Laser Etching Brings New Life To An IBM Keyboard


[Evan] was perusing his local thrift store when he found a beautiful IBM Model M 122-key keyboard made in 1987.

“This is my keyboard, there are many like it, but this one is mine.”

~The Typist’s Creed

In [Evan's] case, this might actually be the only one like it still in use today. An idea formed in his head. What if he took this ancient keyboard, gave it a USB driver, and customized the keys on a hardware level to do exactly what he wanted.

The first step was converting it to USB. He’s using a Teensy 2.0 mostly because it is super inexpensive, and its able to act as a USB HID device. In addition to wiring up the keyboard to the Teensy he’s also added foot pedals that connect via 1/8″ stereo plugs — these kind of act like extra mouse buttons, allowing him to scroll through galleries left to right, add page breaks, and other macros to increase efficiency.

[Read more...]

Augmented Laser Cutter Removes Design Technology Barriers

augmented laser

Laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC routers — they’re all great technology in the right hands, but unfortunately the learning curve sometimes puts would-be makers at a distance.  [Anirudh] from MIT’s Media Lab is attempting to break down at least one of those barriers with his augmented laser cutter system called, Clearcut.

The system consists of a webcam, a projector, and a semi transparent work space on top of the laser cutter. By placing objects on the surface, the webcam can identify them, duplicate them with the projector, and then laser engrave them. In addition to the “copy and paste” idea of this, you can also use infrared emitting pens to physically draw your design on the work surface to be engraved. It starts to bridge the gap between complex CAD and pencil and paper, something anyone is capable of.

[Read more...]

Building A CO2 Laser In A Hardware Store


Over on the Projects site, [ThunderSqueak] is pushing the bounds of what anyone would call reasonable and is building a CO2 laser from parts that can be found in any home improvement store.

Despite being able to cut wood, paper, and a bunch of other everyday materials, a carbon dioxide laser is actually surprisingly simple. All you need to do is fill a tube with CO2, put some mirrors and lenses on each end, and run an electric current through the gas. In practice, though, there’s a lot of extra bits and bobs required for a working laser.

[ThunderSqueak] will need some sort of cooling for his laser, and for that he’s constructed a watercooling jacket out of 2″ PVC. In the end caps, a pair of brass pipe fittings are JB Welded in place, allowing a place for the mirror assembly and lenses.

The mirror mounts are the key component of this build, but the construction method is surprisingly simple. [ThunderSqueak] is using a few brass barbed hose fittings, with washers stuck on one end. The washers are drilled to accept a trio of bolts that will allow the mirrors to be perfectly parallel; anything less and the CO2 won’t lase.

The build isn’t complete yet, but having already built a few lasers, there’s little doubt [ThunderSqueak] will be able to pull this one off as well.


Electromagnetic Spiderman Webshooter Railgun / Grappling Hook

spiderman grapple hook rail gun

As technology continues to advance, make-believe props and technology from movies are coming closer and closer to reality. [Patrick Priebe] has managed to put together a working Spiderman Webshooter with the help of electromagnets!

He’s built a tiny coil gun that puts out 100 Joules of energy using a 350V capacitor bank, which straps cleanly to his wrist over top of a Spiderman costume glove. It makes the classic high-pitched hum as it charges, and launches a small barbed brass arrow capable of skewering Styrofoam.

He didn’t stop there though! He’s created a handy little winch using a small high-powered brushless motor with an ESC. A weighted disk acts as a flywheel to increase the pulling power of the fishing line, and he’s built it on a pivot so when you launch it, the fishing line just slips off the end without resistance. To engage, you flip it back perpendicular to the line and turn on the motor.

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Using Public Data to Make Laser Cut Maps

laser cut maps

If you have access to a laser cutter you’re going to want to take a look at this brilliant tutorial. [Steven Smethurst] has figured out how to extract public map data and turn it into a file ready to be laser cut onto your choice of material.

In his example he’s using Vancouver’s Open Data Catalog to build his map using the coastal and public street data. To do this he’s using a program called TileMill which you can get for free from MapBox — it’s a great piece of software for designing your own interactive maps — and the best part is, you can import data from a wide variety of sources, such as Vancouver’s Open Data!

You can import the shape (.SHP) files from the Open Data Catalog and add them as layers into TileMill. From there you can manipulate your map, adjust the detail, and then import as a .SVG or .DXF file ready for laser cutting.

In addition to the Instructable on how to do this, he’s also recorded an in-depth video tutorial which you can check out after the break.

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Make a 3D Scanner for 60€ Using Old Hardware

3d laser scanner

[Till Handel] just put the finishing touches on a paper he wrote about how to build a cheap 3D scanner — mostly out of spare parts.

Using parts from old printers and notebooks, he’s cobbled together this rather rough-looking laser scanner. But don’t be fooled by its looks! It’s capable of scanning 360° around itself at distances from 0.3 – 5m, making it an excellent candidate for scanning rooms.

It uses a line laser and a webcam mounted on an arm driven by a stepper motor, which looks like it’s out of an old optical drive. An Arduino Uno and an A4988POW stepper driver control the system. The paper (Caution: PDF) is very detailed and published under GPLv3 (a general public license).

[Read more...]

Hacking A Laser Tape Measure In 3 Easy Steps


[Andrew] got a little help from his friends to hack a laser distance meter. Using laser distance meters as sensors is one of the great quests of hackers – with good reason. Accurate distance readings are invaluable for applications including robots, printers, and manufacturing. We’ve seen people try and fail to hack similar units before, while others built their own from scratch. [Andrew] started experimenting with the UNI-T 390B, a relatively cheap ($60 USD) device from China. He found the 390B has a serial port accessible through its battery compartment. Even better, the serial port is still enabled and outputs distance data. While data could be read, [Andrew] couldn’t command the 390B to start a measurement. The only option seemed to be using the Arduino to simulate button presses on the 390B’s front panel.

In an update to his original blog,  he described an Arduino sketch which would decode the distance measurements. That’s when [speleomaniac] jumped in with the discovery that the Uni-T would respond to commands in the form “*xxxxx#”. Armed with this information, [Andrew] posted a second update with a basic command breakdown. Command *00004# will take a single measurement and output the data via serial. Command *00002# will take 3 measurements, outputting them in a C style array format. There are several other commands which output debug information and what appear to be stored measurement dumps. Although he didn’t explore every nuance of the data output,  [Andrew] now has enough information to initiate a measurement and read the result. Nice work!

[Thanks James!]


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