Wednesday, February 29, 2012

CircuitLab | sketch, simulate, and share your circuits

CircuitLab | sketch, simulate, and share your circuits:

CircuitLab | sketch, simulate, and share your circuits. Jeff writes in…

CircuitLab today released a browser-based schematic editor and circuit simulator for the online electronics community. SPICE-like device models and mixed-mode simulation support allows engineers and hobbyists to tackle a wide range of board-level design problems. While most EDA software is Windows-only, CircuitLab is 100% web-based, Windows/Mac/Linux cross-platform, and requires no installation or plug-ins. Instead of today’s typical forum posts with static screenshots from different desktop tools, the online electronics community can now use CircuitLab to share useful URLs (as well as PNGs and PDFs) which link directly to interactive, editable, runnable schematics. In just a few clicks, another designer can open that circuit, make a change, simulate it, and post the new version back to the community.

In new mass-production technique, robotic insects spring to life

In new mass-production technique, robotic insects spring to life:

Image Large

In new mass-production technique, robotic insects spring to life @ Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

A new technique inspired by elegant pop-up books and origami will soon allow clones of robotic insects to be mass-produced by the sheet. Devised by engineers at Harvard, the ingenious layering and folding process enables the rapid fabrication of not just microrobots, but a broad range of electromechanical devices.

In prototypes, 18 layers of carbon fiber, Kapton (a plastic film), titanium, brass, ceramic, and adhesive sheets have been laminated together in a complex, laser-cut design. The structure incorporates flexible hinges that allow the three-dimensional product—just 2.4 millimeters tall—to assemble in one movement, like a pop-up book.

Monday, February 27, 2012

DIY quadcopter for around $200

DIY quadcopter for around $200:

We think [FlorianH] did a bang-up job of prototyping his Minima Quadcopter on the cheap. The total bill comes in right around $200 and we’re very happy with the quality of parts as well as the results.

Here you can see the top of the double-sided board which he etched to host all of the components. At each corner there is a power MOSFET which drives the brushless motor. At first glance we thought that the Xbee module was acting as the radio control and processer as well. But on the underside you’ll find an ATmega32 which is responsible for reading the Gyroscope sensor and Accelerometer, processing these signals and driving each MOSFET via PWM lines to provide stability.

You can see some flight tests after the break. [FlorianH] mentions that there is some oscillation in the feedback loop when both the gyro and accelerometer are used. But cut the accelerometer out of the equation and the platform is rock-solid.

This build uses carbon tubes to mount the motors, which we think will be a little more robust than the all-PCB designs are.

Filed under: robots hacks

BioLite CampStove – Charge your gadgets in fire

BioLite CampStove – Charge your gadgets in fire: writes:

Forget the fuel. Our stoves cook your meals with nothing but the twigs you collect on your journey, eliminating the need for heavy, expensive, polluting petroleum gas. It’s quick to light, fast to boil and clean to use.

Charge your gadgets. By converting heat from the fire into usable electricity, our stoves will recharge your phones, lights and other gadgets while you cook dinner.

Have fun. Like a campfire, you can sit around the CampStove and watch the flames dance as you roast marshmallows and tell stories with friends.

Product Details

  • Powers all USB-chargeable devices including smartphones, LED lights, GPS and many others.

  • Fast to boil.

  • Lights quickly and easily.

  • Burns sticks, pine cones, pellets and other biomass.

  • Folds for easy packing.

  • Packed size: 8.25 x 5″.

  • Weight: 2 Lbs 1 oz / 935 gram

BioLite CampStove – Charge your gadgets in fire - [Link]

Component packages explained

Component packages explained:

Component packages explained – [via]

Personally, I’ve found all the little acronyms when looking for components to be a little confusing and I’m sure that I’m not the only one that’s been through that. Whats a TSSOP? Whats the difference between SIP and DIP? It can get very frustrating, so this will explain everything for you!

Well there are many different components out there and with that, there have to be different packages to fit different needs such as space availability, prototyping, and different circuit board layouts. The entire list of the more well-known packages, others may be lurking in R&D that we don’t know about, goes something like this : CDIP , PDIP , SPDIP, SIP, SDIP, SOIC, TSOP, SSOP, TSSOP, PLCC, QSOP, VSOP, LQFP, PQFP, CQFP, TQFP, CGBA, and QFN. Its mostly all about space on the board, which kind of package utilizes the precious space on the circuit board the best. So lets start with the descriptions!

Component packages explained - [Link]

SMD Packages explained!

SMD Packages explained!:

SMD Packages explained!. The Funkiester writes – [via]

Hello! Well as a result of all the great feedback from the component packages, I’m doing another post about SMD packages! I may be using some of the terminology from the last post in here as well, so just in case, here is the last post.

First off, SMD means Surface Mount Device; There is another acronym used that means pretty much the same thing which is SMT, and that means Surface Mount Technology. This’ll be describing the various packages that an LED can come in, as well as resistor and the more common capacitor packages as well as many other surface mount devices. The big rule about SMD is that many packages are represented by a 4 digit code. The first two digits indicate its length and the second two digits indicate its width. So an 0603 package would be .06″ x .03″ . Although if it isn’t represented by a 4 digit code, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t an SMD component, all that means is that you’ll have to do a little more searching to find the dimensions of your specific component.

The most common packages are the: 0603 , 0805 , 1206, 2512, and the SOT. although we will be discussing the 0606, 1204, 1210, SOD, PLCC, Chimney-Type, 3528, 5050, A, C, D, E. The space on the board where the SMD will sit is called the footprint, and the footprint is like a little diagram as to where the component is to be soldered on the board and how much space it takes up.

SMD Packages explained! - [Link]

Digital Lux Meter

Digital Lux Meter:

Sergei Bezrukov writes:

The device is intended for measuring luminance in the range 0.025 – 99999 lux. The lower limit is determined by the used sensor MAX44007, while the upper one is slightly less than the sensor’s one because no more than 5 digits fit on the LCD screen. Calibration of the sensor is provided by the manufacturer.

Digital Lux Meter - [Link]

Replacing electricity with light: First physical ‘metatronic’ circuit created

Replacing electricity with light: First physical ‘metatronic’ circuit created:


Replacing electricity with light: First physical ‘metatronic’ circuit created.

The technological world of the 21st century owes a tremendous amount to advances in electrical engineering, specifically, the ability to finely control the flow of electrical charges using increasingly small and complicated circuits. And while those electrical advances continue to race ahead, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are pushing circuitry forward in a different way, by replacing electricity with light.

Pleasant3D is now open source – 3D printing with MakerBot and other hardware

Pleasant3D is now open source – 3D printing with MakerBot and other hardware:


Pleasant Hardware » Blog Archive » Pleasant3D is now open source – 3D printing with MakerBot and other hardware via Fabaloo. Zaggo writes -

…starting today, I open source the complete code base of Pleasant3D:

(The slicer plugins of Pleasant3D were open source from the beginning. I’ll mark the old open source BitBucket repository as obsolete.) I’d be very happy, if some of you 3D-printing (or CNC-milling) Mac developers out there would help with the further development of Pleasant3D!

Innovation and the Bell Labs Miracle

Innovation and the Bell Labs Miracle:

Sharing space with Adafruit in Sunday’s New York Times (coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences) was this great piece by Jon Gertner about the culture of innovation at Bell Laboratories in it’s heyday. As most of you know, I’m a BTL brat — my dad worked there and we used to get to visit every Christmas. There was something special about that place that I sensed even as a child. I don’t know if I can articulate exactly, but the two things I picked up on were a) these people are really smart and b) these people are proud of what they do and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. This article really gives some great insight into why that was the case. He suggests that Bell Labs is worthy of study in our modern era (in no small part because they helped to create it), as a model of real innovation:

Why study Bell Labs? It offers a number of lessons about how our country’s technology companies — and our country’s longstanding innovative edge — actually came about. Yet Bell Labs also presents a more encompassing and ambitious approach to innovation than what prevails today. Its staff worked on the incremental improvements necessary for a complex national communications network while simultaneously thinking far ahead, toward the most revolutionary inventions imaginable.

Indeed, in the search for innovative models to address seemingly intractable problems like climate change, we would do well to consider Bell Labs’ example — an effort that rivals the Apollo program and the Manhattan Project in size, scope and expense. Its mission, and its great triumph, was to connect all of us, and all of our new machines, together.

At it’s height, the Bell Labs system was comprised of three major research locations, all of them in New Jersey. Murray Hill was the headquarters, and is currently the HQ of Alcatel-Lucent, the successor to AT&T Bell Laboratories. The other two campuses were in Whippany and Holmdel. Sometimes you’ll see these locations on old ARPAnet maps as BTL-WH and BTL-HO. Both Whippany and Holmdel have since been closed and the properties are vacant.

I don’t know about Holmdel, but there’s been talk of turning the Whippany Bell Labs campus into a (cringe, gasp, barf) shopping center. I think that’s a shame. I’d like to see it turned into an enormous innovation park, with a hackerspace (or two) and a bunch of open hardware startups, perhaps sharing communal fabrication facilities.

So what do you think? Can we re-capture the magic that was Bell Laboratories? In the modern world, where small firms innovate quickly and then get absorbed by giant behemoths, is there a place for slower, more measured invention?

Everything Is a Remix, Part 4

Everything Is a Remix, Part 4:

Interesting take on the current state of patent and copyright by Kirby Ferguson:

Our system of law doesn’t acknowledge the derivative nature of creativity. Instead, ideas are regarded as property, as unique and original lots with distinct boundaries. But ideas aren’t so tidy. They’re layered, they’re interwoven, they’re tangled. And when the system conflicts with the reality… the system starts to fail.

If you’ve enjoyed this series, please support my next project, This is Not a Conspiracy Theory, on KickStarter.

The rest of this series is available on Vimeo.

A glimpse at Electronics Workbenches around the world…

A glimpse at Electronics Workbenches around the world…:

Pt 675

MightyOhm » Blog Archive » A glimpse at Electronics Workbenches around the world…. Jeff writes -

Since creating the Electronics Workbench Flickr group last November, I have received lots and lots of really amazing submissions from electronics hobbyists and professionals around the world.

My two biggest takeaways so far? I do not own nearly enough test equipment, and my shop is not nearly as well-organized or space-efficient as it could be (I need to use all available wall space and build up).

A Transistor From a Single Atom

A Transistor From a Single Atom:

Whoa! See that little bump in the middle of the micrograph? THAT’S A TRANSISTOR. From Ars Technica:

a group of researchers has fabricated a single-atom transistor by introducing one phosphorous atom into a silicon lattice. Through the use of a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) and hydrogen-resist lithography, Martin Fuechsle et al. placed the phosphorous atom precisely between very thin silicon leads, allowing them to measure its electrical behavior. The results show clearly that we can read both the quantum transitions within the phosphorous atom and its transistor behavior. No smaller solid-state devices are possible, so systems of this type reveal the limit of Moore’s law—the prediction about the miniaturization of technology—while pointing toward solid-state quantum computing devices.

It was bound to happen, but I’m glad I’m here to see it!

ScratchML Mixer Hack

ScratchML Mixer Hack:

My fellow fatlab members are up to some DJ data capture with

ScratchML, and LM4K even hacked his fader to track the values with an Arduino!

What is a Hacker? with Mitch Altman – The Media Show

What is a Hacker? with Mitch Altman – The Media Show:

What is a Hacker? with Mitch Altman – The Media Show.

EEBookshelf: Reference Guide & Formula Sheet for Physics

EEBookshelf: Reference Guide & Formula Sheet for Physics:

If you’re anything like me, your brain is decidedly more SRAM than it is EEPROM, and any time something interesting happens, the previous memory contents disappear and get replaced by something else. Which is why I always keep a little 2-sheet-per-page double-sided copy of this in my backup brain engineering notebook: Reference Guide & Formula Sheet for Physics by “Dr. Hoselton & Mr. Price”. I had to dig around to find the original source for this since I’ve had it so long and have no idea how I came across is (no doubt googling some seldom used formula), but Dr. Hoselton seems to have made this while working at Trinity Valley School (See Dr. Hoselton’s Physics Page). Makes me wish I had the kind of teachers who cared enough about this stuff to put these kinds of things together, but that’s another post altogether. It’s a nice little reminder of all that stuff you can never remember, and should make that next physics-based iPhone app a breeze. :) There are a handful of these floating around (feel free to post others in the comments below!), but this is what ended up in my little notebook many years back.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

Heatless compressed air dryer

Heatless compressed air dryer:

The pressurized air from a standard air compressor is fine for most uses. But some applications like plasma cutting call for low-humidity air and the hardware available to facilitate this can cost a bundle. [Roland] and his cohorts at TX/RX Labs (a Houston, Texas Hackerspace) just built this air drying system.

It works using a desiccant; a substance that sequesters moister. It’s the stuff in those little packets you find in shoe boxes and the like with a warning that you shouldn’t eat it. The image above shows two chambers which house the desiccant. Only one is used at a time, so that as it’s ability to remove moisture drops, the system can switch over to the other chamber. There’s even an automatic recharging system built in that uses a portion of the dried air to remove the humidity from the unused desiccant chamber.

There’s a functional diagram at the link above. It’s resolution is low enough that the text is almost unreadable but we’ve asked [Roland] if he can repost the image. This seems like a build in which other hackerspaces will be interested.

Filed under: Hackerspaces, tool hacks

Control MIDI with an Android device

Control MIDI with an Android device:

[Lewis] wanted to control MIDI devices with the huge touch screen that is his Android phone. After he couldn’t find a simple hardware implementation of MIDI out, he turned to an IOIO board to send MIDI notes to just about any imaginable musical hardware. It’s a clean build and fills a gap in the abilities of the Android platform.

Because of the woeful support of MIDI in Android, [Lewis] couldn’t find a good way to push MIDI notes from his phone to other devices. While there are a few high-overhead options like MIDI over wi-fi or a Bluetooth connection, there wasn’t much in the way of a straight-up hardware connection to other MIDI devices. [Lewis] got around this limitation by using an IOIO board and the right software to send MIDI notes though a DIN-5 connector.

Although the project works as intended, [Lewis]‘ build could be made more permanent by building one of these MIDI interfaces and wiring that to the IOIO. All the Android code is up and available, along with a neat demo of [Lewis] controlling the delay time of an effects unit in his guitar rig. You can check that video out after the break.

Filed under: android hacks

Autonomous metal detector lets you sit back, get rich

Autonomous metal detector lets you sit back, get rich:


As a kid, metal detectors seemed like great fun. Every commercial I saw beckoned with tales of buried treasure “right in my own back yard” – a bounty hard for any kid to pass up. In reality, the process was both time consuming and tedious, with little reward to be had. [Gareth] liked the idea of scouring the Earth with a metal detector, but he liked sitting and relaxing even more. He decided he could easily partake in both activities if he built himself an autonomous metal detecting robot.

He stripped down a hand held metal detector, and installed the important bits on to the front of an R/C chassis. An Arduino controls the entire rig via a motor shield, allowing it to drive and steer the vehicle while simultaneously sweeping the metal detector over the ground. He fitted the top of the rover with a camera for remotely watching the action from the comfort of his patio, along with a laser which lets him pinpoint the location of his new found goods.

Continue reading to see a short video of the robot in action, and be sure to check out his site for more build details.

Filed under: arduino hacks, robots hacks