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:
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…)
University of Exeter develops first 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…)
Not long ago, one fine day or one dark night, depending on your time zone, the Octo Stool met Ponoko. They fell in love. Out of their hi-tech union came PonOcto.The PonOcto stool is hopefully the first in the new “Ponokofied” phase of Tom Kluyskens’ plywood furniture designs. Previously the New Zealand designer used more traditional CNC workshops to fabricate various plywood furniture and admits that his maximum yield layouts caused some friction between him and the fabricators.
At the mercy of NZ’s two degrees of separation, Tom kept coming across people from the Ponoko community, which got him more and more interested in digifabbing. At one stage he met Dave Ten Have and was a little star struck. Tom’s first project with Ponoko was a little lasercut felt container for candies that he sent out to people as a gift when his daughter was born. The container is based on a geometric shape that folds on itself to make a perfectly contained volume. Tom is now keen to write a customizer for it, so others can make their own using the Ponoko API.The CNC cutting service was something that Tom anticipated with much eagerness, and as soon as it was announced, he redesigned his established Octo stool to work with the Ponoko system. He couldn’t resist the name PonOcto, probably not even realising that the stool was to be Ponoko’s first CNC order. Bonus points for symbolism.
Making with Ponoko meant that Tom was able to apply innovative changes to some of his processes, such as combining lasercutting and CNC routing. Previously he used colour-laminated ply, or painted the cut pieces, but for the first PonOcto prototype he laminated feature ply surfaces with laser cut acrylic. Tom is incredibly enthusiastic about the possibilities presented by precise control over laminate finishing and is looking at incorporating selective lamination, hidden joinery detail, etc in his future designs.Tom’s furniture material of choice is clearly plywood, which he selected for its durability as well as availability of sustainably harvested options. His designs feature friction joints, so material stability is extremely important for precision cutting to ensure correct thicknesses and profiles. Before assembly, all the CNC cut pieces require sanding, which means that, for the time being at least, PonOcto stools cannot be shipped from the fabricator directly to the customer, as they have to be hand finished by the designer.
More from the designer after the jump:
You can make some sweet objects with Eurolite Poplar.Don’t let this cheap material fool you. It might invoke images of grubby, plywood clad construction site exteriors, but this economical plywood is very versatile.
Poplar is a cheap, low density material. It laser cuts quickly and is lightweight, so saves on cutting and shipping costs. This makes it wonderful for prototyping. The thick ply is also very structural! Like MDF, it’s easy to glue and paint with pretty much anything, so it lends itself well to model making.
See some fantastic examples and get free design files under the cut
Sewing friendly laser cutting you should try
When you think “laser cutting”, the product that most likely come to mind are rigid cut out shapes or 3D objects assembled from flat planes. However, laser cutting can work on a more tactile level, and there are materials available in the Ponoko/RazorLAB/Formulor/Vectorealism catalogues that enable a completely different kind of 3D making – sewing. I’m talking soft materials, such as various thicknesses of leather and felt. We have examples and free design files for each of these materials: russet leather camera case, felt shoulder bag, upholstery leather wallet
One of the great advantages of using these materials, is their fast cutting time. As usual, there are a few tricks when it comes to working with leather and felt, especially when you’re designing for sewing.
Here are a few points to consider:
- Thick material requires stronger & thicker thread, which means bigger stitch holes
- Thicker material can have longer stitch length
- Seam allowance: leather 2mm+, felt 5mm+
- Will you use overcast or straight stitching for the seams?
MYI projects under the cut: (more…)
Whether you’ll be eating chocolate bunnies or matzot
With Passover about to start and Easter only a few days away, it’s time for some holiday digifabbed bunnies, eggs, seder plates and the like, so without further ado:
Heritage buildings preserved as miniatures
A few weeks ago I wrote about the 50th anniversary of the Futuna chapel in Wellington. Ponoko lasercut the commemorative scale models of the building for the event, so we were very curious to know how it all happened because let’s face it, we don’t have many old interesting buildings in New Zealand, so this is a pretty big deal. Surprisingly (because “astonishingly” may sound too dramatic) the ball started rolling because of a passersby curiosity. The passer-by was Tony Richardson, and Futuna was the place he was passing by.
Tony’s visit to the chapel made a big impression on him as he struggled to understand “how the building worked, in particular how the lines of the roof planes related to the internal central pole and valley beams.” His examination of the plans and photos was of little help, so he resorted to his kiwi bloke approach of wood+shed+tools. All the marking and sawing resulted in a pile of wasted materials, rather than a beautiful model, so Tony started looking for a less painful way to make mistakes via an online laser cutting service. It just so happened that Ponoko was mentioned in the business section of the national news. Needless to say, the ball started rolling.
More about Tony’s fabbing under the cut: (more…)
Up-valuing the disused and the discarded
Recently, I had a stall at a local market, where I was selling my jewellery. The day was long, the crowds were small, and there was lots of time to kill. Of course, I got chatting to my stallholder neighbour Dael who makes carry bags and purses from used plastic bread bags. Appropriately, her stall is titled “breadbags”. The idea is amazing! She collects plastic bread bags from various brands of bread, cuts them into sheets and fuses them together in four layers to create a durable multi-coloured surface. These are then sewn to make practical and long-lasting carry bags of various sizes. I’m kicking myself for not taking photos of these.
Interestingly, Dael called her popular bags “recycled”, which I believe, completely undermines her design intent. Recycling is essentially downcycling, in most cases. It is taking something that had value and fabricating it into something of lesser value, using a lot of energy in the process. Recycling implies devaluing. “Breadbags” have more value than “bread bags”, so they are upcycled products.
The lifespan of a bread bag is negligible. It’s a short trip from the bakery to the landfill, via the supermarket and your pantry. I reuse bread bags for carrying lunches, etc, until they get grubby and find themselves in confines of a rubbish bin next to all the fragrant chicken skins, filthy clingwrap and all the other torn up, squashed packaging that cannot be recycled. Ok, so in my house the life of a bread bag is a few weeks instead of a few days. It hardly makes a difference.