Repurposed Rake Wine Glass Rack

Another one from the “And sometimes, it’s just that easy” File. [Via Green Renaissance's Facebook page]

Free Webcast from Author of Getting Started with Netduino, Chris Walker

Chris Walker, the author of Getting Started with Netduino, is presenting a free webcast (preregistration required) on Friday, April 13, 2012:

Start building electronics projects with Netduino, the popular open source hardware platform that’s captured the imagination of makers and hobbyists worldwide. Join Chris Walker, inventor of the Netduino and author of Getting Started with Netduino for an exciting webcast presentation where he will provide an overview of projects you can create with Netduino as well as what you need to experiment with Netduino and the .NET Micro Framework.

With the recent announcement of the Netduino Go, this will be an interesting webcast!

Free Webcast from O’Reilly: Getting Started with Netduino

In the Maker Shed:

Netduino is an open source electronics platform using the .NET Micro Framework. The board features a 32-bit microcontroller and a rich development environment, making it a perfect solution for engineers and hobbyists alike.

VERA Super Spud Gun

VERA is a low cost, low acceleration, compressed charge combustion gun featuring a 40 foot (12.2 m) barrel and a 19 inch (483 mm) bore. VERA was designed to minimize payload acceleration forces, accommodate large and/or oddly shaped projectiles, and allow for in-barrel instrumentation and control of energetic or inert payloads.

And yes, VERA, can best be described as a “potato gun on steroids.” Quite probably the world’s largest and most powerful, but no research to back up such a claim has been made.

Shapeoko, the Affordable CNC Mill Kit

On April 1, Inventables made Shapeoko kits available for the first time. No fooling! This low-cost CNC mill comes in three versions and each features the MakerSlide system. This inexpensive kit is quite an achievement and drives home the fact that MakerSlide is an empowering building block for makers. For Edward Ford, the inventor of Shapeoko, this is a watershed moment but it’s been a long time in coming.

Edward’s CNC odyssey started in 2004. While in college, he worked part-time at a manufacturer where he spent his days at a punch machine performing a boring, repetitive task hour after hour. Just across the aisle from him was a giant plasma CNC machine that captivated his imagination with its precision, power, and speed. Weeks went by. The boredom was stifling but the allure of the plasma CNC was intoxicating. His conclusion? “I’ve got to have one of those!”

Who among us hasn’t been caught up in watching CNC perform its magic? While many of us wish for such empowering tools, few of us will set out to build one from scratch. Yet within six months of falling in love with CNC, that’s exactly what Edward set out to do.

Learning CNC
With ambition but little knowledge, Edward joined CNCzone where he found himself at the epicenter of those longing to make CNC machines. In this online community, Edward found people to engage with, projects to watch. and resources to learn from. With this site as his online resource, he set out to learn CNC.

On this journey, his first lesson was to get the hardware right. His first CNC project was done with the resources of a student and the result was his first CNC frame, cut and assembled with hand tools in his father’s workshop. While building it was a major achievement, the result was disheartening. Hand-cut hardware assembled imprecisely. Keeping everything square proved a major challenge. If it had been completed and powered with motors then it would have torn itself apart. In despair Edward shelved the project.

His second lesson was to get the electronics right. With new-found access to a laser cutter at work, it became possible to produce precision parts and build a quality frame, which he did. Moving to the next stage, he bought a kit from Xylotek to handle the electronics. It came with stepper motors, controller boards, and a power supply which would bringing his new CNC mill to life. While the electronics would readily perform their function, they had to connect to the hardware which presented new challenges. Establishing good mechanical coupling wasn’t easy. Getting the electronics to drive hardware correctly also didn’t come easy. It took a year of tweaking to get the electronics working well with the hardware. By the end of it, he had climbed major learning curves and was well on his way to conquering CNC.

At this point it was 2007 and Edward was years into the process of mastering CNC building. He had learned about hardware and electronics; it was now time for his third major lesson in getting the software and operations right. He installed EMC2, ran his first test, and experienced the joy of success! He had managed to draw a straight line.

Drawing that line was a major milestone, but obviously only a start. There would be many things still to learn about operating the mill. The concepts of homing, backlash, and learning G-code had to be mastered. He had to familiarize himself with different materials, their speeds and feeds, and much more. As he learned, he realized the many things he’d need to improve on his mill and this increased awareness became a growing burden. So much so that he tabled the project for almost two years.

A Fresh Start: Building on lessons learned
By 2008, the landscape had changed for makers. Affordable laser-cutting made it possible to produce precise hardware on the cheap. Open hardware had made controller systems inexpensive and created a vital development community; open source software had produced a raft of wonderful applications. It was time to leverage all these changes and start fresh.

In Edward’s life, SketchUp had been replaced by Autodesk Inventor, so now full 3D prototyping was both possible and powerful. He designed a completely new CNC mill in software. Before cutting even a single piece of wood, he tested the assembly thoroughly in Inventor. When he was confident of his design, he sent the files to Ponoko to be cut. When he received the cut wood, it fit together precisely and assembled perfectly.

When it came to electronics, Arduino and the shields ecosystem were now available to provide controller systems. G-code interpreters such as Grbl made it easy to control CNCs. Together they make it possible to quickly and cheaply build the rest of the mill and put it to the test. With high hopes he ran a test print of the SparkFun logo and he achieve fantastic results!

Open Source CNC Mill Kit
It was 2009 and Edward had been learning CNC mill-building for five years. Since starting his journey, the world of hardware building had changed radically. Starting from scratch he could now model and built a mill quickly and cheaply. A question gnawed at him: Could he help others fulfill the ambition he’d been pursuing for so long? Could he help others build a cheap CNC mill.

Of all the costs of mill-building, the cost of the rails stood in the way his goal. With cheap enough rails a mill could be built for $300. He looked around and found new sources that might work. He didn’t want to pour his own money into testing these options but decided if he could get the work funded then he’d take the time to do the prototyping.

Enter Kickstarter, the crowdfunding service where he posted his CNC project. If the community would fund his test of three different prototypes then he committed to release the results as open source hardware, providing a build of materials (BoM), and drawing files for free to all. A schedule of awards tied to funding levels was set; top contributors would receive complete CNC mill kits of the selected design. The campaign started on June 28, 2011 and ran for 30 days.

Coincidentally, just as the Shapeoko campaign began on Kickstarter, the MakerSlide campaign ended. Since Edward was looking at rail systems, he was naturally interested and after talking with Bart Dring of MakerSlide, he became a big fan. His mill prototypes started to use MakerSlide, and as its structural properties became better understood, Edward used more and more of it. Below you can see renderings of several prototypes: earlier versions on the left,  later versions on the right. Note the last two use MakerSlide exclusively. The end version is the Shapeoko.

The campaign goal had been to raise $1,500 to fund the prototyping. He easily exceeded that and raised a total of over $11,000 with 14 people paying $500 for the CNC kit. Six extra kits had been assembled so Edward offered them for sale to Kickstarter supporters. All six were gone within 15 seconds of sending the offer email and almost 50 people were left wanting. So Edward did what any good businessman would do, he made more.

He made 20 more and sold out in an hour. So he made 30 more… and sold out in an hour. There was obviously demand but only so much time available in Edward’s life to supply kits. With a second baby having recently arrived in his life, Edward needed help. Referencing MakerSlide’s Bart Dring as a role model and Inventable’s Zach Kaplan as a prospective partner, Edward was soon on the path to getting relief. Shapeoko is now available through Inventables who builds kits, does online sales, and performs fulfillment.

Edward is in the process of getting his life back. Without the burden of selling Shapeoko, he can focus on the many ideas he has for Shapeoko add-ons. He wants to design, build, test, and share them with others. He also longs to spend more time in the CNC community forums to help newly excited members learn about CNC. It’s been many months since he could run regularly, ride his mountain bike, or simply watch TV with his wife. Life with his family will soon become more sane… as sane as life gets with two kids under the age of three.

Concrete Coffee Table with Cast-in Saucers

I dig this “Orson” coffee table from Brandon Gore of Tempe, Arizona, who writes:

Each top is cast in a highly engineered composite concrete, and sealed with a cutting-edge reactive sealer that cannot peel or yellow. The steel base is crafted in-house, each piece carefully cut and fitted, each weld obsessed over to ensure many lifetimes of use, and when finished, each receives a hand-rubbed wax finish.

I don’t know for sure, but I bet Brandon would sell you one, if you’re interested. Or, you could try making your own by pouring concrete into a melamine mold box (as in this tutorial from DIY Network) with upside-down saucers glued to the bottom. [Thanks, Brandon!]

The Orson Coffee Table

Flex Your Brain Muscle With Game Show Buttons

Welcome back to Weekend Projects, fun, mostly beginner-friendly electronics projects you can make in a weekend! Throughout the year, every other week, we’ll introduce a new project for those either looking to get started learning electronics or slightly more advanced projects to build upon what you know. For example, last year, we explored circuit bending (Add Volume, Jack), AM/FM radio (Aircraft Band Receiver), and even touched on cybernetics (555 Timer Ball Whacker). Our big hit was the Light Theremin project, which dozens of users built variations of, from touch-sensitive to motor-driving theremins, using breadboards, Snap Circuits, even “Manhattan-style” circuit design.

This year, we’ll begin with Game Show Buttons, a moderately involved circuit that’s easy to build and understand – no soldering required, so all that’s needed is to drop components in place on a 6″ modular IC breadboard. More on this circuit and a video after the jump!

Challenge your friends to rounds of geeky jeopardy with Game Show Buttons, a two-person quiz circuit built using the legendary 555 timer and a Quad 2-input OR gate IC (we recommend the 74HC32). Along with momentary push buttons and corresponding LEDs (and some resistors and capacitors thrown in for good measure), the first player who thinks they know the answer and pushes his or her button will turn the circuit on, locking out the other player.

This circuit is built using an OR logic gate, which as the name implies is true (on) if either input A or input B is true. The OR is one of seven common types of logic gates, the others being AND, NAND, NOR, XOR, XNOR, and NOT (or as most call it, an Inverter). Watch the video below to see the circuit being built and operated. If you build this project or a variation of it, be sure to send us an email with pictures of your build!

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See all of the RadioShack Weekend Projects posts

“Aperture” is an Installation that Responds to Light and Shadow

“Aperture” is a large wall made of 130 hexagonal components, each of which contains a circular opening with a moveable iris. As the user covers an iris, it opens up, revealing the light on the other side of the wall. The work as a whole is reminiscent of Danny Rozin’s Wooden Mirror.

In development by multidisciplinary group TheGreenEyl for the past five years, this project is a success in electronics, aesthetics, and user interaction. The makers describe it best:

Aperture acts like an autonomous skin capable of precise external control. Visual information is transmitted from the inside of the building to the outside. The surface permeability is regulated when the aperture’s opening diameters are changed.

[via The Creators Project]

How-To: 30 kW Induction Heater

Instructables user bwang writes:

This Instructable will walk you through the construction of a high-power (30kVA) heater, suitable for melting aluminum and steel. Note that to take full advantage of this design, you will need a 220V outlet, at least a 50A single-phase one and preferably a 50A or 60A 3-phase outlet.

Obviously, one should read, understand, and be comfortable with the safety procedures before attempting something like this, but what an awesome tool to have.   Using scavenged materials, he estimates the build cost $200. It’s an entry in Instructables ongoing EXTREME! Challenge.

30 kVA Induction Heater

Arduino Ambient Temperature Display

Larry Ogrodnek, creator of the LED NameTag kit, figured out a great way to use an RGB backlight LCD to display temperature data.

This is a really simple ambient display for temperature using an Arduino, an RGB backlight LCD, and a temperature sensor.

The LCD displays the temperature in Fahrenheit and Celsius and adjusts the color of the backlight depending on the reading. An ideal range is set at 61F to 67F. If the temperature is in this range the backlight will change green. Above this range and the color will change red, below the range it will change blue.

The great thing about these kinds of displays is that you can immediately get some rough information from across the room.

This is just a quick project. An obvious improvement is to have more variations in color depending on how far you are from your ideal range. I.e. as the temperature increases out of the ideal range, move along the color wheel and use shades of yellow, then orange before hitting red. There’s also a lot of empty room on that LCD. Possibly room for data from other sensors, or maybe just a larger (2-line) font.

This is perfect for someone like me who only needs 5 different temperature increments; really cold, cold, nice, hot, and really hot. Most of these parts and (Larry’s NameTag kit) are available in the Maker Shed.

[via Analog Machines]

IDEO Make-a-Thon

International “design and innovation consultancy” IDEO threw a cool-sounding hackathon:

Originally we thought of doing a hackathon. Then we decided to push the concept to its next iteration. How could we bring together multidisciplinary weekend project teams—not just software engineers and digital designers, but also industrial designers, architects, and problem solvers from different backgrounds? Could we create a new kind of design-driven collaborative event? Inspired by IDEO’s own maker culture, the DIY community at Maker Faire, and Silicon Valley hackathons, we decided to experiment with the concept. We called this prototype event a “Make-a-thon.”

The result was a unique London pop-up event that produced some truly original concepts and meaningful digital and physical prototypes. We hosted about 60 makers and hackers in the IDEO London studio—including 1/3 IDEOers and 2/3 UK creative community members.

[thanks, Dave!]

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