You Wouldn’t Download A House

Shelter is one of the most basic of human needs, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we continually come up with new ways to build homes. Most building systems are open source to an extent, and the WikiHouse project tries to update the process for the internet age. 

WikiHouse is a modular building system similar to structural insulated panels (SIPs) but designed to be made on a CNC and insulated in the shop before heading to the site. Using this system, you can get the advantages of a manufactured home, but in a more distributed manner. Plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) can be used to make up the chassis of the blocks which can then be assembled very quickly on site versus traditional wooden construction.

One of the more interesting aspects of WikiHouse is that it takes design for disassembly seriously. How many houses have parts that are still good when they’re demolished to make way for something new? In most places, the good is hauled to the dump along with the bad because it isn’t economical to separate the two. Building with end of life in mind makes it so much easier to recover those materials and not waste them. There are certainly examples of careful material recovery, but they’re few and far between.

If you’re looking for some other ways to quickly build a house from wood, checkout the PlyPad or Brikawood.

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CNC Scroll Saw Makes Promising First Cuts

When we talk about CNC machines, we almost invariably mean a computer controlled router. Naturally you can do other forms of automated cutting, say using a laser or a water jet, but what about adding computer control to other types of saws? [Andrew Consroe] recently put together a postmortem video about this experimental CNC scroll saw. While he never quite got it working reliably, we think his approach is absolutely fascinating and hope this isn’t the last we see of the idea.

Those who’ve used a scroll saw in the past might immediately see the challenge of this build: while a router bit or laser beam can cut in any direction, a scroll saw blade can only cut in one. If you tried to make a sharp turn on a scroll saw, you’ll just snap the fragile blade right off. To work around this limitation, [Andrew] came up with the brilliant rotary table that can be seen in the video after the break.

By combining motion of the gantry with table rotation, he’s able to keep the blade from ever making too tight a turn. Or at least, that’s the theory. While the machine works well enough with a marker mounted in place of the blade, [Andrew] says he never got it to the point it could reliably make cuts. It sounds like positioning errors would compound until the machine ended up moving the work piece in such a way that would snap the blade. Still, the concept definitely works; towards the end of the video he shows off a couple of pieces that were successfully cut on his machine before it threw the blade.

While we’ve actually seen DIY scroll saws in the past, this is the first computer controlled one to ever grace the pages of Hackaday. While some will no doubt argue that there’s no sense building one of these now that laser cutters have reached affordable prices, we absolutely love this design and how much thought went into it. At the very least, we figure this it the beefiest doodle-drawing robot ever constructed. Continue reading “CNC Scroll Saw Makes Promising First Cuts”

A Cyberdeck Built With Ergonomics In Mind

With a new decade looming over us, the hot new thing for hackers and makers everywhere is to build cyberdecks to go with the flashy black-and-neon clothing that the sci-fi films of old predicted we’d all be wearing come next year. [Phil Hagelberg] has been designing one based on his own ergonomic keyboard, prioritizing not only form but also function.

The Atreus mechanical keyboard has a split layout that foregoes the traditional typewriter-inherited staggered arrangement in favor of one that better fits the user’s hands. The reduced number of keys limits hand movement for a more comfortable writing experience, however if you use function keys often, the trade-off is that you’ll need to use an auxiliary key to access them.

The deck [Phil] documents for us here is built from the ground up around that same design and aims to be small enough for travel, yet pleasant enough for serious use. It’s gone through four revisions so far, including an interesting one where the keyboard is laid out on the sides for using while standing up. As for the brains of the machine, the past revisions have used different flavors of Raspberry Pi and even a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone, though the latest model has a Pine64 running the show. How much has changed between each finished prototype really goes to show that you don’t have to get it right the first time, and it’s always good to experiment with a new idea to see what works.

[Phil] is now moving onto a fifth prototype, and hopes to eventually sell kits for building the whole cyberdeck along with the kits already available for the standalone keyboard. We’ve been struck by the creativity shown in these cyberdeck builds, which range from reusing retro computer shells to completely printing out a whole new one for a unique look. We can’t say for sure if this custom form-factor will eventually surpass mass-produced laptops, but it sure would be hella cool if it did.

Putting More Tech Into More Hands: The Robin Hoods Of Hackaday Prize

Many different projects started with the same thought: “That’s really expensive… I wonder if I could build my own for less.” Success is rewarded with satisfaction on top of the money saved, but true hacker heroes share their work so that others can build their own as well. We are happy to recognize such generosity with the Hackaday Prize [Robinhood] achievement.

Achievements are a new addition to our Hackaday Prize, running in parallel with our existing judging and rewards process. Achievements are a way for us to shower recognition and fame upon creators who demonstrate what we appreciate from our community.

Fortunately there is no requirement to steal from the rich to unlock our [Robinhood] achievement, it’s enough to give away fruits of price-reduction labor. And unlocking an achievement does not affect a project’s standings in the challenges, so some of these creators will still collect coveted awards. The list of projects that have unlocked the [Robinhood] achievement will continue to grow as the Hackaday Prize progresses, check back regularly to see the latest additions!

In the meantime, let’s look at a few notable examples that have already made the list:

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Superb Wood Floor Inlay Shows Off Computer-Augmented Tools

It’s been a few years since we first started hearing about “tools of the future changing the way we work” but this astounding whole-room floor inlay might be the best argument for them yet.

The Shaper Origin

A couple of years ago we wrote a hands-on preview of a unique tool called the Shaper Origin. If a milling machine is classically defined as having a stationary tool head with moving stock, the Origin is the reverse. To use an Origin the user adheres specially marked tape to the stock material, then holds the origin down and moves it much like a hand router.

The Origin has a camera which tracks the fiducial patterns on the tape, allowing it to know its precise position, even across an entire room. The operator sees a picture on the screen of the tool that guides them with superimposed lines, while the tool head makes its own precision adjustments to perfectly cut the design in the X, Y, and Z.

Floor in Progress

But what do you use a tool like this for? Cutting boards, small tables, and toy blocks are fine examples but don’t highlight any unique features of the tool. Many could just as easily be made using a ShopBot, X-Carve, Carvey, or any of their ilk. What you can’t do with any of those tools (or really anything besides manual labor, endless patience, and master skill) is inlay an entire floor in situ.

[Mark Scheller] (eight time winner of Wood Floor of the Year awards) used an Origin to cut a curvaceous 22 foot long rendition of the first 9 bars of Handel’s Passacaglia into the floor of a lucky homeowner’s music room. Without decades of practice, it’s difficult to imagine doing this any way besides with a Shaper Origin. You can’t put an entire room into a CNC router. The individual floorboards could be cut, but that would be tedious and increasingly difficult as the room gets larger. With the Origin it seems almost trivial. Do the design, place the marking tape, and cut. The same model is used to cut the inlays for a perfect fit. This is an incredible example of a unique use for this unusual tool!

The PlyPad: CNC Machine Yourself A Tiny House

The Maslow CNC project is a CNC mill for sheet woodwork that is designed to be as inexpensive as possible and to be assembled by the end user. They’ve dropped us a line to tell us about a recent project they’ve undertaken as part of a collaboration to produce the PlyPad, a tiny house for Kenton Women’s Village, a project to tackle homelessness among women in part of the City of Portland.

Their write-up is a fascinating look at the issues surrounding the design and construction of a small dwelling using CNC rather than traditional methods. As an example their original design featured an attractive sawtooth roofline with multiple clerestory windows, but sadly a satisfactory solution could not be found to the problem of keeping it waterproof and they were forced to adopt a more conventional look.

The walls of the building are a ply-foam bonded sandwich, and the house is constructed in 4 foot sections to match the width of a sheet of ply. There are several section designs with built-in furniture, for example containing a bed, or storage space.

This house was designed to be part of a community with central washing and sanitary facilities, so it does not incorporate the bathroom you might expect. However it is not impossible to imagine how sections could be designed containing these, and could be added to a full suite of construction choices. We are reminded of its similarity to the WikiHouse project.

We covered the Maslow project back in 2016, it is especially pleasing to see that it has been something of a success.