Tag Archives: 3D Printing

Maker mods his NERF blaster into a fully-functional Halo 5 MA5D


A DIY weapon for Humans vs. Zombies — with an ammo counter, scope and all!


Jeremy Chang is a big fan of Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ), a live-action game where players try to survive a post-apocalyptic world using soft toys like socks and foam dart guns. Well, in this case, the Maker decided to do something a little different and add another layer of roleplaying to his HvZ experience by modding his NERF blaster to resemble a Halo MA5D assault rifle.

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This device boasts a number of impressive features, which range from a digital ammo counter to a functional scope. Based on the fictional United Nations Space Command weapon, the 3D-printed replica certainly looks ready to obliterate zombies.

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In order to get the iconic shape of the MA5D, Chang used some 3D-printed part to upgrade his blaster. On the inside, Chang employed an Arduino Nano (ATmega328) to detect trigger pulls, a few reed switches in the chamber to determine the current ammo count and an Adafruit 128×64 OLED lit with a NeoPixel LED. (The color on the screen change as the percentage of ammunition goes to zero.) The display even has a functional mission timer and will reveal if the clip is not fully closed. Aside from all that, a 5V scope adds a nice finishing touch to the MA5D prop.

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Intrigued? You can check out Chang’s entire build here.

Reach is an all-in-one 3D printer, laser cutter, plotter and mill


… and it costs less than $300.


If you’re like most of us, chances are you’ve played around with a 3D printer at some point. But as you know all too well, the market only has a few affordable options for the everyday enthusiast: there are the sub-$500 plastic units with non-accesible parts, and then there are RepRaps with their fragile fames that require frequent adjustments. With hopes of solving all of these issues, Nate Rogers and his team have developed the Reacha high-quality, versatile machine with an all-alluminum frame, a large build area, as well as interchangeable modules for cutting, engraving, plotting and milling.

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The Reach has everything you’d expect from a DIY 3D printer kit, such as auto-leveling, a 200mm x 200mm x 215mm volume, a heated bed and a geared extruder. It boasts V-Slot extrusions, Delrin V Wheels and a sturdy frame comprised of 1/8” laser-cut aluminum plates. With an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) and RAMPS 1.4 shield at its core, NEMA 17 stepper motors, a precision 8mm lead screw and GT2-20 pulleys, the Reach is capable of achieving 90mm/second print speeds with an accuracy of 50 micron layers. As you would expect, the Reach works with pretty much all 1.75mm filaments ranging from PLA and ABS, to Nylon and NinjaFlex, to faux metal.

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As a Maker himself, however, Rogers knew that a 3D printer in today’s market was a dime a dozen. And so, he and his crew enhanced the Reach’s capabilities using detachable toolheads: a laser for cutting and engraving, a plotter and a light mill, which together create the ultimate all-in-one machine that will be a welcomed fixture on any workbench or at any Makerspace.

An upgrade kit will soon also be available for an extra $70, which consists of a full graphics LCD screen with SD card reader, an MK2 heated bed, a 100K thermistor and an improved power supply. The Reach supports most open source software, including Sketchup, Meshlab, Repetier, Cura and Inkscape, and is currently compatible with Windows and most Mac operating systems.

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Sound like the $259 device for you? Head over to its Kickstarter campaign, where Rogers and his team have already doubled their $40,000 goal. Delivery is slated for summer 2016.

This 3D-printed, Arduino-powered robotic mower will take care of your lawn for you


Build your own Ardumower for less than $300.


Mowing the lawn; it’s a nice slice of solitude and exercise for some, and an arduous task for others, to be avoided at all costs. If you fall into that second category, then the Ardumower might be for you. According to its description,“With this download project you can build your own robotic lawn mower at a fraction of the cost that one would have to apply for a commercial one.”

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The mower itself is an interesting build, with a nicely sloped canopy and driving wheels that resemble something found inside of a clock. Housed inside is an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and a motor driver board for control. Two 12V electrical motors are used for locomotion around a yard, while another motor turns the cutting blade.

The robo-mower is kept within your yard using a boundary wire fence to tell it when it has reached the limits of its domain. As seen in the video below, it also has some obstacle avoidance capability, though it would likely be best to keep it in an area free from animals, children, and irresponsible adults!

If you want to assemble one yourself, you can do so for about $250-$300 — a fraction of the cost of its commercial counterparts. A manual, which is available for $12.16, claims to give step-by-step directions to build your own Ardumower (or maybe two for larger lawns!), as well as info on how to create the boundary fence.

Dad builds a talking and transforming birthday cake for his son


Maker Russell Munro created an Optimus Prime cake that actually transforms.


While Jeff Highsmith may have been the unofficial Maker dad of the year in 2014 with his impressive mission control desk, it looks like we just found 2015’s undisputed champion. That’s because Russell Munro recently created the ultimate birthday cake for his six-year-old son: a talking Optimus Prime cake that actually transforms.

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According to Munro, the animated cake consists of a 3D-printed skeleton: a chest, thighs, arms and lower legs. The thighs and the chest are the only animatronic pieces, as the lower legs remain in place to support all of the movement. Metal fishing wire is wound up by a stepper motor which pulls the chassis to a standing position. A pair of arms pop out from the chest once the robot is fully upright.

The entire operation is controlled by an Arduino, along with an EasyDriver from SparkFun, a 2A DC motor driver and an MP3 player module. The platform for the cake is made from 8mm MDF.

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With the help of his wife, the chocolate mud cake was then baked around the mechanism and ultimately topped off with an amazing icing job. Safe to say, this Maker will probably be receiving countless invites to birthday parties in the very near future. Intrigued? Read all about the build on his log, as well as his latest writeup in MAKE: Magazine.

And now sans the cake…

Turn your old soda bottles into 3D printer filament with ProtoCycler


3D printing can now be sustainable and affordable.


As if 3D printing isn’t revolutionary enough, Canadian startup ReDeTec has devised a filament extruder that uses plastic waste. A spool of 3D printing filament in one color costs around $30-$50; but if you already recycle your own plastic, your spools are free with ProtoCycler.

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The team – Dennon Oosterman, Alex Kay and David Joyce – recognizes that simplicity, reliability, performance and hackability are important to Makers and tinkerers. So much so, ProtoCycler allows anyone to create whatever they want without worrying about the cost or the environment. This easy-to-use machine takes in your recycled waste, and produces filament up to 10 feet a minute, in any color you like.

Designed to be the easiest extruder on the market, ProtoCycler employs patent pending MixFlow technology to ensure consistent filament and faster extrusion of ABS and PLA plastic. In total, the device is equipped with five motors (two steppers for extruding and pulling, a fan for cooling, a servo for spreading and a small little motor for spooling), three sensors (one temp and two diameter), and an ATmega32U4 for a brain.

Makers will love the fact that it is fully automated with a push of a button, alleviating any unnecessary hassle. For more experienced users, ProtoCycler has open source software so you can experiment with your own settings and custom materials, fit for any 3D printer.

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The ProtoCycler comes with a built-in grinder, intelligent computer control, safety certification and real time diameter feedback. It has a grinder input of 5” x 5”, and an all metal hot end for 400+ Celsius. At 14” x 12” x 10,” ProtoCycler can sit on a table without taking up too much space.

After three years of development, Oosterman and his crew are ready to get ProtoCycler into the hands of the public. ProtoCycler recently wrapped up a successful Indiegogo campaign, but those wishing to get their hands on an affordable, sustainable 3D printer filament can do so here.

A 3D printer with fully-auomated bed leveling and tool height adjustment


This Maker will never have to think about leveling or Z height again. 


3D printers are great pieces of Maker equipment, but they don’t work so well if the bed is not level with the extruder. Aligning these two elements together is commonly known as “bed leveling” or “tramming,” and, although simple in theory, needs to be highly accurate. Jeremie Francois decided to combine automating this process with setting the Z-axis offset (important when using multiple extruder heads) using a bed supported by lead screws on three stepper motors.

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The motors that Francois used came pre-assembled with a lead screw, and throwing conventional wisdom aside, chose to use the screws to both drive and guide the bed. These “multi-use” lead screws are then independently controlled to touch a force sensitive resistor attached to the extruder head in different positions in order to level the bed. You can see the procedure in the video below, where he manually adjusts the bed into an offset position. The stepper motors then automatically adjust the bed in calibration mode.

Once this is done, the Z-axis can be controlled in “transparent mode” where all three steppers rotate in unison. This allows the calibration motors to act like a normal Z-axis when using the main Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) to control a print. If you’d like to get a better look at the code for this project, be sure to check out Francois’ GitHub page.

1:1 interview with TinyArcade creator Ken Burns


TinyArcade is the most adorable video game console you’ve ever seen.


Recently, we had the chance to sit down with TinyCircuits founder Ken Burns, who just wrapped up a successful Kickstarter campaign for the TinyArcade. Here’s what he had to say…

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Josh Marinacci: Hi Ken. I’m one of the original Kickstarter backers of TinyCircuits and I love it. Could you tell us a little bit about TinyCircuits, why you created it, where it’s based?

Ken Burns: Thanks! TinyCircuits started as a side project while I was working at a contract engineering company. We would help other companies (from one person startups to Fortune 500 companies), develop electronic products, and prototyping was always a huge part of what we did. However, to create working prototypes usually involved creating a custom PCB (somewhat expensive and time consuming), or hobbling together a number of different development boards to create the proto, which was always ugly and usually too big.

So that’s what started the idea of a small modular system with a number of different sensors and options, and around the same time Arduino was becoming very popular so I decided to base it around that, which was the birth of the TinyDuino system. At the time it was just me in a spare bedroom of my house in Akron, Ohio, working on this and prototyping it up, but I showed it to a number of people and got a lot of great feedback, and decided to launch it on Kickstarter in the fall of 2012. The initial TinyDuino Kickstarter campaign did great, enough to convince me there was potential to create a business around it, so I left my job and committed to TinyCircuits full-time.

Three years later we’re still going strong, with a staff of 8 people and our own electronics design and manufacturing operation here in Akron, Ohio.

JM: One of our talented engineers recently built a Bluetooth wearable smartwatch using TinyCircuits. Have you seen a lot of adoption in wearables? What things do people build with it?

KB: That’s definitely a great project! Wearables is definitely something people use our stuff for a lot, it’s very small, compact, and easy to use, which makes it perfect for wearable applications. We launched the TinyScreen last year, which is a small OLED display that fits onto the TinyDuino and allows users to create add a very cool compact display to their projects.

Jewelry is one that a number of people have done, and some friends of ours are actually building out a 3D printed jewelry product based around our TinyScreen that should be launching early next year. Others are using our circuitry for wearable sensors, like for athletic and healthcare monitoring. And an eight-year old launched his own smart watch, the O Watchon Kickstarter to teach kids 3D printing and programing earlier this fall that is built around our stuff!

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JM:Has anyone used your boards for a shipping product?

KB: A few small companies have used our products for very low volume items, but a few are designing products that integrate in the TinyScreen which will be higher volume. For low to mid volume items (one to a few hundred) it makes a lot of sense to buy products like ours to integrate with, since it saves the need to design a custom PCB and do the upfront engineering. After a certain volume it’s more cost effective to design a custom board, and we actually have helped a number of companies do that with our in-house design partner.

Josh: TinyArcade is absolutely the coolest thing ever. It’s a shame it won’t be ready in time for Christmas. Why did you decide to build this product, and why run it as a KickStarter instead of just selling it like your other boards?

Ken: Thanks! We would have loved to have it out by Christmas this year, but we needed to take our time over the summer to get the design right. The TinyArcade is really an outgrowth of the TinyScreen project we did last year, one of the things people really liked about it was that you could play games on it, and a number of our users started creating games for it, like Space Invaders, Outrun, Asteroids, etc.

In the spring we saw a really little arcade cabinet candy dispenser, and thought it would be cool to put a TinyScreen in it and play games, but the size wasn’t quite right. But the idea stuck with us, and we have a designer friend (Jason Bannister from mechanimal.com) design a 3D printed cabinet which came out looking incredible. We started showing this off at different shows, like Maker Faire Bay Area, and it was a huge hit, and people kept asking to buy it. So we decided to turn it into a product.

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We redesigned the TinyScreen to bring the cost down and way crank up the performance, and add things like audio, joysticks, and an SD expansion slot. The 3D printed cabinet is also fairly complex and something that needs a commercial printer to make (it can’t be printed on a Makerbot), so the prints are expensive. So we came up with a laser cut enclosure that could be made for much less but still look like a cabinet, so we could offer this at a low price.

We’ve had great luck on Kickstarter in the past, and one of the big reasons we did this again is so we can buy the components in bulk. We’re still a small startup and cash flow is always an issue, so using Kickstarter lets us buy some of the major components (like the OLED, joysticks, etc) in volume to keep the cost down. If we did it without Kickstarter, the price per unit would have to be a lot more.

JM: Where did you find those tiny joysticks?

KB: Those are super cute, aren’t they?! We used some PSP type joysticks in the past for our joystick board, but these were too big for this. These joysticks are made by CTS and actually available at places like DigiKey, and work amazingly well. They’re great for very precise analog movements. They are one of the more expensive components in the TinyArcade, but definitely worth it.

The top of the joystick is actually a knob that we designed ourselves and is a high-res 3D print, using a resin printer, so we can make it just like an old style arcade joystick.

JM: Does the TinyArcade have room for expansion? I’d love to make one connected to the internet through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Will you support those options?

KB: It certainly does! This is still a TinyDuino type product and maintains expansion capability, and there is room to add another board in the cabinet. Bluetooth and Wi-Wi are the two that we definitely consider the most likely, and since the platform is completely open source, it’s really up to the user’s imagination as to what they want to add. Based on how well the Kickstarter goes, and if there is community support, we’d love to see the ability for some multiplayer games over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

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JM: With a Wi-Fi board, is it possible to do OTA updates?

KB: Right now we don’t have that capability, it really comes down to support in the bootloader. However we do support loading games and videos off a microSD card if it’s present, so it would definitely be possible to create a program to download files over Wi-i and save them to the SD card to use.

JM: What’s next for TinyCircuits? Any new products in the pipeline?

KB: We have a huge list of things in the pipeline that we would like to do, we actually have about 15 new expansion boards designed that should be hitting production early in 2016. One of the big push is into micro-robotics, so tiny servo drivers and motor drivers, new radio options, an ESP-based Wi-Fi board, many more sensors, and of course rolling out the TinyScreen+ board and the TinyZero processor board (basically the Arduino Zero, 32-bit ARM platform) which brings a new level of horsepower to the platform.

JM: Tell us a little more about the Kickstarter campaign and when do you expect it to ship?

KB The TinyArcade Kickstarter (successfully) ended on December 17th and we plan to start shipping in March 2016. The big reason for the delay is due to getting some of the key components in, like the raw OLEDs, this takes 8 – 12 weeks from our supplier, we plan to have the other items ready to go (the PCBs built, and the cases made), before then, so we can get shipping the moment they come in.

This interview originally appeared on PubNub’s blog