiteboard, whiteboard cleaner | Leave a comment

Tearing Down A $25K 8K Video Camera

Most people buy expensive cameras and use them rather than taking them apart, but Linus Tech Tips has a different approach. They decided that they would rather take the camera apart, with a view to converting it to water cooling. Why? Well, that’s perhaps like asking why climb Mount Everest: because it is there. The practicality (or desirability) of water-cooling an 8K camera aside, the teardown is rather interesting from an an engineering point of view. The RED HELIUM 8K costs about $25K, and most of us don’t often get a look inside equipment like this.

The video that we’ve placed below is, as you might expect, more about the horror of tearing the thing apart than the real details, but you do get some insight. There seem to be at least five different PCBS and a while mess of ribbon cables between them.  A lot of the camera brains seems to be in the form of Kintex FPGA chips, some of the more powerful ones in the Xilinx lineup. At $1600 each, that’s probably a big chunk of the cost of the camera right there.

The current cooling system of the camera is also somewhat crazy looking, with multiple heat pipes pulling heat from the multiple PCBS, each holding large FPGA chips to a ducted radiator at the back. There’s a huge amount of thermal grease in there.

Perhaps this huge heat sink makes more sense than you might think at first, though: the RED camera turns off the fans while shooting to avoid noise, so the system has to absorb a lot of heat while shooting, then dissipate it afterwards quickly before it has to switch to silent running again.

There is also a rather odd-looking arrangement for cooling the sensor chip. It looks as though the heat sync works through a hole in the PCB, possibly with a Peltier or similar pulling heat from the back of the chip. Any more insight from this? Would any of those who are experts with this kind of system want to let us know what they see?

Posted in camera, cooling, red, teardown | Leave a comment

Gigapixel Microscope Reveals Tiny Parts Of The Big Picture

[JBumstead] didn’t want an ordinary microscope. He wanted one that would show the big picture, and not just in a euphemistic sense, either. The problem though is one of resolution. The higher the resolution in an image — typically — the narrower the field of view given the same optics, which makes sense, right? The more you zoom in, the less area you can see. His solution was to create a microscope using a conventional camera and building a motion stage that would capture multiple high-resolution photographs. Then the multiple photos are stitched together into a single image. This allows his microscope to take a picture of a 90x60mm area with a resolution of about 15 μm. In theory, the resolution might be as good as 2 μm, but it is hard to measure the resolution accurately at that scale.

As an Arduino project, this isn’t that difficult. It’s akin to a plotter or an XY table for a 3D printer — just some stepper motors and linear motion hardware. However, the base needs to be very stable. We learned a lot about the optics side, though.

Two Nikon lenses and an aperture stop made from black posterboard formed a credible 3X magnification element. We also learned about numerical aperture and its relationship to depth of field.

One place the project could improve is in the software department. Once you’ve taken a slew of images, they need to blend together. It can be done manually, of course, but that’s no fun. There’s also a MATLAB script that attempts to automatically stitch the images together, blending the edges together. According to the author, the code needs some work to be totally reliable. There are also off-the-shelf stitching solutions, which might work better.

We’ve seen similar setups for imaging different things. We’ve even seen it applied to a vintage microscope.

Posted in Arduino Hacks, camera, digital cameras hacks, gigapixel, microscope | Leave a comment

Bringing Pneumatics To The Masses With Open Source Soft Robotics

Soft robotics is an exciting field. Mastering the pneumatic control of pliable materials has enormous potential, from the handling of delicate objects to creating movement with no moving parts. However, pneumatics has long been overlooked by the hacker community as a mode of actuation. There are thousands of tutorials, tools and products that help us work with motor control and gears, but precious few for those of us who want to experiment with movement using air pressure, valves and pistons.

Physicist and engineer [tinkrmind] wants to change that. He has been developing an open source soft robotics tool called Programmable Air for the past year with the aim of creating an accessible way for the hacker community to work with pneumatic robotics. We first came across [tinkrmind]’s soft robotics modules at World Maker Faire in New York City in 2018 but fifty beta testers and a wide range of interesting projects later — from a beating silicone heart to an inflatable bra — they are now being made available on Crowd Supply.

We had the chance to play with some of the Programmable Air modules after this year’s Makerfaire Bay Area at Bring A Hack. We can’t wait to see what squishy, organic creations they will be used for now that they’re out in the wild.

If you need more soft robotics inspiration, take a look at this robotic skin that turns teddy bears into robots from Yale or these soft rotating actuators from Harvard.

See a video of the Programmable Air modules in action below the cut.

Posted in Crowd Supply, news, Pneumatics, robots, robots hacks, soft robotics | Leave a comment

Stylish Alarm Clock Rocks a VFD

There are a great many display technologies available if you wish to make a digital clock. Many hackers seem to have a penchant for the glowier fare from the Eastern side of the Berlin Wall. [ChristineNZ] is one such hacker, and managed to secure some proper Soviet kit for an alarm clock build.

The clock employs an IV-27M vacuum fluorescent display, manufactured in the now-defunct USSR. Featuring 13 seven-segment digits, it’s got that charming blue glow that you just don’t get with other technologies. A MAX6921AWI chip is used to drive the VFD, and an Arduino Mega is the brains of the operation. There’s also an HD44780-compliant LCD that can display further alphanumeric information, and a 4×4 keypad for controlling the device.

The best part of the build though is the enclosure. The VFD is encased in a glass tube, and supported at either end by 90-degree copper pipe couplers. These hold the VFD aloft, and also act as a conduit for the wires coming off each end of the tube. It’s all built on top of a wooden base that holds the rest of the electronics.

It’s an attractive build, and we love the floating look created by the glass tube construction. It’s not the first time we’ve seen old Russian VFDs, and we doubt it will be the last. Video after the break.

Th

Posted in arduino, clock hacks, vacuum fluorescent display, vfd | Leave a comment