Quadrupeds. I’ve been dreaming about quadrupeds. I’ve been hunting for challenges to test my methods and improve the engineering on the whole “print and cast a soft robot” thing (I really need to come up with a name for this… “Borgatronics?”). I started with tentacles because they were easy to design, easy to test, and symmetrical.
They’ve made a lot of progress, but it’s time to turn to other designs. I’ve produced a few prototypes along one main design, and have discovered many things. I’m going to try and explain my logic behind the design and some of the major changes I intend to make in the next version. I’m also going to tell you all the myriad ways I went wrong in this design and the things I’ve done to try and make it right.
This is going to be a pretty dry technical post on the industrial design aspects of the robots I’ve been developing. I promise you entertainment and levity aplenty in the future. For now, we grump about casting flaws, mold design, and process control. Continue reading →
I am now the grinning overlord of a fully functional robotic tentacle. I’m quite pleased. After a few iterations, some hair pulling, and some utterly excellent help from programmer, hacker, and generally awesome person TQ, the Trefoil Tentacle is now waving about in all its eerie undulating glory. You can find a whole set of high res images of it here.
The control scheme is pretty simple: a barebones visual interface in Processing sends signals to an Arduino. From there, it switches the low power signal to high power via a Darlington transistor. The transistor switches each of 3 solenoid valves on and off, providing air to each of the 3 bladders inside of the silicone tentacle. The valves operate on a really slow PWM, their duty cycle determining how much air makes it to each bladder. Since there’s a bleed I can control on the system, I don’t have to worry about pumping air both in and out. I just adjust how much time the valves spend on, and the tentacle does it’s routine. All of the code for the setup is here on Adafruit’s forum. Continue reading →
I just uploaded this little mechanical kitty to Thingiverse, and I think you should make a version for yourself. After a few trials with some cheap 1/4″ plywood, I ended up splurging on pressboard made specifically for laser cutting. The first cat I cut from the cheap ply ended up burning so much it was hard to get something functional out at the end. I blame the adhesive used to laminate the sheets. I think I might try and source some thin ply made with a natural wood glue. In the meantime, Laserbits makes some excellent laser specific stuff.
I’d like to thank Jordan Bunker for offering excellent advice on laser calibration and power. He’s quite a mighty fabricator.
I really like candle making. Despite the mess, the cost of materials, the burns, and the constant fear of spilling hot wax over everything I hold dear, it’s completely worth it. If you remember, a long time ago I made a set of candles cast from impala horns. I’ve wanted to do more projects like this, especially as I ramp up to doing an absurd huge candle project based on much larger and more elaborate horns.
The process started with taking an antique apothecary bottle, cleaning it up, and cutting up some cardboard to form a mold box. I waxed the cardboard, made some clips to hold everything together, and marked out where I should build up the clay to form the first half of the mold. Continue reading →
Early on in my days as a maker, I really struggled with documenting and publishing projects. Almost everything I make starts life as something I wanted to build, something I wanted the experience of playing with. Most often I build because building things is gratifying in and of itself, and the other aspects (recognition, money, internet fame) are ancillary. However, only ever being beholden to myself made for some pretty shoddy documentation. I have few if any photographs of my projects from college and my record of things before that is more or less nonexistent. Over time I’ve discovered that a huge motivating factor for me getting things well documented, taking time out to photograph a project in progress, and updating my records, is having other eyes on me. Having other people witness my work validates it, gives it context, and creates a network of fascinating relationships and interactions that help fuel the next piece.
I don’t think I need to emphasize how important documentation is. Objects have a nasty habit of being pretty solid and aren’t often seen hurtling through cables at the speed of information. I know, Thingiverse is neat, but if you truly want to convey the awesomeness of something to another human, it’s infinitely more likely that they’ll extrapolate the fact from a picture than take the time to print and assemble your design. So, if you want the world to feel the impact of your handmade steam powered arduino based self balancing stainless steel unicycle junkbot, you’re going to have to show them… by force if necessary. Continue reading →
The general idea is that I’d like people to be anonymous, wearing protection, projecting a captivating image, employing creative disruption, and in possession of crucial data whether protesting or no. I also believe in opening up the source as much as humanly possible/ethical/feasible on all of my projects.
However, I was worried that releasing a full source would diminish the value of the initial product to the people who have been buying them to support both protesters in the street and myself as a business. I’ve also been afraid (based on some laughably earnest emails) of people looking to copy my design for profit.
I felt like giving people a Creative Commons pack full of resources, info, and stencils might be the right tack to getting anyone an OWS bandana regardless of finances without pissing off the folks who have so graciously bought bandanas and haven’t yet come to burn my house due to late shipments.
Hopefully I’ll have a chance sometime soon to cut out some stencils and provide a tutorial on how to make your very own bleach printed OWS bandana. I designed the stencil to minimize the cutting without sacrificing the design or readability. Since there’s a PDF version, converting things for laser cutting is a snap, and I’m fairly convinced this wouldn’t do poorly as a spray painted symbol as well.
A while back, I mentioned I’d be putting up a tutorial about my Pillow Mace project. Well, your prayers have been answered. I got in touch with someone from Make, and they mentioned they’ve got a new system for building tutorials. I figured I’d check it out. So, give the Pillow Mace Tutorial a look over on Make:Projects.
The process is actually pretty simple. First, you get some feathers, buckram, glue, and a brush. Then, you trace the profile of your head to get some basic measurements, cut out the buckram to form a skullcap and a support for the feathers, sew ’em together, and glue the feathers on in layers. The most frustrating part is that feather fuzzies get everywhere and there’s pretty much nothing to be done about it.
Now, go out and make your own. If you do end up making one send a photo my way or tag me in it so I can see how it came out.
I’d like to thank everyone who took a shine to my Pillow Mace. The pillow fight was tremendous, fun, and a wee bit terrifying. Just after the cops inspected my mace and gave me the go-ahead to enter the baraccaded pillow fighting zone someone yelled “He’s got a Pillow Mace… Get him!” That pretty much sums up the fight for me. I spent most of it bent double under the weight of hammering pillows. After about ten minutes of punishment I was deeply in need of an exit Continue reading →