Jon Wise mailed Eben last night to tell us about a 3D printing project he’s been working on, and we thought it was so great we watched the video three times before going to bed. If you’ve ever used a 3D printer you’ll know that they need regular calibrating to make sure that the output is accurate. You have to ensure that various parts are parallel and orthogonal to each other, or your 3D object is likely to come out wonky; things are moving around on three axes, and usually you’ll be doing that calibration by hand.
Jon is sick of hand-calibrating, so he’s used a Pi to do the work for him. This video is a demonstration of how his setup works, using a pencil instead of the usual extrusion nozzle so you can better see what’s going on.
We got talking to Jon about how significant he thought the improvement in resolution you can get from automating calibration might be. He said:
I do not see it as competition to a machine tool approach, but for building products in new areas. I have a friend who would like to build edible products and this was one of the prompts to try alternative layouts – it would be easier to clean icing sugar off the flat base plate than from belts and bearings and the build platform could go into the dish-washer.
The design could be easily scaled by running on a large sheet of material as the arms are light and take no bending forces. The overall size will be big compared to the product but all designs have some down-sides. The key aspect is that anyone can make it. The rack and pinion bits are available from hobby stores and can be linked to any length. The motors come from old printers. There isn’t anything else.
We think this project is great. Using computing to automate repetitive tasks like this frees up time to use your brain to do other more interesting things, and leaves you more productive and more cheerful. It’s one of the reasons we think that giving everybody the opportunity to learn how to do this stuff is so important. What have you automated recently?
Over in Austin, Texas, Nathan Morgan has managed to stay distracted from the barbecue, waterskiing, sunshine and live music (Austin’s one of my favourite cities – I have no idea how anyone who lives there manages to focus on anything) for long enough to turn a Raspberry Pi into a natty little mobile computer, complete with screen and keyboard, 64GB SSD, bluetooth and wireless. There’s an integral touchpad, mounted with the LCD screen in a 3D printed case, in which batteries enough for ten hours of uptime, a powered hub and the Pi are hidden. In essence, what Nathan’s made here is a really, really tiny Linux laptop.
Nathan comes to this from a career repairing and refurbing Dell laptops; he’s got a lot of experience in portable computing and how things fit together cleanly. This project is a really slick, professional-looking piece of work, and we’re very grateful to him for making all the information necessary to make your own available to the community. He’s published a complete how-to guide, including a priced parts list, 3D printer SDL files so you can make a case, and a schematic diagram, so you can build your own.
Head over to Nathan’s blog for instructions and more photographs (or just click on the pictures here). Let us know if you decide to make your own Pi-to-go as a Christmas holiday project!
Apparently, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. We have been thinking about what to get for the Raspberry Pi owner in your life. Happily, MakeZine have done the hard work for us, and have come up with a terrific gift guide. Head over and check it out – once, of course, you’ve stopped by our own store and bought your Raspberry Pi fan a branded t-shirt, lovingly hand-knitted from Santa’s beard hair by elves*. All profits on the shirts go to support the charitable work of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
*Details about t-shirt production may or may not be strictly speaking true.
Here’s something I’ve been hoping one of you would produce for a while now. If you’ve got kids, you’ll know that many baby monitors are disgustingly expensive bits of kit, whose price remains as high as it is in a pretty unpleasant bit of exploitation of the fear and worry that every new parent experiences. So I was really pleased to see Matt Kaar, a Pi owner from Virginia, make his own networked, high-fidelity monitor from a Pi and a USB microphone. He’s very pleased with the results: “You can hear a pin drop.” You can follow Matt’s detailed instructions on his website if you’d like to make your own. (Thanks very much for responding to my request to write about it, Matt!)
These are all the parts you’ll need to make your own. Matt says the whole setup was “easier than I’d thought” – this is a project that even beginners will be able to approach.
I’m sure that once the $25 camera board is released in the new year we’ll start to see some cheap camera monitors being hacked too.
We’re very pleased to see that Plan 9 has been ported to the Pi. Plan 9 is an open-source Unix-type operating system, which was originally developed at Bell Labs as a research OS. What’s particularly interesting about Plan 9 is that everything behaves like a file, whether it’s a local or a network resource. We recommend you have a play with it!
More than a year ago, people on our forums started talking about using the Raspberry Pi in a very specific piece of cosplay. If you’ve played Fallout, you’ll know that no self-respecting apocalypse survivor goes anywhere without her Pipboy. People were wondering whether a Raspberry Pi could be used to drive a working piece of costume, perhaps with a GPS, and definitely with a small screen and lots of blinkenlights.
I thought that particular thread of conversation had died quietly: I was wrong. Ryan Grieve has made a really nice example using a car reversing panel, a tub of polymer pellets, a handful of leds and an Adafruit cobbler.
His Pipboy has functionality including a world map, local map, radio and a twitter client – or at least it did before some shonky home-wiring caused the whole arrangement to burst into flames. Happily, the Pi survived, and photos were taken before the disaster. Ryan also has code so you can put your own together – just please be more careful with the wiring if you make one yourself. Electricity’s not a toy, kids.
Good luck in fixing her back together, Ryan! We congratulate you on your flameproofness.
Here’s a project with a more practical application. Gasser is a Pi-based, networked, mobile pollutant sensor for detecting nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulphur dioxide, developed in Paris.
Gasser v2 prototype
This self-contained unit’s BOM cost comes in at €255 (the majority of that cost is taken up by the very accurate sensor); this is cheaper and smaller than equivalent devices – and it’s still only a prototype! We wish LaboCitoyen all success with the project; it’s great to see a Pi being used to make our cities healthier places.
Alex from RasPi.tv has some video to show you how to use relays to turn what he calls “useful, real, BIG things” like fans and lamps on and off, according to environmental conditions – too hot and the fan will turn on, too dark and the lamp will turn on. You can also hook the devices up to the network, so you can use a connected device, like your phone, to turn them on and off; and just because he can, Alex has also added some sound effects. This is a great tutorial. If you’re interested in learning about physical computing, it’s well worth watching this video and reading Alex’s blog post. RasPi.tv has plenty of other fun tutorials – I recommend you spend a few minutes browsing through the collection!