Last chance to enter The Hackaday Prize.

[Ben Krasnow] and His 8 kJ Ruby Laser

 

We were again pleased to find another person who attended Maker Faire just to show off the awesome and not to hawk some goods. In our mind [Ben Krasnow] represents the highest echelon of hardware hacking (apparently Google[x] agrees because they just snatched him up) . But [Ben] always makes a point to explain how he does what he does so that others may learn and someday achieve a similar type of greatness. This time around it’s a functional ruby laser which is backed by a capacitor bank that stores a whopping 8 kilojoules of energy. This is what allows the laser to cut through steel plate. He sure has come a long way since he first showed off the project in January.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to [Ben's] booth until late on Sunday. His previous demonstrations burned through some seals and left him with a non-functional laser. But he’s a trustworthy guy so we believe him and look forward to him posting a video about the laser and hopefully about the failure. He also mentions that he may make an attempt at lunar laser ranging with this device; bouncing the laser off of reflectors on the moon and measuring the delay. This can then be used to calculate the distance to the moon.

By the way, it was super difficult not to crack a joke when he says the words “Ruby Rod“.

Bunnie Talks to Us About Novena Open Hardware Laptop

 

We made a point to stop by the Freescale booth at Maker Faire where [Bunnie Huang] was showing off the Novena laptop. His past accolades (Wikipedia page) and the rabid success of the crowd funding round — which nearly tripled its goal — meant we had to make multiple attempts to speak with him. But the third time’s a charm and it was worth the wait!

Several things struck me about seeing the hardware in person. First off, I like that there’s a little bit of room inside but the case is still reasonably small. This really is a laptop aimed at hardware hacking; I would anticipate that the majority of backers intend to roll their own hardware for it. Second, [Bunnie] showed off several expansion boards as examples which use a standard 80-pin header to get at the onboard components. The example of a man-in-the-middle attack for the flash chip on a thumb drive was extremely tasty. But it was also interesting to hear about an SDR board which will ship to original backers since the campaign made its stretch goals.

If you don’t know much about this project, you can get some background from our post when the crowd funding went live. Open design info is available from the Novena page.

Mini-Molder: Blow Molder Scratch-Built by Single Hacker

 

We caught up with [James Durand] at Maker Faire. He was one of the rare Makers (no mention of selling or future crowd funding) that had a booth at Maker Faire — he was exhibiting a blow molding machine that he built from scratch.

The fabrication process is 100% [James]. Every custom part was designed and milled by him. All of the assembly techniques were his to learn along the way. And we didn’t see anything that isn’t production ready. We’re both impressed and envious.

About three years ago he got the itch to build the mini-molder after learning about the Mold-A-Rama machine — a blow-molding vending machine that was popular a half century ago. A bit of his journey is documented as a molding category on his blog. For the most part it sounds like 1.5 years spent on the CAD design really paid off. He did share one element that required redesign. The initial prototype had a problem with the molds being pushed up when they came together. He tweaked the mechanism to close with a downward motion by flipping the hinge design. This seems to hold everything in place while the drinking fountain chiller and water pump cool the mold and the plastic model within.

Live Look at Taktia Augmented Power Tool and Carbide 3D Mill

 

There were so many things to see at Maker Faire that the booths spilled out of the buildings and into various tents on the grounds. One of the most interesting tents was packed with tables showing off CNC machines and that’s where we ran into two that are familiar, and still amazing.

First up is the handheld CNC router which we saw all the way back in 2012. It’s a spectacular piece of tech that adds a base to a handheld router. The base gives the tool a touchscreen system, the ability to precisely track it’s location, and adjustment motors to move the cutting bit in order to correct for imperfections in operator movements. It’s really amazing and we are happy to see they have formed a company called Taktia around the concept and are heading for crowd funding soon.

The second half of the video shows off the Nomad CNC mill which we covered at the end of April. Carbide 3D had a hugely successful (more than 10x the goal) Kickstarter that they tried to blame on the support of Hackaday readers. It’s a no-brainer that this machine is the one to watch, as even our hacked camera work doesn’t lose the fact that it can produce rock-solid results.

Arduino Zero Hardware is Not Just for Beginners

 

We stopped by the Atmel booth at Maker Faire to gawk at the pre-production Arduino Zero boards they were showing off. [Bob] gave us a rundown of everything the new board offers, and it’s better than we imagined when we heard about it last week.

I may be an odd egg in that I don’t like to use an IDE when developing uC firmware. Generally I rock the text editor and a makefile for 8-bit, adding OpenOCD and GDB when working with ARM. I probably shouldn’t be surprised that there is already OpenOCD support (and by extension GDB support) for the Arduino Zero. In fact, that’s how the Arduino IDE flashes the board. This should have been obvious since the board is really just a breakout for the SAM D21 chip which is already supported.

Riffing on the thought of this being a breakout board, we think they did a pretty good job. There are two USB connectors; one let you access the board as a device or a host while the other connects the debugging hardware. If you’ve never used an On Chip Debugger before it’ll change your life so do give it a try. When you do move past the initial prototyping phase of your project you can still use the Zero as a debugging tool. There’s an unpopulated 10-pin header (not sure if the small pitch header comes with it or not) which can be used to interface with a target board. [Bob] also spent some time talking about the configurable 6-pin header which allows you to choose from a range of hardware protocols (SPI, TWI, etc.).

Unfortunately we still don’t have info on the availability timeframe or pricing information. There was one hiccup with this pre-production run (two signals were swapped on the PCB) and they need to spin another board, populate, and QA before they can green-light the final product.

Editorial Note: Atmel advertises on Hackaday but this video and post are not a product of that relationship. Hackaday doesn’t post paid content.

Sealed-System Bucket Loader Cleans Messes in Dangerous Places

 

Cleaning up after a disaster is hard and dangerous. But the ROEBL project is trying to make it substantially safer by removing the human operator from harm’s way. The Remote Operated Electric Bucket Loader had a big double-fenced, cement barrier play area set up at Maker Faire and [Justin Gray] walked us through the project which concluded with a demonstration of the hardware.

For now the operator does need to be on site to see what the loader is doing, but a first-person video setup is planned for the future. Still, removing the operator from the jarring experience of riding inside is an improvement. And the sealed nature of the electric and hydraulic systems mean that it can operate in areas inundated with liquids like water or oil.

The video above has a 90 second demonstration at the end (while we all laugh like children at what really was a giddy display of power being thrown about by a handheld controller). The ROEBL website has a gallery where you can see the conversion process that started with a standard diesel machine.

Oh, the People You’ll Meet! (at Maker Faire)

 

I might argue that the best thing about Maker Faire isn’t the booths at all, but the people you’ll run into. To that end, I spliced together a series of these impromptu run-ins that I thoroughly enjoyed. What’s remarkable to me is that these people of not weren’t themselves attracting a crowd. If you want to meet the hackers who you respect in the hacking world, you can still have a casual and friendly conversation with them!

First up is [Jeremy Blum] who is a long-time friend of Hackaday, author Exploring Arduino, and one-year member of the Google[x] team. We ran into him along with [Marcus Schappi], CEO of Little Bird Electronics in Australia. [Marcus'] crew recently saw a successful crowd-funding run with the Micro-view.

Next up is [Ben Heck] of The Ben Heck Show. He talks a bit about his recent hack of a pair of texting radios using the eRIC radio modules and he riffed on his past robotic luggage project as well.

The rest of the video is devoted to Hackaday alum. I ran into [Caleb Kraft] who recently started as Community Editor over at MAKE, and [Phil Burgess] who now builds gnarly projects for Adafruit. The clip wraps up with [Ian] from Dangerous Prototypes. He’s fresh off of his Hacker Camp in Shenzhen which covered everything from reballing BGA components by hand, to finding good deals on custom wardrobe, and making sound gastronomic choices while in China.

We talked to a horde of people over two days. Perhaps it was the foam Jolly Wrencher that I wore around? But the point is that everyone at an event like this is interesting to talk to, approachable, and well worth the cost of entry. If you haven’t been to a hacking convention it’s time to start looking around for the one nearest you!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 91,130 other followers