17 | October | 2022

17 |  October |  2022

A digital caliper connected to a tablet

Although old-school machinists usually preferred the mechanical vernier scale on their trusty calipers, many users today purchase calipers with digital readouts. These models often come with additional functions such as differential measurements, or a “hold” function for those situations where you need to maneuver the instrument somewhere deep inside a machine. Another useful feature is a data link that allows you to log your measurements directly to a computer instead of entering all the values ​​manually.

The VINCA branded caliper which [Liba2k] purchased has such a datalink function, which requires a USB adapter sold separately. There’s a micro-USB connector on the tool itself, but instead of implementing a USB interface, this is used to carry a proprietary serial protocol – a design decision that should be classified as a crime if you ask us. Instead of buying the official USB adapter, [Liba2k] decoded the protocol and built their own interface called VINCA Reader which can be connected either via USB or Wi-Fi.

The serial format turned out to be a simple serial bus clocked out 24 bits at a time. To adapt the 1.2 V signal level to the 3.3 V used by an ESP32, [Liba2k] designed a simple level shifter circuit with a handful of discrete components. The ESP can communicate with the computer via the Wi-Fi interface [Liba2k] wrote a spreadsheet-like program; alternatively, a standard USB cable can be connected to emulate a keyboard for use with other software.

With its additional Wi-Fi function, the VINCA Reader is actually more complete than the official USB adapter, and is likely to be cheaper as well. The serial interface seems to be common to all caliper manufacturers, although many went for a more sensible connector than micro-USB. An automated reading system is especially useful if you have to make thousands of similar measurements.

An exploded diagram of the spot welder.  Shown is the capacitor bank, trigger, 12 V relay, DC input, current output, step-up converter, voltmeter, industrial SCR module and capacitor bank.

Do-it-yourself spot welders often use heavy-duty components that can be a little intimidating, given the potential for dangerous malfunctions. [Wojciech “Adalbert” J.] designed its capacitive discharge spot welder to be safe, easy to build and dispense with the microcontroller.

Many projects work great with just a single Li-ion cell, but when you need more power, you need to start connecting multiple cells together to form a battery. [Wojciech]’s spot welders are designed to be just powerful enough to weld nickel tabs on a cell without excessive use. The capacitor bank uses nineteen Nichicon UBY 7500uF/35V capacitors, all wired in parallel with solder wick saturated with solder. They sit on top of a perfboard with metallized holes to carry the high current.

[Wojciech] has detailed every step in building the welder, including modifications to the off-the-shelf relay board and adding a potentiometer to the step-up converter board. The level of detail makes this seem like a good place to start if you’re hoping to jump into the world of DIY spot welding. Safe is always a relative term when dealing with high powered devices, so be careful if you try this build!

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DIY spot welders have graced these digital pages many times, including this one built with safety in mind, and this other one that definitely wasn’t.

HunterCatNFC Tool

NFC hacking can be a daunting task with many specialized tools, a proliferation of protocols and a variety of different devices. [ElectronicCats] have done a lot of work to try to make this research available by creating an open source, hardware certified NFC tool called HunterCatNFC that can read and emulate a multitude of NFC devices.

The HunterCatNFC device is intended to be portable and self-sufficient, with LED indicator lights that can provide information about the various modes, and feedback on what data is being received. At its core, the HunterCatNFC has an NXP PN7150 NFC controller chip to handle the NFC communication. The main processing controller is a Microchip SAMD21 which also provides USB functionality, and the entire unit is powered by a 3.7V 150mAh Li-ion battery.

HunterCatNFC has three main modes, “emulation”, “read/write” and “peer-to-peer”. Emulation mode allows HunterCatNFC to mimic the functionality of a passive NFC device, responding only when an NFC reader sends a request. The read/write mode allows it to emulate an NFC reader or writer, with the ability to communicate with nearby passive NFC devices. The peer-to-peer mode allows the device to have two-way communication, for example between two HunterCatNFC devices.

We’ve covered NFC hacking before, including Flipper Zero. HunterCatNFC is a nice addition to the NFC hacker’s arsenal of tools with very nice documentation to learn from. For those who do not wish to send out their own boards to be printed and mounted, [ElectronicCats] do you have them for sale.

Video after the break!

Continue reading “Hunt for NFC signals with this NFC multi-tool”

Making pasta is perhaps one of the easiest things you can do in the kitchen, second only to watching a pot of water boil. But as pasta maker Barilla points out on their website, you can reduce your meal’s CO₂ emissions by up to 80% if you just leave the pasta in the hot water instead of actively cooking it all the time – a technique known as passive cooking.

The trick is getting the timing right, so in a rather surprising move, Barilla has released the design for an open-source device that will help you master this energy-saving technique. Admittedly, it’s not a very complex piece of hardware, consisting of little more than an Arduino Nano 33 BLE, an NTC probe, and a handful of passive components packed into a 3D printed case. But the documentation is great and we have to give Barilla credit for going way outside their comfort zone with this one.

Magnets in the 3D-printed case allow it to attach to the lid of your pot, and when it detects that the water is boiling, the gadget notifies your phone (at least for this version of the device, an Android or iOS application is required) that it it’s time to put in the pasta. A few minutes later it will tell you when you can turn off the burner, then just wait for the message that your passively cooked pasta is ready to be pulled out.

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As the prop does the video Sony posted after the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, we recognize that on some level this is an advertisement for Barilla pasta. But if developing useful open source gadgets that can be built by the public is what a company wants to spend its advertising dollars on, you won’t catch us complaining. Hell, we might even get a can of Barilla next time we’re at the store.

Continue reading “Barilla’s Open Source Tool for Perfect Pasta”

An image of the JagerMachine which consists of a rectangular, stationary drinks serving machine with a wooden finish, a 3.5 inch touch screen on the front on top and a cavity with a shot glass in it, lit by blue LEDs, with liquid flowing into it.

[_Pegor] wanted to make a pouring machine for my friends birthday. Unfortunately the build didn’t finish in time, but at least the JagerMachine is finished now for others to use.

The JagerMachine has a peristaltic pump that moves liquid from a reservoir hidden at the back of the machine to the glass at the front. The machine has a 3.5 inch DSI touch screen for user input and a WS2812B LED ring to create a small light show when the drinks are served. A 3.3 V to 5 V level shifter is used to drive the LED ring and a motor driver module is used to drive the peristaltic pump motor. It appears to be a “shot glass detection” feature that uses a 3D-printed mini-platform with a notch for a magnet so that when a glass is placed on top of it, the hall sensor can detect the presence of the nearby magnet.

Part of the charm of this project is the software stack on the Raspberry Pi that allows for new interactions, including being able to serve drinks from receiving emails. Using the Raspberry Pi as the controlling device allows for this rich set of interface options, including easily allowing the ability to drive the LEDs, detect the presence of the shot glass, along with establishing network connectivity. The setup procedures are all documented in the repository for anyone who wants to see how this type of functionality can be transferred to their own project.

Drink mixer robots are of course a thing. everything from small and sweet to full shelf.

Science fiction is full of things you don’t want to think too hard about. Why do starships with carriers have brigs with force fields? Why not just beam a prisoner into a closed room? Why do the Cylons’ ships fly with human control? Why not have a plug in their… well, you get the idea. For that matter, why do the Cylons (and Kaylons and Gort) even look human? Why aren’t some Cylons just ships?

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Of course, the real reason is so we can identify with them and actors can play them with some cosplay gear and makeup. But real robots that are practical rarely look like people at all.

No one is going to mistake a robotic factory arm or a Roomba for a person, but they are perfectly suited for their purpose. Still, we’re fascinated by robots that look like humans and keep building them, like Nadia from IHMC Robotics in the video below. Continue reading “In Our Own Image: Do We Need Humanoid Robots?”

Join us on Wednesday 19 October at 12pm Pacific for Lubrication Engineering Hack Chat with Rafe Britton!

You know the old joke: If it moves when it shouldn’t, fix it with duct tape, and if it doesn’t move but it should, fix it with WD-40. For many of us, that’s about as far as our expertise in lubricants – and adhesives – goes. That’s a shame, because with hundreds of years of petrochemical engineering expertise behind us, not to mention millennia more ad hoc experience with natural substances, it might be a wasted opportunity to just reach for the trusty blue and yellow box for a booze. Sure, it will work – maybe – but is it really the right tool for the job?

Modern lubricants are extremely complex and highly engineered materials, often built atom by atom to perform a specific job under specific, often extremely challenging, conditions. Oils and greases are much more than just the smooth stuff that keeps our mechanical systems running, and while you may not need to know all the details of how they’re made to use them, a little inside information can go a long way to ensuring that the mechanism holds.

join i-hack chatWe’ve invited Rafe Britton on Hack Chat to talk about all aspects of lubrication engineering. With degrees in engineering and physics, Rafe runs Lubrication Expert and the Lubrication explained channel on YouTube to help their customers figure out what they don’t know about lubrication and how they can apply that knowledge in the real world. Be sure to include lubrication questions and concerns, as well as lubrication success stories and failures—especially the failures!

Our Hack Chats are live community events in Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messages. This week we sit down on Wednesday 19 October at 12:00 PM Pacific Time. If time zones have you tied down, we have a handy time zone converter.

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