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Hope it’s real: 3D Printing Houses with Bricks

You’ve just got to go with the hype on this one, because it’s obviously not ready for prime time yet. But a few days ago murmurs started circling the net that an Australian inventor had developed a robot capable of building complicated structure from brick all by itself.

bricklaying-robotBefore you go off your rocker… we’re definitely not calling this real. It’s a proof of concept at best, but that doesn’t prevent us from getting excited. How long have you been waiting for robots that can build entire structures on our behalf? We were excited at the prospect of extruding walls of concrete. But this is more like LEGO buildings in the real world. The beast cuts brick to length, conveys each brick along the telescoping arm, and butters them as it lays them in place. At least that’s what the rendered video after the break shows.

We’re hearing about this now because FastBrick Robotics, the company [Mark Pivac] founded and has spent ten years developing the Hadrian project at, was just sold to a company called DMY Capital Limited. Of course they’re going to want to get some press out of the sale.

There is an image of the brick feeder on an existing excavator that frankly looks photoshopped. And some real images like the one seen here and another of the “print head” holding some bricks. But it’s enough to think there’s potential here.

The idea is that the base of the robot is fixed with the arm long enough to reach any part of the structure being built. Precise positioning is achieved by a fixed marker in a different position from the robot. The head triangulates its position using laser range-finding with the marker (having said that we now assume there needs to be more than one marker).

So what do you think? Are we ever going to see this incredibly complicated bucket of awesome producing structures in our neighborhood which the Big Bad Wolf simply cannot blow down?

[Thanks Mark via]

Filed under: cnc hacks, home hacks, robots hacks


Electric Lawn Mower Converted to RC Control

Not too many people like pushing a lawn mower around the yard, but unfortunately, it is a necessary chore. Anti-push-mower advocate [imadethis2014] decided to (as his moniker suggests) make a solution to his pushing-problem. He was a fan of radio controlled devices so it made sense to convert his mower to RC!

The mower itself is powered by an off the shelf battery and has a 21-inch deck. The stock wheels and handle were removed and replaced with a new extruded aluminum frame. Out back are a pair of used electric wheelchair motors sourced from eBay. These drive motors are mounted to the new frame via a pair of aluminum brackets that [imadethis2014] designed and cut out on his Shakepoko CNC machine. Since both rear drive wheels work independent of each other, a pair of swiveling casters up front allow the mower to turn.

A large car-sized battery box houses the two smaller wheel chair batteries as well as the motor control and RC electronics. Check out the video after the break, the mower seems to do fairly well. [imadethis2014] admits he needs some new wheels as the current ones don’t get a lot of traction on the grass. He’s also thinking of adding GPS for automated mowing but isn’t quite there yet.


Filed under: home hacks


Top 25 Free iOS 8.3 Jailbreak Tweaks [Part 2]

We had compiled a list of the top 25 free jailbreak apps and tweaks for iOS 8.3 yesterday. If that wasn’t enough then here’s another list of our top 25 free jailbreak apps and tweaks, which includes some of our all-time favorite jailbreak tweaks like Activator, JellyLock etc.
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Hackaday Prize Entry: Saving Water with the Vinduino

[Reinier van der Lee] owns a vineyard in southern California – a state that is in a bit of a water crisis. [Reinier van der Lee] also owns an arduino and a soldering iron. He put together a project the reduces his water usage by 25%, and has moved it to open source land. It’s called the Vinduino.

water animationIts operation is straight forward. You put a water sensor in the dirt. You turn on the water. When the water hits the sensor, you turn the water off. This was not, however, the most efficient method. The problem is by the time the sensor goes off, the soil is saturated to the point that the plant cannot take it all up, and water is wasted.

The problem was solved by using three sensors. The lowest most sensor is placed below the roots. So it should never go off. If it does, the plant is not taking in all the water, and you can reduce the output. The two sensors above it monitor the water as it transitions through the soil, so it knows when to decrease the water amount and watering cycle times.

Be sure to check out the project details. All code and build files are available on his github under the GNU General Public License 3.0

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, green hacks


KeyMouSerial Solves Your Raspberry Pi Keyboard Problems

All laptops have a working keyboard and mouse built into them, the only problem is that you can’t use these tools on other computers that don’t have them. At least, until now. [Peter] has created the KeyMouSerial in order to use his laptop’s keyboard and mouse as physical devices on his Raspberry Pi, finally freeing the bonds holding our laptops’ human interface devices back.

The software for KeyMouSerial copies keystroke and mouse information and sends this out via a serial port on his laptop (using a USB to serial adapter). From there the information is translated by an Arduino into HID commands which are sent via USB to the target computer, in this case a Raspberry Pi. It’s a pretty elegant solution to carrying a bulky keyboard and mouse along just for a Raspberry Pi, or for any computer that might not have access to a network and SSH.

[Peter] has also been working on using his iPod as a serial-to-USB converter, so if you’re a Rockbox developer and want to help out then drop him a line. All of the software is available (for Windows, Mac, or Linux) including the Arduino sketch if you want to try this software out for yourself. And, if you don’t want to turn a computer into a keyboard and want to go the other direction and turn a keyboard into a computer, that is also an option.

Filed under: laptops hacks


New Part Day: STM32F7, An ARM Cortex-M7

It was announced last year, but ST is finally rolling out the STM32F7, the first microcontroller in production that is based on the ARM Cortex-M7.

The previous go-to part from the ST catalog was the STM32F4, an extremely powerful chip based on the ARM Cortex M4 processor. This chip was incredibly powerful in its time, and is still a respectable choice for any application that needs a lot of horsepower, but not a complete Linux system. We’ve seen the ~F4 chip pump out 800×600 VGA, drive a thermal imaging camera, and put OpenCV inside a webcam. Now there’s a new, even more powerful part on the market, and the mind reels thinking what might be possible.

Right now there a few STM32F7 parts out, both with speeds up to 216MHz, Flash between 512k and 1MB, and 320kB of RAM. Peripherals include Ethernet, USB OTG, SPDIF support, and I²S. The most advanced chip in the line includes a TFT LCD controller, and a crypto processor on-chip. All of the chips in the STM32F7 line are pin compatible with the STM32F4 line, with BGA and QFP packages available.

As with the introduction of all of ST’s microcontrollers, they’re rolling out a new Discovery board with this launch. It features Ethernet, a bunch of audio peripherals, USB OTG, apparently an Arduino-style pin layout, and a 4.3 inch, 480×272 pixel LCD with capacitive touch. When this is available through the normal distributors, it will sell for around . The chips themselves are already available from some of the usual distributors, for to in quantity one. That’s a chunk of change for a microcontroller, but the possibilities for what this can do are really only limited by an engineer’s imagination.

Filed under: ARM, Hackaday Columns, Microcontrollers


Did you use TaiG 2.0.0 Jailbreak? Here’s how to fix Cydia Substrate on iOS 8.3 with TaiG 8.1.3-8.x Untether [Updated]

TaiG team officially released TaiG 2.1.2 jailbreak tool to fix the issues with Cydia Substrate in iOS 8.3, UI cache issue, and also address the issue that was causing the jailbreak process to get stuck at 20% or 60%.
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Talking Big Changes At Sparkfun With Nathan Seidle

Sparkfun, you know them, you love them. They list themselves as “an online retail store” but I remember them for well-designed breakout boards, free-day, videos about building electronics, and the Autonomous Vehicle Competition. This week Sparkfun turned my head for a different reason with the announcement that [Nathan Siedle], founder and CEO will be stepping down. He’s not leaving, but returning to the Engineering department while someone else takes the reigns. I spoke with him yesterday about what this means for him, the company, and what Sparkfun has planned for the future.

Stepping Down Without Saying Goodbye

[Nate] founded Sparkfun in 2003 while still working on his Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Colorado Boulder. He cites wanting to return to his engineering roots as the reason for his title shift, which won’t happen for at least 9 or 10 months. It’s the concept of leaving the CEO position without leaving the company that raises many questions in my mind.

As founder, [Nate] is the Chairman of the Board and will retain the power to hire and fire the CEO. As he put it, that’s quite common with a lot of companies. But I believe that it’s rare for the Chairman to be coming into the office everyday in a different role. The power dynamic between him and his yet-to-be-found replacement isn’t the only sticky wicket here. Sparkfun already has a Director of Engineering, [Pete Doktor], who you may know from his According to Pete series. [Nate] prepared the staff far ahead of the public announcement and that included discussion and planning with [Pete] on how the two will work together with the engineering team. Obviously the ideas is to grow the company and that will mean more and more engineering work to be done.

The new CEO will be guide and defender of the company culture. Sparkfun isn’t looking for “Nate part two” and whomever is installed at the helm will have the freedom to make changes for the better. If that person can navigate the aforementioned issues, I think actually having [Nate] around for advice from time-to-time will help ensure the creative values and spirit of the company doesn’t wash away.

There it is, a sweet job for the taking. Anyone interested in forming up an application?

CM and EDA

MaKey MaKey

While I had him on a video call I thought I’d see what else is going on with the company. Specifically I’ve been wondering about Contract Manufacturing with Sparkfun. There are a few notable pieces of hardware that come to mind in which Sparkfun is acting as a CM: the Makey Makey and the Microview. But you should also know that they developed and produce several types of Arduino boards including the Pro, Pro Mini, Fio, and Lilypad which are produced in 1000+ quantities. That’s nothing to sneeze at, so what’s the deal with CM at Sparkfun?

Turns out there is a guide for that. The gist is that Sparkfun wants to sell your stuff and will act as a distributor, or as the manufacturer and point sales channel. The latter is how the Makey Makey works. The company both manufactures and sells the device which turns anything into a computer keyboard, paying a royalty to the creators [Jay Silver] and [Eric Rosenbaum]. [Nate] admits they haven’t focused on CM very much in the past but are now working to add more capability.

2-years of commits to Sparkfun's Eagle libraries
2-years of commits to Sparkfun’s Eagle libraries

On the development side of things Sparkfun is quite well-known for their Eagle libraries which are both extensive and well-maintained. I was wondering if this gets harder as time goes on, but maintaining and growing it is just part of the work flow. What it does do is lock the company into using CadSoft Eagle for their Electronic Design Automation software. But it’s not inconceivable that this could change.

The company actually started using Protel (which later became Altium Designer) until the license fees became prohibitively expensive for the number of seats they needed. This prompted the switch to Eagle which had the benefits of a lower license fee, and the availability of a zero-cost (but size restrained) version available to Sparkfun’s customers.

Ironically, Altium has been heavily courting Sparkfun to start working with their new EDA offering called CircuitMaker. This new business model for Altium offers free use as long as designs are stored online and published publicly. Saving all your designs privately can be done if you pay for a subscription.

Sparkfun plans to give CircuitMaker a try, and will also do so with KiCAD  (the Free and Open Source EDA suite) in a few upcoming projects. The thing we couldn’t agree more with [Nate] about is the need for a rock-solid conversion tool that can translate parts libraries between the three softwares.

Filed under: Featured, Interviews, slider


Machine Metal With Electricity: An EDM Attachment For 3D Printers

[SuperUnknown] has revealed a secret project he’s been working on. He’s cooked up an EDM attachment for 3D printers, or any CNC machine for that matter. Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) is a method of using sparks to machine metal. EDM isn’t a new technology, in fact commercial machines have been around since the 1960’s. If you’ve ever had an arc scar up your multimeter probes, you’ve unwittingly done a bit of EDM.

The theory behind EDM is simple: High voltage between the tool and workpiece causes sparks to jump between them. Each spark erodes the workpiece (and the tool). Big EDM machines perform their magic in a liquid which acts as both a dielectric and a flushing medium. This liquid can be anything from deionzed tap water to specially formulated oil. [SuperUnknown] is using good old-fashioned tap water.

edm-roughAs you can imagine, a single spark won’t erode much metal. EDM machines fire tens of thousands of times per second. The exact frequencies, voltages, and currents are secrets the machine manufacturers keep close to their chests. [SuperUnknown] is zeroing in on 65 volts at 2 amps, running at 35 kHz. He’s made some great progress, gouging into hardened files, removing broken taps from brass, and even eroding the impression of a coin in steel.

While we’d love to say this is a free open source project, [superUnknown] needs to pay the bills. He’s going with crowdsourced funding. No, not another Kickstarter. This project is taking a different route. The videos of the machine will be uploaded to YouTube and visible to [superUnknown’s] Patreon supporters. They will also be available for rent using YouTube’s new rental system. [SuperUnknown] has pledged to figure out a way to make the content available for starving college students and others with limited incomes.

Based upon his previous adventures with lil’ screwy, his homemade 100 ton press, and various other projects on the Arduino verses Evil YouTube channel, we think [superUnkown] has a pretty good chance of making home EDM work. Click past the break to see two videos of the 3D printer EDM toolhead in action. We should mention that [SuperUnknown] is rather colorful with his dialogue, so make sure you’re using headphones if you’re at work.

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, tool hacks


Apple has extended its exclusive rights with Liquidmetal Technologies for another year

Apple extending its exclusive rights with Liquidmetal Technologies is nothing new, and the trend continues according to a recently surfaced document.

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