3D printing with LEGO

With 2400 LEGO bricks and a lot of patience, [Will Gorman] built a LEGO 3D printer. It’s similar to a RepRap or a Makerbot, but instead of extruding plastic, it uses pre-extruded building blocks (aka LEGO bricks).  The grey wall extending far above the unit itself is a feed magazine which holds the raw material. A Java application takes an MLCad file and translates it into building instructions for the printer. Those instructions are then sent to the device via USB. See it happen after the break.

Now this just needs to be combined with the LEGO sorting machine for an inexhaustible supply of bricks.

[Read more...]

Home claw game delights the little ones

After seeing Toy Story [Will Gorman's] son wanted to play the Crane Game. Rather than hanging out in the lobby of the pizza parlor, [Will] built one at home using Lego. The skill crane as he calls it has a large gantry to travel over the top of the treasure box. The claw can move side to side on the gantry, dropping for a chance at some loot once it’s in the right place. See a successful run in the video after the break and if you can’t help yourself, there’s build instructions that will have you up and running in no time. But you don’t have to build it out of Lego, sometimes you just need some junk to pull one of these together. [Read more...]

Make your own Mindstorm sensors

[Stewart Allen] acquired a Mindstorm kit about a month ago and he’s already building his own sensors for it. He wanted a more accurate range finder with a narrower measurement field than the stock sensor. Mindstorm has the option to communicate with sensors via an I2C bus. [Stewart] set up an ATtiny45 to act as a the slave on the bus, facilitating the analog measurement of the distance voltage by using and lookup table, and handling the data transfer with the NXT brick. His testing setup is pictured above, with an AVR Dragon for programming the tiny45 and a Bus Pirate for sniffing the I2C data during the development process. The sensor, looking great on a professionally made PCB he ordered, requires a simple driver that [Stewart] hammered out for use with leJOS, the alternative Mindstorm firmware we’ve seen before.

Android controlling Mindstorms NXT

Here’s an Android device controlling a LEGO Mindstorms robot. [Josh] and a couple of his colleagues developed software to get both Android 2.1 (video above) and Android 1.6 (video) to work as Bluetooth control devices. The NXT cube is running leJOS, a Java virtual machine, allowing you to program Mindstorms using Java. Although their code is at an early Alpha stage, this shows that it works and is a very welcomed tool for NXT development once they get to a more stable point and release it to the masses.

Great ball contraption

The idea of the Great Ball Contraption is to take modules from many builders and combine them into one large machine. The modules need to find some way of moving LEGO soccer balls and basketballs from an input point to an exit are that passes them onto the next module. Some of them sort the balls, but in the end the eight-and-a-half-minute video above shows the orbs going around and around. That’s just fine with us, it’s no secret that we love machines that are overly complicated and may be completely useless.

Report from ESC Silicon Valley 2010

Ah, the heady aroma of damp engineers! It’s raining in Silicon Valley, where the 2010 Embedded Systems Conference is getting off the ground at San Jose’s McEnery Convention Center.

ESC is primarily an industry event. In the past there’s been some lighter fare such as Parallax, Inc. representing the hobbyist market and giant robot giraffes walking the expo. With the economy now turned sour, the show floor lately is just a bit smaller and the focus more businesslike. Still, nestled between components intended to sell by the millions and oscilloscopes costing more than some cars, one can still find a few nifty technology products well within the budget of most Hack a Day readers, along with a few good classic hacks and tech demos…

[Read more...]

NXT hacks: tanks and heaters

Here’s a double-dose of Lego NXT goodness; a robotic tank and an automatic aquarium heater.

The image to the left is a robotic tank powered by the popular Lego Mindstorms NXT kit. The brains rest inside of a tube, including the controller brick, ultrasonic range finder, a gyroscope, and a compass. Two sets of treads surround each edge of the tube making us wonder which end is up? We’ve embedded a video of this beast after the break. You’ll see that the tank is incredibly agile in this configuration.

To the right is an aquarium heater. [Dave's] kid were growing some tiny water dwellers which we’ve always know as Sea-Monkeys. The problem is that the tank needs to be between 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit for the little shrimp to thrive. He dug out his NXT controller and paired it up with the Lego temperature sensor and a dSwitch relay. This setup monitors the Aquarium for temperatures between 72-78 degrees and switches a lamp on an off to regulate the temperature. This keeps his kids and the stagnant pool happy.

Now that we’ve whet your appetite for NXT check out the wiimote operated NXT Segway and the NXT Sudoku solver.

[Read more...]

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