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Laser Etching at TechShop

I Laser Etched Daleks and Patapons into a Moleskine notebook for my daughter last night. Epilog 45 W Laser (raster, p25, s50) at TechShop.

Here’s a photo!

TechShop – Laser Cutter

TechShop was fun. Learned how to operate the Laser Cutter for cutting, etching and scoring.


Basic covered safety, equipment and basic technique. We learned how to use Corel Draw and the “printer” driver that sends instructions to the cutter. We learned how to start and stop jobs and signs to look for that might indicate a bad cut or a fire hazard. We also learned how to set the focus (AUTO FOCUS IS BAD). The class was 2 hours long and the instructor, Laura, answered tons of questions. Of particular interest was learning which materials work best with this laser.

Advanced was about an hour long. We covered a lot of Q&A as well as tips and tricks to make it easier to find the right settings (speed, power) for a given material.

The classes were great and the instructor was top notch.


The machine is an Epilog Helix Laser Cutter. It’s 45 watts. (Actually, there are two of them.)

The software is CorelDraw X3.

My Take

Patapon: I normally can’t stand rhythm games, but this one is a ton of fun.

iPhone SDK: Finally! Looks great to me, but I am not happy about the ‘no background apps’ policy. I’d like 3rd party chat apps and feed readers to be able to alert me from the background. Hopefully, background capabilities are coming.

OS X Leopard’s “Alex” voice: Text to speech is normally pretty crappy. I’m glad Apple invested in a voice that speaks clearly, even if it does require 700MB of disk space!! I’m working on a simple OS X app that connects to Google Reader and reads articles aloud.

Jericho: Canceled AGAIN? Really? At least there’s still Torchwood, Doctor Who, Lost, BSG and Smallville (major spoilers in this week’s promo – be careful).

Arduino: I’m having a lot of fun with mine. An Arduino plus a series of BlinkMs is a great combination.

MacBook Air: I’ve had mine for 2 months and I love it. The combination of mobility, screen size and performance it provides makes it much more useful than the notebooks, umpcs, pdas and internet tablets I’ve used in the past. Meanwhile, the flexibility, usability and safety provided by OS X gives this machine a huge advantage over similar Windows-based laptops. It’s my main computer, now.

WaterField’s Racer-X Laptop Case: The Racer-X is perfect for me. Not too big, not too small. It stays upright do to a solid rectangular bottom, which is really nice – it makes it a little heavier but it’s worth knowing it’s not going to tip over. The Air is in a zippered into a lightly padded, secure pocket. The other zippered pocket is big enough to hold the charger, my cradlepoint PHS, a usb hub, a medium sized ora book or my Kindle, a tiny usb HD (for backups and extra storage) and some other misc stuff. It’s small enough that I have to think about what I want to keep in it, but not so small that I have to leave anything important behind. I bought the black version with leather handles. The build quality is terrific and I can see it lasting for a LONG time.


I’m heading back to TechShop tomorrow. It’ll be my first visit since the Grand Opening and I’m looking forward to it.

I’ll be there at 6pm for the Basic Laser Cutting class and I’m staying for the 8pm Advanced class.

Now, if I can find some Patapon vector art…


I’ve been playing with a series of BlinkMs hooked up to an Arduino and I am impressed.

Knight Rider Light Bar

UPDATE (2/17/08): Added more videos to the bottom of this post.

UPDATE (2/17/08): Code is available here.

I’m making a Knight Rider (KITT) Light Bar to celebrate the premier of the new Knight Rider Made-For-TV Movie (tomorrow night on NBC). I’m using an Arduino Diecimila board and 18 LEDs.

Here’s a picture from a few hours ago. The LEDs are now much more aligned and some of the wiring has since been cleaned up, but the photo will give you the general idea.

Materials (so far): FedEx box (temporary; looking for a suitable plastic container) with black construction paper for the housing. Arduino, 18 LEDs (wired to 9 output pins on the arduino – two LEDs in parallel per pin), 9 75 ohm resistors (note, 75 is not the right value, but they were the closest I had). The faceplate is made of cardboard, tissue paper (light diffusion) and some cheap car-window-sun-shade-material I found at Target.

Here’s what it looks like in action (this vid is from the afternoon, before the housing and faceplate were ready):

If you haven’t already, consider reading this article about the guys who built the real thing!

New Video: In the box, during daylight.

New Video: Out of the box.

New Video: Arduino and wiring.

Congrats to Bunnie and the Chumby Team!

Chumby has been shipping for a while now and people seem to love it! I love that hacked Chumbies are already starting to roll in!!

Congrats, Bunnie!

More Photos At Flickr