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.

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