BAMF2011: Keyboards built from scratch

As the most direct interface between computer and programmer, keyboards can be a deeply personal, sometimes almost religious thing. Some find solace in their vintage IBM Model M, or luxurious leather keyboard, but maker [Carol Chen] took things into her own hands, quite literally. [Carol]’s Maker Faire exhibit has a half dozen specimens of interesting commercial tactile and ergonomic options…but [Chen]’s personal keyboard, where she commits to her work as a full-time coder, has been made to her own exacting specifications.

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BAMF2011: Bloxes, a building kit with a nifty pedigree

Not every cool hack needs to involve microcontrollers, LEDs or other bling. We were initially drawn to the Bloxes display simply because we love a good multipurpose construction set, whether it be Lego, 80/20 aluminum, or in this case, a system of interlocking cubes formed from six identical pieces of corrugated cardboard, cut and scored in such a manner as to form a surprisingly sturdy little building block. They can become simple furniture, groovy Logan’s Run-style room decor, or the all-important kids’ forts…then later dismantled and made into something else.

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BAMF2011: chipKIT is Arduino to the power of 32

If you’ve been hungry for more power for your microcontroller projects, but reluctant to dump your investment in Arduino shields or the libraries and community knowledge that go with them all, Digilent has you covered. Their new chipKIT boards are built around the Microchip PIC32 MCU…a powerful 32-bit chip that until recently was left out of the cross-platform scene. A majority of code and quite a number of Arduino shields will work “out of the box” with the chipKIT, and the familiar development tools are available for all three major operating systems: Windows, Mac and Linux.

We first mentioned these a couple weeks ago, but the software was unavailable at the time. Seeing the development tools in action was quite unexpected…

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Making a 3D printer work wirelessly

Looking for more ways to enhance his 3D printer, [JJ] decided to make it wireless. He got his hands on some $10 Bluetooth modules and figured this would be just the thing to make the link with his laptop.

They came as surface mount modules, so the first thing he had to do was develop a breakout board that he could patch into his Ultimaker 3D printer. This provided a nice opportunity as he needed to do some level converting to make the 3.3V module play nicely with his 5V CNC electronics. The first version of the board turned out well but he had really a poor communications range. The second version, which is pictured above, hangs the module’s antenna off the edge of the breakout board and works a lot better.

We’ve embedded a clip after the break that walks through the development of this board. [JJ] shared the Eagle CAD files as a megaupload link, but we’ve also mirrored the file after the break for your convenience.

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Class-D audio amplifier makes it from breadboard to PCB

[Ben Laskowski's] been working on a Class-D audio amplifier for several months. What you see above is the most recent version of the amp. A class-D amplifier uses transistor switching (or in this case MOSFET switching) to generate the pulse-width-modulated signal that drives the speaker. This is different from common amplifiers as it doesn’t generate the kind of heat that traditional amplifiers do, making it much more efficient.

After the break you can hear it demonstrated. It’s operating off of a single-supply laptop brick and we do hear a bit of a hum coming through the system. Still, we’re quite pleased at the power and quality the small board can put out. Take a look at a post from November to get a handle on what went into development. If you still hunger for more details, [Ben's] shared the bulk of his prototyping materials in the github repository.

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Xoscillo turns Arduino in an oscilloscope

If you don’t have an oscilloscope you’d be surprised how many times you find yourself needing one. But if you have an Arduino on hand, the next time you might be able to get by with this software suite that can use a development board as oscilloscope inputs. The project is called xoscillo, and it allows an Arduino, or a Parallax USB Oscilloscope, to probe the signals while a computer does the heavy lifting.

The Arduino can be used for up to four input channels at 7 kHz. It’s possible to probe seven signals at 4 kHz as well. But the main feature that caught our eye is the ability to use several Arduino boards at one time in increase the number of channels available to you.

Granted, this is pretty slow for many digital electronic troubleshooting needs. But at least it’s something you can pull out when you just don’t have any other ideas about what is going wrong with your prototype circuit. We’re sure that sooner or later you’ll break down and buy a proper hackable oscilloscope. After all, your Arduino is probably already occupied as an I2C sniffer.

[Thanks Adam]

PCB Milling with a Makerbot

[Keith] wanted to use his makerbot for some PCB milling, but he ran into a pretty big problem. The platform that his PCB would sit on was mounted with a layer of double sided foam tape and was not perfectly aligned to the head. Not only that, but it would tilt when pressure was applied. This made the result of the milling completely unacceptable. To remedy this, he made a new platform that is not only rigid, but he has made it so that there is the ability to adjust it for perfect alignment via adjustment screws in the 4 corners. At the beginning of each session, he can be absolutely sure that everything is aligned perfectly and his PCBs show a huge improvement. You can see a comparison of the two in the following picture.

[via HackedGadgets]

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