Cardboard Cockroach Robot

UC Berkeley student creates DASH

The cockroach is a notorious survivor, and the latest robot from the Biomimetic Millisystems Lab at University of California Berkeley is following in the insect’s six footsteps. Built by graduate student Paul Birkmeyer, the Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexpod aka DASH is laser-cut from a single sheet of polymer sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard. It can be made for less than fifty dollars and put together in under sixty minutes. The completed robot can scurry across the surfaces, climb objects, and survive plummets of 28 meters.

Professor Ron Fearing, head of the lab, believes that further work on DASH will result in even more durable and capable robots that can act as first responders in situations of disaster and crisis considered too dangerous for people.

This 3 minute video shows DASH in action.

via via SF Gate

DIY Toaster

9 months for a slice of toast

Thomas Thwaites, a design student at the Royal College of Art in London has made a toaster – literally from the ground up. Thomas Thwaites has travelled to mines across the country to get the raw materials for his toaster. Processing these raw materials at home, (for example he smelted iron ore with a leafblower and in a microwave).


2D Glasses

3D Glasses are So Passe
These reading glasses by Caroline Abram of Filao Paris. Inspired by her childhood in Senegal, Abram’s designs incorporate wood, ceramic, cotton, glass, leather, resin, mother of pearl, onyx, turquoise, tiger eye and crystal in her work. The chains she has handmade in Senegal.

You have to respect a company such as Filao Paris who’s company Description reads:
Once upon a time there was a pair of glasses, it made children cry while adults wore it for need reason. The pair of glasses begun to improve itself and to cultivate its look. And a day was love, charme and seduction. Filao put its chains until the passion.

Perhaps it is mistranslation but I like it….

I can see how easily this sort of design could be realized via Ponoko by popping the lenses out of your existing glasses and sandwiching them between the laser cut materials of your choice…

Available in Japan at Lunette du Jura or French Melody in the U.S.

Via Julie Wolfson at Cool Hunting

Open Hand Grips: EMSL’s Meggy Jr Handheld and Cardboard Chic for your iPhone

Evil Mad Scientist Labs have debuted a much more sophisticated version of their Meggy games platform in the Meggy Jr RGB.

Meggy Jr RGB from EMSL

Most interestingly for us, Windell and Lenore have designed the electronics to fit into customisable ‘handle sets’:

Basic Meggy Jr   Batwing Meggy Jr

“A unique feature of Meggy Jr RGB is that it is designed to be mounted inside a “handle set” — a wooden or plastic case that’s safer and more pleasant to hold than a bare circuit board. You can make, mod and customize your own handle sets to suit your taste– These are like faceplates in that you can switch whenever you want to suit your mood or the game that you’re playing, however different handle sets can radically change what the Meggy Jr looks and feels like. Above, you can see what our basic handles (left) look like, as compared to a set of custom smoke-colored batwing handles (right).

The source files for these sandwiched laser cut designs are available for download as .svg and .pdf, and come with some suggested engravings:

Meggy Jr layout

So, another fine and more than thorough offering from the Evil Mad Scientists , but their claim to uniqueness is at odds firstly with the many handset options for the Wii platform, as well as this DIY offering for the iPod touch/iPhone from ronnsprocket:

iPod touch Iphone hand grip by ronnsprocket

A neat bit of cardboard cutting there, sadly no templates available as yet.

via EMSL, Derek, and touchArcade

Pepko – Interactive Animation

Pepko was an interactive animation project designed by Matt White at the Wanganui School of Design.
An ambitious interactive animation project that used Ponoko, Reactivision (previously mentioned on the Ponoko Blog), Processing and Arduino.

Pepko is a tool to allow people to create animation quickly and in a social setting- (more like South Park stylistically then say, the Lion King.)
pepko cartoon
In Matt’s words.
I heard about Ponoko from a friend who was on the beta and thought how I could use it to create custom ‘paddles’ and discs. I didn’t do any test runs or anything I just uploaded my files and selected my materials – which all luckily sandwiched together like I was hoping. Inside the paddles there are three discs with the reactivision patterns on them – all the patterns hold a unique id which is sent, along with the X,Y position and rotation of the marker in realtime to Processing where the cartoon characters and props can be drawn. The three discs correspond to the face, arms and legs – by rotating the discs inside the paddles you can cycle through all the different arm/leg positions and facial expressions.

The props have different functions.
-there is a space rocket which rotates around when you rotate the marker.
- the UFO with flashing lights which lowers its landing gear when you lower the marker.
- a moon which you can scale up and down.
- there are other random props you can place on the screen
In total there were about eight different individual discs for props, three cartoon characters and five different backgrounds to play with.

This a great example of open source software allowing grass roots designers to realize their ideas.

Too many choices? Nope, not enough — we want mass customization


There’s a new article at suggesting that some companies offer so many variations of their products that they should just make the jump to mass customization. There is an interesting take on how humans make decisions:

Offer shoppers a choice between two jellies for their toast, they’ll pick one. Offer twenty, and they keep on walking, suffering from paralysis by analysis — too many choices. Forget it. But go to the deli counter and offer a custom sandwich with all your favorite ingredients on board, and everybody’s ready to eat. That’s because the choice belongs to the customer, and it doesn’t involve a predefined group of products whose differences are too complicated to discern. Therein lies the difference between ready-made choices and something you’ve designed for yourself, building something especially for you.

Companies such as Garmin, for example, are already offering so many GPS units that you need a product matrix just to sort them out. Might as well just make their line all-custom, letting you choose screen size, Bluetooth capability, street name call-outs and traffic-reporting capability for yourself. It’s the difference between offering 60 models and maybe 200 different combinations.

Read more here

Ponoko Product of the Week


This weeks Product of the Week is from DSCulp and I really love it. I’ll let him describe why he came up with it:

The Monarch butterfly truly is an inspirational creature. Like most butterflies these beautiful and delicate creatures usually have an adult lifespan of only four to six weeks. But once a year, a special generation is born; one with a mission. Somehow these chosen few manage to fly over 2000 miles, to congregate in a place they have never seen before; a remote region in the Mexican mountains. There, by the millions they wait for the warm breezes that will awaken them and signal their journey home. Scientists cannot explain this miraculous journey.

The monarchs were a part of my childhood. We collected the caterpillars and watched them emerge from their jewel-like chrysalis. Watching them fight the breezes they inspired me with their delicate tenacity.

It seemed natural to me that some 30 years later they would re-emerge in my life and take this new form.

A layer of shimmering copper foil is sandwiched between 3mm black acrylic. Laser cutting and etching create the delicate patterns of the wings.

Brooch is 74mm x 47mm (approx 3″x 1.75″) and each is signed and numbered.

Limited edition of 100.

Brilliant stuff! Congratulations DSCulp for being the Ponoko Product of the Week.

Acrylic Surface Finishes

Often when I’m searching the world of laser cut products it’s the metal products that seem to catch my eye. I believe this comes down to the finish, what can I say? I like shiny things! However there are problems with metal; it’s heavy, expensive, corrosive, has sharp edges, and most importantly it’s not a material that is currently available to you guys via Ponoko. However, acrylic is light, cheap, easy to work with, available and can look fantastic.


Some really cool effects can be created by sandwiching fabric between two layers of clear acrylic like from us with love do with their chair and side table (previously written about here). The piece of grey fabric makes a stunning carbon fibre like effect.


Photo 4 me prints directly onto acrylic which looks great. A similar effect could be created with paint or ink. Megan Ellis used a combination of ink and engraving to great effect with her Raya Bracelet. These techniques seem to enhance the beauty of the acrylic and I think result in more interesting and desirable products.

Mechanisms, Automata and Ponoko

For those of you new to automata, these are mechanical toys or sculptures that, when cranked or motorised, re-enact movements through a system of mechanical processes, such as cranks, cams and gears. The results are often beautifully presented and can be quite beguiling, such as this one from Philip Lowndes, Quiet Contemplation of a Sandwich (check out the videos here).

Philip Lowndes' automata

Some makers are already using Ponoko to create working mechanisms, and the laser cutting process seems quite appropriate for making most of the elements of automata, which have to be precisely crafted, often from wooden board. What’s more, there are a host of resources for the budding automata builder on the web.

The Make blog led me the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre’s modular automata kit – a collection of wooden pieces that can easily be put together to form your own automata, while learning about the mechanical principles most commonly used in the devices. The Cabaret Mechanical Theatre once had premises in London’s Covent Garden, which are sadly no more, but the group continues an online presence, selling kits, books and exhibiting online the work of automata makers such as Paul Spooner, Carlos Zapata and Tim Hunkin, whom I have previously blogged about.

The first stop for automata info must be the Automata and Automaton Blog, Dug North’s very well updated chronicle of automata on the web. He offers some great resources for those of you interested in new mechanisms and often link to the Sands Museum, an online museum of industrially produced mechanisms, catalogued in some detail. Check out Philip Lowndes’ Anatomy of an Automaton for some insight into his craft.
There’s a good line in plans for automata from cardboard too, including these at the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre shop and these at Flying pig.

Philp Lowndes' Noah's Ark puzzle

Incidentally, a puzzle just calling out to be laser cut is Lowndes’ Noah’s Ark, the plans for which can be bought here.
Beware: automata can be addictive!

Images by Philip Lowndes

Mass customization the easy way


Turns out mass customization can be very easy; SwopIt is a side table that can change with the seasons. It is made from two layers of bent acrylic with a piece of fabric sandwiched in between. The user can change the fabric (or put in some other flat object) to whatever they want whenever they want, all you need is a piece of fabric and a pair of scissors. The life of the table is extended therefore it is better for the environment and it allows for each table to be personalized. This very clever table was made by From Us With Love; a young design studio in Old town, Stockholm.


The designers set out to design products that are innovative and sustainable; I think they succeeded with this one. They say “We are driven by the genuine love for creating and take great pride in what we do.” They have some other cool products worth checking out too, like the cord lamp.

Via sub-studio