LED wand brings ergonomics to light painting

Quit struggling with hastily patched together electronics for your light painting images. Follow [Madox's] example and build a light painting wand designed with your hand in mind.

You wield it much like a sword, but the only damage it does is to the long-exposure camera pointed its way. The RGB LED strip is controlled by the guts of a tiny little wireless router, a TP-Link TL-WR703N. This lets [Madox] connect using an Android device to upload different images. It also lets you tweak the settings like adjusting the timing between columns to match your exposure settings. The custom handle design provides a home and mounting plan for everything involved. It was 3D printed at the Sydney Hackerspace.

This isn’t the first light painting device running Linux. We’ve actually seen the Raspberry Pi used in much the same way but that final project involved using an entire recumbent tricycle to move the colored lights.

Fitting a CNC machine, 3D printer, and vinyl cutter in a suitcase

Maker Faire NY is awash with new and interesting computer controlled tools, but the most unusual so far appears to be Popfab, a combination router, 3D printer, and vinyl cutter able to collapse down into a suitcase.

Popfab is the brainchild of [Nadya Peek] and [Ilan Moyer] of the MIT CADLAB. With interchangeable heads for routing PCBs, 3D printing, and vinyl cutting. A conventional machine of this capabilities would have motors all over the place, but [Ilan] used a CoreXY system to make the stepper motors stationary relative to the frame of the machine.

The electronics are standard Printrboard and Pronterface fare, but it’s still a remarkable build that also fits into a suitcase.

Pictures of the machine, the XY system (good luck wrapping your head around that, but I can tell you it relies on the differential movement of the two motors) and the lovely [Nadya] holding up the plastic extrusion head. We’ll get a video up tomorrow. after the break

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Building a bigger Shapeoko router

Hackaday alumni [Will O'Brien] sent in a few projects he’s been working on lately while he’s in the process of upgrading his workspace. He’s building a 1200 x 1200 mm CNC router based on the Shapeoko router, and it sure looks like he’s having fun doing it.

The Shapeoko router is based on the Makerslide open source linear bearing system. This system uses common aluminum extrusions as the frame of a very simple, very inexpensive CNC router. The Makerslide system is designed to be expandable; if you want a larger axis, just bolt in a longer piece of aluminum extrusion. We haven’t seen many Makerslide builds take advantage of this fact, a shame as the stock Shapeoko only has a build area of 200 mm square.

[Will] is expanding this build area to 1200 mm square, but of course this means beefing up some parts of the build. He’s already moved up to very hefty 250 oz/in Nema 23 stepper motors (up from the Nema 17s for a standard Shapeoko), as well as beefing up the motor mount a great deal.

[Will] also sourced a few lengths of cable drag chain (yes, that’s what it’s called) to keep all the wires for his huge CNC routers out of the path of a moving gantry and spinning motors. It looks like he’s got a very nice build shaping up, and we can’t wait to see it in action.

Largest CNC router is controlled by hand

Fresh from this year’s SIGGRAPH is a very interesting take on the traditional X Y-table based CNC machine from [Alec], [Ilan] and [Frédo] at MIT. They created a computer-controlled CNC router that is theoretically unlimited in size. Instead of a gantry, this router uses a human to move the tool over the work piece and only makes fine corrections to the tool path with the help of a camera and stepper motor.

The entire device is built around a hand held router, with a base that contains a camera, electronics, stepper motors, and a very nice screen for displaying the current tool path. After a few strips of QR code-inspired tape, the camera looks down at the work piece and calculates the small changes the router has to make in order to make the correct shape. All the user needs to do is guide the router along the outline of the part to be cut with a margin of error of a half inch.

You can read the SIGGRAPH paper here (or get the PDF here and not melt [Alec]‘s server), or check out the demo video after the break.

Anyone want to build their own?

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Turning a 12 year old mill into a modern workhorse

Even though the Roland MDX-20 CNC mill fetched a pretty penny when it was first made available 12 years ago, there were a few features that made any builder lucky enough to own one scratch their head. The only way for a computer to communicate with this mill was through an RS-232 connection, and instead of a normal control protocol such as GCode, the Roland mill uses a very proprietary software package.

[Johan] fixed these problems and at the same time turned this wonderful machine into a tool for the 21st century. Now, instead of running a very long serial cable to his mill with a serial to USB converter at the end, he can just plug a USB cable into his mill with the addition of an FTDI USB to serial chip wired directly to the mill’s circuit board.

Stock, the Roland mill used a very strange proprietary communications protocol. [Johan] was able to reverse engineer this protocol by tracing out a few simple shapes and curves and taking a highlighter to the printout of the resulting file. Instead of the outdated software package that shipped with his mill, [Johan] can now export tool paths directly from his CAD program and send them over a USB cable.

It really is a shame such a nice machine like [Johan]‘s mill suffered from the glaring shortsightedness of Roland executives 12 years ago, but at least now [Johan] has a machine that should easily last another decade.

I/O extender board and case for a cheap WiFi router

This 3d printed case houses the already small [TP-Link TL-WR703N] but also makes room for a custom expansion board. The expansion board is designed to make the device more hacker friendly, and who doesn’t need a nice case to hold it?

Since the router board already has a USB port (intended for use with USB 3G modems) the add-on acts as a USB hub. The stock USB connector is replaced by a pin header which mates with a DIL socket on the underside of the expansion board. Through the use of an FTDI chip the expander offers three USB ports and a 2×10 pin header to break out the GPIO pins from the router’s processor. Only two USB ports are visible in the image above. That’s because the third is recessed, and an opening has not been added to the enclosure. This struck us as odd until we read that the port is meant to be used with a low-profile thumb drive, essentially adding internal storage for the device.

[Thanks buZz]

Putting scores of Arduinos on the Internet with one router

Like many hackers of late, [Rick] has been experimenting with connecting Arduinos to the Internet with a disused WiFi router and an installation of OpenWRT. Unlike his fellow makers, [Rick] thought it would be wasteful to dedicate a single router to one Arduino project, so he used a small, low power wireless module to connect up to 30 Arduinos to the Internet.

Just as in a few recent builds (1, 2), [Rick] found an old Fonera router sitting in a box at his local hackerspace. After installing OpenWRT, [Rick] connected a very small wireless module to the router’s GPIO pins and patched the firmware to put an SPI bus on the router.

Now, whenever [Rick] wants to connect an Arduino project to the Internet, all he needs is a $4 radio module. This radio module connects to the router, and the router handles the networking requirements of up to 30 DIY projects.

If you’re looking to build an Internet-enable sensor network, we honestly can’t think of a better or cheaper way of going about it. Nice job, [Rick].

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