Tag Archives: ATmega1280

1:1 interview with Hackaday Prize finalist Radu Motisan

Did you know that 80% of the 2015 Hackaday Prize finalists are powered by Atmel? With only days left until we learn which project will walk away with this year’s crown, we recently sat down with each of the potential winners to get to know them better. 

Radu Motisan is no stranger to the higher ranks of the Hackaday Prize leaderboard, and rightfully so. Not only in the running for this year’s best product category as well as the ultimate grand prize, the Maker was also named a semi-finalist back in 2014 with his uRADMonitor a web-connected, plug-and-play radiation monitor that tracks beta and gamma emissions around the globe. Piggybacking off of his work thus far, Motisan has decided to take the project one step further by going mobile with the Portable Environmental Monitor. It measures alpha, beta, and gamma radiation, dust, air quality, temperature and pressure using a small, handheld device that uploads data to the Internet over Wi-Fi.


Atmel: What is the Portable Environmental Monitor?

Radu Motisan: The Portable Environmental Monitor with its backend uRADMonitor infrastructure is the next big thing in the IoT: a new pollution tracking platform equipped with top-grade sensors to deliver real-time measurements and notifications to help us protect our health. The readings are mapped to geographical locations, for better understanding of pollution as a phenomenon. As I it see it now, this slowly becomes a new standard for checking environmental quality the very same way we use weather forecasting today.

Atmel: How did you come to the idea for monitor? Moreover, what inspired you to enter the contest with your project?

RM: The idea came from a personal need for uncensored, real environmental data. It was a perfect fit for Hackaday’s call to build something that matters and help the environment at global scale.

Atmel: In line with the Hackaday Prize’s theme, how are you hoping the monitor changes the world? What’s the mission?

RM: The uRADMonitor with the Portable Environmental Monitor unit is an ambitious project, aiming to improve global awareness on pollution, its factors and evolution, and ultimately to increase the quality of life.


Atmel: What’s makes the device so unique? What’s your vision for the next five years? Where do you see the monitor going or what/who would you hope will pick up the project and use it?

RM: It’s different because its open — transparency is important to guarantee the quality of equipment and of the resulting collected data. There was considerable effort to develop both the hardware and software glueing this together and I’m happy the results so far exceeded the expectations with innovative devices. In five years, the project’s name should be already known worldwide with more people using it. It addresses both end users and companies to monitor living spaces, offices but also cities, plants, production centres. The hardware involved is constantly shaping to new ideas that make this solution even better. Next step is providing larger scale monitoring solutions for cities and running a few field tests.

Atmel: As we know, the Maker Movement has opened the door for everyone from hobbyists to tech enthusiasts to hardcare engineers to tinker around. What’s your personal background?

RM: By training, I’m a software engineer. By hobby, I’m a chemist, physicist and electronics amateur. By heart, I am the man that will use the best of his skills to build technology that matters — that has an impact on other people’s lives. Luckily this background allowed venturing into the corners of hardware design and production, with ease.


Atmel: What are some of the core pieces of hardware embedded?

RM: The Portable Environmental Monitor uses an ATmega128 MCU as the brain of its operation, having to handle complex operations like driving sensors, WLAN communication, real-time user GUI on a large touchscreen display, Geiger high voltage circuit, and finally, the power management involving the rechargeable battery and a high efficiency inverter. Then, there is also a BME680 sensor from Bosch Sensortec that does wonders at a very low energy cost.

Atmel: Are there any other hardware projects you’re also building at the moment?

RM: There is the new City Air Quality project, which involves a custom Portable Environmental Monitor hardware but with a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone and air quality sensor, all fixed to the outside of a car, to run the first live tests on pollution and build an experimental environmental heat map. The know-how will be used for a miniaturized version that addresses bicyclists in an effort of reducing pollution in cities. All under a new startup company that I’m working to shape at the moment…

Atmel: We’ve gotta ask… why go with Atmel chips?

RM: Because they are great!

Atmel: What advice would you offer other Makers when getting into hardware and embarking on a new project?

RM: When you build something, finish the job! Don’t just leave endless meters of jumping wires in unfinished tests and breadboards. Instead, think big, design a case for your new gadget, build a prototype and try entering production to test your idea on the real market. Playing is nice, but the real world and solving problems of others, are by far more appealing.


Atmel: You mentioned something about working on launching a startup. What does this entail? Will you perhaps be taking this project to Kickstarter/Indiegogo in the near future?

RM: Yes! The startup is in its early phase, preparing all the documents and local legal requirements. The crowdfunding campaign will happen… in just a few days!

Atmel: And… if you happen to win the grand prize, will you be heading to space or taking the cash?!

RM: My childhood dream was to become an astronaut. As I see it now, this is a one time opportunity, but it also makes it a though question since I am now a more responsible young parent.

Atmel: Anything else you want to tell us and our followers?

RM: Yes. Life is short, and the Hackaday’s “build something that matters” thing is not a cliché, but the very first thing we need to consider every time we wake up in the morning. Make the plan, aim and shoot. There is not time to waste, since there are so many things that can be improved in this world and we are all responsible for that. And those with certain skills have even higher responsibility.

Don’t miss our other interviews with fellow HaD Prize finalists Chris LowOpenBionicsEric William and Eyedrivomatic!

The first-ever Rad Tolerant megaAVR is out of this world!

With billions of AVR chips already deployed throughout the world, it’s now time to take them into space!

This news may come as one small step for boards, one giant leap for Maker-kind: the ATmegaS128 has launched! Not only does Atmel’s first uC Rad Tolerant device share the popular features of the megaAVR family, this out-of-the-world MCU delivers full wafer lot traceability, 64-lead ceramic package (CQFP), space screening, space qualification according to QML and ESCC flow and total ionizing dose up to 30 Krad (Si) for space applications. What’s more, the ATMegaS128 is “latch up” immune thanks to a dedicated silicon process: SEL LET > 62.5Mev at 125°C, 8MHz/3.3V. SEU to heavy ions is estimated to 10-3 error/device/day for low Earth orbit applications.


With billions of commercial AVR chips widely deployed throughout the world, the new space-grade AVR family benefits from support of the Atmel Studio ecosystem and lets aerospace developers to the industrial-version of the ATmega to prototype their applications for a fraction of the cost. The latest board is available in a ceramic hermetic packaging and is pin-to-pin and drop-in compatible with existing ATmega128 MCUs, allowing flexibility between commercial and qualified devices, enabling faster-time-to-market and minimizing development costs. With this cost-effective approach and a plastic Hirel-qualified version, the ATmegaS128 can be also considered in more general aerospace applications including class A and B avionic critical cases where radiation tolerance is also a key requirement.

“With nearly three decades of aerospace experience, we are thrilled to bring one of our most popular MCU cores to space — the AVR MCU,” explained Patrick Sauvage, General Manager of Atmel’s Aerospace Business Unit. “By improving radiation performance with our proven Atmel AVR cores and ecosystem, the new ATmegaS128 provides developers targeting space applications a smaller footprint, lower power and full analog integration such as motor and sensor control along with data handling functions for payload and platform. We look forward to putting more Atmel solutions into space.”

Among its notable features, the space-ready MCU boasts high endurance and non-volatile memory, robust peripherals (including 8- and 16-bit timers/counters, six PWM channels, 8-channel, 10-bit ADC, TWI/USARTs/SPI serial interface, programmable watchdog timer and on-chip analog compactor), power-on reset and programmable brown-out detection, internal calibrated RC oscillator, external and internal interrupt sources, six sleep modes, as well as power-down, standby and extended standby.


The STK600 starter kit and development system for the ATmegaS128 will provide users a quick start in developing code on the AVR with advanced features for prototyping and testing new designs. The recently-revealed AVRs are supported by the proven Atmel Studio IDP for developing and debugging Atmel | SMART ARM-based and AVR MCU applications, along with the Atmel Software Framework. Intrigued? Check out the uC Rad Tolerant device here.

8 out of the 10 Hackaday Prize finalists are powered by Atmel

Hackaday reveals the 10 finalists who are one step closer to a trip into space or some big bucks.

One simple idea can make a difference, but together we Makers can change the world. That was the premise behind this year’s Hackaday Prize, which encouraged participants to build something that matters.


As our friends at Hackaday explain:

“The problems that these projects tackle come from many different angles. Some improve safety in extreme situations by giving emergency workers the ability to detect the presence of dangerous gases, or by helping to find unexploded munitions in war-torn areas. Others make improvements in transportation by working on transportation where infrastructure is poor, and looking toward the future of electric vehicle transportation. There are projects that tackle pollution through monitoring and also by scrubbing pollutants from indoor air. Improvements in wheelchair mobility and advancements in prosthetics can transform the lives of people living with loss of function. And feeding the world can start with more automated farming options, and becoming more efficient with farming methods. These are the problems the finalists have chosen to solve with their entries.”

Now, the pool of 100 semi-finalists has been narrowed down to 10 finalists who are one step closer to walking (or flying) away with the grand prize of a trip into space or $196,883. Plus, four others will claim top prizes each valued between $5,000-$10,000. These winners will all be revealed at the Hackaday SuperConference in San Francisco on November 14th and 15th.

And guess what? There’s a pretty good chance that this year’s winner will have Atmel inside… again. We can’t say that we’re too surprised either, as eight of the last 10 are embedded with AVR or Atmel | SMART MCUs. Here they are…



This open source, automated precision farming machine and software package is designed for small-scale precision food production. Similar to 3D printers and CNC mills, FarmBot’s hardware employs linear guides in the X, Y, and Z directions that allow for tools, such as plows, seed injectors, watering nozzles and sensors, to be precisely positioned and used on the plants and soil. The unit itself is controlled by an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) + RAMPS stack and a Raspberry Pi 2.

Eye Controlled Wheelchair


The Eyedrivomatic system takes advantage of existing eye tracking technology to enable those who have lost the use of their muscles to operate their own wheelchairs. The system is comprised of a wheelchair-mounted computer running an accompanying app and software, which is connected to a 3D-printed, Arduino Uno (ATmega328) brain box. This command center receives and inteprets the program’s requests and controls a pair of servos that drive an electronic hand to move a joystick in the user’s desired location.

Gas Sensor For Emergency Workers


Designed primarily for emergency response workers, these ‘grenade-like’ sensors can be thrown into dangerous areas to remotely report levels using their voice. With an Arduino Nano (ATmega328) at its core, each ball-shaped gadget is equipped with smoke, liquified petroleum gas and carbon monoxide sensors along with an inexpensive 433MHz transmitter for communication with any basic radio inside the potentially hazardous space.



The problem that LUKA is attempting to solve is a big one. Mindful that internal combustion engine cars pump billions of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere each year, this group of Makers hopes to provide an open source platform that’ll unlock the possibility for cost-competitive, all-electric automobiles to be built and sold locally, on a global scale. This electric vehicle is capable of achieving top speeds of around 80mph and a range of over 185 miles. Although the concept of an EV is far from new, using hub motors to power it isn’t so ordinary. What’s more, this project will introduce a revolutionary technology to the production line, reducing weight and eliminating a great deal of unnecessary parts along the way. LUKA will also help in energy storage, as your home can power LUKA or vice versa.

Portable Environmental Sensor


The uRADMonitor is able to detect pollutants in the air that otherwise go unnoticeable, ranging from toxic chemicals to radioactive dust or radon. Packed with an array of powerful sensors and an ATmega128, this handheld battery-operated device connects to the Internet via an embedded Wi-Fi module and shares readings to its global network. The online data is then used to build graph, track stats and send automated notifications when certain thresholds are reached.

Light Electric Utility Vehicle


Transportation is major issue in the developing world due to its lacking physical infrastructure, and unfortunately, off-road SUVs are outside the means of the average person. In an effort to make them more accessible to everyone, this light electric utility vehicle is capable of battling harsh environments and rugged terrain. The basic design of the vehicle is made of locally sourced components, and features a frame that can rotate at the point of articulation so that all four wheels are in constant contact with the ground. Steering is accomplished by differential motor control, while each wheel is powered by a single PMDC geared motor via a chain drive. Power comes from two large tubular gel batteries which are charged by solar panels. System control is accomplished by two Arduino Pro Minis (ATmega328) — the first handles the motor controller, the other monitors the current.



OpenBionics is an open source initiative for the development of affordable, lightweight prosthetic hands that can be easily reproduced using off-the-shelf materials and rapid prototyping techniques such as 3D printing. The fingers are constructed out of Plexiglas with silicone knuckles that are flexed by tendon cables running in sheaths and extended by energy stored in elastomeric material along their dorsal aspects. Each finger can be selectively locked in place using a differential based on the whiffletree mechanism, resulting in 16 combinations of finger positions with only a single motor. Combined with nine unique thumb positions, 144 unique grasp are possible with the prosthetic hand. Meanwhile, electronics are provided by an embedded Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4).



Given the water crises affecting California, wine growers are in need of low-cost, customizable and easy-to-maintain soil moisture monitoring systems. As luck may have it, Vinduino is an accessible measurement tool for irrigation management that isn’t just ideal for cutting irrigation costs for vineyard owners, it can be just as useful for a wide range of other agricultural applications, science class experiments or even to reduce the H2O consumption of your backyard sprinklers. The system consists of moisture sensors, an Arduino handheld device for taking sensor readings, and a series of irrigation valves, water pressure sensors and data loggers for managing the irrigation system.

Congratulations to all of the 2015 Hackaday Prize finalists, especially those using our chips! As we await next month’s announcement, head over to the contest’s official writeup to see more.

This wearable fluid status sensor could lead to new vital sign

A new wearable sensor from the University of Michigan will provide more accurate and continuous fluid status data streams.

A team of University of Michigan researchers have developed a wearable sensor that could one day provide doctors with a simple, portable and completely non-invasive way to measure fluid status — the volume of blood that’s traveling through a patient’s blood vessels at any given time.


This sensor could perhaps be the answer to an age-old problem that has perplexed physicians, which is how to precisely determine the right circulatory volume is for an individual. Fluid status is a diagnostic measure much like heart rate or blood pressure. It can alert doctors when a cardiac patient has excess fluid that prevents their heart from pumping efficiently or provide a more precise measure of how much waste fluid to filter out of a dialysis patient’s blood. Additionally, it can tell a medical staff how much fluid to give to a trauma patient who has lost blood or a septic patient with an overwhelming infection.

At the moment, though, getting an accurate measure of fluid status requires an ultrasound or the insertion of a specialized catheter that measures the pressure of blood flowing through a blood vessel. Both tests are expensive and complex, and must be administered in a hospital by an expert. University of Michigan’s wearable sensor could change that by making measuring fluid status as simple as strapping a smartphone-sized device to a patient’s arm or leg and asking them to take a deep breath. And because it can be worn for extended periods of time, the unit could provide doctors and caregivers with an unprecedented amount of real-time data about fluid status.

The device works uses a process called Dynamic Respiratory Impedance Volume Evaluation, also known as DRIVE, to measure the changes in “bioimpedance,” or electrical conductivity, of the wearer’s limb as they breathe. Blood is an excellent conductor of electricity, so a patient with more blood will have greater conductivity. It’s quite similar to the ultrasound method of measuring fluid status, which directly captures the changes in the vena cava, the body’s largest vein. But instead of using the vein size to calculate fluid status, the new device gets the same information by measuring bioimpedance. While they may not be the first ones to use approach, the team is the first to incorporate fluid status measurement into a wearable gadget.

“You can absolutely, with DRIVE, track how much circulating volume someone has by taking this new vital sign and combining it with the treatment outcomes we expect. We can use it as a new way of honing in on where we want a patient to be and where are they currently,” says Barry Belmont, a biomedical engineering doctoral student at the University of Michigan.

According to Belmont, the new sensor is easy to use and requires minimal expertise, making it an ideal option for the intensive car unit, a small clinic, an ambulance, in an accident scene or even on the battlefield.


What’s more, the researchers say their technology could effectively make fluid status another vital sign. Current measurements like heart rate and blood pressure are diagnostic measurements that have been in place for decades or more. However, these methods don’t accurately address issue that patients experiencing trauma, undergoing dialysis, or septic patients commonly have in that they can’t capture the amount of blood flowing through a patient’s blood vessels.

“This could turn fluid status into a routine diagnostic tool, the way we measure heart rate and blood pressure today,” reveals Kevin Ward, executive director of the UM Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care (MCIRCC). “It has the potential to improve care and lower costs for millions of patients, and I think it’s a great example of how collaboration between fields like engineering and medicine can have a direct benefit on the lives of patients.”

The team has been testing a benchtop version of the sensor, built from off-the-shelf components, for more than a year. At the heart of the wearable itself lies an ATmega1280 MCU, while an Arduino Mega was employed for much of the benchtop validation process. The systems works by sending small amount of electcricity around the limb. As it moves through the limb, the current either travels faster or slower based on the amount of blood volume. This actually enables them to count the number of respirations and how deep a wearer is breathing.

A real-time stream of fluid status data could even help doctors provide better treatment to patients who need additional fluid, like sepsis patients. The researchers predict their current round of testing will continue through the end of this year. If the trials are successful, the device will go to the FDA for approval.

“We’ve gone from something that’s fairly large with a comptuer and a tabletop to something that resembles a Nano iPod that you can wear on your arm,” Ward explains.

Intrigued? Head over to the University of Michigan’s official page to learn more, or listen to a more elaborate overview of the project in the video below!

PRISM adds SLA 3D printing to the FABtotum personal fabricator

This add-on module is expanding the capabilities of FABtotum’s already impressive all-in-one machine. 

You may recall FABtotum from the recent crowdfunding campaign for its low-cost, all-in-one fabrication device capable of 3D printing, scanning, CNC milling and engraving. Following the incredible success of the ATmega1280 powered machine, the Italian startup has returned to Indiegogo with an integrated SLA 3D printing platform.


Dubbed PRISM, the 6.5mm thick module will expand the FABtotum personal fabricator’s functionality by bringing high-resolution, stereolithography-based manufacturing to the desktop of Makers. The add-on features a swappable laser head along with a removable resin vat that can easily be mounted to the printing bed.

With PRISM, Makers can 3D print in a wide range of filaments including the ordinary PLA, PETG and ABS, as well as more advance materials such as nylon, brass, wood and aluminum. Aside from that, its built-in high-res camera, touch probe and laser allow users to acquire 3D point clouds and models via multiple 3D scanning methods.


“PRISM is a new manufacturing technology that merges the advantages of Selective Laser Synthering (SLS) with the precision of Digital Light Processing (DLP). Most DLP printers relies on integrating commercially available DLP home projectors wich are expensive and are not designed for 3D printing,” the team writes.

Resin is cured by shining a light with the right wavelength through an LCD matrix. Whereas similar systems use a simple yet expensive UV LED array, PRISM employs a a mirror and a set of collimated light emitters. This reduces the amount of energy consumed and tremendously speeds up the solidifying time.


Impressively, the PRISM can also produce an unprecedented level of detail at around 80µm in XY and 0.47µm in Z.

Like with the rest of their products, FABtotum has made the module entirely open source and encourages feedback from the Maker community to help further improve the platform and solve any issues. Interested? Head over to its official Indiegogo page here, with the team is currently seeking $50,000. Delivery is expected to get underway in February 2016.

Print out breakfast with the newest version of PancakeBot

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, Maker’s man. Print me a pancake as fast as you can. 

The very first version of the open source PancakeBot was designed way back in 2010 by Miguel Valenzuela. At the time, Valenzuela was inspired by a MAKE: Magazine feature on a British designer who devised a Pancake Stamping Machine using LEGO. Since then, the machine has become a Maker sensation, claiming the hearts and stomachs of everyone.


The original bot was simply a CNC machine for a kitchen table, comprised of LEGO bricks, Mindstorms and a pair of ketchup bottles for the batter. As you can imagine with any automated device whipping up tasty treats, the initial video of Valenzuela’s PancakeBot 1.0 went viral, which encouraged the Maker to continue tinkering with the design.

The next iteration of the platform – which debuted at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014 – consisted of an acrylic body packed with Adafruit motor shields, an Arduino Mega (ATmega1280), two stepper motors, a pair of belt drives and a vacuum pump. The improved PancakeBot could be programmed to draw out any flapjack design, ranging from an Eiffel Tower to a portrait of the U.S. President. The printer simply squirted batter onto a hotplate so that, once the pancakes are done extruding, they’re ready to eat.


Though wildly-popular among Makers, earlier models were never made available for sale. However, the PancakeBot team has now partnered with StoreBound to bring the robotic contraption to market via Kickstarter.

How it works is pretty straightforward: Simply think of a design and trace the image. The artwork files are stored on an SD card and loaded onto the machine. Upon hitting print, the PancakeBot begins to dispense the flapjack by drawing its outline first, followed by filling in the rest. Those not artistically-gifted can take comfort in knowing that the device also comes preprogrammed with a number of pictures.

The ATmega2560 based breakfast bot uses a proprietary system to extrude the ingredients as it glides over the griddle, while the combination of compressed air, a special vacuum and an onboard interface helps control batter flow.


“Our included user-friendly software allows you to design your own pancake by tracing any image right on your computer. From your favorite piece of art or character, a child’s drawing, a product image or your company or team logo, the software creates the file and the PancakeBot does the rest. As the artist, you control what lines are drawn first, which in turn lets you determine the shading of the pancake.

Not only for in-home fun, Valenzuela notes that hotels, theme parks, restaurants and other dining establishments can benefit tremendously from PancakeBot as well. Through some creatively-branded breakfast food, businesses can leave a lasting impression on customers, while satisfying their appetites along the way. Who knows? Perhaps Disney will one day complement its Mickey waffles with some Goofy pancakes…

Interested in an on-demand pancake printer for your home? Hurry over to its official Kickstarter page, where PancakeBot is currently seeking $50,000. Delivery is expected to begin in July 2015. Need some syrup? Well, if previous Maker Faires serve as any indication, a corresponding automated maple syrup dispenser may not be too far away! Want to see what kind of impressive designs Makers have made for breakfast? Find an entire breakdown here!

Video: PancakeBot prints out out Star Wars flapjacks

The force awakens you for breakfast with some 3D-printed pancakes.

As they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So, shouldn’t you start it off right? Why have a boring bowl of cereal or an Eggo waffle when you could have customized pancakes that would impress the likes of Yoda? Norway-based breakfast food enthusiast and Maker Miguel Valenzuela has now paid homage to two of the most iconic Star Wars characters, Boba Fett and R2-D2, using his incredibly-popular PancakeBot.


As previously featured on Bits & Pieces, the latest iteration of the machine is comprised of an acrylic body packed with Adafruit motor shields, an Arduino Mega (ATmega1280), two stepper motors, a pair of belt drives and a vacuum pump. The improved PancakeBot could be programmed to draw out any flapjack design, whether that’s a rocket ship, a Spider Man mask, the Maker Faire robot, or a portrait of President Obama. The printer simply squirts batter onto a hotplate so that, once the pancakes are done extruding, they’re ready to eat.

Now, Valenzuela has developed a new version of the printer and has partnered with StoreBound to bring PancakeBot to kitchens throughout the world via Kickstarter. Stay tuned for the upcoming campaign! In the meantime, watch some fantastic flapjack magic below.

This RepRap 3D printer can play Beethoven

Watch this RepRap 3D printer perform Beethoven’s “Für Elise” using only motor sounds.

If you’ve ever used a 3D printer, you know all too well the distinct sound of the stepper motors as they rotate and change direction. Well, a Maker by the name of DeltaRAP recently decided to change that by modding his Atmel based RepRap 3D printer to emit the harmonic tunes of Beethoven. In fact, his machine could now play the world-renowned “Für Elise” in its entirety.


Inspired by a video of a CNC milling machine making music from its motors, the Maker used g-code commands to convert the printer’s stepper motor movements into exact tonal sounds. After experiencing a few difficulties, DeltaRAP realized that his Rostock printer — which is powered by an Arduino Mega (ATmega1280) — could produce distinct tones after all, by moving the print head vertically. This would allow for a singular tone to play from the device, as it causes all three motors to move in unison.

“Delta style printers don’t rotate one motor if you tell them to move for example X axis by 10mm. The firmware instead recalculates the movement of each motor so the end result is the movement of the head by 10mm on X axis. The only movement that doesn’t have to be divided between all three motors is Z movement. We can use this knowledge to slightly modify the g-code and make [the] Delta printer a music player,” DeltaRAP writes.

Pretty cool, right? You read about the Maker’s entire mod here, and watch it in action below.


This modded 3D printer teleports physical objects

Researchers develop a way to relocate physical objects across distances using destructive scanning, encryption and 3D printing.

The catchphrase “Beam me up, Scotty” made its way into pop culture in the late 1960s thanks to the debut of the incredibly-popular Star Trek series. It originated from the command Captain Kirk gives his chief engineer, Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, when he needs to be transported back to the Starship Enterprise. And while quantum teleportation of data is now a realistic possibility, unfortunately apparating from place to place Harry Potter-style is not… yet.


Well, a team of Hasso Plattner Institute researchers in Brandenburg, Germany may have developed the next best thing: a machine capable of teleporting inanimate physical objects across a distance. The device itself, aptly dubbed Scotty, consists of an off-the-shelf 3D printer, like an ATmega1280 powered MakerBot, which the team had extended to include a 3-axis milling machine, a camera, and a microcontroller for encryption/decryption and transmission. The unit is driven by a Raspberry Pi, while Arduino Uno (ATmega328) handles the milling machine.


The process is comprised of destructive scanning, encryption and 3D printing. How it works is relatively simple: Users place an object into the sender unit, enter the address of a receiver unit, and press the teleport button. The sender unit digitizes the original object layer-by-layer by shaving off material using its milling machine, capturing a photo using the built-in camera, encrypts the layer using the public key of the receiver, and transmits it. The receiving unit then decrypts the layer in real-time and immediately begins the printing process. What this means is that users will see the object appear layer-by-layer on the receiver side as it disappears layer-by-layer at the sender’s side.


“Scotty is different from previous systems that copy physical objects, as its destruction and encryption mechanism guarantees that only one copy of the object exists at a time,” one of the project’s co-creators Stefanie Mueller explains.

Although the prototype is limited to single-material plastic objects, it allows the team to present a pair of application scenarios: Scotty can help preserve the uniqueness and emotional value of physical objects shared between friends, and Scotty can address some of the licensing issues involved in fast electronic delivery of physical goods.


“In the future, there will be laws enacted preventing patented designs from being shared; however, what if you simply wanted to transfer ownership of that design/object? This is where Scotty comes into play,” 3DPrint.com notes. “Not only is Scotty able to more thoroughly scan the interior of an object via a destructive scanning process, but at the same time that it’s destroying the original artifact a copy is being sent to another location and encrypted to ensure that this copy is only accessible at the receiving computer, where it can then be refabricated via a 3D printer.”

If you’re intrigued like us, you can find a much more in-depth explanation of the project, its technical details and applications here.

This electronic mystery box is full of puzzles

What’s better than the build up of anticipation and excitement before unboxing a present? Originally conceived as a birthday gift, Maker Raffael Herrmann has devised an electronic puzzle box that will take a little longer than usual to open. Though the Captain Herrmano Mystery Box contains an actual present inside, the recipient must first go through a series of puzzles. Beat that, wrapping paper!


“The box is a so-called ‘reverse geocaching puzzle.’ The inspiration for this project was a reverse geocaching box built in 2009 by Mikael Hart. Unlike Mikael’s version of the box, it’s not enough to simply find and visit the target place. To unlock the treasure of Captain Herrmano, the player has to solve more tasks,” Herrmann writes.

The length of the gameplay is contingent upon how quickly the gift recipient, or player, solves the riddles. Theoretically, one could finish it within an hour or two.


Inside its trunk-like housing, the project is controlled by an Arduino Mega (ATmega1280) and hooked up to several components, including a temperature sensor, a GPS receiver, a carbon monoxide sensor, an ultrasonic sensor, a speaker, a display, a mini-SD card, and a servo. The box also is equipped with a numeric keypad and an LCD screen for user input and output.


Why a GPS unit or CO sensor? Some of the puzzles require outside interaction in order to advance to the next level, such as blowing tobacco smoke into a tube, carrying the box several meters above sea level and even grabbing a telephone. Others, however, simply command players to enter answers to numeric problems and sending emails with the word “secret.” You can watch it all in action below!

Tired of someone opening your presents too quickly? Not a huge fan of wrapping paper? You’ll want to read about the Maker’s entire build here.