Review of the Bleep Labs Nebulophone electronic kit — a DIY Arduino-based mini synth keyboard

A great kit for anyone, even if you have zero electronics experience.

I got my hands on a Nebulophone kit for the first time last week. The Nebulophone is a little synth that is both a powerful musical instrument and far out noise-maker.

I was interested in using this kit as a teaching aid for students with zero electronics experience. Having now built one myself and taken a few students through the process, I have to say I can barely think of a way to improve this kit, they’ve really nailed it. The hardest part for me was getting the students to leave my workshop after they had finished because they were all having such a great time playing their new keyboards!

The instructions are clear and explicit, with good quality colour photographs of every step, and videos online to help demonstrate the basic techniques such as populating and soldering a circuit board. All the parts are clearly identified and the layout has been designed to simplify assembly as much as possible. It took me about 40 minutes to assemble, and even the students who had never touched a soldering iron only took about 2 hours to finish.

My friend LEKRMOI made this video of me building the Nebulophone and talking about why I like to make stuff.

Dual extrusion projects get started

The community begins to experiment

Dual extrusion

A week after the MakerBot MK7 dual extruder was announced, what’s happened on Thingiverse?

Only a few actual prints have been uploaded by the community (understandable), but already there are a handful of projects just waiting for the hardware to get into people’s hands. (more…)

Tagtool – DIY Arduino Light Painter

Yet another creative project enabled by Arduino and the DIY community
Vienna Tagtool performance by maki This week a friend of mine introduced me to a great VJ system called the Tagtool. The Tagtool allows an artist to create drawings and animations for projection in a live performance environment. It’s all open source, and plans are available online for you to build you own. (more…)

MakerBot launches new dual-material MK7 extruder

Print in multiple colours or materials on a hobbyist 3D printer

Tiny MK7 preview from NYTimes diagram

MakerBot Industries is set to launch a new dual-material extruder today, according to co-founder Bre Pettis.

Except for some experimental work, hobbyist 3D printing has traditionally been limited to a single extruder. That has meant printing in only one colour or material at a time. But with the launch of the MK7 extruder, users will be able to print with two colours or materials in a single object.

Why multiple materials? (more…)

Not your average Rubik’s Cube — 3D printed puzzles

Personal Factory projects from Steven MarshallSteve used to make quite a mess on his desk. A type of mess that one would expect from days to months of some creative puzzle making. 

Now that he 3D prints his puzzles, Steve’s desk is a paragon of tidy. Well, not quite. There is still the manual cutting of the stickers that cover the puzzle’s faces. Not for much longer though. There are plans to have them machine cut to create a more refined product.

Steve designs and makes puzzles. So far he’s used his Personal Factory to 3D print his designs, and is currently designing a wood puzzle that will be laser cut. The 3D puzzles feature moving parts and require a strong material such as Durable Plastic to make sure that the object can withstand rigorous handling. Durable Plastic is gritty, so Steve spends some time playing with the puzzles to allow the material to sand itself down improving turning quality. He’s also 3D printed jewellery out of stainless steel and is looking at experimenting with coloured ceramic for a range of decorative objects.How would you describe your creative process? My creative process, like all of them, starts with an idea. When something pops into my head, I write it down somewhere, then later write it down in my binder of ideas.

This is when I categorize it (puzzles, decorative, jewelry, gadgets, etc) and draw out how it will work, along with describing it more in detail for myself. When I finally find money and time to make it, I sit down to design and perfect it on Autodesk Inventor.Have you been surprised by anything in the PF process: The ordering process surprised me, I very much like how it is laid out. It provides the customers with many options and allows for more communication between the buyer and the designer. It’s a perfect way to allow for customizable products, but also easily allows customers to buy the product as is.

Do you have any tips for other makers? Don’t get discouraged when your first models don’t work as expected. Learn from them! Manufacturing processes like this can take a few tries to get good at, and prototyping is still necessary even with practise!

You can see more of Steve’s designs and order the puzzles yourself at Stuff by Steve.

Time Print Machine

DIY printer uses felt pens and blotting paper

For the CNC drawing enthusiast who isn’t in a hurry to produce their next masterpiece, Paul Ferragut’s Time Print Machine offers a rather unique solution.

Images are created in the usual CNC manner, with dots forming a halftone pattern as the arm moves across the page. What is different about this device, is the incorporation of a special program which takes the grey value of a pixel and converts it using a time-based algorithm.

…the felt pen remains in contact with the blotting paper for relative periods of time. Consequently the ink will bleed through the paper creating a variety of different sized stains, gradually building the image.

Click through for a clip of the Time Print Machine in action.   (more…)

Magical Building Blocks

Educational robotics kit for kids that will make grownups jealousJames M and five of his fellow students have spent the last few months developing an Educational Robotics Kit for kids aged 8 and up. This is their final year project in Engineering (Mechatronics and Robotics) and Computer Science, sponsored by the Australian hobbyist electronics supplier squarebit. The project’s aim is to create a kit that will feature “a suite of electronic sensors and actuators and a microcontroller centered around an Arduino based system, all programmable via a drag-and-drop computer interface.” The housings for these components are fabricated to work with an existing building block system that really doesn’t need to be named. Different configurations of these systemised components allow easy creation of all sorts of programmable devices, including robots and dataloggers.

When it came to fabricating the custom housing blocks, 3D printing was an obvious solution. Squarebit directed the students to Ponoko Personal Factory, which they considered to be the ideal service for hardware and prototyping. James’ team chose Durable Plastic to create parts that would integrate well with existing block systems. The plan worked, so their next step will be using dyes to colour the 3D printed blocks.

So far the parts can be configured to execute a range of functions. There’s basic line following, using down and out-facing sensors, where the custom sensor circuit boards measure the surrounding light levels. One of the blocks houses a temperature sensor and is aimed at school science experiments. This same housing is used with a different circuit board, showing that with careful planning, it is possible to use the same block for different features. The blocks are designed to fit a generic phone connector RJ12, which will let the children easily change sensor configurations without the hassle of small individual wires. James’ team is in the process of designing a microcontroller along with a housing for it, and a motor – more parts be fabricated with their Personal Factory.On demand fabrication has played a crucial role in this undertaking. James has had parts for other projects made professionally using conventional services, but found that the costs were higher, and the commercial high yield fabrication didn’t translate well to home hacking projects and prototyping.

More of James’ project under the cut:


Laser cut reading in bed

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #36

Hey, Sam here. I’m back collecting this week’s posts from The Laser Cutter

Above is a work called  Shadowscape from Mario Klingemann.

After the jump, another view of Shadowscape,  a giant peach, a half finished tree, a light, a fox, and NLC Design #14… (more…)

Deliciously tasty 3D printing…

University of Exeter develops first 3D chocolate printer!

3D Chocolate printer

Researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK must all have a sweet tooth as they’ve developed a working prototype 3D food printer. Instead of polymer, metal or ceramics this printer uses chocolate as an ink. Yum! Video after the jump…



Paper building blocks for your imagination

Grace Hawthorne is no stranger to fueling creativity and firing up the imagination.  She may already be familiar to fans of ReadyMade, and thanks to her latest Kickstarter campaign, a whole new playful and creative juggernaut is about to be unleashed.

Paper Punk is a system of patterns that are supplied pre-cut from cool retro-futuristic printed stock, and after a few simple folds they become building blocks that can be used to create toys, art objects and more.

Each set comes with patterns in gorgeous complementary colours, posters and instructions, and a plethora of quirky stickers to add character and individuality to your constructions.

Consider Paper Punk as building blocks for your imagination…
it is a creativity tool that’s as much of and art form as it is a toy;
What I love most about Paper Punk is that it’s beautiful and fun!

Follow the link for a short clip where Grace runs us through what it’s all about. (more…)