Latest StoriesMakers
    Hands-On with Nintendo Labo Cardboard Kits!

    We go hands-on with the Nintendo Labo cardboard maker kits for the Switch console! Jeremy, Kishore, and Norm spend the day testing out the Variety and Robot kits, assembling a few of the accessories and playtesting their corresponding games. We share our impressions on Labo and our hopes for the platform.

    Highlights from the 2018 Academy of Model Aeronautics Expo East!

    Springtime is typically trade-show season in the RC industry. For many, these shows mark the end of the winter "building season" and the start of model flying, boating, and driving for the year. Until recently, I had never been to an RC trade show. So I was particularly excited to attend AMA Expo East during the last weekend of February. I was able to check out newly-released products, see what other modelers have been up to, and hear some fantastic speakers.

    The AMA Expo

    In this context, "AMA" stands for the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which is a nationwide, non-profit, community-based organization that promotes and advocates for all types of aeromodeling. The majority of active model flyers are already familiar with this group, since AMA membership is a prerequisite to joining most local flying clubs.

    As the name suggests, AMA Expo East is a sister event to AMA Expo West, which took place in Ontario, California in early January. The eastern event that I attended was held inside the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. I was somewhat concerned that this location (just across the Hudson River from Midtown Manhattan) would be a hassle to get into and out of. It turned out to be a complete non-issue. The Exposition Center and adjoining hotel were easy to access and had plenty of free parking.

    New Products

    Numerous manufacturers had booths set up at the expo to show off their new (and legacy) products. These offerings ranged from custom pilot figures for RC models to emergency parachutes for your drone. There is a big difference between seeing a product in a magazine or online article and holding it in your hands. Many businesses were equipped to sell on-site and had special "expo pricing" to help seal the deal.

    I was able to get my paws on the new Spektrum iX12 transmitter in the Horizon Hobby booth. This was good for me, not because I pine for the iX12, but because I have been skeptical of it since it was announced. You see, this radio has a quad-core processor and uses an Android operating system. It is basically a tablet and transmitter hybrid. While I appreciate new technology, I'm not convinced that an RC transmitter needs to be that complex.

    Meet Danny Huynh, Custom RC Artist

    You know an RC car is super-cool when your non-RC friends share it on Facebook. That's how I found out about Danny Huynh. I kept coming across videos of his creations on social media. His vehicles were like nothing else I'd ever seen before. I had to track him down to find out more.

    Danny is a former professional photographer based in Sydney, Australia. According to Huynh, his RC projects borrow elements of steampunk, WWII airplanes, and post-apocalyptic themes. Think "Mad Max meets Sky Captain". Labels aside, Danny's cars are truly stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces.

    All of Danny's artwork is fun to look at when it's just sitting there. But these are functional machines too. Not only do they drive, many have custom-crafted dynamic features such as moving figures and crazy faux weapons. Enjoy the photos, but you have to watch some of Danny's videos to truly appreciate his particular brand of genius.

    Most of Danny's projects are kit-bash creations that utilize off-the-shelf parts. But he does scratchbuild when necessary.

    Danny was kind enough to answer a few questions about his projects and the processes he uses to make them. Here's what he had to say.

    Watch Simone Hunt Robots (and Eat Them)!

    Our very own Simone Giertz has an awesome new video she just debuted, in which she looks for way for vegetarians like herself to enjoy hunting for food. That's where the robots come in. We won't spoil the many surprises and delights in this episode, but you may recognize some familiar faces! Go watch it!

    Storyboarding a Stop-Motion Animated Film

    Stop-Motion Animation isn't just about puppets--traditional 2D artists visualize the action of the film with storyboards. We chat with one of Aardman's storyboard artists to learn how fast they work to create a rough sketch version of the film most people will never see.

    Tested: Glowforge Laser Cutter Review

    After using the Glowforge personal laser cutter for six months, Jeremy and Norm talk about the projects they've done, the lessons they've learned from using the machine, and caveats of its operation. The Glowforge definitely has its limitations, but being able to easily laser cut in our own homes has changed the way we think about making things.

    On the Shooting Set of Aardman Animations' Early Man!

    Adam Savage steps onto one of the film stages at Aardman Animations, where a complex and detailed miniatures set is ready for stop-motion filming. Chatting with one of the Animation Directors of the film, Adam learns how the puppets are mounted on these sets to make them come alive, one frame at a time.

    Visiting the Niagara Aerospace Museum

    I've now lived in Buffalo for about eight months and I'm only just beginning to realize the rich aviation-related history of this area. I've learned that Western New York was an important hub of aerospace technology for many years. In fact, some of America's most important and iconic aircraft and spacecraft have roots in Buffalo. My education on such matters recently got significant boost when I visited the Niagara Aerospace Museum (NAM).

    The primary focus of NAM is to showcase the aviation and space-related legacy of the Buffalo area. There are numerous complete airplanes and helicopters on display, several partial ones, as well as tons of engines and other smaller artifacts. Most of the hardware was designed and built in Western New York.

    NAM is located at the entrance to the Niagara Falls International Airport. It is about a 15 minute drive from the US side of the actual falls. I think it's totally feasible to fit both attractions into one day.

    Preserved World War II Veteran

    A centerpiece in the NAM collection is the fuselage from a WWII-era Bell P-39 Airacobra. Like many aircraft that were no longer in production when the war ended, P-39s are somewhat of a rare finds these days. A quick head count indicates three P-39s in flying condition and ten on static display in the US. Even among such exclusive company, NAM's P-39 has an exceptional and somewhat tragic history.

    Like all P-39s, the example at NAM was built just a stone's throw away at the former Bell Aircraft plant. This was one of the thousands of Airacobras provided to the Soviet Air Force under the Lend-Lease program. It was flown from Buffalo to Alaska via a network of US and Canadian staging bases. Russian pilots then ferried the little fighter from Fairbanks to the western border of Russia near Finland, overflying vast stretches of the Siberian tundra.

    This P-39 Airacobra crash-landed on a frozen lake during WWII. It was pulled from the water after 60 years.

    The P-39 was not popular among US pilots who were assigned to fly the unique mid-engined fighter in combat. Russian pilots, however, generally liked their Airacobras…especially the reliable radios. A recovered log book indicates that NAM's P-39 served with the Soviet Air Force in action against the Finnish Air Force. In November of 1944, engine trouble forced Lieutenant Ivan Baranovsky to bring the Airacobra in for an emergency landing on the frozen surface of an arctic lake.

    Mechanical Keyboard Musings - Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project - 2/14/18
    This week, we chat about good customer service encounters, Adam's hunt for a bluetooth mechanical keyboard, drones at the Olympics, and William Gibson books. Plus, we convince Will to take a chance on The Good Place, trying to stay away from spoilers as best we can (albiet unsuccessfully in the end).
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    Designing the Stop-Motion Sets of Aardman Animation's Early Man!

    Even though a stop-motion animated film is shot at a smaller-than-life scale, the sets and environments that need to be built for its clay characters can still be massive. Adam Savage enters the production design room at Aardman Animations to learn how Early Man's sets are blueprinted, prototyped, and then finally built to be filmed, one frame at a time.

    Organizing a Stop-Motion Film Production at Aardman Animations

    Adam Savage visits Aardman Animations, where the studio is in production for its new film Early Man. A stop-motion film production requires many departments to work together to film dozens of scenes concurrently--so how is all of this organized? In chatting with Early Man's first Assistant Director Ben Barrowman, Adam learns how a sprawling film production is kept on track for its filming deadlines!

    Combining 3D Printed Models with Laser-Cut Parts

    Sean shares one of his personal projects: a LEGO-inspired computer console that's based off of the classic blue LEGO computer brick. He originally designed it to be purely 3D-printed, but has been experimenting with using laser cutting to replace some of its parts. Here are some of his lessons learned from combining 3D printing with laser cutting on our Universal Systems laser cutter.