Posts Tagged ‘open source’

Kids Make The Darndest Things: Easton LaChappelle’s Robotic Arm

Posted by on Monday, August 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

Say hello to what kids can do with 3D printing, open source hardware, and YouTube.

Easton LaChapelle is now a Junior in high school and he’s already got some impressive credits to his name. His first robotic hand, controlled remotely by a glove with sensors sewn into it, won him 3rd place in the Colorado state science fair as a freshman, which reserved him a seat at the national fair in Los Angeles as an observer. This also won him some nice coverage in Popular Mechanics.

While developing the project, Easton got in touch with Jeremy Blum, whose YouTube videos have over 4 million views. Jeremy helped clear up some of the code for the control glove to communicate wirelessly with the hand. To do this on the cheap, Easton bought an old Nintendo Power Glove off the Internet and raided it for sensors. Watch this video of Easton testing the hand’s strength in this video.

As we all know, award-winning robotic hands grow up to become sweet, award-winning robotic arms. After Easton’s success with his first hand, he looked for ways to improve it. The first step was to fabricate the hand how he wanted it. 3D printing services in the area quoted him $500 to deliver on his designs, which was pretty far outside his high school budget.

Back to Jeremy Blum. Full disclosure: Jeremy is a current MakerBot employee and a longtime enthusiast of open source collaboration and 3D printing. He was in college at the time with plenty of access to a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic. He took Easton’s awesome designs and advised him on how to tweak things for a MakerBot. Then Jeremy made all the pieces on the Thing-O-Matic and shipped them to Easton in Colorado. He also advised Easton on how to convert a couple DC motors on the robotic arm to servos by adding potentiometers. That way they don’t just continue spinning forever, but stop when parts of the arm have hit the right position.

Well here’s the coolest part. This arm placed in the Second Award category for Engineering at the 2012 Intel International Science Fair, i.e. second in the world. Whoa. Easton’s story is timeless – someone trying to make a machine just for the fun of it, and finding every opportunity to do it for less money. But it’s also a perfectly modern one. He was in middle school when he discovered the resources online to take his simple fascination into reality. He was able to connect with someone across the country in no time and have his designs shipped relatively cheaply.

Photo courtesy of Hacked Gadgets

What if he had had a MakerBot of his own from the beginning? How much sooner would Easton have been testing ideas and making waves in huge competitions?

Easton lists Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway and other machines, as a big inspiration. He told me on the phone that Kamen is working on a prosthetic limb, too, but that he plans to make a better one. We think he probably will.


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MakerBot at HOPE Number 9

This weekend, while Keith, Nick, Sasha, and Andrew will be on the West Coast at San Diego Comic-Con at the Toy Tokyo booth collaborating with art toy superstar Ron English, Glenn, a gaggle of MakerBot web, software and R&D staffers and I will be making the far shorter pilgrimage over the bridge into Manhattan to spend time in the company of another breed of superstar — the hacker superstars at HOPE Number 9 at the Hotel Pennsylvania!

H.O.P.E. stands for Hackers On Planet Earth (and also “HOtel PEnnsylvania,” the venue for the event) and does beg the question — are there hackers for whom this designation does not apply? (Check through the schedule to see if there is a talk on this topic: are astronauts/cosmonauts the first Hackers Off the Planet Earth?)

HOPE Biennial Conference

For those of you who have never heard of or attended 2600: The Hacker Quarterly‘s biennial conference before, you should take note: not only is this the premier east coast conference dedicated to an impossibly diverse and interesting list of talks budding off the core topics of security, privacy, computers/technology, Internet/broadcast/transmissions, associated legal/policy implications, open source development, and hackers/hacking, this series is constantly pre-saging its own imminent demise — and this might be the very last year! (Just like they said the last two times. No, really this time!)

This year’s keynote speakers William Binney and The Yes Men are unlikely to disappoint, but also take the time to sift through the entire list to learn more about what this conference has on offer. We are hoping that MakerBot’s own Rob Vincent (Rob T Firefly), part of HOPE’s organizing team, will sneak us tips about the best talks and events to attend at this rambunctious, infectious, 24-hour programming hacker conference extraordinaire. Generally the rule of thumb is that if you manage to score a badge and make your way to the event, you are bound to stumble on activities, concerts, talks and people who you will find interesting.

MakerBot @ HOPE Number 9

MakerBot has secured two-tables-worth of vendorspace at the venue where I will be setting up two BotStands featuring our latest MakerBot Replicators, 3D-printed parts,, MakerBotTV videos, and a Thingiverse data visualization that Thingiverse participants will tremendously enjoy.

The BotStands are also display cases — so anyone in the MakerBot / Thingiverse community is invited to bring over their 3D printed work to display proudly at our booth (bring a Thingitag or similar label so we can brag about who created what).

There is also a rumor that I can neither confirm nor deny that one of the tables will devolve into a Seej tournament partway through the conference. This likely depends upon whether anyone in the community can come even close to competing with the MakerBot Seej Masters.

But wait, there’s more!

Check out what the MakerBot’s software team will be up to at the conference!

• Friday 10AM @ Dennis: “Community Fabrication: Four Years Later” – talk by MakerBot’s Far McKon, a follow-up to the one he gave 2 HOPEs ago before joining MakerBot
• Saturday 4pm-6pm @ MakerBot Booth: “How to Get Hacking on ReplicatorG” – tech demo lead by MakerBot’s software team
• Sunday 10am-11am @ MakerBot Booth: “How to Get Hacking on MakerBot Community Software Early on Sunday Morning” – tech demo lead by MakerBot’s software team

A Special Note

And if someone asks to borrow your cellphone or laptop “to check something” … well … you might be about to learn a very valuable lesson in computer security practice, if not policy and assumptions made about said policies at network/computer security conferences. Don’t say I didn’t warn you: pranks are an inevitable if unofficial part of the entertainment on offer.

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Video: Arduino’s Massimo Banzi Highlights Awesome Open Source Projects

Posted by on Monday, July 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

Massimo Banzi, one of the open source heroes from Arduino, gives a great rundown of projects and technologies using Arduino boards in the TED Talk below. Watch for a nice shout out to the MakerBot community at the very beginning, and Massimo’s really simple explanation of why open source rules:

You don’t need anybody’s permission to create something great.

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We Have The Burrito Technology: Burritob0t

Posted by on Monday, June 18, 2012 in Uncategorized
Rescuing the world from hunger, one burrito at a time

Rescuing the world from hunger, one burrito at a time

There is an actual robot designed and built to print burritos using MakerBot 3D printer technology.  Foodstuffs extruded by MakerBot frostrutders onto a tortilla warmed by a MakerBot heated built platform, a burrito could be assembled before your eyes by a robot, layer by delicious salty layer.  While a Burritob0t would almost certainly be slower than a seasoned1 Taco Bell employee, it would also have 1000% more DIY robotic goodness than anything available anywhere.2

Kidding aside, I’m assured by reliable sources this is not just a photo-mockup of what a burrito assembling robot would look like.  The creator Marko Manriquez has built a real robot capable of assembling parts of a burrito using some off-the-shelf open source parts and proven open source technology.

That’s one of the amazing things about open source hardware and software – you never know what someone will be able to create based on what you’ve contributed.  Who could have suspected three years ago the guts of a Cupcake CNC could have been put to use for an automated burrito making robot?

Hat tip to Hack-a-Day

  1. Pun intended []
  2. And, again, I’m sorry for helping propagate the whole TacoCopter thing. []
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Robot Offspring Discovered On Thingiverse

They’re multiplying!

Backstory: after their debut at the Maker Faire Bay Area 2012, the creatures of the MakerBot Robot Petting Zoo were put onto Thingiverse. First Wheely, then Bumper Bot, Button Bot, and Bubble Bot.

And then we noticed that a couple of these bots were quietly re-made by two brave Thingiverse citizens. Woot!

Here’s Xephius’ version of Wheely, with a hilarious description below.

This is a descendant of early high performance sport UAV’s that settled in BC’s Fraser Valley. They can easily be identified by the bright yellow and red markings and tell tail Stainless Steel Rodgers hardware in Imperial not Metric. (Canadian Tire doesn’t carry any M3 hardware!) Because of the relatively low number of wild UAV’s in BC (420 in last count), they are protected by the Province. Recent observations show they are attracted to Poutine, Hockey pucks, and Timbits, seen here courting a Sieg X2 CNC mill…

Just hours ago, a new cousin to this Wheely derivative popped up, too! Here’s cornwarrior’s version of Bumper Bot.


Awesome work by these two superstar Thingiverse members Xephius (aka John Cooney) and cornwarrior (aka Josh Kugler)!

Two down, two to go. Who will complete the happy family?


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Update On MakerBotted Fusion Parts: Electron Gun Armature

Posted by on Thursday, May 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

In support of her new book Before the Lights Go Out, Boing Boing’s Maggie Koerth-Baker hosted a discussion in NYC yesterday with the New America Foundation about the future of energy systems. Will centralized systems prevail, or will individuals and small communities find ways to meet their own energy needs?

Looking forward to some transcripts from this talk, but in the mean time, this reminded me to check in with the Prometheus Fusion Perfection blog, run by MakerBot Operator Mark Suppes, and the project’s new intern Domenick Bauer. PFP is an open-source project with the goal of finding a true energy solution through fusion. More here.

It looks like those guys have been using their Thing-O-Matic to prototype a couple of parts for the electron gun portion of their Bussard fusion reactor. The part ultimately needs to be ceramic, because it needs to be a great insulator and have a high heat tolerance. But to get the shape right, Domenick modeled the parts in OpenSCAD and made them with the Thing-O-Matic in the lab. They seem to have run out of nuclear green ABS, since all the pictures show the parts in blue. That’s okay, I guess.

The armature’s job is to hold the hot cathode in line with the accelerator annode and a piece of phosphor. They modeled the whole setup in a few pieces and assembled them with glue. The base is curved in order to sit nicely inside the reactor chamber.

Here’s what the assembled prototype for the armature looked like, but without the branch that holds the phosphor:


The version they ultimately sent to Shapeways for printing in ceramic is the model you see below. It’s shaped appropriately to hold the particular piece of phosphor they plan to use. That’s the beauty of having a MakerBot in your lab: make a frame for your oddly shaped piece of whatever, and make it just right.


Watch this space. It’s exciting work being done with a MakerBot, and it’s all open-source.


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Open-Source ROV Slashing Cost Of Underwater Exploration

Posted by on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

NASA engineer Eric Stackpole may be changing the face of ocean exploration with his open-source submarine made from inexpensive parts. The New York Times’ Brian Lam had a very nice post on the Bits Blog (and some extra details at another site he runs, Scuttlefish) about this $750 machine that’s rated to 100 meters, which is “below the range that divers can easily reach for long periods of time.”

That price tag is really something special, especially compared to the $10,000 professional ROV “Scout” from Videoray, which the Bits Blog post says can be used to a depth of only 76 meters. And it’s certainly a big chunk off of the expensive deep sea exploration devices like the Alvin, which explored the Titanic wreck site to the tune of $55,000 a day (and that’s 1986 dollars!).

Mr. Stackpole can’t afford exotic alloys or custom technology for his little sub. … The depth sensor they plan to use is commonly found in a scuba diver’s computer. High definition video camera is scavenged from a cheap Web-camera that people use to video chat. The most expensive part inside is the computer, a little Linux computer called a BeagleBone that costs $89. Still, the team thinks they can get costs down by buying parts in bulk.

Also, a quick shout out: Stackpole’s OpenROV is yet another cool project to come out of TechShop in San Francisco.

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Robot Petting Zoo Up On Thingiverse

In further celebration of Geek Pride Day, we are pleased to announce that the masterpieces collection from the MakerBot Design Team known as the Robot Petting Zoo will now be available on Thingiverse!

You heard us talk about these and you saw it all over Engadget and CNET and a bunch of other spots. We are incredibly proud of these little guys, and not just because they won Editor’s Choice from Maker Faire. They represent what a MakerBot is capable of and the power of combining open-source hardware technologies.

Now it’s time for the more important phase in the project: when we put the files in your hands and tell you to run free with them. (Don’t run too free. In our experience, you’ll need a fence to keep these robots in one place). In keeping with the open-source, collaborative spirit of everything we do here, the designs are now yours to use as you please. And the beauty is you can take these and be inspired to come up with other pet robots, and help us turn this petting zoo into a robot circus.

The first set of files to go up are for Wheely, the “robotic chicken” designed by Michael Curry. Here is how Michael describes his pet robot.

Wheely is a domesticated subspecies of the common Flightless Aircraft.  Found in the disused aerodromes of the southwestern deserts, Wheelies descend from earlier generations of autonomous UAV’s.  They live in rigorously organized communities called ‘squadrons’ and spend most of their lives socializing.  Largely ambivalent to other mechanical organisms, Wheely retains his ancestors ability to detect electric fields.

Wheely is up on Thingiverse right now (!!), and the rest of the bots — Bumper, Bubble, and Button — will be up in the next couple of days. Go make these, make them different, make them yours!

Error - could not find Thing 23688.
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Ladyada’s Workshop LEGO Set: Vote And Make This REAL

Posted by on Friday, May 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

We make an open-source robot so that people can make better things and a better worlds. That’s why we work really hard to keep costs down on high quality machines and plastic. We just want people to have this stuff and start imagining and doing.

What if kids could imagine the workshop of their dreams? What if little girl could look at a LEGO set and think of herself as a person who runs a technology company?

Ladyada, the master maker and hardware hacker at adafruit, and LEGO artist Bruce Lowell have created a fun, inspirational LEGO set to get boys and girls excited about engineering. Look at this set!


We are really excited about this LEGO set, and we need you guys to go VOTE for it at LEGO Cuusoo! In order for this to become a real set, it needs 10,000 votes. Help give kids the chance to imagine what it’s like to run a hardware and electronics company and learn about open source. This is what empowerment looks like at an early age, and MakerBot is in full support.

Just think what a kid might decide to learn about when she sees this laser cutter.


Or when he encounters this clean workspace with soldering station.



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This DIY Cell Phone Simply Belongs Near A MakerBot

Posted by on Monday, May 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

If this isn’t the most perfect MakerBot companion accessory, I don’t know what is.


Yes, that is a lasercut, open source, DIY custom cell phone, from the researchers at MIT’s High-Low Tech group. Those are all the things we love. These are the questions those guys and girls are asking themselves as they go.

How close can a homemade project come to the design of a cutting edge device? What are the economics of building a high-tech device in small quantities? Which parts are even available to individual consumers? What’s required for people to customize and build their own devices?

This looks like a great start. I really just want to see this being held by a MakerBot Arm.


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