Friday, June 22, 2012

PENSA D.I. Wire bender

The D.I. Wire Bender by PENSA llc is an arduino-controlled CNC machine that bends metal wire to produce 2D and 3D shapes - an interesting take on a 3D printer. The D.I. Wire Bender can read vector files, OBJ files, text commands, and coordinates.

This is one of very few low-cost machines I've seen that can do rapid prototyping in metal - and it is open source! The Google Code project page is here. You will need tougher motors if you want to use tougher materials than 1/8" aluminum wire/rod.

I find the D.I. Wire Bender exciting for the following reasons:
  • Rapid Prototyping in Metal is typically expensive; this could be a lot cheaper.
  • CNC Rapid Prototyping is even better, because it removes a few chances for human error
  • If we can do this, we can make a CNC pipe bender - Which would open up doors for rapidly prototyping and manufacturing new vehicle designs. For example, a CNC pipe bender would make it easy for the MakerPlane team to print out structural components for future non-composite aircraft designs.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Print Circuit Boards with a Laser Printer

According to, if you have a Laser Printer, some Printed Circuit Board (PCB) blanks, and a few other easy-to-find items, you can Print your own circuit boards in about 30 minutes.

You can get a detailed step-by-step instructions with pictures and a great bill of materials (and where to buy them if needed) here, via, but here's the gist of it:

  • Design your circuit (here's a directory of free software for that)
  • Print it on photo paper using a laser printer
  • Tape the paper onto a PCB blank
  • Heat-transfer the ink from the paper to the PCB blank
  • Soak the board + paper in cold water
  • Peel off the paper, scrub off remaining paper leaving nothing but toner in the shape of your circuit on the copper surface of the PCB blank
  • Etch off the copper that is not covered by the toner (lots of methods available; soak it in acid, wipe it off with ferric chloride solution)
  • Wipe off the toner with a solvent like acetone, leaving only the copper circuit

The speed and relative simplicity make this a great option for rapid prototyping, and testing new circuit/Open Source Hardware designs prior to production runs.
Lots of variations have been tested on the process above. Tom Gootee talks about his process for it and experiences with various tweaks, like using a clothes iron on the linen setting instead of a laminating tool.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Project Falcon: Free Interactive Wind Tunnel Simulation Software

Project Falcon is wind tunnel simulation software brought to us as a free technology preview by Autodesk Labs. The goal of Project Falcon is to help designers intelligently consider the aerodynamic properties of their designs without first having to learn computational fluid dynamics (CFD). This could be a great thing for vehicle designers.

Windows is the only supported operating system, but the minimum hardware requirements look pretty achievable.

To me, the exciting features of Project Falcon are:
  • Free to download; no Autodesk license required
  • Broadly accessible user-interface (Probably less intimidating than Elmer for your first foray into Aerodynamic design)
  • Easy installation (register with Autodesk, download the project falcon installer, run the installer, double click the icon, then open the STL file you want to check the aerodynamics for)
  • Blog/forum support via Autodesk Labs
  • Users develop an intuitive grasp of aerodynamic principals using Project Falcon's rapid visual feedback in response to design and parameter changes
  • No specialized knowledge required to study the aerodynamic properties of your 3D designs
If anything could motivate me to mess around with Microsoft Windows, it's probably Project Falcon, owing to the 2nd and last bullets on the list.

Here is a brief video introduction to Project Falcon via Autodesk Labs.

One thing the Project Falcon overview page emphasizes is the high speed with which this software calculates and displays results. A prominent complaint in the wind power optimization research papers I've run across is that CFD is computationally expensive and time consuming. So is Project Falcon sacrificing quality for speed? Probably. But this Project Falcon Validation paper shows that Project Falcon at least calculated the the correct coefficients of drag for a sphere, a cube, a cone, and an odd polyhedron that looks like a brick with 3 corners cut off and something small sticking out the bottom. I can't help wondering if Project Falcon has potential as a tool for optimizing the shapes of home-use wind turbine airfoils.

In the Aero Challenge, Local Motors has invited members of its open source vehicle design community to to use Project Falcon to help create a more aerodynamic design for the next Peterbuilt big rig.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Interactive Intro to Aerodynamics/CFD by Local Motors

If you are interested in automotive design and looking to develop a better intuitive grasp of aerodynamics, today is your lucky day.

PeterBuilt is sponsoring a design competition for the next Big Rig via the Local Motors Forge, a place where interested members of the online open source community can go to work and play at vehicle design.

The Local Motors website is encouraging visitors to download Project Falcon, and use it to play around with edgy new Big Rig designs for the Peterbuilt design competition.  Project Falcon is a new and at least temporarily free piece of wind tunnel simulation software that allows for interactive investigation of the aerodynamic performance of designs, and is intended to be used early in the conceptual design phase. Project Falcon reads .STL files, so you have a lot of options for CAD software to model your ideas. The goal is to find a design that will look good and increase fuel economy by achieving greater aerodynamic optimization of the vehicle. The motivation?  10 Awards, and $15,000 in prizes.

The design submission period is June 5th - June 26th.

Here's the video via Local Motors:

Project Falcon may also be a great tool for those of you looking to get into Open Source Aircraft design.

Look out for a future post with more details on Project Falcon software.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Let's Build an Optimization Tool for DIY Wind Power Airfoils

While I absolutely love the DIY accessibility of home wind power generation projects like the Chispito Wind Power Generator, The DIY aviation nut in me is screaming that we could all get significantly more power out of rigs like this if we had an optimization tool that would ask us our motor specs and what the wind is like where we're mounting our generators, then spit out .stl files of the right shape airfoils to get the most power out of the wind. I don't know what percent difference the average builder could expect to see from optimized blades...but based on the research paper linked at the very bottom of this post, I think it would have to be huge. The difference between an aircraft-optimized airfoil and a wind turbine optimized airfoil can be as much as 50% in normal wind conditions, and neither of those airfoils seem to have much in common with the simple   blades we DIY types make out of cut up PVC pipe.

CNC hot wire foam cutting technology is a good start for rapid prototyping custom airfoils based on .stl files. With this technology in play, I could see the production of custom wind generator blades becomming a great little microfactory business.

The past couple times I started to post something along the lines of "Dear Santa or Jesus or open source community members, next I would pretty please like the following open source tool to exist" I found what I wanted in a Google search. The most recent two examples were free, open source computational fluid dynamics code and an inexpensive, open source stereolithography machine.

This time, the closest I have found to an airfoil optimization tool for DIY wind power generation are these research papers:

  • Aerodynamic Shape Optimization of Vertical Axis Wind Turbine Using Differential Evolution: Summarizes the preliminary results of a UT Arlington Aerospace Engineering group's efforts to create an automated airfoil optimization code. Bonus: if you want to learn the basics of wind power theory, read the introduction to this paper. It'll be a great vocab lesson even if math isn't your thing. The group published this paper under the creative commons attribution license...cross your fingers that they will be just as generous with the source code they're working so hard to create.
  • Study of the Performance and Robustness of NREL and NACA Blade for Wind Turbine Applications: This study predicts that major power gains (~10-50% over the wind speed range of 3-9mph) would result from building small home-use wind turbines using the airfoils designed for horizontal axis wind turbines by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) as opposed to the currently common practice of using airfoils NASA designed for aircraft back when the agency was still called NACA. As you can see in table 1 and in figure 3 (click here, scroll down), the NREL and NACA airfoils look almost identical. I suspect that using either type would yield a vast improvement over the current DIY standard of cut up PVC pipe.
The top one looks like a great start...but I'd like to see the open source community run with it and start making better wind turbines.

Friday, June 8, 2012

B9Creator: An Open Source Stereolithography Solution for < 3% of the Price

The B9Creator is an open hardware project brought to us by Michael Joyce.

This Wikipedia article claims that stereolithography machines typically cost in the range of $100,000 to $500,000, and use resin that costs between $80 to $210 per liter. The B9Creator delivers this functionality (rapid prototyping using light to solidify resin) for <3% of the price, conservatively, using resin that costs about ten cents a gram. For $2,375, backers on Kickstarter can get a complete kit that can theoretically be assembled in an afternoon. For $3,375, backers get a fully assembled and calibrated machine.

As you can see in the video below, Michael Joyce, the B9Creator's inventor, is committed to the development of open source software and hardware, and is looking forward to the innovations that will be inspired by his creation.

The B9Creator is offers unusually high resolution for a low cost 3D printer (0.05 - 0.1 mm for the B9 vs. 0.2-0.3 for the Makerbot Replicator). The B9Creator starts by slicing a 3D object data file into a stack of 2D images, and projecting the first 2D image onto a thin layer of photo-initiated polymer resin long enough to cure a .05 - 0.1mm layer, which attaches to the build platform behind it. The B9Creator then moves the build platform to break the bond between the cured resin and the projector window, re-positions the build platform above the projector, and projects the next 2D image. The B9Creator repeats this process until the 2D images have been stacked up to produce the finished 3D object.

The B9Creator can build 3D objects at 12-20 mm/hr independent of the object's density. RepRap project and Makerbot 3D printers use fused deposition methods, wherein plastic is melted, extruded through a small nozzle, and 3D objects are built by fusing melted plastic from the nozzle onto the layer below. Because this method (called Fused Deposition Modeling, FDM) relies on the relatively fixed rate at which plastic is melted and extruded through the nozzle, denser objects take significantly longer to build using FDM than more fluffy ones. The build speed of the B-9 creator is dependent on the layer thickness set by the user, but does not depend on the density of each layer.

This video is from the B9Creator's kickstarter pitch, which as of this writing has more than quadrupled its funding goal and still has over a week to go:

Also via the kickstarter pitch, here is a video showing the B9Creator prototype in action, printing the Metatron:

Have you seen the B9Creator in action?

Tell me about it in the comments! I am especially curious how sturdy the resin objects produced by the B9Creator are, and what, if any, surface prep is required to clean the models of any un-cured resin film.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Plans for a Simple DIY Wind Generator

The Chispito Wind Generator is a small, DIY wind power generator capable of generating 100 Watts in a 30 mph wind. It starts charging a 12-Volt battery in a 7-10 mph wind, and you can build one with the relatively short list of inexpensive parts and tools found here. The Chispito Wind Generator uses an old treadmill motor for the generator.

If your electricity use is average (around 11,500 kWh/year for US households) and you lived somewhere with 30 mph winds 24-7, this thing could provide about 7.5% of your power needs.  Nobody I know lives anywhere that is consistently that windy, but the Chispito Wind Generator could be a fun and educational DIY project in a lot of places. Here is an 80-meter wind resource map of the US that may give you some idea of the wind speeds in your area, although 80 meters is a bit high for a back yard wind generator.

For pictures and build instructions, check out "How to Build a Chispito Wind Generator" page.

You make the blades on this baby using some cut up PVC pipe and sand paper. I love that the tools and materials needed to build these blades are so close to universally accessible. If you follow this blog, bets are probably good that you could finish a significant percentage of this wind power generator project before making a trip to the hardware store.

All that said, the  DIY aviation nut in me is screaming that we need an inexpensive, open-source way to optimize airfoils for domestic-use, DIY wind power generators. Look out for a future post on the huge increases in power generation that can be obtained by using well-optimized airfoils, and my ideas about how we can make such airfoils inexpensive and widely available.

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    Kit Built CNC Mill/3D Printer

    What do you get when you cross a MakerBot, a dremel, and a kit built CNC router from

    A WhiteAnt CNC Mill/3D Printer

    Video stolen from the white ant product page, via

    Although the cost of the WhiteAnt kit strikes me as similar to other open source 3D printer kits, and I already have a Makerbot thing-o-matic in the house, there are a few things that catch my  interest about the idea of building a WhiteAnt:
    • I am a proponent of versatile, low cost manufacturing equipment, and the WhiteAnt looks like a 2 for 1 deal since the user can quickly swap the extruder for a Dremel and have a CNC mill without taking up extra space, or investing the time to build another frame and set up a second set of electronics and software
    • The WhiteAnt frame looks a lot sturdier than the Makerbot
    • Building a WhiteAnt is essentially a practical, guided lab exercise for this textbook on 3D printing in plastic, and I am old school enough to like textbooks and formal labs.
    • produces good videos about how to assemble their various kits. (To see what I mean, you can watch an instructional video on the WhiteAnt Dremel mount assembly here, or the video instructions for connecting the WhiteAnt electronics.)
    The WhiteAnt is built using the arduino, a single-board open source microcontroller, replicatorG, an open source 3D printing program, and the generation4 electronics and tool-head available from

    If the ability to do 3D printing via fused deposition modeling in extruded plastic is unimportant to you, and you need to use a mill more than you want the experience of building your own, you may be better off to sacrifice the cool factor and buy a low-cost mini-mill like this one from It comes fully assembled, has enough torque to mill steel, and has a similar price and x/y/z travel to the White Ant kit.

    Friday, June 1, 2012

    Eureka CNC: A Microfactory for Airplane Parts, Among Other Things

    Eureka CNC is a microfactory that uses a CNC hot wire foam cutter to produce specialty aircraft parts, among other things. According to the Eureka CNC website, the owner, Stephen James, has a (very impressive) day job in the USAF, a family to provide for, and an awesome mental problem called project ADD...and he has still managed to single-handedly produce a wide variety of useful and cost-effective products and build a few airplanes of his own.

    Exciting features of Eureka CNC:
    • The ability to rapidly and precisely turn a 3-D CAD file into a foam airfoil core ready for the next step in the airplane build project (covering it in fiberglass)
    • Extreme versatility and efficiency: products include custom crown molding, race car fairings optimized for structure and Reynolds number, and (most exciting of all) wing cores for a wide variety of home-built composite aircraft including the Long-EZ, Cozy MK III, Cozy MK IV, Berkut, E-Racer, Quickie Q2/Q200 with LS1,
    • Although building it did not sound easy, the Eureka CNC hot wire foam cutter does sound like it's based on technology that is well within the reach of the open source community
    •  Now that there are open source aircraft design projects in the works (click here and scroll down for a list), we will probably soon see rapid prototyping processes like Eureka CNC's make new aircraft design ideas a reality in record time.
    • This technology could be applied to designing, creating, and selling some awesome fiberglass kit car bodies
    I would love to see a higher level of integration between the outputs from conceptual design and mesh creation software like this, computational fluid dynamics optimization codes like this, 3D geometry output files, and affordable CNC rapid prototyping technology like the Eureka CNC hot wire cutter. Anything to shrink the currently huge amount of time between having an aircraft design idea and seeing it in prototype...

    On a side note, I am a happy customer of Eureka CNC. My husband and I bought wing cores from Eureka CNC for our airplane build project, the Cozy MK IV. The average build time for Cozy MK IV projects is around 3000 hours, which amounts to a year and a half of 40-hour work weeks. Today, we are in the neighborhood of 10% done. Stephen James' microfactory-built CNC wing cores saved us a big chunk of time by completing several steps of the build project for us, so maybe that figure is more like 12-15%.

    Tuesday, May 29, 2012

    Elmer: Open Source Finite Element Software

    If you're into science or design engineering, you should probably check out Elmer. Among a host of other great applications, this free, Finland-born software can help you design airplanes, predict the temperature distribution of a heat exchanger, and do your quantum mechanics homework.

    At its core, Elmer is an open source finite element solver of partial differential equations. Development of Elmer began in 1995 as a collaboration between Finnish universities, research institutes and private industry, and was primarily developed by Finland's CSC IT Center for Science. Elmer was released as open source in 2005. According to the Elmer FAQ page, Elmer has hundreds of regular users worldwide and thousands of Elmer test users annually.

    Click here for a 3-minute video introduction to Elmer.

    Elmer processes partial differential equations in a descrete form, and handles coupled systems, non-linearities, and time-dependencies. The Elmer GUI allows the user to either import meshes or create simple ones in a variety of file types, and generates output in .grd, .mesh, and .ep files. The source code of Elmer is written in Fortran 90, C, and C++, and is distributed under the GNU Public License (GPL). The Elmer source code is here on sourceforge.

    Here is a 10-minute Elmer tutorial from Elmer's YouTube Channel.

    Thank you, Finland. It appears that your song needs a new verse.

    Monday, May 28, 2012

    Open Source Aircraft Design Software from NASA

    I hereby retract any complaints I may have recently made about paying taxes.

    The heroes at NASA just gave us some open source aircraft design software called Open VSP (vehicle sketch pad). This open source software is designed to let the  user rapidly create high-fidelity parametric design/structural layout for conceptual aircraft designs, resulting in models that can be processed into formats suitable for engineering analysis. According to the wiki, it's been under development since the early 90's, and J. R. Gloudemans, P.C. Davis, and P.A. Gelhausen presented a publication on the development of VSP at the 34th Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit in January 1996.

    I'm guessing VSP has come a long way since then.

    This ten-minute video introduces some of the features of Open VSP, by building and analysing an SR-71 Blackbird-like model:

    The above video was created by Bill Fredericks, and stolen from the Open VSP Video Tutorial Page, which also contains a handful of more in-depth video tutorial videos created by Ami Patel.

    The Open VSP code repository is on GitHub. The Open VSP wiki is here, and the Open VSP google group is here.

    If you want to get going with some open source aircraft design, click here to visit the Open VSP project website and download the software.

    You can find lots of free resources for open source aircraft design on my aircraft design page.

    Friday, May 25, 2012

    3D Printer for CNC Lost Wax Casting Models

    Low-Cost rapid Prototyping with metals for high-strength applications is possible with Andreas Bastian's open source laser sintering 3D printer. This is a big step for expanding the functionality of open source microfactories, which have been largely limited to ABS and PLA plastics, and photosensitive resins. Andreas Bastian's 3D Printer makes high-fidelity wax models from 3D CAD files, allowing the user to leverage the precise and rapid prototyping capabilities of CNC systems for lost wax casting applications.

    Metal parts created via lost wax casting of printed wax models can be suitable for high strength applications, which strikes me as a first for the DIY microfactory scene. This new design allows the user to draft a part in AutoCAD, then use the resulting .stl file and ReplicatorG to create a GCode file for the printer. The GCode files are sent to the printer's arduino, which has been loaded with custom firmware based on the ultimaker firmware. The arduino transmits instructions to stepper motors and a laser which work together to fuse layers of powdered wax print medium which compose the wax model. Wax models can then be used as the positive for lost wax casting in metal.

    This video is from Andreas Bastian's video page for this project...check out the rest of his videos here.

    In addition to all the great industrial applications, I would be in no way surprised to see this technology adopted by jewelry designers in the very near future. Who could resist using 3D scans of a customer's hand to print up perfect rings and bangles?

    Visit this project's home page!
    This printer was featured by Make Magazine in February 2012.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    3D Printers are Multiplying!

    At the 2012 Bay Area Maker Faire, Make Magazine's blog took pictures of 23 unique 3D printer designs. Unfortunately I have yet to find write-ups!

    As I can find it, I hope to capture information on each of these on my 3D printers page.

    To date, the most complete directory of 3D printers I have found is here, from The director is broken down into the categories of personal 3D printers, commercial 3D printers, 3D printing services, 3D modeling software, free 3D models, and 3D scanners and scanning software.

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    Green Power Science LLC offers Free DIY Solar Power instructions on Youtube

    The folks at GreenPowerScience have provided a free collection of great DIY solar power tutorials.

    You may need engineering chops to want to do this sort of thing, but the GreenPowerScience team seems to break things down in a way that makes an engineering or technology background optional. Here's the example that got me inspired to create my own residential solar power system:

    I am not sold on the idea that solar power can be cost-effective. In the 2nd quarter of 2011, the average cost of residential solar power systems was $6.42 per Watt. I've heard of DIY solar power gurus claiming to achieve $1 per Watt...but I have also read that solar cells alone cost $2.50/Watt, and that the cost of other components adds up fast. When/if I build my own system inspired by the GreenPowerScience team, I hope to document my costs and time investment for a future post. My swag on financial break-even is as follows:

    Divide the initial cost per Watt at installation by 1W x hours/day of sun x (1kW/1000W) x days of sunshine/year x 0.7 to account for reduced generation when sunshine is less direct x $/kWh.  According to my math, the $6.42 per Watt system would take 46 years to pay for itself at 15 cents/kWh. Using the map of average daily solar radiation from could help tighten these numbers a bit.

    Here's an informative post from Michael Bluejay on the cost of electricity, and here is another where he makes the case that (subsidized) solar is affordable. Data from the US Energy Information Administration, show that the average cost per kilowatt hour in the USA is 11.5 cents, with a low of 7.99 cents in Idaho and a high of 28.10 cents in Hawaii.

    It could be an educational, exciting, and productive form of charity/volunteer work to build and install residential photovoltaic power systems for families who are having difficulty making ends meet, instead of making one-time monetary donations. That sort of project could fit well with Christmas in April initiatives like this one, or Habitat for Humanity.

    Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    Can we Make Science Cheaper by Crowd-Sourcing Experiments?

    I admit that crowd sourcing science experiments sounds a little risky.  Since it's difficult to be fired from a job you do for free, contributors to crowd-sourced science experiments would have less incentive to do precise work or to keep their paradigms and biases from influencing the results they observe and report. Crowd sourcing science could certainly introduce unexpected and undocumented variables. On the other hand, large data sets are valuable.  And there may be a side benefit to gathering large data sets from an un-characterized group of real people living real lives in real homes - the data may lead to conclusions that are more directly applicable to the populations we are trying to learn about.

    We can test the viability of crowd-sourced data collection by comparing conclusions drawn by crowd-sourced experimentation to the conclusions drawn from traditionally collected data. One example of crowd-sourced data collection is, where people report actual gas mileage for their vehicles. I did a quick spot check for the V6 Toyota Camry sedan. It would be an interesting exercise to repeat this check for a large group of vehicles.

    On, the 119 participating drivers of V6 Toyota Camry sedans submitted fuel economy data for thousands of fill-ups. For this vehicle make and model, the most frequently reported gas mileage is 24 mpg, with a roughly bell curve shaped distribution of reported mileage ranging from a low of 16 mpg to a high of 32 mpg. According to, fuel economy is measured for pre-production prototypes of new cars by the manufacturer using standardized test procedures specified by federal law. The EPA reviews the test results and spot checks 10 - 15% of them. This methodology predicted that the 2011 V6 Toyota Camry sedan would yield 20 mpg city, 29 mpg freeway, and 23 mpg combined.

    In this case, the results are pretty close, but Camry drivers on got slightly better mileage than expected based on EPA regulated test data.  I saw lots of tips on for getting better gas mileage...I suppose it's possible that users of more frequently exhibit a bias toward maximizing fuel economy than the EPA testing procedures account for.

    Tuesday, May 8, 2012

    Collaborate on Open Source Hardware Design at CERN's Open Hardware Repository

    Much in the spirit of the open source software movement, the Open Hardware Repository is a place on the web for electronics designers to collaborate on open source hardware designs.

    The creators of the OHR see peer review, design re-use, improved industry collaboration, better hardware, and a more fun design process as the primary benefits of their collaborative approach. I could not agree more.

    I am impressed by the organization and functionality of the OHR collaboration tools. Each project has its own main hub page with tabs for project overview, wiki, activity, mailing list, issues, news, documents, files, and repository.  Each project has a project manager, and a list of developers.  OHR requires the sharing of anything it would take to duplicate each design, and encourages the sharing of all related files.

    You can check out the features of their project collaboration platform by browsing the hub for this 5-bit port digital IO card in FMC form-factor.

     Each project is licensed through one of the following licenses featured on the OHR licenses page which links to info on the CERN Open Hardware License (CERN OHL), the GNU General Public License (GPL), the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), and the TAPR Open hardware License (TAPR OHL).
      While I really liked what I saw at the OHR, there is one small catch:  To use the OHR tools for collaborating on hardware designs, the designs must "present an interest to the community of electronics designers for experimental physics facilities."  As the OHR manifesto points out, the target community is broad and diverse enough that the "of interest to the community" constraint is unlikely to be excessively constraining.

      Monday, May 7, 2012

      Free Open Source Wind Farm Design Software

      According to their website, an Albany NY based company called AWS True Power has released open source wind farm design software that is free to download and use.  The free software is called AWS Openwind, and anyone is free to join the community of users and make improvements to the software.  You can download the software, watch instructional videos and view tutorials on the AWS Openwind website.  You can also see screen shots of the software here.

      If you need advanced features like deep array wake models, grid layout, or optimization for cost of energy, AWS has an enterprise version of the software available for sale...but I'm thinking that for my first backyard windmill, the free version will do the trick.

      If you have used the openwind software and have any comments about it, I'd love to hear them.

      I want to develop a free tool with a friendly user interface that will allow casual users to optimize windmill airfoils, siting, and generator parts for construction and use at their homes.  I have used CNC rapid prototyping technology for custom airfoils.  If you are interested in any aspect of optimizing home wind power generation I would love to hear from you.

      The Open Source Tech Revolution wind power resource page is here.

      Thursday, May 3, 2012

      This is the Biggest 3D Printer I have Ever Seen.

      About a month and a half ago, I was fortunate enough to tour the local motors factory. The guys there mentioned that they could really use a 3D printer that could produce larger objects in plastic than their Makerbot is capable of.  Check out the video below to see one in action!

      My favorite thing about this 3D printer:  It is a cross between rapid prototyping technology and a microfactory. The delay between imagining a new chair design and sitting on the real thing is incredibly, amazingly, wonderfully short if all you need to do is make a 3D CAD file, print it, and sit down.

      Dirk Vander Kooij, the designer/programmer/creator of this amazing piece of work, calls the chair that he is printing the "endless chair" because it is made of a seemingly endless (400m) line of plastic. I'm not personally sold on the name, (400m = endless?? Really??) but last time I checked, by the time you are awesome enough to turn old factory equipment into a programmable 3D printer then use it to manufacture fully functional furniture of your own design, you don't need universally appealing product names to be a smashing success.

      Way to go, Dirk!

      Check out the full write-up at the singularity hub.

      Here's Dirk's website:  He has several chair and table designs available for sale in a variety of colors.

      Free College, Anyone?

      Coolest.  Website.  Ever.

      Thanks to one of my brilliant physics major friends from Mercer University, I just learned about a, a website where anyone can take college courses for free.  The course offering is not huge yet, but they are working on it.  And they already have a few that could keep me busy for awhile (hello, Statistics 1 and Machine Learning!).  The courses they offer are split into the following categories:

      I have heard it said that the invention of the printing press sparked the industrial revolution by allowing information to flow more freely.  If that is true, then we can expect huge things to come from this new era of free, nearly instant access to information.  Here's lookin' at you, Wikipedia!

      Tuesday, April 24, 2012

      About the Open Source Tech Revolution


      The purpose of the Open Source Tech Revolution is to make freedom and autonomy more accessible to those who want it.

      The purpose of the Open Source Tech Revolution Blog is to help get the OSTR rolling!

      Lots of us have great ideas for new technology and new products that have a lot of potential to improve lives or make money.  Often, we lack the time, expertise, or skill set to make many of these ideas a reality.  I am a proponent of the idea that just about anyone can learn just about anything, given some time and access to the right information.  Thanks to brick and mortar libraries and great sites like Wikipedia and YouTube, we have a lot freer access to a lot more information than ever before.  Simply having the time to learn what we need to know in order to proceed, and in many cases having the money for the proper tools, equipment and raw materials are still major road blocks to achieving the innovations we envision.  Through networking, and collaborative design efforts, we can bypass those road blocks to an unprecedented extent.

      Why would People give good ideas away for free?

      We want awesome stuff to exist.  Sometimes people have awesome ideas that they have neither the time nor the expertise to bring to fruition alone. One way to increase your chances of actually using something awesome that you dream up but don't plan to create is to make the idea public and let others attempt to create it.

      Philanthropy: Giving away empowering knowledge and technology is a way to give people who need it a chance to improve their quality of life.

      Lots of us have ideas we're not using anyway: Given the choice between sharing our good ideas, holding onto them in hopes of future for-profit development, or waiting for others to independently come up with and act on the same idea, some people may benefit most from sharing.

      Why would anyone want to work on open-source design projects for free?
      • Doing things that really matter makes people happy.
      • Being productive makes people happy.
      • Taking on challenges makes people happy.
      • If you want something to exist, and it doesn't exist yet, you can fix your problem by helping to create it.
      • By collaborating on ground-breaking engineering projects, you will probably get to know fascinating people with whom you share exciting interests.
      • If you want to learn some useful skills, collaborating on a project where those skills are needed is likely to provide you with added motivation, priceless practice with your new skills, and a network of mentors who already possess the skills you are looking to acquire.
      • If you are looking for a career in engineering, science or technology, gaining the experience of collaborating on successful, useful and innovative designs will show prospective employers that you have what it takes.
      • If your skills and creativity are underutilized in your current career, collaborating with cutting edge projects as a hobbyist could be a thrilling opportunity to be yourself.
      • If you think you might have engineering chops but you are not certain, collaborating on an engineering project would be a useful way to test the waters.

      How is posting a bunch of ideas on the internet going to help anyone in any way?

      It's probably not going to.  I am researching the efforts of others to crowd-source the development of technical projects and working to develop a web-based collaborative design application that solves as many as possible of the logistical problems with collaborating from a distance.