Salvaged robot arm used for light painting and pen plotting

The members of Shackspace got their hands on an antiquated robot arm. It’s a Mitsubishi Movemaster RM-101 and was probably manufactured in the mid 1980’s. There’s almost nothing out there that tells you how to use the thing, and so they set out to figure out how to control the hardware.

This is a great example of how an EPROM dump can be really useful. After further inspection the team discovered that the arm is driven by a Z80 processor whose program is stored on an EPROM. The first thing the guys did was dump the memory since the aging storage will be useless if just a few bits become degraded. This dump will be really useful for others whose chip has already given up the ghost. The data from that dump was disassembled and painstakingly pawed through to figure out what commands were being sent to the arm. This technique worked, as the team was able to re-implement the control protocol and has already used the arm for some light painting and pen plotting (seen above). After the break you can see a control demonstration.

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making a light orb thingy

The “light orb” has become a staple of light painting projects. If you’ve ever looked through someone’s gallery of light painting, you’ve probably seen a few. There are multiple ways to make them, this project focuses on swinging a light, or multiple lights at the end of a rope while you slowly turn in a circle.

The addition of addressable RGB LEDs and a micro controller make this rig capable of generating patterns and possibly even simple images in the sphere itself. His results are quite impressive. His spheres actually look even more precisely shaped than the automated sphere rig we shared with you before!

Helicopter light painting continues to snuff out physics lesson on your brain

Cool picture, huh? Wait until you see the video footage of this LED-adorned RC helicopter flying on a dark night. But this isn’t an art project. Analyzing the long-exposure photography turns out to be a great way of clearing up some of the physics of flight which otherwise are not at all intuitive. The helicopter used here has different colored lights on the nose and tail, as well as lights on the rotors.

Depending on how the aircraft is moving, different 3D spirography is captured by the camera. When you zoom in on part of the flight path it becomes clear that there are wider arcs on one side of the fuselage than there are on the other. This has to do with the forward progress of the aircraft and the rotation of the blades. The phenomenon is well known by helicopter enthusiasts, and accounted for in the design. But what we didn’t realize is that it actually translates to a theoretical speed limit for the aircraft. Our childhood love of Airwolf — the TV helicopter that could outrun jets — has been deflated.

You should remember the helicopter physics videos featured here last month. This is the latest offering and we’re still wanting more!

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extremely detailed light painting bar

[Matt Pandina] has been documenting his build of a very nice light painting bar on his G+ page. His light painting bar has 64 RGB LEDs being driven by an ATmega328P and four TLC5940 chips. He wrote his own libraries to talk to the TLC5940 as well as his own libraries to pull images off of a MicroSD card. He also wrote a cross-platform program that automatically converts a directory  of pngs to something the TLC5940s expect. He says the secret to getting his24-bit color correction looking right is gamma correction. It seems that when the LEDs were run too bright, he couldn’t get the colors quite right.  In case you’re curious, those images are 15 inches tall!

You can follow along through his posts as he starts with just a few LEDs and slowly updates and grows it to the impressive state it is at currently.

Robotic light painting in 3D

For the last few months, [Ben] has been building a 3D light painting robot. Instead of a couple Arduino-controlled LEDs that a person moves around the Lightplot, as [Ben] calls it, uses a robotic arm to move a LED in 3D space.

The build started with [Ben] testing his idea by putting a laser pointer on an altitude and azimuth mount made out of LEGO. Eventually [Ben] decided to build a 3D plotter rig for a more impressive show. The 3D plotter sits in on a tripod with three axes of motion – up and down, clockwise and counterclockwise, and ‘in’ and ‘out’. A small RGB LED at the end of the robotic arm is controlled along with the servos and motors, making it possible to plot vector lines in 3D space.

There are a whole bunch of demo videos after the break. They look fantastic, but we’d really like to see the Lightplot be used outside on a dark, starry night.

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Build a rig to make orbs in your light paintings

We’ve covered plenty of light painting projects here. People are always finding new ways to create interesting things in this fairly new medium. This project covers a method of creating orbs or spheres in your light paintings. The author points out that many people do this currently by putting the light source at the end of a string, swinging it in front of them like a propeller, and turning slowly in a circle. He wanted to automate the process a bit, so he combined his motorized telescope tripod, a power drill, a strip of RGB LEDs, and a few scraps of wood. He now has an automated system to make perfect orbs. Some of the examples he shows are quite stunning.

Light painting with a string plotter

[Matt Bell] sends a shout-out to Hackaday by creating a light-painting of our logo with his string plotter. He starts off by setting up a pair of stepper motors which each have a spool to wind and unwind a string. The plotter is made by suspending a stylus between these two strings. In this case, he’s using a wireless LED board (seen above) built from the remote control receiver/transmitter from a toy car. The link above is part of a Flickr set from which you can get the whole story by reading the captions of each image.

After the break we’ve embedded a clip of an in-progress light painting. You can see there’s some oscillation of the LED unit that makes it a bit less precise than the CNC light painter we saw a couple of weeks ago. It seems like string plotters usually don’t have this issue if the stylus has something to help stabilize it. We wonder if a piece of acrylic would help get rid of the shakes? [Read more...]

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