Recently in Tutorials Category

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.

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

Microcontroller + Cycling '74 Max

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This entry outlines the necessary ingredients for getting a Teensy (our choice of arduino compatible micro-controller) communicating with Cycling '74's Max programming environment.


  1. Our micro-controller: Teensy/Teensy++ 2.0 (important reference page here)
  2. Programing for our microcontroller:  Arduino IDE (install, including "FTDI drivers")
  3. Teensy/Arduino IDE link: Teensyduino (install Teensyduino and Teensy Loader, use latest BETA!)
  4. Programming environment for our computer: Cycling '74's Max
  5. Max patch for communicating with an arduino/teensy: Maxuino 0.7 (install)


1.  In order to use Maxuino, you must load the "StandardFirmata" sketch onto the teensy/arduino.  It's under File>Examples>Firmata...
2.  Input/Output pin numberings are on the Teensy Reference Pages

Important on-line reference/help:

1.  Arduino forum (search for anything arduino related)
2.  Max Forum (search for type-of-sensor and/or arduino)
3.  Instructables (search for anything + arduino)
4.  Make Blog (search for anything + arduino)
5.  SparkFun (a vendor, but good reference for what sensors there are)
6.  YouTube (search for anything + arduino)

latest with firmata:
use THIS firmata sketch. this folder should replace:


Soldering Tutorial

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