Free live online class on Arduino and Processing

O’Reilly and Creative Live are offering a 5 week (one session/wk) class “Processing and Arduino in Tandem: Creating Your Own Digital Art Tools” .  The class is free if you can make it to the live version – tuesdays starting Aug 31 at 3pm PST (Noon Hawaii time).  The O’Reilly description says you dont need programming or electronics experience, although you do need to have an arduino and some other parts.  O’Reilly sells a kit ($75) with all the parts.

It looks like a good opportunity to learn the basics.  I’m not sure how useful this will be to those with programming and electronics experience, but I’m planning to watch the live classes.  Mostly I hope to learn about teaching with the Arduino and Processing.  I’ve done a bit of experimenting with the Arduino and toyed with Processing.  Both are aimed at making it easier for non-techies to use computers to create interactive applications.

  • class info on O’
  • class info on
  • Arduino home
  • Processing home
  • Arduino on Wikipedia
  • Processing on Wikipedia
  • Videos about Hackerspaces and FabLabs

    I ran across a couple good videos on other hackerspaces and FabLabs recently and thought it would be good to collect a few of them them for reference.  It may take a while to watch em all so pace yourself.

    Hackerspace Videos:

    Good Basic Background on what is a hackerspace:

    Bre Pretis interviewed about starting NYC Resistor:

    Austrialian Hackerspace (Previously blogged here):

    Tokyo Hackerspace Open House:

    VIMBY on Chicago Pumping Station One

    VIMBY on Hive 76 Philadelphia:

    FabLab Videos:

    The original 2006 TED talk by Neil Gershenfeld:

    A Shift: a documentary on FabLab in The Netherlands

    The Fab Lab at Lorain County Community College in Ohio

    Fab Lab Manchester UK

    2010 APMM Talk by Neil Greshfeld (4 parts)

    Simi Valley Adult School Basic Machinist

    Basic Machinist Projects

    Examples of Eight Projects from SVAS Basic Machinist class

    As I mentioned back in Desktop Fab, Basic Machining and CNC last fall I took the Basic Machinist course at Simi Valley Adult School.  I am taking this opportunity to document the class a bit more.  The main effort was on 8 projects, with basic math and print reading supplementing and supporting the projects.   The projects provide opportunity to use most of the machines in the machine shop.

    Sign on SVAS DVD player shows its age.

    There are a number of safety and basic use videos students must watch.  These are all on DVDs and small 12″ CRT tvs are provided with headphones.  The videos vary in age but generally are fairly old…. Some appear to be from the early 1970s and transferred from filmstrip originals to videos and then DVD.  They are series of stills and you can hear a ‘ding’ just before each frame change, which was the old cue to film strip operator to change the frame. Generally quality of both video and audio is pretty low, but the information is good. Some of the old hair and cloth styles give away their age.

    The first project is a simple T-Slot cleaner (sorry no pics).  It is used to clean out the t-slots in Mills and other machine tools.  The tool is made from a piece of flat sheet steel. Students first draw out the shape to scale, then inscribe it on the metal – paint part blue, then scrape lines with scribe tool.  The basic shape is then cut using a hack saw, and filed to shape with a metal file.  Test fitting is done with two different Milling Machines in the shop, as t-slot sizes do vary.


    SVAS Project 2 - V-Clamp

    The second project is a V-Vlamp.  This project requires using most of the tools in the shop. Students first draw the block and clamp ring to scale.  The block and clamp blanks are then cut from steel stock – a horizontal band saw chops them to rough size.  The block is placed in a lathe and facing cuts are made to bring the two ends to size.  The block is squared to 1.900″ in the vertical mill, then layout ink is applied and scored according to drawings. A horizontal mill is used to mill out the slots in sides and bottom of V. A band saw is used to cut the basic shape of V, and burrs removed.  A vertical mill and existing V block are used to mill the V.  Lastly a surface grinder is used to bring all sides (including V) to size within tolerance.  The grinding process is very time consuming and a bit messy.   This completes the block.  The clamp follows similar process: cutting stock, squaring in lathe, layout ink.  Center is drilled out using the lathe, the outer shape is cut using a band saw. The top hole is drilled and tapped with the aid of a tap holder in the vertical mill.  The screw is fashioned from a piece of 3/4″ stock and turned on the lathe. Threads are then cut and the end cap made by cutting off a piece using the lathe’s cut off tool.  The turn handle and end cap are press fitted into screw after it is assembled into the clamp.

    Cutting block from raw stock on horizontal band saw

    Facing Block on Lathe

    Milling Face on Block

    Cutting clamp using band saw

    SVAS Project 3: block clamp

    The third project is a vise stop.  This is a very useful tool later on.  Actually we used one when making the V-Block Clamp.  It is attached to the vise block of a mill (CNC or manual), allowing a measured/centered part to be removed and replaced without having to re-measure. It was a fairly simple piece to build, requiring milling, drill/tap and surface grinding. One trick is to drill the three holes with the pieces clamped together.  This insures the holes will line up.

    SVAS Project 4: Screwdriver handle

    The fourth project is a screw driver handle.  It is made from basic steel stock and so is not really strong enough to be a real screwdriver, but it lets us learn several techniques.  We actually used the original stock back in Project 2 as practice for cutting threads. First we cut The stock piece is held in the 3 draw lathe chuck using a ‘Lathe Dog’, a clamp that transfers the rotary motion to the piece when held between centers. After practicing cutting threads, we turned the part down to size… sizes actually. The handle portion is knurled, drilled, and bored.  The cap is turned from another piece – rounding well applies careful planning of depths on a manual mill. The cap is press fit into the handle.

    SVAS Project 5: Indicator Holder

    Project 5 is an indicator holder – device used to which an indicator can be attached.  Mostly it is an exercise in turning aluminum on a lathe.  The different diameters are intended to be grasped in different sized chucks.

    SVAS Project 6: Tapping Center

    Project 6 is is a Tapping Center. Two parts are turned from HR Steel.  The upper piece is turned to two diameters and then both ends are drilled out.  The lower piece is drilled and pointed to 30Deg.  A rod is used to join them, with a spring between. The upper piece goes into a mill chuck.  The bottom point goes into the back end of a tap handle over a hole to be threaded.  The Tapping Center holds the tap handle vertical while it is turned by hand.

    SVAS Project 7: Angle Plate

    Project 7 is an Angle Plate. It is used to clamp a part at an angle. It is made by cutting two chunks of 1/2″steel and milling them flat, and drilling an array of holes in the upper.  A third chunk of 1/2″ steel makes a hinge between them. Once milled to size, the pieces are assembled and ground flat. The end and side plates fabricated from 1/8″ steel plate.  Note: the class curriculum was changed shortly after I finished, with a hole gauge replacing this part.

    SVAS Project 8: Hammer

    The last Project, #8, is a hammer.  This uses all the lathe turning and knurling tools we learned before, along with the Taper Cut.  The handle is drilled out to give the hammer a proper balance.  The hole is threaded and an end cap is fabricated to fit.  The head requires some tricky turning to get all the curves, including the very fine dome on the face of the hammer head.

    Letters from Fab Academy

    The MIT Fab Lab has a distributed learning component (Fab Academy) where people located at other Fab Labs around the world can connect in via video conferencing systems for class lectures, etc. The remote participants then use their local equipment to do the lab exercises.  The academy basically followed the MIT course “How To build (almost) Anything)” over the last 9 months.  Students earned Certificates as they completed the 1-2wk segments on various digital fabrication tech, which combine to form the Diploma at the end of class. The first academy just completed with participants from

  • Barcelona
  • Amsterdam,
  • India
  • Ohio
  • COEP India
  • Iceland
  • Kenya
  • Rhode Island.
  • Shawn Wallace, member of AS220, the Providence, RI location (a community space like Maui Makers) has been posting “Letters From Fab Academy” to the Make Magazine blog.  They make very interesting and inspiring reading.  It is my hope that someday we can have a Maui Fab Lab participating in the Fab Academy.  Here are links to the 6 letters on Make:

  • Letters From the Fab Academy, Part 1 Make a Press-fit Construction Kit
  • Letters From the Fab Academy, Part 2 Making and programming circuit boards
  • Letters From the Fab Academy, Part 3 Mold making and casting
  • Letters from the Fab Academy, Part 4 3D Scanning
  • Letters from the Fab Academy, Part 5 Interfacing microcontrollers and applications
  • Letters From the Fab Academy, Part 6 Machine Design (DIY CNC bot)
  • Laser up and running again!

    The new HP desktop seems to be working fine, although it has to stop and think sometimes.  Amazing that with such great increases in computing and graphics power, the user experience is still pretty much what it was 20 years ago.

    Yesterday I burned some more flooring samples. I had to recreate (again) the artwork, since previous versions are stuck on my dead laptop – or the two host machines I used back in California for earlier tests (if owners havent deleted em yet.) The turtle logo is pretty easy now as I have some good starting art and know the basics of converting bitmap to outline objects in Corel Draw.  I havent tried that EngraveLab yet. The manufacturer’s web site touts “Free 1 Hour training for ALL new customers”, but when you go to sign up, it says “not available in conjunction with promotional package pricing”. They did say on Monday they would send me a PIN to take the training, but have yet to send it. Grrr. Another learning cliff to scale.

    Minwax stain pens in Red Mahogany and Ebony on bamboo flooring.

    Anyway, as I was wandering thru Home Depot on an unrelated excursion, I passed the MinWax stain display and decided to pick up some things to test.  They have some pens that hold stain – expensive for amount, but ease of application may count here.  I bought an ebony and a red mahogany  used them on the earlier floor samples with url. They worked pretty well. The text was too small to get the pen into but running it across the surface got enough into the etched portion, and the rest wiped off very easily.  I think the black ebony stands out a bit better. Not sure about the red on bamboo.

    Minwax stain and poly shades on bamboo.

    I also picked up a couple small cans of the regular Minwax stain. I got a regular stain/sealer in ebony and a PolyShades in Red Mahogany. I picked up some small artist brushes – not much selection at Home Depot! These worked pretty well, although some still got on the top surface.  This time it didnt wipe off as easily, but a little mineral spirits on a cloth and it looks pretty clean.  The polyshades should dry with a satin finish. Alas it seems I got some dust in it from somewhere – probably hay dust, given the four bales of alfalfa sitting less than 10 feet away. I gotta build a real workshop – and a horse shelter.

    Darker solid wood with logos and stain

    Next up I scanned the Wisteria Lane logo from a brochure they gave me. Thats the place from which I purchased my bamboo floor. They gave me a bunch of samples of different types of wood. This time Corel was not so forgiving with its outline creation.  It came out ok but its got the jaggies – not pixel aliasing, but weird bumpy curves.  I burned it and the turtle into a sample of solid darker wood, and then used the red mahogany polyshade stain on it.  Both of them came out looking pretty good – however I would rather have line art for starting point with the logo, especially if we want to make it any bigger.

    Boo Boo Zoo image on pine cutting board

    Then I scanned some artwork from a flyer from the Boo Boo Zoo (aka East Maui Animal Rescue). It converted pretty well with Corel, except it had a lot of white islands making up details.  The laser uses gray scale to determine power/cutting depth.  Earlier experiments showed that sometimes ‘white’ is not the same as Dont Etch. So I spent a bit of time removing the white objects.  I burned the image into a piece of white pine we had lying around.  It used to be a cutting board until my wife put it through the dish washer.  Do not put wood things in dishwasher – i keep telling her. Now she has an example of why.  The result looks pretty good, even before I try to remove the scorch marks.

    Turtle on pine cutting board pieces

    Last up is a test with the turtle on some of that cutting board pine.  I had to use two pieces of the board as the turtle is about 5 inches tall.  The upper piece was cleaned with a wet cloth and still shows some scorch/resin stains.  Dennis took some light sand paper to the lower piece and it removed all the marks very nicely.

    Thats about it for this round.  I only have another two days on island so I wont get around to finishing off the stairs this trip.  I need to figure out the alignment on those too.  The wood is already cut so I’d rather not make mistakes.  I also need to get some magnets so I can fool the door interlocks to operate the laser with larger pieces sticking out the front.

    Lasers In Maui!

    We now have a Laser Cutter/Etcher!!

    delivery van

    Laser gets delivered by Delivery People

    Crated Epilog Laser in my garage

    This afternoon (6/24/10) my Epilog Helix 24, 40 watt laser cutter finally arrived at my home in Haiku, HI (Maui).  The laser can do a variety of cutting and etching.  The manufacturer provides a good reference page that shows the types of materials that can be cut and/or etched.
    The laser shipped a week ago from Golden Colorado, via Los Angeles, Honolulu and finally to Maui.

    So far I’ve unboxed it (as you see in pictures) and realized I need the 4″ exhaust hoses to connect to the Harbor Freight ‘dust collector’ I brought over last week as my luggage. Its a noisy little beast but it will do for now.  I initially bought some basic vinyl dryer hose but the instructions say to use only metal hose.  Thats probably a good idea aside from the heat issues – the vinyl hose tends to collapse under the vacuum pulled by the dust collector.  The hose crushes into the fan inlet and stops sucking.

    Here are some pics from the unboxing:

    Unboxing the Epilog Laser

    Paper Carton Removed

    Air Assist Pump included, unboxed

    Palette has ramps with hooks that fit in slots.

    Ready To Roll off. Additional boards added at lip of garage.

    Ready to roll, waiting on Dennis to assist.

    Opened hood - etching software app included!

    Next level - Goodies!!

    Manuals, cables, pump, etc

    Sample materials, catalogs, etc

    Rotary attachment for round stuff (bottles, glasses, flashlights, etc)

    Next layer - honeycomb cutting table

    Bottom layer - z table to hold targets

    Off the palette - time to set up

    Laser Setup in Garage

    Opened right side to look around, Z table mechanism with air inlet on upper right

    Back side, air inlet in upper left, laser along top, exhaust at bottom center

    Ben Ward came to help and play

    My new island friend Ben Ward came over to help me set it up and play.  He brought the beer!

    First Burn!! Logo in two sizes

    Our first burn is the Maui Makers logo – turtle with URL. We did it in two sizes using Corel Draw.

    I’ve got a lot of reading and testing to do. The stairs in my house are the first big project.  Meanwhile the flooring people asked if they could have some more samples for a Home Expo today down at the Maui War Memorial Gymnasium. And of course, The Wife arrives today so I gotta clean the house first. Laser will have to wait.  But it is here and we have burned stuff!!

    Any Maui artists out there who would like to experiment with some new medium, drop me a line:  The primary software I have is Corel Draw, although they shipped me Engrave Lab.  We can start with any image – bitmap or line art – and then chose the target (wood, acrylic, metal) and try it.

    Me and My Laser!!

    Silhouette SD paper and vinyl cutter

    Paper Fabrication with Silhouette and ModelMaker

    Silhouette SD paper and vinyl cutter

    Silhouette (aka Craft Robo) paper and vinyl cutter

    I recently stumbled upon a great web site for teaching with paper crafting – is from the Curry Center for Technology and Teacher Education at U. Virginia. The site is mostly about using a Silhouette (aka Craft Robo), a desktop paper/vinyl cutting machine about the size of a small inkjet printer.

    Costume CampBells Soup Can

    Matt’s costume Campbells Soup Can

    I have one of these machines and it is currently on-loan to CrashSpace. It does a good job cutting card-stock and vinyl.  One of the Crashers (Matt Pinner) used it to make a Campbell’s Soup costume with vinyl decals. Matt gave a class on using it back in May. I made some simple vinyl stickers for a car window.

    Back to the Digital Fab site … they have some good videos and FAQ on the site about using it for teaching kids using paper cutting/folding (aka Kirigami).  One really cool video is this one showing the creation of a rack and pinion system from card stock.

    They use a combination of Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw and a neat tool called fablab ModelMaker. The latter piece is a fairly low cost 3d modeler that drives the Silhouette and is targeted at schools/educational market, they are similar to the new wave of affordable 3d printers that have been made available.  They have a nice video showing kids from Punahou School (Oahu) using the machine with an inkjet printer to create ‘cereal boxes’ to learn math (although they may not know it.

    I emailed the creators of ModelMaker and learned they are working on a program to roll the software out to a few more Hawaiian schools.  Also the software can create STL files to output to the Fab@School 3D printer.  Since this is the same format used by Makerbot, I’m going to have to experiment with it for both of my machines!

    Mark Frauenfelder “Made By Hand” on Colbert Report

    Last night Mark Frauenfelder, editor in chief of Make Magazine and editor of BoingBoing, was on Colbert Report promoting his new book Made By Hand (published by Portfolio/Penguin).    cover of Made By Hand, by Mark Frauenfelder

    Its a fairly short interview (under 6min with intro) but fun to see.  Mark talks a bit about the joys of making things by hand, growing & raising animals, and demo’s a couple neat projects. One project is my friend and fellow Crasher Tod Kurt‘s TweetM – a wireless device that blinks its multi-colored LED when selected keywords are entered on Twitter.  Another is the world’s most useless machine – its only function is to turn itself off.   The book sounds like a great read – it doesnt have instructions (ala Make and Instructables) but rather tells the story behind the instructions, the why and experience of learning.

    I’ve been planning to get a copy at Mark’s long-planned visit to CrashSpace but alas it is scheduled for Wed June 30th – I’ll be on Maui that day.  We have had two way video feeds from CrashSpace with other spaces (notably Singapore last night), and the usual uStream channel.  Perhaps we can get something set up from a semi-public area in Maui and have a Maui Makers gathering?  It would be about 5pm Maui time since the LA event starts at 8pm.  Interested?

    Update June 15: Dangerous Minds posted longer interview with Mark (25min!).

    Robots And Dinosaurs — A Hackerspace Documentary (Sydney)

    Robots and Dinosaurs is a Sydney Australia hackerspace and recently a student filmmakers team made a sweet little documentary on the space. Its been covered over on Make:Online and on R&D’s own blog.  I’m including the YouTube embed here for easier viewing (and experience with embedding.)   Its a very nice short piece about the community of a hackerspace – what I’m hoping we can get at Maui Makers.  They do note that most spaces have an electronics focus.  While that will be a big part of Maui Makers, I am planning we will be more of a Fab Lab with additive (3d printing) and subtractive (cnc milling) manufacturing projects.  Over Memorial Weekend I attended the Tin Man Tech 4 Day Original Metalworking Intensive. on metal working. I’ll get a blog post on that up soon… shaping and welding sheet metal (Al & steel) is a lot of fun too!  Enjoy!!

    Desktop 3D Printing – Makerbot, RepRap et al

    One tech of the Fab Lab/Hackerspace is the 3D printer, where an object is created by adding successive layers of material. There are a wide range of materials used – from frosting and clay, to various plastics, ceramics and even metals. Professional 3D printers started back in late ’80s with 3D Systems Stereo Lithography, which uses a laser to harden layers of liquid plastic. Today there are multiple vendors selling machines (StratasysObjet, Z-Corp, Dimension), with various technologies (laser sintering powders, etc).  All of these start with a 3D computer model of the part, slice it up into layers and then draw the layers with or onto the medium.   Sometimes the medium is a homogenous layer on which the machine draws (eg laser sinter metal/plastic, laser plastic curing, etc.)   other times the machine extrudes the medium.  The part takes shape as successive layers are created.  Some tech allows for ‘support material’ that supports overhangs and small parts while higher layers are built. The support material is removed later using a solvent wash or mechanical means (cutting).

    All those neat commercial machines cost a fair chunk of money.  The ‘low priced’ HP branded DesignJet sells for about $17,500 (in europe). High end machines run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not what small shops can afford!! There are a variety of service companies (eg Shapeways, RAPID Tech HI) to which you can upload designs and they will send you completed parts.  There is at least one directory of such service companies Rapid Today to help locate one nearby. (RAPID Technologies is our closest in Honolulu.)

    On the other hand, there is the whole world of DIY hackers.  The granddaddy of the DIY 3D Printer is the RepRap – self replicating rapid prototyper.  They are currently on their 2nd generation design (Mendel) and are completely free and open source.  All designs and software are downloadable from the web.  There are a variety of child projects such as Fab@Home and Makerbot CNC.   I own a Makerbot Cupcake CNC, known as Goldbot.  It was built during a 3 day ‘Make-In” at CrashSpace in December 2009.  It will be one of the first machines available at Maui Makers.  The advent of these DIY tinkerer boxes was recently reported by the LA Times in the May 29 “These ‘printers’ make 3-D stuff” by Nathan Olivarez-Giles.  The article opens with Jay Leno’s use of a commercial machine to create parts for his antique car collection, and then moves quickly on to Sean Bonner of CrashSpace and Bre Pretis from Makerbot.  It closes with a quote from yours truly!  It also includes photos from Nathan’s visit to CrashSpace.

    GoldBot and friends, (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times / February 23, 2010)

    At present I am not the best evangelist for DIY 3D Printers. The current batch are definitely a tinkerers machine.  They take a lot of care and fussing to get good consistent results.  Some people have lots of success and I know some who actually make commercial parts with their machines. Alas, I am not in that category.  Goldbot suffers from a common malady of Makerbots – poor plastic feed.  The Makerbot uses a plastic wire (ABS or PLA) that it pushes down into a heat chamber and out a nozzle (a Plastruder).  One of the common failure modes is for the drive wheel to fail to properly grip the wire and slip, stopping the feed.  There are several reasons this happens and the Makerbot designers are all over the problem.  The new MK5 Plastruder has a new drive wheel that can be used in a MK4 Plastruder.  This, along with the redesigned heater and barrel of the MK5 should greatly reduce errors.  I am looking forward to installing one on Goldbot later this year, after I complete the move to Maui.

    Design of parts is also an issue for all 3d printing.  You need some type of 3D CAD program – and these can be very expensive.  There are low cost/free alternatives, such as Google SketchUp and Blender, but all of them carry a learning curve – sometimes its pretty steep, more of a learning cliff.  3D Scanners exist (including DIY ones!) that can scan an existing object to create a 3d model.  After creating the raw model, the objects must be converted to proper format for the 3D printer.  This includes cutting it in layers and designing the tool path (speeds, geometry, etc).   The Makerbot tool chain includes several alternatives that are free.  The primary tool is SkeinForge which is really more of a collection of tools that handle various steps in the process.  SkeinFox is a Mac OSX application that simplifies control of SkeinForge.  There are LOTS of parameters to consider – some of which make a big difference in printing success, others dont seem to have much effect at all.  It takes a fair bit of experience to know what to tweak.  Then again, I have been fairly successful using some of the pre-canned parameter sets.

    3D Printing will be a feature of Maui Makers.  Goldbot will be available for tinkerers. I plan to get some more experience with it myself so I can help others learn about the process and create.  There will, in time, be a wiki page tree for using our 3D printer.  I’ll update this post with links then.