From idea to prototype in less than 1 week

Thanks to rapid prototyping tools like Fusion360 and Cura on the software side and a 3D printer on the hardware side, it’s possible convert ideas into solid objects within very short times and affordable budgets. The following are four projects I did since the end of last summer 2015 that meet the title of this post:

Gopro gimbal: A 2-axis angular motion stabiliser for drone footage. The lighter models out there in the market where more expensive than I wished (200€ and upwards), thus I decided to make my own. This one was 3D printed at around 40% infill density, making the frame parts weight less than 30 grams (excluding motors, controller and camera). The material is Laywood, a bioplastic filled with wood particles, giving it a very unique look. The cost: less than 5€ for the plastic parts and about 70€ for the electronics (excluding, of course, the GoPro camera).


Thermoelectric cold air blower: This was an experiment for testing an idea i had in mind for some time. The device consists of a room-temperature air inlet and a “cold air” outlet duct. The two black units are standard CPU fans and the central white block is a peltier element. In short, a Peltier element uses a voltage differential to create a temperature differential (this is called thermoelectrical cooling or Peltier effect); one side of the plate dissipates heat whilst the other gets cold. Sadly, the experiment results didn’t fulfil my expectations, with just a few degrees of difference between the inlet and outlet air temperature.


Water rocket electronic parachute release: This one was actually done in under 3 days, as part of a group activity for the introduction programme at the university —even though an electronic release system was not required for the activity. The plastic in this case contains photo-luminescent particles that make it glow in the dark.

For the curious, the launch system contained no sensors but a primitive take of detector I came up with: as you can see on top of the structure there are two red cables, one of them wrapped with clay —just to add mass. As the rocket accelerated at launch, the  two cables would touch and trigger a countdown in the Arduino (which I know it’s oversized, but by that time it was the only board I had with me). After ~2 seconds, the servomotor would release an elastic band that would split the rocket in two and release the parachute.


Light base for sculpture: This was for a Christmas gift. The sculpture would be a Lichtenberg figure (quite an amazing object: a real lightning “frozen” inside a transparent acrylic cube). To make it more interesting, I wanted the luminosity of the lights to oscillate slowly and randomly. For that I embedded batteries, cables, LEDs, micro-controller, switch and potentiometer for regulating the maximum luminosity inside the base in the smallest package I could produce. The outer design of the base mimics the shape of a sequoia trunk and the 3D printing material is again Laywood. I was quite satisfied with the result, as well as the receiver of the gift 😉

Spin-synchronised bike lights: I saw this idea more than a year ago when Revolights was doing its Kickstarted campaign and now I finally decided to give it a try and make my own. Probably not as neat as their’s (mine has a considerable bunch of unhidden cables), but still looks amazing when turned on.

A magnetic hall sensor installed on the wheel passes by a magnet installed on the frame on each revolution and informs the microcontroller, which records the exact time and updates the recorded speed. Then uses this data to synchronise each LED so it only lights up when it’s located in the quarter wheel closer to the ground and in front of the handlebar. When going fast enough, it looks like a mysterious light segment sticking to the wheel without rotating. Next step: make the light segment move creating some visual effects!

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