CNC Etch-a-Sketch draws on itself


Having never been any good with an Etch-a-Sketch, [Ben] decided it was time to tame the children’s toy that had taunted him for so long. He received one in a gift exchange a few years back and hung onto it, recently digging it out again to fit it with some CNC components.

Using his RepRap, he printed a set of mounting plates and gears to drive the Etch-a-Sketch’s dials. He installed a pair of Airpax steppers to the gears and wired them up to an ATmega AT90 USB board he had sitting around. He installed RepRap firmware on the microcontroller, since it has a built-in gcode interpreter, making it easy for him to upload any gcode file to the Etch-a-Sketch for drawing.

You can see a quick demonstration of the device in action below. He converted a spiral image to gcode, then uploaded it to the Etch-a-Sketch – the machine does the rest. It draws pretty quickly as well – [Ben] even suggests that he could probably get it moving fast enough to melt the stylus!

It would be great to see the Etch-a-Sketch configured to support an online interface. That way he could allow people to upload images to the device, later showing off the artwork in a web gallery not unlike the LOL Shield Theatre we featured last week.

[via Make]

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3D modeling out of thin air


It seems that with each passing day, the Kinect hacks that we see become exponentially more impressive. Take for instance this little number that was sent to us today.

[sonsofsol] has combined several open source software packages and a little electronics know-how to create one of the more useful Kinect hacks we have seen lately. His project enables him to manipulate 3D models in GEM simply by moving his hands about in front of his Kinect sensor. Using OpenNI and Ubuntu, all of his actions are tracked by the computer and translated into actions within the GEM 3D engine.

To make things easier on himself, he also constructed a pair of electronic gloves that interface with the system. Using an Arduino, the gloves send different complex commands to the 3D modeling software, just by touching different pairs of fingers together.

You really need to take a look at the video embedded below to get a feel for how complex [sonsofsol’s] “simple” mesh modeler really is.

Looking for more Kinect fun? Check out these previously featured stories.

[Thanks, Jared]

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Control your home theater from anywhere in the world


Using IR repeaters for larger home theater setups is not uncommon, but they usually are quite simple. A series of IR receivers are placed throughout a home, all wired to repeat the signals in a central closet where all of the AV equipment is located. [Bill] constructed a solution that works much like a standard IR repeater setup, however his requires no receivers, and it can be used anywhere in the world, provided you have Internet access.

His project, called Ether IR, is an Internet-enabled IR repeater. It consists of an Ethernet-connected module with an IR LED mounted on it, capable of controlling your AV equipment. The board is hooked up to your LAN, and relays commands to your home theater via a simple web page. The equipment can then be controlled from any Internet-connected device, such as a mobile phone or tablet PC.

The entire project is open-source, so [Bill] has included schematics, instructions, and a bill of materials so that you can construct your own. The only issue at this point is the software portion of the project. The software is free, but the distribution method is in question – once things are sorted out, he will ensure that you can obtain the software for your Either-IR from him or directly from the Ethernet chip’s manufacturer.

Mini SATA power adapter does away with HDD docking stations


[Marc] is pretty unsatisfied with hard drive docking stations as a whole. He says they are typically slow and unreliable, causing him all sorts of grief while he is troubleshooting a questionable hard drive. He decided to take some of the mystery out of the troubleshooting equation and built a standalone SATA power module.

Aware that SATA drives require 5v and 12v for operation, he disassembled one of his docking stations to see how it provided both voltages. He discovered that it used a simple PWM buck converter and decided to replicate it in the smallest space possible. His plan was to use a standard 12v wall wart to power the circuit, passing that 12v straight to the drive. A simple voltage step-down circuit would be built to provide the required 5v.

[Marc] reports that the power adapter is performing nicely, and he is quite happy with the size as well. He says that one major benefit of this sort of adapter is that it can be used to power any SATA drive, not just hard drives. He does mention that if he built another one, he might consider regulating the 12v output as well, so that he can power the adapter with a laptop power supply instead of a separate dedicated wall wart.