I haven't updated this site in around four months, so I figured it was about time to write about the latest things going on in my life. I largely took the summer off from any real progress on projects due to personal reasons, but I'm happy to report that I'm back into the full swing of things like never before!
FireHero Guitar MIDI interface:
One of my largest goals with the FireHero system is to be able to interface it to live instruments. In theory, it's relatively straightforward. But in reality, acquiring an accurate data stream that represents the guitarist's playing and processing it to provide visually pleasing results is quite a challenge. I'm happy to announce that after a couple months of pulling my hair out during late-night coding/guitar-playing sessions, the guitar interface has reached a point where I'm sufficiently pleased with the results for me to call it an "Alpha" version.
I use a Roland GK-3 hexaphonic pickup, which is mounted to the guitar with double-sided tape and connected to a GI-20 pitch-to-MIDI converter. The MIDI output of the GI-20 is fed into custom Python software which analyzes the data stream and ultimately sends the output over Ethernet protocol to the FireHero-side computers, which output the patterns specified by the software. The Python host software is made up of a series of algorithms designed to perform intelligent chord-detection, as well as detect single notes and place them appropriately. The software memorizes all the chord progressions of a particular song as the guitarist plays in order to ensure consistent output for each chord. I hope to be filming a demo of this system, which is intended for live performances, very soon - stay tuned!
Over the past three weeks I've performed a $5,000 revamp of FireHero to the latest version - FireHero 3! The upgrades includes a completely-revamped fuel system capable of delivering almost 10 times the propane output of the previous versions, a high-voltage plasma ignition system, a custom-designed control system complete with an operator's panel, status displays, custom data exchange protocols, and solid-state switching of the solenoid valves. Also new in this version is the increase of the normal five effects to six (to accommodate the guitar interface) and the addition of four 40-foot flame effects to the frame. I'm also working on developing two 120-foot flame cannons. Stay tuned for an upcoming article dedicated to FireHero 3.
I've been very involved in creating a desktop plastic extrusion machine since the end of May. Here's a photo of an early (failed) prototype:
I was originally inspired by the Desktop Factory Competition, and at this point my design has evolved enough that I'm in the process of developing a company around the concept. The machines will be completely Open Source once released, and are designed with the goal of being as affordable as possible to allow all sorts of individuals, schools, and other organizations the ability to save huge amounts of money on plastic costs for FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) prototyping. There are several open-source extrusion machines being developed right now, but my design takes a different approach and borrows techniques from the 80-year-old plastics extrusion industry to provide a higher-quality product at a greater speed. Here's a screenshot of an early rendering:
I'm also planning on re-building my blast furnace and re-starting my work in metalcasting soon, so I've started collecting WVO. After gathering several hundred pounds of oil, I realized that I needed a more efficient way of storing it. I found an old 100# propane tank lying in the woods by my house, so I turned it into an oil storage tank. I welded fittings onto the tank, so now I can cart it around to dispense of oil wherever I need it!