Tag Archives: 3d printed

Maker builds a $20 mouth-operated mouse

This DIY mouthpiece allows those with disabilities to easily surf the web. 

Out of more than 170 submissions, Maker Tobias Wirtl’s Mouth Operated Mouse has been named the winning entry in Thingiverse’s Assistive Technology Challenge.


After reading about difficulties those with disabilities face in accessing new technologies, Wirtl wanted to create an affordable and easily accessible device that could enable more people without the use of their arms and hands to navigate the Internet. Even better, the mouth-operated piece can be built for $20 using a 3D-printed case and off-the-shelf components — a mere fraction of the cost of commercial solutions on the market today.

“There are many new technologies that people with disabilities can’t access and in my opinion everyone should be able to benefit from today’s media, especially the Internet,” Wirtl explains.


The mouth-operated mouse moves the cursor by using a mouthpiece, which works like a joystick. Pushing the mouthpiece towards the case operates the right mouse button, while the left button is emulated by a $5 e-cigarette sensor that recognizes when the user sucks air through it. The system is all controlled by an Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4) and can be connected to virtually any PC via USB.

This winning design follows in the footsteps of several other Maker projects, including Hackaday Prize champion Eyedrivomatic, that could ultimately change the lives of others.

Building a 3D-printed, Arduino-powered robotic DJ

This robotic DJ may be able to scratch vinyl records better than you. 

Texas A&M student Rico Balakit has come up with a slick idea quite literally from scratch. The Maker has created a 3D-printed, robotic device capable of controlling a crossfader with Jazzy Jeff and Grandmaster Flash-like precision.


For those unfamiliar with the DJ technique that dates back to the mid-1970s, scratching (sometimes referred to as scrubbing) is used to produce distinctive sounds by moving a vinyl record back and forth on a turntable while manipulating the crossfader on a mixer — a task in which Balakit wanted to automate. The aptly named ScratchBot was synchronized with Traktor, while an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) was tasked with keeping the tempo of the song being played.

“Traktor uses MIDI standards, so it was pretty easy to figure out that I’d need to interface with MIDI and process it. To start, I installed loopMIDI, which creates a virtual MIDI port Traktor can output to, and Hairless MIDI, which converts that MIDI into some serial stuff thingies the Arduino can handle,” Balakit writes. “Then, to get it to actually sync with a song, on the beat, I used the ‘Beat Phase’ MIDI-Out on Traktor to get it to reset the counter to zero when the beat-phase value for a beat having passed is received.”


The Maker wanted the Arduino-based robotic DJ to perform in two different modes: one where pushbuttons are assigned to pre-programmed scratch routines, another where it employs music loops and random patterns.

The system itself consists of two mechanisms. The first, a simple crank powered by a single servo and attached to the mixer that gates a crossfader. The second, a swinging arm enabled by a pair of servos. One servo pivots directly over the turntable’s axis of rotation and controls the scratching motion, while the other commands the arm whenever it’s pushing down on the vinyl record.


Intrigued? Head over to ScratchBot’s detailed project page to see a step-by-step breakdown of the build. In the meantime, watch in action below!

[h/t 3DPrint.com]

Turn the page on your e-reader through voice

This DIY device allows a user to turn the page on a Kindle with nothing more than their voice. 

With over 250,000 Americans alone affected by a spinal cord injury, projects like this one from Justin Shaw can prove to have a long-lasting, life-changing impact on a tremendous number of people. Nearly half of those injured are quadriplegic, meaning unable to use their extremities, like Shaw’s friend Steve. One of the most simple things that he missed was the act of reading a book. And while there are e-readers out there, like the Kindle, they still require a user to turn the page. But what if that could be accomplished through the sound of one’s voice?


That’s what Shaw set out to do with a DIY system comprised of MCUs, Bluetooth and voice recognition. The first prototype consisted of a big blue button, which when pressed with a forearm, would send an ASCII code for “right arrow” over Bluetooth, turning one page at a time. This worked well until multiple pages turned, and with no back button, it became quite a nuisance.

Upon testing the voice recognition capabilities of an Amazon Echo, the duo wondered if the same technology could be applied to switching pages on a Kindle. And so, the second iteration of the project — entitled Voice Page Down (VPD) — was conceived.


“We live in a magical time. VPD would have been a huge undertaking 10 or even 5 years ago. Today, it is practially a drag and a drop,” Shaw explains.

In order to bring this fruition, the Maker employed an Arduino shield stack for most of the project: an EasyVR Shield 3.0 to detect “page down” commands, a Bluefruit EZ-Key module to send HID commands to the Kindle via Bluetooth, and a Power Boost Shield for power management. Meanwhile, VPD is based on an AlaMode MCU (ATmega328P). These electronics are all housed inside a 3D-printed and laser-cut custom enclosure, which also includes a microphone and speaker.


Interested? Head over to the project’s original write-up to learn more.

This 3D-printed, Arduino-powered device can treat hypothermia

A team of students has created a portable heated IV device for extreme climate situations and high-altitude climbers.

Hypothermia is a serious danger to high-altitude climbers. When a patient suffering from hypothermia is brought to a hospital for medical assistance, a doctor typically begins treating the patient through the use of a heated IV. Injecting warm saline solution into the body raises the patient’s core temperature along with properly hydrating them. However, often times those suffering from hypothermia don’t have immediate access to medical assistance.


Cognizant of this, a team of students at NuVu Studio have created a portable heated IV for extreme climate situations and high-altitude climbers suffering from hypothermia, or dehydration for that matter. This product, which they call Backcountry IV, is not supposed to heal a person completely; instead, it is intended to serve as a temporary aid to prolong the user’s life until they can receive actual medical help.

The students were able to bring the idea to fruition, which resembles that of a mini flashlight and lantern, through the use of 3D printing. The device works by purifying water using a 3D-printed cap with built-in UV lights, which connects to another compartment containing ceramic resistors that heat the liquid between 104-106°F.  Once this is done, the water flows through the IV tubing until it reaches the needle that is clipped onto the specialized, 3D-printed cuff resting on a hiker’s forearm. The canister also holds several other necessary parts like a salt tablet and an infrared light vein finder.


“The importance of the product is clear — it could be the defying factor of a high altitude climber’s survival. Without the Portable Warm IV, a person could possibly die of hypothermia on the mountain but with the IV, the chance of his or her core body temperature warming enough to prolong the survival long enough to receive medical assistance is likely. There are no existing products that are capable of helping high altitude mountaineers let alone in extreme conditions return their body to a normal temperature. Since hypothermia is such a serious threat to the lives of mountaineers, it is crucial to have a device that would keep them alive at high altitudes and dangerously cold temperatures. The portable warm IV would bring the user fundamental and pragmatic medical attention immediately, making it a life-changing product… Literally,” the team writes.

The students constructed each part of this device using an ATmega2560 powered MakerGear 3D printer, with the exception of the actual IV and electronic panel, where the Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4) sits.


“This process began by simply hooking a 3.9 ohm resistor up to the Arduino and attaching the resistor up to the temperature sensor in order to read the heat that the resistor was giving off. Initially there was not enough power to make the resistor heat up to the optimal heat. Many alterations were then made over a span of three days. The result was four resistors soldered in series hooked up to an 11 volt lithium polymer battery. This battery provided the correct amount of power in order to heat the resistors up to the correct temperature.”

Interested in learning more? Check out the team’s entire build log here. This is just one of many Atmel based projects that are ‘making’ a difference in the world. Have a similar idea? Be sure to submit it for a chance to win The Hackaday Prize!

1:1 interview with Jean Anne Booth of UnaliWear

“What really makes the Kanega Watch different is that it goes where you go, both inside your home and away. It is discreetly styled, so there’s no stigma from wearing an assistive device, and it speaks to you in words.” 

In this interview, we feature Jean Anne Booth, a serial entrepreneur with a successful track record in hardware innovation, having previously launched and sold two large and notable companies. Her current project is UnaliWear, a wearable health technology startup that has recently made its Kickstarter debut. She comes with a wealth of experience, and her timing could’t be better as the wearable digital health market continues to unfold. What’s more, Kanega Watch — which we recently featured on Bits & Pieces — is looking to bring a much-needed vision for practical usage to that space.


Tom Vu: What’s the main driver to going about this once again? Well, considering you did this before as the first person to launch the ARM Cortex-M3 at Luminary Micro?

Jean Anne Booth: Great question! I actually retired for a couple of years after I sold my last company to Texas Instruments. During this period, my mom turned 80, and she had a couple of incidents that made me start looking for a personal emergency response system for her. Many of the assistive devices available are flawed in one aspect of another. Most importantly, there are three reasons, which make them quite hard for seniors to desire to integrate into their lives. First, they are ugly. Secondly, if they have connectivity, the devices usually require some complicated installation of a tethered smart phone or access point. And one of the most overlooked objections, there is a big “HELP” button. This big button is quite visually disturbing. When you see the big “HELP” button made large for usability and functionality, it is so socially stigmatizing. I wanted my mom to live safely while being independent and not being socially stigmatized.

TV: How is the UnaliWear Kanega Watch different from other wearable tech?

JAB: Focus groups have called Kanega Watch a ‘wearable OnStar for seniors’ because we provide discreet support for falls, medication reminders, and a guard against wandering in a classically styled watch that uses an easy speech interface rather than buttons. What really makes the Kanega Watch different is that it goes where you go, both inside your home and away. It is discreetly styled, so there is no stigma from wearing an assistive device, and it speaks to you in words. The watch brand name “Kanega” is from Cherokee for “speak”.


TV: Is what you’re creating really going to make our lives better?

JAB: Yes, it’s about being there when it counts. You can wear Kanega Watch on 24×7 basis, so you don’t forget to put it back on, and therefore you’re wearing when you need it. There is a very long battery life, unlike an Apple Watch, Android, or Samsung smartwatch. There is no need for an additional device, either an access point or a smartphone. For seniors, or those who are independent but vulnerable, it can help with issues at night like trips to the bathroom. It’s waterproof, not just water resistant, so you can wear it in the shower/bath (this is where a majority of falls happen), and also in your pool exercises. It works anywhere you go, and those who are vulnerable are not trapped at home. Importantly, there is a convenience to this as you’re wearing everything you need to stay safe.

For instance, here is one of the fundamental characteristics of how the watch works, and why our tagline is “Extending Independence with Dignity.” If the Kanega Watch wants to speak, it will ask permission first. It requests permission to speak by buzzing on the wearer’s wrist like a cellphone on silent, so there’s no visual or audible stigma of wearing an assistive device when socially inappropriate — like at church.

If it detects a potential fall, it will ask if you will need help, because two out of three falls do not require help. In fact, Kanega Watch will continuously monitor you – a kind of continuous welfare check. In a suspected fall, if you don’t respond to the request for permission to speak (for example, if you’re unconscious, unable to move, or unable to speak), then it will begin to escalate and then notify emergency and your contacts for help. There’s practical and smart logic built into the wearable.


TV: How has your experience in this industry going to help in fulfilling the practical/adoptable use of moving wearable tech toward broader acceptance/use?

JAB: To me, it’s not about advancing a category of technology. It’s about harnessing technology to solve real problems, and in this case, about allowing people to live independently, safely, for as long as possible. It’s been an interesting experience transitioning from semiconductors to healthcare, and has proven to be very rewarding building products that directly make people’s lives better. It’s a fantastic feeling!

TV: What hardware startups do you think are actually doing some really interesting things right now?

JAB: That’s a hard question for me because I’m biased toward products that make a difference and are directly useful. Often what is the most cool and interesting is not at all useful! One thing that our Kickstarter campaign has taught us is that the average person buying things that are cool is not quite in the same category as the people who would buy our wearable for seniors.

TV: How would you describe your team?

JAB: Today, our team consists of a cadre of three founders. Our CTO Marc DeVinney does all the hardware. Brian Kircher, who I’ve worked with for 14 years, does all the software for the Kanega Watch. I do everything else.

TV: Who do you look up to as a mentor now?

JAB: Jimmy Treybig, founder of Tandem Computers, has been a close friend for years and has always been helpful. Jimmy has been a source of a lot of wisdom. For this particular company, another extremely important mentor is my mother, Joan, who is also our Senior User Experience Advisor. She’s put together a number of focus groups, and has also been a lot of help in detailing the use cases.


TV: What improvements will your product provide society? Perhaps even help the movement of IoT, connected things and wearables?

JAB: The Internet of Things promises to transform daily life, making it easier to work, shop, merchandise, exercise, travel and stay healthy. Really, thanks to billions of connected devices — from smart toothbrushes and thermostats to commercial drones and robotic companions for the elderly. It also will end up gathering vast amounts of data that could provide insights about our habits, religious beliefs, political leanings, sentiments, consumer interest, sports, and even as far as go to other highly personal aspects of our lives. I think the maturation of IoT and wearables is intertwined together. In some respects, what we are building at UnaliWear is also helping cement together the more meaningful adoption of wearables. In our particular case with the Kanega Watch, we couldn’t solve our user problem unless we could provide a better wearable device that is constantly connected all the time. Ultra-low power is very challenging fundamental backstop for every wearable device, and for most IoT devices as well. Our wearable includes cellular, GPS, and Wi-Fi built into one seamlessly integrated non-obtrusive wearable.

Our design goal for the Kanega Watch is that it must be wearable 24×7. It cannot be in a pocket or have requirements of being tucked into a purse. It also must have enough communications capability so that a senior is not stuck in their home all the time. To meet this goal, we have a unique patent-pending quick swap battery system enabling a user to not have to take the watch off to charge. The wearable can last 2 days for most users, and it comes with four batteries. It’s designed to have two batteries available on the charger and two batteries on the watch at all times. The device eliminates the need to be near a base station or smartphone.

Today, simply using built-in smartphone or app presents a couple of problems. Most seniors today don’t have nor operate a smart phone. Less than 5% of seniors over 80 years in age have a smart phone today. For the few seniors who do have smart phones, there are still problems using a smart phone for falls and reminders, because today’s smart phones still have only about 10 hours of real usage time per day.

TV: By 2050, what are some of your predictions for consumers or users interacting with technology on a day-to-day basis?

JAB: I do think that speech will definitely play a larger part in our interaction paradigm. Remember that popular Star Trek movie scene where they come back in time to save the whales and Scotty goes with Checkov to analyze the strength of the materials being used to make a housing for the whales, and the computer he is given is the original Macintosh. Scotty speaks to the Mac, Checkov reminds him that’s not the interface, and then Scotty picks up the mouse and speaks to the mouse. This seems to show a natural interface into the future as Scotty mistakes the old computer for one he can easily and naturally talk to. Now looking at where we are today – the senior population is the fastest growing population segment in the US, and by 2030 will be 20% of our total population. Today, there are 17 million seniors above the age of 75 who are living independently, yet only 2.2 million of those independent seniors have any kind of monitoring system to get help. Today’s 17 million seniors will burgeon to 27 million seniors by 2030. Natural speech interfaces and connectivity will be control what we’re able to build in the future.

TV: What question might you pose to someone in the middle of making a choice to purchase or carry something that is connected and electronically enabling for a senior in their lives?

JAB: I think the message is simple. We show over and over again that if you want to extend the time and quality of someone’s life, then extend their independence. That means you need products that a senior is willing to wear, and that fits into their active lifestyle. At its core, the wearable is based on an Atmel | SMART SAM4L Cortex-M4 MCU running FreeRTOS as the real time operating system and also includes the ATWINC1500 SmartConnect device for Wi-Fi. The Kanega Watch includes both Wi-Fi and cellular communications; when you’re at home, it uses your Wi-Fi. When you’re away, it transitions seamlessly to cellular.


TV: Does the Kanega Watch have initial roots from the Maker Movement?

JAB: Yes, the roots are definitely Maker Movement – and also a lot of rapid prototyping (hardware’s version of the Lean Startup). We built our first industrial design prototypes at the TechShop in Austin, and our very first alpha design used a 3D-printed “box” as the “watch”. We make a lot of prototypes with rapid turn 3D-printing and CNC-machined aluminum. Before we built our own first prototypes, we created a software prototype on the Omate TrueSmart smart watch, which has dual 1.3 GHz ARM Cortex-A8’s running Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich.” Our only challenge with this prototype is that the battery life was an unsatisfying 5 hours – which meant that I had a battery pocket in my pocket and kept the watch plugged in with a cord hidden under my shirt when I needed to demonstrate over a long period, such as at a conference like SxSW. I like our current prototypes better!

Interested in learning more or have an elderly family member who could benefit from the Kanega Watch? Head over to UnaliWear’s current Kickstarter campaign here.

3D printing your own crossguard lightsaber

Have you seen the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer yet? If not (*spoiler alert*), the recently released teaser introduced a different kind of lightsaber. Not only did its revealing elicit some excitement amongst its die-hard community, the weapon’s reconfiguration has also spurred quite a bit of controversy as well.


Like countless other fans, the crew over at France-based Le FabShop watched the trailer, explored the controversy over the new lightsaber and decided that the best way to test the design was to make one of their own. And so, that’s exactly what they did by 3D printing a replica using an Atmel powered MakerBot Replicator 2.


“As Makers, we couldn’t help but try to find out by ourselves if this ‘crossguard’ design was a good configuration or not,” the team explains.

While several other 3D-printable lightsabers have already been made available for download across the web, Le FabShop sought out to create one that would be completely customizable. Once a Star Wars lover prints out each of its parts, the lightsaber’s modularity enables the Maker to mix and match these components to create weaponry that is unique to them. And, those who aren’t keen on the crossguard can now just remove it!


Instead of waiting around for the Disney flick to hit the box offices, the Le FabShop has made the files available on Thingiverse, while a step-by-step breakdown can be found on InstructablesFor those who may recall, the same crew last year worked with Renault to transform an ordinary electric car into a mobile 3D printing lab.

Rewind: A look back at the top 3D printing stories of 2014

Whether you like it or not, it appears 3D printing is set to dramatically alter the way in which we create and consume products in the future. Over the past year, we’ve seen some pretty remarkable 3D-printed projects that continue to expand the capabilities of additive manufacturing — proving time and time again that the trend is, indeed, here to stay. Exemplified by jam-packed Maker Faire 3D Printing Villages to an upsurge of crowdfunded startups, tinkerers and engineers alike are finding extraordinary ways to implement the next-gen technology. As we prepare for the year ahead, let’s take a look back at some of the top 3D printing stories and more that captured our attention in 2014.

Made In Space and NASA successfully 3D print the first object in space


Local Motors drives into the future with its 3D-printed car


Arduino announces the Materia 101


Ceramic printing gains popularity


3D printing lets the visually-impaired relive their cherished memories


DIY gets majestic with the first-ever 3D-printed castle


Architect looks to construct an entirely 3D-printed estate 


Artist grows van Gogh’s ear using DNA and a 3D printer


Barack Obama becomes the first U.S. President with a 3D-printed bust


3D-printed prosthetics help kids feel like superheroes


Youbionic enables Makers to create their own prosthetic hands


The first 3D-printed band rocks out


This onesie turns you into a walking Wi-Fi hotspot and MP3 player


Instruments help measure oxygen levels in newborns


3D printers are now being used to create lifelike hearts 


FDA approves the first 3D-printed facial implants


New set of wheels gives this puppy a second lease on life


Dog runs for the very first time thanks to 3D-printed legs


I scream, you scream, we all scream for 3D-printed ice cream!


It’s not delivery, it’s 3D-printed pizza!


Bioresorbable splints save baby’s life


3D printing merges contact lens and QLEDs


Floating along on the world’s first 3D-printed kayak


Dress exposes your body as you reveal data


3D printing your own crossguard lightsaber


Well, it’s safe to say that it’s been a pretty amazing year for the megaAVR and Atmel | SMART driven technology. As we prepare to kick off 2015 at International CES, what do you expect to see from the 3D printing world in the coming months?

Barack Obama becomes the first U.S. President with a 3D-printed bust

While those visiting the nation’s capital may not actually get the chance to see the President, they can still get pretty close thanks to Smithsonian and 3D printing technology. Now on display at the Smithsonian Castle, a life-size replica of Barack Obama has become the first-ever 3D-printed bust of any U.S. President.


Unlike the inspired bust of Abraham Lincoln, President Obama didn’t have to get all plastered up. Rather, he simply sat down and let 50 custom-built LED lights, eight high-resolution sports cameras and six wide-angle cameras capture his image instantaneously. The flickering of lights created 10 different lighting conditions in just a matter of one second, ensuring that every detail of his face was copied and cloned.

The White House recently released a YouTube video showing the President as he prepared for his historic portrait session.

The files were then transferred to a 3D Systems SLS machine, which for the 1:1 bust, turned melted nylon powder into a highly-accurate and durable print. The life-size sculpture —  which stands at 19-inches tall and weighs right under 13-pounds — took less than two days to create after which the print cooled down for about 24 hours.


“This isn’t an artistic likeness of the President, this is actually millions upon millions of measurements that create a 3D likeness of the President,” Adam Metallo, The Smithsonian’s 3D Digitization Program Officer explained.  “We can now 3D print and make something that’s never been done before.”

The end result, which can be seen in the video above, was displayed at this year’s White House Maker Faire back in June. You can read all about the creation of the Presidential bust here.

Tank Girl goes cyberpunk this Halloween

Whether or not you’re a fan of the 1995 American sci-fi flick Tank Girl, you will surely appreciate this 3D-printed, LED-embedded Bandolier of Light design from Adafruit’s Becky Stern. Just in time for Halloween festivities, this cyberpunk ensemble will surely be the life light of the party!


The build is relatively easy, comprised of a meter-long strip of 60 white Adafruit NeoPixels, some wire and sewing supplies, and most importantly, an ATtiny85 based Trinket or GEMMA microcontroller.


The bandolier itself is 3D-printed in white NinjaFlex, enabling it to be comfortable and flexible enough for easy flinging across the shoulder in Rambo-like fashion. After soldering some wires from the NeoPixel strip to the Atmel based MCU, the lights are placed between what Stern calls the “3D-printed bullets of pure love” and a strip of fabric.

Think this costume is for you come October 31st? Find the step-by-step tutorial from our friends at Adafruit here.


3D printing shoes with Conway’s Game of Life algorithm

No stranger to Bits & Pieces, designer Francis Bitonti is back with his newest creation: 3D-printed shoes generated using John Conway’s Game of Life.


Earlier this year, the New York-based technologist debuted The Bristle Dress – which was created using an AVR powered MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer. With his latest project, however, he has taken another step forward in converging both the Maker Movement and fashion worlds.

The vibrant 3D-printed shoes are made from pixel upon pixel of printed material, which use Game of Life as the starting point for the shoe’s algorithms. For the early stages, Bitonti would define a set of rules and from there, the algorithm would carry out the creation of the shoe.

Although the result of these algorithms are both strange and varied, Bitonti says it’s time to start thinking about products as systems rather than static forms. “We want to design through systems that have enough intelligence to organize into a wide array of shapes that express a wide range of aesthetics and functions. It’s a more powerful way to think about customization,” the designer explains.

The pixellated formation of his footwear differs from pair to pair. For instance, one set features a separate sole and heels, while the bottom and top of the heel are disconnected at the back of another pair.


As Wired notes, “Each of the shoes is made from a gradient of hues that are the product of mixing three separate colors of filament. As the primary colors dispense from the Stratsays machine, they blend to form new tones. It’s a neat visual effect, but it also speaks to the bigger promise of 3D printing in the future.”

The soles are a dark purple, while the shoe itself transitions from blue and green tones to yellow and orange towards the top.

“It’s a new craftsmanship really,” adding that we’re now able to adjust the construction of an object at the level of 16 microns. “What we’re finding is that through that high level of control, we’re actually able to create material properties that we’ve never had before.”

What if instead of blending red, blue and yellow colors, designers could mix metal, ceramic and plastics?

“Adobe entering the 3D-printing industry is a very exciting thing to see… This will help more people get started using the technology. The technology is becoming ubiquitous. It’s very exciting to see this happening now,” Bitonti shared.

“It’s really lowered the bar to entering the space… It’s not that hard to find people who know Photoshop. It’s really hard to find people who know 7 or 8 software packages and computer programs, and really have strong aesthetic sensibility.”

Designed for Adobe’s 3D Print Show, Bitonti and his team are currently in the process of developing a commercial version of the shoe. At this point, the concept is a mere prototype. However, could they be worn? Absolutely. “They’re wearable,” Bitonti concludes. “But I wouldn’t climb a mountain in them.”

To explore more of Bitoni’s latest designs, you can head to his official site or browse through our archives here.