Choreographed Iron Dust Dances to the Beat

Up on the second level of World Maker Faire’s main hall, one could hear Technotronic’s hit “Pump up the Jam” playing again and again. We were expecting breakdancing robots, but upon investigating, what we found was something even better. [David Durlach] was showing off his Choreographed Iron Dust, a 9 x 9 grid of magnets covered in iron filings. The filings swayed and danced to the beat of the music, at times appearing more like ferrofluid than a dry material. Two LED lights shined on the filings from an oblique angle. This added even more drama to the effect as the light played on the dancing spikes and ridges.

While chatting with [David] he told us that this wasn’t a new hack. Choreographed Iron Dust made its debut at the Boston Museum of Science back in 1989. Suddenly the 80’s music made more sense! The dust’s basic control system hasn’t changed very much since the 1980’s. The magnets are actually a stack of permanent and electromagnets. The permanent magnet provides enough force to hold the filings in place. The electromagnets are switched on to make the filings actually dance.

Since it was designed in 1989, there were no Arduinos available. This project is powered by the most hacker friendly interface of the era: the PC’s parallel port. As one might imagine, [David] has been having a hard time finding PC’s equipped with parallel ports these last few years.

[David] wasn’t just showing off iron dust. Having spent so much time painstakingly animating the iron filings for various customers, he knew there had to be a better way. He’s come up with ChoreoV, a system which can take recorded video, live performances, or even capture a section of a user’s screen. The captured data can then be translated directly into light or motion on an art piece.

Lulzbot & Lime Green Begonias

Lulzbot, or more specifically Aleph Objects, had a booth at Maker Faire this year, and unlike a lot of other 3D printer manufacturers they’re not afraid to show off what they currently have in development. The latest is code-named Begonia, although when it makes it to production it will probably be called the Lulzbot Mini. It’s a smaller version of their huge Taz 3D printer that trades build volume for a lower price.

The Lulzbot Mini will have a 6x6x6 inch build volume, heated bed, and all the other features you would expect in its larger counterpart. One interesting feature is automated nozzle cleaning and bed leveling. At the start of every print run, the nozzle runs over a small felt pad at the back of the build plate, touches off four metal washers at each corner, and recalculates the GCode for a level print. You can check out a demo of that in the video above.

Also in the works in the Lulzbot labs is a controller panel with an SD card, display, and (I think) a touch interface. Lulzbot didn’t have a demo of this, but rest assured, we’ll post something on that when it’s released. The last time we saw Lulzbot we heard of a 3D scanner project they’re working on that will turn any physical object into an .STL file, without having to mess about in Meshlab. Development on this project is stalled, but that is a very difficult problem. Can’t fault them for that.

Oh, the price for the unannounced Lulzbot Mini? Somewhere around $1300-1400.

NYC Maker Faire: The Logistics of Manufacturing Pentagons

Most of the Maker Faire attendees have spent weeks or months putting together their projects. [Matt] is doing things a little differently. He brought two thousand boards, each containing twelve pentagon PCBs with individually addressable LEDs mounted in the center. This weekend, he, his team, and anyone else who can wield a soldering iron will be assembling these pentagon panels into a gigantic glowing crystal.

Last year, [Matt] put together a Kickstarter for Blinkytape, a WS2812 LED strip with an Arduino on one end of the strip to generate patterns of colors. This year, [Matt] is moving into three dimensions with a system of pentagons with a single RGB LED mounted in the center. The pentagons can be soldered together into a regular polyhedra or a convoluted wall of LEDs that form a geometric crystal pattern of blinkyness. The Kickstarter for the BlinkyTile should be up before the faire is over.

[Matt] has a few tips for anyone wanting to run their own Kickstarter: don’t have a lot of SKUs. [Matt] only has to keep track of a single panel of twelve pentagons. Compare this to other failed Kickstarters with dozens of options, several colors, and a few stretch goals, and you quickly see why many, many Kickstarters fail. [Matt] is just selling one thing.

NYC MakerFaire: A Really, Really Big Printer

Walk in to the science center at Maker Faire this year, and the first thing you’ll see is a gargantuan assemblage of aluminum extrusion spitting out molten plastic for one of the biggest 3D prints you’ve ever seen. It’s SeeMeCNC’s PartDaddy, a 16-foot tall 3D printer with a four foot diameter build plate.

The printer doesn’t extrude filament. Instead, this printer sucks up PLA pellets and extrudes them with a modified injection mold press mounted to a delta printer frame. That’s a 4mm nozzle squirting plastic. The heater for the extruder is 110 V, and the NEMA32 motors are controlled with 72V drivers. Everything about this is huge, and it’s surprisingly fast; a single-wall vase grew by about two feet in as many hours. We have no idea how fast a solid print can be completed, although the SeeMeCNC guys will probably find out later this weekend.

SeeMeCNC also had a neat little resin printer with an impossibly clever name on display. We’ll get a post up on that later this weekend.

The First Annual Omaha Mini Maker Faire Was Definitely Something to Write Home About

tiny commemorative bookIf you ask me, Omaha’s first annual Mini Maker Faire was a rousing success. I think that the Faire’s coordinator, [Eric] of Omaha Maker Group would readily agree.The event was held at the Omaha Children’s Museum, an energetic and colorful backdrop for the 30 makers who were on hand to present their creations.

KITTThe representatives of the [Omaha Maker Group] had a total of three booths. One of them displayed the various fantastic things that have come out of their ‘space, which we will cover in an upcoming post. They brought the PiPhone that I told you about in my Kansas City Maker Faire post, and [Foamyguy] found a melodic easter egg hidden in the menu. [OMG] also brought their solar-powered EL wire logo sign, a quadcopter, a giant brushbot, a hexapod, a cigar box guitar, a really fun marble run, a steampunk Barbie, and KITT, their award-winning Power Racing Series car. And yeah, you bet it has a Larson scanner.

At their second booth, Fairegoers were constructing their own regular-size brushbots using 3D-printed chassis. These were specially designed to accommodate the toothbrush heads, pager motors, and CR2032s they brought to share. [Sarah] of [OMG] had her own popular booth and was showing off her costumes, clay creations, and jewelry.

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We’re At Maker Faire This Weekend

makerfaire

It’s that time of year again where the east coast division of the Hackaday crew makes the trek out to Maker Faire New York. We’ll be there the entire weekend, checking out the sights, talking to the people who make the things you make things with, and standing in an hour-long line for a hamburger.

We’ve been going to the NYC Maker Faire for a few years now, and each time we’re surprised by the sheer variety of stuff at the faire. This year, SeeMeCNC is bringing a gargantuan delta printer, [Adam] and I are going to geek out when we meet the Flite Test crew, and we’ll be filing a few interviews with the folks from Intel, Atmel, BeagleBone, and TI. If you’re wondering what the, “I can’t believe Make is allowing this at the faire” project is for this year, here you go.

If you’re heading to the faire and find some of the Hackaday crew wandering around, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. I’ll be wearing a flagpole with the Jolly Wrencher, and [Adam] will probably be wearing something emblazoned with the Hackaday logo. We have stickers to give out, and if you’re really cool, some sweet swag.

This year is a little different from the other times we’ve made the trek to Maker Faire – this time we have a press pass, and that means access to some very important people. If you have a question you’d like to ask Atmel’s VP of MCUs, Intel’s “maker czar”, [Massimo], someone at TI, or anyone else on the schedule, leave a note in the comments.

Magic in the Midwest: Maker Faire Kansas City

What did you do over the weekend? I spent both days at Maker Faire Kansas City and it was awesome. This is the fourth year the Faire has been held in Union Station, a stunning Kansas City landmark that celebrates its centennial this fall.

The Things

As you might imagine, there were 3D printers galore. One of my favorites was the One Up family from Q3D. These acrylic beauties start at $199 and offer a heated bed plate option.

Maker Juice Labs, purveyors of 3D printing inks for SLA brought a LittleSLA printer which they demonstrated by making some very nice key chains.

Little SLA does it stereolithographically.

Little SLA does it stereolithographically.

SeeMeCNC had their Rostock Max V2 printer cooking up some huge prints, and Oni Technology, a local KC company, had their H Bot cranking.

Locally-made Oni H Bot.

Locally-made Oni H Bot.

At the Modio booth, my companion and I constructed heroes and monsters from a rainbow-colored pile of 3D-printed body parts and weapons. With Modio’s iPad app, you can create characters from the existing parts library, modify those parts, and print them on any 3D printer. All of the parts are designed to snap together. Modio recently teamed up with MakerBot and hopes to port their app from the iPad to the iPhone and Android in the near future.

I managed to resist the inexplicable Hostess booth and their free piles of Twinkies, Cup Cakes, and Coffee Cakes. They had a display that promised banana Twinkies and some Greek yogurt oddities, but only had the regular stuff on hand. On Sunday, I saw many people lugging around entire boxes of free Donettes and other goodies.

[Read more...]

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