Ponoko sponsored Arduino project educates kids on DIY electronics

Arduino fun for kids at Swannanoa school

Nice guy Mark Beckett (contributor to the wonderful Shed magazine) got so hooked on Arduino that he decided to pass on his contagious enthusiasm to a group of 10-12 year old school children.  Swannanoa school was all too happy to accept his time and the donated Arduino controllers, and the pupils were all too happy to play with electronics that let them create sparks of magic.

Mark approached Ponoko for the design and laser cutting of the board for mounting the controllers.  The engraved names of sponsors aren’t purely for a feel good factor; the idea is to direct students to their sites for further learning about technology related topics.

Pupils were given task sheets with instructions that had them experiment with various controllers, such as One Wire temperature sensors, photo resistors, opto-isolators, I2C communicators and others.  To encourage further learning during this school holiday project the students were even given Arduino homework – now that’s dedication not to be sneered at.

The course was a success: no one fell asleep in class, most of the students decided to buy Arduino kits for home, and there is demand to have the project repeated next year.   Judging by the smiles on the kids’ faces, they didn’t mind spending their holiday time in the classroom.  No doubt, there were some rather relieved parents who didn’t have to worry about entertaining their offspring over the break.

Ah, it’s always nice to be involved in a positive shaping of young minds.

Related posts:

Jewelry by Black Swan Design

Victoriana of the Long White Cloud

Black Swan Designs re-emerged after the Christchurch earthquake at Mel’s post-quake office (aka home). Fortunately, outsourcing fabrication (especially when the design files are in cloud) means that even a natural disaster can’t stop the Maker wheels from turning. The Black Swan aesthetic is strongly inspired by the Victorian era – a vintage and ornate style that lends itself to traditional jewelry making techniques. However, Mel found that even with her jeweler background, creating the desired aesthetic using conventional jewelry making methods would result in the finished product being priced out of the local market.

Mel decided to try laser cutting to fabricate the Black Swan Designs line of necklaces, earrings, brooches and rings. Most of the highly detailed jewelry is cut from bamboo and black acrylic, and there are plans to introduce paper and 3D printed ceramic into the range, as a shift towards more eco-friendly materials. Once the laser cut pieces arrive at her door, Mel farewells her manicure and diligently removes the backing paper from all the tiny parts. Afterwards the pieces are painstakingly glued together, and findings are attached.A few words from the designer after the jump:

(more…)

Related posts:

Sculpture Exhibition in 3D Printed “Replicas”

Copying for art’s sake to encourage debate over copyrightWhisper Down the Lane concluded with a wrap up lecture just before the weekend, two days before its source exhibition – The Obstinate Object: Contemporary New Zealand Sculpture was due to finish, and while the last 3D printed piece was with the courier, hurriedly making its way down the country from the contributing RepRap machine.

Whisper Down The Lane is a referential art project by Bronwyn Holloway-Smith. It explores the ideas of digital fabrication with regard to copyright and reproduction issues in the world of art – a discussion that is very very slowly starting to creep out of the small tech-meets-art niche into the mainstream awareness.

Bronwyn’s project infiltrated Wellington City Gallery’s exhibition The Obstinate Object and sneakily positioned itself in a space of its own within the gallery rooms. The work is a series of 3D printed miniatures of The Obstinate Object exhibits, created with the agreement from the artists. While the 3D prints are clearly copied from specific art works, they are not intended to be exact replicas, nor are they all printed to the same scale. The miniatures are as much about communicating the digital fabrication process as they are about mimicking the general forms of the originals. The RepRap prints are constrained by the practicalities of the production method: size, material, colour and level of detail – elements that would be thoroughly considered in the original, full size works.The open source nature of the project is integral to the questions it raises – questions that we’ll be coming across more and more as digital fabrication becomes more commonplace.

Related posts:

Wellington’s new Makerspace!

Making enthusiasts can rejoice in taking matters into their own hands

After 3 months of renovations, repairs and randomness, The Wellington Makerspace is finally open for people to turn their ideas into physical things.

The Makerspacers (Makerspacies?) have a workshop for wood-working, a (semi) clean-room, two quiet digital-type spaces and a fledgling chemistry lab. There is a variety of power tools, lathes, band-saws, soldering stations, welding gear etc. Also on the premises are a 3m long CNC Router, a 2m long laser-cutter and an UP! 3D printer. If you can design something, the guys from Makerspace reckon that they have the equipment and expertise in their network to make it.

These making enthusiasts have already gathered a small community – and are hoping to enlarge it… and so on the 14th of June, they are having an opening party… 5.30 until 8.30 pm. If you’re a maker, a fan or just generally curious about how laser-cutters, CNC mills and digital printers work, they welcome you to come along.

See RSVP details on the official invite after the jump

(more…)

Related posts:

Personal Factory Projects for Weddings

Plus Make Your Own wedding stuff with FREE design files!Summer is traditionally the time for weddings. Apparently, back in the day people would marry in June because that’s when they had their annual bath. Bridal bouquets have similar origins – they were used to mask body odor. Seeing that June is nearly here, and the thought of the long awaited annual bath is probably as exciting as the upcoming nuptials, it’s time to roll out some wedding ideas.

Some people dread having to attend a wedding, and if their experience has been that of banal cookie cutter ceremonies, then the sentiment is pretty reasonable. The weddings where the contents of the bar are the main highlight for most guests are a sad abomination and are especially repelling for those with a creative streak.

Often, a lavish wedding doesn’t guarantee an iota of personality, and at the dinner table you find yourself daydreaming about being let loose with a permanent marker or a box of felt pens to escape the whitewash austerity. Of course, then you’d have to answer to the mother of the bride, and you can be pretty certain that there’s a weapons arsenal hidden under her feathered hat. It’s best to keep drinking quietly, while imagining how amazing this wedding would have been had it been you designing it.

“Amazing” is exactly the type of wedding you can magically concoct with some DIY imagination, regardless of the budget. Creative genius will do more with a stack of cardboard and some string than what you’d get from an overpriced generic package. At Ponoko we regularly see designs for wedding related fabrication, and it’s fantastic to come across unique and fully personalized ideas.

Not surprisingly, the availability of digital fabrication services has translated into customised designs for weddings. While fashion design star Iris van Herpen doesn’t specifically aim to address that niche, her elaborate 3D printed dresses can certainly inspire avant-garde wedding gown design.Check out loads more wedding project ideas after the jump:

(more…)

Related posts:

Laser Cutting for Costume Design

And cutting time and cost of making while at itWhen Aaron Davison discovered that the Ponoko NZ hub was only walking distance from him, he was too intrigued not to try out the service.  Since then he’s been using it for al sorts of projects and experiments.  So far, Aaron has produced laser cut 2-D and 3-D costume pieces, buttons and templates from various materials.  He’s experimented with acrylics, Styrene, Bamboo Ply, Eurolite Poplar, leather and card stock.

Aaron’s material selection is guided largely by his experience as a modelmaker – something he’s been doing for years.  Now the manual making techniques he’d learned over the years have been, in most part, taken over by the digital processes, resulting in more time spent on designing and refining ideas than making.  The manual component of the process is still there, but mostly in form of finishing, such as sanding, staining and assembly.  The general outcome? It takes less time, effort and money required to produce a more polished product.Years of hobbyist prop designing have resulted in a multitude of digital files waiting to turned into physical objects.  The main obstacle to this used to be lack of access to the right tools and enough funds to transform those ideas into real things.  Now Aaron is revisiting his old designs to prepare them for production with laser cutting, 3D printing and CNC routing.

Not everything is laser cut to be the final product.  In the case of the N7 Helmet from Mass Effect, the laser cut card stock parts formed an armature that was fiberglassed on the inside and used as a base for sculpting.Read more abour Aaron’s process after the jump:

(more…)

Related posts:

Small Business Stories: interview with eco-jewelry designer Leslie Yang

Retail Ready with FiestyelleLeslie Yang is passionate about jewelry, eco-awareness and San Fancisco. Her jewelry line Feistyelle is yet another fantastic example that green design doesn’t have to be all brown rice and sandals, but can communicate a polished, modern aesthetic. A Ponoko regular for a number of years, Leslie was the first person to laser cut felt for jewelry. With that innovative approach to materials she has been evolving her ever-popular, wearable laser cut designs and regularly introducing new ideas.

Getting Started

• What made you decide to start your own business? I officially started feistyelle in the fall of 2005. At the time, I was pretty active on online crafty message boards, and some makers were starting to set up small businesses selling their work online and at shopping events. This was all pre-Etsy! It felt like the next, exciting step for me was to get my work out in front of a increasingly DIY-friendly public. I was making really different pieces during those first couple of years: brooches, hair clips, badges, out of needle felted wool and Japanese textiles.

• How did you decide on the jewelry direction? I’ve always loved jewelry, but it was actually serendipitious that I started making earrings. When I found out that Ponoko was offering to laser cut felt I about dorked out with excitement. I started by designing a dahlia brooch, and because I didn’t want to waste the felt, I threw in a smaller vector of the dahlia in remaining space. A co-worker wound up wanting to buy the brooch but when she saw the smaller pieces, she said she’d love them as earrings and asked if would I make her a pair. I said, “Sure!” and then walked to my local bead store and asked the shopkeeper sheepishly, “Um, how do you make earrings?” I poked around the bead shop and settled on the hoop design that I still use for the majority of our earring designs. When my co-worker wore the earrings to work, it started a stampede to my office of female coworkers asking for their own pair. I started to realize that I had a hit on my hands!

• What skills did you already have when you started your business and what did you have to learn? I’m a graphic designer so it was helpful to have experience in branding and packaging and of course design software. I did and still am learning about marketing, accounting, and all those very necessary business skills.

The important takeaway here is that you should know how to do everything but you should definitely not do every single thing yourself! I love the extra time I get by having a photographer shoot my product and model shots as well as a person handle online order fulfillment.More from Leslie after the jump:

(more…)

Related posts:

Minimising Timeframe from Idea to Product

“Form follows constrains” philosophy aids design processAlienology’s physical design output is pretty impressive.  As a designer your head space has to be perpetually filled with evolving concepts.  Time permitting, those imagined concepts become sketches or even make it to the CAD phase for rendering.  Resources permitting, a concept will result in a prototype.  However, the chances of the prototype ever becoming a product that makes it to the market are pretty negligible.

Alienology founder Igor Knezevic isn’t interested in showing half-baked concepts or even refined ideas.  Alienology portfolio consists only of products available for purchase – an outcome enabled by a commitment to minimise the time span between idea and the manufactured object. Igor has embraced on demand digital fabrication with every limb to rapidly move through a process that would have required much time and capital investment under the traditional manufacturing model.

The LA based design company embraced the Ponoko model from the onset and has used its laser cutting and 3D printing services to create numerous lighting elements, jewelry and tableware.  Igor already had experience with digifabbing technologies and had access to making facilities, but the option of an online service made it possible for him to focus on designing the products rather that concerning himself with how to make them physically.

Of course, design is never a straight forward process, and prototyping one of its integral features.  Many of Igor’s designs undergo repeated experimentation to achieve the functionality, fabrication efficiency and the desired aesthetic of the final product.  Igor has had pieces 3D printed in plastics and Stainless Steel, and for laser cut objects worked with tinted acrylics, felt and different wood materials, such as Veneer Core and Eurolite Poplar.  He makes a point of considering material quality as one of the starting points in a design, so little finishing is necessary to complete the products.  There are also some products that are designed to be spray-painted and lacquered.A few words from the designer after the jump:

(more…)

Related posts:

Glove Mobile Phone

So you can talk to the handBryan Cera describes himself as a designer, and artist and a maker, and his projects exemplify those directions with a mix of practical, conceptual and technical approaches.  Digital fabrication is an integral part of Bryan’s creative process, and he’s not new to combining laser cutting, CNC milling and 3D printing in his projects.

Majority of Bryan’s projects involve re-purposed electronics and custom built circuits.  The end result doesn’t have to have a practical application, as long as the experimentation process is fun.  Metals and plastics are Bryan’s favourite materials to work with, as they are accessible, easy to machine and add a sense of permanence to the work.  3D printing in metal is certainly on that list.

One such project is Glove One:

a wearable mobile communication device. It presents a futile and fragile technology with which to augment ourselves. A cell phone which, in order to use, one must sacrifice their hand.  It is both the literalization of Sherry Turkle’s notion of technology as a “phantom limb”, in how we augment ourselves through an ambivalent reliance on it, as well as a celebration of the freedom we seek in our devices. Emotional investment becomes physical, as the functionality of the device depends on the dysfunctionality of the wearer. While we enjoy the fantasies they offer, we rethink the technologies we construct and reflect on how they construct us.

Essentially, this is a prototype for a mobile phone glove with a futuristic armor aesthetic that evokes a fusion of Inspector Gadget and Daft Punk robot gloves.  The glove phone is designed around components from wrist-watch cell phone that wasn’t getting much use.  The structure of the glove was 3D printed from Super Fine Plastic to give the parts the best form definition.  Bryan wanted to give the glove a smooth, shiny finish, and that meant a lot of sanding and several coats of paint.More on Bryan’s process after the jump:

(more…)

Related posts:

Styrene – May Material of the Month

The white knight of model makingStyrene, or as sometimes it likes to be formally addressed – High Impact Polystyrene Sheet (HIPS) is one of the most ubiquitous plastics around, even though it’s too humble for most of us to pay any notice to.  Like PETG, it’s commonly used in food packaging, where it’s thermoformed for specific applications.

When it comes to laser cutting, fabricating components for model making is where this material truly shines.  Prefab laser cut model kits are already available for the likes of railways, trucks, aeroplanes and buildings.  Styrene’s properties make it an excellent material choice for these applications.  While it doesn’t cut as precisely as acrylic, it is easily sanded or scored with a craft knife, which is perfect for leaving sprues (little “bridges” of material) to hold parts in place.  Partially laser cut parts can be easily snapped off the kit sheet and sanded back for a clean edge.  Styrene is not the only flexible plastic that can be laser cut.  There’s also PETG and polypropylene.  When it comes to model making, styrene has significant advantages over both of those.  It can be easily bonded to itself with solvents (no heat welding required), and it takes on various paint finishes so can be painted to resemble other materials such as metals or wood.  Styrene also thermoforms better than the other plastics, and thinner pieces can be formed to a mold with a hairdryer.

Styrene’s flexibility, ease of finishing and bonding have seen it used in prosthetics, jewellery and even a Vanilla Design coffee cup holder.  Some of the material’s limitations are its fragility in delicate pieces and its inability to hinge.  Any score line compromises the structure of the sheet, and applying force to that area will snap the material.  Of course, this can also be an advantage with laser cutting – using heavy vector engraving instead of cutting right through noticeably reduces kerf, while still allowing for the cut piece to be snapped out of the sheet.  This approach works with long straight lines and simple, open shapes, and prototyping is necessary for optimum results.

The white styrene can also be used in lighting design.  Its glossy finish makes it more reflective than propylene.  However, because it has a low melting point, only fluorescent and LED light sources can be used.  Featured designs (clockwise): Middle C by Sherman Warren, Lotus by David Knott, Warp by Alienology, Urchin by Fabripod, Tumbleweed by Del Jackson, Carbon by Cindy Hartnett.  Carbon is also this month’s FREE file for download.  Make your own Carbon light!

Styrene is available from Ponoko US and Ponoko NZ, and there are also US and NZ material samples to give you a better idea of cutting and engraving finish.

Related posts: