February 2010 Archives

Controlling DC actuators from a microcontroller

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Here, a very simple circuit for controlling a DC actuator (e.g. motor, solenoid) with a MOSFET.

This allows your microcontroller to drive actuators that need much more power than what the microcontroller itself can provide.

Our MOSFET of choice is the IRF540. Find its datasheet here.


Note that this circuit provides NO opto-isolation for your microcontroller; in-other words, if you make mistakes, you could potentially hurt your microcontroller or even your computer!  For a more secure solutions consider a solution like Futurlec's DC Opto-Isolated output board.

Arduino and Max: UPDATE

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A collaborator (Chris Coleman) and I have put together a new site for all matters arduino+max:

Please see the latest entry on that site for Maxuino 008 for the instructions on how to install the latest Maxuino package.

Noble & Webster

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This is the article on bionics I mentioned last week when we talked about nerve stimulus and memory. Although bionics is somewhat removed from our subject matter, its concern with motor control in humans is a relevant insight into the mechanics of human gesture. Check it out.

Also, Bionics' wiki page

Olafur Eliasson & Kumi Yamashita

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Lotte Reiniger

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some water art

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Paul Demarinis: Rain Dance (1998)

Julius Popp: bit.fall (?)

Resources for kinetic construction

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Flying Pig Movements and Mechanics:
Animated index of motions and translations of motions

Cornell Kmoddl Library
Movies of many kinetic mechanisms that produce more sophisticated, gestural motions

Long list of classical references on mechanics, kinetics and design with excellent drawings (check out Reuleaux's gears or Brown's pulley systems)

LaserCutter Standards!

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  • user Illustrator (recommended by me) or CorelDraw (recommended by some others).
  • set up a document that's 48" x 24", RGB mode. here's is a illustrator template file
  • if building 3d things set grid-size matching your material's thickness
  • use RGB RED for vector cuts (all the way thru the material)
  • use RGB BLUE for vector engraves (part way thru the material)
  • use BLACK for raster engrave (part way through, laser moves back-forth across)
  • if working with images, "live trace", "live paint"  are your friends; if working with anything "pathfinder" is your friend.  look them up in Illustrator!

Some ideas for working with the laser cutter.

  • Download and install Google SketchUp
  • Build your own thing, or download some components from the 3d warehouse
  • If a flat cut (like gears), then view your model from the top, export a vector file (.eps), and
  • open the file in illustrator. Make the file conform to laser-cutter standards; cut
  • If building a 3d structure, consider using finger joints, OR, use a clever origrami program like 
  • Pepakura to UNFOLD your model; then export a vector file (.eps) from Pepakura, open in
  • Illustrator and make conform to laser-cutter standards

Week 4 Readings: Tanizaki

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"In Praise of Shadows", Junichiro Tanizaki

PDF is here.tanizaki_in praise of shadows.pdf