Caption CERN Contest – Cut the Black Wire

By Adam Fabio

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Week 21 of the Caption CERN Contest is now history. It’s been a great week of captions, so as always a huge thank you goes out to everyone who entered. We still have no idea what these two CERN scientists were working on. Lenses, switches, and a giant glass screen which could have anything behind it. It’s a tough one. But what we lack in facts, you all made up for in humor.

The Funnies:

  • “I spy with my quantum eye, something with a 75% probability of being spin up!”- [bbarrett90]
  • “Preping the Voight-Kampff set up, they have learnt from their unfortunately predecessors that a mirrored bullet proof glass between them and the upset replicant subject might be a good idea.” -[K.C. Lee]
  • “Mary and Steve swore that they were going to be the ones to win this year’s where’s Waldo competition, unfortunately they lost to the guys in the next lab with an SEM.” – [TrollinTeemo]

This week’s winner is [Lou] with “CERNs early attempts at a retina scanner were a bit cumbersome and time consuming. You had to get to work 20 minutes early just to get past the security check.” Lou’s bio is “Test engineer with Mechanical background who likes to tear things apart”. We bet he’s going to enjoy using his new Teensy 3.1 from The Hackaday Store to build something new with all the parts he has left over from teardowns!

Week 22

Holy cable gore, Batman! This image may make a network engineer or IT person weep, but it was business as usual back in the early days of CERN. 14 racks of equipment, with coaxial cables running everywhere. Let’s hope all those patches are connected to the correct ports! What were these two CERN scientists working on? It’s up to you to tell us as CERN has lost the records!

While you’re working on your captions, check out the old oscilloscope the standing scientist is using. Scope carts used to be necessary. Today all but the most powerful oscilloscopes weigh in at under 10 pounds.

This week’s prize is a Stickvise from The Hackaday Store. Add your humorous caption as a comment to this project log. Make sure you’re commenting on the contest log, not on the contest itself. As always, if you actually have information about the image or the people in it, let CERN know on the original image discussion page.

Good Luck!

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Using a Voltage Regulator as a Constant Current Source

By Nava Whiteford

[Afroman] contacted us to share his new video on the LM317. The humble LM317 adjustable voltage regulator is everywhere. From wifi routers, to high spec lab equipment. Given a noisy input and a variable load, a voltage regulator will give a nice clean, stable output voltage. We’ve covered the basic operation and usage of the LM317 many times. But even the most common of parts can be used in new and interesting ways.

In his video [Afroman] describes how the LM317 can be used to regulate current rather than voltage to provide a constant current source under varying load. This can useful for a number of applications including driving LEDs and laser diodes. While this circuit may not be as efficient as an LED driver module or a switching solution the LM317 is cheap and readily available. [Afroman] also describes how the circuit works in detail allowing us to enjoy this ubiquitous part in this slightly unusual application.

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Rotary Indexer gives Mill a 4th axis (sort of)

By Anool Mahidharia

Rotary indexer’s are standard issue in most machine shops. These allow you to hold or chuck a work piece, and then a graduated handle lets you to rotate the workpiece. Useful when you want to drill or tap axial or radial features. A rack and pinion drive ensures that the workpiece does not move under machining load. Quite often, these indexers also have a manual lock to take care of gear backlash and play. Automating them is not too difficult either. You could use just a stepper motor (open loop) or servo+encoder (closed loop) to drive the turntable.

[smashedagainst] needed to drill six radial holes on a part. And he had to do it on 500 pieces for a total of 3000 holes. That was just for the first initial run, with more drilling likely in the future. The part in question was small and light weight. So instead of using a heavy duty, industrial grade unit, he built an all-electric rotary indexing jig using a stepper motor and an Arduino, giving him a sort of rotary 4th axis. His idea was to directly use the stepper motor to rotate the workpiece without any gearing, but he needed to build his own rig to do so.

His initial prototype used an Arduino Uno, which he swapped for a Pro Mini in the final version to save some space. The Arduino was connected to a Rugged Circuits motor driver. This was the only driver, out of the several that he tried that managed to hold the stepper motor with enough torque to prevent the workpiece from moving while drilling. The number of holes to be drilled is hard-coded in the Arduino, so all he needed was a single button. Each press of the button advanced the stepper motor through 60 degrees, giving him six, equally spaced holes. He used a NEMA-34 stepper motor, and that meant a beefy power supply. He scavenged a power supply from an old laser printer which conveniently had 24V DC as well as 5V outputs.

The next step was to work on the mechanical assembly. He machined an arbor that is attached to the shaft of the stepper motor. The face of the arbor is hexagonal and the workpiece wedges/locates over this. The motor assembly is fixed on one end of a base plate. The other end of the base plate has a clamping mechanism activated by a toggle clamp. It is also able to rotate (much like a live centre on a lathe). The workpiece is mated to the arbor, and the toggle clamp then locks the piece in place. During initial trials, some of the assembly fasteners worked loose, and there was some amount of chatter from the drill bit. He fixed these issues, and found it performed best when he set the spindle speed at 2400 rpm. Once he got it working, he was able to finish a hundred parts in under 2 hours. Drilling six holes in quick succession causes the part to get quite hot, so he first used some pressurised air cooling. Later, he switched to a spray can based multi purpose penetrant lubricant. Watch his video of the indexing jig in action below.

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Computer Docking Plug Alleviates Docking Station Woes

By Rich Bremer

If you’ve ever owned a laptop with a docking station you can certainly attest to how something so simple can make your life easier. Just pop in the laptop and your external monitor(s), mouse, keyboard, and whatever are all ready to go. When it’s time to leave, just pop the laptop out and be on your way. [Chris] uses a Macbook for work and has to plug and unplug 4 connectors several times a day. This is just plain annoying and even more annoying when he accidentally plugs his two external monitors into the wrong ports. Commercially available docking stations are very expensive so [Chris] scratched his head and came up with a neat DIY docking station alternative.

All of the cords that regularly need connecting and disconnecting are conveniently located next to each other. He took some moldable plastic and surrounded all of his cord connectors while they were plugged into his laptop. Once the plastic hardened, all 4 cables can be plugged/unplugged at once. The plastic holds the connectors at the right orientation and spacing so [Chris's] monitors will never again be plugged into the wrong ports. This is a great idea and we’d love to see a 3D printed version made for the docking-station-less computer users.

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Instrument Cluster Clock Gets The Show On The Road

By Bryan Cockfield

While driving around one day, [Esko] noticed that the numbers and dials on a speedometer would be a pretty great medium for a clock build. This was his first project using a microcontroller, and with no time to lose he got his hands on the instrument cluster from a Fiat and used it to make a very unique timepiece.

The instrument cluster he chose was from a diesel Fiat Stilo, which [Esko] chose because the tachometer on the diesel version suited his timekeeping needs almost exactly. The speedometer measures almost all the way to 240 kph which works well for a 24-hour clock too. With the major part sourced, he found an Arduino clone and hit the road (figuratively speaking). A major focus of this project was getting the CAN bus signals sorted out. It helped that the Arduino clone he found had this functionality built-in (and ended up being cheaper than a real Arduino and shield) but he still had quite a bit of difficulty figuring out all of the signals.

In the end he got everything working, using a built-in servo motor in the cluster to make a “ticking” sound for seconds, and using the fuel gauge to keep track of the minutes. [Esko] also donated it to a local car museum when he finished so that others can enjoy this unique timepiece. Be sure to check out the video below to see this clock in action, and if you’re looking for other uses for instrument clusters that you might have lying around, be sure to check out this cluster used for video games.

The mechanics in dashboards are awesome, and produced at scale. That’s why our own [Adam Fabio] is able to get a hold of that type of hardware for his Analog Gauge Stepper kit. He simply adds a 3D printed needle, and a PCB to make interfacing easy.

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