Biodegradable Implants Supercharge Nerve Regeneration

Controlled electrical stimulation of nerves can do amazing things. It has been shown to encourage healing and growth in damaged cells of the peripheral nervous system which means regaining motor control and sensation in a shorter period with better results. This type of treatment is referred to as an electroceutical, and the etymology is easy to parse. The newest kid on the block just finished testing on rat subjects, applying electricity for one, three, or six days per week in one-hour intervals. The results showed that more treatment led to faster healing. The kicker is that the method of applying electricity was done through unbroken skin on an implant that dissolves harmlessly.

The implant in question is, at its most basic, an RFID tag with leads that touch the injured nerves. This means wireless magnetic coupling takes power from an outside source and delivers it to where it is needed. All the traces on are magnesium. There is a capacitor with silicon dioxide sandwiched between magnesium, and a diode made from a doped silicon nanomembrane. All this is encased in a biodegradable substrate called poly lactic-co-glycolic acid, a rising star for FDA-approved polys. Technologically speaking, these are not outrageous.

These exotic materials are not in the average hacker’s hands yet, but citizen scientists have started tinkering with the less invasive tDCS and which is applying a small electrical current to the brain through surface electrodes or the brain hacking known as the McCollough effect.

Via IEEE Spectrum.

Posted in axon, Delayed nerve repair, Electrical stimulation, electroceutical, magnet, medical, Medical hacks, neurotherapeutics, news, Peripheral nerve injury, Peripheral nerve regeneration, Side-to-side crossbridges | Leave a comment

Build Your Own Dial-up ISP With A Raspberry Pi

The bing-bongs, screeches, and whiirings of a diai-up modem are long forgotten now. For good reason. Dial up was slow, and if you’re one of those unlucky people reading this and waiting for the animated gif above this paragraph to load, you have our condolences. But still, nostalgia. It bit [Doge Microsystems] hard, and now there’s a dial-up ISP on [Doge]’s desk.  Why? For fun, probably, and if you’re going to retrocompute, you might as well go the whole way.

The setup for this astonishing feat of dial-up networking is an ISA modem inside a ‘lunchbox’ computer running what is probably Windows 98. The ‘homebrew POTS’ system is a SIP ATA (which is most certainly obsolete and out of stock, but this one will get you close), and a Raspberry Pi clone running Asterisk.  There’s a serial modem and a USB to serial adapter involved, and a PPP daemon running on the Pi clone answers the incoming call, negotiates authentication, and does the NAT. It’s a networking geek’s dream.

As for what good this is, anyone who asks the question is missing the point entirely. Dial up is slow, horrible, and there’s a reason we don’t use it anymore. However, and there’s always a however, if you’re developing your own serial modem hardware for some weird project, I guess this setup would come in handy. If you’d like to test out a wooden modem, this is the setup for you. Yes, it’s ancient technology no one wants anymore, but that’s how you do it if you want.

Posted in Network Hacks | Leave a comment

Lego Monorail From Your 3D Printer

If you had to guess the age of a person hailing from a country in which Lego is commonly available, you might very well do it by asking them about the Lego trains available in their youth. Blue rails or grey rails, 4.5, 9, or 12 volt power, and even somewhat unexpectedly, one rail or two. If that last question surprises you we have to admit that we were also taken aback to discover that for a few years in the 1980s everybody’s favourite Danish plastic construction toy company produced a monorail system.

[Mike Rigsby] had a rather ambitious Christmas display to produce, and as part of it included a pair of reindeer, Rudolph and Bluedolph, atop freight cars on a loop of Lego monorail. He didn’t just use classic Lego parts off-the-shelf, instead he recreated the system in its entirety on his 3D printer; locomotive, rolling stock, and all. In a simlar way tot he original his locomotive sits between the two freight cars, each container housing a pair of AA batteries which together power the unit.

The Lego system isn’t perhaps a classic monorail, in that it involves a four-wheeled vehicle that is guided by a central rail rather than sitting upon it. Drive comes from teeth on the side of the rail which mesh with a gear on the power car. There have been 3D-printable sections of it available as add-ons for owners of classic sets for a while, but this may be the first printable locomotive and train. The Christmas novelty aspect of it all may be a little past its sell-by date here in February, but it’s still worth a look as a potential source of parts for any project that might require a linear rail system.

Perhaps surprisingly we’ve never featured a monorail before, though we have brought you a MagLev.

Posted in lego, lego monorail, monorail, toy hacks | Leave a comment

How Do You Etch Something You Can’t Move?

We probably don’t need to tell this to the average Hackaday reader, but we’re living in a largely disposable society. Far too many things are built as cheaply as possible, either because manufacturers know you won’t keep it for long, or because they don’t want you to. Of course, the choice if yours if you wish to you accept this lifestyle or not.

Like many of us, [Erik] does not. When the painted markings on his stove become so worn that he couldn’t see them clearly, he wasn’t about to hop off to the appliance store to buy a new one. He decided to take things into his own hands and fix the poor job the original manufacturers did in the first place. Rather than paint on new markings, he put science to work and electroetched them into the metal.

Whether or not you’ve got a stove that needs some sprucing up, this technique is absolutely something worth adding to your box of tricks. Using the same methods that [Erik] did in his kitchen, you could etch an awesome control panel for your next device.

So how did he do it? Despite the scary multisyllabic name, it’s actually quite easy. Normally the piece to be etched would go into a bath of salt water for this process, but obviously that wasn’t going to work here. So [Erik] clipped the positive clamp of a 12 V battery charger to the stove itself, and in the negative clamp put a piece of gauze soaked in salt water. Touching the gauze to the stove would then eat away the metal at the point of contact. All he needed to complete the project were some stencils he made on a vinyl cutter.

We’ve previously covered using electricity to etch metal in the workshop, as well as the gorgeous results that are possible with acid etched brass. Next time you’re looking to make some permanent marks in a piece of metal, perhaps you should give etching a try.

[via /r/DIY]

Posted in appliances, chemistry hacks, electroetching, etching, kitchen, marking | Leave a comment

CNC Tellurion Lets You See the Earth and Moon Dance

Kids – they’re such a treasure. One minute you’re having a nice chat, the next minutes they’re testing your knowledge of the natural world with a question like, “Why can we see the Moon during the day?” And before you know it, you’re building a CNC Earth-Moon orbital model.

We’ve got to applaud [sniderj]’s commitment to answering his grandson’s innocent question. What could perhaps have been demonstrated adequately with a couple of balls and a flashlight instead became an intricate tellurion that can be easily driven to show the relative position of the Earth and Moon at any date; kudos for anticipating the inevitable, “Where was the moon when I was born, Grampa?” question. The mechanism is based on the guts of a defunct 3D-printer, with the X-, Y-, and Z-axis steppers now controlling the Earth’s rotation and tilt and the Moon’s orbit respectively, with the former extruder drive controlling the tilt of the Moon’s orbital plane. A complex planetary gear train with herringbone gears, as well as a crossed-shaft helical gear set, were 3D-printed from PLA. The Earth model is a simple globe and the Moon is a ping-pong ball; [sniderj] is thinking about replacing the Moon with a 3D-printed bump-map model, a move which we strongly endorse. The video below shows the tellurion going through a couple of hundred years of the saros at warp speed.

There’s just something about machines that show the music of the spheres, whether they be ancient or more modern. And this one would be a great entry into our 3D-Printed Gears, Pulleys, and Cams contest too.

Posted in celestial, cnc, cnc hacks, g-code, orbital, orrery, precession, space, tellurion, Tilt | Leave a comment

Is That A Word Clock In Your Pocket?

Word clocks are one of those projects that everyone seems to love. Even if you aren’t into the tech behind how they work, they have a certain appealing aesthetic. Plus you can read the time without worrying about those pesky numbers, to say nothing of those weird little hands that spin around in a circle. This is the 21st century, who has time for that?

Now, thanks to [Gordon Williams], these decidedly modern timepieces just got a lot more accessible. His word clock is not only small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but it’s the easiest-to-build one we’ve ever seen. If you were ever curious about these gadgets but didn’t want to put in the the time and effort required to build a full scale version, this diminutive take on the idea might be just what Father Time ordered.

The trick is to attach the microcontroller directly to the backside of an 8 x 8 LED matrix. As demonstrated by [Gordon], the Bluetooth-enabled Espruino MDBT42Q fits neatly between the rows of pins, which need only a gentlest of persuasions to get lined up and soldered into place. Since the time can be set remotely over Bluetooth, there’s not even so much as an additional button required. While driving the LEDs directly off of the digital pins of a microcontroller is never recommended, the specifics of this application (only a few of the LEDs on at a time, and not for very long) means he can get away with it.

Of course, that just gets you an array of square LEDs you blink. It wouldn’t be much of a word clock without, you know, words. To that end, [Gordon] has provided an overlay which you can print on a standard inkjet printer. While it’s not a perfect effect as the light still comes through the ink, it works well enough to get the point across. One could even argue that the white letters on the gray background helps with visibility compared to just the letters alone lighting up.

If you’re not in the market for a dollhouse-sized word clock, fear not. We’ve got no shortage of adult sized versions of these popular timepieces for your viewing pleasure.

Posted in bluetooth, clock, clock hacks, Espruino, led hacks, led matrix, Microcontrollers, word clock | Leave a comment

Understanding Math Rather Than Merely Learning It

There’s a line from the original Star Trek where Khan says, “Improve a mechanical device and you may double productivity, but improve man and you gain a thousandfold.” Joan Horvath and Rich Cameron have the same idea about improving education, particularly autodidacticism or self-learning. They share what they’ve learned about acquiring an intuitive understanding of difficult math at the Hackaday Superconference and you can watch the newly published video below.

The start of this was the pair’s collaboration on a book about 3D printing science projects. Joan has a traditional education from MIT and Rich is a self-taught guy. This gave them a unique perspective from both sides of the street. They started looking at calculus — a subject that scares a lot of people but is really integral (no pun intended) to a lot of serious science and engineering.

You probably know that Newton and Leibniz struck on the fundamentals of calculus about the same time. The original papers, however, were decidedly different. Newton’s approach was more physical and less mathematical. Leibniz used formal logic and algebra. Although both share credit, the Leibniz notation won out and is what we use today.

Calculus Casualties

Unsurprisingly, a quarter of calculus students at Tier 1 universities get a D or lower. Quite a few of those who fail will leave science and engineering to either drop out or move to a less technical discipline. We always heard the joke that calculus was the biggest pre-business course on campus.

Joan Horvath and Rich Cameron entered the Hackaday prize with a plan to use 3D printed models to help teach concepts for calculus. The idea is to produce 3D printed objects that show the intuitive understanding of basics like the fundamental theorem of calculus. It’s like graphing out an algebra equation for better understanding, only this moves to three-dimensions and provides a tangible foothold for your brain to understand abstract concepts of traditionally difficult subjects.

Even if you don’t want to 3D print the models, they are in OpenSCAD, so you can experiment with them virtually in that environment. This approach has been so successful, that there’s an upcoming book that will expand on the topics at greater length.

Math Intuition

I’ve never been a big fan of learning math for math’s sake and a fair number of math classes I’ve had are organized that way. No one ever comes to your office and asks what’s X if 4X+13=2. They will come in and ask something like, how do I change this resistor to make the output of this power supply go from 5V to 5.2V? Algebra is part of the toolkit you can use to answer questions like that. Calculus is like the algebra of things that change and can answer a wider range of questions.

Integrals to measure volume under curves

I’ve often thought that in modern times, teaching the intuition of math might be more important than the mechanics. You can always ask the computer to do the real work and get the right answer. The real skill is in formulating the correct question and frequently that requires a combination of algebra, calculus, and differential equations. Can you get by without it? Sometimes. Maybe even much of the time. But there’s always going to be certain cases where you really need advanced math tools. [Joan] and [Rich] can help.

Expand Your Horizons

Many things you just “know” by rote are actually applications of calculus. If you are taking the RMS value of a sine wave by dividing the peak value by the square root of two, you are using a result from calculus. If you have something other than a sine wave, you are going to need to do the math. If you know the time constant of an RC circuit, that’s a result of calculus, too. If you need to know the 63% point, you have your answer. But how about the time it takes the capacitor to charge to 10% or 80%? Calculus.

Hackaday has made attempts to demystify calculus in the past. I also love how modern computer graphics can make intuition easier to develop. Honestly, one of the best traditional calculus books I know of is Thompson’s Calculus Made Easy from 1914 (well, the second edition, anyway). His approach isn’t that different from [Joan] and [Rich] as he states:

Being myself a remarkably stupid fellow, I have had to unteach myself [overly difficult ways of doing calculus] and now beg to present to my fellow fools the parts that are not hard.

Although it is over a century old, calculus doesn’t really change much and you might enjoy reading it — along with the Hacker Calculus — if you plan to chase mathematical enlightenment.

Posted in 2018 Hackaday Superconference, 3d Printer hacks, calculus, cons, Hackaday Columns, leibniz, math, newton, Supercon | Leave a comment

Airbus To Halt Production Of The A380; Goodbye to an Engineering Triumph

Eleven years ago, the Airbus A380 entered commercial service with Singapore Airlines. In the time since then it has become the queen of the skies. It’s a double-decker airliner, capable of flying 550 passengers eight thousand nautical miles. Some configurations of the A380 included private suites. Some had a shower. This is the epitome of luxury, a dream of flying with long-stemmed glasses, a movie, and a pleasant dream in mid-air.

Now, after the cancellation of A380 orders by Emirates, Airbus has announced it will end production of this massive, massive plane. No, it’s not the last flight of the Concorde, but it is the beginning of the end of an era. The biggest and most impressive planes just aren’t economical; it’s possible to fly three 787s across the globe for a single flight of an A380. The skies won’t fall silent, but soon the A380 will be no more.

The First Double-Decker (Air)bus?

While the A380 gets credit for being a massive, mindbendingly-large flying chunk of aluminum, the public clearly knows it for being the biggest, double-decker jet. If you fly the right airline and pay a fortune, you can get a private cabin and take a shower. You may have seen television commercials touting this level of pampering, but historically planes were even more luxurious.

Although it never made it off the drawing board, the McDonnell Douglas MD-12 would have looked extremely similar to the A380, and would beat the A380 into the air by a decade. The MD-12 would be longer, but have a shorter wingspan. The range of the MD-12 would be about 800 nautical miles (nmi) less than the A380, but the MD-12 did have one advantage over the A380: it would be able to fit into any airport that could service a Boeing 747. This wasn’t true for the A380 — because of the A380s enormous wingspan, it could only fly to destinations that had upgraded gates. This is one small, but significant, reason why the A380 wasn’t adopted by more operators.

Other passenger jet planes have used two decks. The 747 and its graceful hump immediately comes to mind, but there are more: the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar had the option for a lounge in the cargo compartment, accessible from the main deck through an elevator. It is truly a shame a panoramic window in an airliner is a very, very difficult engineering problem to solve. Other jet aircraft also have some living area tucked into spaces away from the masses. The 777 can have crew rest quarters in a small ‘upper deck’. Most widebody airliners have some provisions for a crew rest area in either the lower deck or tucked above the cabin.

The Breguet Deux Ponts

Before the age of jetliners, a double deck airplane was almost the norm. The Boeing 314 Clipper, the plane that accidentally circumnavigated the globe had two decks. The Dornier Do X wasn’t so much an airplane, but a flying ship with two decks. The Breguet Deux-Ponts had two decks, but it was designed by the French (and it looks like it). The Boeing 377 Stratocruiser included a lower deck lounge, but it competed against the massively successful Lockheed Super Constellation and Boeing only sold 56 Stratocruisers. The Stratocruiser still lives on, though: the Super Guppy, the strange, bulbous ancestor of Airbus’ Beluga, is still carrying cargo around the United States.

Double-decker airliners are nothing new, but the A380 was a sea change. This was the first successful jet-powered airliner with two full decks. And now production will end in 2020 with a little more than 200 aircraft delivered. In comparison, since 1970, Boeing has shipped more than 1500 747s.

A Future for the A380?

When orders for a passenger jet fall off, there’s usually a market to pick up the slack: freight. Indeed, there was a freighter version of the A380 designed, but it was never built. The eight or so freighter orders were converted to passenger versions, and to date there is no cargo airline using the A380.

But this isn’t true of all planes. The MD-11 was a somewhat successful commercial airliner, but you won’t find any carrying passengers today. They’re all carrying boxes now, mostly with FedEx. Even the venerable Boeing 747 has found an exceptional life carrying cargo. After planes are put out to pasture near Pima, cargo companies will snatch them up, convert them to cargo specs, and keep flying them. The economics of this are mostly due to the less stringent requirements for inspection on cargo aircraft versus passenger aircraft.

However, it’s doubtful the A380 will ever be used for cargo. Last year, Singapore Airlines retired the first A380s they received. This isn’t uncommon, and with costs of additional inspections and the economics of the planes themselves, airliners are regularly retired. It was a possibility, and even expected by enthusiasts, that these retired Singapore Airlines planes would be bought and converted to a freighter version. This did not happen. The first two retired A380s were broken up for parts. Scrapped, basically, albeit 270 tons of it.

As the years go on, we’ll be seeing more of these planes head to the boneyard. While the A380 might have been popular with passengers and the public, it was simply uneconomical. Newer planes, like Boeings 787 and the new Airbus A350, still carry a lot of passengers and are vastly more efficient. It’s a business failure, not an engineering failure, which is a shame: the A380 is an engineering triumph, and it will be sad to see them rot in the desert.

Posted in A380, aircraft, Business, Current Events, Hackaday Columns, jumbo, news, transportation hacks | Leave a comment

Hackaday Podcast Ep6 – Reversing iPod Screens, Hot Isotopes, We <3 Parts, and Biometric Toiletseats

What’s the buzz in the hackersphere this week? Hackaday Editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys recap their favorite hacks and articles from the past seven days. In Episode Six we cover an incredible reverse engineering effort Mike Harrison put in with iPod nano replacement screens. We dip our toes in the radioactive world of deep-space power sources, spend some time adoring parts and partsmakers, and take a very high-brow look at toilet-seat technology. In our quickfire hacks we discuss coherent sound (think of it as akin to laminar flow, but for audio), minimal IDEs for embedded, hand-tools for metalwork, and the little ESP32 bot that could.

Links for all discussed on the show are found below. As always, join in the comments below as we’ll be watching those as we work on next week’s episode!

Direct download (63.5 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

Episode 6 Show Notes:

New This Week:

  • Elliot found some great hardware second hand:
    • He got an original Spacemouse (a bit about 3Dconnexion who made them)
    • This goes along with Roger Cheng’s coverage of the boon to hackers that is the unclutter movement:
  • Mike is headed to China in March and wants recommendations of what to do there and what might make interesting Hackaday articles
    • Will be attending Electronica China in Shanghai
    • Planning to go to a Seeed Studios meetup in Shenzhen
    • Will stop by Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam and hang out with Sean Boyce for a Hackaday meetup
    • Unfortunately, the Lucky Knot bridge is 1,000 km from where he’ll be
    • Leave a comment below with your suggestions for geek culture and other things of interest in those cities

Interesting Hacks of the Week:


  • Mike’s Picks:
  • Elliot’s Picks:

Can’t-Miss Articles:

Posted in ESP32, FPV, Hackaday Columns, LED wall, partmaker, parts, Plutonium, Podcasts, pu-238, toilet seat, V2 rockets, venturi effect | Leave a comment

Building a Semiautomatic Swag Launcher

Regular readers of Hackaday have certainly seen the work of [Jeremy Cook] at this point. Whether you remember him from his time as a writer for this fine online publication, or recognize the name from one of his impressive builds over the last few years, he’s a bona fide celebrity around these parts. In fact, he’s so mobbed with fans at events that he’s been forced to employ a robotic companion to handle distributing his personalized buttons for his own safety.

Alright, that might be something of a stretch. But [Jeremy] figured it couldn’t hurt to have an interesting piece of hardware handing out his swag at the recent Palm Bay Mini Maker Faire. Anyone can just put some stickers and buttons in a bowl on a table, but that’s hardly the hacker way. In the video after the break, he walks viewers through the design and construction of this fun gadget, which takes a couple unexpected turns and has contains more than a few useful tips which are worth the cost of admission alone.

Outwardly the 3D printed design is simple enough, and reminds us of those track kits for Matchbox cars. As you might expect, getting the buttons to slide down a printed track was easy enough. Especially when [Jeremy] filed the inside smooth to really get them moving. But the goal was to have a single button get dispensed each time the device was triggered, but that ended up being easier said than done.

The first attempt used magnets actuated by two servos, one to drop the button and the other to hold up the ones queued above it. This worked fine…at first. But [Jeremy] eventually found that as he stacked more buttons up in the track, the magnets weren’t strong enough to hold them back and they started “leaking”. This is an excellent example of how a system can work perfectly during initial testing, but break down once it hits the real world.

In this case, the solution ended up being relatively simple. [Jeremy] kept the two servos controlled by an Arduino and a capacitive sensor, but replaced the magnets with physical levers. The principle is the same, but now the system is strong enough to hold back the combined weight of the buttons in the chute. It did require him to cut into the track after it had already been assembled, but we can’t blame him for not wanting to start over.

Just like the arcade inspired candy dispenser, coming up with a unique way of handing out objects to passerby is an excellent way to turn the ordinary into a memorable event. Maybe for the next iteration he can make it so getting a button requires you to pass a hacker trivia test. Really make them work for it.

Posted in Arduino Hacks, button, dispenser, hardware, robots hacks, servo, swag, track | Leave a comment