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The Turbo Entabulator 3D Printed Mechanical Computer #3dthursday

Check out the video above, then read Chris Fenton’s full write up here. And then make your own via the Thingiverse project here.

Have you ever been sitting there, quietly computing something and thinking to yourself, “If only this process were somehow billions of times slower, less reliable, and involved lots of physical labor”? If so, the Turbo Entabulator is the machine you’ve been looking for! While I get to spend my days working on one of the world’s fastest computers, I like to relax when I get home . . . slow things down a little. You could say I like to enjoy both ends of the computing spectrum. After my success with the FIBIAC project, an electromechanical beast chugging along at nearly one micro-operation-per-second, I opted to go even slower with this one. I also wanted to try my hand at something a little more mechanical. The result is a nearly-entirely 3D-printed, entirely-mechanical computer (for the purists out there, yes, I used lots of nuts & bolts, a handful of springs, rubber bands, and a dozen or so tiny bearings). I even printed out the punch-cards!

This machine is effectively an entirely-mechanical implementation of my FIBIAC machine. It uses the same principle for computing – a set of registers can be selectively incremented/decremented until a selected register reaches zero. I even kept the business-card sized punch cards. The best part? Zero electronics. Run the machine under water if you want, it won’t care. It’s all ratchets, gears, and pulleys. The machine is entirely driven by a central crank-shaft with a handle attached to it – want to overclock this monster? Crank faster! There is something about entirely mechanical systems I find appealing – the inner workings aren’t hidden in a nanometer-sized sliver of silicon, operating on pico-second timelines.

Chris shares many more of the details of his projects on his site here.

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Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!

Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!

The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!


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