Monthly Archives: August 2016

DIY Desktop CNC with an Arduino

via Dangerous Prototypes

pic-CNC Metal-600

Bob Davis has been working on rebuilding his DIY CNC machine:

I have been busy rebuilding my DIY CNC machine. It will be all metal when I get done. It will also include a USB interface, likely an Arduino. None of my computers have a parallel port these days. So something has to be done to resolve that issue.
This first picture is the new metal parts all drilled and ready for assembly. Well maybe ready to be filed so they can be assembled…..

More details at Bob Davis’ blog.

Check out the videos after the break.

SparkFun’s 2016 Customer Survey Results

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Hello! You may have noticed we conducted a survey a few weeks ago. The results ended up being pretty interesting, and we are very excited by the response we got.

Almost 11,000 people responded, making this the largest survey response we’ve ever had. This may have partially been a result of the Taz 5 3D Printer we gave away. Congrats again to our winner, Carlin! But without further delay, check out this excellent info graphic made by SparkFun designer Pete Holm.

Survey Results

alt text

Survey says?

Who are you?

While a vast majority of our respondents describe themselves as hobbyists or tinkerers, they are almost evenly split amongst software minds and hardware minds. We usually assumed our customers were more hardware-minded.

What are your interests within electronics?

Four categories dominated these results: IoT, Robotics, 3D Printing and Home Automation. What we found interesting about this is that neither our product catalog nor our content offerings is really concentrated in any of these areas outside of IoT. Of course there is a balance to be struck between the business side of what we can carry and what the customer is most interested in, but as a result of these results we hope to add both products and content in these areas of interest.

What is your embedded electronics skill level?

Not much of a surprise here that respondents leaned toward advanced and intermediate users. We know our core customers usually have their educational backgrounds in the electronics or software fields, but we’re always trying to bring more people from outside those worlds to ours. We are constantly updating our list of tutorials to encourage anybody who wants to learn a new skill or technology to take the leap.

Which programming language do you find most useful?

Again, not a huge surprise here with Arduino, Python and C++ on the podium. Our world is built on making, and SBCs like Arduino and Raspberry Pi are the keys to making projects happen easily. So long as those languages and SBCs rule the embedded electronics world, we will keep providing resources and products that help you use them.

Are you more likely to buy a product if it is open source?

Honestly, we were not sure how much open source matters to people right now. But at a ratio of over 2-to-1, it really does. That is great because our company was founded and continues to run on the principles of open source. New ideas and innovation are what keep both SparkFun and the world of electronics moving forward, so we plan to keep open source ideals every step of the way.

Are most of your projects connected to the internet?

While most respondents' projects are not connected to the internet, 30 percent of them are, which is a pretty big amount. The world of IoT has created more than just a buzzword, but also a huge demand for products that can let you track and monitor your project via the internet. The meteoric rise of chips like the ESP8266 and new ESP32 show just how important connection is to many people’s projects.

How do you feel about soldering?

Well, 90 percent of people love it, as everyone should. Just kidding. But really, soldering should be fun, and we’re truly sorry if you don’t feel that way. Who doesn’t love playing with molten metal?

How frequently do you complete projects that have SparkFun components?

One per quarter, or four per year, was the biggest response here. I’m sure the number of “projects started” would be way higher than that, though!

Rate your experiences with SparkFun

Not to be all braggy, but it seems like you like us – you really like us! Documentation, quality and Customer Service/Tech Support are really how we differentiate ourselves in the world of electronics, so it’s no surprise that is what you like best about us. With this is mind, though, we know there are always places we can improve throughout the entire business. If you have any suggestions or feedback, please let us know. Getting better is pretty important to us.

Do you read SparkFun tutorials?

Turns out 90 percent of respondents do. Wow! That is what really blew us away. Thank you for your insatiable appetite for projects and concepts. If you keep reading them, we’ll keep making them.

Thank you for either participating in or reading all the feedback we got! This is all about making sure we know what you’re looking for at SparkFun, and we will always listen to what you have to say. Speaking of, if you found something cool in the data or have any suggestions, put them down in the comments below. Until next year!

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ICS501 simple frequency multiplier

via Dangerous Prototypes

phICS501 simple frequency multiplier-600

Scott from SWHarden has published a new build:

Today I made a high frequency multiplier using a single component: the ICS501 PLL clock multiplier IC. This chip provides 2x, 5x, 8x (and more) clock multiplication using an internal phased-lock loop (PLL). At less than a dollar on eBay, $1.55 on mouser, and $0.67 on Digikey, they don’t break the bank and I’m glad I have a few in my junk box! I have a 10MHz frequency standard which I want to use to measure some 1Hz (1pps) pulses with higher precision, so my general idea is to use a frequency multiplier circuit to increase the frequency (to 80 MHz) and use this to run a counter IC to measure the number of clock pulses between the PPS pulses.

More details at SWHarden homepage.

Motion-activated bed lighting system for nighttime wandering

via Arduino Blog

Rather than stumble around in the dark or blind himself with a bedside lamp, Maker Scott Clandinin has come up with an Arduino-powered, motion-activated lighting system for nighttime wandering.

The setup is fairly simple. A PIR sensor detects movement, which automatically triggers a hidden strip of RGB LEDs to illuminate a path as you get out of bed. An RTC module keeps the time and ensures that the lights only turn on between 9pm and 8am. (The good news is that the strip will only stay lit for approximately two minutes, and won’t keep you up for the rest of the night.) A small capacitive touch sensor on the bottom of its case can also be used to test the lighting display outside of operational hours. 

Tired of bumping into things or having to find the switch? Then check out Clandinin’s entire project on

Building Computer Labs in Western Africa

via Raspberry Pi

Back in 2014, Helen covered the story of Dominique Laloux and the first Raspberry Pi computer room in Togo, West Africa.

Having previously worked alongside friends to set up the Kuma Computer Center, Dominique and the team moved on to build another computer room in Kuma Adamé.

Both builds were successful, proving the need for such resources within an area where, prior to 2012, 75% of teachers had never used a computer.

Dominique has since been back in contact via our forum; he informed us of another successful build, again in Togo, converting an old toilet block into a Raspberry Pi computer lab.

Togo RPi Lab

The blank canvas…

The team had their work cut out, stripping the building of its inner walls, laying down a new concrete floor, and installing windows. 

Togo RPi

Some serious climbing was needed…

Electricity and LAN were installed next, followed by welded tables and, eventually, the equipment.

Togo RPi

Local teachers and students helped to set up the room

The room was finally kitted out with 21 Raspberry Pis. This would allow for one computer per student, up to a maximum of 20, as well as one for the teacher’s desk, which would power an LED projector.

The room also houses a laptop with a scanner, and a networked printer.

The project took four weeks to complete, and ended with a two-week training session for 25 teachers. 

Togo RPi

Forget the summer holidays: each teacher showed up every day

Dominique believes very strongly in the project, and in the positive influence it has had on the area. He writes:

I am now convinced that the model of Raspberry Pi computer labs is an ideal solution to bring ICT to small schools in developing countries, where resources are scarce.

Not only is he continuing to raise funds to build more labs, he’s also advising other towns who want to build their own. Speaking of the growth of awareness over the past year, he explained, “I was so happy to advise another community 500 km away on how to install their own microcomputer room, based on the same model.”

And his future plans?

My goal is now to raise enough funds to set up one computer room in a school each year for the foreseeable future, hoping that other communities will want to copy the model and build their own at the same time.

We love seeing the progress Dominique and his team have made as they continue to build these important labs for communities in developing countries. Dominique’s hard work and determination is inspiring, and we look forward to seeing the students he and his team have helped to nurture continue to learn.

Togo RPi

The post Building Computer Labs in Western Africa appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Open this Arduino trashcan by waving your hand

via Arduino Blog

If you’re looking to add some smarts to your kitchen, perhaps a robotic trashcan may be a good start. Take this recent project from Alex Gyver, for example, who built a bin that opens whenever he waves his hand above it.

In Gyver’s case, the can has two modes–one that raises the lid for 10 seconds when a hand is 10 to 30 centimeters away, and another for three seconds when 30 to 70 centimeters away. The latter is clearly for when you have to quickly throwing something out.

The system consists of an Arduino, an inexpensive range ultrasonic sensor, and a servo motor. The distances and times can easily be adjusted by editing the sketch.

Sound like something you’d like in your house, office or dorm? Check out the entire project on Instructables here.