AZ Labs Hackmeet


On December 12 and 13 we'll hold the first big meeting of AZ's 3 labs: LCD, altLab, and xDA. We'll all get together in Porto, at AZ's headquarters, for 2 days of creative and fun hacking. The main goals for this hackmeet are to share knowledge, explore synergies, collaborate, research, and... (of course) hang out!

Lab members are currently forming work groups around topics such as: electronics and physical computing, robotics, smart materials, soft circuits, multitouch interfaces, hardware recycling, computer vision, and information visualization.

AZ's hackmeet is mostly meant for lab members, but others are also welcome to join in provided we have enough spots left.

Register here


Nos dias 12 e 13 de Dezembro os membros dos três laboratórios AZ (LCD, AltLab e xDA) organizam a primeira grande reunião de exploração criativa e tecnológica sem fronteiras.

Este encontro é destinado, antes de mais, aos actuais membros dos laboratórios, mas participantes externos são bem-vindos, desde que as vagas existentes assim o permitam.

Durante este fim-de-semana serão criados grupos dedicados às múltiplas áreas em exploração na associação: electrónica e computação física, robótica, materiais inteligentes, interfaces multitoque, reciclagem de hardware, visão por computador, visualização de informação, etc...

O objectivo é a troca de conhecimento, exploração de novas sinergias entre áreas, criação colaborativa, pesquisa e investigação... e claro, convívio. Liberdade total, para tudo ou nada fazer.

Ficha de Inscrição

AZ — Makerbot workshop

News report from the fore­front of ubber geek­ness ^^ No we didn´t laun­ch a DIY open sour­ce spa­ce-sta­ti­on,.. just yet. What we did do is assem­ble 2 Cup­ca­ke CNC´s from Maker­bot Industries. 

News report from the fore­front of ubber geekness ^^

No we didn´t laun­ch a DIY open sour­ce spa­ce-sta­ti­on,.. just yet. What we did do is assem­ble 2 Cup­ca­ke CNC´s from Maker­bot Indus­tri­es. Maker­Bot Indus­tri­es is a Bro­o­klyn NY based com­pany, foun­ded in Janu­ary 2009 by Bre Pet­tis, Adam Mayer, and Zach Hoe­ken. It´s a very young com­pany inde­ed, and they must be one of the few com­pa­ni­es based enti­rely on open sour­ce hard­ware. Now, what is the Maker­bot Cup­ca­ke CNC ? It´s an open sour­ce 3D prin­ter rapid pro­toty­ping machi­ne. It´s a cute lit­tle machi­ne that fits on your desk­top and unli­ke a nor­mal prin­ter that only prints in 2d on flat paper, this one prints true phy­si­cal objects in ABS plas­tic. It´s a robot that makes things ! How does this work ? You design your thing in 3d soft­ware, send it to the Maker­bot Cup­ca­ke and some time later your thing exists for real, in real plas­tic, strong and durable !

A white and black role of 3 mm filament ABS plastic.
A whi­te and black role of 3 mm fila­ment ABS plastic.

Some of you pro desig­ners out the­re might say, well the­re is nothing new about this, rapid pro­toty­ping machi­nes have been around for some time now, yes you are right, but until recen­tly the­se type of machi­nes whe­re pro­pri­e­tary and very expen­si­ve with pri­ces ran­ging from 20.000 € and upwards and cer­tainly didn´t fit on your desk­top. This was true until Dr Adri­an Bowyer, a Seni­or Lec­tu­rer in mecha­ni­cal engi­ne­e­ring at the Uni­ver­sity of Bath in the Uni­ted King­dom, foun­ded and inven­ted the RepRap Pro­ject. As it hap­pens, Dr Adri­an Bowyer is one of the seed inves­tors of Maker­bot Indus­tri­es. DIY open sour­ce rapid pro­toty­ping for the mas­ses was born. Now you can have your own machi­ne for less then 700€, or even less if you recy­cle some motors from old prin­ters and you´re handy enough to saw some plywo­od into a nice loo­king box. Being the geeks we are, we had to have one of tho­se machi­nes, so many times whi­le wor­king on pro­jects we wished we could make a moun­ting brac­ket for this, or a sup­port that could hold that, or that we could just have this cool figu­re we mode­led in 3d soft­ware for real to show it off to our fri­ends or offer as a gift to our belo­ved ones. The need was cle­arly the­re, and what bet­ter way to ful­fill that need then invi­ting one of the foun­ders and inven­tors of Maker­bot, Mr. Zach Hoe­ken to host a 2 week workshop on buil­ding and using a Maker­bot Cup­ca­ke CNC.

Zach explaining how the Plastruder MK4 works.
Zach explai­ning how the Plas­tru­der MK4 works.

We were very lucky in fin­ding just the right pla­ce to hold the workshop the “Facul­da­de Arqui­tec­tu­ra — UTL” in Lis­bon, a cen­tral loca­ti­on and thus easily acces­si­ble to par­ti­ci­pants coming from all over Por­tu­gal, we even had the visit of a proud Maker­bot owner from Spain. Besi­des it´s ide­al loca­ti­on, we had gre­at sup­port from the local Pro­fes­sors who par­ti­ci­pa­ted in the workshop, it was gre­at to wit­ness their moti­va­ti­on and dedi­ca­ti­on to the project.

Working hard assembling the Makerbots.
Wor­king hard assem­bling the Makerbots.

Thanks to Mr. Zach´s pati­ent gui­dan­ce and extre­me kno­wled­ge, it took us only 8 hours to build the 2 machi­nes. Zach divi­ded us into 2 groups per machi­ne, the machi­ne con­sists of 2 main parts , the casing that holds the 3 moving axis X Y and Z and the elec­tro­nics to dri­ve them, the other main part is the extru­der aka the “Plas­tru­der MK4″, this is the bit that will pull the 3mm ABS fila­ment and heat it up to 220 °C, this guy is the ‘printhe­ad’ for your Maker­bot, It has a beefy motor. This is also the same extru­der that you would use for a RepRap machi­ne and was deve­lo­ped by Maker­bot Indus­tri­es as a part of the RepRap pro­ject. As if by magic the groups wor­ked in syn­cro mode, so that when the indi­vi­du­al parts whe­re ready, it was just a mat­ter of assem­bling them into nice loo­king and ready to print Maker­bot Cup­ca­kes. A few more hours whe­re dedi­ca­ted to test and cali­bra­te all the ele­ments to make sure they wor­ked well and prin­ted nice, it was so cool to see the machi­nes up and run­ning and to feel the exci­te­ment and awe of the gre­a­test magic trick ever ^^

The 2 Makerbots ready.
The 2 Maker­bots ready.

Now what ? Get prin­ting of-cour­se ! Get­ting a vir­tu­al 3d model ready to be prin­ted for real is not as easy as hit­ting print in your text edi­tor, but it´s not roc­ket sci­en­ce either, the­re are a some things to know and a few tricks to learn, luc­kily our workshop host Zach knew it all and had qui­te a few tricks up his sle­e­ve whi­ch he gene­rously sha­red with us, It didn´t take long befo­re we all had something ready to print. Befo­re you can send your 3d model to the Maker­bots, you have to export it from your favo­ri­te 3d app as a .STL file, if your fav 3d app doesn´t export .STL , no wor­ri­es, Blen­der to the res­cue! Blen­der is a splen­did open sour­ce 3d appli­ca­ti­on that can read most 3d file for­mats out the­re, for sure you´ll find a file for­mat that´s com­pa­ti­ble with Blen­der, once in Blen­der it´s a bre­e­ze to export your 3d model in the right for­mat. Besi­des expor­ting in the .STL for­mat, Blen­der is handy for a few more things, you can easily get rid of any dou­bled ver­ti­ces, check for Mani­fold mesh errors, and redu­ce your poly­gon count (deci­ma­te) to impro­ve prin­ting speed.

One of the Makerbots printing in black ABS.
One of the Maker­bots prin­ting in black ABS.

Some of the par­ti­ci­pants whe­re advan­ced 3d artists, and some never had tou­ched 3d soft­ware befo­re, but the truth is that we all mana­ged to achi­e­ve some ama­zing results, and we were all very impres­sed by the qua­lity that tho­se lit­tle machi­nes whe­re able to pro­du­ce. Not all prints came out per­fec­tly at the first go, and here and the­re some ope­ra­tor errors whe­re made, that resul­ted in having to unmount the Plas­tru­der to cle­an it´s lit­tle teeth, whi­ch by the way is done in less then 10 minu­tes, unem­ploy­ment due to tech­ni­cal fault just gives you enough time to get a cof­fee, only if the cof­fee machi­ne is just around the cor­ner. For me per­so­nally this has been one of the best workshops i´ve par­ti­ci­pa­ted in, all par­ti­ci­pants whe­re highly moti­va­ted and eager to learn and sha­re, the ambi­en­ce was all about sha­ring and caring, how could it not be when you´r dis­co­ve­ring the ama­zing world of Maker­bot­ness, and you have a gre­at host like Zach to hold your hand 😉 Thank you.

Ple­a­se head over to Zach´s post to see some gre­at exam­ples of what has been prin­ted during the workshop.

Keep an eye out on the blogs from the AZ-Labs (AltLab, xDA, LCD) for more news on upco­ming Maker­bot adven­tu­res, inclu­ding more workshops and how to get access to our Machi­nes to print your stuff.

My Summer @ NYC Resistor


This sum­mer I was a resi­dent at NYC Resis­tor (NYCR), a hac­ker col­lec­ti­ve based in Bro­o­klyn, NY. I’m now back home in Lis­bon and would like to sha­re a bri­ef round-up of this won­der­ful experience.

First of all I must men­ti­on how incre­di­bly wel­co­ming and fun all the mem­bers of the col­lec­ti­ve are. Not only did they let me sha­re their spa­ce for two who­le months, pro­vi­ding me with a gre­at lear­ning oppor­tu­nity, but also made me feel at home among them and showed me a gre­at time.

I was lucky to get the­re just as their Awe­so­me August chal­len­ge was star­ting. The idea here being that NYCR mem­bers chal­len­ged each other to finish one gre­at pro­ject until the end of that month. The pro­jects were inde­ed awe­so­me, from an Eight Foot Lite Bri­te, an FPGA-based DNA sequen­ce align­ment acce­le­ra­tor, a Mono­me, a Player Toy Pia­no, and some very civi­li­zed smashing… to name only a few.

Another of my favo­ri­te sta­ples, and the one I think I’ll miss the most, was Craft Night. Every Thurs­day eve­ning NYCR opens its doors to tho­se of us “who like to make stuff… so you don’t have to make stuff by your­self.” On the­se nights, NYCR mem­bers help visi­tors with their pro­jects by sha­ring tips and kno­wled­ge, and everyo­ne just has a gre­at time wor­king together around one big table.

And then of cour­se, the­re was the unfor­get­ta­ble Inte­rac­ti­ve Party, during whi­ch some of Awe­so­me August’s pro­jects were shown, and that even inclu­ded a giant robot cake, chalk drawing on the flo­or, a Wimshurst machi­ne, and crayo­la model magic.

NYCR is cur­ren­tly offe­ring a seri­es of really inte­res­ting clas­ses, whi­ch I’m very sad to miss.

During my resi­dency I wor­ked on a few (really fun) expe­ri­ments with paper/cardboard pulp and soft cir­cuits, as well as other (frus­tra­ting) ones with car­bon nano­tu­bes. More on that later — I’m still unpacking 🙂

Thank you NYC Resistor!

Dissecting old hardware

The last two ses­si­ons at Altlab have been a tre­men­dous fun!

We had been col­lec­ting lots of old hard­ware (pc’s, modems, mothe­bo­ards, cd-roms, prin­ters, etc)  to give it a new pur­po­se! Finally we deci­ded to start to take pro­fit from it.

Basi­cally in old hard­ware trash, the­re are lot’s of inte­res­ting things that still work very well (like motors,  leds, scre­ens) and can be re-uti­li­zed in other projects.

Here we have some pic­tu­res of this activity :

One of the results, a box full of motors :

So if you have in your pla­ce some old elec­tro­nic equip­ment sto­red that you are no pla­ning to use it any­mo­re, you can bring it to AltLab and we’ll take care of it! 😉

More pic­tu­res in our Flic­kr Pho­to Stream