Eddie Dunn's Blog

Musings and Insights from the Mind of a Human

The Return of Computing to the Physical World

without comments

Ever since the mid nineties nearly all we have heard about in the media regarding computing technology is cyber this, virtual that…. email, www, Second Life, World of Warcraft, etc. We are now seeing a much different phenomenon take shape. We are now going back to reality!

Desktop fabrication from digital files 

I am assuming folks know by now what a 3D printer is and what it does. If you are unsure (or just too scared to ask), I will summarize. It takes three dimensional models that you create on your computer (or download from the internet) and literally prints them out in 100 micron layers (at our printers highest resolution) one layer at a time. It is sometimes painful to watch but it is truly a magical experience to see connected, yet correctly separated chain links printed out all at once! It has long been the case the anything physical whether it is a cog or a printed circuit board had a whole interesting set of cost and time dynamics. The software can be written and rewritten with much more agility than making some “thing”. This is about to change! Think if large scale manufacturers would provide downloads of 3D printable models of standard parts from their catalogs so that you can incorporate them into your prototyping process! It would eliminate a great deal of redundant work to be able to reuse as much engineering along the path from concept to final product as is practical and desirable. Additive fabrication through the much raved about 3D printers but also worth mentioning are the increasing correspondingly priced desktop subtractive CNC milling machines.

Affordable, open, and accessible computing platforms

The Arduino open hardware platform for Atmel 8-bit micro-controllers (and now 32 bit) is an excellent example. (There is a great FLOSS episode that interviews one of the founders and tells the story.) The project aims to provide an easy to understand and use computer to reality interface in my words or “anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments” in theirs.  This platform has found its way into things as cutting edge as automatic stabilization and autopilots for drone quadcopter and controls for humanoid robots to as mundane as controls for dishwashers and hot water heaters. These little micro-controllers are setup like modern day Swiss army knives that have the ability to control and/or sense and store pretty much anything you can dream up!

Then there is the newer but just as promising Raspberry Pi ecosystem. This is a $25 single board computer that uses a chip-set very similar to those used in modern cell phones that is capable of playing full HD video (and sound) through an on-board hdmi (that new plug on all the thin tvs)!! It also provides some controlling and sensing (input/output) like the Arduino but if the Arduino will do what you need then why make it more complex?

We now have the ability to design and create increasingly  ANYTHING WE CAN DREAM UP all from the comfort of our garages!






Written by tmwsiy

May 21st, 2013 at 8:22 am

Posted in technology,thought

Leave a Reply