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Picture of The Most Useful Machine
What do you make for a man that has most everything; a tiny waving flag, sprouts to keep him healthy and an automatic pill dispenser just in case the sprouts fail? It wasn't immediately clear. So, I looked at his profile to see what he likes. From what I could tell he liked useless machines, gear clocks and stuff. I thought for a long time about what he might want made for him based on what I already knew.

I was ruminating over one project in particular that he had built called the IRritator when it suddenly struck me, I bet he might have something that requires a remote control, like a TV (at least, I am hoping that he has a TV). Anyhow, assuming that he has a TV, I bet he has pressed the channel-up button thousands, if not tens-of-thousands, of times. That's a lot of effort being exerted to change the channel. But what if that effort was not necessary? What if there was a way to change the channel without ever exerting the effort it took to press the button? What if there was a machine that pressed the button for you once per minute? Well then, perhaps, just maybe, that would be The Most Useful Machine... EVER!

And thus, I have made janw The Most Useful Machine... EVER! for the Instructables Gift Exchange. If it turns out that he doesn't have a TV and this machine isn't as useful as I hoped it would be, then perhaps he can combine it with his IRritator and make the most annoying clock ever made. Towards this end, I have also mailed him the minute hand, so that should he need to, he can use it to trigger the IRritator for one minute every hour.





 
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Step 1: Go get stuff

Picture of Go get stuff
You will need:

(x1) over-sized universal remote control
(x1) servo motor with the controller board removed **
(x1) curved doorstop
(x1) 14" x 14" x 1/4" acrylic sheet
(x1) clock movement (with second hand)
(x1) small magnet
(x1) reed switch
(x1) extension spring
(x1) double-threaded standoff and corresponding screws
(x1) 2 x AA battery holder
(x3) AA batteries
(x8) 1/2" bolts with nuts
(x1) a few short zip ties
(x2) self-adhesive Velcro strips (the length of the remote)

** Learn how to remove a servo controller on this page.

Step 2: Cut the acrylic

Picture of Cut the acrylic
2B.jpg
2C.jpg
Download the files included below and use it to laser cut your acrylic to make the mounting bracket.

If, like me, you don't have access to an awesome Epilog laser cutter, you can have ponoko.com or any similar service cut the file for you.

Likewise, you can print it with a standard printer and use it as a template while working with more traditional cutting tools.

Step 3: Bend the acrylic

Picture of Bend the acrylic
3B.jpg
3C.jpg
3D.jpg
Find a metal bar and a surface that can be heated and clamp the acrylic between the two, such that only the part you want to bend sticks out over the edge of the surface.

Put on heat resistant work gloves and get your heat gun.

When you are sure that it is clamped just right, apply heat using a heat gun over the length of the acrylic where you would like to make the bend. Travel back and forth over this area slowly. If you let the heat gun stay still in one spot, bubbles may start to form in the acrylic.

When the acrylic starts to soften (it will visibly droop a tiny bit), gently apply even pressure in the direction that you want to bend it and hold it in place at 90 degrees until it starts to harden and cool. When doing this, be careful to bend it the right way or you will end up with a backwards bracket.

Step 4: Velcro the remote

Picture of Velcro the remote
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4F.jpg
Apply two strips of self-adhesive Velcro along the length of the back of the remote. Align the opposite strips of the velcro pairs along the length of the acrylic base.

I found the easiest way to do this is to attach everything, first, to the remote control and then carefully sticking the entire unit down to the base. In this way, it ensures an even alignment.

Step 5: Prepare the spring

Picture of Prepare the spring
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5C.jpg
Use a screw to attach your extension spring to one end of your standoff.

Step 6: Attach the arm

Fasten your doorstop to your servo horn (the gear-looking part) with zip ties. This may require drilling larger holes into the servo horn.

When you are done, trim off any unneeded parts of the servo horn and zip ties with diagonal cutters.

Step 7: Fasten the parts

First, bolt the motor to the acrylic bracket using screws. The motor obviously goes into the rectangular hole the size of its body.

Next, fasten the reed switch to the two mounting holes near the top right. This should be mounted on the same side as the remote control.

Pass the clock shaft through the large round hole on the bottom right (towards the remote) and fasten it in place using its mounting nut.

Also, fasten the AA battery holder using screws by passing them from the back, towards the front, and then using bolts to lock it in place.

Step 8: Wiring

Pass the black wire from the battery holder through one of the holes in the acrylic above the reed switch. Fasten this wire to one of side terminals.

Twist together the red wire from the battery terminal with the black wire from the servo motor. Solder this connection together. You may want to insulate this connection with electrical tape or heat shrink tubing (if you use heat shrink, don't forget to slip it onto the wire before you twist the wires together).

Pass the red wire from the servo motor through the other hole in the acrylic and connect it to the other far terminal of the reed switch.

Clean up the wires with zip ties.

Step 9: Prep the timer

Picture of Prep the timer
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9C.jpg
9D.jpg
9E.jpg
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Stick a small magnet to the second hand of the clock mechanism.

If the second hand can't spin freely on account of the remote control, trim it shorter until it can.

Step 10: Power

Picture of Power
Power up the device by inserting batteries into the appropriate battery holders and then you are good to go.





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DylanS66 months ago

Hey, ive been looking to build one of these for a while, this one looks like a great idea. Is there a way to make it press quicker, like once every 3 seconds or so. if it can, how would i do this? Thanks

hafsteinn4 years ago
Very nice! besides the awesome gadget the instructable it self is very nicely set up, very professional and the photos are awesome! nice work!
rounderone4 years ago
Howdy - Thanks for sharing this instructable! I was wondering... would it be possible for the machine to detect when the TV plays the ads louder than the regular show and then turn down the ads to normal volume then turn the volume back up when the ads are over and the show comes back on? Just an idea. Thanks again for sharing.
TV stations **swear** that they the adverts don't have louder volume.. and most of the time they are right. The reason it sometimes sounds louder, is that it's more noise. Music, fast talking, flashing lights.

Otherwise, I think this one is fantastic! Something that I build for my father or husband - if I could actually do this sort of thing. :D
iEdd rounderone4 years ago
Yes. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ This instructable just uses a bunch of mechanical components to make it completely ineffecient. However, the novelty factor of that makes it pretty funny and interesting. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- For what you are doing, you want to use a microcontroller and "read in" the volume up and down button codes. Your arduino (or similar) has IR transmitters and a microphone. You would need to sample the volume and then turn it down or up. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I hate how the instructables comments can't have paragraphs unless I fill the line with dashes.
IronManMC iEdd4 years ago



That device was invented back in the 1920's. It's called a compressor/limiter. The simplest (and cheapest) compressor would be a cadmium sulfide photoresistor (Radio Shack has 'em) and either a small incandescent light (those little tiny "grain of wheat" types emit plenty of light) or a flat front LED, sealed in a light-proof container, such as a piece of heat shrink tubing with both ends plugged and sealed. The LED could be run from the TV's speaker (you'll probably need an L pad or pot that'll sink the amp's output power), and the photoresistor would probably work best connected from ground to the VC's wiper.

As the volume increases, the amp power rises, the light gets brighter, and the photoresistor's resistance lowers, shunting the audio coming into the pot to ground.

BTW even though this is cheap and easy, it's one of the better sounding compressors, especially if you go with the incandescent lamp. The lamp smooths the sound, which results in much smoother operation.


-Mike

Robertwan iEdd4 years ago
But in fact, there /still/ aren't paragraphs, since the comment as it is shows is a different width than the comment input box.
iEdd Robertwan4 years ago
Yeah. Sigh.

Unless this rich editor actually supports hard returns, like it seems to in the preview.

Robertwan iEdd4 years ago
Ah-ha!

Well, now you know.  Rich editor FTW!



That device was invented back in the 1920's. It's called a compressor/limiter. The simplest (and cheapest) compressor would be a cadmium sulfide photoresistor (Radio Shack has 'em) and either a small incandescent light (those little tiny "grain of wheat" types emit plenty of light) or a flat front LED, sealed in a light-proof container, such as a piece of heat shrink tubing with both ends plugged and sealed. The LED could be run from the TV's speaker (you'll probably need an L pad or pot that'll sink the amp's output power), and the photoresistor would probably work best connected from ground to the VC's wiper.

As the volume increases, the amp power rises, the light gets brighter, and the photoresistor's resistance lowers, shunting the audio coming into the pot to ground.

BTW even though this is cheap and easy, it's one of the better sounding compressors, especially if you go with the incandescent lamp. The lamp smooths the sound, which results in much smoother operation.


-Mike

randofo (author)  rounderone4 years ago
Yes it is possible, but not by this machine.
cool
Jakeg4 years ago
Hi, thanks so much for the great Instructable... I do, however, have one problem. When I try to upload the .eps file to Ponoko it says that there is no lines in the template. I assume that this is a problem on your end so can you double check the file and send me the updated one? O yeah and where did you get the clock movement? also, how long is the extension spring. Thanks so much...

-Jake
randofo (author)  Jakeg4 years ago
There should be lines. Nonetheless, maybe they have turned invisible, ask them to try to select all and changing the color to black.

I don't recall the legnth of the spring. Perhaps in the ballpark of 2".

The clock movement I got at a local craft store, but I have gotten stuff from clockparts.com in the past without much cause for complaint.
Jakeg randofo4 years ago
Thanks for your Reply!
Zion_Sphere4 years ago
stop making me become lazy lol
randofo (author)  Zion_Sphere4 years ago
I'm not making you, just providing the opportunity.
Domenik4 years ago
really good job
zack2475 years ago
haha... awesome.you could totally annoy someone by making it press the volume up button once per minute. hide it, and watch them freak out. or even better, make it press the power button every minute...
i had a tv once that randomly decided that it was gonna shoot the volume up to full XD dunno wat caused it. no mobiles around it at the time since they wernt as widespread as they are now, and no remote hidden anywhere.
Cellphones doesn't usually interfere with TVs. TVs use IR signals. It could be caused by sunlight, candles, or anything else that emits IR radiation. A random IR pattern could be recognized by the TV as a signal to turn up the volume.
yea i know cells dont interfere with tvs, only the sound wenit goes bipbipbadip, and i know they ure ir im not a derp ;). was jsut saying there was nothning around, not even sunlight or any light that can intefere on a ir spectrum.. it was just a skitzoid tv specially since it also decided to detune to static randomly too and make me get up to press the channel again XD
It was a ghost! lol
ITS A TRAP!
The ghost wanted him to work out by making him get up
XD
9ale74 years ago
(i'm writing this because i like the tutorial) the tut is great, but i had no idea about how would the motor start working ??? you should've explained more about how the "MAGNETIC REED SWITCH" will work, i had to read about the stuff you need to realize what is going on. maybe you should add more description in "step 9", and draw an arrow over the " magnet", then the last video will explain everything. finally ....to be honest, i will for sure use this same ""circuit"" in other projects :) LOVE IT 8)
Anson164 years ago
Needs more cowbell
Definitely more cowbell. :-)
Cowbell, huh? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJglaqH5Tno
logotipo4 years ago
Good idea , but , it dont go to increase the obease people in the word ?
ldb4774 years ago
I noticed the zombie vs ninjas silouette thing in the background haha.
randofo (author)  ldb4774 years ago
Yeah, it keeps the living room lively at night.
hjartland4 years ago
Many great ideas and techniques going in to building such a ... Useful? machine. I like it!
sxdemon4 years ago
Thats a very big remote you have here lol
one word: AWESOME! :)
Warlrosity5 years ago
Look, I like it, alot. But what does it do??
randofo (author)  Warlrosity5 years ago
It presses the 'channel up' button once per minute.
Honestly, that's quite ingenious.
The problem is when you find a good show...

...stopping the machine calls for some movement...
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