If any of the info on this website was useful for your projects or made your head spin with creative ideas, and you would like to share a token of your appreciation- a donation would be massively appreciated!

Your donation will go to my Robotics Fund, straight towards more sensors, actuators, books, and journeys. It takes a lot to continue building these robots, and I’m really thankful of everyone who helps encourage me along the way.



“A wise robot once said to me through Serial.println- that robots teach us about ourselves.”

All posts in EMSL

Plasma RoboGlyph! — Open source pcb art ^_^

Plasma RoboGlyph

RoboGlyphs are pieces of pcb artwork that are interesting to look at, and can be functional in some form! This is the Plasma RoboGlyph! It’s just a fun little project that I figured I would try out. I ordered these boards along with the RoboBrrd Brain Boards, since the shipping is quite a bit. :)

Here are the pics of the board!

Plasma RoboGlyph

Plasma RoboGlyph

Check out the timelapse of the making of the board!

Watch on YouTube

It was interesting to make this, a lot of the programs kept crashing so it required so much patience! I started off with this plasma image. It was just some random CC image I found on flickr that was really good. :)

This was then transformed using StippleGen 2.02 from Evil Mad Science! The parameters we ended up using were:
– 8,268 stipples
– 0.50 min. dot size
– 10.00 dot size range

Here’s a screenshot of it in paused mode:

Plasma RoboGlyph

After using StippleGen, I opened it with Inkscape and made it so that the stipples were filled, and had no outline. Sometimes Inkscape would crash, but eventually it worked. I resized the image down, and exported it as a png. Pretty sure it was with 300 dpi. This png was then transferred into my handy Processing footprint sketch! From there, placed onto the board. It was important to make sure that the blobby part of the art didn’t touch anything major!

Plasma RoboGlyph

Some interesting things had to happen to make the pins/pads layer show up just how I imagined (thanks everyone who helped me with this!). In order for the art to appear with the gold, you have to make sure that the soldermask isn’t covering it, and have a copper fill behind it! This is what it looks like with the soldermask layer on:

Plasma RoboGlyph

With the .pcb file, it’s just a bunch of text, so it is easy to modify a huge amount of things that way. It was fun to see TextEdit struggling with replacing 62,919 items! 😀

Plasma RoboGlyph

The pretty colours of the gerbers are always funky to look at!

Plasma RoboGlyph

My goal for releasing this open source is: to inspire people to do random cool scripty things with gEDA and make interesting art! Hopefully they will post up a pic up online of their creation too!

The Plasma RoboGlyph is open source under the CERN OHL v1.1. Here you can find the Plasma RoboGlyph files!

Below are the credits, let me know if I goofed up on anything so it can be fixed!


The Plasma RoboGlyph is an exploration in pcb art of sorts!

The plasma image is from Luc Viatour, check it out here:

StippleGen 2.02 was used to transform the plasma image. We used 8,268 stipples, 0.50 min. dot size, and 10.00 dot size range. StippleGen is made by Evil Mad Science! And you can play with StippleGen yourself here:

The charlieplexing aspect was inspired by Open Heart kit by Jimmie Rodgers. It’s sophisticated simplicity was really nice, and the Instructable was good to learn about charlieplexing too! (Hopefully I did it right!)

The first few prototypes of the Plasma RoboGlyph were fabbed at the OSH Park! Their boards are purple and gold, and it’s a great service. Check it out here:

The medium sized OSHW logo on the board is from the gEDA format of logos that Windell Oskay made. You can find all the logos here:

Finally, credit to the whole maker community for being fun, cool, and helpful with answering questions & learning more!

Well, maybe this will inspire more random and interesting pcb’s to be made :) It’s important to try and make sure they are functional in some way too, charlieplexed LEDs are good for that! Also speaking about functional… I don’t have these boards yet, so have no idea if they work or not! 😛

PS: No, the website on the board doesn’t work yet. Still debating what to do with all these RoboGlyph experiments that I want to make! 😉

Happy pcb art-ing everyone!

Rapid RoboBrrd’ing Throughout Maker Faire

Two days before Maker Faire (Education Day)… there was no stable design of RoboBrrd, there were material problems, and experiments still had to be done with attaching the servos.

With all the resources in the world pretty much available to me and tons of great help at Evil Mad Science, it turned out really good! I was able to create one RoboBrrd per night during Maker Faire. Here’s the timeline of the RoboBrrds!

Wednesday day and night: Phoenix RoboBrrd

IMG_2557 - Version 2


Thursday night: Lightning RoboBrrd



Friday night: Aqua RoboBrrd



Saturday night: Plasma RoboBrrd



Here were some key points with the design of RoboBrrd that really impacted things.

Simplifying the design

Changing the numerous interlocking tabs for two overlapping corners made a huge difference in the time required for laser cutting and assembling.

By having the servos ‘suspended’ via a plate in the middle of the RoboBrrd, it was easy to extend a few of the pieces to the back plate, which eliminated the need for the corner pieces.

Since there were now 8 corner pieces (and the corresponding tabs for each!) eliminated, this also sped up the laser cutting time. Also saved wasted material space as well.

By having the design so simple, it was really easy to make a few quick changes in Inkscape, rather than having to re-‘render’ everything in Inventor first. This was the case for the last of the RoboBrrds (Plasma), when I wanted a bit more space for the beak to open compared to the previous one (Lightning).

Changing material

This was the frustrating part. For some reason the 1/4 inch mdf was not lasering very well at all. Also something is reminding me that it was pretty stressful too, with all the flames and everything.

The 1/4 inch poplar was cuttable, but there was some reason that it wasn’t that great. Probably something to do with the time to cut, or not cutting all the way through.

We went to Home Depot and picked up this 1/8 inch mdf sheet. It was the best laser cutting experience EVER! Even more than cardboard! With some quick changes in the RoboBrrd design, it was ready to be cut out, and it worked brilliantly.

From there it was smooth sailing. If anything could be recognized as a pinnacle moment, this was it.

Painting the pieces

By painting the pieces, it allowed for two things: 1) the assemblies to stand out more, 2) the friction to hold the pieces together.

By standing out more, it really brought attention to how interesting the designing is right now. This also meant we didn’t have to cover it in felt in order for it to be colourful.

There was no need to really glue anything (unless it was really loose) as the paint added enough thickness to be used to attach the pieces via friction. Sometimes this backfired though, especially when the paint was too thick.

Also this kind of took a large amount of time, but it was sort of relaxing for my brain, so it didn’t really matter. Usually I was replaying conversations I had during the day while painting, so it was pretty good!


By having little accents on RoboBrrd’s main features, it definitely added an aspect of unique-ness to each RoboBrrd. The cool part was that for most of them, it didn’t add on too much time to the cutting. They all finished in under 30 minutes (except for RoboBrrd Phoenix)!

The main inspiration for the themes came from the different Pokemon element types. I found that the kids really connected to the different themes, and the younger ones enjoyed distinguishing what each one was. One of them was able to explain what plasma is really well, which was pretty cool too!

It was fun to be able to have a new RoboBrrd each day at my table. New visitors were impressed with the rapid building of the prototypes. Returning visitors already knew I was crazy, so they were unsurprised.

Evolution of the table display:

Education Day (Thursday)


Setup Day (Friday)


Day 1 (Saturday)


Day 2 (Sunday)


With all this said, it did get pretty tiring for EMSL by the third and fourth night. And by pretty tiring I mean… they almost turned into ZOMBIES (joking). Thanks to them for being patient with the crazy RoboBrrd making during Maker Faire! 😉

And now for a random time jump back into the future! ZWOOOP! If you want to be notified of more RoboBrrd news, join the RoboBrrd Mailing Scroll! News will be delivered straight from RoboBrrd’s beak and into your inbox!

Thanks for the fun everyone, and again huge thanks to Evil Mad Science! :)