Tag Archives: The MagPi

Design 3D prints with a Raspberry Pi and BlocksCAD

via Raspberry Pi

BlocksCAD is a 3D model editor that you use in a web browser, and it runs on Raspberry Pi. You drag and drop code blocks to design 3D models that can be exported for 3D printing.

In this project, you will use BlocksCAD to design a 3D pendant. The pendant uses a geometric pattern based on ‘the flower of life’, a design which is often found in historical art.

The finished pendant with a cord threaded through the small hanging hoop

If you have access to a 3D printer, then you can print your pendant. The pendant is small and only uses a little bit of filament. There’s a hoop on top of the pendant so that you can put it on a necklace or cord. The pendant has a diameter of 40 mm, plus the hoop for hanging. It is 2 mm thick, so it will 3D-print quite quickly.

After this project, you’ll also be able to code your own design and create a custom pendant.

Step 01: create a hoop

This project can be completed in a web browser using BlocksCAD. Open Chromium and enter the BlocksCAD editor URL: blockscad3d.com/editor.

The design uses six interlocking hoops in the centre, and a larger hoop around the outside. As mentioned, the pendant is 40 mm wide, plus the hoop for hanging, which is 2 mm thick.

Click 3D Shapes and drag a cylinder block to the project. Create a cylinder with a radius of 12, and a height of 2 (the unit here is millimetres). Cylinders are automatically centred along the X and Y axes. Select not centered so that the pendant sits on the surface. (This means that the Z-axis value is greater than 0.)

Click on the Render button after each change to your code to see the results.

Step 02: add more hoops

Now, drag a difference block from Set Ops to encase the cylinder. Add another cylinder block in the bottom space, and this time give it a radius of 11 mm. This will remove a smaller cylinder from the centre. This creates a hoop. Click Render again to see it.

If you like, you can click on the coloured square to change the colour used in the viewer. This does not affect the colour of your pendant, as that depends on the colour of the filament that you use.

The design uses six intersecting hoops, and each hoop is moved out from the centre and rotated a different number of degrees.

In the final design, there is no central hoop: the hoops are all moved out from the centre.

Drag a translate block (from Transforms) around your code, and set X and Y to 5. This moves the first hoop into position.

Step 03: centre the hoop

Now the hoop is a little off-centre. You need multiple copies of this hoop, rotated around the centre. First, create three equally spaced hoops.

Add a count Loops block to create three hoops. To space the hoops, add a rotate Transforms block between the count loop and the translate block.

In the count block, set the i variable from 1 to 3. You’ll need to insert an arithmetic block from Math and a variable (i) block from Variables into the Z field of the rotate block.

The rotation moves each hoop by 120 × i degrees, so that the three hoops are distributed equally around the 360 degrees of a circle (360 / 3 = 120). Look at the code and make sure you understand how it works. The finished design has six hoops rather than three. In the count block, set i from 1 to 6, and set the Z rotation to 60, so it creates six equally spaced hoops.

Step 04: add a border

Next, add a border around the edge of the design. Create a centred hoop that touches the edges of the design. You can either do the maths to work out what the radius of the circle needs to be, or you can just create a circle and change the radius until it works. Either approach is fine!

Encase your code with a union block from Set Ops, to join the border to the other hoops. Add a difference block to the plus section of union, and two cylinder blocks to make the hoop.

The six hoops each have a radius of 12 mm, so the border cylinder that you are making needs to be bigger than that. You could try setting the radius to 24 mm.

To make a hoop, the radius of the second cylinder in the difference block needs to be 1 mm smaller than the radius of the first cylinder.

Adjust the size of the cylinders until the border hoop just touches the outer edges of the six inner hoops.

The radius should be around 20 mm. (As mentioned in the introduction, the finished pendant will be 40 mm in diameter.)

Step 05: work it out

You could also use maths to work out the diameter. The diameter of each inner hoop is 24 mm. If the hoops met at the centre of the pendant, the border hoop would need to have a radius of 24 mm. But the inner hoops overlap, as they are translated 5 mm along the X and Y axes.

This removes a section from the radius. This section is on the arc, 5 mm from the origin, so we need to remove 5 mm from 24 mm. Thus the inner radius of the border hoop should be 19 mm.

Maths is really useful when you need to be accurate. But it’s fine to just change things until you get the result you need.

Step 06: add a hanging hoop

Now, add a small hanging hoop through which you can thread a cord to make a necklace.

Click the [+] on the union block to add another section to add the new hoop.

At the moment, the position of the hanging hoop isn’t very visually pleasing.

Add a rotate block to move the inner hoops so that the hanging hoop is centred over one of the gaps between them.

Step 07: experiment with shapes

Experiment and change some values in your pendant. For example, change the number of hoops, or the rotation.

You could also try to use cuboids (cubes) instead of cylinders to create a pattern.

Step 08: export to STL

BlocksCAD 3D can export an STL file for 3D printing. Render your model and then click on Generate STL. Remember where you save the STL file. Now 3D-print your pendant using a filament of the colour of your choice. Very carefully remove the 3D print from the print bed. The pendant is thin, so it’s quite delicate.

You might need to remove small strands of filament (especially from the hanging hoop) to tidy up the print.

Thread the pendant on to a chain or cord. If you want to use a thicker cord or necklace, then you can adjust the design to have a larger hanging hoop.

Check your code

You can download the full code and check it against your own. You can also check out our projects page, where you’ll find more images and step-by-step instructions for using BlocksCAD.

This project was created by Dr Tracy Gardner and the above article was featured in this month’s issue of The MagPi magazine. Get your copy of The MagPi magazine issue 89 today from your local newsagent, the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, or online from Raspberry Pi Press.

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Hands-free Raspberry Pi Airdrum | The MagPi 89

via Raspberry Pi

We’re always going to beat the drum for projects that seek to improve the lives of people with disabilities. That’s why we fell in love with the Airdrum, which was created to allow anyone, in particular people with disabilities, to play a musical instrument.

The Airdrum – speaker and MIDI song demo

This video demonstrates the speaker functionality with playing a song from a midi file on the Raspberry pi using Fluidsynth. (The hand movement is just for fun) The Airdrum is powered by a power supply for demonstration purposes.

Raspberry Pi Airdrum

Designed by two Dutch electrical engineering students, Alessandro Verdiesen and Luuk van Kuijk, the project came to life during their first year at university. “We aimed to develop a musical instrument that could be used to generate music by moving,” explains Alessandro, who has recently been working on a fully modular version 2.0.

After speaking with therapists and health care institutions, the pair decided to make a drum that could be played by moving objects above a set of panels and they put Raspberry Pi at its heart. “The basic functionality of the Airdrum is to detect the distance of an object above each connected panel and play a sound,” says Alessandro. “These panels contain IR distance sensors and coloured LEDs for visual feedback.”

Sorting the bass-ics

From the outset, Alessandro and Luuk needed their project to be accessible, affordable, adjustable and, in the latest iteration, modular, with each drummable section containing an Arduino Mini, an IR sensor, and LEDs. They also wanted the instrument to have a broader appeal and be suitable for everybody, including professional musicians, so it had to sound as good as it played.

“We needed it to be as versatile as it can be and allow people to choose custom sounds, colours, and lights while being a standalone instrument and a multi-purpose input/output device,” Alessandro reveals. To make it easy to place the modules together, they used magnetic connections between the panels. This allowed them to be placed together in various configurations, with a minimum of two per Airdrum.

These speaker modules can bookend the sensor panels, although the sound can be outputted via the Raspberry Pi to a different sound system too

With a structured plan that divided milestones into electrical, mechanical, and software components, the pair used 3D printing for the enclosure, which allowed rapid prototyping for quick interactions. They used speaker panels to bookend the modules for auditive feedback.

Panel beating

Each of the panels includes a buck converter so that the current through the connectors can be drawn to a minimum. The master module panel contains Raspberry Pi 3 running custom programs written in C and Python, as well as the free, open-source software synthesiser FluidSynth. It connects to the other panels through I2C, constantly polling the panels for their measurements and for the configuration of their colour.

“If an object has been detected, the Raspberry Pi generates a sound and outputs it on the AUX audio jack,” says Alessandro. “This output is then used by the mono D-class amplifiers in the speaker panels to make the tones audible.”

Custom-made Airdrum detecting modules fit snugly into their 3D-printed cases and can be arranged in a full circle if you have enough of them

The pair chose Raspberry Pi because of its versatility and technical prowess. “The Airdrum needed something powerful enough to run software to generate audio through MIDI using the input from the panels and the Raspberry Pi is a great universal and low-cost development board with integrated DAC for audio,” explains Alessandro. “It also has a I2C bus to act as a data transfer master unit and they’re compact enough to fit inside of the casing. The Raspberry Pi enables easy implementation of future upgrades, too.”

Indeed, the pair want to explore the MIDI possibilities and connect the Airdrum with a smartphone or tablet. An app is being planned, as is a built-in synthesiser. “The people we have shown the Airdrum to have been very enthusiastic,” Alessandro says. “That has been very motivating.”

Read The MagPi for free!

There’s loads more amazing projects and tutorials in The MagPi #89, out today, including our 50 tools and tips for makers, and a huge accessory guide! You can get The MagPi #89 online at our store, or in print from the Raspberry Pi Store in Cambridge and all good newsagents and supermarkets. You can also access The MagPi magazine via our Android and iOS apps.

Don’t forget our amazing subscription offers either, which include a free gift of a Raspberry Pi Zero W when you subscribe for twelve months.

And, as with all our Raspberry Pi publications, you can download the free PDF from our website.

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Securely tailor your TV viewing with BBC Box and Raspberry Pi

via Raspberry Pi

Thanks to BBC Box, you might be able to enjoy personalised services without giving up all your data. Sean McManus reports:

One day, you could watch TV shows that are tailored to your interests, thanks to BBC Box. It pulls together personal data from different sources in a household device, and gives you control over which apps may access it.

“If we were to create a device like BBC Box and put it out there, it would allow us to create personalised services without holding personal data,” says Max Leonard.

TV shows could be edited on the device to match the user’s interests, without those interests being disclosed to the BBC. One user might see more tech news and less sport news, for example.

BBC Box was partly inspired by a change in the law that gives us all the right to reuse data that companies hold on us. “You can pull out data dumps, but it’s difficult to do anything with them unless you’re a data scientist,” explains Max. “We’re trying to create technologies to enable people to do interesting things with their data, and allow organisations to create services based on that data on your behalf.”

Building the box

BBC Box is based on Raspberry Pi 3B+, the most powerful model available when this project began. “Raspberry Pi is an amazing prototyping platform,” says Max. “Relatively powerful, inexpensive, with GPIO, and able to run a proper OS. Most importantly, it can fit inside a small box!”

That prototype box is a thing of beauty, a hexagonal tube made of cedar wood. “We created a set of principles for experience and interaction with BBC Box and themes of strength, protection, and ownership came out very strongly,” says Jasmine Cox. “We looked at shapes in nature and architecture that were evocative of these themes (beehives, castles, triangles) and played with how they could be a housing for Raspberry Pi.”

The core software for collating and managing access to data is called Databox. Alpine Linux was chosen because it’s “lightweight, speedy but most importantly secure”, in Max’s words. To get around problems making GPIO access work on Alpine Linux, an Arduino Nano is used to control the LEDs. Storage is a 64GB microSD card, and apps run inside Docker containers, which helps to isolate them from each other.

Combining data securely

The BBC has piloted two apps based on BBC Box. One collects your preferred type of TV programme from BBC iPlayer and your preferred music genre from Spotify. That unique combination of data can be used to recommend events you might like from Skiddle’s database.

Another application helps two users to plan a holiday together. It takes their individual preferences and shows them the destinations they both want to visit, with information about them brought in from government and commercial sources. The app protects user privacy, because neither user has to reveal places they’d rather not visit to the other user, or the reason why.

The team is now testing these concepts with users and exploring future technology options for BBC Box.

The MagPi magazine

This article was lovingly yoinked from the latest issue of The MagPi magazine. You can read issue 87 today, for free, right now, by visiting The MagPi website.

You can also purchase issue 87 from the Raspberry Pi Press website with free worldwide delivery, from the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, and from newsagents and supermarkets across the UK.

 

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New book (with added computer): Get Started with Raspberry Pi

via Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi Press is really excited to announce the release of Get Started with Raspberry Pi. This isn’t just a book about a computer: it’s a book with a computer.

Ideal for beginners, this official guide and starter kit contains everything you need to get started with Raspberry Pi.

Inside you’ll find a Raspberry Pi 3A+, the official case, and a 16GB microSD memory card – preloaded with NOOBS, containing the Raspbian operating system. The accompanying 116-page book is packed with beginner’s guides to help you master your new Raspberry Pi!

  • Set up your new Raspberry Pi 3A+ for the first time.
  • Discover amazing software built for creative learning.
  • Learn how to program in Scratch and Python.
  • Control electronics: buttons, lights, and sensors.

A brilliant Christmas gift idea, it’s available now in the Raspberry Pi Press store. As always, we have also released the guide as a free PDF – minus the 3A+, case and SD card, of course!

Raspberry Pi Beginner’s Guide 3rd Edition

And that’s not all! We have also created a new edition of our popular Raspberry Pi Beginner’s Guide book.

As well as covering Raspberry Pi 4, this 252-page book features programming and physical computing projects updated for Scratch 3, which is available in the latest version of Raspbian.

It’s available now in the Raspberry Pi Press Store, with free worldwide delivery. And, as always, you can also download a free PDF version.

Free downloads: why?

Curious minds should make note that Raspberry Pi Press releases free downloadable PDFs of all publications on launch day. Why? Because, in line with our mission statement, we want to put the power of computing and digital making into the hands of people all over the world, and that includes the wealth of information we publish as part of Raspberry Pi Press.

We publish new issues of Wireframe magazine every two weeks, new issues of HackSpace magazine and The MagPi magazine every month, and project books such as The Book of Making, Wearable Tech Projects, and An Introduction to C & GUI Programming throughout the year.

If you’d like to own a physical copy of any of our publications, we offer free international shipping across our product range. You’ll also find many of our magazines in top UK supermarkets and newsagents, and in Barnes and Noble in the US.

 

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Build the ultimate 4K home theatre PC using a Raspberry Pi 4 and Kodi

via Raspberry Pi

We love Raspberry Pi for how it’s helping a new generation of children learn to code, how it’s resulted in an explosion of new makers of all ages, and how it’s really easy to turn any TV into a smart TV.

While we always have a few Raspberry Pi computers at hand for making robots and cooking gadgets, or just simply coding a Scratch game, there’s always at least one in the house powering a TV. With the release of the super-powered Raspberry Pi 4, it’s time to fully upgrade our media centre to become a 4K-playing powerhouse.

We asked Wes Archer to take us through setting one up. Grab a Raspberry Pi 4 and a micro-HDMI cable, and let’s get started.

Get the right hardware

Only Raspberry Pi 4 can output at 4K, so it’s important to remember this when deciding on which Raspberry Pi to choose.

Raspberry Pi has been a perfect choice for a home media centre ever since it was released in 2012, due to it being inexpensive and supported by an active community. Now that 4K content is fast becoming the new standard for digital media, the demand for devices that support 4K streaming is growing, and fortunately, Raspberry Pi 4 can handle this with ease! There are three versions of Raspberry Pi 4, differentiated by the amount of RAM they have: 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB. So, which one should you go for? In our tests, all versions worked just fine, so go with the one you can afford.

Raspberry Pi Cases

Flirc Raspberry Pi 4 case

Made of aluminium and designed to be its own heatsink, the Flirc case for Raspberry Pi 4 is a perfect choice and looks great as part of any home media entertainment setup. This will look at home in any home entertainment system.

Official Raspberry Pi 4 case (in black and grey)

The official Raspberry Pi 4 case is always a good choice, especially the black and grey edition as it blends in well within any home entertainment setup. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also hack the case to hold a small fan for extra cooling.

Aluminium Heatsink Case for Raspberry Pi 4

Another case made of aluminium, this is effectively a giant heatsink that helps keep your Raspberry Pi 4 cool when in use. It has a choice of three colours – black, gold, and gunmetal grey – so is a great option if you want something a little different.

Optional Raspberry Pi add-ons

Maxtor 2TB external USB 3.0 HDD

4K content can be quite large and your storage will run out quickly if you have a large collection. Having an external hard drive connected directly to your Raspberry Pi using the faster USB 3.0 connection will be extremely handy and avoids any streaming lag.

Raspberry Pi Fan SHIM

The extra power Raspberry Pi 4 brings means things can get quite hot, especially when decoding 4K media files, so having a fan can really help keep things cool. Pimoroni’s Fan SHIM is ideal due to its size and noise (no loud buzzing here). There is a Python script available, but it also “just works” with the power supplied by Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins.

Raspberry Pi TV HAT

If you are feeling adventurous, you can add a Raspberry Pi TV HAT to your 4K media centre to enable the DVR feature in Kodi to watch live TV. You may want to connect your main aerial for the best reception. This will add a perfect finishing touch to your 4K media centre.

Rii i8+ Mini Wireless Keyboard

If your TV does not support HDMI-CEC, allowing you to use your TV remote to control Kodi, then this nifty wireless keyboard is extremely helpful. Plug the USB dongle into your Raspberry Pi, turn on the keyboard, and that’s it. You now have a mini keyboard and mouse to navigate with.

Read more for free…

Looking to read the rest of this article? We don’t blame you. Build the ultimate 4K home theatre PC using a Raspberry Pi 4 and Kodi is this month’s feature article for the brand-new MagPi magazine issue 87, out today.

You can read issue 87 today, for free, right now, by visiting The MagPi website.

You can also purchase issue 87 from the Raspberry Pi Press website with free worldwide delivery, from the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, and from newsagents and supermarkets across the UK.

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Raspberry Pi 4: a full desktop replacement?

via Raspberry Pi

The MagPi magazine puts Raspberry Pi 4 to the ultimate test as writer and all-round tech tinkerer PJ Evans uses it for a week as his desktop computer.

When Raspberry Pi 4 was launched earlier in 2019, the significant improvements in processor speed, data throughput, and graphics handling lead to an interesting change of direction for this once humble small computer. Although it’s impressive that you can run a full Linux operating system on a $35 device, a lot of people were just using their Raspberry Pi to get Scratch or Python IDLE up and running. Many people were skipping the graphical side altogether and using smaller models, such as Raspberry Pi Zero, for projects previously covered by Arduino and other microcontrollers.

Raspberry Pi desktop experience

Raspberry Pi 4 was different. Tellingly, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released a new all-in-one kit and named it the Desktop Kit. For the first time truly in Raspberry Pi history, the new model was considered powerful enough to be used as a daily computer without any significant compromise. Challenge accepted. We asked PJ Evans to spend a week using a Raspberry Pi 4 as his only machine. Here’s what happened.

Day 1 | Monday

Decisions, decisions

Our new favourite single-board computer comes in a selection of RAM sizes: 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB. Given a price difference of £20 between the 1GB and 4GB versions, it made sense to go right for the top specification. That’s the version included in the official Desktop Kit that I went out and bought for £105 (inc. VAT) at the official Raspberry Pi store; it normally retails for $120 plus local taxes. My last laptop was £1900. I’m not suggesting that the two can be reasonably compared in terms of performance, but £1795 minus the cost of a monitor is a difference worth remarking upon.

Back at the office, I inspected the contents. For your money you get: a 4GB version of Raspberry Pi 4, thoughtfully already installed in the new official case; the official keyboard and mouse; the new USB-C power supply; a 16GB microSD card preloaded with the Raspbian Buster operating system; and a copy of The Official Raspberry Pi Beginner’s Guide 252-page book. It’s very well packaged and presented, with little plastic waste. The book is the icing on the cake if you are looking at this set for a young person’s first computer, short-circuiting the ‘now what do I do?’ stage. What pleased me, in particular, was the inclusion of two micro-HDMI cables in the kit, allowing me to set up a dual-screen system without delay.

First tests

I set up my new workstation next to my existing laptop, with two 1080p monitors that only had DVI connectors, so I had to get a couple of £2 adapters and an additional cable to get sound out of the audio jack of my Raspberry Pi. Time for an initial test-drive. Booting up into Raspbian Buster was quick, about ten seconds, and connection to WiFi easy. There’s no doubting the feel of the speed improvements. Yes, I’ve read all the benchmark tests, but I wanted to know how that translates to user experience. This new kit does not disappoint.

Raspbian has matured impressively as an OS. For my daily desktop scenario, the jewel in the crown is Chromium: having such a capable web browser is what makes this whole experiment feasible. Others have upped their game, too: Firefox has come a long way, and many other browsers are now available, such as Vivaldi. A check of some of my most visited sites showed Chromium to be just as capable as Chrome on my regular machine. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t as snappy and I hit a few bumps, but we’ll get to that.

A day of impressions

I’m no expert when it comes to GPUs, but I was impressed with the dual-monitor support. The setup worked first time and didn’t seem to have any detrimental effect on the machine’s performance. I was expecting slow window drawing or things getting ‘stuck’, but this wasn’t the case.

By the end of the first day, I was getting used to the keyboard and mouse too. They are a nice mixture of being both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The keyboard comes with a three-port hub, so you can connect the mouse if you wish. It does not have the build quality and precision of my daily wireless keyboard and trackpad, but for a fraction of the price, I was surprised how much I got for my money. By the end of the week, I’d grown quite fond of it.

Day 2 | Tuesday

Back to basics…


If you’d like to see what PJ got up to for the rest of his week spent using Raspberry Pi as a desktop replacement, head over to The MagPi magazine’s website, where you can either buy the magazine with international home delivery or download the PDF for FREE!

The MagPi magazine is also available from most high street newsagents in the UK, or from the Raspberry Pi store in Cambridge.

What we’re trying to say, dear reader, is that there is absolutely no reason for you not to read the rest of this article. And when you have, let us know what you thought of it in the comments below.

And while we have your attention, here’s the latest video from The MagPi — a teaser of their review for the rather nifty RockyBorg, available now from PiBorg.

RockyBorg: the £99 Raspberry Pi robot!

Power. Performance. Pint-sized. The new RockyBorg has it all. Read our review in The MagPi 85: https://magpi.cc/get85 Would you like a FREE #RaspberryPi? Subscribe today to twelve months print subscription! You can see all our subscription offers on The MagPi magazine website: https://magpi.cc/subscribe

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