empowering creative people

Trump vs Eagle Rock 'em Sock 'em

Today I present you your opportunity to fight for freedom! If you were lucky enough to grow up with a Rock em Sock em robot toy, then you'd know how much fun they were. But a simple, mechanical toy is too good an opportunity to waste, so RobotGeek created their own version with motorised robots with 3D printed impressions of President Trump, and the American Eagle.

Whilst it would be interesting to see a higher-powered version with a bit more impact, it's a sure fire way to blow through components, motors, and prints, but the goal of punching the button located on the chest of the opponent servos for an entertaining match.

I'll leave you to decide which player you control, but it's such a creative use of 3D printing and servos that it just had to be shared.

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- By Sam

A DIY Laser Pointer for your Cat

Every now and then I stumble upon some projects that just make me chuckle. And well, that's half the fun when making things right? Fun, almost pointless inventions that can do stuff. Well, take a look at this project from Lucas Berbesson. It's a laser pointer module for your cat. 

With a couple of servo motors, an Arduino, a laser pointer and some code, Lucas whipped up this automatic toy for his cat. If you have ever had a laser pointer around a cat, you'll understand the beauty behind the idea here.

Take a look at it in action (mind the constant clips of him just playing with the cat)

All you need to make this project is

- 8xAA Battery Case
- Arduino Uno
- Breadboard
- Laser Diode
- Jumpwires
- 2 Servo Motors
- Arduino USB cable

And you can grab the Arduino code here.

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- By Aidan

3D Printing and Modelling Workshop - 14/2/2017

On Tuesday afternoon, we ran the first of our revised 3D printing & modelling workshops and had a blast! Michael (our workshop participant) turned up only having knowledge of the existence of 3D printers and CAD software but had absolutely no experience, the perfect participant. We kicked off with walking through our printer setup and took a look at the basics of FDM technology. He was particularly interested in being able to print models that he could find online, so we went right into slicing up some models and learning the lay of the land with Cura, our slicing software.


After a crash course in Fusion 360, we walked through making a small project box. Michael decided to print his grandson a small animal figurine, so off to Thingiverse we went to find something suitable. We ended up deciding on a model that our 3D printer would be able to print simply and easily. We ended up deciding on a Pig figurine and sliced it at .2mm and got it printed inside of half an hour.

We used the Lulzbot Mini and some orange ABS filament to print this model.

Book a session today if you'd like to join one of our 3D Printing Workshops. Likewise, we're here to help if you're looking for help with Lulzbot in Australia,

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- By Aidan

Meet Loomo - Segway Robot

I normally prefer to share projects that are of a DIY, maker level, however, this new developer project from Segway is way too cool not to share. Meet Loomo.

They've taken the iconic 2 wheeled segway platform, and used it to create an intelligent, assistant robot which is capable of vision, speech, locomotion, connectivity, interaction, and hardware extensions. Oh, and it's open source. It's awesome to see companies that are leading the technological curve, creating open source platforms to allow developers to further the application of robotics. Check it out for yourself:

I think that the beauty of projects like the Loomo robot is that it shows the potential of open source designs which allow for a community driven advancement, rather than closed-loop development. At the moment it's only available to developers for pre-release development, but it'll be exciting to see the fruit that Loomo bears.

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- By Sam

Sorting Skittles with Arduinos

Sometimes, you don't want to bother with the Yellow skittles. It's nothing against them, they just can't match up to a handful of juicy, red ones. Maybe you are more of the M&M demographic, candy covered chocolates are still delicious and most importantly colored. Either way, surely you have thought about sorting, or even manually sorted, your candy by color in the past. Well, have I got a pointless but beautifully designed Arduino Project for you.

Cast your eyes upon this beautiful device.

Mechanical Engineer and Maker, Willem Pennings from New Zealand created this machine after being inspired by a similar project he saw on YouTube. The real difference was some core redesigns Willem made, alongside the sleek, beautifully designed housing the invention was mounted in.

The basic idea is the candy is loaded into the Hopper on the top of the unit. One at a time the candy is sorted using an RGB color sensor and an Arduino Nano, before being dropped into the corresponding 'tub' for its color. What a great project!


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- By Aidan

Using Dash With Arduino

The Internet of Things is here, and as more and more platforms become integrated with IoT applications, it's here to stay. New IoT services are popping up daily, and Amazon's Dash service makes ordering and re-ordering products as simple as pressing a button. However, for many makers, the IoT is a daunting and intimidating venture. Integrating familiar microcontroller functions with the unknown aspects of web integration is a big challenge. So Brian Carbonette created an awesome guide, along with an Arduino library for using the service with a web-connected Arduino such as the MKR1000. Check it out here.

Amazon Dash button with MKR1000 breadboard layout

It's a very neat project, and a great example of a seasoned maker using his skills to provide other DIY'ers with the ability to put together great IoT projects like this one!

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- By Sam

The MOARstruder is here!

We're happy to announce a new addition to our Lulzbot 3D printer tool head range, the MOARstruder. Usually, the name of the tool head is pretty indicative of exactly what it's purpose is, but what do Aleph Objects (Lulzbot) mean by MOAR?

Well, actually they mean exactly that! Instead of going into finer detail with tinier and tinier nozzles to get even more detailed prints. Lulzbot decided to design an extruder that goes in the other direction, designing a tool head that can just pump (yes, PUMP) prints out, super quick. 

Check out the promotional video by Lulzbot!

With a 1.2mm Nozzle, this tool head is simply awesome at producing bigger prints, faster. Most of the technology is the same, with the standard tool head design from Lulzbot being quite effective at printing, the big change is in the hot end. The new hot end is a lot bigger, designed to heat a lot more filament for extrusion resulting in some big, juicy layer heights.

We will have our installation guide and review up in the coming days, so stay posted if you want to see how it prints!

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- By Aidan

Arduino Emulated Altair 8800

Modern technology is great and all, but sometimes it's nice to take a step back in time, and look at how things operated before the 4K displays and BLE connected devices that we know and love.

YouTuber David Hansel has used an Arduino Due to emulate the CPU functionality and structure of the original computer, which was marketed as the first 'PC' in kit form. Based on the Intel 8800 processor, it's simple memory address system and toggle switch interface gives insight into the early form of microcontrollers. But perhaps the best way to explain this wonderful project is to simply watch:

It seems funny that in an age where content such as video games and movies are measured in gigabytes as standard, and terabyte storage is the norm, that a game, even one as simple as the killbits demo, can occupy only 24 bytes.

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- By Sam

Love Nixie Tubes? Try Lixie

Nothing says cool looking numerical displays quite like a Nixie tube does. A vacuum sealed the tube with 10 separate cathodes that are each in the shape of a different numeral between 0 and 9, if you apply power to one cathode it will glow in this awesome orange neon color, the kind of glow you just can't quite replicate. That didn't stop Connor Nishijima from trying, though, utilizing some modern day tech to revive this unique display method. His method of choice was laser cutters and NeoPixel LEDs though.

Why would you try to revive such a tech? Simply because of how awesome a Nixie tube can look. Take a look at this video and see what we mean:

Using edge lit laser cut acryllic alongside some NeoPixel lights, Connor did a fantastic job at reviving this vintage display.

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- By Aidan

PC Behemoth Asus releases their own Single Board Computer

The tech behemoth Asus has decided to enter the Single Board computer market with their own Raspberry Pi sized computer, the Tinker Board. This board boasts improvements on every one of the Raspberry Pi spec's, at a slightly higher price point. Take a look at the table below for a quick and easy way to see the differences.



The form factor is identical to the Pi, as well as the microSD storage system. The real interesting difference is the superior processing speed and RAM that you would be getting along with the Tinker Board. The board is currently available in Europe/Asia and it's expected that we will see it in Australia in the coming weeks. 

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- By Aidan

Autodesk Eagle Has Crash Landed

Today is a sad day. Today is the day where I share with you the new plans for the popular PCB design program; EAGLE. As you may know from a previous blog post, EAGLE was aquired by Autodesk (from Farnell) last year and its future was up in the air. Whilst Autodesk is a respectable CAD software company, many people steer clear of their products due to the willingness to embrace subscription based licensing, which naturally doesn't mesh well with the maker community.

EAGLE was the standard for small-scale PCB and schematic design because of its availability and free-use license options; no longer. I myself have used EAGLE for 3 years or so now, and while perhaps not as invested into it as other users, I know my way around it and have plenty of custom libraries which I rely on.

The big point for me will be watching what changes Autodesk make to the software itself. If they overhaul the UI, introduce the features that it's been missing, and implement  inter-product compatibility (such as pre-rendered 3D models to create 3D PCB mockups in Fusion 360 easily), then perhaps I might deal with the changes and stick with them. However there's a good chance that in the future I'll be exploring KiCAD as a viable alternative. But until then, here is a great video from Dave Jones at the EEVBlog detailing the changes and how they may affect users.

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- By Sam

Robotic Bagpipes

Well, just when you thought that bagpipes couldn't get any stranger, someone goes and 3D prints a robot that can play them day and night; it's a real-life horror story. Jokes aside, may I present to you Ardu McDuino!

YouTuber XenonJohn 3D printed some fingers with a mechanism which is triggered by solenoids. Each finger has a small solenoid which pulls on a line with a spring which simulates the function of tendons in your finger. The fingers then control the airflow through the bagpipes to create the different tones.

The main element of the project is the 'chanter' which is a device designed to help people play the bagpipes by providing a constant airflow. A small air compressor is used to simulate the mouth-piece, and whilst it isn't the first robotic instrument of its kind, it shows a unique approach for creating one based entirely on open-source hardware (3D printed models and an Arduino Mega).

If you want to build one yourself, check out his instructable guide here.

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- By Sam

FamiLamp: Cloud-Synchronized color-Selectable Lamps

The Particle Photon is making it's way into maker projects all over the world! What an exciting time we live in. The Photon is a very affordable WiFi enabled microcontroller that is perfect for Smart-Home-style devices, and that's exactly what we have seen from maker Here-Be-Dragons.

These LED lamps use individually addressable LED strips, wrapped around some PVC pipe, connected via a Particle Photon to synchronise their color together over WiFi. To select a color, just place your hand on the hammered Copper plates on top of any of the lamps and the LEDs will cycle through their range of colors. Release your hand and the rest of the group will syncronise to match! Pretty awesome if you ask us.

You can checkout the full project write-up here.

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- By Aidan

New Raspberry Pi Compute Board Available in Australia

Hold on to your hats ladies and gentlemen because I've got something really exciting for you! The Raspberry Pi Foundation announced the newest iteration of their hugely popular Raspberry Pi Compute module. 'What on earth is a Compute module?' I hear some of you ask? Well, the Raspberry Pi Compute debuted in 2014 and was designed to provide all of the awesomeness that is Raspberry Pi in a smaller, more compact package suited towards industrial and commercial applications.

It featured the same SoC, processor and specs, but got rid of the physical ports (USB, HDMI, Composite, microUSB etc...) and provided access to all of those peripherals and the GPIO via the output pins of it's SODIMM package. Now that was all well and good, but compared to the current Pi 3 specs, the older Compute module was languishing a little, so they've updated it!

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3

Image from raspberrypi.org: Compute Module 3

The Raspberry Pi Compute 3 module packs the same horsepower that the current Pi 3 delivers with twice the RAM of the original module, roughly 10x the processing power, plus lots of extra goodies. The biggest change they've made with this release though is the provision of two different options for the module dubbed the Compute Module 3 and Compute Module 3 Lite. They both have exactly the same specifications, however, the Compute Module 3 sports 4GB of eMMC flash storage. The Lite version lacks this, however, it breaks out the pins required for the eMMC or microSD to the SODIMM pins.

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module Development Kit incldues both the normal and lite variants of the compute, along with all the other bits and pieces you need to get started.

Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3

Image from raspberrypi.org: Back side of CM3 (left) and CM3L (right)

According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, you can pick up the Compute Module 3 and Compute Module 3 Lite for $30 and $25 respectively, however that's in US Dollars, so expect to pay a bit more in Australia, but it's still a nice saving over the regular Pi 3 if the Compute better suits your application. NEC have reportedly used the Compute Module 3 in the new range of HD TV's which is a huge breakthrough to seeing DIY technology come together with industrial applications. Super exciting stuff!

For more info, check out the official Raspberry Pi Foundation post revealing the CM3 and CM3L.

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- By Sam

Build Your Own Acoustic Tractor Beam

Let's be real if you've ever watched Star Wars, you've probably thought of all the possibilities that would open up to you if you had your own tractor beam. The TV remote would never be out of reach, the fridge would be just a button away, and the neighbour's cat could always be put up a tree in case of an 'emergency'. Well, now your dreams can come true. Well, partially at least.

Asier Marzo is an inventor and fellow maker, and created a small but effective 'tractor beam' using acoustic energy. He uses an array of transducers to suspend small objects in the air above the array (remember that sound waves are just pressure waves). The whole thing is controlled using a small Arduino board, and features a 3D printed dome pattern to mount the transducers.

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- By Sam

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