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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Etch-a-Sketch computer is a surprisingly simple hack

We’re not sure whether to call this an Etch-a-Sketch upgrade or a computer interface downgrade but either way it’s unique. [Martin Raynsford] added a familiar red frame to his computer monitor with classic white knobs that control horizontal and vertical cursor movement. There’s even the click option by pressing the buttons in and, as you can see after the break, the modifications result in a perfectly usable digital Etch-a-Sketch. We’ve seen a lot of computer controlled versions of the toy which use fancy parts and take quite a bit of skill to build. This mimicry of the functionality is easy to build and the idea is genius in its simplicity. [Martin] separated the encoder wheels from a mouse. He placed each on one of the knobs and ran wires for sensors and micro-switches back to the original PCB which is stuck to the back of the monitor. From the computer’s point of view it looks and acts like a normal mouse but this is so much more fun (and less productive). Continue reading “Etch-a-Sketch computer is a surprisingly simple hack”

Book Review: The Art Of The Patent

In bringing suitable illustrations to our articles, we Hackaday scribes use a variety of sources that offer images featuring permissive licences. Among the usual free image libraries there is one particularly rich source, the line drawings contained within the huge archives of patents granted by the various countries around the world. These are the illustrations used as part of the patent itself to describe the working of the patent being claimed. We use them because though the items they depict are legally protected from copying by the patents they are part of, they as part of the patents themselves are in the public domain. Thus we can easily find detailed hand drawn pictures of all kinds of technical innovations from the last couple of hundred years or so, and from time to time you as our readers reap the benefit.

The beauty in hand-rendered fonts from patent artwork, collected within the book.
The beauty in hand-rendered fonts from patent artwork, collected within the book.

If you spend a while browsing old patents through a search engine such as Google Patents, you can quickly become engrossed in these beautiful images of inventions past. Though their purpose is a functional one to convey the workings of an invention, the anonymous artists have often poured all of their skill into rendering them as considerably more than mere draughtsmanship. In those dusty Government archives lurk masterpieces, just waiting to be found.

It seems we here at Hackaday are not alone in sharing a fascination with these images, for a US patent agent, [Kevin Prince], wrote a fascinating exploration of the medium in his book, The Art of the Patent. Continue reading “Book Review: The Art Of The Patent”

Zen and the Art of Arduino

A zen garden should be a source of relaxation and escape from the everyday. The whole point should be to escape from–among other things–your electronics. Unless you are [MakrToolbox]. Then you’ll make a beautiful zen garden end table that allows you to make patterns in the sand using a ball bearing and an Arduino. You can see a video below.

Technically, the device is almost an upside down 3D printer with no Z axis. The mechanism moves a magnet which controls the steel ball and draws patterns in the sand. However, the really impressive parts of this project are the woodworking for the end table and the impressive documentation, should you want to reproduce this project yourself.

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Does This Demo Remind You of Mario Kart? It Should!

Here’s a slick-looking VGA demo written in assembly by [Yianni Kostaris]; it’s VGA output from an otherwise stock ATmega2560 at 16MHz with no external chips involved. If you’re getting some Super Mario Kart vibes from how it looks, there’s a good reason for that. The demo implements a form of the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 graphics, which allowed for a background to be efficiently texture-mapped, rotated, and scaled for a 3D effect. It was used in racing games (such as Super Mario Kart) but also in many others. A video of the demo is embedded below.

[Yianni] posted the original demo a year earlier, but just recently added detailed technical information on how it was all accomplished. The AVR outputs VGA signals directly, resulting in 100×120 resolution with 256 colors, zipping along at 60 fps. The AVR itself is not modified or overclocked in any way — it runs at an entirely normal 16MHz and spends 93% of its time handling interrupts. Despite sharing details for how this is done, [Yianni] hasn’t released any code, but told us this demo is an offshoot from another project that is still in progress. It’s worth staying tuned because it’s clear [Yianni] knows his stuff.

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VGA Monitor Becomes Drawing Toy

We hate to break it to [Rob Cai], but he’s built a VGA drawing toy, not an Etch-a-Sketch. How do we know? Simple, Etch-a-Sketch is a registered trademark. Regardless, his project shows how an Arduino can drive a VGA monitor using the VGAx library. Sure, you can only do four colors with a 120×60 resolution, but on the other hand, it requires almost no hardware other than the Arduino (you do need four resistors).

The hardware includes two pots and with the right firmware, it can also play pong, if you don’t want to give bent your artistic side. You can see videos of both the art toy and the pong game, below.

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