Tag Archives: Arduino

Vagina Hacking by Scanlime, Open Hardware (Emphasis on Hard)

Beth over at scanlime is no stranger to building electronics. But this time she wanted to, well…in her own words, “create something new and exciting that I can immediately use in my everyday life. It also happens to be a sex toy.” Specifically, one of those little remote-controlled vibrating egg things.

She ended up producing a hack that is remarkably polished. She even designed and 3D printed a custom enclosure for the whole thing. If she had used neon pink plastic it would have been hard to tell that it wasn’t part of the original product.

She’s got an incredibly detailed description of the project on her blog. Personally, I think the most interesting part of the hack was her solution to the power problem.

This was getting complicated fast. Lithium polymer battery, a boost converter to raise the voltage to 5V for the sonar module, charging circuit, “fuel gauge” indicator. All of this work goes into every commercial product that runs on batteries, and we often take it for granted. As far as I’m aware, though, there isn’t a great equivalent for quick DIY prototyping. The Arduino Fio board is close to what I want: an Arduino with a built-in LiPo battery charger. But it doesn’t have the 5V boost converter or any way of monitoring the battery’s charge. Without designing my own PCB, I’d need several separate components: batteryfuel gaugecharge/boost. All total, over $45 and a lot more bulk and complexity than I wanted. I was really hoping there was a better option.

It so happens that this sort of amalgamation of parts is already pretty commonplace in the form of portable cell-phone chargers. These devices are very little more than a boost converter, charger, lithium battery, and a very basic fuel gauge. Best of all, thanks to economy of scale, they’re really inexpensive. The 3200 mAH battery I used in this project was only $22, and it’s something I can reuse for multiple projects… or even to charge my phone.

This is an elegant solution that can apply to an array of different projects. Once something becomes commoditized it can drop below the price point at which it makes sense to reproduce the functionality yourself. All wireless projects need power, and with cell phone chargers becoming cheap and easy to find it makes sense to just plug one into the project’s USB slot and call it a day. Not only is it cheaper and easier, but it’s modular because you can still use it for its original purpose.

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Makerbot Gets Cloned…Again

Well that escalated quickly.

Open source hardware hasn’t really been a thing for very long, so it doesn’t have many success stories. Arduino is probably the only obvious one. Makerbot is quickly becoming the second. How can you tell when an idea is successful? Easy, it gets copied.

Matt Strong figured out how to source the parts for a Makerbot Replicator from China and joined Kickstarter with a proposal: if he could gather $500,000 he would offer his TangiBot (a clone of the Replicator) for 30% less. How that turned out and what it means…after the jump.

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Arduino Leonardo

The new board from Arduino, the Leonardo, is pretty much an Uno except that it doesn’t have a dedicated chip for USB communication. The serial port runs in the same chip that runs your sketches (the ATmega32U4). This means that if you reset the board you also reset the USB connection. However, because the serial port is virtual it means that the board can run as a (HID) keyboard or mouse.

Arduino Leonardo

Freetronics LeoStick

The simpler physical wiring means that the Leonardo is cheaper ($20), but it also means that there’s less flash memory and some of the pins have changed, so Uno shields might not work with the Leonardo.

If the Uno footprint is just too big there’s the LeoStick from freetronics ($30).

Additional Links

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MAKE Magazine Interviews Alicia Gibb of the Open Source Hardware Association

MAKE’s interview with Alicia Gibb, President of the Open Source Hardware Association, is well worth a read.

Why does open source hardware need an Open Source Hardware Association?
There are a lot of excellent things done by the community that don’t really have a cohesive web presence to live under. We hope to give the community a bit of structure by organizing information around open source hardware under the Association. The other reason is that currently a lot of our knowledge about open hardware is colloquial, and as you cited in your recent blog post, we have unspoken rules. We hope to create a resource to make all these things more transparent and provide a formal entity that can answer questions about how, why, what, and the best practices of open hardware.

How can the makers out there who design hardware help? How can the supporters and users of open hardware help?
We are not as much asking makers what they can do for us, but rather what we can do for them! The best help and support is an understanding that we’re flying by the seat of our pants, but also want feedback to know how we can best serve this community. Of course, there will also be the aspect of financial support that we hope at have. We’re not sure if this will be purely donation-based or if we should charge for membership to raise funds, but we definitely want involvement from the community for that!

and more…

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Google’s Android Accessory Development Kit

Android’s Accessory Development Kit is a tool for people to build things that interact with Android. For example, “audio docking stations, exercise machines, personal medical testing devices, weather stations, or any other external hardware device that adds to the functionality of Android.

Related links

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Crowd Funding Dump

Kickstarter has subdivided their “technology” category into “open software” and “open hardware” which makes my job a little faster. There aren’t very many things in it…but I suppose that also makes my job a little faster.

Summary:

Details after the jump.

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DIY Totally Open Source Arduino GSM Cell Phone by Zach Wick

Cell phones (like this and this) are turning out to be a reasonably popular open source project. It makes sense when someone points it out. They are pretty much the Swiss Army knife of the digital world. More importantly, they are useful and versatile but they don’t require any real hardware hacking. That’s important since most of the people doing open source work are comfortable with code and soldering irons…not wrenches.

Here’s an outline of the open source hardware necessary to physically assemble your own touchscreen phone. Zach Wick grabbed all of this stuff off-the-shelf (his or someone else’s).

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3G GPS Shield for Arduino Microcontroller

You know how the Arduino has those expansion ports on it? Well, now Cooking Hacks (the same group that created the XBee shield) has created a 3G + GPS shield for attaching to those expansion ports. That’s right, you can make the Arduino accessible anywhere. As much as I hate talking about the cloud, this little beauty allows you to add your Arduino (and/or entire project) to it.

Details after the jump.

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The 3D Printable Heliostat and Interview With Creator

A little while ago Openalia posted about Google’s open source heliostat array code.

Well, now you can build your own DIY solar thermal farm. Adam (aplavins) has designed a 3D printable 2-axis sun tracking device.

Interview after the jump.

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Open-EVSE, an OSH Charging System for Electric Vehicles

Everyone should start keeping track of what Google is doing (if they weren’t already).

Just a few days ago Openalia posted about Google’s open source simulation software for planning heliostat arrays. Today it’s about the hardware and software for an Arduino shield that charges any electric vehicle (EV) off of household current.

The Open-EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) is for charging J1772 compliant EVs. SAE J1772 is a specific type of connector.

So, basically, EVs get parked in the garage and plugged into a special computer to recharge their batteries. It’s important that the wall power be carefully metered out to maximize the life of the expensive battery pack. This thing does that, but it costs way less than its commercial equivalents and it’s open source.

Today we will be interviewing Chris Howell, the driving force behind OpenEVSE.

Okay, Chris, what is your background?

  • I am a Network Engineer and have way too many hobbies… Pilot, Electronics, Ham Radio, RC planes/UAVs…

Did you have any engineering experience before you started?

  • I build networks for a living. I did not have any experience in building complex electronic circuits or programing before I started.

When did you start and when did you decide to go open source?

What made you decide to open source the project?

  • The decision to Open Source “OpenEVSE” was made because the Electric Vehicle industry desperately needed an inexpensive Charging station/ Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). The existing hardware is far to expensive ($750+) and the manufactures are taking advantage of consumers with outrageous labor costs to install the charging station.
  • My quote to install the charging station form Nissan’s partner AV was over $1200. I already had a breaker in the panel and the charging station was to be located 18 inches away.

Did you choose one particular license over others? Why?

  • Not really… The licences are pretty confusing, we just picked a common license.

Were there any tools/resources that were vital to your success?

  • The Arduino paved the way for OpenEVSE. I bought an Arduino and out of frustration with my ridiculously high Charging Station quote I decided to see if I could use it to generate a J1772 pilot signal. J1772 is the standard in use by the EV industry. It is a 1khz square wave generated by the Charging Station. The voltage drop determined the EV state and duty cycle tells the EV how much current it can draw.
  • After a couple hours with the Arduino I was able to implement the pilot.
  • Other resources that were very helpful were the tutorials from Adafruit and Sparkfun. I had to learn a lot about SMD stenciling, microprocessors and opamps.
  • DorkBotPDX is great for the many prototype boards and OHARARP for the SMD stencils.

Any tools that were just really cool that everyone should know about?

  • I really like the DSO Quad scope. It has been really useful for this project.
  • The electric skillet for solder reflow is awesome.

Could you suggest one really important skill people should learn first?

  • Learn how to program an Arduino.
  • Once you know what a microprocessor can do lots of ideas start flowing.

Were there any significant changes between revisions or forks?

  • No significant changes just a slow progression of improvements and added features.

How much of the project was individual effort and how much was social?

  • The hardware was mostly individual with a few suggestions from really smart people. I brought the project to the stage that I was able to successfully charge my Nissan LEAF. Shortly after I recieved an email from “lincomatic” another LEAF owner who offered to make improvements to the software.
  • Now I still do most of the hardware, but both lincomatic and I add to the software. OpenEVSE is starting to see some small contributions from the community. Hopefully more people will contribute to the project over time.

Are you anywhere close to feeling “done” with the project?

  • The project is not done but it is mature. Open EVSE fully supports J1772 and all the same safety features as the “big boys”… GFCI, ground monitoring, stuck relay detection.
  • There are a lot that can still be added touch screen LCD, Internet connectivity, energy metering, etc.

Do you plan on selling anything when you’re finished?

Has it been successfully used in a real job? By anyone else?

  • Yes, OpenEVSE is in use by owners of the Nissan LEAF, Chevy VOLT, Toyoda PiP and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Tesla and BMW Active-E owners are currently building Charging Stations. To date over 50 OpenEVSE boards have shipped.

Where do you want to take the project from here?

  • I would like to interface OpenEVSE with a Raspberry Pi to provide a rich web interface and also a graphical interface.

What do you think about open source as a philosophy? As a strategy?

  • Open Source is a great way to get people interested in a project and to spark innovation.

Do you follow any other open source projects?

  • Arduino and Raspberry pi.

In your wildest dreams, what would be open sourced next?

  • Everything…
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