THP Hacker Bio: fl@C@

fl@a@ avatar and project imageNow that we’re starting to get serious about The Hackaday Prize we thought we’d take a look at the lives of some of the hackers who have submitted entries. Meet fl@C@, who is working on a Raman Spectrometer which is largely 3D printed and uses a Raspberry Pi. He was kind enough to answer all of our questions, some serious and some not so.



Creating. It’s probably no surprise that I have many hobbies…but hardware hacking is my life. I got my first taste with my dads Imsai 8080 (showing my age, but I was fairly young!)..Then it was an Apple][.. I really dove into that. I built my own from a bare pcb to a working machine when I was around 11 or 12. Just moved up from there.. Really went nuts when I got a job at a surplus electronics store in the silicon valley.. I rarely took home a paycheck.. I have a few other hobbies, I’m a private pilot…love flying. I built a pretty cool device that allowed me to datalog my flights, my heartrate, keep track of the fuel, it speaks and connects to the comm to remind me when to switch tanks, etc.. I’ll have to put that up on the project page.

What is Your Profession?Well…For my day job, I am a Network Engineer.. I can’t really say for which company, but it’s big.

What is Your Passion?

My Passion is Going Big

I would say my passion is going big..if it’s worth doing…’s worth overdoing. I love coming up with ideas that would make a difference. The spectrometer I am working on is actually only a small part of a larger project I am working toward. There are never enough hours, or dollars to cover all of my ideas…but I always work as hard as I can to get there.. TLDR- I’m excited every day to wake up and make another step towards changing the world.

Piece of Equipment You'd Go "Office Space" On?I work from home, but in the office… it’s definitely the snack machine. Seriously? We can’t build a machine that dispenses snacks without getting them stuck?

Favorite Operating System?I’d say linux. I’ve been a fan of ubuntu for a while.. lately I’ve been playing with xubuntu. I don’t care for messing with xubuntuI love electronics, hardware, software and all that.. but I do not geek out over PC hardware..I consider them another tool…they need to work when I need them to work. lol

Favorite Bench Equipment?Not sure if you want a breakdown of what gear I have….I have quite a bit and a pretty elaborate lab setup..but I’m really a bit of a minimalist when it comes to day to day use.. I use my scope when it’s logic analyzer (saelae logic rocks) pretty often.. but I’d say my go to device is usually my DMM since it’s what I tend to use most often…I have a few, but I like to use the one that connects up to my PC so I can make screenshots, and/or see it from a distance..

Favorite Piece of Silicon?mbed-pinoutI would have to default to the mBed for this one..for general purpose. I started out like most people probably with the basic stamp waaaay back…and went through a few others..and settled on the mBed when there was just one device, but now they have so many platforms that you can fit to whatever need..and some of them are dirt cheap. I’m using the ST Nucleo041RE for the spectrometer project, and it’s only $10 at mouser. I have just started peering into FPGA stuff, I hope to get some more time to work with them very soon, I see lots of potential.. I never really used Arduino’s until the past year or two when I got into quadcopters..they have a purpose..and are ok for quick and dirty stuff since you can source a pro mini on ebay for like 3 bucks..

Favorite Programming Language?Python has become my best friend. C++ is great and all, I’ve been forced to use VB6 for work…where they even use winbatch……. But python works.. and it’s easy to crank something out quickly, and you can build some pretty robust stuff with it..

Three Projects Before You Die?Well, I have a couple that come to mind immediately that I honestly would love to share with the world…but won’t just yet.. =) So, I’ll go with what is left…hopefully it’s plenty for now..

  1. I’d love to build a fusor. I built my first tesla coil when I was 17.. I’d love to take the hobby fusor to the next step..
  2. A Moon Rover. Seriously. And the vehicle to get it there. I think we all agree rockets and gasoline both need to go away. Mankind needs to reach out beyond what we’re confortable with.
  3. A fully autonomous multirotor. I actually started this project..have it all layed out..but it’s not high enough on my priority list to make it the rest of the way..I have probably 80% of the parts new in a box..I’ve started doing a writeup on it..and hope to get it up soon.

Skill You Wish Everyone Would Learn?

Learn the Value of Knowing Where and How to Find the Information [You] need

I wish that everyone would learn the value of knowing where and how to find the information they need to accomplish a goal. Schools typically force you to memorize facts and information that is often worthless. I would like for people to learn instead how to be adaptive in their approach to problems, and understand that there is always more than one answer.. and there is a huge resource out there that will enable you to make educated decisions and reach grander goals. We live in a great time with that…and in that way, the internet is underutilized…

How Did You Pick Your THP Project Idea?The timing was right…I thought this was an interesting and unique project..I had promised myself to try to be more open and share..this project was perfect since it has 3d parts people can print themselves, a raspberryPi, a sorta arduino and a cool laser…plus I figured there are several people out there that could either benefit from a low cost raman spectrometer, or at least benefit from some part of it the parts I designed or just the understanding of how it works and what they’re used for…

Any Tough Stuff You Need Advice On?raman-spectrometer-laserI always keep an open mind, and consider any advice given.. There have been many aspects of this project that created a challenge.. This is my first serious venture into 3d printing this much stuff…I’ve never really worked with lasers and optics in such a way.. Avoiding spending thousands on optics was a major challenge. I have been doing all the research I can to understand the best approach to imaging…My first idea was to modify a webcam to take long exposures since the light reaching the camera will be fairly faint..after looking into that, it’s not just a lot of work and difficult to reproduce…but the cameras that others have modified are ancient and next to impossible to find. I wanted to go with a camera that anyone could find…the raspiCam kept surfacing as the best choice…so, the next challenge was how to get the long exposure…the raspiCam driver doesn’t really allow for 10-30 second exposures… so the next idea was to take several shots, and stack them to build a usable image.. so my latest approach is to take a 90fps video for a couple seconds, split that into individual frames, and stack those.. If anyone has suggestions in this area, I’d love to hear them.. I planned on using either mathematica or qtoctave from python, etc..

THP Project You'd Like Someone Else to Build?1280px-Apollo15LunarRoverA Moon Rover. =) It’d probably most definately be a team effort.. But I think as a community, the skills are out there. And the google XPrize shouldn’t be the only game in town.. I think things are building up to this kind of stuff anyway, but someone’s got to be first.

Your Life in Exactly 5 Words?

Live Out Loud Every Day

What Else Ya' Got?I’d just like to say…putting this project on this site was a major debate for me. I grew up with parents that had secret clearances, and privacy was central. I’ve been trying to build up the courage to share my work and ideas with the world because I think it benefits everyone. This project is my first to share, and for it to be featured here, and for me to be honored with being the first the be featured is really amazing. I appreciate this whole community, I’ve learned a lot from it over the years and I hope to be able to give back and contribute more soon!

Plater Makes It Easy To Fill Your Bed Plate


If you’re a 3D printing power user, you probably try to fit as many parts onto a single print job as possible. Most printing software has this built in to let you do that, but [Grégoire Passault] and his team thought they could do it better with their program Plater — it’s open source too.

They decided to make Plater after designing Spidey: an open-source 4-legged robot that makes use of 22 3D printed parts. The first few times they printed this took a long time because they had to manually arrange the parts — there had to be a better way!

Plater is a fairly simple program that lets you take in a bunch of STL files, set your print bed size and part spacing and then it creates an STL with as many parts in it as it can, organized on your print bed. Then you just have to load it up into your favorite slicing program and you’re good to go.

Seems like an excellent tool to add to your metaphorical 3D printing tool-belt!

Adding Copper Wire To A 3D Print


Conductive filaments and printing solder are one thing, but what if you could spice up your 3D prints by embedding wire right inside the filament? That’s what [Bas] is doing, paving the way for printable electronics, PCBs, coils, and odd-shaped antenna.

The general idea of [Bas]’ technique of embedding thin copper wire inside a single layer of a print is to lay the wire down in front of the nozzle, effectively turning bare wire into insulated wire in whatever shape you can imagine. The trick, however, is figuring out how to put wire  down in front of a nozzle. [Baz] accomplished this with a slew ring turned by a stepper motor connected to a 5th axis on the control board.

There are a few things this prototype doesn’t cover – cutting the wire, connecting the wire to components, fine-tuning, and a host of other things that prevent [Bas]’ machine from building real functional circuits. Despite these limitations, the machine could probably fabricate the secondary for a tesla coil right now, something that’s really annoying to make unless you have a lathe.

Video demo below.

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Blobless Printing With Velocity Extrusion


The current crop of 3D printers are technically four-axis machines, with three axes of movement and a fourth for the position of the filament. [Bas] had an entirely different idea – why not link the speed of the extruder to the speed of the nozzle? It turns out this technique gives you more ‘plasticy-looking’ prints and a vast reduction in blobbiness.

[Baz] has been working with LinuxCNC, a BeagleBone Black and the BeBoPr-Bridge cape, and there’s been a lot of development with that system in turning many straight lines into one smooth arc. This led him to adjusting the flow rate of a nozzle while the printer is running, but this is difficult if the extrusion is controlled by position as in a traditional printer setup. A new configuration was in order.

What [Baz] ended up with is a config that calculated the speed of the extruder based on the speed the nozzle is moving over the print surface. This gave him the ability to add live nozzle pressure adjustment, and as a result, a near complete disappearance of the little blobs that appear at the start of each layer.

For a well calibrated machine, it’s only a small difference between the ‘normal’ and ‘velocity’ methods of controlling an extrusion rate. It’s a noticeable difference, though, and one that vastly improves the visual quality of a print.


Koenigsegg 3D-Printing for Production Vehicles

Koenigsegg with Printed Parts

We’re not surprised to see a car manufacturer using 3D-printing technology, but we think this may be the first time we’ve heard of 3D-prints going into production vehicles. You’ve likely heard of Christian von Koenigsegg’s cars if you’re a fan of BBC’s Top Gear, where the hypercar screams its way into the leading lap times.

Now it seems the Swedish car manufacturer has integrated 3D printing and scanning into the design process. Christian himself explains the benefits of both for iterative design: they roughed out a chair, adjusting it as they went until it was about the right shape and was comfortable. They then used a laser scanner to bring it into a CAD file, which significantly accelerated the production process. He’s also got some examples of brake pedals printed from ABS—they normally machine them out of aluminum—to test the fits and the feeling. They make adjustments as necessary to the prints, sometimes carving them up by hand, then break out the laser scanner again to capture any modifications, bring it back to CAD, and reprint the model.

Interestingly, they’ve been printing some bits and pieces for production cars out of ABS for a few years. Considering the low volume they are working with, it makes sense. Videos and more info after the jump.

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Ask Hackaday: Can The Lix 3D Printing Pen Actually Work?

Introducing Lix, the world’s smallest 3D printing pen that allows you to draw plastic structures in 3D. It’s only been on Kickstarter for a few days now, and already it has garnered close to a million dollars in pledges. An astonishing achievement, especially considering we can prove – with math and physics – that it doesn’t work as advertised. However, we’re wondering if it could work at all, so we’re asking the Hackaday community.

The device is powered through a USB 3 port. In the video, the Lix team is using a MacBook Pro. This has a USB port capable of delivering 900 mA at 5 Volts, or 4.5 Watts. Another 3D printing pen, the 3Doodler, uses a 2A, 12V power adapter, equal to 24 Watts. Considering the 3Doodler works, and they both do the same basic thing, there’s something extremely odd going on here.

Just as a comparison, here’s a wirewound resistor commonly found in the heating element or ‘hot end’ of a 3D printer. It’s a 6.8  Ohm resistor powered at 12 Volts. That’s 21 Watts. Here’s a heater cartridge, also found in quite a few hot ends. It sucks down 40 Watts. Once again, the Lix Kickstarter clearly shows the pen extruding filament using only 4.5 Watts of power. Something is really, really fishy here.

Intuition doesn’t hold a candle to math, so let’s figure out exactly why it won’t work.

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Dual Color Extruder With A Single Stepper


Once you have a 3D printer able to build a few objects in a single color, the next logical upgrade is a dual extruder. A dual extruder allows for multiple color prints, and by adding a dissolvable filament, the ability to print object that would otherwise be impossible. Fitting a dual extruder on an existing 3D printer presents a problem: simply by using a second stepper motor, you reduce the print area of your printer significantly. That’s the problem Dglass 3D aims to solve with their extruder. It’s a dual filament extruder that uses only one stepper motor and takes up less space than some other single filament extruders.

This isn’t the first time the guys at Dglass 3D have tried Kickstarting a dual filament extruder; last year we saw a very similar mechanism that used a single stepper motor to feed two filaments. This older model lacked retraction, though, meaning two colored prints would range somewhere between messy, inaccurate, to impossible.

The new extruder uses a servo to ‘latch’ the filament and drive it into the hot end. This means retraction of the filament is possible and from the sample prints with this extruder, the results look pretty good.

Below You’ll see a few video demos of the dual color/retraction extruder printing an object in black and white filaments at the same time. It’s very cool, and with the addition of a dissolvable filament means very complex objects can be printed very easily.

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