Portable devices have the uncanny habit of running out of power at the worst possible moment: in the middle of a meeting, while you are on the road, or when you are due to make an important phone call.
These scenarios can be a thing of the past if you just invest in a standby battery-powered charger.
Dozens of portable battery packs, if not hundreds, are available there out, and it’s confusing which one to pick.
I’ve spent the last three years trying different batteries to solve this very problem. My obsession was sparked off by my experience living off-grid in a vintage RV that ran on solar power. The experience showed me how indispensable good batteries are when you are relying on solar power.
I had an excellent 12-V battery bank in the bus, and I ultimately realized that portable batteries are multipurpose. Since most of my time was spent outside the RV, I found that portable power gave me the flexibility I needed to take energy with me wherever I needed it, even with no plug.
You don’t need to be living off-grid in a solar set up to appreciate the convenience of a battery-powered portable charger. Follow our guide to finding the perfect battery-powered charger for you.
It is hard to choose one overall best battery charger, because what i’s “best” is the device that needs charging. Your phone’s best charger could be useless on a laptop.
With that out of the way, during my testing, one battery charger brand easily stood out. Nimble’s 5-Day portable charger does the best job of balancing weight (a respectable 12 ounces) and power whenever I need it. I’ve used it for over a year and seldom venture outside without it. The 48-Wh battery charges a 12-inch iPad and keeps my phone on for about a week.
That said, many batteries out there can do the same. But I like Nimble more because of their commitment to the environment. Batteries are potential environmental hazards.
They have cobalt and lithium as well as other rare metals whose supply chains are replete with abuse both to the environment and harms communities.
Nimble has a policy of reducing environmental impact using plastic-free and bioplastics materials as well as minimal packaging to reduce environmental impact. Plastic-free packaging can’t save the world, but that little thing, added to the already great product, make Nimble charger my pick.
Best for Phones
The Anker PowerCore Slim is a lightweight, tiny, and fast charger for mobile phones. It powers up an iPhone up to 3 times, and the 37-watt-hour battery easily charges the Fire HD 8 tablet twice.
The device can charge as fast as your phone handles. I use it to jumpstart camera batteries when I am not at home. All Anker’s chargers have a nice pouch case that is good for storing cords.
Best for Tablets
The Nimble charger has a lot in common with my top pick. It’s heavier than the 5-Day charger model-power – there is always a trade-off – but if you have many devices to charge, this can easily take you through a long weekend.
The battery does not have twice the 5-Day capacity. It clocking to 72 watt-hours electricity. You may charge up to 3 devices at a go or 2 as you recharge the battery pack itself.
Has one full-size USB port and two USB-C ports. Can fully charge most tablets 2-3 times.
Best for Laptops
Several manufacturers probably test chargers on MacBooks. If you especially have a MacBook Air, any big battery charger should be fine (so long as it can deliver 45 watts). Those who got other laptops will require more research. Laptops charging through USB power delivery differ significantly on the amount of power needed. I’ve tested machines ranging from 30 to over 100 watts. Check your laptop’s specifications against the battery you want to buy to ensure compatibility before you invest.
The Mophie Powerstation 3XL isn’t cheap but has worked with various laptops. It’s nice, but the actual benefit is that it’s not likely to scratch other things in the bag. Battery chargers are heavy, definitely scratching high-end screens – of course, your Fire HD tablets.
Has one full-size USB port and one USB-C port. Can fully charge most laptops 1-2 times.
Best for Going Off-Grid
If you’re going out for some time and need power, you might need a solar panel. There are several portable panels there out, but many of them are garbage. Even when from a reputable brand, you luck a good one, ensuring you get enough incoming energy to charge your battery but connecting everything via the suitable charge controller becomes complicated, and that’s why Lightsaver Max is what I love. It’s a durable, compact, rollable solar panel with a battery, all as one unit. It’s genius, and it’s my wish if I had gone back there in RV.
The waterproof solar panels (IP 67 rated) are made from marine-grade connectors to withstand anything. The package builds up to the size of a big Maglite flashlight weighing 1.5 pounds. The 60-watt-hour battery charges various phones about 3 times before you can recharge it. The solar panel recharges the battery for about 6-8 hours of full sun in ideal conditions. In real-world situations – such as when I was canoeing, I trapped it on top of the pack – fully recharging each day. Indeed it charged more than enough keeping my devices charged. When plugged on the wall, it fully juices itself in around 3.5 hours.
If Max’s price is too high, you can go for the smaller light saver which is $100 ($120 at Amazon). It features a 12-watt-hour battery, though it lacks IP 67 waterproof panel. Still, when backpacking, 5-ounce weight is far much appealing.
Best for the Rest
Do you have devices that can’t charge through USB? Yes, they’re there. I got an old but excellent GPS device running on AA batteries, headlamps taking AAA batteries, and several other odds and ends requiring batteries. After going through many brands, I found Eneloop rechargeable batteries are the most reliable and longest-lasting. The Panasonic charger recharges any AA and AAA batteries combined in less than 3 hours, including 4 AA Eneloop rechargeable batteries.
A Great Portable Generator
If you are powering several devices for more days, a portable generator, or a portable power station, as it is often called, is what you need. Think of them as a lithium-ion replacement from the old, gasoline-powered generators. Do you need one? It’s worth considering.
If your answer is yes, Jackery Explorer 1000 is a solid starting place. It strikes the best balance between capacity, power, and ease of use. It might not be enough to run the air conditioning (it has a max output of 1,000 watts), but it should handle about anything. I used it to run all things ranging from a small refrigerator, table saw to charging all my devices. It’s portable and well made (weighing 22 pounds) and roughly a small cooler size.
It advertised at 1,002 watt-hours, which in my capacity test its managed a bit better. Charging it takes some time while, if particularly you use solar panels (sold separately), takes about one and a half days. Strongly I suggest panels worth at least 200 watts.
Some of the Weird Tech Available: Smart Ear cleaner, anyone?
We are now in spring. Flowers are in bloom and the birds and bees are visiting gardens across the country. We wanted to know if we could find some cool tech to improve our experience of birds and nature. It is safe to say that our findings were more than satisfactory.
This is a smart bird feeder. I know. You are wondering why you need a smart bird feeder in the first place. This birdfeeder helps you to get acquainted with the birds that use your birdseed.
You will receive a notification on your mobile phone through an app letting you know that there is a bird nearby.
The smart bird feeder is fitted with an inbuilt camera that turns on only when a bird comes. It also records and photographs the bird as it feeds on your birdseed.
You don’t have to be there physically. You can view the action on your phone through the app. It also arranges the photos in attractive and shareable photo albums.
Bird buddy is a smart birdfeeder that is capable of recognizing more than 1,000 bird species. You can also help science by contributing your findings to an open-source bird population database.
The smart bird feeder is equipped with a built-in microphone that allows Bird Buddy to listen to bird phones and use them to identify approaching birds.
Your app will allow you to manipulate the spy camera as well as feed you with useful information on what to do to draw in new bird species. Your feathered guests will never run out of snacks with Bird Buddy because it lets you know when the birdseed is running low.
From the demo images, it looks like Bird Buddy takes decent pictures. And bird watchers will enjoy a different perspective on their favorite feathered friends.
The only downside to this otherwise amazing contraption is that you don’t want one near a pigeon coop or birdcage because the notifications will be endless.
You can buy Bird Buddy in yellow or blue.
If you are one of those people who find ear cleaning videos oddly satisfying to watch, you don’t have to scour Youtube to find them anymore.
The BeBird N3 Pro is an ear cleaning robot. The smart visual cleaner uses a robotic arm to clean your ears effectively and safely.
Designed by the same company that made the ear spritzer, the Bebird N3 Pro is meant to make ear cleaning simple and safe. It makes one of the important self-care actions high tech.
The robotic arm scoops wax from your ear and removes it without dropping it. You can watch the robot cleaning your ear via a mobile phone app. The robot scoops out all the wax, bleugh, and build-up from the inside of your ear.
A 10Mpixel camera provides High Definition footage of the entire process as well as helps the robot to remove all the goop accurately and safely.
A safety tweezer only removes ear wax when it is open. The ear spoon transforms into an ear cleaning rod when closed.
You can adjust the N3 Pro to fit small ear openings, as well as medium, or large-sized ear openings. It is built to d with in-built 360-degree detection and works with a 6-Axis Gyroscope capable of detecting every move the cleaning tweezer makes, no matter how small.
The manufacturers say that the smart gyroscope keeps the user’s eardrums safe by keeping the cleaning tweezer from going deeper into the ear.
The ear cleaning robot is safe for anyone from age three and up. To make it more comfortable, the Bebird N3 Pro matches your body temperature. So you won’t feel like there is a foreign body inside your ear.
A 300mAh capacity battery ensures that it lasts long. The smart ear cleaner has been taken through a series of safety tests and won certificates for safety.
To be sure though, you might want to run it by your ENT doctor before starting to use it.
The HumBird speaker is the tiniest bone conduction type of speaker that allows you to turn any hollow thing into a speaker.
You won’t get the same volume every time, but the experience is always exciting. You can have a speaker practically anywhere you go.
Weighing in at only 35g, the HumBird speaker is tiny. It works by connecting to your phone or Bluetooth and allows you to listen to any music at a louder volume than your phone.
Find something hollow around you, put the HumBird on it, and you are in business. According to the manufacturers, the HumBird gives you a volume that is up to five times louder than your average cell phone.
It goes all the way up to 115dB and you can adjust the tone quality to suit your preference. Makers of the HumBird recommend buying two of them to create a surround sound experience, thanks to the True Wireless Stereo quality and Bluetooth enabled.
The HumBird is interesting because it can give you a variety of sound effects depending on the hollow surface you place it on. You can try putting it on a helmet, a pot, a plastic storage box, or a basket to see the kinds of sound effects they will give you.
New to 3D Printing? Here are 7 Tips
Not too long ago, 3D printing only existed in science fiction. Today, it is fast becoming part of everyday life, far from the closed world of laboratories and factories.
Today, anyone who is interested in 3D printing can access the hardware at a reasonable price. But even though the technology is more accessible than ever, it is still a relatively complex matter.
Here are our 7 tips for 3D printing:
One of the first things you must learn how to do is to calibrate your 3D printer for the most accurate results. This should be one of the very first skills to learn.
If you haven’t calibrated your printer properly, you can easily end up with everything coming out wrong, including your tester cubes.
Invest in digital calipers that will help you to measure precisely the dimensions of your test object.
Start by printing basic objects like cubes and other objects with interesting angles. Your calipers will help you to check the accuracy of the process.
It will take a while to master the skills to create excellent objects. Get familiar with the 3D printing process and hone your skills with practice.
Get practice by printing out many square cubes measuring 20mm. As you do this, you will also be getting familiar with your device and how it works.
You don’t have to do boring cubes. Cut cross-sections, add hollow items, and these will help you to check the accuracy of the perimeters.
If you are in a hurry, you may find that the reality is far from the expectation. The truth is that it takes some patience and skill to come up with functional print outs.
Give yourself time and embrace the learning process. If you give yourself time, you will become successful at it.
The Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts
Once you have made enough cubes, you can move on to more complex objects. One of the best ways to work your way up is to start with complex objects that you assemble manually.
It is easier to print many simpler objects than to print our complex objects. Errors are a lot easier and cheaper to correct without redoing everything.
Computer-aided-design or CAD is a technique for creating the 3d printed designs that you feed into your 3D printer and the designs determine your output.
There are a lot of 3D printers who never learn CAD. But they can only use designs from other people. They cannot come up with their own designs for 3D printing.
Once you learn CAD, you can pursue your 3D printing passion even further.
Starting from a design to a physical end product will give you so much satisfaction.
The 0.25mm Margin Rule
What happens when you print out your designs but they don’t fit together? The 0.25mm rule comes in handy to provide you a margin of error so that all your moving parts fit.
If you plan on inserting a pole into a larger block, the hold should be larger by 0.25mm. This extra 0.25mm is your margin of error.
There are tons of people who have already started 3D printing. If you plug into their online communities, you can exchange information and learn from other people’s experiences instead of making all your own mistakes.
These communities are rich sources of information, inspiration, and designs. 3D printing is a fairly complex venture and you will need all the help you can get.
3D printing is a fun and exciting hobby. Follow these tips and you will grow into a 3D printing expert.
How Snorkel Masks and Animal Noses are Helping to make Superior PPE
A team of Stanford University Engineers are working on creating more effective face shields by borrowing a leaf from animal noses and snorkeling gear. They believe that the resultant PPE would serve frontline workers a lot better than what they are using now.
Stanford Bioengineer Manu Prakash was in quarantine after flying home to California from France when he looked at his gear for snorkeling and scuba diving and thought that they might just have the solution for two of the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He realized that the collapse in the global supply chain for N95 masks had created a shortage of personal protective equipment in many hospitals. Further, “the masks that are out there, that we put in the hands of our frontline workers, are not that good,” according to Paraksh. “They’re often ill-fitting and uncomfortable, and if they don’t fit, they don’t protect.”
Prakash’s big idea was to take full-face snorkel masks and repurpose them to address the urgent need for personal protective equipment by fitting them with 3D-printed filter-holders.
His idea attracted the attention of partners around the world who collaborated in the design and testing of the adapted snorkel masks in Prakash’s own laboratory as well as other locations. The device is both a mask and shield.
Laurel Kroo is a mechanical engineer at Prakash’s lab who presented the device dubbed ‘pneumask’ to the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics at their annual meeting.
Researchers participating in the collaborative project have already published a set of decontamination protocols for the device that allow it to be reused. They also conducted clinical tests which suggest that it is comfortable enough to last an eight-hour shift.
“From a fluid-dynamics perspective, a mask is a hydrodynamic device,” Prakash clarified. “A lot is happening when you breathe in and breathe out. You have to have the right kind of filters. You have to think about rebreathing, and comfort.”
Not satisfied with the ‘pneumask’ Prakash’s lab is also working on other developments related to Covid-19. The lab was part of the 1000×1000 project launch repurpose candy floss machines into N95-grade mask material.
Candy floss machines melt sugar and spin the liquid into fine threads. The repurposed candy machines spun out nanofibers instead which are capable of trapping tiny particles.
They also participated in the development of a low-cost ICU ventilator called ‘Pufferfish.’
Elsewhere, Cornell University’s Sunghwan Jung observed the nasal structures of different animals and drew design lessons from them to create superior masks. Jung studies animal from a fluid dynamics perspective and works with researchers Saikat Basu and Leonardo Chamorro of South Dakota State University and the University of Illinois Urbana.
“Animals like dogs, opossums, and pigs are renowned for their super-sensitive sniffers,” Jung said. “They have a very complicated nasal structure, and we tried to mimic that structure in our filters.”
Jung describes the human nose as “fairly straightforward and vacuous” compared to dogs and pigs whose nasal cavities are more twisted and indirect which gives them their keener sense of smell. “Fluid mechanics tells us that if you have such a tortuous air pathway, you have more chances to capture more particles,” said Jung.
The researchers have created a mask filter with a more convoluted structure like the one witnessed in the animals that Jung studied. Tests have revealed that the masks they created are capable of filtering out micron-sized particles and it’s low-pressure drop makes breathing much easier.
According to Jung, the masks are still in testing and are not approved nor have they been used in hospitals.
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