An image of a grey plastic carrying case, approximately the size of an A5 notebook. Inside are darker grey felt lined cubbies with a mirror, piece of glass, a viewfinder, and various small printed parts to assemble a camera lucida.

Camera Lucida – Drawing Better Like It’s 1807

As the debate rages on about the value of AI-generated art, [Chris Borge] printed his own version of another technology that’s been the subject of debate about what constitutes real art. Meet the camera lucida.

Developed in the early part of the nineteenth century by [William Hyde Wollaston], the camera lucida is a seemingly simple device. Using a prism or a mirror and piece of glass, it allows a person to see the world overlaid onto their drawing surface. This moves details like proportions and shading directly to the paper instead of requiring an intermediary step in the artist’s memory. Of course, nothing is a substitute for practice and skill. [Professor Pablo Garcia] relates a story in the video about how [Henry Fox Talbot] was unsatisfied with his drawings made using the device, and how this experience was instrumental in his later photographic experiments.

[Borge]’s own contribution to the camera lucida is a portable version that you can print yourself and assemble for about $20. Featuring a snazzy case that holds all the components nice and snug on laser cut felt, he wanted a version that could go in the field and not require a table. The case also acts as a stand for the camera to sit at an appropriate height so he can sketch landscapes in his lap while out and about.

Interested in more drawing-related hacks? How about this sand drawing bot or some Truly Terrible Dimensioned Drawings?

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2022 Sci-Fi Contest: A Friendly Wall Drawing Robot

Drawing on walls is fine for children, but adults tend to get bored quickly with such antics. Even more so when they realize who is responsible for cleaning up afterwards. Instead, consider delegating those duties to a friendly helper by the name of Fumik, as [engineer2you] has done.

Fumik, who looks like a cute little jellyfish, can draw pictures up to 5 meters wide and 3 meters high, making for a massive canvas. Powered by an Arduino Mega 2560 outfitted with a CNC shield, a pair of stepper motors drive pulleys with toothed belts to move Fumik to various positions along the wall. Another smaller stepper motor is used to drive the pen forwards and backwards as needed. Fumik can be programmed to trace out various designs in SVG format. These must be converted to code and programmed into the Arduino, at which point Fumik can begin work, drawing on the wall with its pen.

It’s a fun build, and based on photos shared by [engineer2you,] Fumik is quite able at drawing clean and neat designs without a lot of smudging or jagged lines. As a bonus, it’s easy to swap out the pen, so multicolored designs can be drawn in multiple passes.

We’ve seen other robot drawing builds before, too, like this capable portrait artist. Video after the break.

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A portrait-drawing robot on a table

Drawing Robot Creates Portraits Using Pen, Paper And Algorithms

Although the market for hand-drawn portraits largely collapsed following the invention of photography, there’s something magical about watching an artist create a lifelike image using nothing but a pencil, some paper, and their fine motor skills. Watching a machine do the same is a similarly captivating experience, though often the end result is not so great. Trying to fix this deficiency, [Joris Wegner] and [Felix Fisgus] created the Pankraz Piktograph which seems to do a pretty good job at capturing faces. They were inspired by classic picture-drawing automatons, and made a 21st-century version to be used in museums or at events like trade shows.

The operation of the Piktograph is very simple: you stand in front of the machine, look into the camera and take a selfie. If you like what you see, the robot will then begin to draw your portrait on a piece of paper. It does this using two human-like arms which are made from aluminium and driven by two stepper motors. An ordinary ballpoint pen is held in a spring-loaded carrier, which provides just enough pen-to-paper pressure to reliably draw lines without lifting off or scratching the paper. We can’t help but be impressed with the overall look of the machine: with a sleek, powder-coated aluminium case and a stainless steel stand it’s a work of art by itself.

Inside, the Piktograph is powered by a Raspberry Pi 3, which runs a rather sophisticated algorithm to generate a vector image which doesn’t take too long to draw, but still results in a recognizable image of the subject. The makers’ thesis goes into quite some detail to explain the process, which uses Canny edge detection to create an outline drawing, then fills in the empty bits to create bright and dark areas. A certain amount of noise and wigglyness is added to the lines to give it a more “handmade” feel, and the resulting drawing is divided into continuous lines for efficient drawing by the plotter.

We’ve seen several types of specialized art robots before, capable of drawing portraits with a pen, painting them, or even using an Etch-a-Sketch, but [Joris] and [Felix]’s creation seems to win on speed, workmanship, and the quality of the end result. Video embedded after the break.
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Retrotechtacular: The Drama Of Metal Forming

It may seem overwrought, but The Drama of Metal Forming actually is pretty dramatic.

This film is another classic of mid-century corporate communications that was typically shown in schools, which the sponsor — in this case Shell Oil — seeks to make a point about the inevitable march of progress, and succeeds mainly in showing children and young adults what lay in store for them as they entered a working world that needed strong backs more than anything.

Despite the narrator’s accent, the factories shown appear to be in England, and the work performed therein is a brutal yet beautiful ballet of carefully coordinated moves. The sheer power of the slabbing mills at the start of the film is staggering, especially when we’re told that the ingots the mill is slinging about effortlessly weigh in at 14 tons apiece. Seeing metal from the same ingots shooting through the last section of a roller mill at high speed before being rolled into coils gives one pause, too; the catastrophe that would result if that razor-sharp and red-hot metal somehow escaped the mill doesn’t bear imagining. Similarly, the wire drawing process that’s shown later even sounds dangerous, with the sound increasing in pitch to a malignant whine as the die diameter steps down and the velocity of the wire increases.

There are the usual charming anachronisms, such as the complete lack of safety gear and the wanton disregard for any of a hundred things that could instantly kill you. One thing that impressed us was the lack of hearing protection, which no doubt led to widespread hearing damage. Those were simpler times, though, and the march of progress couldn’t stop for safety gear. Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: The Drama Of Metal Forming”

Cerebral Palsy Tool Assistant

We all deserve to create. Some people seem to have the muses hidden in their pocket, but everyone benefits when they express themselves in their chose art form. Each of us has tools, from Dremels to paintbrushes, and many folks here build their own implements. Even if we don’t have our macro-enabled mechanical keyboard or a dual-extrusion printer, we can make due. But what if you couldn’t operate your drill, or mouse, or even a pencil? To us, that would be excruciating and is the reality for some. [Laura Roth] and [Christopher Sweeney] are art teachers designing a tool holder for their students with cerebral palsy so that they can express themselves independently.

On either side of this banner image, you can see pencil drawings from [Sara], who has spastic cerebral palsy. She made these drawings while wearing the tool holder modeled after her hand. Now, that design serves other students and is part of the 2020 Hackaday Prize. The tool holder wraps around the wrist like a wide bracelet. Ribbing keeps its shape, and a tube accepts cylindrical objects, like pencils, styluses, and paintbrushes.The result is that the tip of the pencil is not far from where it would have been if held in the hand, but this sidesteps issues with grip and fine control in hands and fingers.

The print is available as an STL and should be printed with flexible filament to ensure it’s comfortable to wear. Be mindful of digital styluses which may need something conductive between the barrel and user.

Hackers are familiar with the challenges of cerebral palsy, and we’ve enjoyed seeing a variety of solutions over the years like door openers, camera gimbals, and just being altogether supportive.

Single Bolt Transformed Into A Work Of Art

Every once in a while, this job helps you to discover something new and completely fascinating that has little to do with hacking but is worth sharing nonetheless. Turning a single brass bolt into a beautiful Cupid’s bow is certainly one of those times.

Watching [Pablo Cimadevila] work in the video below is a real treat, on par with a Clickspring build for craftsmanship and production values. His goal is to use a largish brass bolt as the sole source of material for a charming little objet d’art, which he achieves mainly with the use of simple hand tools. The stave of the bow is cut from the flattened shank of the bolt with a jeweler’s saw, with the bolt head left as a display stand. The offcuts are melted down and drawn out into wire for both the bowstring and the shaft of the arrow, a process that’s fascinating in its own right. The heart-shaped arrowhead and the faces of the bolt head are bedazzled with rubies; the technique [Pablo] uses to create settings for the stones is worth the price of admission alone. The complete video below is well worth a watch, but if you don’t have the twelve minutes to spare, a condensed GIF is available.

[Pablo]’s artistry reminds us a bit of this not-quite-one-bolt combination lock. We love the constraint of sourcing all a project’s materials from a single object, and we really appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into builds like these.

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Brachiograph: A Simple And Cheap Pen-Plotter

The BrachiGraph project consists out of two parts, the hardware design for a servo-driven drawing arm (pen plotter) and software utilities (written in Python) that allow the drawing arm’s servos to be controlled in order to convert a bitmap image into a collection of lines that can be used to draw an image resembling the original, in a variety of styles. All of the software and designs needed to make your own version can be found on the Github page for the project.


Considering an estimated €14 worth of materials for the project, the produced results are nothing short of amazing, even if the principles behind the project go back to the Ancient Greek , of course. The basic hardware is that of a pantograph, which provides the basic clues for how the servos on the plotter arm are being driven.

The main achievement here is definitely that of minimalism, with three dirt-cheap SG-90 microservos along with some bits of wood, a clothes-peg or equivalent, and of course a pen providing a functional plotter that anyone can assemble on a slow Sunday afternoon from random bits lying around the workshop.