Laser Cut Golden Gate Bridge

Spoiler, basically I just followed this instructable about how to laser cut the golden gate bridge and, after a couple little blips, I came out with what you see here.  The linked article may very well be an excellent tutorial, but out of busy-ness or laziness--I’m not sure which--I’ll admit that I never actually read the article.

Which turned out to be a great learning experience.  

It started yesterday afternoon, when the 3D printer was down and I noticed a gleaming red piece of acrylic in the scrap bin below the laser cutter.  I had just read the instructable linked to above and, being from San Francisco I wanted to have a go at laser cutting the Golden Gate Bridge.

So I downloaded the file provided in the instructable thinking this would be a super quick print-and-assemble job, but I was disappointed to find that there were about 30 copies of the bridge in the file. The file also had the authors name printed on the bridge and the word instructables, neither of which I want sullying my little bridge.  Here is my modified file.

In my first cut the sheet of acryllic was about 3 times thicker than the one that the instructable writer must have used, so the “road” part of the bridge did not fit through the corresponding holes on the tower.  I was also very dissapointed to find that the writer had designed the bridge to scale, which means it is extremely long and awkward looking (iconic views of the bridge are almost always at a steep > 45 degree angle).

I could have easily resized the bridge in the file in about 3 clicks, but by that point the 3D printer was up and running again, so I popped in the thin clear sheet of acrylic that you see in the picture, cut it out, tied some rubber bands on, and now I have a little memento of my far away home on my desk.  (In the process of rubber banding, I broke the "road" in half, so the dimensions you see in the picture will be twice as wide if you cut the file as-is).

If you want to know how to laser cut the bridge, you're probably better off reading the instructable.  But if you want to learn about how the thickness of your material affects your assembly--a lesson I learn again and again on the laser cutter, which you always forget has a third dimension, I recommend giving it a couple of tries with the file provided above.



Telescope: Open-Sourced Framework for Social News Site

Just found a super cool resource while learning the Meteor Javascript Framework: Telescope.

Telescope is a set of boilerplate code that can be used to make a social news website like Hacker News or Reddit.  I haven't tried using the code yet, but the link I posted has a link the the github repo.

 I'm looking forward to trying it out as I make a kind of "reddit" or "hacker news" for open-source projects.  People will be able to upvote their favorite open source-projects, and they will be able to donate money to the original poster.  I don't think any resource like this exists yet.  If I am mistaken, please comment or contact me to let me know.  

Speaking of open-source projects, Telescope is an open source project.  If I download it and detect defects, then I will do my best to give back to the developers by isolating my improvements and submitting a "pull request" on github.  What a perfect framework on which to build a site precisely for these kinds of projects

If You're Curious About What the Next Technology Revolution Looks Like, Watch This Video On Neil Gershenfeld

Neil Gershenfeld - One of the Fathers of the maker movement

Neil Gershenfeld - One of the Fathers of the maker movement

  (note, the link to the interview is a couple scrolls down the page)

This guy is one of the fathers of the maker movement, but like many fathers, he wishes the best for his offspring and urges them to be the best that they can be.  There’s two points he poses about the maker movement that I think are critical, and which I want to start working towards a solution on.

1 - Maker Movement is for Amateurs

It’s true.  While the maker space that I happen to work in has some of the brightest, most talented, creative people I’ve ever met, and a huge amount of these folks have degrees from MIT and experience working in top engineering and design firms like Ideo, most people are doing things that they don’t know how to do on projects intended for themselves or their own, very similar consulting firms (I admit to this as well).

While people are brought together by this radical self-reliance, to me it seems like there is a lot of talent being put more or less to waste because people are not always communicating their dream projects and desires to one another or inviting other people to take part.  

What’s related and perhaps more important, (and which Mr. Gershenfeld describes quite well), is that people who are coming to makerspaces and fab labs have an easy time getting the most rudimentary instruction from online tutorials and books, but finding the resources to take the next steps is much more difficult.  

One idea I had while watching that video was to build an online space where people can collaborate on projects from all over the world.  Something like instructables, except instead of organizing instructables by category, this would be organized by project.  Another model to follow would be ----(stand by, looking up the name of this company), a software company with an open layout and rolly chairs, where anyone can roll around the company and work on anything that they want to work on.  Instead of rolly chairs and an office, we have the internet and the whole world.

I want to build a web platform where, if you have a project that you want to start working on, you can start blogging about your project and trying to get people to follow, help, and contribute.  There will be a system where people can donate to or invest in your project if they think that it is a worthwhile project, and you will be able to distribute the funds that get donated or the revenues that you generate from your product to different followers.  There will be no requirement to distribute the funds though (because I think that places where the honors code works are the highest integrity places on earth).

People commonly say that the best way to learn how to make something is to make it.  So much of this maker stuff is situational.  There are plenty of “beginner tutorials” but there is really no space to follow a big open sourced project from beginning to end.  Or if there is, I’ve never heard of it.  

Ideally, some of these projects would be worthwhile and blossom into real world solutions and companies.

One more rule though:  there is a moderation and quality control problem on instructables and other similar websites.  In order to post a new project on GWA, you have to be sponsored by somebody who has already posted a project.  That’s is, you’ve got to convince someone else who has been approved to post a project to approve you to do this same.  This way, there is a sort of viral mentorship.  

2 - First Project Proposals

I'll start.

I already mentioned one about an improved Water Desalinator here.  Ideally, a really easy-to-make one that can be assembled from junk.  (To be discussed in another article--DIY research: researching how to make amazing things using waste or everyday materials).

But the project that I want to propose here, and which is directly related to Gershenfeld’s interview is this:  I want to make a 3D printer that assembles reusable modules for assembly rather than the part itself.  Pieces almost like legos.  You would essentially have to whip up a couple of 3D printers or other fabrication technologies that make these modules, then you’d want to have an assembler that can put these things together.  So this second 3D printer is more like a higher level programming language, whereas the 3D printers that we’ve got today would be more like a lower level language that runs the higher level one.  Think assembly language and javascrip--same kind of relationship

The reason that this idea stemmed directly from the Mr. Gershenfeld’s interview is that, in the video, Gershenfeld talks about how a lot of what we call digital fabrication is not actually digital.  While a 3D printer may be run by a computer, the thing that it prints is anything but digital.  It’s a spool that’s getting dragged out in an analog manner, and after the part has served it’s funtion, it get’s tossed.  

Real digital fabrication, Mr. Gershenfeld says involves assembling structures from discrete, reusable components.  The project that I am proposing would do just that.