Tag Archives: DIY Makers

Transforming fashion with tech

17-year-old Ella DiGregorio recently introduced a line of “Transforming Beauty” gowns that literally change from long skirts to short with the touch of a button.

As Mari Grigaliunas of MySuburbanLife reports, DiGregorio’s sample dress uses threads that run from the bottom hem to the waist of the garment to shorten the skirt when she pushes the button of an Atmel-based Arduino board hidden in the back of the dress.

Additional designs sketched by the teen arrange the threads in various designs to create completely different looks including a high-low skirt, a layered look and an Angelina Jolie inspired slit that disappears.

“I really like the idea of technology and fashion. There’s so many possibilities.” DiGregorio said.

“I’m kind of use to hiding things in clothing,”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, quite a lot of wearable activity is currently centered around companies like Arduino and Adafruit. Both offer wearable electronic platforms powered by versatile Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs).

“Building electronics with your hands is certainly a fun brain exercise, but adding crafting into the mix really stretches your creativity,” says Becky Stern, Adafruit’s director of wearable electronics.

“Sewing is fun and relaxing, and adorning a plush toy, prom dress, or hat with a circuit of tiny parts can make you feel like you’re some kind of futuristic fashion designer. Playing with sensors and conductive textiles breaks electronics out of their hard shells and makes them more relatable.”

Just like their IoT DIY Maker counterparts, the soft electronics community has adapted various Atmel-powered platforms specifically for wearables, including the Arduino Lilypad (ATmega328V) (developed by MIT Media Lab professor Leah Buechley) and Adafruit’s very own Flora (ATmega32u4), which can be easily daisy chained with various sensors for GPS, motion and light.

Interested in learning more? You can check out our wearables article archives here.

ToyFabb 3D online shop opens virtual doors

ToyFabb – a specialized online market for 3D printed  toys – has opened its virtual doors for DIY Makers, hobbyists and professional designers.


According to ToyFabb rep Alex Scmid, the online shop offers a wide variety of services for beginners and expert designers alike, all while acting as a secure marketplace to connect Makers with consumers.

“Hobby and professional designers are provided with free accounts to present and sell their creations,” he explained.

“[Meanwhile], consumers can purchase the 3D toy designs offered and produce them with their 3D printers.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, analysts at Canalys say the 3D printing market will hit $16.2 billion by 2018 – representing an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45.7% from 2013 to 2018.

“This is a market with enormous growth potential now that the main barriers to up-take are being addressed. Advances in technology are yielding faster print times and enabling objects to be printed in greater combinations of materials, colors and finishes,” Canalys senior analyst Tim Shepherd confirmed.

“Crucially, prices are also falling, making the technology an increasingly feasible option for a broad variety of enterprise and consumer uses, restricted only by computer aided design competencies and printer availability – both of which are set to improve significantly.”

DIY Makers inspire Silicon Valley

Writing for Reuters, Noel Randewich notes that Silicon Valley was originally made famous by hard-scrabble hackers and modders building radios, microchips and other devices.

“Now, a proliferation of high-tech but affordable manufacturing tools and new sources of funding are empowering a [new] generation of handy entrepreneurs, [while] laying the foundation for a hardware renaissance,” he explains.

Designers work at computer stations at TechShop in the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco, California April 24, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/ROBERT GALBRAITH

“[The] Maker movement [is] sweeping northern California and, in a smaller way, Europe and other countries. Renewed interest in tinkering with objects – versus apps or software – is attracting more money from investors and fostering a growing number of workshops, where aspiring inventors can get their hands on computerized milling machines and other high-end tools.”

Ann Miura-Ko, a self-professed tinkerer and partner at Floodgate, tells Reuters she believes nostalgia for the Valley days of yore plays a key role in the Maker boom.

“Just the same way you have kids who have been coding for 10 years at the age of 16, you’re going to see kids who have been making stuff for 10 years at the age of 16. If you see that, you’ll know we’re ready for the Mark Zuckerberg of hardware.”

As Randewich points out, the growing wave of do-it-yourselfers may very well hold the key to manufacturing innovation.

“Hardware is catching up to the open-source revolution, with common standards and a culture that encourages the sharing of designs and building blocks that save inventors the time and expense of reinventing the wheel,” he writes.

“Take the palm-sized [Atmel-powered] Arduino, ubiquitous in the Maker Movement. The roughly $20 item was developed for students, offering low price and relatively easy programming. Arduino lets do-it-yourselfers snap together and program interchangeable components such as GPS chips and motor controllers to run everything from robots to cocktail mixers.”

Meanwhile, Christine Furstoss of General Electric says products of the do-it-yourself movement – improved 3D printing, laser cutters, water jets and other tools – will help the United States safeguard and extend its lead in advanced manufacturing.

“We’re proud of our manufacturing heritage, but we don’t invent everything… The spirit and tools of the Maker Movement are something we want to engage with,” she concludes.

The full text of “Do-it-yourselfers Inspire Hardware Renaissance in Silicon Valley” by Noel Randewich is available on Reuters here.

From 3D printing to the factory floor

MIT’s Professional Education department has officially added “Additive Manufacturing: From 3D Printing to the Factory Floor” to its Short Programs list.

The course is targeted at manufacturing and design engineers, as well as professionals seeking a full MIT experience in a condensed timeframe.

“Additive Manufacturing: From 3D Printing to the Factory Floor” is scheduled for July 21 – 25 on MIT’s campus in Cambridge, Mass. and will be taught by John Hart, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Mitsui Career Development Chair. 

Enrollment is now open to qualifying professionals from the US and abroad via MIT’s Professional Education website.

“[The course] will focus on a comprehensive overview of additive manufacturing spanning from fundamentals to applications and technology trends,” said Hart.

“Additive manufacturing covers many application areas including aerospace components, electronics, medical devices, architectural designs and consumer products. Participants will take part in lab sessions that will provide a hands-on experience with a variety of state-of-the-art desktop 3D printers.”

3D printing, once considered the sole the purview of DIY Makers and professional engineers, has clearly entered a new and important stage for the masses. Indeed, analysts at Juniper Research predict sales of consumer 3D printers will increase from around 44,000 in 2014 to over 1 million units by 2018.

 Meanwhile, analysts at Wohlers Associates project a significant increase in the sales of 3D-printing products and services from $2.2 billion in 2012 to approximately $6 billion in 2017.

“The consumerization of 3D printing has brought about all sorts of possibilities for businesses,” said Adam Thilthorpe, director of professionalism at the Chartered Institute of IT (BCS). “Its biggest selling point is the ability to design and create products, or even a single product to highly specific demands.”

Yes, open source hardware is taking flight!

Writing for OpenSource.com, Jason Baker of Red Hat notes that one of the best open source drone communities he’s come across is DIY drones – a site that offers forums, videos and succinct how-tos, along with an online store selling kits and components.

“DIY drones, among other things, is the host of the [Atmel-based] Ardupilot project, an Arduino-based system to help you get off the ground with a hardware, software, and firmware solution for flying nearly anything,” Baker explains.

Mustang P-47D. Image Credit: Aaron Manee, DIYDrones.com

“Versions exist for everything from fixed-wing aircraft to copters with nearly any number of propellors, and even a version for rovers for land-lovers not quite ready to take flight.”

As Baker notes, quadcopters and related vehicles are great if you want to control a flight that can be measured in meters.

“But what if you want to touch the edge of space? Not surprisingly, there’s open hardware for that too. Two of your best options for flying a little bit higher on a consumer budget are balloons and hobbyist rockets,” he says.

Image Credit: Wilfred Swinkels, DIYDrones.com

“There are plenty of instructions out there for you to try re-creating this feat on your own. Some require advanced hardware skills, but what sensors and what tracking system you include are as much a matter of your own skills and interests as anything else.”

According to Baker, open source model rocketry might be another platform of choice for DIY Makers and hobbyists, as it offers fairly easy entry and re-entry options.

“It’s an exciting time for open source flight. Even the US miliitary has recently made a decision to open source some of the work they are doing, in coordination with the Open Source Software Institute,” Baker adds. “Whether you’re an open hardware pro, or someone like me who is just getting started, there are plenty of options for diving in.”

Interested in learning more? The full text of “Open Source Hardware takes Flight” can be read here on OpenSource.com, while the DIY Drones homepage can be accessed here. Readers may also want to check out our recent article on the PAVA 9, a sleek ATmega328P-based tracker.

ATmega328P mods this console controller

Marcel Smith has modded and tricked-out a PS3 dualshock controller using an ATmega328P microcontroller (MCU).

Additional key components and features include:

  • Supports Arduino bootloader
Programmable via USB
  • Dual force feedback
  • 2.4GHz 60mW Xbee pro module (optional)
  • 2.4GHz Wi-Fi module (optional)
  • Low profile pinheader
  • Wireless module configuration via USB port
  • Open hardware/software
15 digital buttons
  • Two analog triggers
, two analog joysticks
  • 3.7V Lipo battery
  • USB auto battery charge
  • Borderline 0uA standby current

The modded device – which recently surfaced on Indiegogo – is aimed at DIY Makers and hobbyists interested in a versatile remote control platform.

“You can use and program the controller for robotics, RC cars, planes, helicopters, drones, boats, hovercrafts and FPV,” Smith explained.

“The controller uses an ATmega328P, the same as on the Arduino Uno. This makes it easy to adapt the Arduino platform on the controller. You can upload your sketches via the USB port. The hardware and software is open for everyone, this makes it possible to program your own functionality into the controller.”

Makers can also directly configure the Xbee/Wi-Fi module via USB using X-CTU by simply setting the UART software switch in the right direction.

“The controller sends serial messages to the USB port, so even without wireless module it is possible to control something like a game on your computer with the controller (force feedback),” Smith added.

Interested in learning more about the Atmel-powered modded controller? You can check out the project’s official Indiegogo page here.

3D printing to hit $5 billion by 2017

World demand for 3D printing is projected to rise more than 20 percent per year, ultimately hitting $5 billion in 2017. While professional uses such as design and prototyping will continue to account for the majority of demand, the most rapid growth will be seen in production and consumer applications.

According to a new report published by the Freedonia Group, 3D printers will increasingly be utilized to manufacture direct production parts and finished goods in a wide variety of applications.

 In the consumer segment, projected price drops in desktop 3D printers (aided by upcoming expiration of patents) will prompt purchases by hobbyists and DIY Makers. Gains will also be driven by growing awareness and interest in 3D printing technologies, while increased adoption of additive production technologies is expected as 3D printing speeds and material quality improves.

In addition, above-average growth is predicted for printing materials, with the rapidly expanding installed base of 3D printers fueling related materials consumption. Plastics such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polylactic acid (PLA) and nylon were the first types of materials used in 3D printing, remaining the simplest to work with. 

Plastics will continue to account for the majority of materials demand, although faster growth is projected for metals, based on their greater strength and resistance, as well as rapid gains in markets such as aerospace.

Unsurprisingly, some of the fastest growth will be seen in the medical and dental market. Other leading segments for 3D printing products include consumer products (e.g., jewelry, toys, fashion, consumer electronics), automotive and aerospace, with the latter expected to experience above-average growth. 

In terms of geographic growth, the US will remain by far the largest national 3D printing market in the world – accounting for approximately 42 percent of global sales in 2017. In developed areas such as the US and Western Europe, 3D printing market value will be supported by the growing presence of metal-based 3D printers for the production of finished parts, as such systems are significantly more expensive than plastics-based 3D printing systems.

It is important to emphasize that rapid gains are expected in China, where most applications (especially in large markets such as consumer products manufacturing) center around design, sample testing and prototyping. As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, demand in China will also benefit from significant government funding in academic institutions, science and research centers, as well as manufacturing companies.

Open Informant takes on surveillance in a networked age

Open Informant – powered by an Arduino Pro Mini (Atmel ATmega168) – is a wearable badge with an e-ink display that “attempts to confront the unsettling realities of surveillance in a networked age.”

Designed by the Superflux crew, the device was recently exhibited at the Wearable Futures 2013 Conference.

“Open Informant is [both] a phone app and e-ink badge. The app searches your communications for NSA trigger words and then sends text fragments containing these words to the badge for public display,” a Superflux rep explained in a recent blog post.

“Using the body as an instrument for protest, the badge becomes a means of rendering our own voice visible in an otherwise faceless technological panopticon. By openly displaying what is currently taken by forceful stealth, we question the intrusive forms of mass surveillance adopted by democratic nations on its own citizenry, and in the process, shift the conversation around wearables from being about you and your body as machine, to the culture of machine intelligence and algorithmic monitoring.”

According to the Superflux rep, the aesthetics of the wearable device are purposefully embedded in popular DIY Maker culture to encourage greater adoption and use. As such, all aspects of the badge’s design and construction are available on Github for DIY Makers to use and mod.

It should be noted that the Open Informant was recently featured on the official Arduino blog.

3D-printed metal rocket engine tested in Mojave

Students associated with the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) successfully conducted a hot fire test for a 3D-printed metal rocket engine this past weekend. Dubbed “Tri-D,” the rocket was put through its paces in the Mojave Desert.

“It was a resounding success,” said SEDS President Deepak Atyam. “[We think Tri-D] could be the next step in the development of cheaper propulsion systems and a commercializing of space.”

To build the engine, students used a proprietary design they developed. The engine was primarily financed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. and printed by the Illinois-based GPI Prototype and Manufacturing Services.

According to Atyam, the engine was designed to power the third stage of a rocket carrying several NanoSat-style satellites with a mass of less than a few pounds each.

As such, the engine measures approximately 6-7 inches in length and weighs about 10 lbs. Made of cobalt and chromium (a high-grade alloy), the rocket is designed to generate 200 lbs of thrust running on kerosene and liquid oxygen.

Tri-D cost about $6,800 to manufacture, $5,000 of which was contributed by NASA. The rest was raised via student-run fundraisers.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the meteoric rise of 3D printing has paved the way for a new generation of Internet entrepreneurs, Makers and do-it-yourself (DIY) manufacturers. So it comes as little surprise that the lucrative 3D printing industry is on track to be worth a staggering $3 billion by 2016.

Of course, the Maker Movement has been well acquainted with Atmel-powered 3D printers like MakerBot and RepRap for some time now. However, 3D printing recently entered a new and important stage in a number of spaces including the medical sphere, architectural arena, science lab and even on the battlefield.

Atmel-powered Moti makes it easy to build robots

Created by Nicholas Stedman, Rob King and Varun Vachhar, the Atmel-powered Moti is a comprehensive platform (hardware and software) for DIY Makers that helps simplify the process of building and controlling robots.

“Robotics is [sometimes] more complex than it needs to be, so we created Moti to make it easy,” Stedman explained. “Just attach your Moti smart motors to anything add power and immediately control it from a phone, tablet or any computer. Presto, instant robot! At the same time, Moti is advanced enough to satisfy even hardcore engineers and developers.”

On the hardware side, Moti features a Smart Motor, which Stedman describes as an “ideal servo” with a built-in Arduino-compatible microcontroller (Atmel ATmega328p), on-board sensors, continuous rotation and encoding, I/O pins for adding electronics, a web-API, instant networking and control over Bluetooth.

“We basically packed Moti full of sensors and a programmable microcontroller (Atmel ATmega328p), so you can attach electronics right to the motor,” he continued. “We also solved a major annoyance, the angle limits of servos. Moti turns continuously and seeks position…so you can tell it to go 10.5 rotations and it will stop on a dime. [Plus], we created a Bluetooth shield so you can control your robot wirelessly.”

In terms of software, Stedman told Bits & Pieces “the optiboot bootloader is loaded on and we have custom firmware programmed using the Arduino API on there as well.” In addition, Moti boasts a web-based API so Makers can more easily develop customized websites and apps to control robots.

“We picture new kinds of video games, visualizations and tutorials that integrate with real world contraptions… Moti allows you to start quickly and then take it any direction you want. Basically, it’s the kind of motor I wish I had 10 years ago, and the kind of motor that can help robotics finally move from industry into everyday life,” Stedman added.

Interested in learning more about Moti? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here.