Makerarm multifunction robotic arm lends a hand -

Makerarm multifunction robotic arm lends a hand

Good grief! Give me strength. I can’t keep up. I'm too young for all of this excitement. I just got back from speaking at the Embedded Everywhere Conference & Exhibition in Denmark (see Embedded is everywhere, but especially in Denmark), and now I'm ramping up for the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) in Minneapolis, November 4-5, 2015, which is just next week as I pen these words.

The reason I'm in such a kerfuffle is that I'm desperately trying to get my Cunning Chronograph in a suitable state to present the little beauty at the Awesome Arduino Show & Tell session.

There are so many parts in play here. One the one hand I have the electronics; on the other hand I have the software; and on the other hand (if only I had a third hand) I have the cabinet. As you can see in this video, the electronics and the software are coming along nicely — at least as far as the music mode goes.

“But what is that incredible music?” you ask. Well, it's a rather interesting band called the Red Hot Chilli Pipers . Yes, I did mean to say “Pipers” — what do you mean it should be “Peppers”? That would be a stupid name for a Drum & Bagpipe ensemble, but we digress…

As you can see from the two photos below, the cabinet is coming along in leaps and bounds. I just popped around to visit my chum Bob the master carpenter in his workshop to take these pictures.

(Source: Max Maxfield /

(Source: Max Maxfield /

Bob hand-carved the Celtic knot on the front, then he got one of his chums to gild it with silver leaf (i.e., silver-gilt or vermeil ). Bob still has to apply one more coat of dark stain to the cabinet and then seal everything so I can pick it up first thing on Monday morning on my way into work. The final result is going to look awesome. (As an aside, we're creating one of these little beauties for Bob, who is planning on staining his version of the cabinet a dark mahogany color, and then having his friend apply gilt-bronze or ormolu , to his Celtic knot — I cannot wait to see that version also.)

So everything is coming together nicely. One outstanding issue, however, is that we still need a back panel for the cabinet, as you can see below:

(Source: Max Maxfield /

One thing we'll want is a small, fixed sub-panel to accommodate the power connector, a USB connector (for ease of programming as I add new features), and an audio input jack for use with the music mode. We're also going to need some air vent holes, because 96 NeoPixels going full blast can generate some heat, and we always want to design for worst-case conditions.

Now, we could stop here, but since the rest of the Cunning Chronograph is so distinctive, I wanted to add a little something special to the back panel. My graphic artist chum Bruce Till sits in the office next to mine, so I ambled over to bounce a few ideas around.

I don’t know what triggered this thought, but Bruce reminded me of my recent experiments with Morse code and then mooted the idea of incorporating some sort of Morse code communication in the panel. “Oooh” I thought, “that is an interesting idea.” So I meandered my way back into my office and started dabbling around with Visio. The result is as shown below:

(Source: Max Maxfield /

What sort of message would you embed in the back panel if you decide to make one of these for yourself? I think that something related to the passing of time is a no-brainer. Actually, I have to admit that I'm rather chuffed with myself, because I decided to use the Dr. Seuss quote: “How did it get so late so soon?”

The larger vent holes are 3/4″ long and 1/4″ wide with a 1/8″ radius semicircle at each end. In the case of the Morse code, the dashes are exactly half this size — 3/8″ long and 1/8″ wide with a 1/16″ radius semicircle at each end. Meanwhile, the Morse code dots are 1/8″ diameter holes, and all of the other dimensions are proportional (the length of a dot is one unit; a dash is three units; the space between dots and dashes in the same letter is one unit; the space between letters is three units; and the space between words in seven units). In the case of the 7-unit gaps between words, I formed these using two 3-unit blanks with 1-unit vertical slot in the middle because… well, it looked right.

If you ever decide to create one of these yourself, I'll be happy to provide the full-size dimensioned drawing in a vector format of your choice (e.g., *.emf, *.svg, *.dxf, *.dwg).

Of course, the next problem is actually fabricating the little scamp. Bob the carpenter could obviously do this, but it would consume a lot of time and effort, and I really didn’t feel good about asking him. Then I remembered the Makerarm Multifunction Robot Arm Kickstarter project. So I contacted the founders of Makerarm — Zaib Husain and Azam Shahani — and asked them if they could lend me a hand, as it were. They asked me to send the design files over, and — just a few moments ago as I pen these words — they sent me this video showing the Makerarm in action.

Even better, Zaib and Azam have very kindly said that they will fabricate two panels, which will make Bob a very happy camper indeed. I'm not sure if we can get these little beauties in time for ESC Minneapolis, but that's really not a problem — it will give me something to look forward to upon my return.

I tell you — I've got to get me one of these Makerarms!

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