MechaniCards – Laser Cut Kinetic Art

Last fall Make’s blog had a story about Brad Litwin’s Mechanicards(tm). These are small hand operated kinetic sculptures that fit in a 5″ rectangular mailing envelope. They are available either completed or as a kit.

I was taken by the design and execution of these wonderful pieces of art.  The card are on the expensive side ($50-75 each completed), but the whimsical nature of these awesome moving art.  I ordered a full set of the kits.  They have been arriving over the last couple months. Unfortunately they have been stacking up in the To-Build piles, along with arduinos, LEDs and far too many projects.  I accumulated the highly specialized equipment required for assembly (tweezers, gap filling super glue, toothpicks, wax paper) and was finally ready to build the first kit (rotary engine) last week.

There were a couple hitches – the kit requires seven straight pins but these had been left out of my mine.  Fortunately my wife’s sewing kit was nearby and she let me have a few pins. There were a couple places where the instructions were not quite clear, but it was easy to figure out.  I emailed Brad and he replied quite quickly. The issues with instructions were known and being fixed.  I am very happy with this first MechaniCard and am looking forward to building the rest of the collection.

The primary material used for the cards is high quality illustration board. Brad works out the designs and then uses a laser cutter to cut the board.  I expect his work will be inspirational to other artists.  We have the tools to support making these when local artists want to try.

One local maker/artist who saw the cards thought it would be super awesome to build some kinetic sculpture like these as stage sets.  That sounds like a cool challenge.

Maui Makers Meeting Thurs Jan 27 2011

We will be meeting on Thursday Jan 27th 2010, 7-10pm at the home of Ben Ward.

Ben’s address is: 297 Haulani St, Makawao, HI 96768

We will be buying a couple pizzas to feed, so please reply as comment here, or to the google group if you plan to attend so we can get enough.  Bring your own drinks.

We will fill you in on the status of our hunt for a home, and there will be time for people to share their projects, ideas, etc. Come and talk story!

Factory@Home – report for Whitehouse Office of Science & Technology Policy

Hod Lipson (Fab@Home) and Melba Kurman were commissioned by the US Office of Science & Technology Policy (Executive Branch) to write a report on the emerging economy of Personal Manufacturing (aka Fab Lab tech).  The full report Factory @ Home: The Emerging Economy of Personal Fabrication” (PDF) is available from Hod’s Cornell U website.

I am only part way through reading but it looks like a very good report.  I recommend downloading and reading.  Here is the Executive Summary:

This report outlines the emergence of personal manufacturing technologies, describes their potential economic and social benefits, and recommends programs the government should consider to realize this potential.

Personal manufacturing machines, sometimes called “fabbers,” are the pint-sized, low-cost descendants of factory-scale, mass manufacturing machines. Personal-scale manufacturing machines use the same fabrication methods as their larger, industrial ancestors, but are smaller, cheaper, and easier to use. Home-scale machines, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and programmable sewing machines, combined with the right electronic design blueprint, enable people to manufacture functioning products at home, on demand, at the press of a button. In just a few hours, these mini-factory machines can produce a simple object like a toothbrush, or make complex machine components, artisan-style jewelry or household goods. Within a few years, personal manufacturing machines may be sophisticated enough to enable regular people to manufacture complicated objects such as integrated electronic devices.

A number of converging forces are bringing industrial-scale design and manufacturing tools to a tipping point where they will become cheap, reliable, easy, and versatile enough for personal use. The rapid adoption of personal manufacturing technologies is accelerated by low cost machinery, active online user communities, easier-to-use computer aided design (CAD) software, a growing number of online electronic design blueprints, and more easily available raw materials.

Personal manufacturing technologies will profoundly impact how we design, make, transport, and consume physical products. As manufacturing technologies follow the path from factory to home use, like personal computers, “personalized” manufacturing tools will enable consumers, schools and businesses to work and play in new ways. Emerging manufacturing technologies will usher in an industrial “evolution” that combines the best of mass and artisan production models, and has the potential to partially reverse the trend to outsourcing. Personal manufacturing technologies will unleash “long tail” global markets for custom goods, whose sales volumes of will be profitable enough to enable specialists, niche manufacturing, and design companies to make a good living. Underserved communities will be able to design and manufacture their own medical devices, toys, machine parts and other tools locally, using local materials. At school, personal-scale manufacturing tools will empower a new generation of innovators, and spark student interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.Barriers and challenges: A number of barriers stand in the way of mainstream adoption of personal manufacturing technologies that discourage widespread home, school and business use. A chief barrier is the “chicken and egg” paradox, where today’s current consumer and education markets for personal fabrication technologies is too small to attract the attention of companies, discouraging company investment in creating products and services, hence failing to attract more consumers. Other barriers are safety concerns, part standardization and version control challenges, intellectual property issues and a lack of appropriate safety and regulatory controls.

Recommendations: Over thirty years ago, our nation led the way in the personal computing revolution. Today, we need to ensure we lead the way in the personal manufacturing revolution. Thoughtful and visionary government investment is needed to ensure that the US remains competitive in an era of personal fabrication and realizes the potential benefits of personal manufacturing technologies.

This report recommends the following actions be taken.

1. Put a personal manufacturing lab in every school

2. Offer teacher education in basic design and manufacturing technologies in relation to STEM education

3. Create high quality, modular curriculum with optional manufacturing components

4. Enhance after school learning to involve design and manufacturing

5. Allocate federal support for pilot MEPs programs to introduce digital manufacturing to regional manufacturing companies

6. Promote published and open hardware standards and specifications

7. Develop standard file formats for electronic blueprints design files

8. Create a database of CAD files used by government agencies

9. Mandate open geometry/source for unclassified government supplies

10. Establish an “Individual Innovation Research Program” for DIY entrepreneurs

11. Give RFP priority to rural manufacturers that use personal manufacturing

12. Establish an IP “Safe Harbor” for aggregators and one-off producers

13. Explore micropatents as a smaller, simpler, and more agile unit of intellectual property

14. Re-visit consumer safety regulations for personally-fabricated products

15. Introduce a more granular definition of a “small” manufacturing business

16. Pass the National Fab Lab Network Act of 2010, HR 6003

17. “Clean company” tax benefits should include efficient manufacturing

18. Offer a tax break for personal manufacturing businesses on raw materials

19. Fund a Department of Education study on personal manufacturing in STEM education

20. Learn more about user-led product design

Dinner Meetup Monday Jan 10 2011 Flatbread Paia

Our next meetup will be Monday Jan 10, 2010 at Flatbread in Paia from 6-10pm.  This is a cross-over meeting with the TechHui Maui Techies group.  Many of our people are on this list too.   No particular topics but bring your ideas if you have something to share.

NOTE: DAY CHANGE FROM PREVIOUS ANNOUNCED DAY – MONDAY NOT TUESDAY.  If you are going please rsvp on TechHui Event so Les can reserve the right size table.  We will be downstairs too.

We are also working on planning another meeting later in January, perhaps at Ben Ward’s home again.  Also still hunting for a space. Pauwela Cannery is next target for a go-look, hopefully before the Jan 11 meeting.