Category Archives: Engineering

Paper Circuits roundup at MakerBlock

toner - 15

MakerBlock is exploring paper circuits, and has published a roundup of articles, including our Single Sided Circuit Board, Electric Origami, and Edge-Lit cards.

While I’m a big fan of paper and circuits, I’ve never really given paper circuits/circuitry a shot.  Unfortunately, I have no good excuse for this.  (Fair warning:  I’ve been collecting links and ideas on this topic for several weeks now, and even though I intend to break up the post into more manageable chunks, I have a feeling this is going to be a doozy) …


Introducing the MOnSter 6502

MOnSter 6502 PCB

Our collaborator Eric Schlaepfer has been extremely hard at work this year, designing a truly monstrous follow up to our giant-scale dis-integrated 555 and 741 circuits. This is the MOnSter 6502: a transistor-scale replica of the famous MOS 6502 microprocessor, the processor found at the heart of influential early computer systems such as the Apple ][ and the Commodore PET.

It is huge, at 12 × 15 inches, with over 4000 surface mount components, and 167 indicator LEDs added throughout so that you can see the flow of data.

MOnSter 6502

This is a new project, still underway. We will be showing off the first prototype of the MOnSter 6502 at the Bay Area Maker Faire this coming weekend. We don’t promise that it will be completely working by then — this is a first stab at an extremely ambitious project — but we’re genuinely excited to show it off in this early stage.

Decode ROM

You can read more about the MOnSter 6502 on its main project page,, and at Eric’s blog,

(Before you ask, the MOnSter 6502 is not yet a kit or product that we’re selling. Right now, it’s an amazing thing that we’re trying to build. If you would like to stay in the loop as this project evolves, we’ve set up a special mailing list for updates.)

Circuit Classics

We’re very excited about the Circuit Classics PCBs and kits that Star Simpson is making based on Forrest Mims designs.

Each circuit depicts an original, traced and hand-drawn schematic created by Forrest Mims for his iconic books “Getting Started in Electronics”, and the “Engineers’ Notebook” series. Every board includes a description of how it works, in Mims’ handwriting, on the reverse side.

They look like a fantastic way to learn electronics. You can order them through her Crowd Supply campaign now.

2016 Hackaday Prize

We are once again excited to be helping judge the Hackaday Prize.

Now in its third year, the Hackaday Prize challenges the international community of designers and makers to address issues facing humanity through technology.

This year the prize is divided into five separate 5-week design challenges. The first one, Design Your Concept is ending on April 25th. It will be followed by Anything Goes, Citizen Scientist, Automation, and finally Assistive technologies, which ends on October 3rd.

20 projects will be chosen from each of the 5 rounds, and awarded $1000 per project. At the end of all 5 rounds, 100 projects in total will advance to the finals where 5 top prizes will be awarded: $150k, $25k, $10k, $10k and $5k. In addition the 1st place project will win a residency in the Supplyframe Design lab to develop their project further.

You can see the entries so far on You can also head to a hackaday meetup in your community. We’ll be at the San Jose meetup on April 23rd, and hope to see you there!

From the mailbag: XL741 in the classroom

S.W. wrote in:

I just wanted to let you know that I am using your XL741 kit in my Electronics 2 class lab. It is a high quality kit and I thank you for putting it together. We build the 741 in stages, make measurements, adjust offsets, etc. It is a great vehicle to teach the analog building blocks. A student of mine (now graduated) and I wrote four lab exercises for it and they are being used now for the second time. We also just got to share them with several EE teachers who were also very enthusiastic about the idea.

We love to hear about how our kits get used!

Stroboscopic patterns for Easter eggs

Jiri Zemanek from Prague sent in this fabulous video of eggs decorated using the EggBot, some with markers, and some with the Electro-Kistka.

Various patterns are generated in Matlab using mathematical equations similar to ones describing Spirograph (or harmonograph) and Phyllotaxis. The patterns are calculated in such a way that when rotated under a stroboscopic light of suitable frequency or when recorded by a camera, they start to animate. It is kind of zoetrope— early device for animation. … Eggs are rotated at a constant speed, special for each pattern, by a brushless motor. No computer graphics tricks are used in the video.

Additional information is available at their site.

Introducing the AxiDraw

AxiDraw drawing machine

We are very pleased to introduce our newest art robot: the AxiDraw.

The AxiDraw is a simple, modern, precise, and versatile pen plotter, capable of writing or drawing on almost any flat surface. It can write with your favorite fountain pens, permanent markers, and other writing implements to handle an endless variety of applications. Its unique design features a writing head that extends beyond the machine, making it possible to draw on objects bigger than the machine itself.

AxiDraw drawing machine

The AxiDraw is a fantastic machine for making art — along with all those other things that you might use a pen-wielding robot for: Making “hand written” invitations, signing forms, or making neater whiteboard art than one might otherwise be able to.

AxiDraw is available to order today, and begins shipping next week. See it in action and learn more on the product page.

555 Teardown

Ken Shirriff has posted a teardown of the beloved 555 timer IC. He sawed the top of a metal can packaged 555 to expose the die underneath.

On top of the silicon, a thin layer of metal connects different parts of the chip. … Under the metal, a thin, glassy silicon dioxide layer provides insulation between the metal and the silicon, except where contact holes in the silicon dioxide allow the metal to connect to the silicon. At the edge of the chip, thin wires connect the metal pads to the chip’s external pins.

He goes on to explain how it works and its cultural significance. He even mentions our discrete 555 and 555 footstool in the footnotes.