Paper Topo Models with Vector Cutter

If there’s a science fair coming up, this trumps just about any 2D poster. It’s a 3D topographical map of an inactive Slovakian volcano, Poľana. [Peter Vojtek] came up an easy way to generate SVG topo patterns using Ruby.

Topographical data is available through the MapQuest API. You should be able to model just about any part of the world, but areas with the greatest elevation difference are going to yield the most interesting results. The work starts by defining a rectangular area using map coordinates and deciding the number of steps (sheets of paper representing this rectangle). The data are then chopped up into tables for each slice, converted to SVG points, and a file is spit out for the blade cutting machine. Of course you could up the game and laser cut these from more substantial stock. If you have tips for laser-cutting paper without singing the edges let us know. We’ve mostly seen failure when trying that.

The red model explained in [Peter’s] writeup uses small cross-pieces to hold the slices. We like the look of the Blue model which incorporates those crosses in the elevation representation. He doesn’t explain that specifically but it should be easy to figure out — rotate the rectangle and perform the slicing a second time, right?

If you’re looking for more fun with topography we’ve always been fond of [Caroline’s] bathymetric book.

Combination Lock Made Out of Paper

Most projects we feature are of the metal/wire/wood variety, but there is an entire community devoting to making very interesting and intricate things out of paper. Imgur user [Criand] has been hard at work on his own project made entirely out of paper, a combination lock that can hold a secret message (reddit post).

The motivation for the project was as a present for a significant other, wherein a message is hidden within a cryptex-like device and secured with a combination that is of significance to both of them. This is similar to how a combination bike lock works as well, where a series of tumblers lines up to allow a notched shaft to pass through. The only difference here is that the tiny parts that make up the lock are made out of paper instead of steel.

This project could also be used to gain a greater understanding of lock design and locksport, if you’ve ever been curious as to how this particular type of lock works, although this particular one could easily be defeated by a pair of scissors (but it could easily cover rock). If papercraft is more of your style though, we’ve also seen entire gyroscopes and strandbeests made of paper!

An elegant timepiece from paper and a fistful of servos


Segments rise from a sheer white surface to reveal the time in this papercraft digital / analog clock build by [Jacky Mok].

New York-based designer [Alvin Aronson] is responsible for the original, titled “D/A Clock,” which he built as a student at RISD using Corian instead of paper. [Aronson]’s design is also massive in comparison. It measures one meter wide by a half meter tall. Without access to either a 3D printer or to a laser cutter, [Jacky] instead reduces the scale of his interpretation and relies on cardstock as the primary construction material. His experience with papercraft typography leads to a design that anyone with an Exacto knife and a slice of patience should find manageable. [Jacky] ignores the Exacto option, however, and cuts his pieces with a tool we saw earlier this year: the Silhouette Portrait.

The clock’s electronics include an Arduino Uno, a servo motor controller, twenty-eight servos and an RTC breakout board that handles timekeeping. Each servo drives its own segment by sliding a paperclip forward or backward inside a small, hollow aluminum rod. Though we’re still holding out for a video of the finished papercraft build, you can watch a video of Aronson’s original clock after the break and see what inspired [Jacky’s] design.

Need another clock to envy? Last month’s build by [ebrithil] uses twenty-two servos to individually spin the segments. If you prefer that your clocks light up, [Aaron’s] o-scope transformation has you covered.

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Popup book includes a playable piano keyboard


This popup book contains several interactive electronic elements. It’s the creation of [Antonella Nonnis] using mostly scrap materials she had on hand. Of course there are some familiar players behind the scenes that take care of the electronic elements.

Her photo album of the build process sheds light on how she pulled everything together. Instead of adding switches for interactivity she built capacitive touch sensors on the backs of the pages. Strips of copper foil serve as flexibly traces, moving the connections past the binding and allowing them to be jumpered to the pair of Arduino boards which control the show. That’s right, there’s two of them. One is dedicated to running the pop-up piano keyboard seen above. The other deals with Art, Math, and Science elements on other pages.

This continues some of the multimedia work we saw popping up in popups a few years back.

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Papercraft flash reflector

We never use the flash on our point-and-shoot. It has a way of washing out every image we take. But [Joey] has a different solution to the problem. He shows us how to make a papercraft flash reflector that will still light up your subject without washing out everything in the foreground.

[Joey] is perfectly aware that at first glance it would seem you need to have a reflective forehead for this to work. But the reflector is actually set up to aim the flash toward the ceiling. Since most ceilings are white this will reflect the light back into the room, dispersing it at the same time. His write-up includes a link to a PDF of the pattern. After cutting it out, one side is coated in black electrical tape, the other is left white to reflect the light. The design includes a tab that slides into the hot shoe of his Nikon DSLR to position it in front of the pop-up flash.

Astounding papercraft skills result in this working robot

It would have been very hard to believe this is made from paper if we hadn’t seen all the parts being built. As a still image it looks neat, but the speed at which those paper gears turn in the video after the break will certainly leave you slack-jawed. It really is a walking robot made using papercraft (translated).

These are actually being sold as kits, but there’s not much in the way of materials. You’ll get six sheets of paper, some skewers which act as the axles, and a bit of elastic band which stores potential energy when winding-up the model. The genius is in the design, which is printed on those sheets of paper. The build process involves plenty of delicate work. Dozens of cuts lead into hundreds of folds, and that’s before assembly even starts. We’ve never considered building a ship in a bottle, but this might be right up our alley. If you need to give a gift to a tinkerer this should show up high on the idea list.

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Qube robots use well-designed laser-cut acrylic

These robot cubes, called BOXZ, use an interesting interlocking part design to mount and protect the parts within. But to really make them pop you need to color and apply your own papercraft skins.

The actual hardware is quite simple. They’ve used an Arduino, along with motor driver and Bluetooth shields, to control a set of geared DC motors. There’s a battery pack which holds four AA cells and a pair of servo motors which seem to be there to act as arms. This base can then be adorned with sensors to add functionality (line following, wall following, obstacle avoidance, etc.).

Despite the simple appearance of the cube, the chassis is the most complicated part. It uses sixteen pieces of acrylic, but they may also be hand cut from cardboard by printing out templates and gluing them onto the material. The parts are designed with interlocking tabs which we often see used on laser-cut wooden box parts.

We’ve embedded the video presentation of BOXZ after the break.

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