September 27, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Laser Cut Water Map [Maker Update #53]

This week on Maker Update, a backlit map with epoxy water, the Prusa MK3, two new Arduino boards, a Pocket Beagle, Dremel’s answer to Glowforge, and printable tools. This week’s Cool Tool is the Robo-Grip 7″ Curved Jaw Pliers.

Show Notes

Advanced Project of the Week

Illuminated Waterways of the United States Map by AlexT9

Photo and project by AlexT9.


Dremel Announces 40 Watt Laser Cutter

Photo by Caleb Kraft, courtesy of Make:

Prusa I3 MK3 Available for Preorder

Photo by Prusa Printing.

Arduino MKR WAN 1300 and MKR GSM 1400 Announced

(Comparable to Adafruit Feather M0 with RFM95 LoRa Radio)

Beagle Bone Launches $25 PocketBeagle

PocketBeagle by Beagle Bone.

Adafruit calls Out Federico Musto’s What’s Next boards

Cool Tools Minute

CRL Robo-Grip 7″ Curved Jaw Pliers

Photo by Donald Bell.

Podcast: Windell Oskay, Co-Founder of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories


Wirecutter Soldering Iron Guide

Photo courtesy of The Wirecutter.

Open Source AT Library (via Adafruit blog)

Photo by Makers Making Change.

Wireless Foundations by Akiba

5 Super-Useful 3D Printable Tools by Gareth Branwyn and Black Beard

Image by Black Beard.

Maker Faires

Steyr Mini Maker Faire Steyr
Prince George Mini Maker Faire Prince George, BC
Sherbrooke Mini Maker Faire Sherbrooke, Québec
Nashville Mini Maker Faire Nashville, Tennessee
Mayersche Mini Maker Faire Cologne
Essex Mini Maker Faire Essex, Vermont
Southcoast MA Mini Maker Faire Fall River, Massachusetts

You’ve Got My Eyes, SF

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This week on Maker Update, laser cut water maps, the Prusa MK3, two new Arduino boards, a Pocket Beagle, Dremel’s answer to Glowforge, Robo Grips, and printable tools.

It’s Wednesday, I’m Donald Bell, and it’s time for another Maker Update. It’s been a big week with a ton of news coming from World Maker Faire in New York last weekend. But first, let’s start things off with the project of the week.

There were so many great projects this week, but the most stunning was this backlit, lasercut map of waterways in the United States.

This is a first time Instructable from AlexT9 and one of his first major projects using a laser cutter. He got the idea from an Etsy shop called EartArtAustralia who makes a similar poster print.

Alex’s idea was to laser cut the waterways into a sheet of ¼-inch plywood, fill the water areas with translucent blue epoxy, and the build it into a frame with backlit LEDs to make the rivers glow.

Alex has a great writeup on the project from start to finish. He includes vector the files for map, and even a file for a small test coaster you can use to calibrate your machine to see what settings work best.

He shows how to mount the board to seal in the resin, how to torch out air bubbles, and even creating a basic lightbox frame to display it.

It’s a great project and I imagine it can be adapted easily for whatever size of laser cutter you might have access to.

It’s time for some news — lot’s of news! Since we’re already talking about lasercutters, let’s start off with Dremel’s announcement of their first 40 watt desktop laser cutter. They had this on hand at Maker Faire New York. It’s branded under the same DigiLab name they use for their 3D printer.

The size and capabilities makes it an obvious competitor to the Glowforge. It’s the same 12” x 20” cutting area and same laser wattage. It has an integrated heat exchanger and bunch of safety features that will probably make it an easier sell to schools.

No pricing yet, but apparently we’ll see a preorder early next year and shipping by summer.

Prusa Printing announced a new model of their I3 3D printer, the MK3. This is the same company whose MK2 printer won the Make: magazine 3D printer shootout last year.

The new model looks nearly identical but adds a bunch of new features including a filament sensor that detects when you’re running out of filaments and pauses your print. There’s a power panic mode that allows you to recover a print even if the power goes out. There’s a whole new motherboard, a new Y axis, the extruder has a new driver gear, and the heated printbed is now magnetic and has a removable powder coated print sheet.

It’s just slightly pricier than the MK2 at $999 built, or $749 for the kit version. But there’s a lot of new tech in here and I’ll be curious to see how it stacks up in the next shootout.

At his State of Arduino talk at World Maker Faire, Massimo Banzi addressed the new incarnation of Arduino minus Federico Musto. He also announced two new boards: the Arduino MKR WAN 1300 and MKR GSM 1400. Both boards have the same footprint and are designed specifically for the needs of IoT projects.

The first board is $39 and includes a low powered Lo-Ra radio module, for long range wireless communication outside of the traditional Wi-Fi spectrum. The board reminds me a lot of Adafruit’s LoRa M0 Feather Radio board, which came out with similar specs about a year ago.

The other board is $69 and includes global GSM cellular capability. There’s a place to pop in your own SIM card, and your board can transmit or receive data anywhere with cellular coverage.

Granted, we’ve seen this before with Arduino-compatible boards like the Particle or the Adafruit Feather FONA, and generally both of these boards feel like Arduino in playing catch-up. That said, after the drama at Arduino over the past few years, I’m glad they’re staying competitive. Both boards are due out next month.

And finally, real quick, BeagleBone launched a new Linux board called the PocketBeagle. It’s a small, $25 board that better competes on price with Raspberry Pi.

And just to keep the drama alive, the Arduino-ousted Federico Musto launched his own Arduino clone brand called What’s Next? If I had to guess, I’d say a lawsuit. Though at this point it’s maybe better to ignore him.

You can find links to all these stories in the show notes.

It’s time for another Cool Tools review. We’re going to take a look at these Robo Grip pliers recommended by Windell Oskay of Evil Mad Scientist. I got them for around $23 on Amazon, and if you want the same ones, using the link in the description helps support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

The RoboGrip pliers are self-adjusting pliers you can use one handed. The design ingeniously hugs the thing you’re grabbing so that pressure is better distributed all around.

You can see it happen as the front of the jaws first make contact, and then the back pulls in to create a secure fit.

It’s great, and it means that instead of reaching for these and fiddling with two hands to find the right setting — with one hand I can turn a bolt or nut or threaded washer, and feel fairly confident it will get the job done.

These come in a bigger size too, better for plumbing and bigger fixtures. I like this size for most of what I do, and they’ve basically replaced my old-style grooved adjustable pliers.

Also, as a tip, when you want to store these, you can pinch right here when they’re closed and it will lock up.

So those are the RoboGrip self-adjusting pliers. You can pick them up using the link in the description where you’ll also find the Cool Tools podcast with Windell Oskay talking about why he’s a fan of them. And remember, you can see thousands of reader recommended tools like this at

A few other tips to share with you this week. First up, Wirecutter has their first guide on soldering irons up online. I helped create the list of irons to test and the criteria for testing. And the top pick will surprise you.

Via the Adafruit blog I found this listing of downloadable files for 3D printed assistive technologies, created by Makers Making Change. It’s a great reference.

There’s a wonderful, multi-part guide by Akiba on the Freaklabs site explaining the foundations of how wireless signals work. It’s one of the most readable, and visually interesting takes I’ve seen on the subject. Worth a read.

Finally, over on, Gareth Branwyn has a breakdown of 5 useful, 3D printable tools from a maker named Black Beard. From a utility knife, to a pocket hole jig, there’s probably something here worth bookmarking.

Maker Faires! Plenty of Maker Faires this weekend including Steyr Austria, Prince George British Columbia, Sherbrooke Québec, Nashville Tennessee, Cologne Germany, Essex Vermont, and Fall River Massachusetts. So go out and get inspired.

That’s it for this week’s show. Be sure to subscribe, and leave a thumbs up, or leave a comment. Get yourself some Robo Grips. You can get on the email list for Maker Update by visiting And don’t forget, I’ll be at the You’ve Got My Eyes party in SF this Saturday with a new project and the Kitty car. All of the links are in the show notes. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next week.

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