Next-generation electronic printing technologies

New techniques for printing antennae, memory chips, transistors, even solar cells
Printed antenna
Hobby 3D printers of the future look set to be pretty exciting, with a whole swathe of new technologies coming on stream. Above is one example: a 3D-printed antenna made from silver ink. The curved surface of the antenna makes it dramatically more efficient than the typical flat antenna you might find in your cellphone.

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The incredible Folding Ukulele from ‘maker of anything’ Brian Chan

extraordinary project made with Ponoko Personal Factory

Every now and then something shows up in the Showroom that simply astounds everyone of us at Ponoko.

And the Folding Ukulele from artist, craftsman, and origami genius Brian Chan is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about.

With his design already drafted, Brian got in touch with Josh, one of our Community Support Managers, to prototype his project using laser-cutting. As you can see, the design is pretty complex, consisting of multiple flat pieces that need to fit together perfectly to create not just a 3D object — but a musical one! Josh’s reaction to project when he saw the plans? 0_0

Get ready to be zero-eyed yourself when you see Brian’s ukulele in all of its foldable and musical glory:


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4-Track: DIY Printed Robot

A unique printable robot design from
4Track by Kepler on Thingiverse
I’ve had my eye on Thingiverse user ‘Kepler’ since he released the designs for this caterpillar track back in April. He’s now strapped four of the tracks together to make the intriguing beastie shown above. (more…)

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Global Village Construction Set

Another wildly successful Kickstarter campaign: 10 days still remaining

We first came across Marcin Jakubowski’s incredible Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) back in April, following his well-received TED presentation. The concept of GVCS is one of those super-simple, too-good-to-be-true proposals that has real potential to change so many lives.

What is it all about? Imagine a modular, DIY, low-cost, open source, high-performance platform. One that makes it easy to fabricate all of the 50 different industrial machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization complete with modern comforts.

The aim of the GVCS is to lower the barriers to entry into farming, building, and manufacturing. Its a life-size lego set that can create entire economies…

Like all good farmers, Marcin and the guys from Open Source Ecology have certainly been busy.

Opening their project to the hands of the public with a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, things are looking good for the first set of prototypes that have been developed.

Click through for more information about the campaign, as well as a deeper look at the Global Village Construction Set.   (more…)

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Rare Keaton music typewriter

Gorgeous vintage device pops up on Etsy

There’s no Arduino board inside, no laser-cutting or CNC machined components, and it certainly does not print in 3d.

However, this 1950s Keaton Music Typewriter has much to admire. The original version was patented by San Francisco inventor Robert H. Keaton in 1936, and further refinement saw units like the one featured here hit the market in the 1950s.

Some say there are now fewer than a dozen known Keaton Typewriters in existance. Seeing this makes me wonder what other specialised technical devices are floating about. These contraptions have value not only as interesting techno-nostalgia, but they can also provide insights and inspiration for the growing numbers of DIY tinkerers making their own CNC and 3d printing machines.

Keaton Music Typewriter via Monogocoro

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3d printed panoramic ball camera

Toss it up into the air and the whole world says “Cheese”

We all love taking photos. Capturing the emotion and energy of a scene; recording a moment in time so that it can be shared with others. But if you thought pushing a button was fun, you’re in for a treat – because this camera is going airborne.

It has long been known that wide angle panoramic images are closer to what our own eyes see than conventional pictures. Yet unlike conventional pictures, panoramas usually require a complex stitching process. Issues arise such as ghosting from moving objects and full spherical panoramas are affected by the camera tripod.

Until now. The Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera will be featuring in the Emerging Technologies demonstration at SIGGRAPH Asia 2011.

Consisting of 36 fixed-focus camera modules housed in a 3d printed chassis, this not only looks different to every camera you’ve ever seen, but the way that it works is also unique. Sensors onboard detect when the Ball Camera is at the apex of its trajectory, triggering the exposure. The image is then downloaded via USB to be displayed in a spherical panoramic viewer.

There’s a video waiting for you after the break. (more…)

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DIY solutions for people with disabilities

A look at assistive technologies
Bill Rickard and his banjosThis week I came across this fascinating mini-documentary about one-armed banjo builder Bill Rickets. Bill has invented all kinds of machines that make it possible for him to fabricate every single part of his banjos, right down to the nuts and bolts. His goal of making instruments that will be treasured 100 years from now is really inspiring.

It got me thinking about assistive technology and how the DIY approach can result in ingenious solutions to difficult problems. Take for instance this motorised kayak for quadriplegics.
The two pontoons provide stability and each house a small electric motor. The motors are controlled by a ’sip and puff’ mechanism: a straw in the operator’s mouth is sipped or puffed to alter the speed and direction of the craft.

The sip and puff mechanism is an example of how a non-standard human-machine interface can make technology accessible to people without a great deal of dexterity. Montana engineer Ken Yankelevitz makes use of all kinds of these non-standard interfaces to create video-game controllers for quadriplegics. This PlayStation controller features sip/puff tubes, lip-activated micro-switches, toggle switches, and a tongue-controlled joystick:

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Type a cocktail on this typewriter drink mixer

The machine that lets you taste your words.

This elaborate device by Morskoiboy converts words into a drink through the use of a system of syringes, tubes, and colorful syrups. Each button on the typewriter is a syringe, and when it is pressed it pumps a particular colored liquid into the display. Then it can be released into a glass via the tap. From the maker: (more…)

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Robotic claw business card

Laser cut business card grabs attention on Instructables

Imagine this. You’re at a business meeting, and as tradition would dictate, the time has come to exchange cards. How much thought have you put in to what you’re about to hand over?

Most of us go to a reasonable amount of effort with our business cards. Maybe it’s about trying to look professional, or maybe you are hoping to be memorable with your quirky or distinctive style. Well… making an impact and really grabbing someone’s attention within the confines of a 3.5′ x 2″ piece of cardboard just got a whole lot more interesting.

Artist-In-Residence at Instructables, Penfold Merton, used some clever gear template software to generate the mechanism for this remarkable and truly memorable laser cut business card -

…which doubles as a convenient gripping device for when you don’t want to handle other people’s dirty, less mechanical business cards.

The design continues to evolve, so be sure to check out the latest updates on Instructables where you can find all the info you need to build a robotic claw business card of your very own.

Via Instructables

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Swarm Robots team up to conquer… a bookshelf

One step closer to the robot apocalypse

That’s right… those ‘bots are teaming up, and they are getting smarter. It’s the Swarmanoid, a collaborative family of robots that communicate with each other in order to achieve location specific tasks.

“…a swarm-bot is an artefact composed of a number of simpler, insect-like, robots (s-bots), built out of relatively cheap components, capable of self-assembling and self-organising to adapt to its environment.”

In a demonstration of what these little machines are currently capable of, the task was set to retrieve a book off a shelf. Sounds kind of straightforward, until you consider that the team of robots first had to find the bookshelf, communicate the location, and then assemble into units capable of accessing and retrieving the book.

Click through for a short film that won Swarmanoid the Best Video Award at the 2011 AAAI (Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence) conference.  It’s not quite James Cameron, but there is still plenty to get excited about for those robot enthusiasts out there.   (more…)

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