One engineer's project-log, thoughts and ideas.

Processing: Generating packing labels from a text file

With my recent move I’ve had to sort and pack a lot of my personal items, tools and materials. Trying to stay organized when the process takes a while can be a pain — sounds like a task for a sharpie and some index cards! Alas, I thought it would be fun to use Processing’s PDF rendering capabilities to generate my own packing labels! Probably didn’t save myself any time, but it was a fun exercise and I think it is a good example of why programming is something more people should check out.

It worked out really nicely, much easier than using something like PDFLib with php, and maybe even still a bit faster for me than using MS Word or Open Office.

I’ve hosted the code up on github in a gist as it’s not very much code. It only requires a single text file saved in the sketch folder named “moving_labels.txt” and the labeling format is specified in the script, and attached as an additional file on the gist.

Hosted on GitHub:

Make: Aluminum foundry

Always seeking cheaper ways to source materials to cut with the CNC, I came across some tutorials on building a charcoal fired aluminum foundry.

Some external resources if you want to try your hand at it!

Be extra careful if you decide to embark on this project!

Here are some photo’s of our progress:

Make: The big swing

This summer (2011), we built this giant swing in our backyard — it’s over 20 feet tall and swings out over the hill behind the workshop. Total cost was under $40, but we had the pressure treated beam and some of the hardware lying around, we just had to buy the cable and some extra 5 1/2″ lag bolts. Definitely is lots of fun and great for taking a breather between coding-sessions to meditate.

My friends Colin, Brian and Joey can all be spotted in the shots — until I get their photo’s I’m nowhere to be found ;)

Work in Progress – Building a brushless axial stepper motor

Here we’re cutting the stator plates that will hold our coils, and showing off the coil winding jig on the variable speed drill press.

Sketchbook: Mechanical Systems

Sketchbook: Abstract

Sketchbook: Polyscape

Faces everywhere

Sketchbook: Skew

Distorted geometries

Sketchbook: Square Bot

A boxy robot

Arduino: Serial2Parallel Library

The Serial2Parellel library was developed to work with shift registers like the 8-Bit Serial-In/Parallel-Out Shift Register from TI. It makes it easy to set the state of all the bits on one to four chips chained together then push all that data out through a data pin on the Arduino. This library has no other dependencies and is very lightweight. It’s free software, if you use it please just leave me a comment I’d love to hear about your project!

Serial2Parallel Library Interface

Source Code:

The source code is available at:


To use it download the zip and extract it’s contents into the folder:

Then just #include “Serial2Parallel.h” in your sketch and you’re good to go!
Check out the example for further assistance!