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The Turbo Entabulator: A 3D-printed Mechanical Computer 83

An anonymous reader writes "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! It's a (nearly-entirely) 3D-printed mechanical computer. With three single-digit counters for memory, it's driven by a hand-cranked, Jacquard-style punch card reader. You can even download the files and build your own."
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The Turbo Entabulator: A 3D-printed Mechanical Computer

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  • by millia ( 35740 ) on Monday June 10, 2013 @12:55PM (#43964207) Homepage

    it's not a turbo-encabulator.I've been wanting one of those for a long time.

    • I'm waiting for the print-it-yourself turbo Interociter! []
      It will put all non-turbo interociters to shame...
      • Yeah, me too. I need one to fix my chronosynclastic infandibulator; the space-time interociter I got from Tom Servo is totally shot and every time I try to send a .jpg of the turbo subsystem in to metalunan support it just shows black fog. Cheap Gizmonic crap!

      • by sanman2 ( 928866 )

        Dammit, I was hoping that somebody could print a simple Babbage machine

  • Yes. (Score:5, Funny)

    by QilessQi ( 2044624 ) on Monday June 10, 2013 @12:57PM (#43964225)

    "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?'"

    Yes. And then I switch to a Windows box. Mission accomplished.

    • Re:Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mitchell314 ( 1576581 ) on Monday June 10, 2013 @01:11PM (#43964417)
      Every programmer at some point in their life wonders if they can make a computer out of a given thing in front of them.

      Which given how many times computers and cpus have been made in minecraft and dwarf fortress, explains a lot.
      • And by those standards, this project is even less impressive. I don't know if the creators of MineCraft ever intended for people to be able to create computers inside the game, but my guess would be no. A 3D printer on the other hand is designed to make custom mechanical parts. Building a mechanical computer using a 3D printer doesn't really required much of a leap from one step to the next. Take an existing design, and print out the parts. However, in a game like MineCraft, It would be quite a feat eve
    • "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?'"

      No. I swore off on Perl years ago.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday June 10, 2013 @12:57PM (#43964231) Homepage

    So nobody is likely to use this for actual work, but as a teaching aid, it definitely goes a long way. Explaining with a working physical device the principles of basic computing and Turing machine type things is pretty cool

    And, if someone has done this, it's only a matter of time before we start getting some super awesome 3d printed Rube Goldberg type or Steampunk-type of devices.

    • by plover ( 150551 ) on Monday June 10, 2013 @01:29PM (#43964625) Homepage Journal

      I was amused that he built it because his 3D printed Jacquard Loom was even less reliable.

      3D plastic extrusion printing is fine for printing a pencil cup or a replacement game token, but a precision manufacturing process it is not. There's a reason machined parts have tight tolerances: without them, moving parts bind, jam, and break.

      • As the proud owner of a 3D printer whose parts I am slowly replacing with homemade ones (as a way to learn, mostly) I have to disagree. 3D printed parts do end up being a bit melty, but the difference between printing a gear and sanding it to tolerance, and carving one from scratch is huge.
        • by dj245 ( 732906 )

          As the proud owner of a 3D printer whose parts I am slowly replacing with homemade ones (as a way to learn, mostly) I have to disagree. 3D printed parts do end up being a bit melty, but the difference between printing a gear and sanding it to tolerance, and carving one from scratch is huge.

          I honestly can't figure out why you would do that when you could laser-cut, water-jet cut, or CNC* some wood or steel and be done in 1 step. If you're going to all the trouble of having an electronically-positioned tool, why not just hook it up to an electric motor and buy some milling cutters? Water-jet and laser cutting is outside the realm of most hobbyists, but homemade CNC machines are probably simpler than a 3d printer. You don't have to worry about adhesion, bead size, etc. I guess if you have a

          • For fun. I already have a CNC mill and I can easily borrow a laser cutter if I need to. I also understand that most people don't and want to come up with stuff for them.
        • by plover ( 150551 )

          [ Disclaimer: I spent several years working in a precision grinding shop, grinding machined parts to very tight tolerances, measuring them with carefully calibrated tools, and achieving accuracy that lathes simply are not capable of achieving. So what I consider acceptable accuracy and what you consider accurate will likely vary more than slightly. ]

          A 3D extrusion printer is not exactly a precision tool. There is a limit to the precision of the parts it can print. That's neither good nor bad, it's simply

    • by Bob the Super Hamste ( 1152367 ) on Monday June 10, 2013 @01:48PM (#43964779) Homepage
      The same can be said for any number of things. There is something to actually being able to see and touch something and being able to figure out how it works. This is why I spent the weekend with my 4 year old building a working automatic transmission with planetary and ring gears out of Legos. He became curious about how one worked after seeing a book about Lego machines at the library and made the connection between Lego gears shown in it and gears in a vehicle transmission. So he wanted me to build him one and show him how it works. Granted it doesn't have clutch packs (components are locked using shafts), torque converter, or a valve body (you move the shafts to lock components manually), but it does show how the gearing works. It has 3 forward speeds, neutral, park, and reverse, just like old standard 3 speed automatics did.
  • by Guano_Jim ( 157555 ) on Monday June 10, 2013 @12:57PM (#43964233)

    We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

    Hats off to the designer.

    • But this doesn't really seem particularly hard, just time consuming. People build mechanical computers all the time. Using a 3D printer to make the parts is a very obvious way of doing it. While I respect the person who built it just to further their own learning and to have a little fun, I would have to say that it doesn't really impress me, and isn't really that newsworthy.
      • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Monday June 10, 2013 @02:18PM (#43965057) Journal

        You can save some confusion and annoyance by just accepting that "on a 3D printer" is the latest "everything old is new again", just like "in the cloud", "on a handheld", "on the internet" and "on a computer" each were in turn. For each new engineering platform all the obvious stuff will be done for the first time on that platform, usually with some fairly minor cleverness involved. Easier just to accept the cycle of faux-new than to try to fight it.

  • Quickly! (Score:5, Funny)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday June 10, 2013 @12:58PM (#43964241) Journal

    Fetch my sturdiest manservant and the overclocking whip!

  • Can you please not imagine a Beowulf cluster of these?

  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Monday June 10, 2013 @01:02PM (#43964289)

    ..towards the singularity.

  • by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <gterich@a o l . com> on Monday June 10, 2013 @01:11PM (#43964413) Journal

    We have to put a stop to this dangerous movement of self-creation and innovation that is not under the protective regulation of government. We need common sense laws immediately that require all 3D printers to be registered, and licensure for their operators.

    We cannot allow this threat to our national security to continue.

    This Public Service Announcement brought to you by the Republican-Democrat Partnership Conference in association with The Foundation for Peace through Unity and Faith in Government.

  • 1) No kids.. Dad has way too much time on his hands.
    2) Wife is a Librarian and makes a good clamp when needed.
    3) was bored one day and decided to make something with that $3000 printer the wife got him at XMAS.

    This is cool but man are we going to be inundated with every novelty item that is 3d printed now? This is neat but the Lego Turing machine was IMO cooler []

  • when referring to the new kernel release which will involve more profanity use.

  • to automatically synchronize the cardinal grammeters?
  • Hey, semi-related.. If you type Jacquard loom [] into the search bar on (through 6/12) you can get a free copy of Jullian Assange Cypherpunks book.
  • by Clueless Moron ( 548336 ) on Monday June 10, 2013 @02:03PM (#43964931)
    I have one from around 1958, and it's quite satisfying to use. []

    They can multiply and divide as well as adding/subtracting. The above link shows the result of doing 355/113: 3.1415929 with a remainder of 23.

    The top left is an accumulator, the top right is a counter, and the lower register is the number you want to add/subtract (entry register). So to do 355/113, the procedure is

    1. Pull all three 3 metal tabs on the sides to clear all registers
    2. Enter 355, press the rightmost red arrow button to shoot the entry register number all the way to the left
    3. Crank forward once. You now have 3550000000000 in the accumulator and "1" in the counter's leftmost position.
    4. Squeeze the two rightmost chrome handles together to clear both the counter and entry register back to 0
    5. Enter 113, press the rightmost red arrow button to shoot the number all the way to the left. You're done entering numbers at this point.
    6. Crank backwards to subtract from the accumulator until it is less than the entry register (takes three times). Don't worry if you overshoot; a bell will ring to indicate underflow and you just add it back. The counter now shows three in the leftmost position. The red dot indicates that it notes you started off subtracting, so it's counting backward cranks as +1 instead of -1.
    7. Press the right arrow to shift the entry register one position to the right
    8. Repeat the subtracting process, shifting right until you can't go any more right. You're done.

    It sounds more complicated than it is, but really it's just long division. It takes about 20-30 seconds to do that division. That sucker works as well as the day it was built. I've looked inside; it's a mechanical marvel.

    Oh yeah, those white slider tabs are for placing the decimal points where you want them

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      That's awesome. How much mechanical force is needed? I'd worry about catching my wrist on the right-hand tabs while cranking, unless the crank was surprisingly easy to turn.

      • Very little force is needed, and I've never gotten caught on those tabs. Actually, the force depends on how many numbers have to change: rolling over something like 999999 to 1000000 makes a noticeable difference in resistance. Really I should open it up and lube it.

        I'm told you can still find these in remote villages in India and Africa and the like. They don't need electricity and are very reliable.

    • by tippe ( 1136385 )

      I've always wanted a Curta [] mechanical calculator conceived before WWII by an Austrian (but only mass-produced afterwards, I believe). It does more or less the same thing as the monstrosity that you linked to above (including multiplication and division), all in a hand-sized package. Now that's a mechanical marvel. I'd love to have one...

      • So you're essentially drooling for a slide rule. They can be had on e-bay for various prices.
        • by tippe ( 1136385 )

          Yeah, I suppose it's more or less like a slide rule. Kind of like how a Rolex is essentially the same as a sundial (plus or minus several hundred precisely machined moving parts, assembled with amazing workmanship).

        • Slide rules give approximate answers. VERY approximate answers; their only advantage back in the day was that they were fast. These mechanical marvels give exact answers. Considering that when you divide it gives you a remainder that you can use to extend the answer to any arbitrary number of decimal places, they are in fact more accurate than a modern electronic calculator (apart from fancy ones like hp50g)

          Anyway, why the negativity? Do you not appreciate well built complex machinery? My example was

  • No electricity! (yes, the plot is insane) but this device would fit right into that world.

  • ... cool. This upgrade is a long time coming. They base version was hell at rendering.
  • Can 3D printers print 3D printers yet?

  • The drawing for a four bit adder. I also have the components but need to assemble the circuit boards, etc. Be fun to have a computer where you can follow the action again.
  • We will make the IRS and the NSA use these exclusively.

    Here, have all our data. Let us know if you finish a search before the heat death of the universe.

  • The RepRap project is an initiative to develop a 3D printer that can print most of its own components.

    Until now, RepRap have been stymied by an inability to print any of the systems that control the printer. But, no longer! Simply print a mechanical computer to drive your 3D printer, and the goal of a self-reproducing device will be fulfilled!

    Might be large, though.

Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. -- Publius Syrus