Ace Monster Toys Post-Maker Faire Report

Ace Monster Toys had its first booth at a Maker Faire last weekend. Technically, we were at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire this last Fall but that was a purely local event.

For those not familiar with it, Maker Faire is an annual event in the Bay Area sponsored by O'Reilly Media and associated with Make Magazine. More than 10,000 people come to see various projects, vendors, and exhibitions of maker and hacking culture. Think of it as a souped of science fair for people who make things and the community around it combined with a little bit of a trade show for vendors associated with it.

Personally, I could do with a few less professional vendors and more projects but it works out pretty well.

Willow from Jigsaw Renaissance in Seattle organized a room for hackerspaces this year. In previous years, hackerspaces who had booths were spread over the main expo building so this got everyone together in one area together. This turned out to work fairly well and we got to interact with other spaces, both local and from much further afield. I met the founder of the Tokyo Hackerspace, as well as Arizona's Heatsync Labs and Crash Space of Los Angeles.

AMT was demonstrating the prototype of our DIY Book Scanner. We had just made beta kits of the laser cut portions of it, along with commodity parts from Home Depot or the like. We got asked an awful lot, "How does it turn pages?", and had to demonstrate that you turned the pages yourself after pivoting the glass top, which was quicker (and tens of thousands of dollars cheaper) than building a page turning scanner. We even sold a few kits.

We probably handed out one or two thousand flyers, met some local teachers and other educational folks, and got the word out that there is a hackerspace in the East Bay.

At this last Thursday's post-Maker Faire weekly meeting, we had three new people show up and at least two of them admitted to seeing us at the Maker Faire, so I think that it has worked out well.

Getting the word out about us into the local East Bay community, especially amongst all of the makers in the Burning Man crowd, is one of our next big projects.

- Al

Nortd Labs visits AMT to discuss Lasersaur

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!

- Al

Ace Monster Toys at Maker Faire

Christian explains the magic of making

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.


Bookscanner Prototype

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.

- Al

CMKT 4 Visit and Workshop at Ace Monster Toys

P1010749

The circuit-bending rock band, CMKT 4 paid a visit to Ace Monster Toys this last Thursday. CMKT4 plays a rather different sort of music, which you can hear over on their Reverbnation page.

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:

Laser taking a boat trip

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.

AMT 80w Laser - 1

Cacti and succulents tableau

This fits right into the "things that should not be THAT expensive, but yet they are" series.

Today's thing is this:

Beginning of Clonedels at Ace Monster Toys

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:

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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.

 - Al

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Ace Monster Toys is a non-profit hackerspace based in Oakland, CA, dedicated towards education, hacking, and maker culture.

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