When it comes to computers, it seems like the only thing that matters is speed. The more the better, in general, and the same applies to peripherals. We want the fastest network adapters, the fastest video card, and the fastest printer. So why in the world would anyone intentionally build a really slow inkjet printer? For art, of course.
At least that’s the story [HomoFaciens] tells us in the video below. His efforts are in support of a friend’s art project, which seeks to print slowly but continuously on a roll of paper. [HomoFaciens]’s printer is based on an H-P C6602 inkjet cartridge, one of those high-priced consumables that make buying a new printer more attractive than replacing them once depleted. After figuring out how to drive the printhead — 5 to 6 μs pulses of 18 volts through a ULN2803 Darlington array driver chip seemed to do the trick — he mounted everything to the gantry of an old 3D printer. It’s interesting to watch the images slowly being built up — something that printers usually hide from prying eyes — and to see how the DPI count of the printer can be increased by interlacing each printed line.
We live in a strange time indeed. People who once eschewed direct interactions with fellow humans now crave it, but to limited avail. Almost every cashier at the few stores deigned essential enough to maintain operations are sealed away behind plastic shields, with the implication that the less time one spends lingering, the better. It’s enough to turn an introvert into an extrovert, at least until the barriers are gone.
We get the idea that the need to reach out and touch someone is behind [Niklas Roy]’s “Please Leave a Message”, an interactive art installation he set up in the front window of his Berlin shop. Conveniently located on a downtown street, his shop is perfectly positioned to attract foot traffic, and his display is designed to catch the eye and perhaps crack a smile. The device consists of a large wooden easel holding the guts from an old X-Y pen plotter, an Arduino and an ESP-8266, and a couple of drivers for the plotter’s steppers. Passers-by are encouraged to scan a QR code that accesses a web page served up by the ESP-8266, where they can type in a brief message. The plotter dutifully spells it out on a scroll of paper for all to see, using a very nice font that [Niklas] designed to be both readable and easily plotted. The video below shows it in action with real people; it seems to be a crowd-pleaser.
Of the 43 muscles that comprise the human face, only a few are actually important to speaking. And yet replicating the movements of the mouth by mechanical means always seems to end up only partly convincing. Servos and linkages can only approximate the complex motions the lips, cheeks, jaw, and tongue are capable of. Still, there are animatronics out there that make a good go at the job, of which this somewhat creepy mechanical mouth is a fine example.
Why exactly [Will Cogley] felt the need to build a mechanical maw with terrifying and fairly realistic fangs is anyone’s guess. Recalling his lifelike disembodied animatronic heart build, it just seems like he pursues these builds for the challenge of it all. But if you thought the linkages of the heart were complex, wait till you see what’s needed to make this mouth move realistically. [Will] has stuffed this pie hole with nine servos, all working together to move the jaw up and down, push and pull the corners of the mouth, raise and lower the lips, and bounce the tongue around.
It all seems very complex, but [Will] explains that he actually simplified the mechanical design to concentrate more on the software side, which is a text-to-speech movement translator. Text input is translated to phonemes, each of which corresponds to a mouth shape that the servos can create. It’s pretty realistic although somewhat disturbing, especially when the mouth is placed in an otherwise cuddly stuffed bear that serenades you from the nightstand; check out the second video below for that.
When we last saw [isaac879]’s levitating RGB time fountain, it was made of wood which meant that it would absorb water and didn’t really show off the effect very well. His new version solves this problem with an acrylic case, new PCB and an updated circuit.
Like the original, this project drops water past strobing RGB LEDs creating an illusion of levitating, undulating colored water droplets. The pump at the top creates the droplets, but the timing has a tendency to drift over time. He thus implemented a PID controller to manage the pump’s drip rate, which was done by having the droplets pass by an infrared diode connected to an ATTiny85. The ’85 used the diode and PWM to control the pump motor speed and communicated to the Arduino over I2C.
The video shown below shows the whole process of designing and building the new time fountain. Everything from circuit and PCB design to 3D printing to assembly is shown along with narration describing what’s going on in case you want to build one yourself. If you do, all the files and components required are listed in the info section of the video.
There’s more that [isaac879] wants to do to improve the time fountain, but V2 looks great. It’s sleeker and smaller than the original and solves some of the design issues of the first. For more inspiration, check out some of the other levitating water fountain projects that have been posted over the years.
LoRa is the go-to tech for low power, long range wireless sensor networks. Designing with off-the-shelf modules can be a boon or a bane depending on the documentation and support. Luckily, [Renzo] has prepared a set of tutorials to get you started.
In his seven part series of write-ups, [Renzo] starts by connecting the E32 module from AliExpress to an Arduino as well as an ESP8266 to demonstrate essential communications. Then he discusses the configuration options and the library he created to make like a bit easier. Following that is a series of posts discussing transmission types as well as power saving methods including sleep modes and wake-on-radio.
The information will be extremely handy for someone starting off with the SX1276/SX1278 Wireless Modules which are relatively inexpensive as opposed to more standardized development kits. We love the abundance of fritzing diagrams, arduino code and helper library and hope someone will build on it. You can get the library from Github for your tinkering pleasure.
It’s surprisingly easy to misjudge tips that come into the Hackaday tip line. After filtering out the omnipresent spam, a quick scan of tip titles will often form a quick impression that turns out to be completely wrong. Such was the case with a recent tip that seemed from the subject line to be a flight simulator cockpit. The mental picture I had was of a model cockpit hooked to Flight Simulator or some other off-the-shelf flying game, many of which we’ve seen over the years.
I couldn’t have been more wrong about the project that Grant Hobbs undertook. His cockpit simulator turned out to be so much more than what I thought, and after trading a few emails with him to get all the details, I felt like I had to share the series of hacks that led to the short video below and the story about how he somehow managed to build the set despite having no previous experience with the usual tools of the trade.
A Novel and a Film
Grant has been making short films for a while, mainly in collaboration with John Dwyer, an author of historical novels. Grant’s shorts are used as promos for John’s books, and nicely capture the period and settings of John’s novels. Most of these films required little in the way of special sets, relying instead on stock footage and vintage costumes to achieve their look and feel. John’s latest novel would change all that.
Called Mustang, the novel centers on a hotshot fighter pilot in WWII. Grant’s vision for the short to promote the book was inspired by the recent Christopher Nolan film Dunkirk, which featured intricate sequences filmed in the cockpit of a Spitfire. Granted wanted a similar look, and began arranging to use a real P-51 Mustang for filming. That presented immediate problems. First, there aren’t that many of the vintage aircraft left, and those that are still flying usually have anachronistic instruments in the cockpit, like GPS. Also, Grant wanted the instruments to respond as if the plane were airborne, and to have the shadows cast by the canopy into the cockpit suggest aerial maneuvers. Such an effect would be difficult to achieve with a plane stuck on a runway.
That’s when Grant realized that a gimballed cockpit simulator was needed. It could have a period-accurate dashboard, be positioned outdoors to take advantage of natural daylight and real backgrounds rather than CGI, and could be pitched, rolled and yawed to simulate flight. It would be perfect, and it would save the project. There was just one problem: he had no idea how to build it.
Wisely, Grant turned to his local hackerspace, Dallas Maker Space, for help. There he found not only the tools he lacked, but kindred spirits with the necessary skills and the willingness to share them. They started working on the cockpit instrument panel, which ended up including a combination of actual flight hardware and mocked-up instruments. The fake instruments used steppers and an Arduino to drive the needles, which were controlled by a custom iPad app that was used to animate them live during filming. The real instruments, like the artificial horizon and turn-and-slip indicator, were powered by a vacuum pump and responded to the movements of the simulator on its gimbals.
Mounting this convincing panel into something was an entirely different undertaking. Grant relied heavily on the experience of DMS members to design a structure strong enough to support the actor and allow for the motion needed to create a convincing effect. The cockpit mockup, made from plasma-cut sheet metal and plywood, is mounted to a heavy-duty three-axis gimbal, including a massive bearing from a pallet jack for the yaw axis.
Grant had originally planned to place the mockup on a mountaintop for shooting, much as the Spitfire mockup from Dunkirk was placed on the edge of a cliff to give an unobstructed horizon to simulate flying over the English Channel. When that proved logistically challenging, he set up on an airport runway and used clever camera blocking to avoid shooting the horizon. Grips manually moved the simulator while Grant manipulated the fake instruments and filmed the results, which I think speak for themselves. If only the budget – and on-set safety – would have supported simulating the massive four-blade Mustang propeller, the illusion would have been complete.
Fair warning for the squeamish: some versions of [Will Cogley]’s animatronic heart are realistic enough that you might not want to watch the video below. That’d be a shame though, because he really put a lot of effort into the build, and the results have a lot to teach about mimicking the movements of living things.
As for why one would need an animatronic heart, we’re not sure. [Will] mentions no specific use case for it, although we can think of a few. With the Day of Compulsory Romance fast approaching, the fabric-wrapped version would make a great gift for the one who stole your heart, while the silicone-enrobed one could be used as a movie prop or an awesome prank. Whatever the reason, [Will]’s build is a case study in incremental development. He started with a design using a single continuous-rotation servo, which powered four 3D-printed paddles from a common crank. The four paddles somewhat mimicked the movements of the four chambers of the heart, but the effect wasn’t quite convincing. The next design used two servos and complex parallelogram linkages to expand each side of the heart in turn. It was closer, but still not quite right.
After carefully watching footage of a beating heart, [Will] decided that his mechanism needed to imitate the rapid systolic contraction and slow diastolic expansion characteristic of a real heart. To achieve this, his final design has three servos plus an Arduino for motion control. Slipped into a detailed silicone jacket, the look is very realistic. Check out the video below if you dare.
We’ve seen plenty of animatronic body parts before, from eyes to hands to entire faces. This might be the first time we’ve seen an animatronic version of an internal organ, though.
Have you ever looked around your city’s layout and thought you could do better? Maybe you’ve always wanted to see how she’d run on nuclear or wind power, or just play around with civic amenities and see how your choices affect the citizens.
[Robbe Nagel] made this physical-digital simulator for a Creative Programming class within an industrial design program. We don’t have all the details, but as [Robbe] explains in the video after the break, each block has a resistor on the bottom, and each cubbyhole has a pair of contacts ready to mate with it. An Arduino nestled safely in the LEGO bunker below reads the different resistance values to determine what block was placed where.
[Robbe] wrote a program that evaluates various layouts and provides statistics for things like population, overall health, education level, pollution, etc. As you can see after the break, these values change as soon as blocks are added or removed. Part of what makes this simulator so cool is that it could be used for serious purposes, or it could be totally gamified.
It’s no secret that we like LEGO, especially as an enclosure material. Dress it up or dress it down, just don’t leave any pieces on the floor.
[Ryan Schenk] had a problem: he built the perfect surfboard. Normally that wouldn’t present a problem, but in this case, it did because [Ryan] had no idea how he carved the gentle curves on the bottom of the board. So he built this homebrew 2D-scanner to make the job of replicating his hand-carved board a bit easier.
Dubbed the Scanbot 69420 – interpretation of the number is left as an exercise for the reader, my dude – the scanner is pretty simple. It’s just an old mouse carrying a digital dial indicator from Harbor Freight. The mouse was gutted, with even the original ball replaced by an RC plane wheel. The optical encoder and buttons were hooked to an Arduino, as was the serial output of the dial indicator. The Arduino consolidates the data from both sensors and sends a stream of X- and Z-axis coordinates up the USB cable as the rig slides across the board on a straightedge. On the PC side, a Node.js program turns the raw data into a vector drawing that represents the profile of the board at that point. Curves are captured at various points along the length of the board, resulting in a series of curves that can be used to replicate the board.
Yes, this could have been done with a straightedge, a ruler, and a pencil and paper – or perhaps with a hacked set of calipers – but that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. And we can certainly see applications for this far beyond the surfboard shop.
Ah, the joys of domestic animals. Often adorable, occasionally useful, they’re universally unable to care for themselves in the slightest. That’s part of the bargain though; we take over responsibility for their upkeep and they repay us with whatever it is they do best. Unless the animal in question is a cat, of course – they have their own terms and conditions.
Chickens, though, are very useful indeed. Give them food and water and they give you delicious, nutritious, high-quality protein. Feeding them every day can be a chore, though, unless you automate the task. This Twitch-enabled robotic chicken feeder may be overkill for that simple use case, but as [Sean Hodgins] tell it, there’s a method to all the hardware he threw at this build. That would include a custom-welded steel frame holding a solar panel and batteries, a huge LED matrix display, a Raspberry Pi and camera, and of course, food dispensers. Those are of the kind once used to dispense candy or gum for a coin or two in the grocery; retooled with 3D-printed parts, the dispensers now eject a small scoop of feed whenever someone watching a Twitch stream decides to donate to the farm that’s hosting the system. You can see the build below in detail, or just pop over to Sweet Farm to check out the live feed and gawk at some chickens.
It’s an impressive bit of work on [Sean]’s part for sure, and we did notice how he used his HCC rapid prototyping module to speed up development. Still, we’re not convinced there will be many donations at $10 a pop. Then again, dropping donations to the micropayment level may lead to overfed chickens, and that’s not a good thing.