CNC On The Desktop Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, August 26 at noon Pacific for the CNC on the Desktop Hack Chat with Matt Hertel and John Allwine!

Once limited to multi-million dollar machines on the floors of cavernous factories, CNC technology has moved so far downscale in terms of machine size that it’s often easy to lose track of where it pops up. Everything from 3D-printers to laser engravers use computer numeric control to move a tool to some point in three-dimensional space, and do it with unmatched precision and reproducibility.

CNC has gotten so pervasive that chances are pretty good that there’s a CNC machine of some sort pretty close to everyone reading this, with many of those machines being homebrew designs. That’s the backstory of Pocket NC, a company that was literally started in a one-bedroom apartment in 2011 by Matt and Michelle Hertel. After a successful Kickstarter that delivered 100 of their flagship five-axis desktop CNC mills to backers, they geared up for production and now turn out affordable machine tools for the masses. We’ve even seen some very complex parts made on these mills show up in projects we’ve featured.

For this Hack Chat, we’ll be joined by Pocket NC CTO and co-founder Matt Hertel and John Allwine, who recently joined the company as Principal Software Engineer. We’ll discuss not only Pocket NC’s success and future plans, but the desktop CNC landscape in general. Drop by with your questions regarding both the hardware and the software side of CNC, about turning an idea into a business, and where the CNC world and next-generation manufacturing will be heading in the future.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, August 26 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones baffle you as much as us, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Open And Sustainable Engineering Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, August 19 at noon Pacific for the Open and Sustainable Engineering Hack Chat with Joshua Pearce!

Since the first of our hominid ancestors learned to pick up a rock and make it into a tool, we humans have been using our engineering skills to change the world. For most of the 2 million or so years since that first technological leap, natural materials like stone and wood were the focus of our engineering projects, and except for a few tantalizing remnants, most of what was built has returned to the Earth whence it came.

Then we discovered other materials; we learned to free metals from rocks and how to harvest the fossilized hydrocarbon remains of ancient plants. Iron, aluminum, plastic, and silicon became our stock in trade, and the planet is now layered so thick with these materials and the byproducts of harvesting them that a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene Epoch, has been proposed to cover this time of human activity and its impact on the geological record.

But if we humans are clever enough to make such an impact, we should be clever enough to think our way out of the mess, and wise enough to see the need. That’s where the efforts of Dr. Pearce’s research at the Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology (MOST) lab are focused. Dr. Pearce envisions a sustainable future powered by pervasive solar photovoltaic systems and using open-source technologies like 3D printing to drive new models for manufacturing. We’ve recently seen interesting work from his lab, like this grinder that makes custom compression screws for plastic recycling. The MOST page on Hackaday.io is filled with other great examples of the technology that supports their mission, from low-cost environmental testing instruments to 3D-printable microfluidics.

Dr. Pearce will join us on the Hack Chat to talk about open and sustainable engineering. Be sure to stop by with your questions and to find out what you can do to engineer a brighter future, starting right in your own shop.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, August 19 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones baffle you as much as us, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

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Hackaday Prize: Cal-Earth Is Digging Deep To Shelter Those In Need

For the average person, a government order to shelter in place or stay at home comes with some adjustments. Many changes are cerebral: we navigate vast expanses of togetherness with our families while figuring out how to balance work, life, and newfound teaching roles. Other changes are physical, like giving each other enough space to be successful. A lucky few can say that not much has changed for them personally. No matter what your position is in this thing, if you have a place to shelter, you’re doing better than 20% of the world’s population.

CalEarth founder Nader Khalili leads from the top of a dome in progress.

An estimated 1.6 billion people, including those who are homeless and those who are refugees, are living without adequate shelter. The need for shelter is a cornerstone of human well-being, and yet building a home for oneself can seem totally out of reach. After all, most people aren’t qualified to build a habitable structure without an architect, an engineer or two, and a team of construction workers with heavy equipment. Or are they?

It all depends on the design and materials. Dome structures have been around for centuries, and the idea of using packed earth to build walls is a tried and true concept. Architect Nader Khalili perfected a blend of the two concepts with his SuperAdobe construction system, which employs long sandbags filled with moistened earth. Khalili opened the California Institute of Earth Architecture (CalEarth) in 1991 to explore the possibilities of SuperAdobe and to educate others in the building process.

I grew up among the poor. I am one of nine children, and constantly knew need. I never forgot, so now I’m responding.    — Nader Khalili

This year, the Hackaday Prize is teaming up with CalEarth to push their widely accessible concept of sustainable living into the future. As with our other three non-profits, this effort is twofold. The open call challenge invites you to design sustainable add-ons for SuperAdobe homes that expand their livability and are simple to build and use. Throughout June and July, our CalEarth Dream Team members are working to find ways to automate the process so that these homes can be built much faster, and in turn help more people.

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Is That A Mars Habitat? A Submarine? A Spaceship? Nope: It’s Home.

[Jan Körbes], an architect living with his daughter in Berlin, specializes in recycling materials. Inspired by discarded grain silos he saw across the Netherlands, he converted one into a micro-home that you would almost expect to see on the surface of mars. The guided tour in the video below give a pretty good feel for the space station feel of the abode.

A lot of the silo house’s design was inspired by [Körbes’] childhood of growing up on boats. It’s exceptionally functional and nearly every nook and cranny of the home can be altered, repurposed, and changed back. For instance: the two pantries on the main floor used to the toilet and shower, but since the silo home is currently set up at ZK/U — Center for Arts and Urbanistics in Berlin — they make use of the facilities there instead.

True to his specialization of creative recycling , a lot of the materials for the house were either donated, or bought at a steep discount due to various reasons. For instance, the windows were a small, unpopular size for most houses but work well here. This led to an evolving design of the house as it was being built, but everything [Körbes] and his daughter need is present inside of fourteen square metres on three floors.

Under the floor on the main level is a bathtub with infrared heating — the cover doubling as the dining table with feet dangling into the tub underneath. The kitchen has a small oven, an old camp stove, and fridge — enough for two people — and the sink uses a foot-activated button so the [Körbes’] use only as much water as they need. A nearby small wood stove with an extendable wood storage basket heats the space.

The house’s electrical (including a solar battery) and water systems are tucked into the basement beside the books, keeping the heavier objects low in such a tall and narrow dwelling. Larger rainwater collection tanks (a hack we’re quite fond of) surrounding the silo house also add ballast in case of storm.

With a two metre ceiling height on the main floor and nearly as much in the bunking quarters upstairs — accessed by a climbing wall, [Körbes] says the space feels much larger than you would expect. Large enough, at least, to host a standing record of a 38-person party. It’s fun to see the ingenuity that goes into tiny living space design. If you missed it, check out these CNC plywood designs for building homes.

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Fixing The Future

[iFixit] (who we’ve posted about many times before) has launched a passionate manifesto promoting the skills and knowledge of repair as a solution to technological consumerism and waste. They use powerful footage of electronic waste dumps in Ghana to make the point that we must collectively change the way we use and relate to our high technology–take a look after the break.

The manifesto rallies against the practice of withholding repair knowledge such as manuals, error codes and schematics–putting responsibility in the hands of manufacturers–but also makes it clear that it is up to every one of us to inform ourselves and to value functionality over novelty.

Considering the many-faceted resource crisis that we are headed towards, any efforts to push our behavior towards a sustainable and considerate way of life should be considered. As hackers we repair, reuse and rethink technology as part of our craft–but we are also privileged by our enthusiasm for technical challenges. The real battle is to disseminate the kind of knowledge and skills we possess into the general population. This is where the heart of [ifixit]’s message comes into play: the creation of an open, editable online repair manual for every electronic device. If you have something to teach, why not pop over and help expand their database?

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