Category Archives: Hardware

A combination of inspiration and actual progress towards hardware related projects.

TV B GONE

Ever sit at a bar with friends and try to have a conversation but the TVs behind the bar were too loud? If only there was a quick convenient way to turn them all off at once. This is where the TV B GONE remote comes in. A simple kit that sends over 100 “power off” signals to TVs within a 150 foot range at the push of a button.

The noisy bar situation has happened to me many times at security conferences. At the very least, the conversation that follows would be quite interesting. The kit requires some soldering, but the instructions from Adafruit are very clear and easy to read.

TV B GONE looks cool by itself. The exposed circuit board has a certain appeal. In order to give it some protection and provide a better grip, there’s a case that can be 3d printed. The design is hosted on Thingiverse. If you’re looking to do the same, don’t cut the wires to the battery holder when building the kit, the remote case is thinner and puts the holder next to the board instead of back to back.

Printing the case

The case printed very well. The designs put the pieces so that the there’s only a small surface area touching the build plate. In order to get a clean print, I had to rotate some of the designs 90 degrees. There were 4 parts included. Total print time was still under 4 hours. After printing, I sanded and painted the case. If I were to do it again, I’d spend more time sanding and try to be more aware of any “low spots”. The paint didn’t cover some small blemishes as well as I expected.

After 3D printing the case, I followed the instructions linked above to solder the kit together. While soldering, I was too focused to take pictures of the process. The final assembly was also pretty easy. I used super glue to stick the battery holder to the front of the case and attach the back of the case.

Usage

So far I’ve been able to turn off every TV in my house. I’ve even been able to turn off multiple TVs when they’re in range. I look forward to bringing it to future security conferences and using it as a talking point.

I recommend anyone who wants a soldering project to attempt this build. It didn’t take long and the only required tools are AA batteries, a soldering iron, and wire clippers.

Rebuilding the 3D printer

A long long time ago, I wrote a blog post about trying to assemble a new Folger Tech 3D printer. Long story short, I was given a bad Arduino board that started to smoke as soon as it was plugged. I spent weeks trying to get help from Folger to check my wiring, because to the best of my knowledge I had followed their instructions and I didn’t know what was wrong. Well after getting a response from them saying “Looks fine to me” and Reddit users not being able to help I looked for a cheap replacement for the board and found the electronics from an online store that shipped from china. I got a new board, shield, and 5 motor controls for under $20.

Reassembling the 3D printer

After a couple months of procrastination, I finally decided to rip apart the printer and install the new electronics. This wasn’t the first time I had to disassemble part of the printer, tear apart the electronics and reassemble them. The only good thing from that is practice makes perfect. This is the fourth time having to go through the process and that makes it easier. It’s also nice to have a second set of hands, I had a helper who was able to catch falling screws, hold wires, and check the instructions when my hands were full.

Before I started doing anything to the printer, I re-watched a video on Youtube of a guy that assembled the same printer and got it working. Even when I was following along with the video, I didn’t do anything different, so I’m pretty sure the only issue was the bad board.

Once I got everything reinstalled, plugging it in was the most nerve racking part of the entire process. I didn’t want to have it start smoking again because I really did wire in something wrong. Luckily I had nothing to fear, plugging it in didn’t cause anything to smoke and that was a huge relief to me. I was able to calibrate the motor controls and nothing started to burn even as it was on for around 15 minutes.

Firmware/Computer Software

The next stage was getting the firmware installed on the Arduino. Another rookie mistake I learned. Install the firmware before you connect everything together. The firmware (and configuration) was provided by Folger Tech and for some reason I couldn’t install it from my mac once everything  on the 3D printer was connected to the board. The computer knew there was a serial connection, but couldn’t do anything with it. After reinstalling drivers and googling fixes, I finally gave up and decided to try another computer. I installed the Arduino IDE and Repitier Host onto my new windows 10 “gaming” laptop that I just got for Christmas and hoped that would work. Luckily it did, I was able to upload the firmware without having to disassemble the printer for the fifth time.

I was able to connect to the printer using Repititer. I set up the software’s configuration and tested the end stops on the printer. It seemed like the printer and computer was working well, so I tried to send the “go home” command to the printer, so the nozzle would move to the default position… Well, guess what happened.

What’s next?

This isn’t the end, I’m currently messing with more configurations for the 3D printer and the Repitier software, I’m not sure what I need to do next but I’ll figure it out eventually. Hopefully sometime soon you’ll see a post with my first actual print.

Assembling a Delta 3D Printer

Hey everyone, it’s been a while since I’ve written something about hardware. I’ll share a current project of mine that has taken some interesting turns. Something that is all the age right now is 3D printing. Most assembled printers range from $400 to $800 and that can range on a lot of things from filament type to the hardware in use. Kits generally run cheaper, because you have to assemble them yourself. A coworker found a really nice kit at a cheap price, so my dad and I jumped on the offer. There’s two kinds of 3D printers that use only 3 axises, one that moves how you’d expect in a square grid fashion with (x, y, z) coordinates. The second kind is called a delta 3d printer and uses three arms to print an object within a cylinder shaped area.

First Attempt

When I first got everything shipped to my house, I had already filled through the directions online. Everything seemed simple enough, it was just some nuts and  bolts, plugging in electronics, and a touch of soldering. However when I went to put it together after pulling everything out of the boxes. I found that I didn’t even have the right tools! so I repacked everything and had to wait for the weekend so I could take it home to work on it with my dad.

Second Attempt

My second attempt went a lot smoother, mainly because my dad was there and has every tool I needed. He was also able to help me decipher the instructions because as easy as I thought it was. The whole build took two days of straight work to get it fully assembled. The printer looks great fully assembled.

The first thing the instructions say to do after assembly is to calibrate the motor controls using an acrylic wrench. On the third motor controller, While we were adjusting it, we saw smoke coming out of the back. My dad and I quickly turned it off and didn’t touch it after that. I tried to connect my computer to the Arduino that runs the controllers and I wasn’t able to get it to register on my Mac.

I made a reddit post to r/3Dprinting and was told I had a common case of magic smoke. Basically I fried the electronics and I can’t fix it so I need to go buy a new set of boards and try again, hopefully not frying everything this time. However, I can’t find any damage on the boards from the smoke.. I’m not even sure what started to smoke!

What’s Next for the Delta 3D Printer?

You can see photos of my current progress here.

Right now, I want to avoid buying a set of replacement electronics if possible. As soon as I can, I want to remove the shield and motor controls so I can test the Arduino by itself. If that’s still unresponsive, then i guess it’s safe to assume that’s fried and I’ll need to buy a new board. However I’m not sure how to test the shield or controllers by themselves. I might just have to buy a whole new set of electronics and get them working soon. I really want to see how this printer works.

The first thing I want to build is replacement parts for my printer. About a third of the delta 3D printer is made out of printed parts. It is smart to have spares on hand in case something wears out or breaks. I’d also like to build extensions like a mount for a larger fan, or possibly wire clips that fit into the 2020 frames. One day I want to use this printer to build a lot of cool knick-nacks for around the house and for everyday use, like a money clip or a headphones holder so they don’t get tangled. My coworker uses his to build prosthetic hands for a non-profit group, that would definitely be something I’d be interested in building at some point.

Hack a Quadcopter CHEAP!

If you have tinkered with computer hardware projects before, I hope you have checked out hackaday.com. They are a famous website that re-posts about many kinds of hardware hacks. If you have found a new toy you want to customize or want to be inspired by other hackers or makers, hackaday is a great start and I visit the site frequently.

Now, me being the “young, easily misguided, and overly willing kid” I was when I read an article titled Hacking a Cheap Toy Quadcopter to Work with an Arduino my first reaction was “Awesome! I can hack into a drone and control it!!” and without too much research into the post I went and bought the same Quadcopter and an Arduino so I could start my hacking career.

My dad wanted to know what I was up to and once he heard, he laughed and said to read the original blog post to understand what to do. After taking notes on the process, I found that the hacker had basically recreated his remote control using an Arduino; he used the board to connect the wireless receiver to joysticks and used the Arduino as the brains of the controller. In my mind, there was a picture of a self-flying, computer-driven, autonomous quadcopter that was built under $100. That did not exactly pan out.

This project started two years ago and after my discovery, there has been no progress in replicating the hackers work. While flying the quadcopter I learned that flight by hand is extremely difficult and the battery life was a mere 20-30 minutes before the quadcopter started to become unresponsive to the controller. I’m not sure if this project will ever happen because I realize that as it is one of my first projects with an Arduino, it was definitely more than I could chew.

Comment below if you have ever had a project stall out before it even started because the big picture was just a little too big. Also I would love any advice on making an autonomous quadcopter on a college student’s budget (>$100).