As a maker, you probably have a third hand for your soldering station. They come in handy when you need to hold a component, PCB, solder, and soldering iron all at the same time. But an extra hand would be useful for a wide range of other everyday activities. That’s why this team of researchers created a compact robotic third arm called AugLimb.
While robotic augmentations aren’t a new idea, they aren’t often as usable as AugLimb. This robotic arm is lightweight and compact, making it comfortable to wear. It can’t lift much weight, but it is very dexterous thanks to seven degrees of freedom and an extendable gripper. It attaches to the wearer’s bicep and folds up when not in use. When it is time for action, AugLimb unfolds and reaches further than the user’s own arm.
An Arduino Mega board drives AugLimb’s various motors. Those include two shoulder servos, an elbow servo, two wrist servos, a scissor extension motor, and two gripper servos. The scissor extension increases reach by up to 250mm. At this time, a second human operator has to control AugLimb’s movement. But the team hopes to introduce control schemes that let the user operate the robotic limb on their own.
AugLimb is a prototype, but Haoran Xie, a member of the team behind the project, said “We believe that AugLimb will be as popular as smart watches in the near future, as anyone from an elder to a child can comfortably wear it for the whole day.”
Being able to keep oneself accountable while working out is a vital component to almost any good exercise plan, since repetition is the key to success. In response to their significant other wanting a way to track their workouts throughout the week, Instructables user smooth_jamie set out to build a highly interactive device that gives the person using it motivation to continue on after accomplishing the day’s goal.
The project largely consists of a large rectangular enclosure, which houses a series of seven 128×32 OLED screens, along with a single push button next to each one. Just across from the displays is a string of WS2812B LEDs that correspond to that day’s achievement or lack thereof. Jamie had run into the issue of the OLEDs having hardcoded I2C address, so they were forced to use an I2C multiplexer breakout. They also wanted for the device to play a short song to really commemorate meeting that day’s goal, so a speaker and amplifier circuit was added onto the Arduino Mega.
The final step of building this daily run tracker was the code, as it had to handle several different tasks. New targets are entered by holding down a given day’s button and then using the up and down buttons to set it. When the actual distance is entered, the string of RGB LEDs will begin to flash and a song plays if the goal is met, and the LED next to it turns either red or green afterwards as a reminder.
Laser cutters require quite a lot of power and laser tubes need active water cooling, which means you need a coolant reservoir and a water pump. You also need an exhaust fan to remove smoke, which will reduce the laser’s efficacy. Add in a computer, positioning laser, etc., and you’ve got quite a lot to control. That’s why Kaleb Clark used an Arduino to create a control panel for his laser cutter.
This control panel provides several toggles switches, which Clark can flip to turn on the water pump, the air assist, and so on. Each switch has a corresponding WS2812B individually-addressable RGB LED indicator light. There are also status lights that tell him if the air pressure and water flow are in the correct range. Instead of messing around with extension cords and outlets, he can flip all the switches in sequence and then start cutting. When the job finishes, he can flip them all back off.
Those switches mount onto a custom acrylic panel attached to the laser cutter and there is a separate sheet metal enclosure that contains all the relays. In addition to the switches and status lights, the control panel houses the laser cutter’s current meter. An Arduino Mega monitors the toggle switches and activates the relays according their positions. The board also monitors an air pressure sensor and water flow sensor to ensure that they are active, since improper cooling can destroy the expensive laser tube and a lack of air assist can damage parts.
Almost every maker has run into the problem of not being able to find a convenient display or power source for their project prototype, and thus leading to minor delays and some frustration. However, YouTuber Another Maker has come up with an open source desk concept that makes finding these things simple. The system he built uses a large grid of swappable panels that can simply slide into place within a wooden frame. Behind these are a few devices for both power and connectivity, such as power strips, an Ethernet switch (with PoE capabilities), and an HDMI switch for changing between a Raspberry Pi and a PC.
So far, only a single specialized panel has been constructed, although Another Maker has plans for more of them. This current iteration features an array of 30 momentary pushbuttons that all feed into an Arduino Mega. When one of these labeled buttons are pressed, a command is sent via the Ethernet shield to an adjacent home server, where it can control an RGB light strip or interact with an MQTT client.
To the right of the large, central television is a smaller touchscreen that has a Raspberry Pi just behind itself. For now, it doesn’t do all that much, but it can certainly change if/when a new project comes along. You can learn more about Another Maker’s open source desk system in the video below.
CNC (Computer Numerical Control) mills, routers, and lathes are indispensable manufacturing tools. If you need a part that adheres to tight tolerances, you turn to a CNC machine. Industrial CNC equipment is usually large, heavy, and very expensive. But small models exist for light-duty hobby jobs. This DIY version designed by Brian Brocken stands out because it is huge, has five axes, and is 3D-printable.
The most basic CNC mills and routers have three axes, so they move in the X, Y, and Z directions. But additional axes help a machine perform more complex operations. A fourth axis most often rotates the work piece, while a fifth axis tilts the spindle that rotates the end mill. It is rare to see a DIY CNC machine with five axes, but Brocken pulled it off with this project that has a massive work area of one square meter.
Brocken performed all the design work within Autodesk Fusion 360. The frame of the machine is aluminum tubing and 3D-printed parts. An Arduino Mega board controls the stepper motors through a RAMPS 1.4 board. It accepts standard G-code, so Brocken can create toolpaths in Fusion 360 or other CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) software. The frame lacks rigidity and there is no way it could handle milling aluminum or even wood. But it can mill foam, which is the intended purpose. It can also perform 3D printing and laser cutting. Brocken isn’t quite finished building his CNC machine, but it is already semi-operational.
Ham radio, or amateur radio, is a hobby enjoyed by millions of enthusiasts around the world. The FCC in the US and similar organizations in other countries provide amateur radio licenses that allow hobbyists to communicate on designated radio bands. Most ham radio operators communicate by voice, but ham radios can transmit other kinds of data. Dale Thomas built HamMessenger, which is a portable device that enables users to send text messages through their ham radios.
If you remember the early days of the internet, you have heard for yourself that audio can carry digital data. Dial-up internet uses a modem to transmit that audio through standard phone lines. HamMessenger uses a similar methodology to encode a text message as audio. If someone listening on that frequency also has a HamMessenger device, they can decode the text message. Messages are not encrypted, so you shouldn’t use HamMessenger for sensitive information. But it’s a fun way to chat with your ham radio buddies.
HamMessenger contains two Arduino development boards. An Arduino Mega handles most of the functionality and a separate Pro Mini acts as a MicroAPRS modem. A Neo-6M GPS radio module lets you send position information along with your text messages. The HamMessenger’s custom PCB has a small 0.96″ OLED screen to display the messages. You input text via an M5Stack CardKB keyboard. Power comes from a pair of 18650 lithium-ion battery cells. The output from the HamMessenger is an audio signal, which feeds into any ham radio — even a handheld model. Thomas plans to design an enclosure soon, but you can follow his instructions to put the rest of the hardware together right now.