Vacuum Forming an Arc Reactor

If you see me at Maker Faire this weekend, you will likely catch me wearing my vacuum formed goggles and arc reactor.  I was inspired by my vacuum former and this awesome Instructable by dgrover.

Once you have everything set up, this neat little “arc reactor” only uses about 50¢ of materials and doesn’t require any special soldering skillz.1 Here’s how you make your own:

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  1. Make the form
    1. I specifically bought a stack of silver plastic plates for this project.  50 plates for $10 was a pretty good deal. ((In case you care, I use affiliate links))
    2. You could use dgrover’s lasercut files or design your own model.  I designed my own, based on their designs and added 10 degrees of draft to the edges to help it release from the mold.
    3. You’ll also notice lots of little holes in the nooks and crannies of the model.  Those serve a dual purpose of allowing the vacuum to pull the plastic down into those parts and then letting air in when you’re ready to release the 3D printed part.

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  2. Add the LED and Battery
    1. Gather the tools and materials
      1. 5mm fast flashing RGB LED ($7 for 100 LED’s!)
      2. 3V Coin Cell battery, CR2032 ($25 for 100 batteries!)
      3. Push pin
      4. Optional: Hot glue gun and glue
    2. Poke two small holes in the center of the form for the LED leads.
    3. Push the LED through the holes.  I would recommend adding a drop of hot glue just under the LED moments before you pull it against the vacuum formed part.  This will help keep it in place.
    4. Bend the two leads as shown just using your fingers.  Notice the bottom lead is bent roughly 90 degrees and the top lead is curved.
    5. Add the battery.  The LED is polarized, so it will only light up when the battery is properly connected.  So, just put the battery in, then flip it over if it doesn’t light up.  :)
DIY Vacuum Formed Arc Reactors

DIY Vacuum Formed Arc Reactors

I really couldn’t be happier with the results.  It looks way more impressive than the 57¢ worth of materials would suggest.

  1. You could easily adapt these instructions to add some sweet LED color changing lighting to any other project []
May 20, 2017 | Comments Closed

Maker Faire 2017 How to Make a Vacuum Former Presentation Slides


In case you missed me at Maker Faire Bay Area 2017 this year, here are my slides!  Don’t forget to check out all the blog posts with even more detail and pictures.  You can find all the links, including to the 3D printable files, below.

Maker Faire Checklist

Maker Faire Checklist

Maker Faire Checklist

Between taking most of “Maker Faire” week off work and getting ready1 for MakerCon and Maker Faire, May was a hectic month. I remembered pretty much everything I needed for a successful2 – except “maker cards” and a metric ruler.  With a few additional tweaks, I’m sure it can be even better next year.

In case you’ve never set up a booth at Maker Faire, you get an area with several folding chairs, a few long folding tables, and a chain link fence on at least one side of you.34 To have an interesting booth, you’ll want something to put over your table and on the chain link fence.

Since my entire booth was basically a wooden box that unpacked into a robot that made decorations for my booth, set up was rather easy.

  • Attending the Fair
    • Cash5
    • A MakerBingo card
    • A list of things and people you want to see6
    • Backpack7
    • Food or snacks8
    • Phone charger9
    • Warm weather clothes – shorts, t-shirt
    • Warmer clothes, stowed in backpack, for when it gets dark and cooler10
    • Laptop, power cable11
  • Booth Setup
    • One large table covering per table12
    • One large display board to explain your project ((Like the kind for science fairs))
    • One booklet of information13
    • Caution tape14
    • Zip ties
    • Hot glue, glue sticks
    • Some kind of swag15
    • Some way to make your project interactive16
  • Booth Interior
    • Cooler, water, ice17
    • Paper bags or swag bags18
  • Feedback
    • Suggestion box, 3×5 index cards, pens19
    • Notepad for email list signup
    • LOTS of maker/business cards
    • Update the website before Maker Faire!20
  • Robot
    • Hardware21
    • 3mm hex wrench22
    • Metric ruler23
    • Paper ((One $5 roll is good enough to run a PlotterBot around the clock all entire weekend))
    • Pens and markers24
    • Blue painter’s tape and masking tape
    • Extra fishing line25
  1. Photo courtesy of Daniel Kulinski []
  2. Editor’s choice blue ribbon! []
  3. I heard an amusing anecdote from someone at Make who said they put a lot of time and energy into figuring out a good spot for all the makers.  Apparently they were a little concerned about having three drawing / art style robots next to one another!  I had a great time hanging out near PicassoBot and PancakeBot! []
  4. My daughter later pointed out there were three robots, in a row, all with a “P” in the start of their name []
  5. As a Maker, I could eat at the Maker Lounge, but the credit card machine was intermittent []
  6. This could be a whole topic in itself.  Two days is not enough to catch all the talks from just one stage.  With multiple stages, multiple demonstrations, mini-concerts all happening at the same time  []
  7. Or not.  There were several booths giving away these stringy sack kind of backpacks []
  8. Maker Faire is big and there’s a lot to see.  Although there are a lot of food options, you don’t necessarily want to drop what you’re doing just to go find food []
  9. Ideally, a portable one []
  10. Just a hoodie should be enough []
  11. These were necessary for my particular robot, but may not be for you and definitely not if you’re just attending []
  12. $15 each at KMart []
  13. Printed with clear plastic cover, spiral bound, about $7 []
  14. About $3 for a huge roll – perfect for keeping kids from rushing into your booth []
  15. Business cards, stickers, t-shirts, to any other kinds of trinkets out there []
  16. These are really the most fun kinds of exhibits/booths/projects at Maker Faire []
  17. It gets super hot and stuffy if you’re indoors, so water is key []
  18. To stow extra clothing and supplies []
  19. Pens can be donated from the hotel []
  20. Ideally, with a link to the mailing list and/or squeeze page []
  21. Bolts, washers, wingnuts []
  22. The entire robot can be assembled or disassembled with a single 3mm hex wrench []
  23. 1 meter stick or yard stick with metric markings []
  24. A whole new pack []
  25. This has never broken or tangled on me, but it’s not a bad idea to bring extra []
June 11, 2014 | Comments Closed

Catching up

Sit down!  Stay a while!  It's time we talked

Sit down! Stay a while! It’s time we talked

Hey!  It’s been a while since we’ve talked! ((Photo courtesy of Scott Beale))

Hopefully you’ll excuse the rambling nature of this post.  :)  A fair bit has changed recently.  I started a new day job1 in June, but not after taking off all of May and arranging for this last week off.

May was fun, especially Maker Faire and taking the time to go on little field trips.  I got my drawing robot in working order, put together a website dedicated to drawing robots, and drew some really cool things.  I’ve even got some stories from Maker Faire to share with you.

1. A Little Story

I had a number of drawings on display in my Maker Faire booth.  I had some Doctor Who related things, a Yoda, a Death Star, a Tesla, a House Stark dire wolf, and a number of other things.  In particular, one was a big blue TARDIS I had taped to the chain link “wall” and I was working on drawing a dalek.

Then this guy walks up with some friends, asked me a few questions, and then asked me how much for the TARDIS and dalek.  I told him that I wasn’t really selling them and that the dalek was only about 75% done – and it would need another hour or two to finish.

He turns to his friend and says, “Hey, how much do you have on you?  $110?”  Then, he says to me, “I’ll give you $110 for both right now.”  I told him he had a deal – but that the dalek was still an hour or two from being done.  He said he liked it just the way it was.  What the hell, who am I to stand between a man and his Doctor Who-themed robot drawings?  I stopped the robot, pulled down the drawings, rolled them up, and took the man’s money.

2. Another Little Story

At Maker Faire I drew two pictures for other Makers.  One was for the guys from Wikipedia who asked me if I could draw a big poster of the Wikipedia logo.  They e-mailed me an SVG of their logo and I was happy to draw it up.  Although I was still figuring out how best to draw non-TSP SVG files, it turned out really well.

The next drawing was for a fellow maker and good friend, Chris Connors, who needed a banner/poster for his booth for How2Today.  He sketched out a few tiny logos in Sharpie on a piece of paper, I took a picture with my cell phone, and I drew a big giant version of his logo.  I’m working on putting together a tutorial to help you do this too.  :)

3. Crane Project

I’m about 26% done folding 1,000 cranes.  I kinda stalled out on this project over the last few weeks.  However, now that I’m back from a vacation I’m hoping to revisit this project and get it back on track.

Okay, that’s it for a catch up post.  More soon!

  1. I say “day job” to differentiate what I do as my vocation versus what I do with the rest of my time []

Your vote could stop the Robopocalypse!

Okay, before you read any further, take a moment to click here and vote for my PlotterBot for the Road to Maker Faire Challenge.

Vote for our future.  Vote PlotterBot!

Vote for our future. Vote PlotterBot!

I’ve been blogging about every little aspect of my own drawing robot – with this post1 it’s more than 80 posts on the topic. ((Photo courtesy of Vox Efx)) Everything from a list of other robots, to where I sourced the parts, to my failed attempts at designing parts, and a lot more posts about what I’ve done that does work.  Using what I’ve learned from my own really colossal failures and the brilliant open source work of others like Sandy Noble and Dan Royer, I’ve designed all of my own printable plastic parts from scratch, explained my thoughts and considerations behind the designs in excruciating detail, and shared all the files and my source code for everyone to use.

The winner of Maker Faire’s contest “The Road to Maker Faire Challenge” gets $2,500.00.  Dear gentle reader, should I be fortunate enough to win – I hereby make you these two promises:

  1. I promise to spend every last dime on building more and better robots.
  2. I promise to continue blogging relentlessly about what I did, how I did it, what worked, what didn’t work, and how you do it all yourself too.

So, please vote for my PlotterBot for the Road to Maker Faire Challenge!

  1. Which really doesn’t count… []

To Maker Faire!!!

Road to Maker Faire!

Road to Maker Faire!

Early yesterday morning I got an e-mail from Make saying that my DrawBot project had been accepted to the “Road to Maker Faire Challenge!”  If you check out Make’s latest post inviting applicants for the “Road to Maker Faire Challenge,” you’ll notice the tiny image in the bottom left is from this post.  How cool is that?!

Posts in the DrawBot Adventure Series
  1. Wanna make a DrawBot?
  2. DrawBot Resources and Links
  3. DrawBots for the slow learner
  4. DrawBot - Parts Ordered!!!
  5. DrawBot - The Breakdown
  6. DrawBot - Parts Shipped!!!
  7. DrawBot - What would you draw?
  8. DrawBot - The Plan!
  9. DrawBot - The Hacks
  10. DrawBot - The Delivery?
  11. DrawBot - The Delivery, Part II
  12. DrawBot – The Delivery, Part III
  13. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part I
  14. DrawBot – The Software, Part I (and an existential conversation)
  15. DrawBot – The Delivery, Part IV
  16. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part II
  17. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part III
  18. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part IV
  19. DrawBot – Design Considerations
  20. DrawBot – Halp!!! No - seriously, a little help?
  21. DrawBot – The Face Palm
  22. DrawBot – The Delivery, Part V
  23. DrawBot – The Silver Lining of Failure
  24. DrawBot – The Delivery, Part VI
  25. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part V
  26. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part VI
  27. DrawBot – Printed Parts
  28. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part VII
  29. DrawBot – The Operation, Part I
  30. DrawBot – The Breakdown, Part II
  31. DrawBot – Printing!
  32. DrawBot – Printing, Part II
  33. DrawBot – Calibration
  34. DrawBot – Pen Selection
  35. DrawBot – How to Recover from a Stalled Print!
  36. DrawBot – Drawing Success(ish)!!!
  37. DrawBot – Pen Selection, Part II
  38. DrawBot – Onwards and Upwards!
  39. Restarting a Stalled DrawBot Drawing
  40. TSP FTW!
  41. Speedier DrawBot Drawings
  42. Two new DrawBot links! And an update!
  43. Excellent DrawBot Slides
  44. DrawBot Practice Tip: A Watched Pot
  45. The biggest inkjet printer ever
  46. Why do DrawBots draw on walls?
  47. Maze Code + Polargraph?
  48. All New Polargraph on the way!!!
  49. Ideas for improving my DrawBot
  50. DrawBot Aesthetic Re-Design Ideas
  51. Every Body Needs a Skull
  52. This project is not going to overengineer itself
  53. Overengineered Spools
  54. Overengineered Stepper Motor Mounts, Filament Guides
  55. Overengineered Bolt Endcaps, Case Holder
  56. Sourcing DrawBot Parts
  57. DrawBot - A Tour!
  58. DrawBot - A Preview
  59. Arduino Powered Drawing Robot Poll
  60. Building an Arduino Drawing Robot - On The Cheap
  61. DrawBot - Printed Parts Tour
  62. Unidentified Foam Object
  63. Arduino Powered Drawing Robot - Take 2 (Or 3)
  64. DrawBot, now ACTUALLY wall mounted!
  65. A Study of Drawing Robot Pen Holders and Design Considerations
  66. Drawing Robot Pen Holders, Calligraphy Pens, and Thought Experiments
  67. Ideal Qualities in a Drawing Robot Pen Holder
  68. Enough talk! Finally a pen holder!
  69. DrawBot Pen Holder Post Mortem
  70. To Maker Faire!!!
  71. Skipping! How could I forget the skipping?!
  72. Drawing Robot Penmanship
  73. PlotterBot.com - a new site dedicated to drawing robots

I swear I’m not jealous!

Green eyed monster

Green eyed monster

Before Maker Faire announced the official call for Makers, I had already downloaded and printed out the “call for Makers” information from the most recent Maker Faire and handwritten all of my responses in the form – just so I would be ready to submit my application to be a Maker this year. ((Photo courtesy of @Doug88888)) I ended up submitting my application within just a few hours of the call going out.

After I had submitted my application, my daughter wanted to submit her own application.  Of course I was happy to help her, so I helped her prepare an application and submitted it on her behalf a little after 11pm on March 14, 2013, just under the wire.

Today Maker Faire sent her an acceptance!  My daughter is going to be exhibiting at Maker Faire Bay Area 2013!

.

..

I just hope my acceptance letter comes soon.  :/  Senior year all over again…

March 21, 2013 | Comments Closed

Maze Code + Polargraph?


My RSS feed for Slashdot brought my attention to an article on Slate.  The Slashdot summary stated:

This Slate article talks about a single line of code — 10 PRINT CHR$ (205.5 + RND (1)); : GOTO 10 — and how it manages to create a complicated maze without the use of a loop, variables and without very complicated syntax.

Even though that “one line” of code really is two lines and it really does use a loop, that short string of code is still very interesting.  While the way the code generates a maze isn’t immediately intuitive, it becomes obvious once you watch a bit of the video above.  All that code does is randomly kick out a forward slash or backward slash.  Once they wrap around to the next line, they start to form what looks like a maze.

As a little exercise I created something similar using PHP.  To make that work I had to use a fair bit of CSS to make it look decent.  In any case, it occurred to me that this would be a wonderful project for a Polargraph! Draw a random forward slash or backslash, get to the end of the line and make a bunch more on the return line.  How awesome would a huge paper roll of nothing but a giant maze look?

I think I may have found a project cool enough to show off at Maker Faire.  :)

Posts in the DrawBot Adventure Series
  1. Wanna make a DrawBot?
  2. DrawBot Resources and Links
  3. DrawBots for the slow learner
  4. DrawBot - Parts Ordered!!!
  5. DrawBot - The Breakdown
  6. DrawBot - Parts Shipped!!!
  7. DrawBot - What would you draw?
  8. DrawBot - The Plan!
  9. DrawBot - The Hacks
  10. DrawBot - The Delivery?
  11. DrawBot - The Delivery, Part II
  12. DrawBot – The Delivery, Part III
  13. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part I
  14. DrawBot – The Software, Part I (and an existential conversation)
  15. DrawBot – The Delivery, Part IV
  16. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part II
  17. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part III
  18. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part IV
  19. DrawBot – Design Considerations
  20. DrawBot – Halp!!! No - seriously, a little help?
  21. DrawBot – The Face Palm
  22. DrawBot – The Delivery, Part V
  23. DrawBot – The Silver Lining of Failure
  24. DrawBot – The Delivery, Part VI
  25. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part V
  26. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part VI
  27. DrawBot – Printed Parts
  28. DrawBot – The Assembly, Part VII
  29. DrawBot – The Operation, Part I
  30. DrawBot – The Breakdown, Part II
  31. DrawBot – Printing!
  32. DrawBot – Printing, Part II
  33. DrawBot – Calibration
  34. DrawBot – Pen Selection
  35. DrawBot – How to Recover from a Stalled Print!
  36. DrawBot – Drawing Success(ish)!!!
  37. DrawBot – Pen Selection, Part II
  38. DrawBot – Onwards and Upwards!
  39. Restarting a Stalled DrawBot Drawing
  40. TSP FTW!
  41. Speedier DrawBot Drawings
  42. Two new DrawBot links! And an update!
  43. Excellent DrawBot Slides
  44. DrawBot Practice Tip: A Watched Pot
  45. The biggest inkjet printer ever
  46. Why do DrawBots draw on walls?
  47. Maze Code + Polargraph?
  48. All New Polargraph on the way!!!
  49. Ideas for improving my DrawBot
  50. DrawBot Aesthetic Re-Design Ideas
  51. Every Body Needs a Skull
  52. This project is not going to overengineer itself
  53. Overengineered Spools
  54. Overengineered Stepper Motor Mounts, Filament Guides
  55. Overengineered Bolt Endcaps, Case Holder
  56. Sourcing DrawBot Parts
  57. DrawBot - A Tour!
  58. DrawBot - A Preview
  59. Arduino Powered Drawing Robot Poll
  60. Building an Arduino Drawing Robot - On The Cheap
  61. DrawBot - Printed Parts Tour
  62. Unidentified Foam Object
  63. Arduino Powered Drawing Robot - Take 2 (Or 3)
  64. DrawBot, now ACTUALLY wall mounted!
  65. A Study of Drawing Robot Pen Holders and Design Considerations
  66. Drawing Robot Pen Holders, Calligraphy Pens, and Thought Experiments
  67. Ideal Qualities in a Drawing Robot Pen Holder
  68. Enough talk! Finally a pen holder!
  69. DrawBot Pen Holder Post Mortem
  70. To Maker Faire!!!
  71. Skipping! How could I forget the skipping?!
  72. Drawing Robot Penmanship
  73. PlotterBot.com - a new site dedicated to drawing robots