Just to be clear, the primary goal of the Papas Inventeurs (Inventor Dads) was to have the kids make something, have fun, and learn. In that light, they enjoyed a huge success. Four children designed, made, and sold laser-cut napkin rings from a booth at the Ottawa Maker Faire as a fun learning process (English translation, original link in French.) [pepelepoisson] documented the entire thing from beginning to end with plenty of photos. Things started at proof of concept, then design brainstorming, prototyping, manufacture, booth design, and finally sales. While adults were involved, every step was done by the kids themselves.
It all began when the kids were taken to a local fab lab at the École Polytechnique and made some laser-cut napkin holders from plywood for personal use. Later, they decided to design, manufacture, and sell them at the Ottawa Maker Faire. Money for the plywood came from piggy banks, 23 different designs made the cut, and a total of 103 rings were made. A display board and signs made from reclaimed materials rounded out the whole set.
In the end, about 20% of people who visited and showed interest made a purchase, and 60 of the 103 pieces were sold for a profit of $126. Of course, the whole process also involved about 100 hours of combined work between the kids and parents and use of a laser cutter, so it’s not exactly a recipe for easy wealth. But it was an incredibly enriching experience, at least figuratively, for everyone involved.
Possibly the biggest takeaway was the way manufacturing involved much more than just pressing “GO” on a laser cutter. Some pieces needed sanding after laser cutting, and each piece got two coats of varnish. If you missed it, [Bob Baddeley] showed how labor, and not materials, ends up being the most expensive part of a product.
One of the first things we learn about computers is the concept of binary ones and zeroes. When we dig into implementation of digital logic, we start to learn about voltages, and currents, and other realities of our analog world. It is common for textbooks to use flow of water as an analogy to explain flow of electrons, and [Glen Anderson] turned that conceptual illustration into reality. He brought his water computer to the downtown Los Angeles Mini Maker Faire this past weekend to show people the analog realities behind their digital devices.
[Glen]’s demonstration is a translation of another textbook illustration: binary adder with two four-bit inputs and a five-bit output. Each transistor is built from a plastic jewel box whose lid has been glued to the bottom to form two chambers. A ping-pong ball sits in the upper chamber, a rubber flap resides in the lower chamber covering a hole, with a string connecting them so a floating ball would lift the flap and expose the hole.
Continue reading “Anderson’s Water Computer Spills The Analog Secrets Of Digital Logic”
Although it’s not an idea that has yet trickled down to $200 printers drop-shipped from China, one of the most innovative ideas in the 3D printing world in the last few years is putting plastic down on a conveyor belt. Yes, MakerBot was doing it back in 2010, but we’re not going to talk about that. Printing on a conveyor belt instead of a static bed allows you to easily print multiples of an object autonomously, without any human interaction. If you’re really clever, you could rotate the hot end 45° and build a piece of plastic that is infinitely long, like the printer [Bill Steele] built, the Blackbelt, or ‘the CAD files might exist somewhere’ Printrbot infinite build volume printer.
At this year’s World Maker Faire, we didn’t see an infinite printer, but we did catch a glimpse of an idea that could reliably take 3D printers into production. It’s a Multiprinter Autonomous 3D Printer, designed and built by [Thomas Vagnini].
The idea of using 3D printers for production and manufacturing is a well-studied problem. Lulzbot has a heated room filled with printers they use to manufacture all their machines. Prusa’s manufacturing facility is similarly well-equipped. However, both of these setups require helper monkeys to remove a part from the bed and set the machine up for the next print.
Instead of a strictly manual process, [Thomas]’ machine uses a sort of cartridge-based system for the printing bed. The glass beds are stored in a cassette, and for the first print, the printer pulls a bed onto the heated build plate through a system of conveyors. When the print is finished, the part and the bed ar fed into a rotating cassette, where it can be removed by a tech, prepped for the next print, and placed back in the ‘bed feeder’. It’s a system that brings the manual intervention cycle time of a 3D printer down to zero. If you’re producing hundreds of parts, this will drastically speed up manufacturing.
While it is a relatively niche idea, this is a very well-designed machine. It’s all laser cut, uses core-XY mechanics, and with the right amount of tuning, it does exactly what it says it will do. It’s not for everybody, but that’s sort of the point of manufacturing parts on a 3D printer.
It’s not Apple IIs, and it’s not Raspberry Pis. The most important computing platform for teaching kids programming is the Texas Instruments graphing calculator. These things have been around in one form or another for almost three decades, and for a lot of budding hackers out there, this was the first computer they owned and had complete access to.
As hacking graphing calculators is a favorite for Maker Faires, we were pleased to see Cemetech make it out to this year’s World Maker Faire in New York last weekend. They’re the main driving force behind turning these pocket computers with truly terrible displays into usable computing platforms.
As you would expect from any booth, Cemetech brought out the goods demonstrating exactly what a graphing calculator can do. The most impressive, at least from a soldering standpoint, is their LED cube controlled by a graphing calculator. The electronics are simple, and just a few 595s and transistors, but this LED cube is taking serial data directly from the link cable on a graphing calculator. Of course, the PCB for the LED cube is designed as an Arduino shield for ease of prototyping, but make no mistake: this is an LED cube controlled by a calculator.
If you can send serial data to a shift register from a graphing calculator, that means you can send serial data to anything, bringing us to Cemetech’s next great build featured this year. It’s an N-gauge model train, with complete control over the locomotive.
There’s a lot more to controlling model trains these days than simply connecting a big ‘ol variac to the tracks. This setup uses Direct Cab Control (DCC), a system that modulates commands for locomotives while still providing 12-15V to the tracks. There’s a good Arduino library, and when you have that, you can easily port it to a graphing calculator.
Cemetech is one of the perennial favorites at Maker Faire, and over the years we’ve seen everything from the Ultimate TI-83+ sporting an RGB backlight and a PS/2 port to a game of graphing calculator Whac-A-Mole. It’s all a great example of what you can do with the programmable computer every 90s kid had, and an introduction to computer programming education, something Cemetech is really pushing out there with some hard work.
There’s a certain class of parts that just can’t be made on a standard 3-axis mill, nor with a 3D printer or a lathe. These parts — weird screws, camshafts, strange gears, or simply a shaft with a keyway (or two) — can really only be made with a rotary axis on a CNC machine. Sure, you could buy a rotary axis for a Haas or Tormach for thousands of dollars, or you could build your own. That’s exactly what [Adam Zeloof] and [Matt Martone] did with their project at this year’s World Maker Faire in New York. It’s the Rotomill, a simple three-axis CNC machine, with a rotary axis, that just about anyone can build.
The design of the Rotomill uses a standard, off-the-shelf Makita rotary tool for the spindle, and uses leadscrews to move the X and Z axes around with NEMA 24 stepper motors. The A axis — the rotary bit — is driven through a worm gear, also powered by a NEMA 24. Right now this provides more than enough power to cut foam, plastic, and wood, and should be enough to cut aluminum. That last feat is as yet untested, but the design is open enough that a much more powerful spindle could be attached.
The software for this machine is a bit weird. For most CNC machines with a rotary axis, the A axis is treated as such — a rotary axis. For the Rotomill, [Adam] and [Matt] are generating G Code like it’s a normal Cartesian machine, only with one axis ‘wrapped’ around itself. This is all done through Autodesk HSM, and a properly configured Arduino running GRBL makes sense of all this arcane geometry.
It’s a great looking machine, and the guys behind it say it’s significantly less expensive than any other machine with a rotary axis. That’s to be expected, as it’s basically a five axis mill with two axes removed. Still, this entire project was built for about $2000, and some enterprising salvage and hacking could bring that price down a bit.
At this year’s World Maker Faire in New York City we’re astonished and proud to run into some of the best projects that are currently in the running for the Hackaday Prize. One of these is Programmable Air, from [Amitabh], and it’s the solution to pneumatics and pressure sensing in Maker and IoT devices.
The idea behind Programmable Air is to create the cheapest, most hacker-friendly system for dealing with inflatable and vacuum-based robotics. Yes, pneumatic robotics might sound weird, but there’s plenty of projects that could make use of a system like this. The Glaucus is one of the greatest soft robotic projects we’ve ever seen, and it turns a bit of silicone into a quadruped robot with no moving parts. The only control you have over this robot is inflating one side or the other while watching this silicone slug slowly crawl forward. This same sort of system can be expanded to a silicone robot tentacle, too.
On display at the Programmable Air booth were three examples of how this device could be used. The first was a simple pressure sensor — a weird silicone pig with some tubing coming out of the nostrils was connected to the Programmable Air module. Squeeze the pig, and some RGB LEDs light up. The second demo was a balloon inflating and deflating automatically. The third demo was a ‘jamming gripper’, basically a balloon filled with rice or coffee grounds, connected to a pump. If you take this balloon, jam it onto an odd-shaped object and suck the air out, it becomes a gripper for a robotic arm. All of these are possible with Programmable Air.
Right now, [Amitabh] has just finalized the design and is getting ready to move into mass production. You can get some updates for this really novel air-powered robotics platform over on the main website, or check out the project over on Hackaday.io.
For one reason or another, the World Maker Faire in New York has become the preeminent place to launch 3D printers. MakerBot did it with the Thing-O-Matic way back when, and over the years we’ve seen some interesting new advances come out of Queens during one special weekend in September.
Today Prusa Research announced their latest creation. It’s the resin printer you’ve all been waiting for. The Prusa SL1 is aiming to become the Prusa Mk 3 of the resin printer world: it’s a solid printer, it’s relatively cheap (kit price starts at $1299/€1299), and it produces prints that are at least as good as resin printers that cost three times as much.
The tech inside the SL1 is about what you’d expect if you’ve been following resin printers for a while. The resin is activated by a bank of LEDs shining through a photomask, in this case a 5.5 inch, 1440p display. Everything is printed on a removable bed that can be transferred over to a separate ‘curing chamber’ after the print is done. It’s more or less what you would expect, but there are some fascinating refinements to the design that make this a resin printer worthy of carrying the Prusa name.
Common problems with a masked SLA printer that uses LEDs and an LCD are the interface between the LCD and the resin, and the temperature of the display itself. Resin is not kind to LCD displays, and to remedy this problem, Prusa has included an FEP film on the bottom of the removable tank. This is a user-replaceable part (technically a consumable, at least to the same extent as a PEI build plate on a filament printer), and Prusa will be selling those as spare parts on their store. The LCD is also cooled; one of the major drawbacks of shining several watts of UV through an LCD is the lifetime of the display. Cooling the display helps, and should greatly increase the lifetime of the printer. All of this is wrapped up in an exceptionally heavy metal case with the lovely hinged UV-opaque orange plastic lid.
Of course, saying you’ve built a resin printer is one thing, but how do the prints look? Exceptional. The Prusa booth at Maker Faire was loaded up with sample prints from the machine, and they’re of the same high quality you would expect from the Form 3D printers that have been the go-to in the resin printer world. The Prusa SLA also works with big-O Open resins, meaning you’re not tied to a single resin vendor.
This is just the announcement of the Prusa resin printer, but they are taking preorders. The price for the kit — no word on how complex of a kit it is — is $1300, while the assembled printer is $1600, with the first units shipping in January.