Hackerspace Tour: IXR in Wall, NJ

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Hackaday took a little trip out to Wall, NJ last weekend for the Vintage Computer Festival 9.1 East. The event was held at Camp Evans, a former US military installation that can only be described as, ‘The DARPA of a century ago”. This is the site of a Marconi transmitter and the place where [Edwin Armstrong] developed the regenerative receiver a little more than 100 years ago.

There’s a lot more to Camp Evans than a vintage computer festival once a year – it’s also home to MARCH, the Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists, InfoAge, a retro technology museum, and IXR, the Institute for eXploratory Research, a hackerspace located in the old telecom building at Camp Evans.

In our video tour, [Joe Wilkes] takes us around the shop, showing off their equipment and tools. Unlike most of our hackerspace tours, we couldn’t find a Makerbot sitting disused on a bookshelf anywhere, but the space did have a Solidoodle 3D printer, a Shapeoko 2 CNC machine under construction, and enough hand tools to bring any project to fruition.

There were a few oddities in IXR compared to the other hackerspaces we’ve been to. First is an inordinate amount of synths, keyboards, and other MIDI gear. [Joe] didn’t know what these were for, so we’ll leave that explanation for an IXR member in the comments of this post. There was also a small supply of random components for sale (and on display). Most of the merch was from Adafruit, and it seems like a great way to have that one part I need to finish this build for members while providing a little bit of beer money for the space.

Pics and video below.

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Hackaday Visits NOVA Labs And Small Batch Assembly

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A few days ago Hackaday visited NOVA Labs, one of the premier hackerspaces around Washington, DC. In our video tour, co-founder [Justin Leto] shows off the space, going through all the awesome tools, workspaces, and projects his space has put together over the years.

One of the most impressive parts of NOVA Labs is the incredible amount of woodworking equipment. Everything from a Blacktoe CNC router, table and bandsaws, jointers, planers, real woodworking benches, and enough clamps to hold anything together are from a NOVA member that is co-locating his equipment for the rest of the hackerspace to share.

Apart from the woodworking tools, NOVA also has a few laser cutters and enough 3D printers for all the octopodes and Yoda heads you could ever imagine. A few of the members put together 3D build classes, and the machines being constructed are very, very cool. They’re using a Raspi with OctoPrint in their latest builds, attaching a camera to the frame and using a tablet for the interface. It’s just about the smoothest and cleanest 3D printer interface possible without using a computer.

There’s a lot of cool stuff happening at NOVA; the DC Area Drone User Group is the area’s largest group of unmanned aerial vehicles not housed in a five-sided building, and have done some aerial mapping for the metro station that will soon displace the hackerspace. NOVA also hosted a mini maker faire last weekend with over four thousand attendees. Impressive, to say the least.

Also at NOVA Labs is a small business the guys are incubating headed up by [Bob Coggeshall], also known as one of the guys who wrote sudo. It’s Small Batch Assembly, a very cool service that takes panelized PCBs and reels of components and assembles them. While we were there, [Bob] was assembling a few dozen boards stuffed with WS2812 LEDs for the R2D2 Builders Club.

[Bob] is using a very cool and very expensive Manncorp pick and place machine for placing all the components, squeegeeing the solder paste through Kapton film he laser cut on the NOVA Labs machines. It’s only a small-scale operation, but when it comes to placing thousands of SMD components for a few dozen boards, there probably isn’t a better way.

You can check out the video of NOVA, Small Batch Assembly, and a whole bunch of pics below.

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Automatically Accept Membership Fees or Donations

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Whether you run a club or a hackerspace, collecting membership fees and accepting donations can be a pain. [MRE] from TokyoHackerspace has the solution, an automated machine that can accept cash from anyone who is walking by.

Members can choose to either donate or pay their membership fee even when the hackerspace administrator is not around.  The interface consists of two buttons, an LCD display, a place to put your cash, and a thermal printer that prints out two receipts (one for you, one which goes right back into the box). One of the coolest parts of this build is the banknote validator, which can work with over 100 currencies (in this case, it is programmed to accept Japanese bills). Despite the simple interface, a lot of thought went into this build. There are backup batteries for the real time clock, an EEPROM to keep track of all the accounting, and an Arduino as the brains of the operation. If you take a look at the project page, there is a lot of information on the Arduino code, the PCB layout, how to interface with the banknote validator, and more! Check out the machine in action after the break.

We would love to see the banknote validator used in other projects. Have you used one before or built something similar?

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From Schematic to PCB in Four Hours

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Last super bowl Sunday, instead of checking the game, [Mattw] decided to extend a design and make a PCB of a trinket clone. [Mattw] altered a trinket clone design by [Morgan Penfield Redfield] to shrink it down, perforated the USB connector to allow for easy removal and put most of the parts on a single layer.

After finalizing the design, [Mattw] put it into the LPKF Protolaser S that Seattle’s Metrix Create Space has. For those of you who don’t know, the LPKF protolaser uses a laser to directly ablate off the copper from the boards.  This makes prototyping much faster without the need for a lot of nasty chemicals.

About six minutes in the Protolaser, some component placement by hand followed by a run through their reflow oven and [Mattw] had three boards ready to be tested. All told, about 4 hours from start to finish.

The end circuit looks great and the LPKF protolaser gives us a case of serious tool envy. If you’re like us and don’t have access to the fancy laser you might try our hand at this high-resolutino photo-etch process.

[via reddit]

Adventures In Hackerspacing: An Interview with Chris Boden of The Geek Group

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There are some big hackerspaces out there.
And then there’s The Geek Group.
It takes a certain chutzpah to convert a 43,000 foot former YMCA into a hackerspace. And an epic hackerspace it is, complete with 5 axis CNC machines, 3d printers, and of course, giant robots romping through a forest of Tesla coils.  The Geek Group has performed live demos in front of thousands of people over the years, and inspired tens of thousands more via the internet. You don’t work this big without having some big adventures, and The Geek Group is no exception. They’ve been through roof leaks, gas pipe breaks, surprise tax bills and angry neighbors. They’ve also been dealing with their current adventure, fire.

Unless you’ve been under a rock the last few weeks, you’ve probably read about the recent fire, and ensuing cleanup at The Geek Group labs. We’ve covered the fire and its cause here on Hackaday, with no small amount of drama in our comments section. There is a small but vocal minority who don’t have many good things to say. Accusations of cults, safety violations, and tax evasion often fly. While some groups would take this lying down, the geek group put on their flame proof suits and wade through the comments. None more vocally than [Chris Boden], the president, CEO and founder.

DISCLAIMER: The interview contains questionable content and some profanity (which we’ve altered as grawlix). We have posted the transcript as it was captured, which includes some spelling and grammar issues. Please consider these things before clicking through to the interview itself.

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Touring Crashspace, the LA Hackerspace

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In case you’re not up to speed with the most recent happenings at Hackaday, we’re partying in LA tomorrow. This means visiting all the local hackerspaces and begging for a tour. First up is Crash Space, an awesome hackerspace that uses Starsong, the soldering iron alicorn shown above as a mascot.

Inside Crash Space are the usual Hackerspace compliment of tables, projectors, whiteboards, and more recycled computers than you can shake several IDE cables at. When we rolled up to Crash Space, they were just finishing up their weekly 3D printing workshop, replete with a Mendel Max, The Printer Which Shall Not Be Named, and a pair of printers from Deezmaker, a company started by one of Crash Space’s members.

For anyone wanting to roll their sleeves up and get dirty, all the action starts in the back of the building. There, they have a laser cutter, an ancient lathe and mill, drill press, and even a project that will become a vacuum former.

The folks at Crash Space were kind enough to show off their workshop for a video, viewable below along with a few pics of the space buzzing with activity.

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Dallas Makerspace Tour

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[Paul] sent us this video tour of the Dallas Makerspace made by member [Andrew Floyd], who walks us around and provides narration for a very impressive space. Once inside the 6000 sq ft facility, he takes us past the entrance lounge and into the electronics room, which has more electronics component storage than visible wall space, and down the hall to show off some laser-cut and 3d-printed creations.

Every makerspace has its specialties, and the Dallas gang shows off their awesome darkroom (complete with creepy, lurking Nic Cage) and blacksmith/forge work areas. They even have bi-weekly blacksmithing classes from a local master blacksmith. The space has since expanded, conquering their next-door-neighbors to expand project storage, add a biolab, a second classroom, a conference room, and more.

Enjoy the video after the break, and then head over to their website for more info: dallasmakerspace.org.

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