July 23, 2014

#meArm gets Supersized for a Super Secret Project!

Had a really strange phone call and did the thing I'm trying to do less of, I said "yes". Frankly it would have been silly to say no. The result is that I've just spent two days dusk till dawn hacking together a #meArm Grande. It only moves back and fowards as the axial rotation wasn't needed. It was packaged up yesterday and sent off for testing. The results of which I eagerly await!

Should it pass I'll be getting some feedback and building two more polished versions on a similarly tight deadline.

Fingers crossed!

Files of course are up. Open is everything for the #meArm project. ​http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:404062

July 17, 2014

#meArm Update! 3D Printed version spotted in Poland

The twitter #meArm vanity search is working well for keeping track of what's happening with the #meArm around the world. The latest wild arm has been built in Poland by the mepi.pl team. It took them about half a day to print the #meArm, compared to about 21 minutes on a 40W laser cutter on a summer's day. They built it pretty fast after the print and seem to have some plans to build "an app for that" which is another exciting development. 

Check out their video and the funky colours

Welcome to the project guys!

July 17, 2014

Beautiful Laser Lizard Chopping Board - via Instructables

Instructables is one of my favourite places on the internet. It's full of enthusiasm and amazing projects. The creator of this stunning piece of craftsmanship had the run of the instructables HQ at Pier 9 in San Francisco with access to both a beefy laser cutter and an a rather nice CNC mill.

I think you'll agree that he's made good use of them

All the files are published along with the stunning pictures. Worth checking out the instructable. 

June 25, 2014

#meArm - Update! Now available in Peru!

Famed for Machu Picchu, lamas and roasted rodents on sticks Peru isn't the first place you think of for open hardware. However through a quick vanity search on twitter we've discovered a rather excellent Peruvian website selling our super #meArm under the open hardware licence.

Kool Mechatronics are cutting and etching what looks to be the v0.3 of the MeArm and selling it on the OpenHardware.pe website. It's really fantastic to see the project spreading around the world like this. I'd like to thank the website and Kool Mechatronics for supplying all of the license information and links to our site so people can get involved with the #meArm project.

So if you're in South American and you're looking for a robot arm please check out their site!

Also love their addendum

"Important

Note that is a model of precision and delicate, it is the user management and make adjustments as necessary to complete the project in all packages some acrylic pieces of the most critical parts are included. Checks and always respects the characteristics and diameter of the screws find these installation instructions, however, note that the instructions may be for a previous version to the received, there is usually not much difference, but remember is a project Open Hardware, you are responsible to keep the production line."

June 25, 2014

Inside the Mirrortocracy

A fantastic post that could well be about Hackspaces, Open Source Hardware or Punk Rock...

"There's a problem with Silicon Valley and the subcultures that imitate it. It's a design bug woven into people's identities and sense of self-worth. Fixing it will be painful. Influential and otherwise very smart people will deny till their last breath that it even exists. But I believe it should be fixed before it gets any worse...

The problem with gathering a bunch of logically-oriented young males together and encouraging them to construct a Culture gauntlet has nothing to do with their logic, youth, or maleness. The problem is that all cliques are self-reinforcing. There is no way to re-calibrate once the insiders have convinced themselves of their greatness..."

Read More

June 24, 2014

Make. Hack. Do at the Science Museum, London.

At the beginning of this month I had a great opportunity to run a workshop at the stupendous Science Museum in London. Admittedly this was my first time to the museum that I can remember. School always favoured the Natural History Museum next door, because dinosaurs. I could write another blog on my my love of the Natural History Museum, it was a really special pleasure to walk past it on my way to work for five days.

It's a beautiful building that still gives me chills thinking about its contents and my childhood geeky wonderment.

The Science Museum was going to have to be pretty special to compete and oh my gosh it really is special. As I was there to work I wasn't able to enjoy the exhibits quite as much as I would have liked but it was something quite special to walk past items like Stevenson's Rocket, a Rolls Royce Merlin Engine and a full sized Lockheed Electra airliner as I meandered my way to the Make. Hack. Do event.

Make. Hack. Do was set out to allow people to create electronic instruments from vegetables, build and program robots and get hands-on with 3D printing in a free festival. Where participants could design, hack and program in a series of workshops and meet the artists and inventors using electronics and 3D printing in innovative ways. It opened with a "Lates" event where grown ups with beer came along to find out what we were up to. It was a great way to start the festival as it was possible to test my plans of how to run the workshops, with an understanding, relaxed yet enthusiastic crowd. 

The next four days were advertised as suitable for ages 10 and above, in reality as long as a child was able to be attentive and hold a screwdriver they got to build robots! One lad came over and told me he was only five but he was "very good" and proceeded to build his claw faster and better than a group of 12 year olds that built along with him! Other workshops and activities included exploring creative uses of electronics and 3D printing, creating colourful 3D printed sculptures, helping stitch a tapestry made of electronic thread and sculpting circuits with special electronic playdough. It's possible we'll be copying the squishy circuits workshop locally in August.

It was quite incredible to be among some fantastic artists and inventors from across the UK at Make.Hack.Do demonstrating how electronics and 3D printing can be used for art and music. Musical objects hacked together by Royal College of Art students were on show and along with some intricate 3D printed art by Tobias Klein. LiveCodeLab showed how anyone can create live music using computer coding and Ototo turned furniture, toys and even vegetables into musical instruments using electronics.

One of the many highlights of the festival was meeting this young man and his father who were visiting from Switzerland. In the last week he'd downloaded the files of our #meArm robot arm and cut his own from balsa wood using a CNC milling machine. He had me sign a flier! It was fantastic meeting someone who had built their own arm, one of the many reasons we support open hardware. I think he wrote this in the guest book too. Really made my day!

The festival was supported by Airbus Group, Renishaw, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the University of Nottingham. Two of whom supported my PhD, so extra thanks to EPSRC and the University of Nottingham. There are thanks for all of the organisers and volunteers. It was really well run and I was even able to take a break for lunch, that's really special in an event like this!

Overall it was an amazing five days and a spectacular event in a world class venue. It was great to be a part of it.

June 24, 2014

MyPiFi Kickstarter - add on board for Raspberry Pi

Paul Brown, aka @smstextuk, is a regular feature at the Raspberry Pi Jams around the UK. It's these Jams that he credits with the idea for the myPiFi add on board. A simple soldering exercise that leads on to a programming exercise, it's a Pi add on two for one really. That's why we've back his kickstarter! Check it out, you might want to too.

June 17, 2014

World's Smallest Periodic Table!

Spotted this morning is the world's smallest periodic table (possibly). Engraved onto a hair of the amazing haired Professor Martyn Poliakoff at the Nottingham Nanotechnology and Nanoscience Centre, just down the road from phenoptix HQ.
As a claim to fame I have seen the Prof many times in and around Sainsbury's supermarket in Beeston and once had a pint with Brady in Ruddington. 

June 07, 2014

Rambling Update on the MeArm - More to follow!

So v0.4 has been kind of complete for a while, there are a number of tweaks I want to apply but they've not yet made it to the plans.  Should really just publish and be dammed but I do like to take some good pictures of a new version and I've not had the time to do that hence not published.

Have had a lot of feedback on v0.3 and have now seen versions built in the UK, Switzerland, the USA and most recently Mexico (image above is the Mexican MeArm)! Not bad from a little robot arm from Nottingham England! Jack's design for the v0.3 has been a real success. Lots has been done on the code and I've now see it run on Arduino and the Raspberry Pi. Some great work has been done by Bob Stone on this front. His github repos are amazing https://github.com/RorschachUK

The meArm was also very fortunate to be invited along to the Science Museum in London for the Make.Hack.Do festival. We build around 10 arms and probably 100 of the grippers over a 5 day period. We (that's me and the meArm) met a father and son from Switzerland (mentioned above) who had built a meArm from balsa wood on their home made CNC mill. They really made my day. There's some video of the arm in action here 

Quite a bit more to tell but that will have to do for now!

May 23, 2014

Crazyflie Makes it to the BBC

Spotted this BBC Magazine article this morning featuring our favourite micro quadcopter the Bitcraze Crazyflie that we hold in stock right here in the UK.

The article discusses how scientists are copying from nature to design the next generation of drones - flying robots designed for everything from military surveillance to delivering goods to our doorsteps.

In a special issue of the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, scientists in the US and Europe reveal drones with bird-like talons for grasping objects, and some that actively avoid obstacles using only visual sensors.

This could enable them to fly in built-up areas, as effectively as birds and insects.

UK-based aerial robotic expert Dr Mirko Kovac from Imperial College explained to BBC News how, with a greater understanding of the feats of navigation and control that flying animals are capable of, drones inspired by nature are set to become part of our everyday lives.