Category Archives: IOT

The Fine Art of Acid Etching Brass

If you were building a recreation of the James Watt micrometer, where would you start? If you’re [rasp], the answer would be: “Spend a year trying to find the best way to make etched brass discs.” Luckily for us, he’s ready to share that information with the rest of the world. While it’s rather unlikely anyone else is working on this specific project, the methods he details for getting museum-quality results on brass are absolutely fascinating.

The process starts with sanding down the bare brass and applying a layer of clear packing tape to the metal. [rasp] then covers the piece with LaserTape, which is a special tape designed to make laser-cut masks for sandblasting. But the masking principle works just as well for painting or chemical etching.

With the LaserTape in place, the piece is then put into the laser and the mask is cut out. Once cut, there’s the tedious task of peeling off all the cut pieces of tape, which [rasp] does with a dental pick. Once the pieces are pulled off, the brass is ready for its acid bath.

Anyone who’s etched their own PCB with ferric chloride will recognize these next steps. The piece is put into the acid bath and agitated every 10 minutes or so. It’s interesting to note that [rasp] places the piece in the bath upside-down, using little 3D printed “feet” to suspend the brass sheet off the bottom of the container. This allows the debris from the etching process to fall down and away from the piece. After about an hour out in the sun, the piece is pulled out of the bath and carefully washed off.

Once clean off, the piece is sprayed with black spray paint to darken up the etched areas. The moment of truth comes when the paint has dried and the layers of tape are carefully peeled back to reveal the etching. [rasp] then wet sands the piece with 1000 and 2000 grit paper, and a final pass with polishing compound brighten up the surface to a mirror-like shine. It’s quite a bit of manual labor, but the end result really is spectacular.

In the video after the break, [rasp] breaks down the entire process, including the additional machine work required to turn these brass plates into functional components of the final machine. As an added bonus, he even includes a lot of his failed attempts in an effort to keep others from making the same mistakes. Something we love to see here at Hackaday.

The process used here is similar to the snazzy brass name plates we showed earlier in the year, and has even been done without a laser using photoresist.

[via /r/DIY]

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Great Beginnings for Vintage Computing in Seattle; VCF PNW

The pitch to my wife was simple: “Feel like spending the weekend in Seattle?” That’s how I ended up at the inaugural Vintage Computer Festival Pacific Northwest last weekend, and I’m glad we made the five-hour drive into The Big City to check it out. Hackaday is a VCF sponsor, after all, so it seemed like a great excuse to make the trip. That it ended up being two consecutive days of great Seattle weather was only icing on the cake of being able to spend time with fellow retro computer aficionados and their dearest bits of old hardware, in a great museum dedicated to keeping computer history alive and accessible.

The fact that Seattle, home of Microsoft, Amazon, and dozens of other tech companies, has until now been left out of the loop in favor of VCF East in New Jersey and VCF West in Mountain View seems strange, but judging by the reception, VCF PNW is here to stay and poised to grow. There were 20 exhibitors for this go around, showing off everything from reanimated PDP-11 and Altair 8800 control panels to TRS-80s from Model 1 through to the CoCo. Almost every class of reasonably transportable retro hardware was represented, as well as some that pushed the portability envelope, like a working PDP-8 and a huge Symbolics 3640 LISP workstation.

At some points onlookers outnumbered exhibitors three-fold, cramming the aisles between displays and making it tough to get up close to chat. Almost every exhibitor was swarmed with people asking questions, pecking commands into keyboards, or taking selfies with the hardware. I only got the chance to talk to a few exhibitors, like David Cooper with his impressive collection from the TRS-80 ecosystem. My first programs were typed into a Model 1 at the kind forbearance of the manager of my local Radio Shack, and playing Sea Dragon with my son on a machine I haven’t touched since the 1970s was a real treat.




VCF PNW also hosted a series of interesting talks, only one of which I managed to hear. Paul Laughton talked about following his passion to a programming career that spanned from mainframes to micros, including the early days of Apple, working on a $13,000 contract to develop Apple DOS, meeting his future wife at the Homebrew Computer Club, hanging out with Jobs and Woz, and writing the book on Atari DOS and AtariBASIC. He eventually wound up writing firmware for one of the first consumer digital cameras at Logitech. Paul is now a docent at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, home of VCF West, using his spare time to write and maintain the BASIC! For Android app.

And while the talks and exhibits were what attendees were there for, it was impossible to not wander out into the host venue, the Living Computers: Museum + Labs. This place is a real treat for anyone interested in computers on any level. The main floor has a lot of exhibits geared to kids: a self-driving car simulator that takes you on a virtual ride past the Krusty Burger on Main Street, Springfield; VR and AR demos; and interactive robot displays. But the upper level has the mother lode of hardware: every Apple from the original to the Mac, Ataris, Osbornes, Commodores, and even machines from MITS and IMSAI. If you cut your teeth on a personal computer anytime between 1975 and the “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!” days, chances are good they have it on display. Plus there are dozens of minicomputers and a beautiful display of big iron in a climate-controlled computer room.





But the best part of the museum? Almost every exhibit was operational, and touching was most definitely encouraged. We were amazed to see almost every keyboard occupied by someone entering the “Hello, world!” equivalent for the particular architecture. Very few artifacts were locked away from prying fingers, and even those that were labeled as not for touching were generally accessible enough so that you could get up close for a look. It’s really a great museum, and well worth a visit when you’re in the area. And it seems like the museum benefited from the VCF attendees — word has it that the museum broke its attendance record, previously set by a Minecraft event.

All in all, VCF PNW was a great success, and congratulations are due to the production team, especially producer Mike Brutman. Thanks too to Rob and Evan of the Vintage Computer Federation for the hospitality, and to Matisse from LC:M+L for getting us set up with credentials for the day. Here’s hoping that VCF PNW is here to stay, and that the 2019 event will be even bigger.

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This Boxing Bell is a Trip

[MeasuredWorkshop] wanted to know how a boxing bell mechanism worked. The best way to learn is by doing, so he jumped right in and built one! Boxing bells are a rare surviving example of the trip bell mechanism. Trip bells were used in schools and public buildings as fire alarms. They’ve since been replaced by modern electric systems.

The mechanical linkage behind the trip bell is a one-way lever. This is the arm you pull on. It has a hinged section which stays rigid when the arm is pulled down, but rotates away when the arm is released. [Measured Workshop] built the mechanics of his bell using rather basic tools. The brunt of the work was handled by an angle grinder and a drill press.

The sounder for this boxing bell came from an old school bell. The industrial grey paint was chemically stripped, and the metal cleaned up for a nice brushed finish. The metal stands out nicely against the wood board [Measured Workshop] used as a base.

The finished product looks and sounds the part – now he just has to find a boxing gym in need of a bell!

We’re really becoming fond of the “wordless workshop” style videos that have been popping up on YouTube. [Jimmy DiResta] has been doing it for years, and relative newcomers [HandToolRescue] and [Measured Workshop] are both producing some great content!

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Engineering Students Built a Robot Hand That Translates Speech Into Sign Language


Project Aslan is a student robotics project aimed at translating sign language. The end goal a 2 handed robot that can mimc human expression. Via Mashable Daily:

Students at the University of Antwerp designed a 3D-printed robot hand that translates speech into sign language.

Learn more!


via Adafruit

Science Photography Competition’s Top Prize to an Atomic Portrait #celebratephotography


NewImage

David Nadlinger’s photo is fantastic! From Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council:

David Nadlinger, explained how the photograph came about: “The idea of being able to see a single atom with the naked eye had struck me as a wonderfully direct and visceral bridge between the miniscule quantum world and our macroscopic reality. A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the numbers to be on my side, and when I set off to the lab with camera and tripods one quiet Sunday afternoon, I was rewarded with this particular picture of a small, pale blue dot.”

The competition’s five categories were: Eureka & Discovery, Equipment & Facilities, People & Skills, Innovation, and Weird & Wonderful.

Read more


Photofooter

We #celebratephotography here at Adafruit every Saturday. From photographers of all levels to projects you have made or those that inspire you to make, we’re on it! Got a tip? Well, send it in!

If you’re interested in making your own project and need some gear, we’ve got you covered. Be sure to check out our Raspberry Pi accessories and our DIY cameras.


via Adafruit

Catching the (PCIe) Bus

If you are trying to learn about FPGAs, there is only so far you can go with the usual blinking lights and VGA outputs. Eventually, you want to do something more. Although not terribly cheap, you can get FPGA boards in a PCIe form-factor and use them directly with PC software. Is it easy? Well, it isn’t flashing an LED, but there are tools to help. [Angelos Kyriakos] did a Master’s thesis on the very subject and used a project known as RIFFA to help with the task.

RIFFA (Reusable Integration Framework for FPGA Accelerators) is a simple framework for communicating data from a host CPU to an FPGA via a PCI Express bus. The framework requires a PCIe enabled workstation and an FPGA on a board with a PCIe connector. RIFFA supports Windows and Linux, Altera and Xilinx, with bindings for C/C++, Python, MATLAB, and Java. With proper design, RIFFA can transfer quite a bit of data in a short period of time between your computer and your FPGA.

Of course, the catch is finding a proper FPGA board, and these are not cheap. Also, RIFFA relies on the vendor’s PCIe endpoint block. In some cases, these are licensed with the development tool but in other cases, you’ll have to pay for that, too, so be sure you understand the situation with the FPGA and board you select.

Of course, RIFFA isn’t the only option. There are several PCIe cores on OpenCores, although your mileage may vary on what hardware support or how general-purpose or complete they are.

You can only hope the cost of hardware will come down. Right now the examples for RIFFA use a Xilinx board that goes for about $2,000. Numato has some boards in the $300-500 range. This board looks promising, although they don’t seem to be readily available in the United States, as far as we can tell. Speaking of outside the United States, there’s always Raggedstone. However, none of these boards are in the under $100 range, so be prepared to shell out some money.

Don’t let this put you off though. We’ve talked before about how you can do a lot with FPGAs with very little investment. Besides, you can talk to a PC without using the PCIe interface. Use serial, or Ethernet, or even SPI. It might not have the bandwidth, but it will be a lot cheaper.

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Scott Kelby Breaks Down Auto Tone, Contrast and Color #celebratephotography


NewImage

Helpful read from Scott Kelby:

So, I’ve been asked this question twice, which therefore automatically merits a blog post about it. Trust me, that’s how that works. 😉

‘What is Auto Tone?’

Well! First of all, what does it do? Photoshop’s Auto Tone (along with Auto Contrast and Auto Color; all found under the Image menu) can instantly fix colour and contrast problems in your images. The click of a button sends the Photoshop algorithms into action, the whole image is assessed, and from that assessment, Photoshop applies what it has determined is “right” for the image. What’s happening, in reality, is that all that work you did with the Exposure, Contrast, Shadows, Highlights, Whites, and Blacks sliders, along with the White Balance you decided upon, are all being looked at and adjusted again right after you adjusted them. That image you worked hard on and made pinpoint adjustments on is being changed and what you thought was best, Photoshop perhaps didn’t! It’s essentially a fight between what is popular and what is right…

Read more


Photofooter

We #celebratephotography here at Adafruit every Saturday. From photographers of all levels to projects you have made or those that inspire you to make, we’re on it! Got a tip? Well, send it in!

If you’re interested in making your own project and need some gear, we’ve got you covered. Be sure to check out our Raspberry Pi accessories and our DIY cameras.


via Adafruit