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Show and Tell: LEGO Ideas Research Institute

For this week's Show and Tell, Norm snags a new LEGO kit that sold out in just one day: the Research Institute minifies set that was designed through LEGO's user-submitted Ideas program. Here's why we wish LEGO would release more of these sets.

Getting Started With the Printrbot Simple Metal

Norm and I kicked off July by building a 3D printer, the Printrbot Simple Metal It was the third printer we’ve built, and it was interesting building a printer with a metal frame, but once we got it assembled and did a couple of test prints, we didn’t have time to touch it for a month. I’ve spent much of the last week dialing in the printer, figuring out its nuances, and getting decent prints out of it. We’ll do a Tested In-Depth video with it at some point in the future, but in the meantime, here's what I've learned so far.

First, in the time since we finished the build, the instructions for building the kit version of the Printrbot Simple Metal have been updated. The kit’s assembly instructions have been completely revamped, addressing many of the issues we had during the assembly. Along with good pictures, the newest version of the instructions provides written instructions for non-obvious steps.

I love that the Printrbot makes it easy to make slight Z-axis calibration changes in software rather than hardware.

The instructions for calibrating and making the first print are quite good, and I love that the Printrbot makes it easy to make slight Z-axis calibration changes—a common cause of bad prints—in software rather than hardware. It took two or three false starts, but we were able to print a fan shroud that was good enough to work in two or three tries. Because of the way this type of 3D printing works, it sometimes takes a few minutes for failures to become obvious. To give context, when we built our first printer, the original Makerbot Cupcake, it took almost a week of tweaking to get usable prints.

Once you get past the first print, configuring the software gets a little hairy.

Norm and I Are On Our Way to Seattle

Sorry for the slow news days today and tomorrow. Norm and I are both travelling, and will be incommunicado for the first part of the day. If you're coming to PAX in Seattle, we'll be there, and there will be a Tested meetup on Friday night from 6:30 to 8:30. Follow Will and Norm on Twitter, and we'll post the details on Friday afternoon. (Premium members check your email, you already have the details). We'll be.around all weekend, playing board games, hanging out with people and checking out PAX. Also, I'll be at the PAX Rumble on Sunday morning, fighting for your respect. Please, come and support me in my quest to not embarrass myself while playing a wrestling game for the first time ever.

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Adam Savage's Incredible Muscle Suit

Adam invites us to the Cave to check out a new costume that he can't wait to try on. Without knowing what it looks like beforehand, we get to see it for the first time and are left dumbfounded. It's one of those things you just have to see to believe!

Testing: Sony RX100 MK III Compact Camera

I've been on the hunt for a pocket camera to complement my DSLR, and spent time with cameras with sensors ranging from micro 4/3 to full-frame. My test of Sony's RX100 Mark II made me seriously consider the trade off between body size and sensor size. There were several things that held it back from being ideal for my day to day use, but I realized that getting a compact camera with an APS-C or Full-Frame sensor would compete too directly with my DSLR. Going for portability made more sense for a secondary camera. So for my recent birthday, I ended up buying Sony's RX100 Mark III, based on the praise other photographers have given it. It arrived a little over a week ago, and I've been shooting a lot with it since. And even though I've already committed to the camera, I'm still running it through the practical testing that I would give any new camera to gauge its strengths and weakness, and to relay that experience to you. So here's what that shooting experience has been like so far.

One of the reasons I felt I would be comfortable buying the RX100 III before using it is because it inherits almost all of the great things I like about the RX100 II. That includes size, weight, tilting LCD, image quality, manual controls, and wi-fi features. The size and weight are perfect for these cameras to be stowed in a jacket pocket (though the MK III is slightly thicker and heavier than both previous models). I was already satisfied with the RAW and JPEG image quality from Sony's 20MP 1" -type sensor, even if the lens on the MK II was a little lacking. And I have been very impressed with the Wi-Fi connectivity of Sony's cameras, which I used extensively on the a7 and RX100 II. In using this 3rd-generation RX100 the things I wanted to specifically test for were the new zoom lens and autofocus speed, as well as the digital viewfinder.

The OLED viewfinder is probably the most noticeable addition to the RX100 line, and surprisingly doesn't add to the heft or bulk of the camera. There's still a built-in flash, and the only thing you lose is a hotshoe that was on the MK II. This EVF pops up on the left side and needs to be extended a little bit before use, so you can't switch to it as instantaneously as you would a fixed EVF like on the Fuji cameras. The eye proximity sensor has proven to be accurate, though. I found the 800x600 resolution (100% coverage, .59x magnification) sufficient for framing and focusing, since I use digital peaking assists anyway for finding focus. I know some people who only use EVFs for their shooting, but I typically can't stand the latency--my brain wants the response of an optical viewfinder. But I have been using the EVF on this MKIII outdoors and even for reviewing photos. If Sony offered a version of the MK III without the EVF for a lower price, I would've gone with that one. But the $150 price difference between the models accounts for the EVF, the new lens, and new processor.

Below are my sample photos taken so far, with notes on what they say about the camera. The photos were not post-processed at all, just RAW files ingested in Lightroom and resized/exported as JPEGs. Click each of them to enlarge.

What the FAA Thinks of RC Aircraft, and Why it Matters

The past few weeks have witnessed developments that could spell the end of radio-control aeromodeling as we know it. In short, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has claimed jurisdiction over certain RC activities. This move comes as part of the FAA’s attempt to grasp control of the rapidly expanding presence of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in the national airspace. What was once a relaxing pastime could soon be a punishable offense. Here's how that could affect you and your FPV multi-rotor flying friends (like us!).

Genesis of a Duel

The FAA’s recent actions have put them sideways with the bulk of the model airplane community. The group on the front lines defending the interests of modelers is the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). To fully understand the situation, a short history lesson is in order.

In February of 2012, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act became law. Among many other things, this law instructed the FAA to integrate UAS activities into the national airspace. At that time, the FAA had no specific regulations governing the use of these machines, or even a firm definition of what constitutes a UAS.

Anticipating that the law would give birth to blanket policies that could negatively impact aeromodeling, the AMA fought for provisions to exclude hobbyists. At the time, the FAA stated no ill will towards RC modelers and Congress had no intention to impose any regulations on the hobby. The win-win provision that emerged is Section 336 of the FAA act – Special Rule for Model Aircraft. It prohibits the FAA from introducing any new rules to regulate “hobby or recreational” use of model aircraft.

Taken at face value, the FAA’s new stance on aeromodeling would have drastic and far-reaching implications to the hobby as well as the small industry that it supports.

Mood Check: AMA – Relieved, FAA – Overwhelmed

Since that time, the FAA and AMA have met regularly to ensure that both parties were on the same page as the FAA moved forward with its obligations under the new law. Although the FAA’s progress was glacial and milestone dates continually moved to the right, they frequently reassured the AMA that they had nothing to worry about.

Mood Check: AMA – Cautiously Optimistic, FAA – “What was that due date again?”

In June of this year, the FAA released a memo indicating its interpretation of Section 336. Not only was this memo produced absent of any coordination with the AMA, its wording is contrary to previous statements made by the FAA. Taken at face value, the FAA’s memo-defined stance on aeromodeling would have drastic and far-reaching implications to the hobby as well as the small industry that it supports.

Mood Check: AMA – Deceived, FAA – “You mad bro?”

In Brief: A Beginner's Guide to Drills and Bits

BoingBoing has been running a nice series of instructional guides to common workshop tools, written by maker Steve Hoefer. He started with a guide to wire strippers, and then a beginner's guide to hammers, and today has published an overview to the many different types of hand drills and bits. I like Hoefer's approach to explaining tools; his write-ups are primers are more about breath than depth, and point you in the right direction for a specific task at hand. Perfect for a beginner like me!

Bits to Atoms: Building the Millenbaugh Motivator, Part 4

Your patience has paid off--it’s time for the final print of the Millenbaugh Motivator! All the measurements have been made, a rough version has been completed, the final version has been modeled and prototypes printed. After three months of work, it was time to get this delivered to Adam. And that meant making a flight back out to San Francisco.

For my previous prints, such as the Octopod and Jetcar builds, I’ve used the trusty Objet Connex500. It's a high-end polyjet printer that can print in various materials--even rubber. But as much as I like this machine, I also had access to a 3D Systems ProJet 7000 HD which could print at even higher resolutions and in stronger material, all of which would be especially useful for the Motivator. The ProJet is a SLA (stereolithography) machine that prints by ‘drawing’ the part in a vat of liquid resin using a laser that solidifies the UV sensitive material. Once a layer is finished, the print platform sinks further down in the resin, a fresh layer of resin is distributed over the top and the laser draws the next layer. The resolution can be set incredibly high, and I was told the parts would be dimensionally accurate, meaning a hole modeled at 3mm in diameter would print at exactly 3mm.

ProJet 7000 SLA 3D Printer & UV 'Oven'

I was a bit skeptical of this claim, since typically you need to factor in some tolerances when modeling to accommodate the accuracy of the printer and behavior of the material. This has caused me frustration when 3D printing since a model built with tolerances for one printer won’t always print well on a different printer. I have done various versions of the same model with slight tweaks for different printers--an annoying and time-consuming task.