3Doodler 2.0 First impressions

IMG_20150425_181802While it’s true that I love geeky new toys, I’m not typically an early adopter, preferring to wait until the bugs are worked out. Several of my neighbors got the first generation 3Doodler, and since it first came out, there have been many imitators. I backed the 3Doodler 2.0 kickstarter, and it arrived when I was away visiting family.

Impressions

It was a little annoying that it came via DHL with signature required. I managed to circumvent that via their website though, and it was nice to know ahead of time that I had a package coming.

IMG_20150428_081610The new pen is Much Much sleeker and very pleasant to hold. I don’t have much experience with the first edition, but my impression was that it was clunky and it’s plastic case made me hesitate about spending $100 for an educational toy. The new design was a good part of what pushed me over the edge, and the metal case feels much more professional, and the mechanics seem to work really well. It comes with a little screwdriver to adjust the temperature, as well as a wrench to remove the nozzle and a cool spring thing to push through any unextruded plastic when changing colors.

Patience!

My 14 year old daughter initially almost threw it across the room in frustration. I think it was mainly a matter of expectations, as it does take a little while (after heating up) for a newly loaded strand to reach the nozzle. I also initially thought parchment paper (being heat resistant) would be good to doodle on, but it was a terrible choice as the plastic wouldn’t stick to it.

Doodling surface

We tried several other things, and eventually hit upon several good surfaces. It’s important not to doodle on a really cold surface (as our stone countertops are this time of the year in Boston) as the plastic shrinks quickly and comes unstuck. Some scrap acrylic worked really well, as did plain paper.

Once we had things humming along, Charlotte tried again and instantly did the cute baby dragon in the photo above. While it’s not a fast process, its quite meditative.

 3D vs 2D construction and materials

IMG_20150425_181857

It comes with a nice variety of materials, 2 packs of PLA, 2 Packs of ABS and one pack of flexible filament. If you want to doodle in the air and make 3D objects in place, your only choice really is ABS as it hardens quickly. It would probably also benefit from a desk fan to speed up the process. You can do some vertical stuff with PLA by doodling upside down and let gravity hold things straight for you.

Another option is to doodle 2 dimensional parts and then tack them together with the pen. 3Doodler has a number of fun templates on their website that you can print out, doodle over then peel off and tack together. I did their classic Eiffel Tower.

IMG_20150428_081539

The first thing you’ll notice is that if you want precision, and a clean aesthetic, you should just get yourself a 3D printer. That said the drippy organic look has it’s own charm.

The second thing you’ll notice is that I made it from Pink PLA, and there certainly wasn’t enough of one color in the packs to do the whole thing. I’m fortunate to have a 3D printer that uses the same diameter (3mm) filament, so I cut some lengths of PLA. Because filament comes on a spool, the radius of the segments turned out to be a problem, causing it to not feed well. Holding the curvey segments over the stove burner (probably not recommended, a hair dryer would be a better choice). and rolling them straight on the counter made quite usable sticks that fed perfectly. There are two tools which are handy (and not included). One is a pair of tweezers to safely remove plastic from the outside of the nozzle,  and a pair of cutters to trim the melty part off the end of a filament you’ve backed out when changing colors.  They recommend you trim the end when reusing filament, but I managed to get the original sticks to feed in fine with little melty blobs on the end, but YMMV.

Accessories

I was already exceeding my budget to buy the pen, so I didn’t opt for any of the accessories, though I was sorely tempted. They offer a nozzle pack (including cool ribbony flat nozzles) and a battery pack for portable doodling. There’s also a foot pedal, whIch would relieve some of the stress of pushing the button (but I got pretty good at freehanding in the continuous extrusion mode…)

One other really cool thing they did for their kickstarter was to offer education packs that gave a good price with a generous helping of accessories for educational institutions.

Conclusion

I think the 3Doodler 2.0 is a well engineered and fun gadget. I’m planning on getting together with my neighbors and we’ll compare with the first version, as well as get more kid reaction, but in general I think it’s a great creativity inspiring tool.

 

 

Laser Cut Scratch Cat

Wyolum got me a laser to expand our distributed prototyping capability. I’ll have more on that later, but I made a little trinket for Scratch classes that I’ve been teaching.

scratch-lasered

I had difficulty finding a vector file good for lasering, so I made this one. Nice handout for Scratch classes

The official SVG version has overlapping paths that rely on fills to hide some of the shapes.

I traced a bitmap version in inkscape and did a little cleanup. It’s still not perfect with some double lines.

I’ll try to do a better trace to improve but this one cuts ok.

Update: done

v1-v2-comp

You can find the SVG over at Youmagine.com: https://youmagine.com/designs/laser-cut-scratch-cat

Note that the Scratch cat image and logo are trademarks of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT. Check out Scratch at http://scratch.mit.edu

Holiday project: Dreideltron 5775

The Boston JCC  called me looking for maker activities for an upcoming Hanukkah event, and I thought of this little activity.

The copper tape is pretty unreliable though, and it may not be suitable for a big crowd where there may not be time to debug. I’d be curious to hear of other people’s experience doing paper circuits and the like. This was working perfectly for a while and then it stopped. I suspect the adhesive (which is supposed to be conductive), just stopped conducting. Perhaps I just need to buy higher quality copper tape?

From Blink to Bot: Introduction

JoebotJoe McDermot (leader of the Boston Robotics Meetup) discovered many members of the Boston Robotics Meetup had never scratch built a robot, so he sourced some cheap components from China and led a group build session. Joe did a fantastic job, keeping the price to $60, for a robot with 4 motors, Arduino clone controller,  3 ping sensors and IR control. (Joe’s a modest guy, but I call it Joebot)

After building it, a lot of the members had trouble with the programming, trouble I’ve seen when people attempt to do slightly more complex projects on the Arduino, after doing the basic Blink, and other examples.

In this series of posts, I will attempt to show how to coordinate several activities in an Arduino program. While the robot is an excellent challenge, the lessons here can be applied to any project where you have to “simultaneously” read sensors, control actuators, etc.

Bot-BOM:

  • 4 DC gear motors with Wheels
  • Acrylic base
  • L9110s  BLUE motor control board (2 channel, 2 wire control per motor)
  • IR receiver
  • 2 – Ping type distance sensors
  • Arduino Nano V3 Clone
  • Breadboards, wires, etc.

One note of caution here, many of the Nano clones used counterfeit FTDI chips, and were bricked by the new windows driver. DCCDuino, is actually not an out and out copy and uses a different USB-Serial chip, and works well.

JoeBotLabledNext post we’ll work out how to handle motor control.

 

Paper Circuits Workshop

I led a paper circuits workshop at the Auburndale Community Library, and I thought I’d share a few thoughts in case you’d like to try it on your own. By the way, all the photos in this post are by our host Dana Hanson, a good friend and one of the key volunteers that keeps the Auburndale community library going (with no municipal support!)

I let the library know that it would be ok for all ages, but if kids were under 7, a parent should stay to help. We got lucky in that we had a couple of parents who either got it right away or picked it up very quickly and they were able to help tremendously.

The first I saw this idea was on the MIT High Low Tech site and they have some good pointers. They use surface mount LED’s but they are quite difficult to tape, so we modified with regular LED’s.

Setting the basic rules: Lithium batteries need to be recycled (and don’t eat them…), What is a circuit (relating to circles…) watch out for short circuits, polarity of LEDs. This circuit is very forgiving, the internal resistance of the coin cell (we used CR2032) means you don’t need a series resistor to limit current for the LEDs, and also means that short term short circuits don’t destroy the battery immediately or cause a fire!

Some Clown

We set up a station to hand out materials at the circulation desk. Next time, I think I might divide it into several stations. The most time consuming part was letting them pick which LEDs to use. You could either limit it to one kind, or spread it out a little. You could have people just pick them from bins on the table, but sometimes people take too many. (It wasn’t a problem here….) My son’s Mason and Grant assisted me both in preparing and in debugging people’s circuits, and were indispensable.  25 Kids with about 80% of them needing help would be too much for one person.

Critical help

One of the mothers came up with a good way of making the connections more reliable add copper tape under the leads of the LEDs as well as on top.

Hard at work

Beautiful artwork

One of the book racks made a nice display for the finished work.Gallery of creations

 

 

 

Free and Open Source Data Service from Sparkfun

datasparkfun

Sparkfun launched a free cloud data service for your devices. It’s limited (rolling last 50MB) but also open source so if you want to roll your own you can do as much as you want!
This is an example of how doing a service and open source can benefit you. As they say

Our hope is that you buy a SparkFun widget to connect your next beehive.

It looks easy to use, and besides making it easy to put your own sensor data up, data from all other users is public, making it available to data scientists and hobbyists.

I’m looking forward to trying it out, and if I do I’ll share here!

 

 

NovaBooth – Improving the Open Source Photobooth

NoVa SnapAs you may have read here previously, we (the Wyolum Gang) created a photobooth for the Open Hardware Summit, for the purpose of customizing the e-paper badges we made for the conference attendees. This processed the pictures into a small black and white image for the e-paper badge, and saved it onto the badge’s micro-sd card.

I was headed to help out at the Northern Virginia Maker Faire, and thought it would be fun to update the photobooth to take full color pictures, upload them to the Internet and offer to email them to friends and relatives.

The email message and logo files are easy to add and customize.

For basic construction, visit the original post, but download the new software here:

github: https://github.com/wyolum/NovaBooth

The fabricate directory has the laser cut files, arduino for the AlaMode Program, and scripts for the python photobooth code.

Edit custom.py to customize the email subject and message. config.py contains the authentication information for the google email and posting accounts. You’ll need to set up application specific passwords for this on your google account. You can use the same account, or separate.

Wireless keyboard, had to add a powered hub.

Problems

  • External powered hub was a pain.
  • Proto-screw shield was too heavy and lifted off
  • Some of the nuts came loose in travel.

Photobooth 1.5

To solve the first problem, I determined to replace the non-powered hub in the photobooth with a powered one.  I tried to add power to the unpowered hub, and this worked at first, but then took out the power supply and made the raspberry pi flakey too.

Scratch that, I ended up using a small belkin powered hub. I y-connected the power to it.
I noticed that  a convenient orientation put  4 ports right next to the edge,  so I cut a hole in the box to expose them.

Luckily AlaModes ship without shield headers installed, so I replaced the AlaMode and protoshield with an AlaMode that was directly soldered to the button, led-strip, power and ground.

I updated the AlaMode’s photobooth program directly from the photobooth. Apparently the new AlaMode’s pullups weren’t as strong, so I added a 5.7k pullup to the Button Pin.