Finally! Formica Swarm Robot Kits!

Last year, at 25C3 in Berlin, I spoke about our Formica swarm robotics platform. Lots of people asked for a kit, and I told them it would be released "soon". I've received a lot of emails since then asking about the status of the project, and I always reply apologetically saying that I've been awfully busy recently, and we really are getting round to it.

Submitted by jeff on Sat, 10/17/2009 - 03:10. categories [ ]

Vacuum Chamber

I needed a vacuum chamber to remove the bubbles from liquid casting investment.I made it from a 10mm plate of aluminium and a thick glass mixing bowl.


I needed a kiln to fire moulds for lost wax casting. It will also come in handy for other projects - heat treatment of steel, baking electronic components, and any situation where something must be held at high temperature, or under precisely controlled conditions. I could only afford the crappiest of commercially available kilns - no temperature control(!), and pretty weedy looking insulation so I decided to build my own. The weakest point is the thermocouple, which is rated up to 1100C, but I don't think I fancy taking it much above 1000.


A rose engagement ring. Coming up with a design for this piece was quite tricky. I wanted to make something with strong rose influence without being too cheesy. The ring needed to be light and elegant on a fairly small finger, but durable enough to last a lifetime. I came up with some initial sketches, discussed them with the client


and we landed on this one, but without the leaves. 

After an long, winding journey through metal casting, I ended up with this piece. I'm very pleased with it.

Changed tack

A few weeks ago I quit my PhD. Early on I realised that a career in research is probably not for me. Research, is about thinking, experimenting and communicating - writing papers, reading papers, lecturing, managing students, writing grant proposals. I'm not interested in any of those, I just love designing and building things. Whilst there is certainly a need for practical engineering, it is not the principle activity of most research. Space for aesthetics is more limited still.

Submitted by jeff on Sun, 04/05/2009 - 02:46.

Formica at Skycon

I'll be speaking about the Formica swarm robotics project this Saturday at Skycon , the 2nd conference on computers and IT held by Skynet, Limerick University's computer society. If you're in/near Ireland, you should definitely attend. There are some interesting speakers lined up, including Randall Munroe of xkcd ! I'm quite excited, I've never been invited to speak anywhere before. Tickets are on sale now, and are extremely good value.

Submitted by jeff on Thu, 02/12/2009 - 05:01. categories [ ]

Pimp your tiny ride

At 25C3, I met a papercrafter named Magdalena . She had the excellent idea of making the Formica robots cuter through the strategic application of paper hats. Recently, she mailed me these prototypes . Here they are printed, folded and stuck to the tops of the photodiodes with double-sided tape. Genius!

Submitted by jeff on Thu, 02/12/2009 - 04:52. categories [ ]

Fountain Pen Repair

Faye has a nice Shaeffer White Dot fountain pen, and brought it to me with a problem. The gold nib is screwed onto the plastic section assembly ("section" is the name for the part of a fountain pen between the nib and the barrel; the bit one holds when writing) with a few fine threads which had stripped.

Being and speaking at 25C3

You know that weird period between Christmas and New Years, when nothing really gets done? This year, I spent mine at 25C3; the 25th annual Chaos Communication Congress. Four thousand-odd geeks from around the world gather to share their ideas, hack, talk, game, build, start collaborations, and more. I'd never been to a hacker conference before, so I decided to jump in at the deep end and give a talk on Formica! It was a truly incredible experience...

Submitted by jeff on Tue, 01/13/2009 - 15:53. categories [ ]

Sapphire Cocktail Ring

I made this sapphire ring as a Christmas present for Faye. It's minimalism is unusual for a cocktail ring, but I think its impracticality puts it squarely in that category!