Friday, January 1, 2010

2 DIY Cases for the Arduino and TouchShield

Mark has a writeup over at his website about some serious hacking on the TouchShield Slide API. He's been hacking it for a while now, and has optimized and recoded the original API that Chris and I wrote a long time ago.

DIY Hard Case

The funny thing is, at the bottom of Mark's page, he also has a line of pictures of a 3D printed case for the Portable MegaPalm, and Mark calls his project the HackBerry. It's printed with a special printer that takes a CAD file, and generates a complete enclosure for the MegaPalm.

These pictures show the MegaPalm HackBerry with Mark's mac operating system icons... incidentally the screen is rotated 90 degrees which I still need to ask him about, because the last time I saw these screenshots, the screen was rotated lengthwise.

This picture is probably my favorite, because it shows the MegaPalm HackBerry with the matrix code running down it:

DIY Soft case

I don't know whether I should be proud of this fact, or not, but for Christmas I got a sewing machine. This has caused me a great deal of introspection over the past few days as I ask myself, "am I ok being a guy who owns a sewing machine?"

I think the answer is yes.

But I think I also need a few more weeks for it to settle in... I will probably only selectively disclose to my friends the fact that I own a sewing machine.

Naturally, when someone has a sewing machine and a bunch of Arduino's and TouchShield Slides laying around, the first thing one does is try to make a sleek looking leather case. So I did the following steps:
  • I found an old leather jacket from high school that I got as a present but it never fit, so it's stayed in my parent's closet ever since
  • Trace out a set of squares onto the back of the jacket
  • Cut out the back with scissors
  • Dissect a USB hard drive case long enough to figure out how they made that thing a zipper case (and determine that I don't own the proper zipper raw materials)
  • Go to an old JoAnn's fabrics store (I was the only male in the store at the time) and buy a set of sew-in zippers
  • Spend hours at a sewing machine trying to replicate the stitching
The end result looks like this - here's a picture of me holding the end result against a brown leather background (you can actually see in the upper left my first attempt using canvas that didn't turn out so well):

Here's a picture of the case sitting on my laptop's keyboard, about 15 minutes after being finished... it's flipped inside out, because that's how I had to make it. You can see the little square I cut out in the middle of the case, and sewed back to frame the TouchShield Slide:

The case is about the size of my palm:

Here's the TouchShield Slide sitting inside the zipper case:

Here's a "glamor" shot of the case resting on the cutting mat I used to cut and trim the leather pieces:

And here's the finished product:

And here's a picture of the case sitting on top of my pile of Make magazine back-issues that Phil gave me (thanks, Phil!):

Ok, I don't mean to make excuses or anything, but this thing took me like a solid 3 hours to make. One case. I learned quite a few things while making this case:

-You can sew thin leather without breaking a needle (I thought you could only sew cloth)

-Sewing machines are loud obnoxious pieces of machinery that need to come in other colors besides white with baby blue trim. If there was a "manly" sewing machine in black and silver, with dark colors, I would swap it for mine any day

-Red thread on black leather looks cool

-As an aside, I also now have serious respect now for anyone who works in a sweatshop building clothes and cases on sewing machines all day... that's some seriously hard stuff...

Ok... now back to my new year's resolution list :-)


Unknown said...


I am Mark's twin brother, Keith. I have FOUR sewing machines. I use them to make hot-air balloons. One of the sewing machines has a PATTEN date of 1918. They were made in the 1960's. These are heavy duty 'manly' double needle sewing machines. I make hot air balloons with them. I have made four hot air balloons and am just about done with # 5. The balloons take between 150 and 250 hours each to make.
You can see pictures of the ballons at


Matt said...

@keith s - nice to meet you, ... double needle sounds a lot more intense that "crochet hosiery needlework" :-) nice balloons, btw. i didn't realize balloons could have seats like that - i though they were always baskets you stood in.

ps @justin - yes, you can come over and use my sewing machine if you like. the coolest part is that it has programmable stitches

Justin said...

@Matt - is that sewing machine computer/arduino programmable? :-)

Matt said...

good question... programmable to do what? i know there are programs that people write to do stitch patterns. my machine doesn't do that, and i'm not really jealous enough to want to hack that functionality into it. i wonder what people do to hack sewing machines in general?

Mark said...


I modified the lowest level drivers to allow for rotation of the screens in any of 4 different orientations. This required changing the pixel routine and the touch routine. The hardest was getting the fill rect routine working correctly, it took a bunch of debugging.

The code expands the drivers by 725 bytes and can be disabled if desired.

I will be getting you the code to you soon and to anyone if they ask for it.