3D Printing Projects book released


Hey look, the new book is out! That’s my flower care robot, Chauncey, there on the cover. (He waters that flower whenever the soil runs dry.)

I’m very excited and proud to have contributed to this lovely new book from Maker Media chocked full of projects you can build with a 3D printer, some electronics and mechanical parts, and a bit of gumption. The central notion behind 3D Printing Projects: Toys, Tools, and Contraptions to Print and Build Yourself is “You’ve got a 3D printer, and you’ve downloaded and printed a few Yoda heads and vases — now what?”

The projects all go beyond static prints, and into functional builds that show the true utility of desktop prototyping and additive building when combined with other techniques, including print finishing/painting, friction welding, embedded electronics, physical computing, and mechanism design. Downloadable model files are available on the book’s companion site, and we’ve got a GitHub repository set up for any code downloads, such as the Arduino sketch that powers my flower bot.

I’d like to also give an enormous public, internet hug and thank you to my creative collaborator, Barry McWilliams, who inspired me with his Wrylon Robotical Illustrated Catalog of Botanical Delivery ‘Botsand who designed my darling little robot, Chauncey.


If you’re interested in learning how to make your own Chauncey, or animatronic eyes, or a ballpoint pen raygun, an inverted RC trike, and more, from a very talented group of makers, including John Baichtal, James Floyd Kelly, and Brook Drumm,  please check it out on Amazon, at O’Reilly, in your local Barnes & Noble, or other local bookstore. I promise it will give invigorating new purpose to your 3D printer!


Ultrasonic Sensor housing

I built a roaring beast device. It detects when a person (or animal, or object) is within range and then triggers an audio file to play through the speakers. Roar!

To place the sensor out under a bush or fence for Halloween, I wanted to run a long length of CAT5 cable from it to the Arduino Uno running things. I mounted the rangefinder (a Maxbotix from Adafruit) to a RJ45 breakout board from Sparkfun, angling it up so the sensor can be placed low to the ground.

In the original application, I was able to hide this under a giant furry Neverbeast head (from Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast) coming out of the floor in the lobby of Disneytoon Studios. But now I needed to place on outdoors, so I decided to model and 3D print this little enclosure.



Finally, I mounted another RJ45 breakout in my Arduino/WaveShield case and ran the voltage, signal, and ground wires to the Arduino.

Now, I’ll be able to set this up to scare trick or treaters this Halloween as they get near the house.

Automatic Nerf Sentry Gun

I built this Nerf Sentry Gun by grafting a couple of Arduinos, a power supply, a motor, and an ultrasonic distance sensor onto a Nerf Vulcan machine gun. I posted these build notes on Make: online. I’ve never compiled them all in one place, however, so this post serves to tie the whole project together in one place.

Part 1: Wiring the trigger

The first step was to add wiring and a two-wire connector to control the trigger circuit. I opened up the Nerf Vulcan (about 30 screws) and soldered an 1/8″ female jack to the fire selection mode switch. This way, I can retain all the regular functions of the gun when it’s unplugged from the Arduino. To control it from the Arduino, I’ll flip the orange switch on top to “off” and then wire the trigger into the “pulled” position (done here with a classy twist tie). Whenever the Arduino’s trigger circuit closes (bypassing that orange “off” switch) the gun will start firing.

To add the connector, I drilled a 1/4″ hole in the gun’s hand grip, fed the sleeve through, and secured it with a couple of zip ties inside for strain relief.

Next, I’m planning to build the Arduino’s trigger circuit using a MOSFET transistor wired to a male 1/8″ jack I can plug into the gun.

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SPLixel Sweeper

Sometimes its fun to build and code a little project to test new hardware, as well as just for the heck of it. I built this demo thing with a Spikenzie Labs SPLixel board and LED strip, Arduino, and ScrewShield. I read one knob to control the position (which LED is lit), the other controls the green component of the color mix.

In order to keep the knobs from moving around too much, I screwed some small c-clamps onto them.

It’s fun to play with. A little bit.

Imperial Melody Discharger – Stormtrooper helmet art build notes

I built the Imperial Melody Discharger, an articulated Stormtrooper helmet music box, for the Star Wars Day (“May the 4th be with you”) vinyl Stormtrooper helmet art show . For the event, artists across the Walt Disney Company, including DisneyToon Studios where I work, were invited to participate by using a blank 6″ helmet as the canvas for their work. What follows are my build notes and work in progress images.


My intention for the piece was to provide a view behind the mask of the anonymous Stormtrooper, while creating a fun, interactive moment for the person experiencing it. I wasn’t sure exactly how to get there, but I was certain I’d need to cut the vinyl helmet open. You only have one shot at that, so I decided to first cut apart a CG model inside Maya, and rig it with pivot points that could be used in the real world for the facial articulation.


Mostly satisfied that I knew where to separate the parts of the helmet, I grabbed an X-acto knife, took a breath, and began the incision. (Note: It smelled really foul in there. Also note: I have no way to compare the smell to that of the insides of a tauntaun.)


Once splayed out I wasn’t too surprised to see that the “pelt” of the helmet was darned floppy. I needed to build an armature to keep the structure solid, and to support the articulation of the two halves of the face mask.


With very little time to get fancy building parts from scratch, I rummaged around my workshop, closets, and shamefully disorganized garage, until I came upon an old spider Babyface homage to Toy Story I’d build back in ’95 out of Erector sets. Sorry, Spider Baby, I needed your body parts.


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