3D Printering: Remote control of 3D printers


With new owners comes new editorial direction. You’re looking at the first evidence of that right now. We’re going to be doing some weekly columns dedicated to certain subjects, and with our fascination of all things three dimensional, it only made sense our first weekly column was dedicated to 3D printers. And using 3D printers, stuff made with 3D printers. Also, things that can be used with 3D printers. Great wordsmiths we are, we’re calling this column ’3D Printering.’ If you have a better name (or a title pic) send it in and we’ll probably use it.

With that out of the way…

This week we’re taking a look at remote printing. With anything from an Android tablet to a Raspberry Pi, it’s possible to have a networked 3D printer, the perfect thing for hackerspaces or anyone who wants to print objects from multiple computers. One of the most-used tools for this is OctoPrint, a printer host designed to be run on small embedded devices such as a Raspi.

We’ve seen OctoPrint before. but since then it’s matured a whole lot. with a ton of reports of successes running on everything from a Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, and even an OUYA. All the major electronics boards – RAMPS, RAMBo, Sanguinololu – and firmwares should work with OctoPrint, making an Internet-connected 3D printer simply a matter of connecting a Raspberry Pi.

Of course OctoPrint isn’t the only networking solution for a 3D printer. PrintToPeer is deep into development and should be released sometime this fall. It’s a much more sophisticated way of networking a printer that includes an iPad app and ‘enterprise class’ functionality.

The PrintToPeer team is offering private beta invitations, but with a catch: you need to print out a piece of a sculpture and send it to them. These pieces will be unveiled in September as the largest 3D printed sculpture, and the word’s first collaborative 3D sculpture.

How to use the Kenetis KL25Z Freedom board as an HID mouse

hid-usb-mouse-from-Freescale-dev-board[Eric] is interested in turning this Freedom development board into an air mouse by using the onboard accelerometer. But he had to work through the particulars of the USB HID mouse class before he could get that done.

This Freescale FRDM-KL25Z is one of the awesome ARM boards we looked at a year ago. Can you believe you can get this thing for like thirteen bucks? We suppose the gotcha is that the CodeWarrior IDE meant for use with them is not entirely free. But there is a free trial, and [Eric] shows how much easier it is to tailor the USB stack for your needs with it.

Don’t worry though. If you’re like us and use Open Source For The Win he’s got you covered as well. When you’re done reading his HID mouse writeup head on over to his six-part tutorial for building a free toolchain for the Kenetis boards.

A cable box becomes a network time display


In 2011 [Erkki]‘s DVB box gave up the ghost. It had been a fixture of his media center for quite a while, decoding cable and recording shows faithfully for years. A flaky power supply will bring down the mightiest machine, though. and the Topfield box eventually found itself in disuse. One thing [Erkki] liked about this cable box is its wonderful green LED clock – even after the box had been declared dead, he still used it as a clock. Not wanting to keep a faulty machine on life support, [Erkki] decided to strip the guts and replace them with a networked Arduino that receives time over a network

[Erkki] originally used an Arduino and an ENC28J60 Ethernet module to receive time from an NTP server and spit it out onto the LCD display. A full Arduino for this kind of job, especially one that’s a more or less complete project, is a bit overkill so [Erkki] designed a PCB to put his ‘duino to better use.

One interesting bit about this build is that [Erkki] found it completely broken one day. Figuring this was a problem with the microcontroller, he first fried the ATMega with 9 volts – the reasons escape us, however – and started work on programming a new chip. After looking at different ports on his NTP server with a microcontroller, [Erkki] realized he had reset his network switch recently, meaning the previous microcontroller was working perfectly.

In the future, [Erkki] hopes to add some new features to this 8×4 seven-segment display sitting in a large box; something like reading off the temperature, checking IRC and his physical mailbox, and notifying him when someone is at the front door.

A $5 ARM development board

Most of you know that there are plenty of ARM powered development boards out there, so you may not be really sure what a new one can still bring to the table.

With a $5 price tag, the open hardware McHck (pronounced McHack) is meant for quickly building projects on a small budget. The board created by [Simon] is based on a Freescale Cortex M4 microcontroller, and can be plugged directly into one’s computer. As a Direct Firmware Update (DFU) bootloader is present on the microcontroller, there is no need for external programming equipment.

The board has unpopulated footprints that allow users to add other functionalities that may be required for their future projects: a Real Time Clock (RTC), a Boost regulator for single cell battery operation, Buck and linear regulators, a Lithium Polymer (LiPo) battery charger and even an External Flash storage.

The Bill of Materials can be found on the project wiki and the McHck community will soon launch a crowdfunding campaign to send the 5th version of the board to all the hobbyists that may be interested.

And if you’re curious, you can also have a look at all the other boards that Hackaday featured these last months: the browser based IDE arm boardquad-core ARM dev board and the Matchbox ARM.

Soundball bumps to your tunes


Meet soundball, a hobby electronics project when replaces a disco ball with one made of LEDs (translated) going every which way. This image shows the device before being injected into an enclosure. The final offering is a white project box with a hole in the top through which the diffuser covered blinky ball is supported.

The main board hosts a collection of the usual suspects: an ATmega328, an MSGEQ7 equalizer, a couple of TLC5940 LED drivers, and a footprint for a Bluetooth Shield. The equalizer chip provides [Cornelius] the audio analysis used to generate light patterns that go along with the music.  But he can still control the lights manually with a button on the case or by connecting to it via Bluetooth.

Swap out the LED drivers for some solid state relays and you can blink your Christmas lights to the music.

[Read more...]

A cold cathode audio visualizer


Finally, cold cathode lights can be used for much more than illuminating the inside of your computer or making your whip look like it can hover. [James] discovered if he varied the voltage going into the inverter, only a certain amount of the tube would light up. Give a hacker an interesting observation and enough time, and eventually he’ll come up with something really cool. In this case, it’s a cold cathode audio visualizer, powered by fluorescent tubes doing unexpected things.

The build details are a little scant, but we were able to coax an imgur album of [James]‘ build. He’s using these 20″ CCFL lights with the stock digital inverters replaced with TDK CCFL inverters.

The digital control of this build is provided by an Arduino Mega and a custom shield. We’re guessing the graphic EQ is provided by an MSGEQ7 chip, and the inverters themselves are powered through the Mega’s PWM pins. It’s a lot like an IN-9 Nixie graphic EQ, only much, much bigger. [James] is planning a larger version of this build, dubbed the Mega speKtrum and we can’t wait to see that build along with a proper writeup.

Taming STM32 Discovery boards for regular use


We think [Karl Lunt] has a point when he says that the STM32 Discovery Boards are cool and inexpensive, yet not hobby friendly. But it’s nothing that a little big of creativity can’t solve. Above are pictured three of the hacks he used to tame the Discovery boards.

The first is the addition of a microSD card adapter. He soldered wirewrap wire to each of the contacts on the adapter. He recommends a low iron setting to make sure you don’t melt the plastic adapter housing. He then used double stick foam tape to adhere it to the bottom of the dev board. The other ends of the wire are wrapped around the appropriate pins on the dual-row pin header. Similarly, the UART3 connections are broken out from the pin headers to that white quick connect socket. This lets him access serial data without having to solve the USB issues that were vexing him.

Finally, he made his own daughter board to break out the dual row headers into screw terminals. We’ve been hit with problems interfacing hardware with the board’s native connections — jumpering to IDE cables just never worked reliably. This breakout board not only makes it simple, but organizes the pins into groups based on their alternate functions.

Do you remember seeing the hacksaw version of this Discovery board which gives you two dev boards for the price of one?