Hershey Text JS

Hershey Text JS

James “techninja” Todd has just released Hershey Text JS, a port of the Hershey fonts to JSON, capable of being rendered quickly via JavaScript & SVG.

The Hershey fonts a classic set of “engraving” or “stroke based” (as opposed to outline based) fonts that are excellent for use with all kinds of physical cutting, drawing, and painting machines. Several years ago we introduced the Hershey Text extension for Inkscape, and you can find a more in depth introduction to the Hershey fonts in that article.  Hershey Text JS is adapted from our Inkscape extension, and provides easy access to the font data for programmers who prefer to work in javascript.

BAMF 2014: Taktia

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Part of our continuing coverage of highlights from the 2014 Bay Area Maker Faire.

One of the most exciting new technologies that we saw at Maker Faire was from Taktia, a startup making augmented-reality power tools. They were showing off their semi-automated handheld wood router.

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The router sits in a robotic cradle with a computer vision system and a screen. The human guides the router by hand, keeping its center within a 1 inch diameter circle shown on the LCD screen. As the human moves the router, the cradle makes fine corrections to put the router bit exactly where it needs to be, allowing a non-expert to cut precise, complex shapes, while only moving the router along a coarse path.

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In the photo above you can see some wooden shapes that visitors were cutting out, by only moving the router freehand, while letting the robotic cradle do the hard work. We can certainly imagine other tools getting the same “robotic upgrade” — this startup will be worth watching.



BAMF2014: Makesmith CNC

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BAMF 2014 327
Part of our continuing coverage of highlights from the 2014 Bay Area Maker Faire

Let’s file this under “intro machines.” The Makesmith CNC, currently available on Kickstarter for just $195 including everything but the Dremel tool. It makes very clever use of appropriate technology: Three tiny hobby servo motors, modified for continuous rotation, turn gears that turn the lead screws (well, all-thread) to drive the XYZ stage. An magnetic encoder monitors the rotation, making a high-resolution, closed-loop control system.  No bushings, melamine-coated MDF parts, Arduino control.  Planned for future open source hardware+software release, too.

Perfect?  Nope, but the creators of the project seem to be keenly aware of its abilities and limitations (many discussed here), and oh does it have affordability on its side.

A WaterColorBot Water Clock


We built a evaporating-hand water clock using a WaterColorBot fitted with a Buddha Board. The Buddha Board is a black board with a gray ceramic coating that becomes transparent when wet, so you can paint on it with plain water to make black marks that disappear as the water evaporates.  (And, it fits nicely in a WaterColorBot with the appropriate jig.)


As a clock, once a minute it draws the minute hand, then the hour hand, and finally the outline of the clock face.


As the water evaporates over the course of a few minutes, the old minute hands fade away. It’s a neat effect.

And of course, video:

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Maker Faire Bingo

With Maker Faire coming up next week, @techninja42 suggested that Maker Faire Bingo would be a great way to get ready! With the help of some friends, he put together a site where you can grab a bingo card to play during your visit to Maker Faire. We tried it out with the WaterColorBot, but you can use your preferred automated printing method to make your own, or maybe even find a robot at Maker Faire to draw it for the ultimate Maker Faire Bingo!

Send your maker bingo suggestions to @mfbingo for inclusion in the bingo card generator.

StippleGen and a low-power DIY laser cutter

Jens demonstrates using StippleGen2 with his low-power (300 mW!) DIY laser cutter and a classic image of Louis Armstrong.

After letting StippleGen2 crunch the numbers for a while I imported the resulting vector graphic file into inkscape and generated the G-code so that I could use my laser cutter to cut the image into a black paper. 2 hours and 23 minutes later I had a 20×20 cm piece of paper with about a 1000 holes in it and it looks awesome! Would be perfect for a lamp shade or just nice to put up in a window and let the sun shine through. I can highly recommend StippleGen2 it’s super easy and a lot of fun.

The Printr Egg Boogie Board Bot

Printer Egg Boogie Board Bot

Over at Thingiverse, user gkrangan posted this wacky contraption: A machine to write with a stylus on a Boogie Board e-writer, built from PrintrBot Simple frame components, along with EggBot electronics and the pen-holder.  It’s driven through the EggBot extensions for Inkscape.

I was initially taping an index card onto the print platform for testing purposes, but when I saw this Boogie Board at a toy store, it seemed like a perfect choice to be used as the writing surface. One can draw/write anything on it, and erase with a press of a button. Of course, it can still be removed and any other suitable surface can be taped or mounted on the print platform, as necessary.

Printer Egg Boogie Board Bot @ Thingiverse

The Egg-Bot Electro-Kistka

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Pysanky eggs

We’re pleased to announce the availability of the Egg-Bot Electro-Kistka: An electric hot wax pen designed to be used with the EggBot. A kistka is the wax tool used in the traditional wax-resist and dye (batik) method to produce colorful eggs in the same fashion as Ukranian pysanky.

We would like to acknowledge that this is not by any means the first time that anyone has strapped a kistka to an EggBot— We wrote about Ann’s DIY version a few months ago, and we’ve seen other versions (both manually heated and electric) in YouTube videos dating back several years.

 Hardware 2 Hardware 4

The Electro-Kistka consists of two main parts, connected by a cable: A heater assembly that gets mounted to the EggBot’s pen arm (in place of the usual pen holder), and a power control board that sits behind the EggBot.

The power control board is relatively simple: it accepts input from a plug-in power supply, and has an adjustment pot so that you can set the power level of the kistka.

The heater assembly has two parallel surfaces that you can see in the pictures.  The upper is a yellow circuit board with control electronics, and the lower red part is a machined aluminum heater block that holds the actual kistka tip.

Hardware 3 Hardware 6

The kistka tip (right) has a small wax reservoir at the top and a smaller-yet point on the bottom that feeds molten wax onto the egg surface through gravity and capillary action.

Designing a good kistka tip is an art unto itself, and we are using field-proven kistka tips, wax, and other accessories from Folk Impressions, manufacturers of the excellent “white handle” electric kistka.  The tips are interchangeable and a number of sizes are available. For all of the examples shown here, we’re using only the #2 (medium) tip that comes with the kit.

Process: two-tone

The basic wax resist process is as follows: Apply wax to the parts of the egg that should remain the present color, and then dye the entire egg a different color.

Twain 1 Twain 2
Twain 4 Twain 5

For a simple two-tone image — white on black — we started with Mark Twain, one of our example images from the StippleGen project.  From a user standpoint, drawing wax onto the egg works exactly the same way as using a felt tip marker in the EggBot — it’s just a different tool that does the drawing.  The wax itself is black-colored beeswax, which is nice because you can see it against the egg.

After the EggBot finishes, we dip the egg in dye for a couple of minutes, and leave it to dry on a grid of little nails.

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Once the egg is dry, we remove the wax with a heat gun on the low setting (a glorified hair dryer…) and a tissue. With the black wax gone, the contrast is stunning. (If you are interested, here is how it looks before the wax is removed.)
Eggbot Logo 1 Eggbot Logo 2

Another example of a two-tone egg.  Alternately, you could dye the egg before the wax resist first goes on (say, yellow), and then dye it blue afterwards. The end result would be yellow lettering on a blue background.
Process: Multicolor

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overkill 3 overkill 4

Making multicolor eggs uses the same process, but with added complexity.  For this example, we applied wax resist on a bare (white) background, and then dyed the egg yellow and allowed it to dry (upper right).  We then applied a second layer of wax, dyed the egg red and allowed it to dry.  Finally, we applied a third layer of wax (lower left), dyed the egg blue, and allowed it to dry.  The results after removing the wax (lower right) show the white, yellow, red, and blue areas — not bad!

A caveat: 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 dying. 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.

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Still, maybe it’s worth the effort.

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The Egg-Bot Electro-Kistka begins shipping this week.

Open Source Beehives

The Open Source Beehives project is currently running a crowdfunding campaign with the goal of gathering information from sensor equipped hives throughout the world to help solve bee population problems like colony collapse syndrome. The sensors can also be used by individual beekeepers to monitor the health of their hive.

Even without the sensors and the citizen science, their hive designs are beautiful.