Tag Archives: magazine

Lots Of Links

Here are a lot of links I think are relevant to open hardware. The first is that apparently RepRap has its own magazine now!

Zero Cost Modeling of Space Frames – Julian Edgar demonstrates how to predict the failure mode of a complex frame (in this case a recumbent bicycle) without FEA software. The process involves making a scale model by soldering together copper wire then pulling on it to see where it bends or breaks. It’s a quick and easy way to see where the structure is mathematically weak.

XYZ SpaceFrame Vehicles – This is a principle for building modular bicycles and a few functional real-world examples. Here’s a pdf describing how to make one of the bicycles.

Open Source Government & Engaged Citizens: The Death Star Inspiration – Matt Micene writes, “Innovation doesn’t always result in direct business value, but can improve business in general. Innovating in the open means you can garner additional expertise you need to transform a marginal value into a direct value.”

A Guide For 3D Printing With a RepRap – ArvidJense has put together an infographic to help makers build things, specifically musical instruments, but the ideas can be applied to anything.

Someone Needs To Buy Makerbot Already – Steve Symington is talking about financial investment stuffs, but the interesting thing is that Makerbot only seems to have attracted serious financial interest after (or based on the promise of) abandoning open source principles.

Party Robotics – They are a startup focused on making open source drink mixing machines.

Using OpenSCAD for 2D Machining – Matthew Venn gives a brief overview of his process for modeling a multi-piece part in OpenSCAD and then using the projection() function to export DXFs for CNC milling.

Designing For Laser Cutting In OpenSCAD – This is a similar (but more extensive) set of instructions from a Dutch FabLab.

Make Your Own Arduino – streetjerk shows you how to put together a thru-hole Arduino from raw materials. This is particularly useful if, like streetjerk, you want to incorporate additional components (like a motor driver) into the board itself rather than use I/O ports.

Prepper Movement Embracing 3D Printing – PosserteusMaximus has compiled a list of links on how the preppers/survivalist community is becoming aware of, using and contributing to open hardware and 3D printing.

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The Definitive Makerbot Open vs Closed Source Discussion

I did my best to document all the different points of view that are relevant to the open source hardware world but are spread all over the interwebs.

The original Makerbot founders.

This post got big, fast. Really big. After the jump you can find key quotes from Bre Pettis, Zachary Smith (Hoeken), Adrian Bowyer, Josef Prusa, etc.

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Science Enabled By Open Source Hardware

Science is a good match for the open source philosophy.

Because…

  • it tries to do things for little-to-no money
  • it doesn’t care if equipment is pretty
  • it is only focused on results
  • it needs things that are very specific that no one else in the world needs
  • it is often motivated by something other than profit

Joshua Pearce of Michigan Tech’s Open Sustainability Technology Lab is an example of where the rubber meets the road. He has nearly two dozen Thingiverse things, and most of them are awesome tools for scientists. His work has been profiled in Mighigan Tech News and Popular Mechanics. You can also read the transcript of an interview with Science Magazine Podcast here (pdf). Pearce has a paper called Building Research Equipment with Free, Open-Source Hardware in Science Magazine, but it’s behind a paywall. The summary is here.

More after the jump.

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Make Magazine Is Planning The “Ultimate 3D Printer Shootout” Issue

If any single publication can claim to represent the maker movement, I suppose Make Magazine is it.

John Abella says they are working on a massive guide to 15 hobby-level 3D printers, to be released in November. It looks like some of the designs they’ll be comparing are the Printrbot, 3D Touch, SeeMeCNC, Felix, Lulzbot, Up!, Solidoodle, Makerbot Replicator and Ultimaker.

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MAKE Magazine Interviews Alicia Gibb of the Open Source Hardware Association

MAKE’s interview with Alicia Gibb, President of the Open Source Hardware Association, is well worth a read.

Why does open source hardware need an Open Source Hardware Association?
There are a lot of excellent things done by the community that don’t really have a cohesive web presence to live under. We hope to give the community a bit of structure by organizing information around open source hardware under the Association. The other reason is that currently a lot of our knowledge about open hardware is colloquial, and as you cited in your recent blog post, we have unspoken rules. We hope to create a resource to make all these things more transparent and provide a formal entity that can answer questions about how, why, what, and the best practices of open hardware.

How can the makers out there who design hardware help? How can the supporters and users of open hardware help?
We are not as much asking makers what they can do for us, but rather what we can do for them! The best help and support is an understanding that we’re flying by the seat of our pants, but also want feedback to know how we can best serve this community. Of course, there will also be the aspect of financial support that we hope at have. We’re not sure if this will be purely donation-based or if we should charge for membership to raise funds, but we definitely want involvement from the community for that!

and more…

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Apertus, Open Source Cinema

The goal of the Apertus project is to create a powerful, free (in terms of liberty) and open cinema camera that we as filmmakers love to use.

That’s the vision of  Apertus, which has a significant number of contributors and seems well on the way to a “modular camera system” based on the open source cameras Elphel is producing.

Prototype Apterus camera with a tablet-PC mounted on top. By Oscar Spierenburg.

Why an open source cinema camera? Well, as Sebastian Pichelhofer explains

If you look at recent press releases from big companies you might notice the lack of real information or technical details. Marketing departments are often able to spin slightly re-worked features as something entirely brand new by making up new words, backed up with doctored images and charts which focus only on the most positive changes that seem to create the impression of great leaps in development.

For industry professionals this is a very frustrating development as they need to invest a lot of time to find out what the camera actually does by reviewing the device from each manufacturer in person or relying on trusted reviewers. Some of these reviewers are approached by the big manufacturers to create demo footage or entire films to promote their gear for them…

This is exactly why I fight for open hardware and free software: honesty. We are not afraid to explain what exactly happens inside our camera, after all Apertus is also about open knowledge and open education.

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TinkerForge – An Interview With The Creators

When you don’t want to fight with low-level syntax you use a high-level programming language. What if that concept was applied to hardware?

TinkerForge is, to oversimplify, a group of modular circuit boards that “just work” with your computer. As long as the program you’re working on is connected to a master brick (via USB), all of the sensors and actuators connected to that same brick will “just work” together. You connect the bricks together and write your program, then the bricks take care of executing that program in the real world. No messing around with firmware, no soldering, and if you want to change something you just rearrange the bricks.

This hyper-modular approach to integrating electronics and software earned TinkerForge “product of the year 2012” at the CHIP magazine award. Previous years were Lufthansa and Panasonic.

Please Introduce yourselves and the origin of TinkerForge.

Our names are Bastian Nordmeyer and Olaf Lüke, we both have a Master degree in Computer Science from the University of Paderborn. At the University we worked at a research project that had the goal to teach robots playing soccer. But instead of programming the behaviour of the robots we actually had to fiddle around with the hardware most of the time. That is where the idea of easy-to-use and modular hardware was born!

What made you decide to open source the project?

We both love Open Source Hardware ourselves. We have everything from OpenMoko over Arduino to Beagleboards in use here! Also, in our opinion, it makes sense for hardware that is made to tinker around with to be open source.

What advantages did you realize from an open source strategy?

With our hardware it is possible to get the easiest possible access to control hardware, a few lines of Python are enough for most small projects. But since it is open source it is also possible to go deeper and perhaps write some C code to change the firmware of a Brick or Bricklet and if that isn’t enough you could also go ahead and make your own hardware that works together with ours. None of this would be possible without it being open source!

What license(s) is TinkerForge released under?

We consider the programming language bindings public domain, there
shouldn’t be any restrictions to use them. Everything else is either
LGPL if it is a library and perhaps usable in other projects or GPL or
GPL-like licensed if it belongs to our core stuff. The hardware is
licensed by the OHL (CERN Open Hardware License). 

Were there any tools/resources that were vital to your success?

We use the standard open source compilers and editors and so on for developing, nothing special. We did receive an EXIST-Gründerstipendium [entrepreneurial grant] that helped us a lot financially in the development phase.

Could you suggest one really important skill people should learn first?

In general I think the thing that we needed most is endurance. If you want to learn something just do it and keep doing it! You won’t be able to learn programming or designing hardware in 2 weeks, it will take a lot of work and a lot of time.

Did you ever make a major shift in the direction of the project? Why?

Oh, quite a lot! The first hardware version had a size of 2x2cm (now the Bricks have 4x4cm). They were absolutely tiny! Unfortunately we weren’t able to fit everything on them that we wanted. The first software version used DBUS instead of the generated language bindings. We already had the software ready and working for that, but it was to much of a hassle to get working on different operating systems (i.e. impossible).

How much of the project was individual effort and how much was social?

Getting the grant was quite a social effort i guess. Also we did of course have discussions about every aspect of the concept and what sensors to use for hours on end :-). Other then that it was a lot of developing effort for two people. It took us more than two years to design the hardware, write the firmwares, the tools (brickd, brickv), the language bindings and the documentation.

Where is TinkerForge going next?

More Bricklets, more Bricks, more language bindings, cases, on device programming support, better documentation, direct Raspberry PI support, etc, etc. There is lots to do!

It seems like Arduino is the most obvious comparison to TinkerForge. Do you consider Arduino a competing platform?

We don’t see us as competition to Arduino. Arduino is programmed on the device in a C derivative and our stuff is controlled from a PC with a high level language. Sometimes you want to solder and make your own hardware designs and sometimes you just want to automate something as fast and easy as possible. Those concepts can both coexist quite happily :-).

Any plans to combine bricks that are often used together into one board?

We will do this (and are in the process of doing it) for companies that want to use large amounts of the same Bricks and Bricklets. I don’t think this makes sense for the general purpose hardware. This would just make everything more expensive (we would have to make smaller amounts of more circuit boards etc.)

How did you settle on this particular level of modularity?

We just used the UNIX principle: “Make each Brick/Bricklet do one thing well”.

Is TinkerForge just for learning/prototyping or is it cheap enough to
embed in finished products?

If you make millions of this product: Probably not. If you make one of this product per month: Hell yes! The industrial alternatives you can get are often orders of magnitude more expensive.

Obviously a great deal of attention was paid to making the bricks work together transparently. Was that an important goal from the beginning? Why?

That was goal from the beginning, yes. The transparency is [necessary so that the user does not] need to think about the hardware components at all.

Are there any aspects of the hardware/software that limit hackability?

Regarding the hackability: We use 0402 and almost only SMD parts. This makes it of course virtually impossible if you want to directly solder something on a Brick or Bricklet. At that point there has to be a trade off between size+price and hackability and we decided to go with size+price. Other then that, every part should be hackable. There should be (and will be in the future) more documentation for the low level stuff.

Was TinkerForge intended to be a commercial project or did it evolve into that?

I think it was clear from the beginning that the project was too big to be just a side project or a hobby.

How did you balance the need for commercial success against engineering goals?

Good question. This is probably the hardest of all the problems to solve. We originally wanted to start the online shop in the end of 2010. In reality we were only able to go online in mid December 2011! Most of the additional time invested probably had to do with the trade off between high end parts and costs.

We have dozens of prototypes laying around here with different board-to-board connectors, different wire-to-board connectors and different processors. We first used 8 bit AT91USB processors, but decided to go for the 32bit SAM3S later on (quite a bit more expensive, but a lot more capabilities).

Good board-to-board connectors can be hugely expensive (like the Molex PMC series). For a Master Brick they would cost more then the whole Master Brick now :-). Lots of cheap Chinese ones only worked for 50 or so mating cycles until something broke.

Is it possible to run a TinkerForge stack independent of a computer?

Yes it is, if you write your own firmware (our firmware on the bricks/bricklets is opensource, so you can use it as a starting point).

If you want to control it from the outside you need a full computer currently. We have planned something called “Low Level Programming Interface” which should enable it to control our products via SPI, I2C or serial interface from other microcontrollers. Although it is possible (we have designed the hardware accordingly) I’m not sure if this will maybe be dropped since we don’t have enough manpower to implement it. Since currently nobody has asked for it, it has a low priority for us.

Any final thoughts?

There is no recipe you can go by, I think. You just have to test lots and lots of stuff until you find something that works well and isn’t too expensive.

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Hardware Innovation Workshop

Do we really need more gatherings for people to talk about innovation? Yes. Yes we do.

Make Magazine is hosting a bunch of people to talk about, “shaping the future of manufacturing and the global economy.” Sounds good to me. A bit of hyperbole never hurt anyone.

Personally I think it would be more accurate to put “business” or “profit” somewhere in the name of the convention. As you can tell from the lineup of presenters, this is primarily a for-profit networking event.

  • Kai Backman, Co-Founder & CEO of Tinkercad
  • Massimo Banzi, Co-Founder of Arduino
  • Carl Bass, President & CEO of Autodesk
  • Ayah Bdeir, Founder of littleBits
  • Greg Borenstein, author of Making Things See: 3D vision with Kinect, Processing, Arduino, and MakerBot
  • Liam Casey, Founder & CEO PCH International
  • Allan Chochinov, Partner & Editor-in-Chief of Core77
  • Jeremy Conrad, Co-Founder of Lemnos Lab
  • Ben Einstein, Principal of Bolt Accelerator Program
  • Brad Feld, Co-Founder of Foundry Group
  • Travis Good, Co-Chair of Hardware Innovation Workshop
  • Ted Hall, Founder & CEO of ShopBot
  • Mark Hatch, Co-Founder & CEO of TechShop
  • Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, Founder of Chumby
  • Zach Kaplan, CEO of Inventables
  • Tod Kurt, Co-Founder of ThingM
  • Catarina Mota, Co-Founder of openMaterials
  • Tim O’Reilly, Founder & CEO of O’Reilly Media
  • Bre Pettis, Co-Founder of MakerBot Industries
  • Bryce Roberts, Co-Founder of OATV
  • Jay Rogers, Founder & CEO of Local Motors
  • Nathan Seidle, Owner & CEO of SparkFun Electronics
What I wanna know is who let that guy in? Apparently, “Greg Borenstein is an artist and researcher in New York.” He seems a bit out of place in a list of CEOs, partners and founders. Oh, wait, “He recently finished writing a book for O’Reilly about the Microsoft Kinect, titled: Making Things See: 3D vision with Kinect, Processing, Arduino, and MakerBot.” O’Reilly Media publishes Make Magazine, and is hosting the event. I wonder if he’s going to wear a shirt without a collar just to mess with everyone else.
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