“Counting box” also saves calculators from small children

[Nathan]‘s son really loves numbers and counting, and one of his favorite things to do is add 1 to a calculator over and over again. Being the awesome dad that he is, [Nathan] built his son a counting box that has a 10-digit rotary switch and two arcade buttons to add and subtract.

One goal of the project was to have the counting box retain memory of the display while being powered off. The easiest way to do this is to write the display data to the ATmega’s EEPROM. This EEPROM is only rated for 100,000 write cycles (although in practice it’s much higher), so [Nathan] included a 24LC256 in a little spasm of over-engineering. All the electronics are laid out on perf board, and the case is constructed from bamboo that was laser cut by Ponoko. The quality of the case itself is fairly remarkable – we’re really impressed with the finish and the magnetic battery access door.

From experience, we know that playing with an HP-15C eventually leads to a broken calculator and having our Nintendo taken away. We’re really happy for [Nathan]‘s son, and wish we had our own counting box at his age.

BAMF2011: Google’s SKPR Bot, not for arachnophobes

Google’s Maker Faire exhibit space is swarmed with robots…er, androids. Amidst some cool bipeds and Segway-balancers, our inner sci-fi nerd was most smitten with this hexapod design, which they’ve dubbed SKPR Bot. The “Skipper” is on hand to showcase the ease of various Google technologies: SketchUp, Android OS and the Android Open Accessory Development Kit. The whole project came together in less than six weeks.

18 servos are mounted to a framework designed in SketchUp and laser-cut by Ponoko. The low-level servo PWM control is handled by the Dev Kit (essentially a rebadged Arduino Mega, as we’ve seen), while an Android OS phone provides a slick GUI and handles all the inverse kinematics calculations required as the robot takes each step. The coolest bit is that it’s all up for grabs. At this moment you’ll have to scrounge around the ’net a bit to find the plans and code, but some time post-Faire they plan to bring everything together at the SKPR Bot site.

Nixie tubes live in a cool box

This set of four Nixie tubes display the number of people following bildr on Twitter. That’s neat; it uses an Arduino and some open source driver boards. But what caught out eye is the enclosure. The image above shows only half, but when assembled it’s a nice little cube that keeps the insides safe. This was laser cut using the Ponoko service and kicks off a design contest. Come up with the best idea for using 4 Nixies, their drivers, and $50 worth of Ponoko’s services and they’ll give you the materials to make it happen.

How to design your gears

[Dustyn Roberts] takes us through the process of designing gears for a specific application. Using Inkscape and Ponoko.com [Dustyn] takes us from equation to physical gear. While there is a plugin for Inkscape that allows you to basically drag and drop gears, this writeup will take you through the math to get exactly what you need. Those laser cut wooden gears are pretty cool looking too.

Ponoko launches subscription manufacturing


Ponoko is an on-demand manufacturing service. You submit your design and they’ll cut it out of one of their many materials. The site is built so you can sell your products or designs directly. They recently took a major step with the introduction of Designmake Prime. It’s a monthly subscription based service with many benefits. It lets you submit DXFs for evaluation instead of their standard EPS or SVG. You can request any material you want and they’ll provide direct support. You also get priority in manufacturing queues. While they’ve always offered an à la carte service, this new move puts Ponoko directly in the role of a traditional manufacturer. Offering manufacturing as a service shows their intention of former a relationship with their customers, but at the an individual level, which most manufacturers can’t approach because of scale.

Ponoko first came to our attention when RepRap published an acrylic version of their machine.

[via Fabbaloo]

Lasercut RepRap kit

The RepRap is a self-copying 3D printer. The project has published plans for creating a lasercut acrylic version of the device. They call it a RepStrap since once assembled it could produce printed plastic versions of the machine components, bootstrapping true RepRaps. The plans are available for Ponoko an on-demand product service, and it would cost ~$380 if you used their service. The plans are free, so you could get them manufactured by other means. [vik] is still putting together the assembly instructions. He hopes to have an all inclusive electronics kit at some point too. This is another great step towards putting desktop manufacturing within reach of everyone.