A quick reminder that the Call for Makers for Maker Faire Bay Area in May closes tonight at 11:59PM PST. So whether you’ll eventually be traveling from the east coast, abroad, or from a neighboring county, adjust your time zones and make sure you get your application in on time. As expected, there is a last-day deluge of incoming applications and emails, and the Maker Faire team are doing their best to field all inquiries and requests, and equally excited by the awesome projects being proposed for this year’s event!
And for makers looking to offset their travel costs, or simply to infuse their project with some additional funding in order to take it to the next level, consider applying to the Road to Maker Faire Challenge. One lucky maker will receive a $2,000 stipend to be used towards the fabrication of their project, as well as travel and hotel accommodation costs if they so choose. That deadline is April 5th, so there’s still time to apply even after submitting your Maker Faire application.
And of course I look forward to seeing you and your awesome project at Maker Faire Bay Area!
After eight months of building and testing, this weekend, Jarno Smeets flew 100 meters using a set of self-made, flapping wings. The moment he lifts off the ground is pretty amazing. [Thanks, Katie Wilson!]
When the printer botched a batch of art books by Mexican designers Mauricio and Sebastian Lara, they invited 11 other designers to create new objects using the useless books as raw material. Alberto Villareal’s answer? Cut and weave them into a jumbo-sized mesh, then lay them up in resin to make a bombproof, beautiful skateboard deck.
Villareal and his team at AGENT sliced the books to take advantage of the full-color artwork inside, and made a mold from an ordinary skate deck to achieve the compound curves required. A fitting tribute to the Lara brothers, whose Guadalajara design firm EOS Mexico is known for surprises and panache. “We thought the playful aspect of the Lara brothers’ work should be represented in a piece you can play with, interact with,” says Villareal. “Something you can use and eventually fall off.” Villareal describes how they did it in this video. Lots more photos and details here.
Spotted by Paul Spinrad at a recent Pecha Kucha show-and-tell in San Francisco.
Soldering irons get hot. Light bulb filaments also get hot. Cautery pen filaments get so hot that they can cut through flesh effortlessly. Physicians routinely use them for small surgical procedures. Unlike a scalpel, a cautery pen uses the heat from the filament to both cut and seal bloodflow, which can minimize the risk of infection and post-op complications. They are available at most online medical suppliers for around $12 each.
We ordered a handful after our surgeon friends in Ocotal, Nicaragua mentioned that these devices are a huge help, but their disposability makes them too expensive for them since they cannot be resterilized. That means that our friends can only use them when a donation of equipment comes into town. Opening one up and figuring out how it works led to some fun surprises.
The pens arrived like any other medical device, sealed in a bag with the proper warnings.
Do Not Reuse!
Sometimes that’s the most important warning in medical hardware. There are some medical devices, such as syringes, that you absolutely, never ever want to reuse. There are others that are designed for reuse after proper cleaning—laryngoscopes, stethoscopes, surgical forceps. The manufacturer of these cautery pens definitely wanted us to know that you cannot reuse this product. In practice, they run out power and then you are forced to throw them away.
There are other models of cautery pens that have detachable tips, but these are twice the price. Any possibility of using safety as an excuse for making these devices automatically disposable did not make any sense. So we decided to open up and understand the intricate mechanisms that make up a cauterizer.
I expected a transformer, some type of power converter, a super capacitor. Instead, $12 gets you the electronics complexity of a pocket flashlight. Maybe they weren’t so special after all?
Aah, the tips. Maybe the tips are in fact special, some sort of complex alloy that’s optimally designed to heat up using two AA batteries. That would justify the price, and why the manufacturers can rack up the cost of a reusable one to $24.
To investigate, we took the metal tips down the street to our friends at the MIT Materials Science Department, where they have a Scanning Electron Microscope. In the hands of material scientist Mike Tarkanian, we performed a chemical analysis on the tip using a technique called EDXA (energy dispersive X-Ray analysis). In a moment, the instrument told us what the material make-up of our tips were: Mostly aluminum, with a few other trace elements.
Additional research led us to something called Kanthal thermocouple wire, which costs around $25 for a spool of 1000 feet online. Given that our tips measure around 1.3 cm, that yields roughly 23,000 tips per spool. That’s a lot of surgeries for $25, and that’s the way it should be.
When it comes to power tools, bigger is sometimes better, but not when you’re looking to drill a few holes for a project and find that your drill is too large or unwieldy to accomplish the task. This often happens when you need to drill holes inside an enclosure, drawer, cabinet, or other tight quarters.
Right angle drills and drivers can be used in projects where ordinary drills just won’t fit. A pivoting-head drill, such as the Bosch PS11, offers even greater maneuverability.
The 3/8″ chuck of the Bosch PS11 can be pivoted from 90° to a full inline 180°, via a locking push-button, in 22.5° increments. During the several projects where this drill came in handy, I found myself using the 90°, 45°, and 180° positions most.
The PS11 is powered by a 12V lithium ion battery, and can deliver a maximum torque of 101 inch-pounds. A large variable speed trigger adjusts the speed from 0-1300 RPM.
As you can see, the pivoting-head drill is substantially shorter than an ordinary 12V pistol-grip drill/driver. If you still encounter clearance issues, there’s also the option of buying shorter (mechanics-length) drill bits.
While you can slap in a hex bit holder and screwdriver bit to use the PS11 drill as a driver, note that there is no adjustable clutch. Pistol-grip and right angle drill drivers, like the Milwaukee M12 model I previously reviewed, often feature adjustable clutch controls. Without a clutch, there is a greater chance of over-torquing or damaging fasteners with the PS11 drill if you’re not careful.
One feature I especially liked is the LED worklight, which can be turned on even with the forward/reverse switch set to the middle (locked) position. Whether by intent or consequence, the worklight housing also serves as an alignment aid. When pressing both the blue pivoting head and LED housing against a work surface, the chuck and drill bit are brought into perfect parallel alignment, leading to cleaner and more precise holes.
While the PS11 pivoting-head drill is not as well suited for general purpose use as an ordinary pistol-grip drill, it definitely has its moments. It can drill holes in wood, plastic, aluminum, and sheet metal with relative ease, but its torque limits become clear when attempting to drill larger or deeper holes.
Overall, the PS11 pivoting-head drill is a well-built problem solver that performs exceptionally well. It’s priced at ~$100 for the add-on tool and ~$150 for the 2-battery kit. Right-angle drill attachments and chuck adapters are clumsy, but affordable alternatives.
Stuart Deutsch is a tool enthusiast, critic, and collector, and writes his passion at ToolGuyd.
Are you a hackerspace member with an event you’d like to publicize? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me at @johnbaichtal and I’ll post it. Also feel free to subscribe to my hackerspaces Twitter list. Hackerspace Happenings runs weekly(ish).
3D Thursday at Brooklyn’s Alpha One Labs
Fun with Abstract Origami and Tyvek at LA’s CRASH Space
The origami workshop will take place Saturday, March 24th at noon.
“Evil Hacker” Photoshoot at Mountain View’s Hacker Dojo
Hackerspace Charlotte’s Grand Reopening — March 23rd and 24th
Printed Circuit Board Class at Glen Ellyn’s Workshop88
The class will take place on March 27th and you can sign up via Eventbrite at the above link.
Lima, OH Hackerspace Forming
Pete Binkley wrote in:
Pete’s email handle is binkleypeter and he uses gmail. Hit him up if you’re interested!
Intro to iOS Development Class at NYC Resistor
Eugene Maker Space’s First Full Membership Meeting
Seedbombing Night at Vancouver Hack Space
Seedbombing Night will be held on Tuesday, April 17th at 7pm and the cost is $2.
Jax Locksport at Hacksonville Hackerspace
The event is being organized by Jess Hires, who can be reached at @hacksonville on Twitter.
Among the things I enjoyed at last Saturday’s Open MAKE: Tools at the Exploratorium is Benjamin Cowden’s “Eating My Cake and Having It Too,” an art mechanism that lets you use levers to operate a wet silicone tongue licking a tootsie pop. People have diverse reactions to the piece, Ben explained, from kids who simply enjoy seeing a lollipop being licked to grownups who have other ideas. Ben made the tongue out of Dragon Skin, a silicone used for special effects, and he molded it by making a cast of the tongue from a taxidermy bear. Water from an elevated water supply runs into the hollow interior of the tongue and then slowly oozes up to its surface, via tiny holes, to keep the tongue wet.
Simone Davalos surprised and delighted participants with the R/C robot NASDAQ. A previous version of this bot used wheelchair motors and regular wheels, and lasted just a few minutes per battery charge. This version uses scooter motors and omniwheels which can passively roll sideways, reducing friction on turns, as well as propel the bot forward and backward. With the same battery pack, this new version runs for hours on a single charge (although it won’t go as fast).
NASDAQ’s lightweight metallic-looking body is simply cardboard covered with reflective mylar, and the patterned mylar and color gel panels on top fool some people into thinking that they’re solar cells. The robot was built at San Francisco State University by teams of students who worked in parallel on different parts, and after the robot was first assembled, an early trial inspired its name NASDAQ — it was going along fine until the bottom dropped out.
I also met Joel Rosenberg, who is working on the new Makerspace education effort. When he taught high school science in Boston, he and the three other teachers in the department had a combined annual budget of just $1500 for all materials– so he learned how to teach on the cheap. For example, he used a free and little-known old electronics workbook called “Electronics Tasks and Assignments” by Stewart Dunn. Despite its uninspired name, it’s a great workbook with example circuits drawn full-page size. Joel prints the circuits on manila paper and uses brass paper fasteners (brads) poked through the paper as anchor points for the circuit. On the back, he solders wire connections to the fasteners’ heads, and on the front, he cinches the fasteners’ legs together with a bit of heatshrink tubing, then bend them into little spring clips. Behold: a working circuit/diagram for pennies!
Luigi Anzivino taught people another way to make circuits with paper: by painting circuit traces with conductive ink. The people at his table were using black ink, which is thin enough to brush on with a paintbrush, making it easy to work with. Copper ink is more conductive, but it’s so thick that you need to squeeze it out of something in a thin bead. The ultimate is silver conductive ink, which is expensive but highly conductive and can be used in a modified ballpoint pen — conductive calligraphy! The inks all need to dry before they can conduct electricity, and are available from LessEMF.com, a site that caters to the tinfoil-beanie set and sells conductive inks as EMF shielding paints.
A more traditional form of inking was demonstrated by the San Francisco Center for the Book, which brought a small letterpress, which is a beautiful tool. They also displayed some old printing blocks, like this one, for printing emergency wall posters with a cheerful brush script font.
Don Rathjen helped me make a micrometer that’s capable of measuring hundredths of millimeters out of a screw, a small wood block, and other common materials. His design is a variant of a project from the PSSC curriculum, the high-school physics teaching program developed at MIT for US classrooms after Sputnik. The micrometer holds its test object between a wide washer and the flattened end of a #10-24 screw. Because the screw takes 24 complete turns per inch and a millimeter is about 1/24th of an inch (1/25.4 actually), that means the screw advances about 1 millimeter per turn. Secure a large dial to the screw, and after zeroing the micrometer, you can measure how thick things like hairs, magnet wire, and sheets of paper are by just turning the screw down loosely with a clothespin, and seeing where the dial stops.
No celebration of tools would be complete without TOOOL, The Open Organization Of Lockpickers. TOOOL members taught kids how to open cylinder locks via precise single-pin picking or more brute-force (but still gentle) raking. Here is an example of the latter:
In the “Meet The Makers” program in the Exploratorium’s McBean Theater, electromechanical amusement designer Tim Hunkin called MIG welders “glue guns for metal” and admitted that, when welding, he sometimes just closes his eyes rather than wear a shade. Demonstrating another favorite tool, an angle grinder, he said “I know they’re teaching lockpicking at the other end of the hall. This is a lot quicker.”
Textile artist Moxie recalled the day when, one day, she got bored and wondered if her needle felting hook could make felt that wasn’t flat. After succeeding in making a felt ball, and started using felt as a sculptural medium and has rarely felted anything 2 dimensional since.
Chef and culinary author Elizabeth Falkner described the pink Rolls Royce and cityscape cake that she recently made for Muhammad Ali’s birthday party. Her competitive side felt that that was a pretty unbeatable achievement until she attended Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, and met someone who had made a pizza for the Pope. In the kitchen, Falkner uses a blowtorch not just to caramelize sugar on the tops of desserts, but also as a quick-n-dirty way to warm things up.
Mechanical artist Benjamin Cowden showed how he designs mechanisms with life-like behaviors by doing pencil sketches, then refining in 2D CAD for cutting flat metal pieces that he then welds together.
Maker Eric Stackpole told the story of the Hall City Cave, where local legend holds that a fortune in gold was abandoned at the bottom of a long water-filled shaft. Unsuccessful robotics-based attempts were made during both the 1980s and 1990s to retrieve (or disprove) this 19th century fortune, and it inspired Stackpole and David Lang to lead the OpenROV project, an open source underwater vehicle for telepresence. In just a couple of weeks, the two will go back to the cave with the latest version of the OpenROV and try to find the lost gold.
[Click on the headline above to see photos]
Last Saturday’s Open: Make at the Exploratorium in SF had a theme of Tools, and it was a wonderful scene, as always. I’ll share some of what I saw in another, non-gallery post, but here are some great photos of the happenings, taken by Gregory Hayes. See the MAKE Flickr page for his notes.
If you don’t know about Open MAKE, it’s a collaboration between the Exploratorium, MAKE Magazine, and Pixar Animation Studios in which a diverse array of makers run hands-on activities and demonstrations in the back of the Exploratorium from 10am to 2pm. Then the “Meet The Makers” session takes place in the museum’s theater at 1pm– featured makers do short, fun presentations followed by Q-and-A and discussion. Don’t tell the fire marshall, but the theater is so packed during Meet the Makers that I wonder if occupancy exceeds the maximum allowable.
Last Saturday’s Meet the Makers, hosted by Gareth Branwyn, featured mechano-amusement designer, cartoonist, and television host Tim Hunkin (favorite tools: lathe, vise-grips, MIG welder, and angle grinder); textile artist Moxie (dry felting needle); chef Elizabeth Falkner (bare hands, mortar and pestle, blowtorch); makers David Lang and Eric Stackpole (the OpenROV underwater vehicle, which is a “tool for adventure”); and mechanical artist Benjamin Cowden (sketch pad, 2-D CAD, and TIG welder).
Click here to watch the Meet The Makers session in full. The next Open Make is scheduled for Saturday April 21 with a theme of Trash, but check online for updates and more information.
Ray Alderman’s Manikin Figure Lamp with iPad 01 made a nice splash when we featured it in the MAKE Flickr pool roundup about a month ago, and Ray (aka Whamodyne) just wrote in to let us know that he’s recently posted a cool Instructable about how to make your own. [Thanks, Ray!]
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