My blog has moved.

posted Oct 22, 2013, 6:50 PM by Bryan Cera

Wondering why I haven't updated this blog since 2012?  It's because my blog moved on over to

For other updates, you can take a peek at my new online portfolio, which will eventually take the place of this old site.

Weather Patterns Audio System: New Documentation

posted Jul 27, 2012, 4:14 AM by Bryan Cera   [ updated Jul 27, 2012, 11:26 PM ]

Nathaniel Stern and I have finally gotten around to documenting the speaker system for Weather Patterns, our collaboration with Erin Manning, Brian Massumi and Nicole Ridgway.  It is basically a modular system for physically routing sound about a space.

Here we are routing the speaker modules down the hallway outside my studio.  The sound travels as it jumps from speaker to speaker. 

At any time we can route a sound to any speaker in the line.  This can be fun, but I think the coolest effect happens when the sound moves sequentially, creating a surreal sense of linear motion.

You can read about the Weather Patterns installation on Nathaniel's website here, but I thought I'd make a home for the audio system here on my site, as it is pretty nifty in it's own right.  I might even come up with a name for it, so it can exist as its own work.

Below are some audio clips to give you an idea of what this thing does.  As I recorded this with a stationary set of stereo mics, I recommend listening through headphones for the full effect:  Of course, it is infinitely cooler in person.

White noise, traveling at varying velocities:

Rain sound byte, traveling at varying velocities:

Sine Wave, traveling at varying velocities, changing pitch between each step:

I plan on adding this project to my projects page in the near future, once I sort all my images and audio.  Watch there for more documentation!

New Bot, Continued

posted Jul 27, 2012, 3:35 AM by Bryan Cera

I've been super busy (my summer job has eaten a lot more time than I had anticipated!) but I'm hoping to get some bigger blocks of time in the studio in the next few weeks.

A bit of progress on IRL 2.0, my upgraded telepresence robot.  I've tested my 3D printed sprockets with a bike chain, and they work relatively well.  I am tweaking the designs to move a bit more smoothly - the teeth bind in the chain occasionally.  This is an easy fix.

Milwaukee Makerspace tipped me off to a local salvage yard that was selling aluminum extrusion dirt cheap.  I grabbed 10 pounds of it, and am planning on using this for a new-and-improved frame for IRL's chassis.

I also bought a pair of rotary encoders (from amazon, here) and three ultrasonic distance sensors (also from amazon, here) in hopes of creating a smarter navigation system for IRL.  This could make steering him and navigating hallways much easier.

I'll post more updates as they come.

New Bot.

posted Jul 11, 2012, 11:28 PM by Bryan Cera   [ updated Jul 12, 2012, 10:35 AM ]

Now that I have my Mendel Max 3D printer up and running, I need a project so I can really sink my teeth in to my new gadget.  I decided to re-build IRL, my telepresence robot.

You can learn all about that project here.

Here is IRL's chassis.  Many, many problems with this thing.  The biggest one:  Due to the motors directly driving the wheels, the wheels eventually get pulled out of alignment and things start breaking.  I decided the first thing I'd design and print was a chain-and-sprocket system to replace the direct-drive on IRL's chassis.

Here was my first attempt at making a sprocket attachment for a new-used set of wheels.  Many problems with it.  The sprocket teeth warped (due to heat), nothing fit correctly, and the whole piece was way too tall.

To keep the teeth from warping, I decided to flip the print upside-down, letting the bed of the printer keep them straight.

After 4 iterations of the wheel's sprocket attachment, I had the perfect part.

For the motor's  sprocket attachment, I managed to get it right the first time.

I took a few cues from the Mendel Max components.  For both parts I designed holes to hold nuts captive within the plastic.  Here I'm using said captive nuts to hold set-screws for coupling the sprocket with the motor shaft.

Little clampy-bits that go on the wheel, opposite the sprocket attachment:

After just a few hours work, I now have a wheel and motor with matching sprockets!

Now to get my hands on a bike chain...

Mendel Max - First Prints

posted Jul 11, 2012, 11:10 PM by Bryan Cera

Naturally, my first print was going to be a gift for my girlfriend, Louisa.  She practices meditation, so I thought a buddha would be a perfect little trinket for her.  I found this one on thingiverse.

It came out great, but I did notice some air bubbles in the extruded plastic.  I believe this was due to the filament occasionally getting jammed in the extruder.  I used a drill to enlarge the hole in the ABS part that sits between the extruder gear and the hot-end.  It seemed to fix the problem.

I decided my next print would be my own face.  I used an STL of one of the scans I took while I was calibrating the non-contact digitzer at work (see this post if you're curious.)

Yes, I realize a lot of my work utilizes my own face... but I'm the most affordable model/actor/guinea-pig I know of.

Unfortunately I only had a small sample of this red ABS, and I ran out before the print could finish.

Using an awesome (and free) program called NetFabb, I sliced the model at the point it stopped printing.

I finished the model of my head with the last bit of plastic I had... some clear PLA.

Just my luck... I finally have my own 3D printer, but no print media.  Time to go shopping...

Mendel Max - Wiring and Calibration

posted Jul 11, 2012, 10:56 PM by Bryan Cera

Matt is a new friend I met at the lab where I'm working for the summer.  Because he's a pro (has been working on modifying/improving a printerbot for the last few months) he offered to help me finish wiring up my printer, along with installing all the necessary software.  He also showed me some tips and tricks for calibrating an extruder-based printer. 

Matt, along with another workmate from the lab named Jesse, is starting a 3D printing company in Milwaukee.  If you need some prints made but dont have your own printer, check them out.  Here's their website:

The first time the axises moved I literally began jumping up and down in joy... and when the extruder pooped out its first bit of hot plastic, the maniacal laughter began...

Printing a solid calibration cube.

Wow... it came out perfectly on the first go.  Even Matt was astonished.

The cube on the left was actually printed upside-down... testing to make sure the printer could properly bridge gaps.  Both cubes came out nearly flawless.

I can hardly even believe it, but... I have a 3D printer.  Oh my.

A Heated Bed for Mendel

posted Jul 11, 2012, 10:41 PM by Bryan Cera

I made a vector image of the heated bed from a PDF i snatched from  This was cut out of a sheet of yellow adhesive-backed vinyl on my vinyl cutter.  I buy my vinyl locally from American Science and Surplus.

Louisa found this stuff at Walgreens... its like the sticky part of a post-it note, but as a roll of tape in a handy little dispenser.  This makes the best tape for transferring vinyl cuts.

I laid it over the vinyl cut in overlapping strips, then peeled the whole deal off the vinyl backing paper, and carefully stuck it onto a blank copper-clad PCB.

I then peeled off the post-it tape in reverse order.

Then peeled of the negative areas of the vinyl cut.

Ready for etching!

Peeling away vinyl from a circuit etch resist is one of those strangely satisfying experiences...

For some flare I decided to add my name... cut from a scrap of white vinyl.

I had to modify my already-ghetto agitator to fit this large PCB.  I used a plastic tub I had lying around... not sure if it is resistant to the acid I'm using, but it held up long enough for this etch!  Don't try this at home... I recommend using glass or a material you know is rated for your acid.

Copper etched away, vinyl resist still in place.

More satisfying peeling...

A nearly flawless etch!

This was the last piece of the puzzle for this project.  All that is left to do is wire up the electronics, and then on to calibration!

RepRap almost complete...

posted Jun 24, 2012, 4:55 PM by Bryan Cera

Pretty close to completion.  Just waiting on a few more components in the mail and the last few printed pieces (Frankie is currently printing these.) I've been looking at the electronics side of things, and it looks to me that I could wire everything up within a day.  I am hoping to be doing test prints by the end of the week!

More Reprap (DIY 3D-Printer) Progress...

posted Jun 23, 2012, 11:17 AM by Bryan Cera

Rather than buying a heated bed PCB, I decided to make my own!  Blank pc board is on its way, and in the mean time I'm cutting vinyl masks to use as etch resists.  This should turn out nicely!


I also finished assembling the extruder and x-axis carraige:

And I managed to find a computer ATX power supply with enough amperage to handle the electronics and heated bed for the printer.  I removed the extra wires and added a power switch:

Just waiting on a few mechanical components in the mail.  As soon as those come, I should be able to finish building in a day or two.  Excited!

Rep Rap (DIY 3D-Printer) Progress

posted Jun 17, 2012, 2:18 PM by Bryan Cera

Made some progress on my Rep Rap.  Frankie printed more parts for me, and I began to assemble them:

I'm a little low on cash right now, so to save money I found a way to get some of the components I needed cheaply...

Consumer-grade scanners and ink-jet printers use the same kind of precision-ground linear shafts that the Mendel Max calls for.  I had some of these lying around, and grabbed a couple from a local Good Will (there's always a ton available there for cheap!)  I took them apart and harvested their precious linear components!

I can also use some of the drive belts removed from these.  This makes me want to do a build completely made of old printer and scanner parts some time in the future.  Stay tuned on that!

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