Makers and open hardware for innovation

Just like the garage computer explosion of the 70’s through the 80’s, which brought us such things as Apple, pong, Bill Gate’s hair, and the proliferation of personal computers, the maker movement is the new garage hardware explosion. Today, 135 million adults in the United States alone are involved in the maker movement.

Enthusiasts who want to build the products they want, from shortwave radios to personal computers, and to tweak products they’ve bought to make them even better, have long been a part of the electronics industry. By all measures, garage-style innovation remains alive and well today, as “makers” as they are called continue to turn out contemporary gadgets, including 3D printers, drones, and embedded electronics devices.

Making is about individual Do-It-Yourselfers being able to design and create with tools that were, as of a decade or two ago, only available to large, cash-rich corporations: CAD tools, CNC mills, 3D printers, low-quantity PCB manufacturing, open hardware such as Arduinos and similar inexpensive development boards – all items that have made it easier and relatively cheap to make whatever we imagine. For individuals, maker tools can change how someone views their home or their hobbies. The world is ours to make. Humans are genetically wired to be makers. The maker movement is simply the result of making powerful building and communication tools accessible to the masses. There are plenty of projects from makers that show good engineering: Take this Arduino board with tremendous potential, developed by a young maker, as example.

The maker movement is a catalyst to democratize entrepreneurship as these do-it-yourself electronics are proving to be hot sellers: In the past year, unit sales for 3D printing related products; Arduino units, parts and supplies; Raspberry Pi boards; drones and quadcopters; and robotics goods are all on a growth curve in terms of eBay sales. There are many Kickstarter maker projects going on. The Pebble E-Paper Watch raises $10 million. The LIFX smartphone-controlled LED bulb raises $1.3 million. What do these products have in common? They both secured funding through Kickstarter, a crowd-funding website that is changing the game for entrepreneurs. Both products were created by makers who seek to commercialize their inventions. These “startup makers” iterate on prototypes with high-end tools at professional makerspaces.

For companies to remain competitive, they need to embrace the maker movement or leave themselves open for disruption. Researchers found that 96 percent of business leaders believe new technologies have forever changed the rules of business by democratizing information and rewiring customer expectations. - You’ve got to figure out agile innovation. Maybe history is repeating itself as the types of products being sold reminded us of the computer tinkering that used to be happening in the 1970s to 1990ssimilar in terms of demographics, tending to be young people, and low budget. Now the do-it-yourself category is deeply intertwined with the electronics industry. Open hardware is in the center in maker movement – we need open hardware designs! How can you publish your designs and still do business with it? Open source ecosystem markets behave differently and therefore require a very different playbook than traditional tech company: the differentiation is not in the technology you build; it is in the process and expertise that you slowly amass over an extended period of time.

By democratizing the product development process, helping these developments get to market, and transforming the way we educate the next generation of innovators, we will usher in the next industrial revolution. The world is ours to make. Earlier the PC created a new generation of software developers who could innovate in the digital world without the limitations of the physical world (virtually no marginal cost, software has become the great equalizer for innovation. Now advances in 3D printing and low-cost microcontrollers as well as the ubiquity of advanced sensors are enabling makers to bridge software with the physical world. Furthermore, the proliferation of wireless connectivity and cloud computing is helping makers contribute to the Internet of Things (IoT). We’re even beginning to see maker designs and devices entering those markets once thought to be off-limits, like medical.

Historically, the education system has produced graduates that went on to work for companies where new products were invented, then pushed to consumers. Today, consumers are driving the innovation process and demanding education, business and invention to meet their requests. Makers are at the center of this innovation transformation.

Image source: The world is ours to make: The impact of the maker movement – EDN Magazine

In fact, many parents have engaged in the maker movement with their kids because they know that the education system is not adequately preparing their children for the 21st century. There is a strong movement to spread this DIY idea widely. The Maker Faire, which launched in the Bay Area in California in 2006, underlined the popularity of the movement by drawing a record 215,000 people combined in the Bay Area and New York events in 2014. There’s Maker Media, MakerCon, MakerShed, Make: magazine and 131 Maker Faire events that take place throughout the world. Now the founders of all these Makers want a way to connect what they refer to as the “maker movement” online. So Maker Media created a social network called MakerSpace, a Facebook-like social network that connects participants of Maker Faire in one online community. The new site will allow participants of the event to display their work online. There are many other similar sites that allow yout to present yout work fron Hackaday to your own blog. Today, 135 million adults in the United States alone are involved in the maker movement—although makers can be found everywhere in the world.



  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    128 LEDs, 5 Buttons, IR Comm, and a Few Hours: What Could You Create?

    When the second band had played its last encore, before the legendary DJ took the stage, a cadre of hardware hackers climbed three steps with a twinkle in their eyes and glowing electronics in their hands. I’m surprised and relieved that the nugget of excitement that first led me to twiddle a byte in a microcontroller is still alive, and this moment — this crossroads of hacker family — stirred that molten hot center of adventure in everyone.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    RFID Lock Keeps Your Bike Safe

    What do you do with an RFID chip implanted in your body? If you are [gmendez3], you build a bike lock that responds to your chip. The prototype uses MDF to create a rear wheel immobilizer. However, [gmendez3] plans on building a version using aluminum.

    For the electronics, of course, there’s an Arduino. There’s also an RC522 RFID reader. We couldn’t help but think of the Keyduino for this application. When the system is locked, the Arduino drives a servo to engage the immobilizer. To free your rear wheel, simply read your implanted chip.

    RFID Bicycle Lock Prototype

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Digital Logging Of Analog Instruments

    a way to convert these old analog gauges to digital using a Raspberry Pi and a bit of computer vision.

    this team is using a 3D printed bracket that mounts a Raspberry Pi and camera directly in front of an analog gauge. Combine this contraption with OpenCV, and you have a device that’s just smart enough to look at a needle on a dial, convert that to a number, and save it to a file or send it out over WiFi.

    Instrument Digitizer using Computer Vision
    A device to create a digital data output for analog sensors and instruments, on temporary and permanent setups.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Designing a 360 Degree All Metal Hinge

    Looking for a 360 degree hinge that had no slop was harder than [Mr. LeMieux] thought it would be. Add to the fact it had to be made completely out of metal with no plastic components — and basically fireproof.

    When he couldn’t find anything commercially available, he decided to design his own. Using aluminum, he machined the two halves with an interlocking mechanism between the two.

    Making a 360 degree hinge

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Measuring Parts for Accurate Reverse Engineering

    Like most hackers, I’ve run into a part that looks like it might do what I want, but the only documentation came from a company so thoroughly defunct their corporate office is now a nail salon and a Subway.

    There are two golden rules to getting accurate measurements by telling lies. It may be obvious to some, but it took me quite a bit of suffering to arrive at them.

    1. Engineers are lazy. So lazy. Most things are going to be even numbers, common fractions, and if possible standard sizes. If sheets and screws come in 2 and 3mm then you bet you’re going to see a lot of 2mm and 3mm features. Also, even though the metric world is supposedly pure, you’re still going to see more 0.25 (1/4) mm measurements than you are .333333 (1/3) mm measurements. Because some small fractions are easier to think about than decimals.
    2. Your eyes lie. If it matters, measure it to be sure.

    The Caliper Has Math Functions Built In

    Using the zero button you can do simple addition and subtraction.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Open Source Headset Enables New Mind-Controlled Devices

    “When DARPA funded research into a brain-computer interface, artist and engineer Joel Murphy and his former student Conor Russomanno built a working prototype,” reports Popular Science. After a crowdfunding campaign, the team successfully developed an Open Source version — a $399 headset that can register brain-wave electricity (named Ultracortex), along with a $99 board named Ganglion that can use those signals to control mechanical devices.

    Control DIY Projects With Your Mind
    Using an open-source brain-computer interface


    Dedicated to open-source innovation of human-computer interface technologies. What can we build together?

    We are a community of researchers, engineers, artists, scientists, designers, makers, and more. The one thing we all have in common? We share an unfaltering passion for harnessing the electrical signals of the human brain and body to further understand and expand who we are. As our community continues to grow, so does the range of possibilities of what we can discover and create. What can we build together?

    OpenBCI stands for open-source brain-computer interface (BCI). The OpenBCI Board is a versatile and affordable bio-sensing microcontroller that can be used to sample electrical brain activity (EEG), muscle activity (EMG), heart rate (EKG), and more

    32bit Board Kit (8-channel)

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The folks behind C.H.I.P. have recently improved the method for flashing a new OS onto their tiny board: a Chrome plugin. Yes, this sounds completely bizarre, but Chrome plugins are becoming increasingly popular for USB gadget wizardry. You can program an Arduino with Chrome and log USB power profiles with a USB tester and Chrome. You will ride eternal, shiny and chrome.


  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Sincerest Form of Flattery: Cloning Open-Source Hardware

    We’re great proponents (and beneficiaries) of open-source hardware here at Hackaday. It’s impossible to overstate the impact that the free sharing of ideas has had on the hacker hardware scene. Plus, if you folks didn’t write up the cool projects that you’re making, we wouldn’t have nearly as much to write about.

    We also love doing it ourselves. Whether this means actually etching the PCB or just designing it ourselves and sending it off to the fab, we’re not the types to pick up our electronics at the Buy More (except when we’re planning to tear them apart). And when we don’t DIY, we like our electrons artisanal because we like to support the little guy or girl out there doing cool design work.

    So it’s with a moderately heavy heart that we’ll admit that when it comes to pre-built microcontroller and sensor boards, I buy a lot of cheap clones. Some of this is price sensitivity, to be sure. If I’m making many different one-off goofy projects, it just doesn’t make sense to pay the original-manufacturer premium over and over again for each one. A $2 microcontroller board just begs to be permanently incorporated into give-away projects in a way that a $20 board doesn’t. But I’m also positively impressed by some of the innovation coming out of some of the clone firms, to the point that I’m not sure that the “clone” moniker is fair any more.

    This article is an attempt to come to grips with innovation, open source hardware, and the clones. I’m going to look at these issues from three different perspectives: the firm producing the hardware, the hacker hobbyist purchasing the hardware, and the innovative hobbyist who just wants to get a cool project out to as many people as possible. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but can cloning go too far? To some extent, it depends on where you’re sitting.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Morse Code Waterfall is Cooler Than Your Fifth Grade Science Fair Project

    For her science fair project, [David]’s daughter had thoughts about dipping eggs in coffee, or showing how dangerous soda is to the unsuspecting tooth. Boring. Instead she employed her father to help her build a Morse Code waterfall.

    Arduino networking using morse code over water
    My 5th grade daughter’s science fair project.

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A Simple And Educational Brushless Motor

    Sometimes there is no substitute for a real working model to tinker with when it comes to understanding how something works. Take a brushless motor for example. You may know how they work in principle, but what factors affect their operation and how do those factors interact? Inspired by some recent Hackaday posts on brushless motors, [Matt Venn] has built a simple breadboard motor designed for the curious to investigate these devices.

    The rotor and motor bodies are laser-cut ply, and the rotor is designed to support multiple magnet configurations. There is only one solenoid, the position of which relative to the magnets on the rotor can be adjusted.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    tinyDriver – ATtiny84 platform without Arduino

    [Mahesh Venkitachalam] designed tinyDriver, an experimental Open Source breakout board for the Atmel ATtiny84 chip. His idea was to create a convenient platform which can be used to understand microcontrollers in-depth, by letting users dive under the hood and make use of the various features of the chip such as timers, PWM, interrupts, ADC, and digital I/O. The ATtiny84 is cheap and simple enough for starters.

    Atmel ATtiny84 based platform to learn AVR programming.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Color-Changing LED Makes Techno Music

    As much as we like addressable LEDs for their obedience, why do we always have to control everything? At least participants of the MusicMaker Hacklab, which was part of the Artefact Festival in February this year, have learned, that sometimes we should just sit down with our electronics and listen.

    With the end of the Artefact Festival approaching, they still had this leftover color-changing LED from an otherwise scavenged toy reverb microphone. When powered by a 9 V battery, the LED would start a tiny light show, flashing, fading and mixing the very best out of its three primary colors. Acoustically, however, it spent most of its time in silent dignity.

    As you may know, this kind of LED contains a tiny integrated circuit. This IC pulse-width-modulates the current through the light-emitting junctions in preprogrammed patterns, thus creating the colorful light effects.

    To give the LED a voice, the participants added a 1 kΩ series resistor to the LED’s “anode”, which effectively translates variations in the current passing through the LED into measurable variations of voltage. This signal could then be fed into a small speaker or a mixing console.

    Apparently those color changing LEDs make some weird techno musicm

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Home Made Pen Plotter

    As someone who started using computers in the last century, I find the current resurgence of pen plotters somewhat nostalgic. The difference, of course, is that this century it is easier to make your own, which is what [Miguel Sanchez] is doing.

    Inspired by the Axidraw, he is making his own pen plotter. He’s made great progress so far, creating a design that looks quite simple to build. His design is driven by an Arduino Uno with a stepper shield, a couple of NEMA 17 stepper motors and a servo to raise and lower the pen. Throw in a few rods, a belt or two and a number of 3D printed parts, and you’ve got a decent looking pen plotter.

    4xiDraw: Another pen plotter

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:


    Mechaduino is an affordable, open-source, industrial servo motor. Position, torque, velocity, and custom modes. Arduino compatible.

    Engineers use servo motors to achieve the precision motion required in applications such as robotics, automation, and CNC manufacturing. Like RC servos, industrial servos actively correct for external disturbances. Unlike RC servos, industrial servos can provide very accurate motion, and often support advanced motion control modes. Unfortunately the cost of industrial servos is prohibitive to the individual maker.

    We’ve been developing an affordable open-source servo motor, opening the door to sophisticated mechatronics applications. Our design leverages the low cost of mass produced stepper motors. We are able to achieve very high resolution via 14b encoder feedback (after calibration routine!).

    Goals: (in no particular order)

    Position,Velocity,Torque loops
    step,dir inputs for drop-in compatibility with stepper motors / step stick
    customizable/open source with access to internal variables
    Customizable and transparent control algorithms (commercial servos often lack this)
    arduino compatible with easy to use interface
    high resolution pointing
    low cost (should not be a huge leap from stepper+stepstick cost)
    serial interfaces for inter-motor communication
    able to stand alone for simple applications
    Adjustable commutation profiles
    Anti-cogging capable
    Open to customization. Outside of our firmware, we see mechaduino as a very useful hardware package. If you would like to use the stepper motor in open loop mode w/ encoder to verify location, you can do that.

    ATSAMD21G18 Arduino Zero compatible uC

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    USB Multimeter

    All in one open source device to monitor and data log power usage of USB devices and other connection types.

    The USB Multimeter is a full featured all in one device that measures current, voltage, wattage and power consumption using an easy to read color LCD touchscreen display. Always frustrated by having to splice cables and clipping probes to wires to measure current, I am designing this multi-channel meter with multiple connector types that can simplify the process of measuring current.

    The USB Multimeter core is powered by the STM32F429 with 2MB of flash for a rich graphical environment. Running at 180Mhz allows for fast sample capture while running the system.

  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    MIDI Hi-lites

    MIDI controllable LED strips that attach to your MIDI keyboard to light keys for music education and entertainment.

  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Gear Clock Uses Stepper Motor

    [Rjeuch] liked a wooden clock he saw on the Internet, but the gears were produced with a proprietary software tool. So he built his own version. Unlike the original, however, he chose to use a stepper motor to drive the hands.

    The clock’s gears aren’t just for show, and the post does a good job explaining how the gears work, how you might customize them, and how they fit together. The clock’s electronics rely on an Arduino.

    Wood Gear Clock with Stepper Motor Drive

    Yet another clock with wooden gears. This design was inspired by DickB1′s Instructable (shown here at the bottom).

    However, in lieu of driving the clock with a magnetically pulsed pendulum, I used a small stepper motor.

    First, I need to get a major gripe with DickB1′s design out of the way. All mechanical parts of his clock were designed by proprietary software from CarveWright. The design files can be purchased from CarveWright and can be used only if you own a CarveWright router. The files cannot be converted into any other format. So, if you own or want to use some other machine, you are out of luck.

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Argon servo drive project

    cost efficient implementation of AC/Brushless servo drive that would suit in CNC machine applications

    The outcome was so promising that we (I and my colleague, Timo Piiroinen) decided to start a company to manufacture and sell them. To see details about the first drive, follow this link to my old hobby web site. The first drive was called VSD-A (Versatile Servo Drive) and it was sold at 2007. The most significant contributios of VSD-A:

    1 kW sinusoidal AC servo motor drive with excellent cost efficiency
    Encoder feedback with pulse-and directio reference input
    Wide supply voltage range of 12 to 200 VDC

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Refreshable Braille Display
    A cost effective way to make a refreshable braille display

    Of 40 million blind people in the world, only 10% can read and write braille.
    One of the primary reason for this is because braille hasn’t yet found its footing in the digital era, due to the sheer cost of such devices, as well as the affordability matrix of the visually impaired.

    Low-cost braille displays have been sought after for quite a while with no avail.
    Commercially available braille displays employ peizo-electric actuated pins, which are very expensive.

    Due to the sheer expense of braille technology, and the scarce availability of books in braille, the medium is slowly falling out of favour. But many agree that braille literacy is paramount for the empowerment of the blind for education and employment.

    The display would be used along with to make a full modular braille computer

  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    miniature smart 8×8 RGB LED display/matrix


    Mini (1.44” x 0.94” or 24mm x 37mm) 8X16 RGB LED Array. 128 RGB LEDs with three LED chip each gives 384.

  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Universal software for DIY spectrometers
    Hooking up a DIY spectrometer to professional spectroscopy software

    Since many years I provide the optical spectroscopy software SPEKWIN32 for free to all non-commercial users. Until now, it was limited to plot, prcoess, analyze and convert spectral data from all kind of spectrometers. It recognizes 35+ file formats, is easy to use, rock solid, lean and used all around the world.
    Now, I try to expand it’s capability to driving spectrometer hardware, acquire live spectra and combine this with the already existing processing power in a single package. This initial demonstration is limited for use with USB webcams as detector.
    To make this fully functional and compatible with more kind of spectrometer hardware, a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter is currently running:

  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Poopable Cameras

    Pill cameras, devices for ‘capsule endoscopy’, or in much cruder terms, ‘poopable cameras’, are exceedingly cool technology. They’re astonishingly small, communicate through a gastrointestinal tract to the outside world, and have FDA certification. These three facts also mean pill cameras are incredible expensive, but that doesn’t mean a hardware hacker can’t build their own, and that’s exactly what [friarbayliff] is doing for his entry into The Hackaday Prize.

    First things first: [friarbayliff] is not building one of these for human consumption. That’s a morass of regulatory requirements and ethical issues

    This pill camera will use a simple, off-the-shelf 2 megapixel image sensor that can be bought on eBay for less than five dollars. With a small 32-bit micro, these cameras are easy to drive and capture images from. Power is provided from a single silver oxide button cell battery and a boost converter. In total, [friarbayliff] estimates the total PCB area to be just under one square inch, making this a relatively inexpensive device to build. There will be a radio transceiver in there somewhere, but [friar] hasn’t figure that part out yet.

    Tiny Wireless Capsule Camera
    A tiny wireless capsule camera for medical imaging or space-constrained environments

  23. Tomi Engdahl says:

    From Trash To TV

    With today’s LCDs, integrated electronics, and electronic waste regulations, the days of free electronics in every dumpster are largely behind us. Modern TVs are more reliable, and when they reach end-of-life we’re less likely to see them.

    [Sidsingh] happened to find an LCD TV in a dumpster, and being curious as to whether he could fix it or salvage some components, cracked it open to take a look.

    He found that somebody had already been into the set and that some components on the PSU and backlight boards showed evidence of magic smoke escaping, having been desoldered by the previous repairer. The signal board was intact though, a generic Chinese model based around a Mediatek MTK8227 SoC. Information was scarce on these boards, but some patient research yielded a schematic for a similar set.

    This might seem a relatively mundane achievement on the scale of some of the projects we feature on these pages, but it is an important one. In these days of throwaway items it is still not impossible to repair dead electronic devices, indeed as [Sidsingh] found the power supply is most likely to be the culprit. If you score a dead LCD TV then don’t be afraid to crack it open yourself, you may be able to fix it.

    From Trash to TV
    Repair log of a LCD TV resurrected from trash for a second life

  24. Tomi Engdahl says:

    2016 Hackaday Prize Begins Anew and Anything Goes

    Today marks the beginning of the Anything Goes challenge, a 2016 Hackaday Prize contest that will reward 20 finalists with $1000 for solving a technology problem and a chance at winning the entire Hackaday Prize: $150,000 and a residency at the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena.

    The Hackaday Prize is empowering hackers, designers, and engineers to use their time to Build Something that Matters. For the next five weeks what matters is solving a technology problem. Have an idea to power vehicles without polluting the atmosphere? Great! Want to figure out how to get your washing machine to work better? We want to see that too. Anything goes so design it, prototype it, document it and you could be one of the twenty entries headed to the final round.

    Anything goes

    Minimum entry requirements:
    Idea + image + documentation + 4 build logs

  25. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Sophi Kravitz Talks The Tech Behind Art

    Hackaday’s own mythical beast, Sophi Kravitz makes some amazing collaborative tech-art pieces. In this talk, she walks us through four of the art projects that she’s been working on lately, and gives us a glimpse behind the scenes into the technical side of what it takes to see an installation from idea, to prototype, and onto completion.

  26. Tomi Engdahl says:

    DIY Thermal Imaging Smartphone

    We wish we had [Karri Palovuori] for a professor! As an exciting project to get incoming freshmen stoked on electrical engineering, he designed a DIY thermal-imaging smartphone that they can build themselves. It’s all built to fit into a sleek wooden case that gives the project its name: KAPULA is Finnish for “a block of wood”.

    It’s just incredible how far one can push easily-available modules these days. [Karri] mounts a FLIR Lepton thermal camera, an LPC1768 Cortex M3 ARM micro, a GSM phone module, and a whole bunch of other cool stuff on a DIY-friendly two-sided board. The design uses 10 mil (0.25mm) trace and space, which is totally achievable with home etching methods. Copper wire bits fill up the vias. Did we mention he’s making the students do all this themselves? How awesome is that?

    KAPULA – The Thermal Smartphone

    An open source, open hardware thermal camera smartphone project
    for freshman engineering students

  27. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Circuit Bender Artist bends Fresnel Lens for Art

    Give some mundane, old gear to an artist with a liking for technology, and he can turn it into a mesmerizing piece of art. [dmitry] created “red, an optic-sound electronic object” which uses simple light sources and optical elements to create an audio-visual performance installation.

    The main part of the art installation consists of a ruby red crystal glass and a large piece of flexible Fresnel lens, positioned in front of a bright LED light source. The light source, the crystal and the Fresnel lens all move linearly, constantly changing the optical properties of the system. A pair of servos flexes and distorts the Fresnel lens while another one flips the crystal glass. A lot of recycled materials were used for the actuators – CD-ROM drive, an old scanner mechanism and old electric motors. Its got a Raspberry-Pi running Pure Data and Python scripts, with an Arduino connected to the sensors and actuators.


  28. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Cardboard And Paperclip CNC Plotter Destined For Self-Replication

    Self replicating CNC for 194 (or more) countries
    Creating a design for a CNC that is easy to replicate and suitable for diverse drives.

  29. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Open Source Hacker’s Laptop

    [Tsvetan Usunov] has been Mr. Olimex for about twenty five years now, and since then, he’s been through a lot of laptops.

    Every year, a few of [Tsvetan]’s laptops die, and the batteries of the rest lose capacity among other wear and tear. Despite some amazing progress from the major manufacturers, laptops are still throwaway devices.

    Since [Tsvetan] makes ARM boards, boards with the ~duino suffix, and other electronic paraphernalia, it’s only natural that he would think about building his own laptop. It’s something he’s been working on for a while, but [Tsvetan] shared his progress on an Open Source, hacker’s laptop at the Hackaday | Belgrade conference.

    You could go old school, but again this is a project to build a usable laptop. Turning to the world of Raspberry Pis, these laptops are chunky, and this one is made out of a Little Caesars box.

    Developing an Open Source Laptop

  30. Tomi Engdahl says:

    PROJECT MAN-CAM : Mobile AzEL Networked Camera

    A person carrying a remote access wi-fi r/c az-el (azimuth elevation) web-cam attached to their chest. Allows disabled to tour any locale.

  31. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The MakerBot Obituary

    MakerBot is not dead, but it is connected to life support waiting for a merciful soul to pull the plug.

    This week, MakerBot announced it would lay off its entire manufacturing force, outsourcing the manufacturing of all MakerBot printers to China. A few weeks ago, Stratasys, MakerBot’s parent company, released their 2015 financial reports, noting MakerBot sales revenues have fallen precipitously. The MakerBot brand is now worth far less than the $400 Million Stratasys spent to acquire it. MakerBot is a dead company walking, and it is very doubtful MakerBot will ever be held in the same regard as the heady days of 2010

    Today, MakerBot has precisely two reputations. The most generous reputation comes from tech enthusiasts suffering from low information, that sees MakerBot as the Kleenex and Asprin of 3D printing. With more machines coming out on the market, this reputation is fading.

    The second reputation is one of a poorly designed 3D printer. This reputation is deserved thanks to the horrible failures of the MakerBot Smart Extruder introduced a few years ago, but also touches on the technology the 3D printers of 2010 were built upon. Anyone who has ever been to a hackerspace has seen a MakerBot printer, but that printer was broken.

    Five years ago, this second reputation would be completely incorrect. MakerBot was the darling of the Open Source Hardware movement. MakerBot was the poster child of a new economy where anyone could manufacture hardware, at scale, and ship it to thousands of consumers around the world. The future would put a 3D printer in every office, if not on every desktop. MakerBot would sell those printers.

    Forgetting Open Hardware

    Throw money at anything, and the vultures will start circling. MakerBot and the RepRap community had a friendly relationship, with MakerBot making contributions to the most popular 3D printer host software at the time. MakerBot created new tool heads for 3D printers, including a device that would print pastes. These designs were open sourced, and we all became richer. MakerBot’s contributions were held up time and time again as an example that Open Source Hardware could succeed.

    In August of 2012, MakerBot’s resolve to democratize 3D printing would be challenged.

    MakerBot turned their back on Open Sourc

    In June of 2013, MakerBot was purchased by Stratasys for $403 Million.

    The Stratasys Downfall

    Before the acquisition by Stratasys, MakerBot sold an impressive 40,550 printers according to the Stratasys yearly report ending on December 31, 2013. According to the 2014 Annual Report put out by Statasys, 79,906 printers had been sold under the MakerBot brand by the end of 2014. In a single year under Stratasys, MakerBot sold nearly 40,000 printers. A year later, in 2015, MakerBot sold only 18,673 printers, half of their 2014 numbers.

    Sales of 3D printers are remarkably seasonal,

  32. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Refreshable Braille Display and Braille Keyboard

    Only about 10% of blind people around the world can read Braille. One primary reason is the high cost of Braille displays. The cost is a result of their complexity and reliability – required to ensure that they are able to handle wear and tear.

    [Vijay] has been working since 3 years on a Refreshable Braille Display but has only recently been able to make some substantial progress after teaming up with [Paul D’souza]. During his initial experiments, he used dot matrix printer heads, but the current version uses tiny vibration motors as used in mobile phones. He’s converting rotary motion of the tiny motors in to linear movement for pushing the Braille “cell” pins up and down.

    Refreshable Braille Display

    A cost effective way to make a refreshable braille display

  33. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Saving Lives with Open-Source Electrocardiography

    A few months ago, MobilECG wowed us with a formidable electrocardiograph (ECG, also EKG) machine in the format of a business card, complete with an OLED display. We’ve seen business card hacks before, but that was the coolest. But that’s peanuts compared with the serious project that it supports: making an open-source ECG machine that can actually save lives by being affordable enough to be where it’s needed, when it’s needed.

    The project, MobilECG, is an open-source, wearable device that supports all of the major ECG modes. In their talk, [Péter Isza] and [Róbert Csordás] taught us a lot about what that exactly entails and how the heart works. We learned a lot, and we’ll share some of that with you after the break.

    EKG Business Card Warms Our Hearts

  34. Tomi Engdahl says:

    1btn – an Open Source Dash

    The availability of cheap radios, omni-present WiFi and powerful web services means the IoT wave is here to stay. Amazon got into the act with its “do only one thing” Dash button. But a more interesting solution would be an IoT “do it all” button.

    [Anand] has been working on his 1btn Open Source WiFi connected IoT button for a while. It connects to the Internet over WiFi to trigger whatever action you have assigned to it using a simple, online interface. It’s reconfigurable and open source. Which means it can be used in pretty imaginative ways, and if needed, can be re-flashed with your own custom firmware should you decide to really get under its hood.

    The 1btn’s ESP8266 module is usually in sleep mode, waking up when the button is pressed, making the connection, performing the task and then going back to sleep once confirmation is received.

    1btn: Open Source WiFi connected IoT Button
    1btn is a powerful, open source, do-it-all button for the Internet…

  35. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Hacklet 105 – More Mind and Brain Hacks

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste – but an awesome thing to hack. We last visited brain hacks back in July of 2015. Things happen fast on Miss a couple of days, and you’ll miss a bunch of great new projects, including some awesome new biotech hacks. This week, we’re checking out some of the best new mind and brain hacks on

  36. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Is It A Stepper? Or Is It A Servo?

    Almost everyone who is involved with 3D printing thinks to themselves at some point, “this could all be done using a closed-loop system and DC motors”. Or at least everyone we know. There’s even one commercial printer out there that uses servo control, but because of this it’s not compatible with the rest of the (stepper-motor driven) DIY ecosystem.

    [LoboCNC] wanted to change this, and he’s in a unique position to do so, having previously built up a business selling PIC-based servo controllers. His “servololu” is essentially a microcontroller and DC motor driver, with an input for a quadrature encoder for feedback. The micro takes standard step/direction input like you would use to drive a stepper motor, and then servos the attached DC motor to the right position. It even signals when it has an error.

    The unfortunate side effect of [LoboCNC]’s old day job means that he can’t release the code that’s running his demo, but he says he’s working on a version of the firmware to open-source.

    Servolulu: Polulu-compatible servo motor driver,654278

  37. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Mad Scientist Builds Fully Functional Hoverbike

    Because a thermite-blasting cannon isn’t crazy enough, Colin Furze used a pair of motors and propellers designed for parasailing to build himself a fully functional flying hoverbike. It’s easily one of the mad scientist’s most dangerous builds to date, but seeing how maneuverable it is almost makes us want to build one too.

    That being said, even though Colin is about the farthest thing you’ll find from a trained professional, you might want to think twice about attempting this build.

  38. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Home Made Diodes From Copper Oxide

    With the dream of creating a paintable semiconductor layer for ad-hoc creation of simple diodes, he’s been experimenting with oxidising copper to make a surface of cupric oxide onto which he can make a contact for a simple diode.

    What makes his experiments particularly impressive though is not merely that he’s created a working diode, albeit one with a low reverse breakdown voltage.

    Homemade copper semiconductors

  39. Tomi Engdahl says:

    These 20 Projects Won $1000 In The Hackaday Prize

    Since March, hundreds of hardware hackers around the globe have been hard at work designing and planning their entry into this year’s Hackaday Prize. The second challenge is now under way, a brand new chance for you to enter your own project. For inspiration, here are the top twenty entries from the first part of the Hackaday Prize.

    The first challenge, Design Your Concept had 555 entries which we’ve spent the past week poring over. Now it’s time to reward the best of that first round with $1000 and a chance at winning the Hackaday Prize – $150,000 and a residency at the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena.

  40. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Hair of the capacitor

    Supercapacitors are pretty mysterious beasts, so when I encountered a homemade version, I was intrigued, surprised, and even a touch skeptical. Check out the video below by Lupus Mechanicus (one assumes that’s a nom de plume) and see what you think.

    Dog Hair and Dryer Lint Super-Capacitor

    a supercapacitor made using German Shorthair Pointer hair and dryer lint

    Lint & Dog Hair Super Capacitor

  41. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Volkswagen Beetle – The Most Hackable Car

    Built by Ferdinand Porsche in 1930’s Germany, the Beetle was designed to be a car for anyone and everyone. Its leader at the time wanted a true “people’s car” (i.e. “Volkswagen”) that was affordable for a German family, could reliably travel at sustained highway speeds on the new German autobahns, and easily be repaired by its owners.

  42. Tomi Engdahl says:

    An Open Source Lead Tester

    Open Source Lead Tester for his entry into the 2016 Hackaday Prize.

    [Matthew]’s lead tester doesn’t test the water directly. Instead, it uses a photodiode and RGB LED to look at the color of a lead test strip. These results are recorded, and with a bit of a software backend, an entire city can be mapped for lead contamination in a few days with just a few of these devices.

    OSPb – An Open Source Lead Tester
    An open source design for an inexpensive colormetric test.

    The design will use off-the-shelf components and a micro-computer (i.e. RPi or Arduino) to control the test. The goal would be to quickly read a test-strip and communicate the results back to the user via a web interface.


    1 × Rasberry Pi
    1 × Photodiode
    1 × USB Power supply
    1 × RGB Led.

  43. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Prototype to production – A hands-on series

    Talking about how to prototype an embedded system is one thing but actually doing it is a totally different story. Over the course of the coming months, I’m going to be putting together a series of hands-on articles demonstrating how to prototype and create a production-intent industrial controller that connects to the internet, i.e., an IoT industrial controller. You’re invited to join me on the journey, beginning with exploring prototyping approaches.

    Building embedded systems is not rocket science, but neither is it usually a nice stroll through the park. Because electronic systems and software are complicated (and with each passing day the complexity is only increasing) developers need methodologies for identifying high risk system features and for rapidly gaining insights into the system in order to properly manage the risk. Prototyping an embedded system is a great way to reduce system risk through experimentation and sometimes even plain old trial and error.

    Rapid prototyping has other benefits, as well. Humans are optimistic and we often expect success even under the direst of circumstances.

    The challenge of embedded system design doesn’t end at proving that an idea or time estimate is accurate, though. The challenge is sometimes convincing the manager or business owner that the working proof-of-concept is just that – a concept. The system works, but only under carefully controlled conditions. So in the coming months we’ll not only explore techniques on how we can rapidly prototype our embedded system, we’ll look at how to convert the prototype to a production-intent system as rapidly as possible.

    The first step on this journey is to choose your path. There are many different avenues that a developer can follow in prototyping an embedded system. One great place to start is to use low cost development kits or even embedded system platforms. A platform will usually provide low level driver code, middleware, and sometimes even example code snippets. There are a number of embedded platforms available today, such as the Renesas Synergy Platform, but probably the best well known platforms for rapid prototyping are Arduinos.

    The power of Arduino is partially in its open source software, which provides common routines and functions no matter which board a developer is using. The software is legible enough that even hobbyists, artists, and electrical engineers can write code quickly and easily.

    Along with a range of platform hardware choices, developers have a range of programming languages they could work with.

  44. Tomi Engdahl says:

    X-Ray Everything!

    We’re not 100% sure why this is being done, but we’re 110% happy that it is. Someone (under the name of [The X-Ray Playground]) is putting interesting devices under an X-ray camera and posting videos of them up on YouTube. And he or she seems to be adding a few new videos per day.

  45. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Tiling your TV Remote

    The Tile is a small Bluetooth chip, speaker, and enough battery for a year in a keychain format. If you lose your keys in the morning, simply use the app on your phone to find the keychain. If you lose your phone simply get out your second phone.

    This planned obsolescence didn’t jive with [JM] when his Tile stopped being discoverable. He didn’t want to toss a gadget that had served him so well into the landfill. So, like any good hacker, he cracked its plastic case open.

    Tile Locator Hard Wired Into TV Remote

  46. Tomi Engdahl says:

    DIY Cast AR-15 Receivers Are More Interesting Than Expected

    For some reason the US News media decided on the AR-15 as the poster child of guns that should not be allowed to be made for, or sold to, the consumer. The words still out on the regulation, but, in a very American response, a whole market sprang up around people saying, “Well, then we’ll just make our own AR-15.”

    Ordinarily, we wouldn’t cover this sort of thing, but the work [AR-15Mold] is doing is just so dang interesting. They sell a product that enables the home user to cast an AR-15 receiver out of high performance resin.

    Pour Freedom-15 AR-15 100 percent Lower Receiver Mold Kit 2 of 3


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