30 Holiday Gifts Created by Independent Designers

2013 Holiday Gift Guide

holiday gift guide

Cat silhouette snowflake ornaments? Check! Quotation mark earring studs? Yes! Full moon wall clock? Got it! DNA sequencer? Sho ‘nuf.

These are just a few of the fantastic things on our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide featuring original designs from Ponoko customers.

We’ve selected 30 different products this year to fit all budgets and suit everyone from your sister to your boss.

Check out our Gift Guide on Pinterest, and support independent designers this holiday season!

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Laser cutting wood to make the Stewart Platform

Keeping projects in balance with DIY robotic device

The Stewart platform is an ingenious robotic device that provides flexible movement of a working surface across six degrees of freedom. Often used to support flight simulators and telescopes, they are also an essential component of many serious university projects.

After observing that more time is often spent on preparing a reliable platform than on the project itself, Dan Royer has set out to build a standard platform that universities can make use of across a range of projects.

Large Stewart platforms use hydraulics to manipulate heavy loads quickly and precisely. Currently, Dan’s version works on a smaller scale using a platform built from laser cut wood with stepper motors providing motion control.

It is quite a challenge to deliver mechanical precision that is also strong and smooth when in motion. The test rigs that Dan has constructed are powered by Adafruit’s stepper motor controller boards, all driven by an Arduino. The task of keeping all six stepper motors working together is particularly tricky, so in pursuit of the most stable outcome the Gcode demo software is available as an open source download on github.

Marginally Clever via Hack a Day

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Spin your own Wool Yarn with the Electric Eel Wheel

Maurice Ribble designs a hardware hit for fiber hobbyists.

Spinning wheels always bring to mind fairy tales: Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold in exchange for a maiden’s first born child, Sleeping Beauty cursedly pricking her finger on the spindle.

But luckily, Maurice Ribble’s story isn’t so grim (pun intended.) Maurice is a computer engineer who lives with his wife Emily in the Boston area. “I always say my wife’s first love is knitting because she’s done it for much longer than she’s known me,” he says.

Emily often spins her own yarn for her knitting projects and totes a manual spinning wheel to her knitting group. “The mechanics of the spinning wheel were fascinating to my engineering mind and her need to travel with it gave me some great reasons to set about making a very portable, electric spinning wheel,” Maurice explains.

Soon he had requests from Emily’s friends to make them one too. “One thing lead to another, and now you can buy them on the internet,” he says. And lots of people are buying them.

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Gear up for laser cutting

Vintage technical publication still grooving after all those years

Before we had those nifty little electronic transistors to build nicknacks and devices out of, machines and the designers behind them relied on mechanical precision to perform tasks. Bringing to light the 1868 publication by Henry T Brown, 507 Movements reveals just how ingenious some of those mechanisms can be… and how relevant they are for today.

Even better than simply a trip down memory lane, this magical repository is just itching to be applied in some 21st century laser cutting projects.

In previous posts, we have taken a look at online 3D mechanical resources and the very handy Gear Template Generator that help to de-mystify mechanical devices. Both of these tools help to get gears working right, but what if you need a little help figuring out which gears or mechanisms to use? That’s where 507 Movements shines.

The movements are represented in both static and selected animated drawings that are kind of hypnotic yet educational at the same time.

To demonstrate how nifty geared mechanisms can be, we’ve included an impressive video after the break (assuming gears are what gets you groovin’) of some creative cogs in action.   (more…)

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Getting started with Arduino (from nothing)

A step-by-step “idiot’s” guide.

Arduino has made it easier than ever before to build sophisticated electronics projects. That being said, there is still a significant learning curve for people who have absolutely no idea what they are doing when it comes to electronics.

This “Beginner’s Guide” for the Arduino by Brad Kendall is a great introduction. It starts from the very beginning and assumes no knowledge whatsoever. If you want to make something with an Arduino and you don’t know how a breadboard works, this is the guide for you. It will walk you through setup and your first couple projects.

Also be sure to check out the official Arduino Getting Started and Tutorial pages.

Via makeuseof


Taylor Gilbert is a proponent of creative technology including Arduino, Processing, and repurposed hardware. Follow him @taylor_gilbert

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Mechanical characters made easy

Disney Research develops computational design tool for animated figures

Creating mechanised automatons and toys has long been the domain of highly specialised engineers and designers. Yet even for them, it often takes much trial and error to get those tricky movements looking right. This process may soon become something we can all do thanks to a new set of software tools being developed by Disney Research.

The joint efforts of teams in Zurich and Boston were recently presented at ACM SIGGRAPH 2013. It is not clear at this point in time whether the software will be released for the general public any time soon, but the progress they have made is exciting to see.

Read about the set of tools that Disney Research are working on after the break, along with a video that shows both the software in action and some neat 3D printed mechanical critters.   (more…)

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Tracking the 17 year cicadas with an Arduino

Prepare for the coming swarmageddon with an excellent introduction to Arduino.

If you live in the Northeast USA, you probably know that the 17 year cicadas with soon emerge from the ground to serenade you with their surprisingly annoying mating calls. If are not lucky enough *cough* to live in the path of what has been called “swarmageddon”, the video will catch you up on the basics.

Radiolab, a podcast and public radio show, has put together an easy-to-follow set of instructions on how to build a soil thermometer with an Arduino and some basic parts. They even have the code ready for use. The cicadas emerge when the soil 8″ below the surface reaches 64º F (18º C). After the building the kit and measuring the soil temperature where you live, upload the result and your location on their site to help track the great emergence.

Via Hack a Day


Taylor Gilbert is a proponent of creative technology including Arduino, Processing, and repurposed hardware. Follow him @taylor_gilbert

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Custom circuit boards with an Othermill CNC mill

Easily make circuit boards, jewelry, and other detailed objects with this new desktop CNC.

There are a lot of options for CNC mills right now (and I mean a lot), but it’s rare to see one with the precision necessary to mill a custom circuit board. Finding one at a reasonable cost is simply unheard of.

The Othermill from Otherfab fills that need nicely. With it you can quickly and easily mill any circuit board your heart desires. Now all of your projects can have circuits seamlessly integrated into the design. Since it is compatible with any 1/8″ bit (like a dremel), it can also be used for a variety of other applications from jewelry to precisely machined mechanical parts.

Currently raising funds on Kickstarter, the Othermill started at $1000 for early adopters.
(more…)

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Botanicus Interacticus turns living plants into highly responsive interfaces

A new approach to digital interaction through . . . plants?

Using a single wire placed in the soil, Botanicus Interacticus transforms a living plant into a sophisticated interface. Unlike earlier methods that only identify contact, Botanicus Interacticus uses Touché sensing technology to allow for a range of precise and engaging interactions.

Botanicus Interacticus enables us to use gestures as sliding the fingers on the stem of the orchid, detecting touch and grasp locations of a bamboo, tracking proximity between a human and a plant, and estimating the amount of touch contact leading to a rich amount of interaction possibilities.

Botanicus Interacticus is being developed at Disney Research by Ivan Poupyrev in collaboration with Philipp Schoessler, Jonas Loh/Studio NAND, and Munehiko Sato. Be sure to watch the two videos after the jump to learn about the project.
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NASA launches three smartphone satellites into orbit

Consumer hardware and open source software help build a $3500 satellite.

NASA recently put three nanosatellites powered by Google HTC Nexus One smartphones into orbit. Dubbed PhoneSats, they are about the size of a coffee mug. The satellites are intended to demonstrate how the rapidly decreasing cost and increasing power of off the shelf hardware and open source software can be used for a new generation of accessible, low-cost space research.
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