Posts with «featured» label

MESOMIX is an automated paint mixing machine

If you’re an artist who works with paint, getting your colors right is critical, and somewhat of an art form in itself. For those that need a little assistance, the MESOMIX paint mixing machine is here to help using four 3D-printed peristaltic pumps to pull the right amount of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (or key) to produce your desired color.

An Arduino Uno along with a GRBL shield is implemented to coordinate each pump’s stepper motors, and MESOMIX features a design* reminiscent of a well-built 3D-printer. 

Are you a designer, an artist or a creative person who loves to throw colors on your canvas, but it’s often a struggle when it comes to making the desired shade.

So, this art-tech instruction will vanish that struggle into thin air. As this device, uses off the shelf components to makes the desired shade by mixing the right amount of CMYK (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black) pigments automatically, which will drastically reduce the time spent on mixing the colors or money spent on purchasing different pigments. And will provide you that extra time for your creative.

For more information, you can check out MakerBash’s excellent project here.

*Frame parts were laser-cut out of vinyl material, generally not recommended per safety concerns.

An Automated Paper Cutter

Are scissors and manual paper cutters not working for you? Well, “Mr Innovative” has the solution in the form of an Arduino-driven device that cuts paper to length automatically. 

As you can see in the video below, a user simply inputs the length of paper and the number of strips needed via a series of buttons and a tiny OLED display, and the automated machine does the rest.

The system works by pulling paper inserted into the machine’s body at precise intervals using a stepper motor and rollers. When in place, a second stepper moves a razor blade over the paper, cutting it into perfect strips for whatever craft project you have in mind. An Arduino Mega controls the device, along with a pair of stepper drivers via designed PCB-shield. Code and PCB files are available here for download.

SmartCash can sort and give out change

If you run a small business where transactions are made, handling out coins is a necessary part of the job. While a cash register does the trick, perhaps you could try out the SmartCash device—a cylindrical electromechanical system running on an Arduino Mega—to help you count coins and make change.

Aside from sorting coins, there’s the added benefit that customers will want to come and try it out, maybe even using more cash (and letting you as the owner avoid pesky credit card charges). 

SmartCash is currently designed to work with Euro coins ranging from 5 cents to 2€. Build information is available in this write-up and on the project’s official site. You can also see it in action in the first video below, or how it’s assembled in 3D CAD in the second.

Meme Weaver guides users through fabric creation

We all need to wear clothes, but where do they come from? If you answered “the mall,” then perhaps it’s time to play a couple rounds on the “Meme Weaver.” 

As seen here, this project by the husband and wife team of David Heisserer and Danielle Everine prompts users to adjust levers correctly in order to control how yarn travels through the machine, weaving fabrics together that reveal poems, quotes, and other interesting sayings.

Control for the device—which in turn “commands” humans via a series of audio-visual cues—is accomplished using an Arduino Mega, along with an Adafruit Audio FX sound board. 

Part mechanized tool and part arcade game, Meme Weaver is an interactive machine that weaves poems. Meme Weaver is a complex instrument with large-scale elements of a traditional loom – beams, rollers, yarns, shuttle, beater – with people operating individual treadles. Blinking lights and buzzers create an arcade game feel by lending a bit of Dance Dance Revolution ambiance to the loom.

We have chosen to weave a collection of memes, poems, quotes and maxims from a wide range of authors. The selections include personal favorites, well-known classics and contemporary works within the theme of knowledge sharing. The scroll will be written with poems that remind us that we are standing on the shoulders of giants when we make new technologies.

More info is available on the Meme Weaver’s website , or you can see it on display at the Northern Spark art festival in Minneapolis on June 1516th.

Pull small planes around with this Arduino Mega-based tug

While there are many ways to move an airplane on the ground, Anthony DiPilato decided to build a “tug” of his own.  

The treaded device looks like a tiny tank, and when it slides under the aircraft’s front wheel it locks in place, allowing a 5,200-pound plane to be pulled around courtesy of the RC system’s wheelchair motors. Onboard, an Arduino Mega serves as the brains of the operation along with an H-bridge for motor control. User interface is handled by DiPilato’s iPhone via Bluetooth.

For small aircraft, a towbar is sufficient, but for larger aircraft a power assisted tug is necessary for maneuvering the aircraft. Commercially available aircraft tugs are considerably expensive, so many people use small tractors or golf carts to pull their aircraft.For this project I wanted to see if I could build a remote controlled aircraft tug for a reasonable price.

The goal was to design a remotely controlled tug capable of pulling a Cessna 310 with an estimated weight of 5,200 lbs while keep the cost under $1,000.

Build details can be found in his blog write-up. The Arduino code is available on GitHub, as well as the iOS program. Finally, you can see the tug in action in the first video below, while the second clip shows how the locking mechanism works.

Arduino Blog 12 Jun 17:07

Arduino here, there, and at all the EDU faires!

Arduino All Over

With the arrival of Spring, just prior to the ending of the academic year in Spain, teachers and education initiatives have been celebrating STEAM events all over the country. I personally attended RoboCampeones in Fuenlabrada, a small city outside Madrid, but there were a lot more: Robolot, FanTec, Cantabrobot, Granabot, ROByCAD, and even the technology and education conference PR3D.

Arduino has been present in all of the above-mentioned events, as reported by many of the students, teachers, parents, regional representatives, and distributors, that were on hand. I had the opportunity of interviewing a whole lot of students at RoboCampeones as well as Victor, one of the organizers of many of the 15 editions of the event, and Mati, a teacher from one of the schools participating.

Since the interviews were in Spanish and while I consider putting some work in making the subtitles to the videos, I have already published some of the interviews to the  Arduino EDU LiveCast playlist, which you could find here.

This is the interview made to Victor, the main organizer. In one sentence he said that RoboCampeones is the largest event of its type in Spain (CTC Catalunya 2018 had more students, but not coming from all over the country as in RoboCampeones).

Mati, from the IES Sefarad in Toledo, comments about here experience and about how much students get motivated in making better projects year after year.

Robocampeones in Numbers

2018’s RoboCampeones represents the 15th edition of the event. It has not always been in Fuenlabrada, as it was an itinerating event for a while, and it has not always been having so much Arduino involved. In Victor’s words, it started as a Lego competition, but in 2011 through the intervention of Mati and her college Julio from the IES Sefarad school in Toledo, RoboCampeones added the “open category” to the competition. This category was not only opening up for the participants to use other technologies in the competition (which consisted of the traditional sumo, line following, and rescue challenges), but also brought in a couple of years later the possibility for students to present whatever project they had done in a faire-like environment.

This year’s event had 2,000 participants, plus 1,000 kids that came just to watch. This is, in my opinion, an interesting trend that I have seen at the CTC Faires as well: not only do kids come to showcase their projects or to compete in challenges of different nature, they also come to see what others have done. It is certainly fun to observe some of the projects, see the robots fight on the tatami, and engage in endless conversations about how this or that has been built.

There were over 100 projects in the open category, which took a substantial portion of Fuenlabrada’s Fernando Martin basketball court (where the event took place), 176 Arduino sumo robots, and more than 20 different prizes. You can check out the pictures taken by one of our historical moderators to the Spanish forum and contributor to many open projects in Spain, Juan Manuel Amuedo aka @ColePower.

The Competition

At RoboCampeones, participants compete in getting the most points from the audience, in addition to being the best in the competition. The 2018 edition included a special challenge where teams had to build and command two teleoperated robots (using Bluetooth from cell phones) to compete in moving a certain amount of colored balls from the center to a corner of a squared tatami. Just imagine two teams, two robots per team (thus four players) and 16 balls of different colors rolling on the tatami… messy and fun at the same time!

The other categories were: sumo, rescue, 3D printing, and the open category. I was invited to deliver the prize to the best Arduino project in the open category based on my opinion (yes, I had the chance to judge for a project all by myself!). It was a hard competition, something you can see from the videos. I loved a candy delivering box made by a bunch of 11-year-old kids from Jaenthe eco-friendly shower by three girls from the region, or the funny robot head for dancing at events by yet another couple from Madrid. However, if I have to choose a project that displays excellence in its execution, I voted for the solar airplane-drone designed to fly with a 2kg cargo. It had two different Arduino boards controlling different parts of the operation of the drone: telemetry + flight control, and battery management. They made their own PCBs, installed telemetry equipment, and even implemented a text to speech mechanism so that anyone with a walkie-talkie in the 433Mhz band could connect to the drone and listen to it saying aloud all of the sensor data. See here the interview I made to Julian, one of the boys in the team.

The Trick: Open Your Lab After Lunch

When asking teachers and students how they managed to get so many incredibly relevant projects made during the formal education time, I got a uniform response from them: you (teacher) need to change you class’ methodology and follow PBL centred one. Furthermore, the lab needs extra opening hours. According to the educators, kids demand the technology class (or dedicated lab) to be opened after lunch time, once the class-day has come to an end, for them to continue experimenting and building their projects. Different schools figured out different ways to make it happen: teachers spend some administration hours sitting in the lab and let the kids do, teachers delegate responsibility in older students that want to volunteer and help their schoolmates, the lab management was included in the school’s library management that had to be opened anyway, etc.

This is again something we have experienced with CTC. Technology needs to become much more transversal and become part of different subjects, labs have to be open longer, we need to re-think the management of creative spaces at schools, and the school management has to integrate these activities as part of the overall pedagogic plan of the school. Technology is an important part of our lives, and at school it has to play the same role and have resources at the same level as gymnastics, physics, or other classes in the need for experimental settings.

Other Events

There were other events happening throughout Spain over the last couple of weeks. The following list should give you an idea as to how relevant empirical technology classes are becoming:

  • Robolot: A two-day robotics festival now in its 17th edition, which took place in Olot, and included robotics competition, a STEAM area, had workshops, lectures, and other side events.
  • FanTec: The technology teachers association from Andalucia celebrated the 3rd edition of their faire at the Faculty of Telecommunications and Informatics at the University of Malaga. They have an extensive program with a long selection process, prizes, and visits to museums. 
  • ROByCAD: Cadiz, also in Andalucia, hosted its first robotics day on May 25th. 
  • Granabot: Once more in Andalucia, a couple of enthusiast teachers arranged two days of activities including Arduino Day. 
  • Cantabrobot: In northern Spain, a small robotics festival in Colindres, Cantabria gathered 700 enthusiasts.

To the question of who paid for all of these, typically teachers arrange the events on a volunteer basis, get donated spaces from the regional or local governments, prizes contributed by companies, and sometimes even received grants to help those having to travel long distances to participate in the event.


All the images featured in this blog are courtesy of ColePower. 

Arduino Blog 12 Jun 15:59

This Arduino-controlled robot slithers like a snake

Would you like to create a robot that slithers from place to place like a snake? Well now you can, thanks to this bio-inspired design from Will Donaldson. 

Donaldson’s project uses 10 metal gear servos to allow his robotic snake to curl its body back and forth, sliding along on small wheels that replace a real serpent’s bottom scales. An Arduino Nano controls its 10 segments, and power is provided by an external tether from a recycled desktop power supply. 

As shown in Donaldson’s video, he’s been experimenting with several different snake builds and forms of locomotion. These include an inchworm-style gait where sections are picked up off of the ground, and a sort of hybrid configuration where a snake can move in both the horizontal and vertical planes. 

Instructions and code can be found in Donaldson’s write-up here, and you can check out the video below to see more about his design process.

A DIY Automobile Black Box with Arduino Mega

If you’d like to monitor your driving habits, or perhaps keep them handy in the event of an accident, a “black box,” or more properly a “telematics” device is just what you’re looking for. 

Monitoring driving habits can be interesting, but what if you’d like to make a telematics box yourself, giving you total control over how data is collected and used?

That’s just what maker “TheForeignMan” did, using an Arduino Mega to take in data from his car’s OBD-II port, along with position information from a GPS module. Vehicle speed, engine RPM, and throttle depression are saved on an SD card, which can be removed and graphed on the driver’s computer.

DISCLAIMER: This custom-made black box may not always be valid evidence in a court of law. Some countries/states/local laws may not allow installation of custom monitoring units into moving vehicles unless authorized by an approved installation team. For these reasons, and any other associated to tampering with the OBD port, the author(s) of this article and website hold no responsibility over the outcome of your driving, your car, your car’s electronics (including on board computer), and any other incidents occurred with a custom-made monitoring unit fitted.

Instructions for this build are available here and code can found on GitHub. 

These high school students built their own vending machine

If you’re a high school student and would appreciate a vending machine in class, what’s to be done? Most of the time the answer is “not much,” but Tustin High T-Tech students were able to get one—by building it themselves!

In fact, this excellent device functioned both as a class project and as a fundraiser for their engineering program. It can be seen working in the video below, and uses an Arduino Mega for control, along with motor drivers and steppers to actuate six snack pusher coils. 

Customers simply insert a dollar into the bill acceptor, punch in the correct number in the keypad, and snacks drop out. Arduino code is published here, and Solidworks design files are also available for your DIY vending edification.

A Flexible Arduino Prototype

We recently visited NextFlex, the flexible electronics manufacturing institute in Silicon Valley, where they developed a flexible prototype based on the Arduino Mini. Their mission is to make flexible electronics mainstream, opening up all kinds of new applications.

How did you make the flexible Arduino prototype?

Some of the equipment we use is familiar. For example, automated screen printers and industrial inkjet printers. We used them to print the circuit on a 1mm thick flexible plastic ‘board’ (known as the substrate).

We then took the microcontroller silicon die, which is usually inside a chip package, and connected it directly to the substrate. For this, we used our production-level assembly equipment for precision adhesive dispense, die, and component attach.

Using these techniques, we’re able to create flexible wire connections with a resolution of 50um (that’s 0.005 cm, roughly the thickness of a human hair).

Silicon die inside a standard microcontroller package. (Image credit: NextFlex)

What kind of conductive inks are you using to connect components?

Conductive inks are not new, however we focus our efforts on making these materials very reliable and resilient.

We are using advanced formulations of silver ink with strong adhesion to the base substrate, uniform particle distribution, and the ability to bend and flex after curing — all without degrading the electrical performance.

Some components you use are rigid. When will they be flexible too?

We use some rigid components, which is why we call it “Flexible Hybrid Electronics,” but aim for them to be as small and thin as possible.

The unpackaged die can be thinned to 30um or less. At these thicknesses the silicon becomes flexible and allows for 10mm or smaller bend radii (roughly the radius of your thumb).

Some passive components we use, like capacitors and resistors, are rigid today. Eventually we will print these components, so they are flexible too.

When will flexible electronics be used in every day products? 

The technology is already here! Over the next couple of years, we think it will reach prices that make it widely adopted in consumer products. Before then, by working on projects like the flexible Arduino implementation, we hope we can soon put development tools into the hands of more students, makers and product designers to innovate with.

MCU silicon die bonded to the flexible Arduino prototype. (Image credit: NextFlex)

NextFlex will be talking more about this project at the Sensors Expo & Conference in San Jose, California on June 26th, during the “Democratizing IoT” session.