Hackerspace Happenings: PPPRS Goes For Gold

Are you a hackerspace member with an event you’d like to publicize? Send it to or tweet me at @johnbaichtal and I’ll post it. Also feel free to subscribe to my hackerspaces Twitter list. Hackerspace Happenings run weekly(ish) Tuesdays, and the next one will come out September 13th.

Power Racing Series Kick(start)s it Up a Notch

In July 2009, a group of hackerspace members from PS: One in Chicago, IL stumbled across a children’s Power Wheels in a state of disrepair. With a little bit of TLC and a good dose of tinkering, the machine was up and running again in no time, and became the cause for much amusement as we drove it around the block for days, and then weeks. Then we made it faster. Then we made it better. Then we made a few more. Thus, the ‘Pow-Pow’ Power Racing Series was born.

From that fateful day, Power Racing has taken a life of its own. Teams from across the country prep their modified cars for drag races, crazy road courses and menacing endurance runs designed to bring out the engineer in everyone. Teams are restricted to a $500 budget (aside from safety equipment, of course). Vehicles face off in a variety of events, including a drag race, a road course, and a 75 minute endurance race that tests the ability and sanity of the team mechanics. The Power Racing Series has since run a circuit through Maker Faire Detroit and Kansas City Maker Faire and includes teams from Sector 67, CCCKC, and of course, PS: One.

With the popularity of the event only increasing, PPPRS is seeking seed money via Kickstarter to expand their operations. If you dig what they’re doing, definitely consider a donation!

Weaving Station: One — PS1 gets a Loom

Calling out to the Maker community for some creative help here. At Pumping Station: One in Chicago, we acquired a loom a little while ago. So we can now make our own fabric! Very exciting. Except, we can’t seem to integrate it into our larger creative nirvana.

We have a circuit lab, a wood shop, sewing equipment, servers, a laser cutter, a bunch of creative people… here’s the question: if you had all that at your hackerspace, and you got a loom, how would you combine capabilities to make more cool stuff? Because we’re kinda drawing a blank.

CT Hackerspace Open House

CT Hackerspace will be holding an open house at their facility in Watertown, CT.

Experience the Workshop you can’t have in your garage. We’re building a 4,000 square foot facility complete with electronics lab, wood shop, metal shop, lecture room, and more. Come see what we’re building.

Full Day of Lectures, Workshops, Presentations

With SPECIAL GUEST Jason Scott, an American archivist and historian of technology. Heis the creator, owner and maintainer of, a web site which archives files from historic bulletin board systems. He is also the creator of a 2005 documentary film about BBSes, “BBS: TheDocumentary”, and a 2010 documentary film about interactive fiction,”GET LAMP” Jason is currently editing the “Two Hands Project”, a film about the trip and a crew of people willing to bounce around and crash withMakers and their hackerspaces all over the country. Documenting the projects they make, and recording the change inducing social movement that’s spreading across the USA. Maker/Hackerspaces come in all sorts of packages and flavors, each with it’s own quirks. Figure out how they tick, what goes on in them, why they are important for the philosophical and economical reasons. This movie hopes to inspire people to start their own space, or at least build something awesome.

Interested in attending? Check out the event page on Facebook.

Developer Interest Group in L.A.

DIG is a group for developers of all types of stuff. This is a place for people who REALLY MAKE STUFF of a techie or geeky nature to show off what the are working on, meet other people with similar interests and motivations, and see great new, cool stuff by people who really dig what they are doing!

It’s kind of like an open-mike night, but you don’t have to be musician. It’s like a science-fair, but it doesn’t have to be science. It’s the place for YOU to show off your cool projects and labors of love (even if they aren’t done) and get inspiration and feedback from real people!

Bring your programs, art, games you have made (finished or not!), interesting flash experiments, Arduino projects, chipmusic, kinect hacks, steampunk paraphernalia, indie or web comics, home-made animations, independent films, original machinima works, game mods, science fiction or fantasy writings, robots, Lego artworks, laptop symphonies, costumes, props… anything that might be enjoyed by gamers, makers, computer geeks, sci-fi fans, hackers, engineers, chip musicians and synthesists, electronics hobbyists… you get the idea! Because we cover software, comics, games, costumes, etc. we are a bit more inclusive than your average “maker” community!

One thing I want to make clear: this is an event for developers, artists, musicians, writers, designers, engineers, filmmakers, producers, directors, and other creative folk. Gamers bring your levels and mods! Students, bring your class projects! This is *NOT* the event for schmoozing or business opportunities. This is not your Dad’s industry meetup group. It’s about sharing the things we do and the things that we love.

The meetings are held the first Wednesday of every month and you can find out more details at the DIG’s Eventbrite page.

OmniCorpDetroit Workshop Extravaganza

Brace yourself! As we fine folks of OmniCorpDetroit wind down from summer and creep into fall, we’re launching our ultra mega workshop series.

Whether you’re interested in building booming cases of bass for maximum fun on Belle Isle, reaching into a dumpster to create garbage guitars, learning the chemistry of taste, spinning some designs for the AIGA Detroit’s derby car competition, synthesizing some harmonious mini synths or microcontrolling your life with an Arduino … we’ve got you covered and more.


More About “Dualstrusion” from MakerBot

At this weekend’s World Maker Faire, one of the exciting announcements came from MakerBot Industries, with their release of a new Stepstruder MK7 extruder head and their demoing of the experimental use of the MK7 in a dual-head, two-color MakerBot. I asked Noah Levy, one of the developers at MakerBot who’s working on the “dualstrusion” project, a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:

Gareth Branwyn: First off, can you tell us a little more about what one needs to do to participate in the public beta?
Noah Levy: In order to get involved in experimental dual extrusion, you need an additional MK7, an additional extruder controller, and an additional stepper driver. In the coming days, we will post comprehensive instructions for assembly and operation on our website.

Gareth: Where are the required program files?
Noah: The code for the version of ReplicatorG that supports experimental dual extrusion is available on our git page. As of right now, it has no compiled version, but it can be run by following the instructions for compiling ReplicatorG. A compiled version may be made available sometime in the future.

Gareth: What else does one have to do hardware-wise to set up a dualstrusion printer?
Noah: The process to attach a second extruder is pretty straight-forward. Basically, it’s just bolting an extra MK7 onto the mounting bracket and hooking up its electronics. Detailed instructions will be available on the website soon.

Gareth: Can you explain, as succinctly as possible, how the dual-printing process is handled in software?
Noah: The process was thought up by Ben Rockhold, Tom Delaney, Will Langford, Charles Pax, and myself. To the user, it appears that either .stl or .gcode files can be merged, however the program only merges G-code. When given .stl files, it first skeins them into G-code and then merges them together. G-code files are really just motor commands separated into “layers,” chunks of commands at a specific height, therefore, we were able to divide the merging process into merging layers. Essentially, the dual extrusion G-code generation process is like shuffling cards. In the “shuffle,” it compares the gcodes by layer, and if both G-codes have a layer at a specific height, it adds a “toolchange” (wipe) between them and merges them into one layer in the resulting code. If only one layer exists at a specific height. it just adds that layer to the resulting G-code. It only uses a toolchange if the color has changed from the last layer. The major optimization added onto this process is that in a sequence of many two color/material layers, it will begin any given layer in the same color/material that the last layer ended in. This eliminates many unnecessary toolchanges. For instance, rather than printing red – wipe – green – wipe – red – wipe – green – wipe it will print red – wipe – green – green – wipe – red. By eliminating these unnecessary toolchanges when printing in two colors/materials, and not having any toolchanges between layers of the same color, we ensure the minimum amount of time spent not printing.

This process still has some bugs, therefore it is still an “experimental” feature, but we’re really excited to see what people make with it!

Gareth: We’re excited, too. Thanks for your time, Noah. It was great meeting you at the Faire.

If any of our MAKE readers become beta testers of the “dualstrusion” process, we’d love for you to share your experiences with us.

Dual-Head Two-Color MakerBots Are Coming!


World Maker Faire New York on The Engadget Show Tonight

Maker Faire New York is being featured on The Engadget Show tonight at 6pm ET. Becky and I will also be in studio talking about Make: Live and our favorite DIY projects. Not only that, but there will also be appearances by Jonathan Coulton, Makerbot’s Turtle Shell Racers, and Keepon, our favorite dancing robot. Watch the stream on their show page and we’ll post the archive as soon as it’s ready.


Zero to Maker: Adventures in Plastic

David Lang, something of a reluctant maker, is on a journey, intensively immersing himself in maker culture and learning as many DIY skills as he can, partially through a generous arrangement with our pals at TechShop. He’s regularly chronicling his efforts in this column — what he’s learning, who he’s meeting, and what hurdles he’s clearing (um… or not). –Gareth

In honor of Plastics month here on MAKE, I’m excited to chime in with some of my recent Zero to Maker exploits in the world of silicone. For the non-maker (or “pre-maker,” as I like to say), working with plastic can be revelatory. It opens your eyes to the wonders and possibilities of easily creating everyday objects with this material and provides a new perspective on the way so much of our world is manufactured.

My first experience with plastic-making was the RTV Moldmaking and Casting class at TechShop. The class was taught by Tom Twohy, a TechShop veteran, and the perfect person to introduce a complete beginner to the material. Tom spent a large part of his career doing custom molds for masks, toys, and other inventions. Not only does he have an incredible knowledge of plastics and materials, he’s been at TechShop since it first opened its doors, and he has a great perspective on how people learn. His passion for creativity and the endless possibility of plastics is infectious.

Masks made by Tom Twohy. More on his blog.

You can go on YouTube or Wikipedia and learn the process for RTV (room temperature vulcanization silicone) moldmaking – building a molding box, mixing the silicone with the catalyst, proper pouring technique, but you can’t be infused with passion and inspired imagination without being taught from someone like Tom. His insistence on careful preparation and his emphasis on precision contributed to a unique tacit learning experience. He made the standing time (the time required to let the mold and casts dry) an opportunity to show off some of the projects he’s recently completed: a mask mold, a new case for his phone, and a RTV plastic replica of a GI Joe doll. Each project emphasized a different way the process and material could be used: the mask, to show us how he personally made a living off of molding, the phone case, to give us an example of a very practical use, and the GI Joe doll to show the extreme detail the molds are capable of. He also took the opportunity to explain other classes and tools that utilize plastics, such as injection molding and vacuum forming.

Experimenting with three methods of waterproofing the motors on the OpenROV (left to right): no waterproofing, Silicone Conformal Coating, Silicone Spray

By the end of the night, my mind was swimming with new ideas for molding and vacuum forming. Surprisingly, my next experience with plastics would be outside any of the topics and uses we discussed in class. The very next day, during a design meeting for OpenROV at TechShop with Eric Stackpole and Zack Johnson, Eric expressed an pressing issue that needed resolving: finding a way to waterproof the brushless motors used on the vehicle. Eric had a number of other design challenges on his plate, so Zach and I took this one on. Zach had a few ideas, the best one being seeking outside advice. After the meeting, we walked around TechShop and talked to a few other Dream Coaches and Shop members that Zack suspected had more experience.

Sidenote: This is by far my favorite thing about TechShop: the culture and community there. Every single Dream Coach knows the skills and experience of all of the other staff, but also, most of the members, which represents a large and diverse knowledge base. The tools are nice, but the magic is in the community.) Soon we had a series of hypothesis, most involving different types of silicon sprays, and that afternoon, Zach and I started some experiments to see which, if any, would solve our waterproofing problems.

Zach continued (and expanded) on the experiments over the weekend. The experiment centered around Silicone Mold Release Spray and Silicone Conformal Coating. Zack wrote up a fantastic report on the results, which you can read here.



Boston Brownstone 3D Print

Thingiverse user Steven Conine designed, printed, and published this excellent model of the Braddock Park row house he inhabits in Boston. [via Thingiverse Blog]


NYC 2.0 on PBS

Rick Karr hosts a PBS series called NYC 2.0 to air Sunday nights (and online) for the next six weeks. The first episode features hackerspace NYC Resistor, MakerBot, and Boxee. Rick visited my studio and other dear friends so I’m looking forward to the NYC 2.0 lineup!

The Hackers (Air date: Sunday, September 18, 8:30pm)
The bad ones steal, but the good ones – like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates back in the day – invent. Host Rick Karr visits Brooklyn’s NYC Resistor and talks to a hacker and inventor. Karr also turns his own video game console into a home media center, then visits a Manhattan startup that hopes to turn that hack into a multimillion-dollar business.


Camera + Turntable + Laser = 360° Scanner

Sebastian Korczak hacked together a 360° rotating 3D scanner using little more than a record turntable modified with Arduino, digital camera, and a laser pointer. Korczak’s laser was mated with a special lens to create a linear beam. The distortion of this beam as it scanned the room coupled with the video data is put into a Python script, which outputs a point cloud of whatever is scanned. In this manner he is able to get full real-time scans of entire rooms. Fortunately for us, he’s provided extensive documentation on his homepage.


Fire Jam – Saphira: Alex Jacobson, John Boyer, and Sam Frank (video)

The Young Makers Program at Maker Faire Bay Area 2011 produced two interesting projects by Alex Jacobson, John Boyer, and Sam Frank. Saphira is an animatronic fire-breathing dragon, and Fire Jam is a visualization device for the Rock Band video game that selectively shoots five jets of flame that correspond to the buttons on the guitar controller.

Subscribe to the Maker Faire Podcast in iTunes, download the m4v
directly, or watch it on YouTube and Vimeo.

Check out more videos from Maker Faire Bay Area 2011.


“Hinge Technique” Acrylic Box Construction

If you’ve ever tried to build a box from clear acrylic, you know how hard it can be to get good-looking joints between the panels. The folks at TAP Plastics have gotten pretty good at it, but even they admit that the basic slab-joint method “will not produce museum grade products.”

This video was produced by the German firm Serrox Technischer Handel, which sells plastics fabrication products. Unsurprisingly, it promotes a number of their specialized products, but I think the underlying process—which has very much to recommend it over the slab-joint method—could probably be adapted to do without them. It’s a bit difficult to describe in words, so you may save some time just watching the video, but I’ll give it a shot:

  1. 90-degree V-grooves are cut almost all the way through a rectangular sheet of acrylic—one groove parallel to and equidistant from each side.
  2. Strips of solvent-proof tape are applied to the ungrooved side of the plastic—one strip centered over and all the way along each groove.
  3. The plastic is bent and snapped at each groove. The strips of tape have become hinges.
  4. The four small squares of waste plastic in the corners are removed, and a couple bits of interfering tape are cut away with a razor.
  5. The sides of the box are folded up along the hinges. The tape has kept everything exactly in place, so all the miters line up perfectly. Strips of tape are applied at the four corners to hold everything in place.
  6. Solvent cement is applied along the inside of each mitered edge. When it sets, the tape is removed, and the box is complete.

The key process is cutting the 90-degree V-grooves, for which Serrox sells a special V-groove circular sawblade. I am led to wonder, however, if it couldn’t be done just or almost as well with a V-groove router bit, as long as you took steps to keep the cut from getting too hot…


3D Printing for 10-Year-Olds

Joris Peels and Artur Tchoukanov, both former i.materialise employees, have started Origo, a company which aims to develop a 3D printer for kids.

Artur thought, “what would a 3D printer that would work in the home look like? What if we could make it easy enough so that kids could use it? What if it could recycle its own material? What if it was affordable and easy to use? What if it would just work, all the time. What if we could start from scratch and create a true home 3D printer, a 3D printer for kids. If someone wanted to make the “first on the desktop” for every kid in the world, what would that 3D printer look like and how would it work?

The Origo is still in development, but I like what I see so far. Good luck, guys!


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