Tag Archives: open source

Solar-OSE is an open source steam generator

One team of Makers have developed a way to create clean, free heat or steam by harnessing the power of the sun.

Although using solar energy to create steam isn’t exactly a groundbreaking idea, one team of French Makers has its sights set on doing things a little bit different. Created as part of the Open Source Écologie initiative, Solar-OSE is a linear Fresnel reflector that collects clean and inexhaustible energy from the sun to generate heat up to 480°F (250 °C) and eventually vaporize.


Ideally, its reduced size lends itself to applications throughout smaller industries as well as by folks like farmers and artisans. Solar-OSE is designed specifically to power industrial and craft processes such as cooking, sterilization, pasteurization, extraction of essential oils, water purification and heating, to name just a few.

Impressively, the project only takes about a week to be assembled, from start to finish, by a group of four individuals at a cost of no more than $2,200.


Solar-OSE is comprised of multiple mirror strips at the base of its structure, each controlled by an Arduino, to reflect rays onto a central pipe filled with water. What’s more, it can automatically track the sun and ensure that the maximum amount of energy is being captured.

The solar heat energy can be used directly without any conversion, thus allowing a very high energy efficiency. By combining a motor to the Solar-OSE, it could also be used for electric cogeneration, refrigeration and compressed air.


“We dream of a near future where a large part of current industrial production would be performed locally, using renewable energy. Today, heat represents two thirds of the total energy needs of the European industry market. Our Solar-OSE therefore concerns many production processes currently consuming fossil fuels,” its creators explain.

Solar-OSE was recently demonstrated at POC21 — an eco-hacking conference held inside a French castle — and its build process has been made available in an exhaustive step-by-step tutorial.

[h/t MAKE:]

Gesto allows you to use any part of your body as a controller

Gesto is an open source kit for gesture recognition, motion patterns and muscle analysis.

When it comes to user interfaces for today’s devices, there are two words that every tech enthusiast loves to hear: Minority Report. The concept of gesture control was made popular back in 2002 during Steven Spielberg’s film, which featured Tom Cruise’s character navigating a gestural interface with sensor-embedded gloves on a giant transparent screen. Fast forward several years and innovations like Thalmic Labs’ Myo armband are making that sci-fi-like technology a reality. With aspirations of bringing that capability to the masses, one Portuguese startup led by Maker Ricardo Santos has developed an open source board kit for gesture recognition built around an ATmega1284P MCU. Unlike other systems which require the use of cameras and calibrations, the aptly named Gesto is able to transform any part of the human body into a controller.


Once attached to the body, the AVR based system works by reading a user’s muscle activity and analyzing bio-signals in real-time. This enables a user to control a wide range of electronic devices through wave and pinch gestures, interact with computer-based applications by drawing letters, numbers and figures in thin air, not to mention turn any surface into a touch interface by simply applying finger pressure. And that’s just the arm.

Gesto is capable of recognizing movement patterns from any part of the body, such as a foot, leg or torso, and relaying these signals instantaneously. This is accomplished through the combination of EMG muscle sensors and three-axis accelerometers. Unlike other solutions on the market, this kit is not influenced by the environment nor does it require having to raise a hand in front of a camera. Instead, Gesto can be implemented in the dark, tight spaces and pretty much anywhere else without any problems. The boards don’t need ground electrodes either, meaning less cables and noise.


The platform employs the same algorithm, no matter the gesture, letting a user carry out actions that were never before possible, whether that’s turning a table surface into a music machine or commanding an entertainment center in a more intuitive manner.

For its crowdfunding debut, Gesto is available in two separate versions: an out-of-the-box ready kit for starters (Caelum) and a fully-configurable dev kit (Stella) for more experienced inventors. Both units are based on an EMG circuit and an ATmega1284P yet boast much different form factors — Caelum measures in at 40mm x 40mm, while Stella a bit smaller at 35mm x 20mm.


Caelum comes with eight reusable electrodes, cables, a 3.7V rechargeable battery, a microUSB cable and an elastomeric band, and connects to an accompanying mobile app via Bluetooth, enabling a user to create their own gestures easily without programming. 3D printable designs for the modular band will also be made available, allowing Makers to utilize Gesto throughout various parts of the body. Meanwhile, Stella is an Arduino-compatible, fully-configurable kit comprised of a tinier board, 16 disposable electrodes and cables for connection.

“From Stella you get the raw muscle data by SPI communication. It’s like an external sensor that you can connect to an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, for example. We provide all you need to start doing gesture recognition and muscle analysis,” the team writes. “Here the possibilities are endless, because you are not limited to Bluetooth connectivity! Use Wi-Fi or IR, combined muscle data with other sensors.”


What’s more, each Gesto unit has four bipolar muscle channels, and provides Makers will all of the necessary tools to do conduct muscle analysis: software filters, machine learning algorithms, feature extraction, data compression and integration, all of which made available in various languages including Matlab, C, Python, Java.

“Gesto provides free software that you usually find on expensive platforms,” its creators add. “We eliminated the ground electrode by creating a virtual ground. This means you can measure muscle activity in any part of the body without extra cables and electrodes.”

Intrigued? Head over to Gesto’s crowdfunding page, where the startup is currently seeking $75,000. Delivery is scheduled for March 2016.

The Autonomo lets you easily connect your IoT devices outdoors

SODAQ is bringing the Internet of Things outdoors with its new matchbox-sized, solar-powered board. 

It’s safe to say that a vast majority of Kickstarter projects focused around the M2M and IoT space are seemingly designed with indoor connectivity in mind. As a result, Makers are often challenged with finding a decent solution to power their smart devices that can be easily and reliability implemented outdoors. Cognizant of this, SODAQ has developed a next-generation, Arduino-comaptible board that is capable of recording data and triggering actions in any environment — whether it’s in a rural area, on the beach or throughout the house.


If the name of the Dutch startup sounds familiar, that’s because the team had launched an incredibly successful crowdfunding campaign back in 2013 for their LEGO-like, plug and play prototyping board. With an ATmega328P as its brain, the multi-feature microprocessor enabled both Makers and engineers to easily connect a wide variety of sensors and devices to the Internet.


Back again with a new matchbox-sized board, Autonomo is built around an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 MCU and is equipped with a Bee Socket that can host up to 10 different communication modules, including Wi-Fi, GPRS, 3G, LoRa, SIGFOX and Bluetooth to name a few. Given its Cortex M0+ 32-bit core, the unit can do just about as much as a Raspberry Pi while consuming 100 times less energy. Impressively, the board can be powered by a solar panel no larger than a smartphone, thereby allowing it to become self-sufficient and autonomous, hence its name.

“The new M0+ processor packs computing power which is comparable to the first Mac. It will make you wonder why you ever used anything else. We also have created a Grove shield for you to use with all of your favorite Grove modules (sensors and actuators),” the team writes.


With all of the data services available online today, the Autonomo comes with a simple set of visual programming tools that will help Makers easily upload their codes to any gadget. What’s more is that the focus lies on outdoor applications that run efficiently and on extremely low power. Meaning, if a user wants to devise their own application, such as a solar radiation alert, SODAQ has made a plethora of open source example code readily accessible. Next to that there is a complete library to let FIWARE developers upload data to the Orion context broker.


Looking forward to tinkering around and bringing your hacks to the most remote corners of the planet? Neither can the crew at SODAQ. In order to bring their technology to the masses, its creators have launched Autonomo on Kickstarter with aspirations of garnering $11,380. Delivery is slated for October 2015.

SeraMaker is an open-source, Arduino-powered 3D printer

This open-source 3D printer was inspired by the RepRap Prusa Mendel i2. 

The brainchild of an Italian Maker “SebaSera94” as part of his a project at the Istituto D’Istruzione Superiore Giacomo Floriani, SeraMaker is a RepRap-inspired 3D printer.


Based on the Prusa Mendal i2, this FDM machine is comprised of six pieces of medium-density fiberboard ranging in thickness from five millimeters for the base to 12 millimeters for the casing. The windows of the printer are fixed from the inside with the exception of the front, which is attached via hinges to allow for opening as well as magnets and a metal plate located behind the handle for closure.

Like with a vast majority of these open-source units, an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) and RAMPS 1.4 serve as the brains of the operation, while stepper motors are tasked with generating the motion axes with precision. Five motors are embedded inside the device in total: two to actuate the X and Y axes, two for the Z axis and one to drive the filament through the extruder. In terms of firmware, the printer was configured using Marlin.


SeraMaker boasts a 20cm x 20cm bed which uses imprinted copper coil to act as electrical resistance and heat the print surface. Four LED lamps provide lighting for the machine, three of which shine onto the printing plane from various angles while the other illuminates SeraMaker’s name tag.

All of the electronic components, including the ATX power supply and junction box, are housed inside the lower portion of the structure. There also lies the ATmega2560, control motors, a display to access its navigation menu, a relay to separate the power circuit of the heating plate, a card to control LEDs and a small 50mm fan for ventilation.


“To the rear panel are fixed two connectors and as many switches,” SebaSera94 adds. “The USB connector is an extension of the same port of the Arduino board to allow rapid access to a computer while the power supply is connected to the 230V AC via the connector, which is connected in series with the switch for disconnecting general. The remaining sections switch the lighting circuit from the 12V line.”

Other than the structural and mechanical components, the fiberboard and plexiglass housing, each of the machine’s parts can be 3D-printed. Just head over to its Thingiverse page here.

Eedu is an easy-to-use drone kit for young Makers

Assemble. Code. Fly. It’s as simple as that.

According to Mary Meeker’s 2015 “State of the Internet” presentation, drone shipments are estimated to hit 4.3 million units this year, with consumer drone usage expected to jump 167%. Combine those figures with the hundreds of thousands of Makers looking to begin tinkering with their next DIY project, and well, you have yourself quite the market. Much like a number of educational robotic kits that have been introduced to provide children with basic electronics and programming principles over the years, one Las Vegas startup is looking to take that education from the ground and into the skies.


Inspired by the hands-on learning that goes on inside classrooms, Skyworks Aerial Systems has launched Eedu an easy-to-use drone set that allows young Makers, educators and hobbyists starting out to devise new applications, other than just flying cameras. In order to make this a reality, the team has developed an intuitive platform that gives Makers the canvas they need to design their own UAV. The airborne apparatuses can be quickly pieced together using nothing more than its included parts, and are completely compatible with Arduino shields and other open hardware (littleBits and Seeed Studio).


Once assembled, the drone can be paired with its special robotic development environment (RDE) called Forge. This cloud-based, community-driven software lets users code their vision into a reality, while offering ground control, community interaction and various programming capabilities. What’s nice is that, being open source, Makers can build from existing codes. As soon as an app is completed and compiled onto their Eedu, the DIY copter is ready for the skies.


The drone itself is based on an Intel Edison, which enables programs to be easily created on a full Linux OS and boast enough processing power to develop more advanced apps, and employs an ARM Cortex-M4 running on RTOS for sensor processing, main flight control and to interface with the Edison. Eedu also comes with a set of four brushless motors with standard trapezoidal drive, each powered by megaAVR MCUs. What’s more, the machine features a sensor mounting platform, an Arduino shield port and a quick release battery pack. Crafted with safety in mind, the propellers are extremely lightweight and comprised of soft plastic alongside intelligent speed controllers that automatically disable the rotors whenever something gets in the way.


Beyond that, the team has unveiled a highly-advanced, adaptable flight controller driven by an Atmel | SMART Cortex-M7 MCU. Equipped with all of the electronics required for a drone to take to the sky, LUCI includes four built-in 20Amp brushless speed controllers, an Intel Edison expansion port, a DSMX compatible radio receiver, an optical flow position sensor, GPS and Arduino shield capability. Impressively, she can even be integrated on a number of consumer 250mm sized drones, giving Makers the ability to produce their own LUCI and Forge-powered UAV.


With hopes of granting future Makers and engineers access to the necessary tools for innovation, the team has given its crowdfunding backers the option to purchase a kit for students or entire classrooms.

“More than ever, schools are having a hard time acquiring technology. We passionately believe that students’ accessibility to technology should not be hindered! As such, we are creating a donation fund that will allow us to distribute drones to schools across the nation.”

Intrigued? Fly on over to Eedu’s Kickstarter page, where Skyworks Aerial Systems is currently seeking $100,000. Delivery is expected to begin in December 2015.

HACKberry is an open source, 3D-printed bionic hand

This 3D-printable bionic limb is controlled by a smartphone, powered by camera batteries and based on an Arduino. 

If you sit back and reflect over the past couple of years, it’s truly remarkable how far the world of prosthetics has come thanks to recent advancements in 3D printing and open hardware. These artificial limbs have transcended well beyond the heavy, plastic and metal pieces of yesteryear into lightweight, sci-fi-like accessories that can be easily constructed and controlled in ways never before imagined.


Aside from providing these body-adorned gadgets with futuristic capabilities, what makes the sleek and futuristic prosthetics even more appealing are their price tags — a fraction of the cost of its older and commercial counterparts. With aspirations of accelerating development and increasing accessibility, Japan-based startup exiii has developed an open source bionic hand that is built around an Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4) and myoelectric sensors, uses a smartphone as the brains of its operation and relies upon camera batteries for power. Named HACKberrymost of the device is comprised of 3D-printed components that can be taken apart and swapped out whenever necessary.

“HACKberry is a practical model for daily use created through the cooperation of actual users. Hackberries, which are a species of trees included in the elm family, grow many branches,” exiii writes. “Our goal is to develop an artificial arm that would become the platform upon which developers and artificial arm users from all over the world are able to build as they wish.
The name represents our vision to ‘hack’ at problems, grow branches of joy that reach out to users and enable their ideas and efforts to bear fruit (‘berries’).”


While its newest model may not be ready for sale yet, the limb only took $300 to create. The latest iteration boasts a number improvements compared to its more expensive (and not open source) sibling, the Handoii, which includes a more flexible wrist for various movements, a smaller palm to make it attractive for women to wear, and enhanced compatibility to an assortment of camera batteries. Impressively, what really sets HACKberry apart is that its ductile fingers that can even differentiate between grasping and picking up based on the object, whether that’s turning the page of a magazine, grabbing some nail polish or even tying one’s shoelaces.


Want to learn more? exiii has made all of its files available on GitHub page. This includes printing and source codes for software, as well as all the data for its hand, sensor and battery boards. In the meantime, you can see HACKberry in action below!

Tsunami is making signal generation accessible to everyone

The Tsunami is a powerful and flexible signal generator, analyzer and experimenter’s kit built on the Arduino platform.

With more Makers looking to design and build their own hardware, they are often faced with a difficult choice: either spend hundreds, or even thousands for that matter, on expensive test equipment and development boards or waste time trying to make do with what they can put together on a budget. Fortunately, one London-based startup has come up with solution. The Tsunami is a signal generator and frequency counter based on the highly-popular Arduino platform.


The brainchild of Arachnid Labs, Tsunami combines a versatile signal generator and frequency counter with an ATmega32U4 MCU, thereby making it possible to create sophisticated tools with a few lines of code, or simply load and run a wide variety of pre-written sketches for common tasks. The board’s capabilities also extend well beyond what you’d expect of a typical benchtop tool. Application ideas listed include music synthesis, packet radio modems, and reading and writing classic computer tapes, among countless other educational possibilities.

With Makers in mind, its creators have put quite a bit of effort into empowering the Tsunami to be easy as possible to use, thanks to the extensive Arduino library that covers all of Tsunami’s functions. Generating a sine wave, for instance, is as simple as telling the Tsunami what frequency you want.

“With its wide appeal and easy learning curve, the Arduino IDE was an obvious choice,” explains Arachnid Labs developer Nick Johnson. “And the ATmega MCU provided a familiar environment with the widest possible compatibility with existing code.”


The Tsunami’s most straightforward functions are frequency generation and counting. The Tsunami uses a high accuracy 2.5PPM crystal, which makes it an excellent tool to generate incredibly precise frequencies, in addition to measuring them with phenomenal accuracy. For comparison, a typical “high quality” crystal is between eight and 25 times less accurate, the team reveals.

“With its highly accurate crystal, you can use the Tsunami to generate signals — sine, triangle, and square waves — all the way from DC up to around two megahertz. A versatile analog fron-tend allows you to adjust amplitude from 0V to 6V peak to peak, and DC offset by up to 2V either side of ground,” Johnson adds.

Likewise, the Tsunami can be used to measure signals. The tool is equipped with a high speed comparator tasked with capturing the frequency, a peak detector for quantifying signal amplitude, and a phase detector to detect phase, of course. Each of these facilities work up to nearly eight megahertz.


By connecting the output of the Tsunami to an analog filter or an audio amplifier, and employ the Tsunami’s input to capture what comes out, it’s even possible to measure how it responds at different frequencies. The phase detector senses the phase delay, which means a user can construct bode plots.

“That’s not all you can do with the Tsunami, though. The DDS has built-in support for phase and frequency modulation, and the Tsunami adds on support for amplitude modulation too. With just a few lines of code you can take digital data and modulate it onto an audio or RF signal at any frequency the Tsunami supports, and using the Tsunami’s input features, you can demodulate data.”


For those unfamiliar with DDS, this refers to the process of generating waveforms directly from digital data, and is commonly implemented in applications such as radio communications, test equipment, proximity and motion detection, and audio synthesizers. Unfortunately, many DDS chips come in difficult to solder packages and have complex interfaces. That was until now. Arachnid Labs has provided Makers with an on-board DDS chip and comprehensive libraries and sample applications for use familiar Arduino environment.

Recently, Arduino revealed that the board became the latest member of its growing Arduino At Heart program. At the moment, Tsunami can be found on CrowdSupply, where the team nearly doubled its original $14,785 pledge goal. The first wave of units will ship in August 2015.