About Windell

Co-founder of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

Linkdump: April 2015

The Clouds of Orion the Hunter

Hands on with NanoBeam

nanobeam-26
nanobeam-13

Last fall we wrote about NanoBeam, a new super-miniature open source aluminum T-slot profile construction set that was on Kickstarter at the time. While comparable in design to industrial profile systems like 80/20, its cross section of just 5 mm × 5 mm is comparable to a stud on a lego brick.

We recently got our tweezers hands on a ‘beam, and yes, it’s real, yes, it works, and yes, it’s that tiny. And just wait until you see the fasteners.

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Linkdump: March 2015

A Wax Coupler for EggBot

This tiny little thing is a new EggBot accessory that we call the Wax Coupler. Not because it’s made of wax (it’s CNC machined aluminum) but because you can use it to attach an egg to the motor that turns it, using wax, like so:

 

Aside: why is the base of the egg black? We’ll get to that below.

Once the egg is attached to the Wax Coupler, it provides a rigid attachment point that provides secure coupling between the egg and the motor. More importantly, the coupler+egg assembly can be removed from the motor and put back in place, without losing registration.  In machine tool terms, you might describe this as the process of attaching an egg to a rigid mandrel.

 

Wait– why would you want to do that?

Hardware 1 Pysanky eggs

Let’s go back a few steps. Last spring we introduced our Electro-Kistka for EggBot. A kistka is a hot-wax pen used in the traditional wax-resist and dye (batik) method to produce colorful eggs in the fashion of Ukranian pysanky, and this one is designed to work with a computer-controlled EggBot.

At the time, we noted that this process introduces a new problem, that of re-indexing the egg within the EggBot, after taking it out for dyeing:

It is harder than it looks.  While two-tone eggs are straightforward, we have found it to be challenging to precisely reposition an egg after removing it for dyeing. Thus, it takes considerable patience and experience to produce multicolor eggs with good registration between subsequent color layers.  We’d be interested in exploring better ways to do this.

Kistka-brush 7

One method that we tried (shown above) was to dye the egg in place, by brushing it without removing it. The results were mediocre: it worked, but the dye layers were subdued and blotchy. We also looked into a somewhat wackier method of dying the egg in place, by standing the EggBot on end, and using a collapsable bag of dye.

Which brings us to the proper solution: To attach the egg rigidly to a repositionable coupler with beeswax. Doing so allows us to take out the egg and dye it (coupler and all) and then easily index it back into the EggBot.

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The 2015 Hackaday Prize

We are very pleased to be amongst the judges for this year’s Hackaday Prize, which was announced today:

Last year we challenged you to build the next generation of connected devices. Six months later, the best teams and projects from around the world battled for the greatest prize of all: the respect of their peers and a trip to space. This year, we’re issuing a call to hackers, engineers, makers and startups from all over the world, to focus their creative efforts on nothing less than solving serious issues facing humanity.

Prizes this year include a trip to space on a carrier of your choice, a laser cutter, a builder kit (pcb mill, 3d printer, cnc router, bench lathe), and tours of CERN in Geneva or Shenzhen in China. New this year is a “Best Product” award. Show a production-ready (and ideally, open-source) device and you can win $100,000 in addition to being eligible for the other prizes.

You can read more about the contest and sign up at http://hackaday.io/prize

Evil Mad Scientist Valentines: 2015 edition

Lo Res Valentines valentines

For each of the last two years, we’ve released sets of “Download and Print” cards for Valentine’s day. The 2013 set had six equation-heavy cards, and the 2014 set was a set of six symbol-heavy cards.  This year, we’re releasing six new cards, bringing the collection up to a total of 18 cards. This year’s new cards feature love, hearts, and arrows (but no bows or cupids):

My love for you is real

For when your love is complex, but not whatsoever imaginary.

I love you more every day

For that moment when you want to express that not only is the first derivative of your love positive, but so is the second.

Our love is off the charts

(Just in case there was a danger of none of these being sufficiently cheesy.)

You make me glow

Not sure how we missed this one in last year’s set of symbols.  Alternate caption: “You light up my life.”

Solve for i

And what better way to say “I love you,” than with the gift of a math problem?

2015 Evil Mad Scientist Valentines
Lo Res Valentines

You can download the full set here, which includes all 18 designs from the three years (a 765 kB .PDF document).

As usual, print them out on (or otherwise affix to) card stock, and [some steps omitted] enjoy the resulting lifelong romance.

Lego Space Flight Jacket – 1 Year Later

CLS Flight Jacket 15

Last January, I wrote about how to make your own traditional painted-leather “bomber” jacket, in a tutorial about how I made my Classic Lego Space Flight Jacket. Since then, several people have asked us for a future update post, to see how well it has aged after a year. And so, here we are. After a year of regular use, how well are those nifty flexible leather paints holding up?

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Digi-Comp II replica in Terraria

YouTube user Richard Lewis built a working replica of the Digi-Comp II mechanical computer in the sandbox video game Terraria.

The replica makes extensive use of the so-called “Hoik glitch” in the game, that allows for rapid, controlled player movement, much like gravity guides the balls downward in the original.

More information about the version in Terraria is posted on the video page.

Flickery Flame Soldering Kits!

FlickeryFlame

In October, we released our Solderless Flickery Flame project, based on a tiny breadboard with six red and yellow candle-flicker LEDs, to give a fun and semi-realistic flame effect. Today, we’re releasing two new Flickery Flame Soldering Kits along the same lines, each of which has 6 candle-flicker LEDs, a little circuit board, and a battery holder.

FlickeryFlame

The Yellow/Red kit has the same mix of yellow and red candle-flicker LEDs that works so well in the breadboard kit.  This one will look great in a jack-o-lantern, luminaria, or scale-model fireplace.

FlickeryFlame

On the other hand, the White/Warm White kit has a mixture of (cool) white and warm white LEDs that give a modern wintery flame effect that has at least as much charm, but won’t be mistaken for a natural fire. This one will look great in all kinds of winter holiday decorations, luminarias, and props.

FlickeryFlame FlickeryFlame

Both the Yellow/Red and White/Warm White kits are fun, low-cost, self-contained, and easy soldering kits, which will be right at home both as stocking stuffers and as bite-size first projects for soldering workshops.

Introducing WaterColorBot 2.0

WaterColorBot 2.0

We are very pleased to introduce something that we’ve been working on for most of this year: WaterColorBot version 2.0!

WaterColorBot 2.0

The WaterColorBot is our collaboration with Super Awesome Sylvia: A friendly art robot that moves a paint brush to paint your digital artwork onto paper, using a set of watercolor paints.

Version 2.0 brings it to the next level with some greatly improved hardware. First and foremost, the carriage that holds the brush has been completely redesigned:

WaterColorBot 2.0

The carriage on the original WaterColorBot was made from laser-cut plywood, with nylon bushings and two simple delrin strips that formed the vertical flexure translation stage. (You can read more about the original carriage here and here.)

The new carriage consists mainly of two pieces of metal. The center block of anodized aluminum is CNC milled, and houses crossed linear roller bearings. Wrapped around that is a laser-cut and formed aluminum part that mounts the brush-lift motor, cable guide, and the flexure stage.

WaterColorBot 2.0

The new flexure stage is built with two custom flex circuit boards, used in this case as mechanical flexures. Each board consists of a very thin (0.1 mm, 4 mil) Kapton sheet with a thin fiberglass (G10/FR4) stiffener on its center section. With the two ends of each sheet clamped rigidly and the stiffener in the center, each flex circuit is to flex only along two well-defined lines. And with two boards, it forms a neat parallelogram linkage, without the slop that one might encounter in multi-part hinges. The net effect is that this new flexure stage has remarkable stiffness compared to the old design.

WaterColorBot 2.0

That stiffness, combined with the improved performance of the linear ball bearings makes this a more precise WaterColorBot. Not that you could even detect the improvement with a fat brush and watercolor paints, but things are looking quite good even with using ultra-fine point drawing pens, as you can see above.

WaterColorBot 2.0

The second major change is to the system of Spectra cords that the stepper motors control in order to move the carriage. Previously, the cords were guided around 11 plain bearings (stainless steel solid rivets) and 3 ball bearings.  We’ve simplified this into an arrangement of just 8 ball bearings— four for each motor. The ball bearing pulleys have also been updated to use wide V-groove bearings that are easy to wrap the cords around.

Which brings us to the third (and last) major change. Thus far, WaterColorBot kits have shipped “some assembly required” — with all the major components built, but the cord lacing left to the end user. As of 2.0, WaterColorBot kits now come fully assembled and tested. That doesn’t make them any less hackable, but it does mean that you can get up and running faster.

WaterColorBot 2.0

Version 2.0 includes the same CNC machined aluminum winches that we introduced back in August. Tiny detail: we’ve carved a subtle indentation into the wood around the winch that makes them a little easier to turn by hand.

WaterColorBot 2.0

The new WaterColorBot kits will begin to ship right after Thanksgiving. And a bonus present for the holiday season: Version 2.0 is priced the same as the previous version, it’s just a whole lot more awesome per dollar.