Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

The Neuromaker

“The 10 to Watch series continues with industrial design graduate student, Johann Rischau, who will use the space as an experimental laboratory for investigating mass customization and our emotional connections to the objects we make and consume. He has produced a prototype for a computer-controlled router that processes visitors’ brainwaves and imprints them on various materials. Viewers are invited to participate in the work by inputting their own brainwaves and leaving with an object that is made just for them. 10 to Watch is a year-long series curated by Jorge Lucero, Jimmy Luu and Tumelo Mosaka that brings relevant and engaging ideas from the School of Art + Design’s classrooms to a public forum.” Facebook Event Page: This project was developed by Johann Rischau and Robert McGrath with the support of the Champaign Urbana Community Fab Lab and the NCSA. The exhibition space will be open from 11th to 17th from 9-5pm (except 14th) and everybody is invited to stop by and interact with the machine.  The opening reception is on Friday, the 11th from 6-8pm. A document explaining the project in all details is attached to this post.  See the footer of this post for details.
10 to Watch: Johann Rischau, Figure One
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Using the Fab Lab Video Conferencing Service from Mac OS X with X-Lite 4

Note: This document is a very rough draft.  If you’re a Mac OS X user who would like to access, please try it and let me know how well these instructions work be e-mailing me me ( or by adding a comment to this page. Here is how to connect to the Fab Lab video conferencing service located at via the free (but not open-source) X-Line 4 client:
  1. Download: Get X-Lite 4 from Counterpath: They’ll try to sell you on their commercial product at every step of the way, but it’s not necessary.
  2. Install: Double-click on the .dmg that was downloaded in step 3, accept the license agreement, and drag the X-Lite 4 icon the the “Applications” folder.
  3. Start: Open X-Lite 4 from the applications folder.  (FIXME: are there any startup screens here?)
  4. Configure: Go to the “X-Lite 4” menu and select “Preferences”.
    1. Select the “Accounts” tab
    2. Click the “+”
    3. Account name:
    4. Protocol: SIP
    5. Use for: Call = checked, IM/Presence = unchecked
    6. User ID: guest
    7. Domain:
    8. Password: blank
    9. Display Name: Your name and/or affiliation here
    10. Register with domain and recieve calls: unchecked
    11. Send outbound via: Domain
  5. Call:
    1. In the box labeled “Enter a name or number”, enter one of the following phone numbers: – General Fab Lab chatroom – Fab Lab meeting room
    2. Use the drop-down box next to the “Call” button to select “Video Call”.  The call will begin.
    3. Several useful controls:
      1. Outgoing audio can be muted by pressing the Microphone icon in the “Call Established” area of the X-Lite window.
      2. Outgoing video can be halted by pressing the “Webcam Minus” icon in the lower left corner (near the “Hold” button) of the “Call Established” area of the X-Lite window.
      3. The video window can be closed/opened by pressing the “Webcam” icon in the upper right hand corner of the X-Lite window.
    4. You can add/remove video from the call by pushing the button next to the hold button that looks like a webcam with a + or a – next to it.
    5. You can hang up by pressing the “End” button.
A note about audio: Suppressing echos, background noise, and audio-feedback is a constant issue in video conferences and with conference calls in general.  I suggest the following solutions:
  • Stay muted:  Mute your microphone, except when you’re speaking.  In addition to minimizing echo problems, it will cut down on the amount of random background noise that the other participants are subjected to.
  • Earphones with an integrated microphone: I’ve found that the best solution is to use headphones with an integrated microphone.  They’re available for a few dollars/euros at most electronics stores.  If you have a spare set of iPhone earbuds laying around, you can use those with any newer MacBook.  The iPhone earbuds have an integrated microphone, reasonably good sound quality, and they’re small enough to be unobtrusive in a laptop bag.
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Laser Engraving the Kindle DX Graphite

Inspired by a post on Adafruit Industries blog about someone who engraved “Don’t Panic” on their Kindle 2, I decided to personalize the Kindle DX Graphite that I purchased to read large the huge stack of PDFs that my professors hand out in class.  This project turned out to be a mixed success; I hope that anyone thinking about using an Epilog laser can use what I’ve learned. Knowns: Gregor Reisch, Margarita Philosophica, 1508Gregor Reisch, Margarita Philosophica, 1508
  • The folks at Adafruit used settings of 80% power and 100% speed on their 35 watt Epilog Laser cutter/engraver.
  • The CUC Fab Lab has a 50 watt laser, so assumiong that power is linear and the mechamisms for both lasers run at the same speed, a setting of 56% power and 100% speed should be appropriate for our laser cutter.
  • The dimensions of my Kindle DX Graphite are approximately 10-3/8 H x 7-1/4 W.  I also decided that I needed 2-1/4″ on the top, a 1-3/4″ margin on the bottom, and 1/4″ on the sides so that I didn’t overlap the manufacturer’s printing.  The 1/4″ margin is there so that I don’t print on the curved edges of the device — the engraving is likely to be at a different effective power and/or distorted there.
  • When laser-engraving on metal, Cermark Spray is often used to blacken the engraved area.  I e-mailed the Adafruit folks asking if they used such a spray on the Kindle in the blog post, and they said that they hadn’t used it.  Even so, I was still unsure about what color the engraved image would be.
  • Putting my name on my Kindle will look good, regardless of what color the resulting text is.  The image I selected (an ancient drawing of the algorist and the artihmetist) wouldn’t look as good if it were printed in the negative.
  • What color will the engraved image be?  Will it be lighter or darker than the metallic back surface of the Kindle DX Graphite?
  • When it comes down to it, what material is the back panel of the Kindle made out of?  It certainly looks metallic, but it may be electroplated plastic.  Will we get the worst of both worlds when engraving on it?
Because of the unknowns, I decided to set up the engraving in steps.  First, I would engrave my name and e-mail address on to the kindle to see how it looks and then, depending on what I leared, I would burn the image on to the Kindle.
I set up Inkscape so that the page has the same dimensions as the device, and I added several layers and put the images that I want to engrave in to them:
  • Base: a gray rectangle showing the area of the Kindle where I think the engraving will work best.
  • Graphic: The high-resolution image that I want to engrave on to the Kindle
  • Name & Email: My name and e-mail address.
By selecting just the “Name & Email” layer, using the “Save As” function, I created a PDF that showed only my name and email address.  Make sure to select the export area as “Page”.
By selecting just the “Graphic” layer, using the “Save As” function, I created a PDF that showed only the image.  Make sure to select the export area as “Page”.
Now, I have two separete PDFs that maintain the alignment that I set up in Inkscape.
I then tested the “Name & Email on cardboard, and everything, including the alignment, looked great!
I set up the laser in “Raster Only” mode with a power of 56%, a speed of 100%, sent the “Name & Email” instructions to the Epilog, and loaded the Kindle into the Epilog!
How did it go? Kindle Engraving ResultsKindle Engraving Results It was a mixed success. The engraving did, indeed, produce black text without Cermark spray, but the black proved to just be ash from the engraving process and came off with a paper towel and a little bit of water, leaving a gray engraved surface.  Also, the smaller text (my e-mail address) wasn’t fully engraved — I used a non-bold font, and the small vertical lines just didn’t punch through the electroplated exterior, leading to unreadable text.  Only horizontal lines seemed to get enough heat to make it through.  It looks like it could be some sort of “geek language” (as my friend Johann put it), but I know what I meant to engrave on there.  Also, I noted several scratches on the Kindle that could only have come from reflected laser beams. I decided not to proceed with engraving the image, since it contains some fine details, and since engraving gray on “brushed aluminum” isn’t likely to be aestetically pleasing.  But my Kindle is personalized, and I can easily identify it if its ownership ever comes in to question, so that is a success in this respect.   What I would do differently:   On this particular material, I suggest only engraving very large lines.  It would take some experimenting on expensive personal electronics in order to figure out exactly where the cutoff is, but it’s somewhere between the two text sizes in the attached SVG.  At the very least, bold text is a requirement, and very large bold text seems to work pretty well. Johann suggested that laser-reflections that scratched Kindle can likely to be preventing by attaching some adhesive paper to the device before engraving.   Conclusion: All in all, this project was a mixed success, but I fully intend to try something like this again on other personal electronics.  I have a generic looking MacBook Pro that could use some identifying marks and decoration, so I may do that one next — after learning everything that I can from the collected notes of the Fab Lab and Maker communities on this topic!
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Inkscape Interest Group, this Sunday at 3:30pm

This should be VERY beginner friendly. Please feel welcome to come if you’ve never used Inkscape or have never come to the FabLab before. Please also come if you have used it extensively to share your experiences with the rest of us! WHERE: We will meet among the computers in the FabLab. Bring a laptop with Inkscape (it’s free!) on it if you have one, or use the computers which all have Inkscape installed. WHEN: This Sunday, January 30, 3:30pm for about an hour. WHAT: Inkscape is a free cross platform program useful for designing vector art to use in CUCFabLab projects on the laser cutter, vinyl cutter, etc. We should be able to share how to’s on tracing a .jpg to a path, to editing, offsetting, and combining paths, to playing with individual nodes and changing their type. I myself have a lot of unanswered questions and ponderings about visibility and clones, among other things, so if you feel experienced please stop by and offer your advise.
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Call for Submissions: Fab Yearbook 2011

Call for Submissions: Fab Yearbook 2011 Hello all, makers from around the FabLab community, 2011 is upon us. May you have a Fab year! It is time to start putting together your Fab YearBook 2011 contributions! Send in your contributions before February 1st 2011. Publication date is February 23rd 2011. In January 2010 the first ever Fab YearBook, containing stories from various FabLabs, examples of things made in FabLabs across the globe, interviews with FabLab community members, etc., numbering 50 pages, was published. Contribute to Fab YearBook 2011! Now it is time to start creating your contributions for the next edition of the Fab YearBook! So get creative and share fun, inspirational, or deep stories about your FabLab and the things that happen there, in the form of text, pictures, drawings or whatever you can think of. We accept contributions in any shape or form (PDF, Adobe illustrator, .doc, .odt, .key, .odp, .ppt, .jpg etc). To be part of the book it needs to be in A4 format though. But feel free to also send in fun designs (even better if they fit that A4 format!) we can share in the digital version of the Fab YearBook.
Hat tip to Mary K Watson Read the attached PDF for more information. FabLabYearBook_andInternationalResources
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United States Fab Lab Network (USFLN) Annoual Symposium in Kansas City, Wednesday Jan 26, 2011, Post 2

Mary K Watson writes: The first presentation at the United States Fab Lab Network (USFLN) Annoual Symposium in Kansas City was done by the Rapid which has the Bright Minds Mentoring program with teacher training workshop for educators They have four days of hands on experience to learn the secondary processes for using the machines and then how to use it in the classroom as well as industry seminars for companies. They have opened a fab lab and Fox Valley works with them on prototyping development. These are some of the other presenters: Capstone Design trains individuals with a disciplinary approach to content deployment. Cleveland STEM tries to make a connection by using the deconstruction method and then they put it back together using different reiterations within the construction process to develop spatial reasoning which is absent in normal schools. In addition they try to use this to help students fast forward to see what it is like to be in a profession. Times Center Technology Center has NSF funding. They have NSF funding to do real life projects to gain experience in day to day operations, networking abilities They use a market approach to innovation with their users. These include college students, people from business and industry, artists, and entrepreneurs The Kansas City Make movement goes around the city and does monthly show and tell sessions about the fab lab as well as bi-weekly sessions at MCC next to their fab lab. They are joining up with Make Magazine to have the first Midwest Maker Fair here in Kansas City in June according to Stephen Dowell (Metropolitan Community College, Kansas City, Business and Technology, Instructor and Tool and Die Maker. Montgomery Community College in Flint Michigan has just opened a new fab lab. LMC Bertrand Crossing Fab Lab has been open since 2008 wants its students to persist in their learning beyond the classroom experience and volunteer in the community. Users have cards to swipe when using the machines in their lab. Jeffry Cruise from North Carolina Fab Lab has USDA Piedmont Conservation Council funding. for PC community oriented projects in Piedmont, NC that they use to support their lab. Hawaii is planning to build a fab lab with state government help. They sent a PowerPoint presentation which included photos of their beaches. Fox Valley has a NSF grant to develop curriculum. They want the USFLN to pool projects and curriculum. At 5:20 pm Neil came online from hotel room in Washington. He has been in Saudi Arabia with Sheri and Kenny opening a new Fab Lab. He discussed transitions from outreach to research to making it possible for anyone to teach people to make anything from a key chain to a solar house (although it took more people and sites as well as time for that). This is accessible to all labs No one lab has a critical mass to do this on their own, it only works if done as a group research program.The power comes from the network that shares not individual labs .
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United States Fab Lab Network (USFLN) Annual Symposium in Kansas City, Wednesday Jan 26, 2011, Post 1

Betty Barrett writes: Today Mary Kay, Mercedes, and I are at the USFLN conference in Kansas City. There are, perhaps, 50 to 60 people in attendance from 10 to 20 fab labs all at different stages of development. Here are some of the ideas that have come up so far that may be worth exploring at CUCFL. Notes below the fold:
    1. Metrics we might keep to use in justifying our lab: classes coming, prototypes created, inventions originating, integrated into x courses, business outreach, schools and clubs reached,etc.
    2. Dayton Ohio has a fab lab guitar workshop
    3. the Fort Wayne mobile space called Tekmobile Prototype I is up and running for mobile artistic endeavors. Currently Greg Jacobs also beginning collaboration with public library
    4. Annual teacher training workshops offered (4 days to a week)
    5. Cornell 3d fabricator for schools is being created
    6. One lab has developed a Frequent fab lab users card
    7. Many labs have developed some executive sponsors.
We have met Josh Moseby from Tulsa OK with whom Dean is working extensively.
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Etched mirror

One of the newer people showing up here at the Fablab is Steve Holt. He had a great idea of what to make with laser etching. Steve had found pictures of a Buick and its chassis and wanted them on a mirror. The idea was to have the exterior etched into the glass and the frame and workings of the car etched into the back where it would show through and give an x-ray view of the car. There was some concern that the laser might reflect back so the mirror was painted black here at the fablab. Steve had already prepared his files so all we had to do was run the laser. The front turned out well. Video   We flipped the mirror and printed the back, which was backwards because the flip turned over the front image.     The paint was washed off…. Video … and the results are good.   A fine work that I’m sure he’ll show off to his friends.  
Buick washing
Buick side two
Buick side one
Buick finished
Buick admire
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Inkscape Extension for Polyhedra Nets

Jonathan Manton has written an Inkscape extension that, among other things, makes it easier to create polyhedra out of heavy paper that has been cut/scored using the Epilog Laser. He writes:
I’ve developed an Inkscape extension to render the polyhedra nets I’ve been making the last few months. It can make nets for the platonic, archimedean, and archimedean dual solids. There are several options for tabs including tab and slot, no tabs (for showing rather that assembling), and a couple of options for tabs that can be glued.
The full writeup is here:
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Factory @ Home: The Emerging Economy of Personal Fabrication

This is a report commissioned by the US Office of Science and Technology Policy about personal manufacturing, Fab Labs, and related efforts: From the report:
This report outlines the emergence of personal manufacturing technologies, describes their potential economic and social benefits, and recommends programs the government should consider to realize this potential. Personal manufacturing machines, sometimes called “fabbers,” are the pint-sized, low-cost descendants of factory-scale, mass manufacturing machines. Personal-scale manufacturing machines use the same fabrication methods as their larger, industrial ancestors, but are smaller, cheaper, and easier to use. Home-scale machines, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and programmable sewing machines, combined with the right electronic design blueprint, enable people to manufacture functioning products at home, on demand, at the press of a button. In just a few hours, these mini-factory machines can produce a simple object like a toothbrush, or make complex machine components, artisan-style jewelry or household goods. Within a few years, personal manufacturing machines may be sophisticated enough to enable regular people to manufacture complicated objects such as integrated electronic devices. A number of converging forces are bringing industrial-scale design and manufacturing tools to a tipping point where they will become cheap, reliable, easy, and versatile enough for personal use. The rapid adoption of personal manufacturing technologies is accelerated by low cost machinery, active online user communities, easier-to-use computer aided design (CAD) software, a growing number of online electronic design blueprints, and more easily available raw materials. Personal manufacturing technologies will profoundly impact how we design, make, transport, and consume physical products. As manufacturing technologies follow the path from factory to home use, like personal computers, “personalized” manufacturing tools will enable consumers, schools, and businesses to work and play in new ways.
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