New Product Friday: EPIC Product Post

We're back with a whole bunch of new products and our most dangerous project to date, the EPIC. Check out the video and the products.

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First thing's first: Happy Friday and congrats to Member #160314 -- you're July's Caption Contest winner! Now just sit back, bask in the accolades and find a spot at home for your "Hacker On The Go" wishlist!

And from that day on, Bill was forced to use leadless solder. 

Now on to our new products! We had a lot of fun this week. An unlikely product turned into a very amusing demo project. We've not yet had this many people stopping by the office to see what we were up to. This week, we introduce the EPIC.

Vimeo link here.

The EPIC (electronic pen intertial cannon) is just a hard drive, some MicroRax, a wheel, power supply, a laser, and a good helping of plexiglass. Load up 10 pens and fire them off into your favorite soft target. It worked better than we ever expected. If you have a spare hard drive, it's pretty easy to make. We've even whipped up a simple target you can print out and use.

If you've ever watched Knight Rider or Battlestar Galactica, you're probably familiar with the Larson Scanner. With this kitt from Evil Mad Science, you can build your own! The kit comes with the PCB, battery holder, big 10mm red LEDs, a pre-programmed IC and all the other components you need. Solder it together, add batteries, and you're good to go.

If you're looking to play around with e-textiles but don't want to mess around with programming and code, you might want to check out two of our new LilyPad products, the LilyTiny and the LilyTwinkle. The two have the same hardware, but slightly different programming. The LilyTwinkle does what the name suggests, it twinkles. Hook up some LEDs and they will all randomly twinkle like stars. With the LilyTiny, each LED does something different. One twinkles, one blinks, one fades, etc. The LilyTiny is geared toward classes and education to show the different ways to control LEDs.

One of the difficulties with running a company that does in-house production is that products change. And when your assembly contains multiple parts, the chances of needing a revision increase. Things were going just fine, and then we heard that this SD card socket was discontinued. It was being replaced with a new version, but the footprint was slightly different. That meant that not only would we need to change the product visible on the storefront site (what you are on right now), but our production department would need to change all the existing designs to use the new footprint. This would mean new PCBs, new revisions, and a lot of wasted parts (if we can't source the old SD socket, we can't use the PCBs we had in stock either). TL;DR - production can be complicated.


Sometimes you need a bit more current than can be provided by our small plug-in power supplies. These little power supplies are similar to what you'd find on a laptop or external hard drive. They provide 12V @ 2A as well as 5V @ 2A. They work very well in applications where you need dual voltages. One end has a traditional Molex connector (the type found on IDE hard drives, CD-ROMs, etc.) and the other has a 15A IEC socket. We do sell a power cable separately, but you most likely have one already.

If your project doesn't have a mating connector, check out this Molex pigtail connector. It mates directly with the power supply above, and has four 12-inch unterminated wires that can plug into your latest invention.

If you want to use the connector that comes from the power supply and make a clean connection, check out either of these connectors. We have a right-angle as well as a straight one. Either can be mounted to a PCB. You could use the straight one to make your own custom wiring harness as well.

If you've planned on using any of our ProtoSnap LilyPad products, you might want to plan out your project before you snap everything apart. The benefit of the ProtoSnap product line is the ability to prototype a design and THEN snap it apart into the individual parts. These LilyPad stickers let you do exactly that. They are the same size, shape, and layout as the actual ProtoSnap LilyPad boards, so you can use the stickers to lay out your project before snapping apart the boards.

Think of the LilyPad SimpleSnap as a LilyPad Simple with a LiPo battery attached, and with snaps instead of petals. Now you don't need to permanently sew your LilyPad board into your clothing, you can snap it on and off with fabric snaps!

To go with your new LilyPad SimpleSnap, we have the LilyPad SimpleSnap Protoboard. It has places for sewing or soldering, and snaps that mate to the SimpleSnap board. We will eventually be selling packs of snaps to go with both boards, but for now they can be easily found at most craft and hobby stores.

So there you have it! Last week I promised a demo and I think we came through with something pretty fun this week. Plus, it's nice to get Dave in on the shenanigans again. Hope you enjoyed it. See you next week!

Comments 79 comments

  • 1:38 Robert, 1:38

  • Member #172229 / about 12 years ago / 6

    You guys should start being nice to dave or it will come back to haunt you.

  • "The pen is mightier than the sword." (head smack) Groan.

    Awesome work NickP and Robert! And thanks for being a good sport Dave.

    • glad you liked it boss :-)

      • Blacklab1 / about 12 years ago * / 1

        You guys really need a safety officer- Your planting ideas in the minds of impressible hackers. It’s always fun until someone gets hurt…

        I am glad you guys have not figure out how to play with 95% sulfuric acid- yet. Can you say Darwin Award?

        Next time Robert- go with the hot wheel launcher. I bet you cant build one that will launch a Hot Wheel car more then 150 feet using your idea for the pin launcher. You could give Mythbusters(TM) a run for their money

  • TECH GEEK / about 12 years ago / 3

    OMG! FINALLY! I missed seeing Dave in the new Friday product post for SOOOOOOOOO long!!!

    Thank you!!!

  • Just wondering, there is still going to be a AVC recap coming out right?

  • JWRM22 / about 12 years ago / 1

    Nice project. I like the laser-cut acrylics, please open-source it!

  • steel_city_crawler / about 12 years ago / 1

    good post. but i was wondering, why only 2 amps on that power supply? i thought most laptop PS's were 5 amps..

  • Calif / about 12 years ago / 1

    Flashing, soft red LED's bring back such an 80's sensation.

  • MoriFi / about 12 years ago / 1

    Need I say its about time you guys got some molex related stuff...

  • boj / about 12 years ago * / 1

    "With this kitt from Evil Mad Science"

    Do I notice something funny? 3rd word?

    Never mind, it's supposed to be like that. Sorry!

  • akhlut / about 12 years ago / 1

    Bill was right to use leaded solder...

    RoHS = tin whiskers

  • I thought the LilyTiny was going to be an arduino type programmable AtTiny thingy. Any plans for something like that? bambi eyes

  • Matchlighter / about 12 years ago / 1

    You guys really need to start selling kits for your 'inventions'.

    • MPFlaga / about 12 years ago / 1

      A retired part number would be great for this, and other demo's. Much like the Magic Blue Smoke Refilling Kit. As I have referred many to, just after they see it escape. It would be a good place to at least put the design files.

      • scharkalvin / about 12 years ago / 1

        Just wait till new product Friday falls on April 1st. That will be fun to see what Rob comes up with and how many people he fakes out.

  • liquidtexture / about 12 years ago * / 1

    Your new Larson Scanner reminds me of a project I built a few years ago using sparkfun parts - Photon Lightboards

  • Heffo / about 12 years ago / 1

    Hey, with all the old revision PCBs you were stuck with instead of wasting them all, why not design a small PCB with the old footprint on the bottom, the new footprint on top, SMT mount the adapter PCB onto the old revision boards, and put the new socket onto the adapter.

    Sure it would get a touch more expensive to use the adapter but at least your not throwing out (and loosing money on) piles of otherwise perfectly good PCBs.

    • good idea, but it most likely wouldn't reflow properly. plus, the PCB is the expensive part.

      plus, people buy a lot of our scrap PCBs.

  • rohitdesa / about 12 years ago / 1

    You guys might soon have the department of health and safety knocking on your doors :-) Maybe you should add a disclaimer in the beginning - "No Daves were harmed during this shoot" :-)

    • chartle / about 12 years ago / 2

      No it would be OSHA. Hazardous work environment created by RobertC. :-)

  • Gary D. / about 12 years ago / 1

    OMG one of these days I would love to see all those red boxes come down on Robert. Robert is quite the prankster... I love seeing the tables turned. Love ya Robert !! you da man!

    • That gives me an idea....

    • scharkalvin / about 12 years ago / 1

      The Sparkfun video studio with all those boxes reminds me of KORN on Hee Haw with all the egg crates.

      • Nice to see other people like Hee Haw, those Buck Owens one's are great!

        • chartle / about 12 years ago / 1

          Yea I always watched it for Buck Owens. :-)

          • scharkalvin / about 12 years ago / 1

            I liked the 'korny' jokes they told. Especially the "I crossed a blank with a blank" IE: "I crossed an elephant with a gopher" "What did you get?" "Lots of huge holes in my backyard!"

  • polyhedron / about 12 years ago / 1

    Does anyone know where I can get a laser cutter cheap for little projects like the EPIC? I used to have access to an Epilog Legend 45watt, but those are way too expensive for tinkering around. I think anything would be possible with a laser cutter, microrax, and a maker bot.

  • Madbodger / about 12 years ago / 1

    Silly SD card footprints. So it's a good time to buy scrap boards? Just checked, yup, there are over 500 available.

  • scharkalvin / about 12 years ago * / 1

    EPIC looks like something that Jamie or Grant would have built on Mythbusters. In fact I remember there was a similar thing that flung chunks of truck tires at Buster the crash test dummy.

    Glad you pointed it out that that power supply is really something intended to power an external IDE hard drive (or CD/DVD drive). Guess those things have become surplus now that the world is moving to SATA drives that use a different power connector.

  • I think the simplesnap link is linking to the stickers. Great job on the EPIC! How much force do you think those pens have? It looks like they went into the card board a fair amount!

    • yep, fixed.

      I'm not sure how much force, but they went in just far enough that the tip was completely through. it was a thicker cardboard too. With thinner stuff, like our red boxes, it could probably go all the way through. But that is at close range. It's still just a pen and doesn't hold accuracy over longer distances.

      Dave volunteered to be shot. It left a small dot like a mosquito bite through a t-shirt.

  • chartle / about 12 years ago / 1

    Did you realize that you were making a modern version of these?

  • Far_Seeker / about 12 years ago / 1

    Great job on the EPIC! One question though... Were you previously aware of repeating crossbows, or did you come up with a similar ammo magazine and firing system independently?

    • "The small and light arrow of the comparatively weak Chinese crossbow had little penetrative power. For this reason the head of the arrow was sometimes dipped in poison, in order that a slight wound might prove fatal." I--um, never mind.

      • Far_Seeker / about 12 years ago / 2

        Adds a whole new meaning to the phrase "poison pen", doesn't it?;)

        • Blacklab1 / about 12 years ago / 1

          I cant wait to see them come up with a way to make exploding capacitor grenades.

    • I have seen repeating crossbows in the past but to be honest I was informed mostly by pitching machines, the crossbow mechanism didn't even come to mind!

    • chartle / about 12 years ago * / 1

      I think I own you a Coke. :-) Did you see the repeating crossbow on that one show with the two guys, one a military historian the other a weird fabricator? Weapon Masters thats it.

      • Far_Seeker / about 12 years ago / 1

        I'll take an iced tea, carbonic acid promotes tooth decay as much or even more than sugar.

      • very cool! thanks for sharing. but yeah, our mechanism is a bit different. we originally planned to use a solenoid to push the pen into the chamber, but it didn't have enough throw.

    • we didn't really model it after anything, but it's pretty similar to a bolt-action rifle mechanism.

      • Far_Seeker / about 12 years ago / 1

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think most bolt-actions move the round from beneath or to-the-side of the chamber, not from above. Not a big difference functionally, except you have to have spring or similar mechanism to keep the remaining rounds in position as ammunition is depleted. The way you and the ancient chinese use gravity makes the feeding system mechanically simipler and probably a bit less likely to fail.

        • OH, I think you're right.

          • Too bad those designs won't work in space... :(

            • MoriFi / about 12 years ago / 1

              Why would a rifle not work in space again....they carry there own oxygen........they work under water as well, even though for the life of the gun I would not recommend it (under water that is).

              And trust me the spring fed system never fails even at 600 rounds/min. (M16A1) it also helps load the rounds faster than gravity ever could.

              You system is more like a gun that uses caseless ammunition.

              • Blacklab1 / about 12 years ago * / 1

                Has anyone thought about newton's laws here? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Your gun would be better suited to propel you in the opppsite direction that it's pointed, then used as a weapon in space. Just leave me the bottle of NITROGEN (N2), and an alpha particle generator.

                • Far_Seeker / about 12 years ago / 1

                  True, but inside or on the surface a large structure, like the ISS, you can hold-on or otherwise be solidly held in place (e.g. there are attachable shoe hooks used with bars on the walls of the ISS to "stand" for extended periods of time). The force generated by something like the EPIC would be negligable compared to the mass of the station, and besides the ISS has gyros and thrusters to compenstate for human movement and other relatively small arbitrary forces.

              • Well, yes. Guns COULD work in space, but if NASA said, "Alright, after that attack on the ISS by the Pluto-ists, we are making EPICs mandatory for all personnel!" they would not work right now. They could with modifications, but not RIGHT now.

                • Far_Seeker / about 12 years ago / 1

                  after that attack on the ISS by the Pluto-ists

                  So they're still upset about us downgrading their homeworld to "dwarf planet" status?

                • MoriFi / about 12 years ago * / 1

                  You know it would be really easy to make a mag for the EPIC. a pipe cut into 4ths (or what ever has enough space for the "trigger" thing to pass through but not enough for the pens) attached to a box that holds pens, a spring, a square block with one rounded edge that fits into the box (put in before securing mag lip), you want it to not be able to fall out (get thrown out) when the mag is empty.....

                  You could even stack the magazine for even more rounds. thank you wikipedia for the picture.

                  oh and of course modify the epic to receive newly made mags, somthing like a hitch pin would lock the mag into place .

                  For the spring something like this (no clue who these guys are though just has good pictures.)

                  (once I get going on a subject... haha you get the idea.)

                  And now I am working on building one...... only out of legos though

  • The EPIC is probably the best use of an old hard drive that I have seen in years, Definitely beats the old platter clock idea, any chance you guys would post the plastic cut dimensions? Would love to make one for our school science program.

    • we very well might put this into a tutorial. I'll see what I can do.

      but really, it's pretty easy to throw one together with a hard drive and a track that the pen can fit into. a single shot works a bit better than the multi-shot version we had.

      • MoriFi / about 12 years ago * / 2

        IC + MOSFET + SOLENOID + (some type of hobby motor with a driver, I guess you could use a simple DC motor) + BATTERY = something wickedly awesome......

        EDIT: I see you already 86th the idea of a solenoid....

        EDIT(again): Now what about a door bell solenoid the one I have has a pretty decent throw.

  • DoozEng / about 12 years ago / 1

    The EPIC looks awesome! I even have a few old hard drives lying around....

    As a side, the one link for the SD card socket appears to link to the internal sparkle sever.

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