Nortd Labs is in the Bay Area for the Maker Faire this weekend. They are the creators of the Lasersaur, which is an open source laser cutter. They've been working on this design for the last year and have kits out to their initial builders now. They'll be incorporating feedback as they publish all of their designs. They came by Ace Monster Toys to talk about the project last night.
One of the dirty secrets of the hackerspace/maker movement is our laser cutters. They are all pretty much from China because the nice, American made, laser cutters like Epilog's, all cost at least five times as much as the cheapest, so-so, Chinese cutters. Since most hackerspaces are pretty poor, everyone winds up buying the Chinese ones. The problem with these is that, well, they're pretty much crap. I mean, if you get really lucky, it will all be working with no boards hanging loose, wires dangling, etc. when you get it off of the container ship. Even then, people wind up using crap programs to control the laser cutter that require you to run under Windows with really cheesy software or drivers without a full range of control. Nice things cost money and this is what you get for cheap.
Enter the Lasersaur. It is built with an extruded aluminum t-slot frame, arduino based electronics, and the specs are completely open. You can see the current build of materials of what you'll need for it. Nortd is still working on a lot of the control software but people will be able to easily write customer software and add custom hardware to the design.
For hackerspaces that are happy to hack on things, this has a lot of potential. If the design had been further along, we would have probably gone this way at Ace Monster Toys. (As it is, our 80 watt 800 lb. Chinese laser cutter will be here in a week.)
I took video with a higher end webcam of the talk last night. It is an hour and eight minutes long and is a pretty casual conversation with a lot of off-camera questions from members of Ace Monster Toys. If you're interested in the Lasersaur, you may find it worth watching. I took it mainly so members of AMT that couldn't make it could see the presentation!
Ace Monster Toys will have a presence at Maker Faire this coming weekend. This is a first for us as we went through our founding process just around the same time Maker Faire happened last year, elected our board last June, and got our space at the end of July. We did attend the East Bay Mini Maker Faire but this is our first really large scale event.
We'll be in the Fiesta Hall (oooh, sounds fun!) in the hackerspace area. Willow over at Jigsaw Renaissance arranged for a bunch of hackerspaces to share a common large room for our booths, which is cool. Right now, we expect to have a working copy of the DIY Book Scanner that we've been working on for the past few months and beta kits of it to be sold to a few people. Myles has been working on a laser cuttable version of the platen and other key pieces. We'll be selling these along with some bags of parts to help people build their own. This is our first attempt to do so.
I expect that we'll also have the makerbots and a few other things there. AMT members will be staffing the booth during the open hours of the faire and I plan to be there from opening until 2:00 PM or so on both days.
The guys (Zach, Austin, and Jeff) rolled up and worked with a bunch of our local monsters on building contact microphones. This involved taking a piezoelectric sensor, soldering some leads directly to the crystal element and the brass border on it, attaching wires, and gluing this into a bottle cap. The other end of the leads as soldered to a standard audio jack, which was also put into a bottle cap. Copious amounts of hot glue and a fair amount of liquid plastic (to seal the sensor) were added to this mix.
You can see some of my pictures below and on my Ace Monster Toys flickr set:
We've received word at AMT that our 80 watt laser has left its homeland of China and is now wending its way across the Pacific ocean towards us. The expected due date is somewhere around May 26. This means that we should begin getting it set up the week after the Maker Faire.
This is big news for us. This is the most expensive piece of equipment that we've gotten and it took an investment from a group of people in order to purchase. It is an Exlas 1280 80 watt CO2 laser. It has a 47 inch by 31 1/2 inch cutting area, which is HUGE. It also weighs in at almost 800 pounds. It is so big that we're literally putting in a wider door to the back room of our shop area.
When it was put onto the ship, we were sent a few pictures of it, which I include below.
Today, we poured our first set of clonedel pieces for the upcoming set of Reprap Prusa 3D printers that we’re going to make at Ace Monster Toys. “Clonedel” is what people have been calling the Reprap printers where the pieces normally made from printed plastic are made from molds, instead. The printing of these parts on another printer, such as the makerbots we have at AMT, takes about 14 hours. Pouring them takes about 10 minutes plus pulling them from the molds and letting them cure.
You can see some of the first set pf poured parts below.
As it turns out, the molds had a few flaws in places, being either too rough or having some air bubbles, so we weren’t able to pour all the parts with the level of detail that we really want or without damage. We’re going to clean up some of the pieces and I’m going to print a few more on the makerbot in order to make a new mold for those pieces. Almost all of the larger pieces are fine and they take the longest to print so this is still an overall positive.
Over at Metrix: Createspace, where we acquired the molds, you can see that they’ve been working on building many of these as well:
The end result is a 3D printer that is much smaller and simpler than the makerbots we’ve been using in the space.
I’ve also had RAMPS boards made to act as the electronic brains for these in a fetching purple. I and others will be soldering components to these sometime in the next couple of weeks.
The end result of all of this is that we hope to go from having two makerbots in Ace Monster Toys and a couple more in the homes of members to, eventually, a dozen or more of these either in the space or in member homes.
We’ve also just ordered our 80 watt laser (with a four foot by three foot or more work area) from China for the space. This will give us the ability to laser cut acrylic and plywood sheets, opening up a whole range of work possibilities.
The Solar Power Workshop that we wrote about before is happening this Saturday, April 23, at 11:00 AM at Ace Monster Toys. Myles will be doing a morning session and an afternoon. The first will focus on how solar systems work and the second will be people working to build their own wiring harness using Myles' panels. At the end of the day, people will have a working wiring setup and know what panels they will need to get for their needs.
Hey folks, sorry if you showed up last night and class wasn't on. I had some personal business to take care of and it seems I did not sufficiently inform everyone. So just to make sure everyone's well-informed ahead of time, I'm going to be on vacation for a little bit and the next two python classes are also on hold. Snake-wrangling resumes in the first week of May.
Apologies for the inconvenience, but might I suggest you take this time to check out DaveR's Arduino classes. He's not as cool as me of course (no one is), but he'll take care of your tech fix with his stack of USNoobie kits. See you all in May!
A number of us from Ace Monster Toys went to visit the Internet Archive on April 1, 2011. The creator of the DIY Book Scanner, Daniel Reetz, had come into town to meet with people there on, you guessed it, book scanning. As always, he came by Ace Monster Toys when he arrived to take a look at the progress on our own book scanner. He invited me, Myles, Robbie, and others to go with him to the Internet Archive to check out the book scanners that they use for their ongoing book digitizing efforts.
The class will be held on Saturday April 23rd, starting at 11am. No pre-registration is required. Payment for materials can be made with cash or preferably by paypal.
Oakland's new hackerspace, Ace Monster Toys, is offering a public class in building small solar power systems. You'll learn how to build anything from a solar powered bike light, to an emergency power charger, to taking your bedroom or field research site off the grid. The emphasis is on being safe, cheap and practical in a small footprint, where the whole system can be moved.
The class will be on Saturday April 23rd, broken into two sections: 11am to 1pm will cover how power systems are built, and 1pm - 4 will be a chance to use Ace Monster Toy's tools and experience to build your own system. The Theory class will cover:
A hands on walk through the parts of a solar power system, from battery to solar panel & all the parts that go between.
How to calculate the right size of solar panel and battery for your needs.
Where to shop for cheap & safe parts.
Useful electronic theory ( How understanding watt calculations will keep you from getting ripped off on ebay)
Legal and safety issues. ( Why you'll be spending a lot on fuses, and how to build something that could pass an electrical inspection)
How to secure your solar panels.
The afternoon workshop will allow anyone to assemble the wiring and fuses needed to make a system. We'll have a few batteries, charge controllers, inverters and solar panels for you to test out your system, and will help you to calculate how what type of battery and panel to buy. We'll have a few items for sale, but most people should order from the vendors. When the parts arrive at your house, you'll be able to quickly plug everything together and be confident it will work. Depending on attendee interest, we may schedule a follow up session to finish construction. Attendees will need to pay for parts used, most systems will use $15-40 in parts.
Ace Monster Toys is a Hackerspace in the SF Bay Area in Oakland (quite near Berkeley and Emeryville). The address 6050 Lowell, near Alcatraz and Sacramento. You can find driving instructions on our website at acemonstertoys.org.