Hackaday Links: April 17, 2022


There are plenty of stories floating around about the war in Ukraine, and it can be difficult to sort out which ones are fact-based, and which are fabrications. Stories about the technology of the war seem to be a little easier to judge, and so stories about an inside look at a purported Russian drone reveal a lot of interesting technical details. The fixed-wing UAV, reported to be a Russian-made “Orlan,” looks quite the worse for wear as it’s given a good teardown by someone wearing Ukraine military fatigues. In fact, it looks downright homemade, with a fuel tank made from what looks like an old water bottle, liberal use of duct tape to hold things together, and plenty of hot glue sprinkled around — field-expedient repairs, perhaps? The big find, though, is that the surveillance drone carried a rather commonplace — and cheap — Canon EOS Rebel camera. What’s more, the camera is nestled into a 3D printed cradle, strapped in with some hook-and-loop tape, and its controls are staked in place with globs of glue. It’s an interesting collection of hardware for a vehicle said to cost the Russian military something like $100,000 to field. The video below shows a teardown of a different Orlan with similar results, plus a lot of dunking on the Russians by a cheery bunch of Ukrainians.

One of the best things about 3D printing is that it gives you not only the ability to create parts that never existed before, but also to recreate parts from existing mechanisms that are difficult or impossible to come by. And perhaps nowhere is this latter use case put to the test more than in the automotive world, where styles change on a whim and broken or missing parts can put a real crimp in your ride. Perhaps sensing the potential loss of revenue from parts that are printed rather than purchased, Honda has issued a takedown order for any models related to their brands. Models for anything from high-wear interior trim parts to functional parts were included in the takedown issued to Prusa’s Printables; it’s not clear if similar orders were issued to other model repositories. What’s interesting is that Prusa reports the Scary Legal Letter was accompanied by a long list of specific models it wanted removed, meaning some corporate lawyers — or more likely, their interns — trolled through the site looking for anything even slightly Honda-esque. We get the the need to protect IP, but preventing people from printing a replacement windshield washer tank cap seems overly aggressive.

If you happened to have had a spare $500,000 lying around, looks like you missed your chance to pick up five Orlan drones bid on a piece of space history — a sample of the first lunar regolith collected by the Apollo 11 mission. The moon dust is part of the “contingency sample” that Neil Armstrong was supposed to collect immediately after stepping onto the surface of the Moon; in case they had to book it out of there in a hurry, NASA wanted to make sure they had at least one souvenir. But, like any tourist, Armstrong was fiddling with his camera and didn’t get around to collecting the contingency sample for a couple of minutes, during which scientists back on Earth were no doubt horrified by thoughts of the LM sinking into the lunar dust. How exactly a plastic bag filled with dust in Armstrong’s pocket would have made such a scenario any better is a mystery, but regardless, everything went according to plan and after a weird journey back on Earth, the samples made it to the auction block this week, where they were sold to an anonymous collector for half a million dollars. We really should have been more on the ball with this story, and if anyone out there missed out on the bidding because we failed to give you a heads-up, we sincerely apologize.

In another bit of algorithmic serendipity, most of us in the Hackaday writer’s secret underground lair got a video recommended to us that we simply have to pass on. It shows the process by which certain heatsinks are made, and it’s a strangely hypnotic thing to watch. The process, called skiving, uses a wide and incredibly sharp blade to skim very thin sections from a block of copper or aluminum and then tilt them up to stand vertically. Increment down the block, repeat the process, and soon you’ve got a solid block of material turned into a beautiful heatsink, and without any waste, at least compared to how much swarf would be generated by traditional machining. In fact, it occurs to us that were not sure how to classify this operation — it’s certainly not additive machining, like 3D printing, but neither likewise does it fit into the subtractive machining bucket. Whatever it is, be sure to check out the other skiving videos on the channel — you won’t be disappointed.

And finally, if you’ve got a spare 90 minutes, we heartily suggest you find something better to do than watch the full video of the original Windows 95 launch. Unless, of course, you love that cringe, because there’s plenty of cringeworthy material here. For those not willing to commit to the full experience, Gizmodo has done an admirable job pulling out the best parts, which includes silliness from the likes of Bill Gates (of course), Steve Ballmer, and Jay Leno — we’d forgotten about his appearance. Between the checks written to Leno and the Rolling Stones for the rights to “Start Me Up” — did anyone actually read all the lyrics? — this party set Microsoft back quite a few bucks. But, given that some major players are still running Windows 95 today, it was probably a drop in the bucket.


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