Print huge stuff with the Makerbot Replicator

The folks at MakerBot Industries are introducing their new 3D printer at CES this week. It’s called the MakerBot Replicator and features dual heads for 2-color prints and a huge build envelope for huge objects

From [Bre Pettis]‘ introduction video (available after the break), the build area is about 9x6x6 inches, compared to the about four-inch cube-sized volume for the MakerBot Cupcake and Thing-O-Matic. The Replicator also features optional dual Makerbot Mk. 8 extruders for two-colored printing. We’ve seen valiant attempts at printing multicolored objects with one extruder, and if you’d ever want to print with two filaments dual extruders are the way to go.

The replicator also features a nice control panel (which includes a Snake game), something that’s relatively rare on the 3D printers we’ve seen. The single extruder model will set you back $1750, while the dual extruder adds another $250 to the price. We really want one of these, but don’t take our word – check out [Bre]‘s intro.

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Build an intervalometer with these simple fabrication techniques

[L] just finished building this intervalometer and his verbose documentation of the project has a little bit of everything. The fabrication uses common prototyping materials, and simple skills that are easy to master even for the beginner.

The hardware is based around an ATmega8 microcontroller. After snooping around the Internet [L] wanted to see if the voltage divider based focus and shutter commands that are present in some camera remote shutter controls would work for his model. Investigation with a commercial shutter release showed him how it was done, so he incorporated that into his design. When it comes to firmware for the device we really like his explanation of the menu system. There’s a lot of settings and he did a great job of planning the user interface to make them all work on the finished product.

The schematic and board layout were done with Eagle. During the layout process he made choices for easy assembly using strip board, and even walks us through the steps when cutting the traces and adding jumper wires. It’s nicely finished in this clear plastic case and demonstrated in the video after the break.

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Rainbow Machine livens up any photograph


[Shameel Arafin, Sean McIntyre, and Reid Bingham] really dig rainbows. Going by the moniker the “RainBroz”, the trio built a portable display that can be used to add cool light painting effects to pictures.

The group brings their Rainbow Machine all over the place, including parties, gatherings, and random spots on the street. Anyone is welcome to have their picture taken with the Rainbow machine, and each subject is given a card with a URL on it, so that they can check out their picture whenever they please.

The display consists of addressable RGB LED strips and an Arduino from Adafruit, along with the associated support mechanisms for moving the LEDs. The real magic is carried out by the LPD8806 light painting library, also from Adafruit, which enables the RainBroz to create all sorts of images with little fuss.

As you can see in the video below, the Rainbow Machine seems to get a pretty warm reception from just about everyone, even people grabbed right off the street. It looks simple enough to build, so why not put one together for your next gathering?

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Using a Mac and XCode as a Linux development platform

[Ricard Dias] wrote in to tell us about his guide for developing Linux applications on a Mac. He really enjoys the development environment provided by XCode, and it doesn’t take much to make it work as an all-in-one solution for Linux development.

The real trick here is the use of SSH to access a Linux environment. In this example he uses Ubuntu running as a virtual machine, but also mentions that the same thing can be done just as easily with a separate box as long as it is on the same network as the Mac. SSHFS (the SSH Filesystem) lets him mount the development directory on the Linux box locally. This is where the XCode project and files will be stored, but building the program will be done by the Linux machine via a script calling the make comand via SSH. To test out the newly built program, [L] tunnels in using X11 forwarding for ssh, and the application will be shown as a window in OSX, even though it is running on the Ubuntu machine.

We love SSH and use it all the time. It’s amazing how hand it can be.

A Salinometer built for the Science Olympiad

This is a Digital Salinometer which [Daniel Kramnik] built as a Science Olympiad entry. He’s a Junior in High School and when looking for a project to enter into the Water Quality event he was interested in achieving greater accuracy than a mechanical hydrometer provides.

We think the circuit design is very impressive for anyone who hasn’t complete formal training as an engineer, and outstanding for someone as young as [Daniel]. Measurements depend on two main parts, a temperature control and a salinity sensor. These are both necessary because fluctuation in sample temperature will affect the salinity reading.

A Peltier element is used to heat the water sample if it doesn’t fall within a set range of temperatures. From there, an Op-Amp circuit conditions a signal running through the sample, passing an output to the ADC converter chip which drives the three-digit readout. [Daniel] calculates an accuracy within 0.0014%. He must be on the mark because he’s won his regional competition and will soon compete at the state level.

The matrix reloaded: now better than the movie

If you’re looking for a custom controller for a MAME cabinet build, CNC machine, or just want to control a robot build, you’re going to need to wire up some buttons. You could wire up a bunch of buttons to a microcontroller, but if you use an old computer keyboard the work is already done for you.

[Rupert] sent in a great tutorial on repurposing old keyboards. The build is very, very simple: just take a multimeter to each contact and measure the rows and columns for continuity. Once [Rupert] had the matrix codes for every button on the keyboard, he wired up a length of ribbon cable to the keyboard PCB. From there, a small breakout board provides all the connections that a MAME cabinet would need.

Opposed to a custom keyboard encoder like an I-PAC or a homebrew solution, [Rupert]‘s build is very easy and can be built for only the dignity required to dumpster dive for a keyboard.

Projector project bears no fruit but it was a fun ride

No matter how good the intentions or how strong your hack-fu may be, sometimes you just can’t cross the finish line with every project. Here’s one that we hate to see go unfinished, but it’s obvious that a ton of work already went into reclaiming these smart white-board projectors and it’s time to cut the losses.

The hardware is a Smartboard Unifi 35″ computer with a projector mounted on a telescoping rod. It was manufactured for use with a touch-sensitive white board which the guys at the Milwaukee Makerspace don’t have. The projector works, but all it will display is a message instructing the user to connect the computer to the white board. Since they’ve got a couple of these projectors, it would be nice to salvage the functionality.

The first attempt was to replace the video signal to the projector. A few test boards were etched to experiment with DVI input. This included several logic sniffing runs to see what the computer is pushing to get the warning message to display. Alas, the group was not able to get the device to respond. But this opens up a great opportunity for you to play Monday morning hacker. Take a look at the data they’ve posted in the link above and let us know how you would’ve done it in the comments.