To exclude musical instruments in the overflowing library of possibility that 3D printing enables would be a disservice to makers and musicians everywhere. For the minds over at [Makefast Workshop], an experimental idea took shape: a single stringed harp.
The TuneFast Harp needed enough notes for a full octave, robust enough to handle the tension of the string, a single tuning mechanism and small enough to print. But how to produce multiple notes on a harp out of only one string? V-grooved bearings to the rescue! The string zig-zags around the bearings acting as endpoints that rotate as its tuned, while the rigid PLA printing filament resists deforming under tension.
After a bit of math and numerous iterations — ranging from complete reconfigurations of part placements to versions using sliding pick mechanisms using magnets! — a melodic result!
The concept behind the twisted string actuator, as it’s known to academia, is as simple as putting a motor on one end of a piece of string, tying the other end off to a load, and putting a few twists in the string. It’s an amazingly simple concept that has been known and used for thousands of years: ballistas and bow-string fire starters use the same theory.
Although the concept of a twisted string actuator is intuitively known by anyone over the age of six, there aren’t many studies and even fewer projects that use this extremely high gear ratio, low power, and very cheap form of linear motion. A study from 2012 (PDF) put some empirical data behind this simple device. The takeaway from this study is that tension on the string doesn’t matter, and more strands or larger diameter strands means the actuator shrinks with a fewer number of turns. Fewer strands and smaller diameter strands take more turns to shrink to the same length.
As for useful applications of these twisted string actuators, there are a few projects that have used these systems in anthropomorphic hands and elbows. No surprise there, really; strings don’t take up much space, and they work just like muscles and tendons do in the human body.
Two strings, two motors, and some very creative software. That’s the magic behind the Plotterbot, which was drawing Daleks when we crossed its path at Maker Faire. This is the Mark II, which was built after cannibalizing Mark I. Unfortunately we can’t tell you what the difference is between the two.
The machine itself is a pretty nice little package. There is a box that hangs on the wall with a motor/spool combination at each end. In the middle of those two is an Arduino Mega with a custom driver shield. It takes an SD card with the drawing files on it. There is also a small touchscreen display which allowed for easy selection of what you’d like drawn on that paper taped to the wall below the unit.
Back when we were running the Trinket contest [Jay] used the Plotterbot to draw a Skull and Wrenches made out of a multitude of smaller Skull and Wrenches. He was nice enough bring that piece of art and present it to us at the Faire. Thanks [Jay]!
Check out all the work going on in the cabinet below this typewriter. The hack which automates a mechanical typewriter is for an art installation, but wouldn’t it be fun to build one of these to use as a résumé printer? It really makes us wish we had an old typewriter sitting around.
It would have been much easier to patch into an electric typewriter, but we have seen the string trick used on those as well. In this case a loop of string attaches to the the bar under each key, allowing a pull from below to type the character. An automotive door lock actuator ([Harvey Moon] tells us they’re not solenoids) connects to the other end of the string for every key. But then you’ve got to have a way to drive the actuators and that’s where the protoboard full of forty relays seen to the right comes into play. That image, which was taken from the demo video after the break, shows the board being testing. We’d guess more wires are added later to multiplex the array as we can’t figure out how the Arduino manages to drive all forty of them as shown. One thing we are sure about, the completed project looks and sounds amazing!
[Dennis Adams’] wreath lights project looks pretty good. But he did some amazing coding to produce a whole set of interesting animated patterns that really seal the deal for the project. Don’t miss the video after the break where he shows off all of his hard work.
He started with a string individually addressable LEDs. These are the 12mm variety like what Adafruit sells (we’ve seen them popping up in a number of projects). To mount each pixel he tried a several different prototypes before settling on a ring that was 14″ in diameter. The design was laser cut from acrylic, with sets of staggered holes to host each ring of LEDs. The final touch was to add ping-pong balls to diffuse the light.
As we mentioned earlier, the light patterns really add the finishing touch to the project, but there is more functionality there too. [Dennis] rolled in the ability to monitor a Twitter feed with the wreath. When he gets a new tweet, a different animation will let him know about it.
Each costume has a circular frame at the top with a set of RGB LED strings attached. To get them to display synchronized patterns an IR transmitter/receiver board was designed and ordered from OSHPark. Each costume has four of these modules so no matter where the wearers are facing it should not break communications. A demo of the synchronized light rings can be seen after the break
[Matt Bell] sends a shout-out to Hackaday by creating a light-painting of our logo with his string plotter. He starts off by setting up a pair of stepper motors which each have a spool to wind and unwind a string. The plotter is made by suspending a stylus between these two strings. In this case, he’s using a wireless LED board (seen above) built from the remote control receiver/transmitter from a toy car. The link above is part of a Flickr set from which you can get the whole story by reading the captions of each image.