Plan CO2 – A Thing or Two About Monitoring CO2

Plan CO2 – A Thing or Two About Monitoring CO2
By Dale Dougherty

Plan CO2 – A Thing or Two About Monitoring CO2

Tim Dye of TD Environmental Services is a leading expert in air quality sensors. He knows a thing or two about CO2. When I first started thinking about how we might use CO2 to measure the proper ventilation of indoor spaces, I thought of Tim and his work on air quality monitors.

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April 17, 2021 at 12:52AM
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Plan CO2: Making A Public Display

Plan CO2: Making A Public Display
By Dale Dougherty

Plan CO2: Making A Public Display

When I saw the big emoji (old school – smiley) on Carter Nelson’s RGB Matrix Portal Room CO2 Monitor project on Adafruit, I knew he was on to something. I wished that I would begin seeing more such displays in places like restaurants and shops, not to mention school classrooms, offices and makerspaces in the coming months. In Carter’s Adafruit project, the CO2 monitoring device presents a concise public-health message.

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April 16, 2021 at 02:44AM
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3D Printing Ceramics With The Cerambot Eazao

3D Printing Ceramics With The Cerambot Eazao
By Caleb Kraft

I backed the first kickstarter that Cerambot put out, a 3d printer capable of printing in ceramics for under $400. That kit was successful and it arrived as stated. Overall, the printer seems fine, but lacked a little refinement. When I saw that they were returning with an updated, and easier to use, version I […]

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April 15, 2021 at 05:00PM
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Plan CO2: Montreal Dad Makes a CO2 Monitor for His Daughter’s Classroom

Plan CO2: Montreal Dad Makes a CO2 Monitor for His Daughter’s Classroom
By Dale Dougherty

Stephan and Odessa Schulz at a workbench

A device that measures CO2 can be built and deployed in indoor spaces such as classrooms to monitor ventilation in the room and warn if levels of CO2 are rising.

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April 12, 2021 at 11:11PM
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Newest PlayStation Exploit Skips the Disc

Newest PlayStation Exploit Skips the Disc
By Tom Nardi

Last month we brought you word of tonyhax, a clever exploit for the original Sony PlayStation that leveraged a buffer overflow in several of the games from the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series to load arbitrary code from a specially prepared memory card. But now [Bradlin] has taken that idea a step further and developed a software exploit for Sony’s iconic console that doesn’t need to be triggered from a game.

The exploit is considerably more complex this time around, but [Bradlin] does an excellent job of breaking it down for those who want the gritty details. The short version is that missing boundary checks in the PlayStation’s built-in memory card handling routines mean a carefully formatted “block” on the memory card can get the console to execute a small 128 byte payload. That’s not a lot of room to work with, but it ends up being just enough to load up additional code stored elsewhere on the memory card and really kick things off.

Unlike tonyhax, which was designed specifically to allow the user to swap their retail Tony Hawk disc with a game burned to a CD-R, [Bradlin]’s FreePSXBoot is presented as more of a generic loader. As of right now, it doesn’t allow you to actually play burned games, although its inevitable that somebody will connect those last few dots soon.

If you want to check out the progress so far, all you need is wire a PlayStation memory card up to an Arduino, write the provided image to it, and stick it in the slot. [Bradlin] says the exploit doesn’t work 100% of the time (something else that will surely be addressed in future releases), but it shouldn’t take too many attempts before you’re greeted with the flashing screen that proves Sony’s 27 year old console has now truly been bested.

April 10, 2021 at 02:00PM
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Dynamic Build Platforms for 3D Printers Remove Supports and Save Material

Dynamic Build Platforms for 3D Printers Remove Supports and Save Material
By Bob Baddeley

We’re all too familiar with the 3D printing post-processing step of removing supports, and lamenting the waste of plastic on yet another dwindling reel of filament. When the material is expensive NinjaFlex or exotic bio-printers, printing support is downright painful. A group at USC has come up with a novel way of significantly reducing the amount of material that’s 3D printed by raising portions of the bed over time, and it makes us wonder why a simpler version isn’t done regularly.

In the USC version, the bed has a bunch of square flat metal pieces, with a metal tube underneath each. The length of the tube determines the eventual height of that square. Before the print is made, the bed is prepared by inserting the appropriate length tubes in the correct squares. Then, during the print, a single motor pushes a platform up, and based on the height of the pin, that portion of the bed raises appropriately, then stops at the right height.

This is a significant savings over having a matrix of linear motors or servos to control each square, at the cost of having to prepare the pins for each print.

But it has us wondering; since CURA and other slicing software have the ability to pause at height, what if the slicing software could allow for the placement of spacer blocks of a known size? The user would have a variety of reusable spacer blocks, and position them in the software, and the slicer would build the support material starting on top of the block. It could print a rectangle on the base layer to aid in proper placement of the blocks during printing, and pause at the correct heights to let the user insert the blocks. At the end of the print a lot less support material has been used.

For situations where you want to leave your print to run unattended, or if the cost of the material is low enough that it doesn’t justify the effort, then maybe this isn’t worth it. Another problem might be heating that platform, though since only support material will be printed on it, some curling won’t matter much. What do you think?

April 10, 2021 at 01:01PM
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NASA’s Lucy Stretches Its Wings Ahead of Trojan Trek

NASA’s Lucy Stretches Its Wings Ahead of Trojan Trek
By Zach Zeman

The good news about using solar power to explore space is there are no clouds to block your sunlight. Some dust and debris, yes, but nowhere near what we have to deal with on planets. The bad news is, as you wander further and further out in the solar system, your panels capture less and less of the sunlight you need for power. NASA’s Lucy spacecraft will be dependent on every square inch, so we’re happy to hear technicians have successfully tested its solar panel deployment in preparation for an October 2021 launch.

An animation of Trojan asteroids and inner planets in orbit around the Sun.
Trojan asteroids (in green) orbit the Sun ahead of and behind Jupiter.

Lucy’s 12-year mission is to examine one Main Belt asteroid and seven so-called Trojans, which are asteroids shepherded around the Sun in two clusters at Lagrange points just ahead and behind Jupiter in its orbit. The convoluted orbital path required for all those visits will sling the spacecraft farther from the sun than any solar-powered space mission has gone before. To make up for the subsequent loss of watts per area, the designers have done their best to maximize the area. Though the panels fold up to a package only 4 inches (10 centimeters) thick, they open up to an enormous diameter of almost 24 feet (7.3 meters); which is enough to provide the roughly 500 watts required at literally astronomical distances from their power source.

Near-Earth asteroids are exciting targets for exploration partly because of the hazards they pose to our planet. Trojan asteroids, thought to be primordial remnants of the same material that formed the outer planets, pose no such danger to us but may hold insights about the early formation of our solar system. We’re already eagerly anticipating the return of OSIRIS-REx’s sample, and Hayabusa2 continues its mission after so many firsts. An extended tour of these farther-off objects will keep us watching for years to come. Check out the video embedded below for Lucy’s mission overview.

April 10, 2021 at 10:01AM
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Kerbal Space Program Goes to the Movies in Stowaway

Kerbal Space Program Goes to the Movies in Stowaway
By Tom Nardi

Fans of the lusciously voiced space aficionado [Scott Manley] will know he often uses Kerbal Space Program (KSP) in his videos to knock together simple demonstrations of blindingly complex topics such as orbital mechanics. But as revealed in one of his recent videos, YouTube isn’t the only place where his KSP craft can be found these days. It turns out he used his virtual rocket building skills to help the creators of Netflix’s Stowaway develop a realistic portrayal of a crewed spacecraft in a Mars cycler orbit.

The Mars cycler concept was proposed in 1985 by Buzz Aldrin as a way to establish a long-term human presence on the Red Planet. Put simply, it describes an orbit that would allow a vehicle to travel continuously between Earth and Mars while needing only an occasional engine burn for course corrections. The spacecraft couldn’t actually stop at either planet, but while it made a close pass, smaller craft could rendezvous with it to hitch a ride. The concept can be thought of as a sort of interplanetary train: where passengers and cargo are picked up and dropped off at “stations” above Earth and Mars. It’s worth noting that a similar cycler orbit should be possible for Earth-Venus trips, but nobody really wants to go there.

An early KSP proof of concept for Stowaway.

The writers of Stowaway wanted their film to take place on a Mars cycler, and to avoid having to create the illusion of weightlessness, they wanted their fictional craft to also have some kind of artificial gravity. The only problem was, they weren’t sure what that would actually look like. So they reached out to [Scott], who in turn used KSP to throw together a rough idea of how such a ship might work in the real-world.

As you can see in the video below, the CGI spacecraft shown in the film’s recently released trailer ended up bearing a strong resemblance to its KSP prototype. While naturally some artistic license was used, [Scott] is excited by what he’s seen so far. The spinning spacecraft, which uses a spent upper stage to counterbalance its crew module and features a stationery utility node at the center, certainly looks impressive; all the more so with the knowledge that it’s based on sound principles.

While Netflix has had a hand in some surprisingly realistic science fiction in the past, they’ve also greenlit some real groan-worthy productions (if you haven’t watched Away, don’t). So until we can see the whole thing for ourselves, we can only hope that [Scott]’s sage advice will allow the crew of Stowaway to fly safe.

April 10, 2021 at 07:00AM
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Engineering the Less Boring Way

Engineering the Less Boring Way
By Al Williams

We have to admire a YouTube channel with the name [Less Boring Lectures]. After all, he isn’t promising they won’t be boring, just less boring. Actually though, we found quite a few of the videos pretty interesting and not boring at all. The channel features videos about mechanical engineering and related subjects like statics and math. While your typical electronics project doesn’t always need that kind of knowledge, some of them do and the mental exercise is good for you regardless. A case in point: spend seven minutes and learn about 2D and 3D vectors in two short videos (see below). Or spend 11 minutes and do the whole vector video in one gulp.

These reminded us of Kahn Academy videos, although the topics are pretty hardcore. For example, if you want to know about axial loading, shear strain, or free body diagrams, this is a good place to look.

There are a lot of things we tend to just guess at when doing projects, like what kind of bolts to use to hold things together. Usually, we overdesign and use our experience, but if you really want to optimize what you are doing or you need to be absolutely sure, there are topics on bolt tension and failure theories.

There are also good videos about gears and bearings and other traditional mechanical engineering topics. Will you get as much out of these videos as you would taking some engineering classes at the local university? Maybe not. But you might remember about the same amount of things in six months. Funny how that works.

We find we’ve been much more interested in mechanics since we’ve been 3D printing. Some of that is because we want to design better models, but sometimes we are more interested in the machine itself.

April 10, 2021 at 04:00AM
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Laser-Cut Solder Masks from Business Cards

Laser-Cut Solder Masks from Business Cards
By Bryan Cockfield

There are plenty of ways to make printed circuit boards at home but for some features it’s still best to go to a board shop. Those features continue to decrease in number, but not a lot of people can build things such as a four-layer board at home. Adding a solder mask might be one of those features for some, but if you happen to have a laser cutter and a few business cards sitting around then this process is within reach of the home builder too.

[Jeremy Cook] is lucky enough to have a laser cutter around, and he had an idea to use it to help improve his surface mount soldering process. By cutting the solder mask layer into a business card with the laser cutter, it can be held on top of a PCB and then used as a stencil to add the solder paste more easily than could otherwise be done. It dramatically decreases the amount of time spent on this part of the process, especially when multiple boards are involved since the stencil can be used multiple times.

While a laser cutter certainly isn’t a strict requirement, it certainly does help over something like an X-acto knife. [Jeremy] also notes that this process is sometimes done with transparency film or even Kapton, which we have seen a few times before as well.

April 10, 2021 at 01:00AM
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