Foldy Zoetrope

I made little foldy zoetropes to send folks for the holidays. Now that they’re all sent out and people have had a chance to enjoy them, I figured I could reveal the design without anybody feeling less special. I should release the design and talk about the process behind making them. I should have time for that soon. In the meantime, check out the construction tutorial video after the fold. Continue reading

Print Your Own Robot: Part 4

I have lots of updates to share. First, there’s a new video of the latest tentacle prototype in action below the fold. Second, We’ve made some excellent progress on the method of manufacture, reliability, and repeatability of the designs we’re producing. It’s almost at the point where we need to figure out a good real-world experiment to test our ideas against. I’m currently torn between creating a grasper and something that walks. Jim and I have been working out ways of getting a self contained power source inside of a soft robot, and it seems like we might be able to use a canister of compressed gas to do everything from timing movements to articulating valves. I’m working out ways of integrating peristaltic pumps and timing mechanisms that will be simple to prototype… which is a pretty tall order. However, I think a combo of laser cut bits and creative molding can have this one solved. Continue reading

Print Your Own Robot: Part 3 VIDEO!

After only six actual work days, a few afternoons spent on CAD, and a lot of tweaking, I’ve got a working robotic tentacle prototype! I used the hand pump off of a sphygmomanometer and a lot of sil-poxy, but it’s working in a rough and ready way. There’s video after the jump below.

I had to cut this one open to fully remove all the core and then sealed it back up. I think the next version will evacuate the core cleanly due to the powder tweaks we made, though. It could also use some revisions to the way it interfaces with the air supply. In the future I’m going to have to run some tests on adhering silicone to various plastics to see what will make for the most solid fittings. The sil-poxy infosheet says polyurethanes are a good candidate, so I might start there. Continue reading

Print Your Own Robot: Part 2

I just arrived back from a second session of hacking and casting with Jim Bredt over at Viridis3D, and I have to say I’m pretty excited. The biggest result of the most recent round of mold making is a successful method for getting soluble cores into printed molds and casting silicone around them reliably and repeatably. I ended up doing a lot of revisions to the casting method and industrial design based on the results of last month’s experiments. The mold goes together in new ways with changes to accommodate pouring the mold, reusing the outer shell, aligning the cores, printing the cores, and how it will get hooked up to pneumatics once everything’s cast and functioning. I’m especially proud of the design behind the base of the soluble core, which is tapered so that it can align and center itself within the mold even if its dimensions shrink by a few percent. The little ears on this base are both to align it rotationally (which doesn’t matter much as far as the tentacle is concerned, but could matter in other more complex molds) and to prevent the core dropping down further into the mold and mucking up the wall thickness if it shrinks more than spec. Continue reading

Tiny Grumps

Yes, I know. All of my projects involve laser cutting of some flavor or another these days. I’m hopelessly addicted to cutting things with beams of light. Given that I’m a huge nerd and am prone to youtube celebrity fandom, I made some little keychains for my favorite “guys making funny voices while playing videogames” show: Game Grumps.

The first go at GameGrump keychains. I sent these on to the creators. They enjoyed 'em.

The first set were made by dividing an illustration from the show into different sections, cutting the sections out of black and white acrylic, filling in the etched details of the mouths and little expression lines with ink, and assembling them with superglue. I really like the results, and apparently reddit does as well. I sent a set along to the show’s creators and they were pleased with the results.

The new full color design shown here with his older brother.

I just polished off another design yesterday based on the same theme. These guys are a combination of black laser cut acrylic and a cut vinyl sticker. I think with a jig to keep the stickers perfectly aligned with the plastic and some more control over getting every last bubble and wrinkle out, they could be as cool as the 3d extruded version.

You can find some more pictures of the designs on Flickr here. I’m currently talking with the folks from SharkRobot about producing a series of these for their store as well as related ones for the other artists they represent. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, as it stands to be a fantastic way to both grow Sleek and Destroy and play with some new designs.

Princess Jellyfish Laser Bento

I’m a big fan of Princess Jellyfish. It’s stuffed with features and themes near and dear to my heart: gender identity and ambiguity, discovering a world outside your nerd bubble, finding outlets for your passions through building things, how style and aesthetics are a language unto themselves, the clash of cultures between the nerdy and the stylish. It’s lovely stuff.

For Halloween, Numi and I decided to have a Princess Jellyfish themed party. This mostly involved taking an idea we’d been scheming for a long time, a bento box featuring laser cut nori illustrations, and lavishing some love and attention on it. This also meant a day spent snacking on fried things, hunting around for esoteric ingredients all across town, and watching anime on youtube. Good times all in all, especially after being cooped watching Sandy rage outside. Continue reading

I am Laser Endowed

A few months ago, something magical happened. Over the years, I have been building, bit by bit, a way to twist the world into a shape more to my liking. With little pokes here and there, I’ve managed to eek out a life that has me selling the things I build, make, design, and hack for a living. Sleek and Destroy is now the source of my entire income and I even have employees. This is absurd. I feel like the police should be on to me and haul me off for impersonating a successful adult who knows what they’re doing any second.

I was afraid I'd ordered something too big to fit in my house. Fortunately the box contained plenty of fluff.

In line with this trend, they should also haul me away for steadily becoming a supervillain, for I have a laser. An 18-wheeler arrived at my Bushwick studio carrying a pine box big enough to send Orson Welles six feet under in style and within a few short hours filled with grunting, swearing, and sweating, I had a functional robot helping me build things in my house. Continue reading

1 Hour Project: Chef Excellence

The world of bargain basement product design is odd. You’ve got people cutting corners in new and innovative places. Sometimes it’s labeling surplus or flawed items as new stock. Sometimes it’s taking something that gets manufactured for one purpose, rebranding it, and bumping up the price. Sometimes it’s giving something the gloss and polish of an above-the-board piece of merchandise without all the inconvenience and expense of original/licensed art or celebrity endorsements.

Stuart Ashens rounds up some of the worst offenders and reviews them with wit, charm, and a posh British accent. One of his best and most lasting discoveries has been Chef Excellence, the shining spokeschef for Stay-Fresh Food Bags. To get the context you’ll just have to watch the video.

“An Excellent ___________.” Has become a consistent meme in my life, and I wanted to find more ways to share it with the world. Thus: Chef Excellence Stamps.

I sent one along to Stuart, and he replied with a nice picture. Thanks, Stuart.

Laser Cut Stamps

One of the deep and subtle magics of fabrication is how many ways you can get approximately the same result with different procedures. It’s a bit like cooking, where the choice of whether to bake or broil, pan fry or deep fry, can have a profound effect or make little difference at all depending on what goes in and the desired result. Having a laser on hand means I can fiddle with my methods and iterate a bunch of different solutions each with minor tweaks until I get the result I was searching for. Also, with the coming laser singularity (when lasers become more common than printers), more materials and toys are available for added lazing satisfaction.

Mega Man after he's defeated Wily's prep cook robot master: Ra Man. His new upgrade features a noodle arm which he uses to snare enemies and cross chasms hookshot style.

I started off with a late night doodle. My favorite Chinese Take-Out place has this excellent illustration. The gun was my own addition, on top of a wonky and not quite convincing “thumbs up”. I though making a stamp following that design, obtaining a stack of menus, improving them, and shuffling them back into the main cache over at Randy’s would be amusing, so I set about making a stamp.

One unadulterated menu and one vastly improved menu.

The first step was to get a copy of the unaltered menu, photograph it flat, and get the proper dimensions for the stamp into Illustrator. Often times I’ll put things in a scanner to make sure everything’s flat and orthographic, but laying a ruler against what you’re duplicating and photographing it from straight above also works well. Continue reading