August 2, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Arduino Fire Punch [Maker Update #45]

This week on Maker Update, punch-activated flame throwers, interactive laser curtains, Massimo takes back Arduino, some time with a deluxe center punch, 3-color OLED screens, MagPi 60, and the Gemma M0. This week’s Cool Tool is the Rennsteig Adjustable Automatic Center Punch.

Show Notes

Advanced Projects

Punch Activated Arm Flamethrowers (Real Fire bending) Made by Allen Pan

Project and image by Allen Pan.

Flamethrower Skateboard (reference, Featured in Maker Update #34)

MyoWare Bionic Claws (reference)

Interactive Laser Sheet Generator With Arduino by Jon Bumstead

Image and project by Jon Bumstead.

Electrical Slip Rings || What they’re for, How they work, DIY, etc.

Interactive Geodesic Dome (reference)


Acquisition Ushers in New Era for Arduino; Banzi Named Chairman

BCMI Arduino Acquisition by Mike Senese on Scribd


Arduino Link Roundup

Cool Tools Minute

Basic $5 Center Punch

Rennsteig Adjustable Automatic Center Punch with hand guard in round plastic tube- 60 – 130 N Striking Force

Photo by Donald Bell.


MagPi Issue #60

Make Tips of the Week

Image of John Park by Gareth Branwyn.

‘Ultimate Guide to Soldering’ by @pimoroni

Image by Pimoroni.

Inky pHAT 3-color e-ink display

Image by Pimoroni.

Adafruit GEMMA M0

Image courtesy of Adafruit.

Maker Faires

Chicago Southside Mini Maker Faire
Dayton Mini Maker Faire
Maker Faire Tokyo



This week on Maker Update, punch-activated flame throwers, interactive laser curtains, Massimo takes back Arduino, some time with a deluxe center punch, 3-color OLED screens, MagPi 60, and the Gemma M0.

It’s Wednesday, August 2nd, I’m Donald Bell and welcome to another Maker Update! Big show today with lots of news and projects to cover, so let’s seriously cut right to it, starting with my favorite project this week.

Allen Pan, the maker behind the electromagnetic Thor’s hammer that went viral a few years back, has a new project that turns your fists into flamethrowers.

The system is a sort of self-contained gauntlet that combines an Arduino Pro Mini, an accelerometer breakout board from Adafruit, a butane fuel chamber made from standard pipe fittings, a voltage-controlled valve, and an electric arc lighter. The whole thing is connected to a LiPo battery and mounted onto a light plank of wood — which might not be ideal for a fire project, but probably provides a good degree of insulation from the heat.

The coolest thing about this, aside from the fact that you’re shooting fire out of your arms, obviously, is that the code for the accelerometer is tailored specifically to respond to punches. If it doesn’t get that high velocity, followed by a sudden stop, it doesn’t trigger the effect.

So, the way it works is, the Arduino is on, constantly looking for a punch-like acceleration curve from the Adafruit accelerometer. Once it sees it, the butane valve and the arc lighter are momentarily triggered by the Arduino. After ignition, the code goes back to looking for punch movement.

Now, it should go without saying that this is not a project for kids or beginners. And even for experienced builders, you should have a fire extinguisher and first aid kit close by. Also, Allen admits that building in a simple on/off switch into the battery wiring would add some safety and convenience.

With all that said, this is one of the coolest, most dangerous projects I’ve seen since the flamethrower skateboard by Mikeasaurus in episode #34. It also reminds me a little of the muscle-controlled Wolverine claws project from MyoWare. I’ll drop links to all these projects in the show notes.

Another great project that just dropped this week is this interactive laser sheet generator by Jon Bumstead. Jon also created the musical geodesic dome featured in episode 18, which shares some of the same DNA as this laser project.

There are two main features here — one is a set of red lasers that spin around so fast, you perceive them as sheets. Because the lasers are mounted on servos to angle them in or out, the shape can be controlled or set to automatically drift around.

Just that alone is awesome, and there’s a whole chunk here just on how to incorporate sliprings into projects, so that stationary elements can connect to spinning elements without creating a tangle of cables. Jon used a slipring to connect the spinning servos and lasers to a stationary Arduino Mega.

But the other part of this project is a ring of ultrasonic sensors that translate nearby movement into musical MIDI notes you can connect to a keyboard.

Altogether, it’s essentially an advanced take on the laser harp. The part that really sticks with me though is the slipring. I kinda knew these things existed, but never really understood how they worked until now. I’m excited to use them in a project.

It’s time for some news. On Friday of last week, Arduino announced that the company was under new ownership and that CEO Federico Musto would be departing. Arduino founder Massimo Banzi has been named CTO and a man named Fabio Violante will serve as the new CEO.

The announcement comes after a year of drama surrounding Federico Musto’s suspiciously unverifiable degrees from MIT and NYU, and the unfulfilled promise of an Arduino Foundation to look after the Arduino IDE software.

I think it’s a good move that’s going to help Arduino save face after the Musto fiasco. And while it’s great to see Massimo sort of back in charge, I do think it’s important to remember that Arduino was sort of dropping the ball even before Musto came along. There’s still a lot of work to be done if Arduino wants to stay relevant.

This week for my Cool Tools review I’m going to show you a fancy automatic center hole punch, great for marking and starting drill holes in metal and wood. I’ve got an Amazon link for this in the show notes, and if you pick one up you help to support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

Here’s your typical brass handle center punch you can pick up for around $5. You push it into the material you want to drill and it makes a little divet for your drill to start in so it doesn’t wander around.

The trouble with these is that they get dull quick, and even out of the box they don’t leave much of a mark. I’ve also found that the round design just loves to roll off your workbench.

It got me wondering what a nice center punch would be like, so I did a little research and found this $30 option from Rennsteig. This is an all German-made tool. It has this nice, ergonomic handle that allows you to push down directly from the top. It also doesn’t roll all over the place, which I like.

The replaceable striking pin here is made from hardened tool steel with a Rockwell hardness rating of 58. The punch itself has a striking force of 60-130 Newtons. You can adjust the force by twisting the handle.

What this means, practically, is bigger, deeper marks in your material, and hopefully a substantially longer lasting pin — though you can order pin replacements for around $10 online.

Here’s the mark from a new $5 punch on the left, and the mark from the Rennsteig on the right. It’s a noticeable difference. Is it worth an extra $25? That really depends on how much you use it or how much these generic punches bother you.

Personally, I find it really satisfying to use and I’m glad I spent the extra for it. If you’re interested in picking one up too, using the Amazon link in the description helps me out, and the Cool Tools blog. And remember, you can find thousands of reader-recommended tools just like this at

I have a bunch of tips to share with you this week. The first is to let you know that MagPi issue #60 is out this week. It’s a free digital download. This issue is all about troubleshooting Pi problems. It’s a really solid guide on all the things that can go wrong — everything from having a weak power supply, to software conflicts.

Gareth Branwyn’s Tips of the Week column on Make has a great nod to the unsung virtues of having safety pins handy in your workshop. The tip comes from John Park. They’re great for unclogging glue bottles and scraping out bits of gunk. Plus, they have that built-in protection for the pokey end.

Through the Adafruit blog I learned about a new Introduction to Soldering guide from Pimoroni. It’s extensive, with lots of photos and videos, and tips for fixing things when they go wrong. It has a light sense of humor that I really appreciate.

While I was on the site, I noticed that Pimoroni is stocking a new 3-color E-Ink display that fits right onto a Pi Zero. It’s called the Inky pHAT, and it’s around $30. I love unique displays, and I really want to check this one out. It includes a Python library and a few example projects, like a clock and a weather display.

Finally, this past week Adafruit unveiled a new version of their tiny, Gemma project board. It’s called the Gemma M0, it’s $10, it can run Arduino code and like the Feather M0 and Metro M0 and Circuit Playground Express, it can also run Python. It has 256k of Flash, 48MHz processor, native USB support, on/off switch, JST battery connector, and a true analog output that can be used to play audio clips stored on the board.

This to me is what Arduino should be doing. It’s an extremely approachable board, it costs less than a pizza, it’s platform agnostic, and it acknowledges that — especially with the success of Raspberry Pi — kids today are learning Python not Arduino.

Maker Faires! We’ve got three this weekend, including Chicago Southside, Dayton Ohio, and Tokyo, which I’m sure is mind-blowing! If you make it to one of those, send me some photos and let me know how it went. I’m

And that’s it for this week’s show! Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already. If you can leave me a comment or a thumbs-up, I’d appreciate it. And if you’re excited to step up to a superior center punch, check out that Rennsteig punch in the show notes, alright? Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next week.

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