A laser cutter challenge

When the Louisville hackerspace LVL1 was discussing the purchase of a new laser cutter, a member said, “I could build one before you get around to buying one.”  The gauntlet was thrown down, a challenge was set, and the race was on to build a tiny laser cutter before the hackerspace took delivery of their new laser cutter.

The mechanical aspect of the build is fairly simple. The X axis is simply a stepper motor, threaded rod and laser module mounted on a carriage. This carriage moves along the Y axis with the help of two stepper motors for either side. Everything was mounted on more perfboard than reason would suggest.

For the electronics of the project, three motor drivers were made with a few logic chips and the laser firing relay was stolen from test equipment developed for LVL1’s trans-Atlantic balloon build. Motor and laser control was handled by an Arduino to keep the build simple because the contest was over after the first laser was finished cutting a square.

LVL1 is now working on a second version of the winner of the laser cutter challenge. They’re planning on a touchscreen interface that will cut a plastic blank about the size of a credit card. We can’t wait to see the results of that build.

ATtiny Hacks: Look Ma, no batteries!

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[Gadre] built his own ATtiny project without using any batteries. It’s an electronic Dice (or die if you’re being critical) which uses induction to charge a storage capacitor to act as the power source. The voltage generator is made from a tube of Perspex which houses a set of rare-earth magnets. At the enter of the tube [Gadre] machined a channel wich accepts about 1500 windings of 30 AWG magnet wire. When someone shakes the tube back and forth the magnet passes the wire, inducing a current.  The product is stored in a 4700 uF capacitor, which feeds a boost converter to power the rest of the circuit.

The ATtiny13V that controls the circuit is running its internal RC oscillator at 128 kHz, the lowest setting possible in order to minimize power consumption. After a good shake the user can press a button to roll the die, which is then displayed for several seconds on a group of seven LEDs. See for yourself in the video after the break.

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Upverter: it’s like Github for hardware

If there’s one thing we’ve noticed about hardware hackery and electronics project, it’s that all the resources to build a project are scattered about the Internet on forums, blogs (heh), and personal web pages. Enter Upverter. The fellows who started Upverter had the same observation, and after some Y Combinator funding, launched what they hope to be “The Github of electronics” and the “Google Docs of hardware design.”

Upverter has the features we would expect – forking, versioning, and integration with Github for a project’s code. Already there’s a few cool projects, like a PIC programmer, a TV-B-Gone, and a tiny version of Conway’s Game Of Life.

We’re not ready to wave the banner of an Upverter fanboy quite yet. There’s quite a number of components available in the schematic editor, but from our experience the component library could use some refinement both by weeding out duplicates and increasing the number of parts. We’d also like to put a zoom control for the schematic view on our wish list. Upverter doesn’t have a PCB editor either, but from this post from a VC rag, the team is working on one. While this is really just nitpicking – Upverter launched less than 24 hours ago – we’ll be happy to see the some projects roll in on the tip line that are hosted on Upverter.

EDIT: link to the Google cache, because we probably Slashdotted it. It’s up for now.

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