Thom Yorke 3D Print by Tiago Serra

During our recent 3D Printing Workshop, Tiago Serra from xDA used altlab’s MakerBot to print a model of Thom York’s head 🙂

Original point cloud data from Aaron Koblin’s House of Cards (GeoVideo’s 3D scanning system)

Meshed with Point Cloud Skinner script for Blender

Cleanup in MeshLab

Made during the Makerbot workshop with Zach Hoeken at Lisbon Tech University

Download the file at Thingiverse

Awesome CreativeCommons post :

Makerbot Industries

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!

Drum Pads



Four drum pads ready to go.

All made of old material found in the Alt/Lab installations, and a very special big thankxxx for Mónica who brought the casings (we are going back to that in a moment) for the drum pads.

So the idea was to make drum pads that we could hook up to a sound card(or whatever) and them make sweet music, this is a very nice combination between piezoelectric components and a few layers of some absorbent sound  material like rubber or cork foil (that’s what we use because there was nothing more) and a piece of aluminum foil for a greater drum area .

We use an old can (20l) of paint, four piezoelectric found in electronic junk like old modems and old telephones, wire for connecting the piezos, cork foil for insulation the drum pad area and Mónica supply the casings (square rubber cd´s stands), and glue for putting everything nice and tight .

First we cut a piece of the can (circular about 10cm radius)and we glued the piezo into it, then we drilled one hole into the rubber casing for the wires to came out, them we cut two square cork foil parts (the first in the bottom of the casing and the other for the top) a bit of glue and that’s it drum pads ready to rock.

Now we got some audio coming out of the pads but thats just boring because its always the same and we want to go further like transforming audio into midi messages, and we found the right tool for it, its called  “KTDrumTrigger” and he transforms the audio signal into midi notes, we can use this midi notes inside a sequencer program to control any kind of instrument (either VSTI or some other stuff), in our case we use the drum pads to control “Battery” and thats it instant fun.

There are some other links and some other ideas for drum pads. This “one“uses ardunio as a source for the imput signal.


Project Helicam

Helicam Sketches

Helicam is an AltLab project that emerged from the wish to capture images from the sky with a WiFi enabled camera so that one can see what’s being shot from a different perspective and in real-time. This approach may lead to new paradigms in visual perspectives by enabling shooting from air views at a considerably low cost and also so close that cannot be easily done from a helicopter.

As a real example, one of the projects to accomplish with Helicam is for testing for local forests surveillance and use in related research projects, as with forest fire prevention for sustainability. Other possible operation fields can be architecture, building surveillance or even artistic performance environments where multimedia has a strong presence.

The main idea is to build an inexpensive and flexible platform using – as a starting point – specifications made available by several open source projects available online (like Mikrokopter or UAVP-NG). After doing some initial research and costs evaluation we realized that we cannot make this prototype with the resources currently available within the group members or AltLab and therefore we started to seek for some kind of sponsorship. I have to say that we were lucky since with only two contacts made, we were able to fundraise money in order to build a flying prototype according to our initial costs predictions. Thank you Mobbit for accepting our proposal!!

If you wanna join us in this project stop by AltLab in one of our regular Tuesday night meetings.