Drawing with Legos

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There are a number of elaborate Lego creations out there, but you probably haven’t seen something quite like [Andrew Carol’s] Lego drawing machine. He drew inspiration from the film Hugo and from automata of the 1800’s, specifically [Jaquet-Droz]’s Draughtsman, which we featured in a Retrotechtacular article not too long ago.

[Andrew’s] hand-cranked creation is divided into three components: a plotter, an “encoded pen stroke program”—which stores messages in links of pieces—and a reader that translates the links into pen strokes. The plotter moves the pen in the Y axis and moves the paper in the X to mark on the page, and also has a simple lift mechanism that temporarily raises the pen on the Z axis to interrupt pen strokes between letters (or drawings).

[Andrew] describes the chain reader by comparing it to a film projector, feeding the message through the mechanism. Although you won’t find a detailed how-to guide explaining the devices’ inner-workings on his site, there are some clues describing basic components and a couple of videos, both of which are embedded below.

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Green Light LEGO, Red Light Stop

Master LEGO craftsman [Baron von Brunk] had the same childhood passions as a lot of us—LEGO (obviously), Transformers, and Nintendo. But he also harbored a passion for traffic lights and road signs. His latest offering, a fully functional LEGO traffic light, is some pretty fantastic plastic. You might recall that we featured [Baron von Brunk]’s LEGO mosaic lamps a few weeks ago. This project is that one on steroids.

The body is made of 1700+ LEGO and Technic pieces. [Baron von Brunk] was kind enough to provide his LDD file, though he says it should be considered a rough guide to construction. The red, yellow, and green 1×1 areas are each lit with a 48-SMD LED floodlight bulb. Colored lights are available, but he used the solid white variety for greater luminescence. The lights are driven by a traffic light controller typically used for model railroads.

[Baron von Brunk] ended up lining the inside with black 1x1s and metallic reflective duct tape to keep the light from leaking out of the masonry. He used some Technic bricks on the rear door to form hinges, and Technic pins to hold the LED lamps.

Full-size Lego Car Can Hit 30km/h!

[Steve Sammartino] is a Melbourne entrepreneur, and he had an idea: could it be possible to design and make a functional full-size Lego car?

He sent out a single tweet to try to crowd fund the project:

Anyone interested in investing $500-$1000 in a project which is awesome & a world first tweet me. Need about 20 participants…

Not one, not two, but forty Australians pledged money to start this crazy idea dubbed the #SuperAwesomeMicroProject. With the money raised, [Steve] and [Raul Oaida] purchased over 500,000 Lego pieces and began the build in Romania, where [Raul] lives.

Now before you get too excited, the car is not “fully” made out of Lego. It features real tires and some select load bearing elements. That being said, the entire engine is made completely out of Lego. It features four orbital engines utilizing a total of 256 pistons. The top speed they tested it to was about 20-30km/h — it might go faster, but they didn’t want to risk a catastrophic failure.

Since its completion (it took nearly 18 months to build), it’s been shipped back to a secret location in Melbourne, but the team has made an excellent video showcasing the project. Stick around after the break to see your childhood dreams come to life.

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Building Mosaic LEGO Lamps

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Looking for a throw back to your childhood, or maybe you just appreciate things that light up and look amazing? Well, [Baron] has a really impressive project for you. Not only does it look stunning and incorporate all of the things we love, it’s actually a pretty novel design. These lamps are built completely out of LEGO Technic pieces, the brand of LEGO that have holes drilled through them so you can build more advanced creations.

[Baron] used these parts with the drilled holes to create a dot matrix in which he placed colored transparent LEGO dots in the holes. The method of creating patterns is very similar to the way it’s done on the “Lite-Brite”. We especially love the theme of these lamps and they would match well with your LEGO mystery box. What’s really great about this tutorial is that it lays down the foundation for LEGO-built lamps that could be more interactive, involve more control (like RGB LEDs), or even introduce some LEGO mechanics!

Robotic Sloth Haunts Your Dreams

robotic sloth

Have you ever seen a wet sloth? They’re pretty scary. If that’s not bad enough, how do you feel about a robotic one?

Named the X-4 “Sloth”, this is one of [222Doc’s] hardest projects to date — a highly experimental quadra-ped that can climb up and across ladders. It makes use of a Lego Mindstorms NXT controller, 8 servo motors for the joints, 4 Power Function Motors for the hands, and a whole lot of Lego. Due to the number of motors, he also had to multiplex the Power Function servos to make it all work!

Sure, it’s Lego, but it was far from an easy project, as [222Doc] estimates he spent well over a hundred hours on it, and it still isn’t complete. He says he’ll never say to himself “this will be easy…” ever again.

Stick around after the break to see it scale this ladder — we wish they sped up the video though, it appears the movement speed is modeled after a real sloth…

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Using Google Authenticator with an Arduino

Lego One Time Password

Google Authenticator is an app that generates one time passwords (OTPs). These passwords are often used as a second factor of authentication, along with your normal password. OTPs work by having a shared secret and a synchronized clock on two devices. When you generate the password, a hash based on the secret and timestamp is created. This proves that you have access to the secret, and can only be used once.

To secure his Lego mini-figures, [Luca] built an authentication system using Google Authenticator and Arduino. A web app is used to generate a secret that can be configured into the Arduino using an array, and into Google Authenticator using a QR code. The Arduino is using a library that implements Time-based One Time Password authentication (TOTP).

There are some challenges, including keeping a good clock source on the Arduino, but this look like an interesting way to do authentication. After the break, watch a quick video overview of the project (for English captions, hit the CC button).

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Stripping Kindle DRM with Lego

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Consider a book sitting on a shelf. You can lend it out to a friend, you don’t need a special device to read it, and if you are so inclined, you can photocopy it. This isn’t true with Kindle eBooks that place severe restrictions on what you can do with a book via DRM. Although it is possible to strip eBook DRM with a few programs on your computer, [Peter] came up with a fool-proof way that’s an amateur engineering marvel. He’s turning Kindle eBooks into plain text using Lego.

[Peter] is using a few bits of a Lego NTX system to press the, ‘next page’ button on his Kindle, then smash the space bar on his Mac to take a picture. These pictures are then sent to a cloud-based text recognition service. After a few hours of listening to plastic gears grinding, [Peter] has a copy of his eBook in plain text format sitting in his computer.

As impractical as it looks, using a robot, camera, and OCR is actually a really, really good way to turn eBooks plagued with DRM into a text file. Even if Amazon updates their DRM to make the current software cracking methods break, [Peter] will always have his Lego robot ready to scan a few hundred pages of text at a time.

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