My first real 3d project. Came out nice, but the material is a bit soft.
My first real 3d project. Came out nice, but the material is a bit soft.
I just thought I’d share some images from the Melbourne Hackspace.
This is a shot of one of our members after he’d finally gotten the old 3d printer working. I think it’s an original generation makerbot.
It’s not the fastest and it doesn’t produce the sharpest prints, but it’s handy to just hammer out test things on.
One of the current plans at my Hackerspace is to make a low cost, extendable, buzzword compatible, laser tag game based on the Arduino chipset.
This reminded me of some old guns I had when I was a children. The brand was Photon and they were truely awful laser tag guns.
The guns “range of 30 feet!” was more like 3 feet. The batteries died almost instantly and you had a pretty good chance of the gun registering a hit when you tried to shoot your opponent.
Anyway, I managed to dig them out of my parent’s hay-shed (no shit, one side of the hay-shed is hay, the other is old junk they haven’t managed to throw out,) and we took the opportunity to do a tear-down and photograph the results.
It was pretty much as we expected. A single IC handling the logic and tinny little tunes, a bunch of resisters horribly solded into a single board.
Still, they do look cool and they’re a good size. Lets see if we can’t fit one of our new boards in one.
The last few months have been quite busy, but hopefully the end is in sight.
I have an Instructables up based around my idea for a 3d printed battery adapter that I’ll be linking too soon.
I joined the local Community Hackerspace at the start of the year, adding even more projects to my already giant list. I even gave a presentation on CNC and modeling techniques and plan to do another when we’re more established.
Our watering project has had slow progress, but we’re ready for a stage 2.0 beta (1.8 or something?).
I’ve been looking at the idea of using pressure formed papier mache to make objects. I’ll post about this soon but it’s involved a lot of research and experimentation. Not unrelated, I also need a new blender.
There’s been a few new cnc router projects too, but I’m not planning on posting these until I’m happy that they work they way that’s expected.
I’ve got a new blog up. It’s not tech related but rather a pictorial database of my personal library :)
Lots of ammunition to get back to my weekly schedule.
Like most of my posts here, this covers one of the problems I’ve run into.
This one is do with the part lifting off the spoilboard as it gets cut. This is my home-made version of a vacuum clamp.
I’ve constructed it using a “Suck it and See” methodology, where I’m using a bunch of bits I had lying around on the vague hope it all just works. Using a 6mm piece of 1200x600 mdf as the base, I’m using 18mm X 42mm pine runners around the edge and to support the middle.
An old piece of vacuum cleaner hose runs to the middle of the board to try to maintain consistent pressure across the whole sheet. It provides a convenient plug to hook up a “compressor” too as well.
Lots of liquid nails seals it all together. good stuff that.
Not shown here is the top. I had a sheet of 18mm Melamine coated chipboard that was easy to get too, so it’s glued to the top. Stage 2 will be to drill holes in that, possibly with a v-channel on the diagonal.
We gave it a “compression test” without the holes to get a tight clamp on the top surface. The 1300w vacuum cleaner sure clamped it down, but started running hot in about 10 seconds. I’ll need some kind of shutoff or extra valve to either only run the vacuum when it’s needs it or to let air in to cool the motor.
More pics of the top surface next week and possibly a photo of a vacuum cleaner with the magic blue smoke escaping.
It’s all very well having a giant router to play with, but occasionally you need other tools.
Over the years I’ve picked up a pretty good collection, mostly in the “cheap” range as that was all I could afford (obviously the giant CNC router is an exception.)
Sometimes I get a bit lucky though. I picked up these two from a garage sale for a combined price of $70. The ARC welder is a Goodwell (an old Australian brand) and the drop saw is a Elu PS-174.
They’ve both been well used in their previous life as shop-fitters, but they’ve been taken care of and are in good working order. I stripped down the drop saw and applied some grease, but that’s been it.
I’ve found another set of photos for our planter boxes. These were taken as we were refurbishing the wood.
I think I’ve mentioned before that we chose to recycle materials from my parent’s old fence. Before we got a hold of it though, the wood was stored in their old milking-shed. I extracted the panels from the heap they’d been thrown in using a spade. Very high likelihood of venomous snakes around here.
The second two photos are of the processing stage. First we used the sawbench to cut the boards to length. This meant we could avoid the areas where the board was rotten.
Following that, we ran the shortened boards through a thicknesser. This removed large amounts of paint from the surface and gave a more uniform size. The boards are all different thicknesses, making a it very time consuming process.
Our next billy cart was another one for my eldest Nephew.
His school runs a billy cart race every two years and was actually one of the inspirations for the entire CNC project. About 3 weeks beforehand my sister asked me if they could use one of the others I’d made.
I’d already decided to do a bit of a redesign, so I decided it was easier to start from scratch. It was designed to be a little easier to put together, giving a boxy outline. It’s assembled using barrel nuts and bolts, to reduce the problems with screwing into the end of plywood. The whole cart was designed to be wider and thus more stable cornering. It was also designed for larger wheels, but I wasn’t able to source them in time.
The steering mechanism was greatly improved. There’s nearly a full rotation from lock to lock, so it’s very smooth to drive.
Needless to say, the boys loved it. The competition called for two pushers and one driver, but as you can see from the video’s the younger kids all got in on the drawing.
Initially, I’d decided to let the boys paint it, but we realised that time was going to be short. A quick coat of blackboard paint turned out to be the solution, the kids quickly covered it with all sorts of pictures and any mistakes were easy to rub off!
In the end the boys had a great race. Out of 35 competitors they came in 6th place. The race was school wide which meant my 9year old nephew was competing against 11 and 12 year olds, so I was incredibly proud of their result.
There was a lot of interest around the cart, but unfortunately it hasn’t spawned any more orders. Oh well.
This was a custom production for a friend.
I’d discovered the process of “halftoneing” on one of the tech blogs I read (hackaday) and was immediately curious. I tried applying the process to several pictures I had available but nothing really appealed to me.
A few days later I showed the process to a friend. His eye’s lit up and he said “This is exactly what I want to put on the wall of my new flat!”
This particular piece started life as a plain piece of 1200x600x6mm mdf. I then stained it with a black wood stain.
The routing was done with a simple 90degree V cutter. It was a bit fun getting the depth right, this is a process that can only really be explained as trial and error.
I really should get a picture of it on his wall. Unfortunately it’s quite a tricky thing to photograph.
From very early on, Chixor and my balcony garden was intended to be self managing.
Over the years, we’ve had several generations of potted plants die, not necessarily from neglect but from circumstance. Melbourne is known to have very changeable weather and can often swing between extremes.
……ok, now it sounds like I’m making excuses. We kill plants. I’ve said it.
So when we decided to build the new boxes, we always aimed toward a self watering system. As so many of our conversations, that ended up more and more in the realms of technology and how it can do our bidding.
As luck would have it, about a week before we built our boxes, a friend had introduced me to his ideas for an Arduino controlled project, so by the time we had the planter boxes I was well primed to apply my new-found interest.
I’m going to leave the planning post to Chixor, but I wanted to give an overall idea of the components. That way I can focus on them individually and people will have a bit of context.
In this photo:
At the top, a servo motor controlled 4mm tap assembly and a moisture sensor from seeed studio.
In the middle, a small breadboard with a voltage regulator circuit and a 2gb micro-sd card.
At the bottom, a Freetronics Etherten Arduino board and a prototype shield to suit.
When people ask me what I make, I’m, always tempted to answer just a little too truthfully.
I make dust.
Wood dust, mdf dust, plastic dust. There are days when all I seem to do is make dust.
And this wouldn’t be such a problem if it wasn’t so dangerous. MDF is particularly known to be a dangerous carcinogen. Plywood and plastic aren’t much better. Even plain old wood dust should be avoided.
So I collect this dust in my dust extractor. But then what do I do with it. I wish I had a good answer because quite frankly I have no idea. My current answer is burying it in the garden but I’m sure to run out of garden eventually.
I was looking through our library of photographs the other day and I’d noticed Chixor had taken some excellent high resolution photographs of our planter boxes.
For a blog I started about our CNC router, I’ve been a bit minimal on the details. It’s about time that changed.
Argus (business partner is probably best description) and I finished the physical construction some time in early 2011 and have spent the following 12 months bending it to our will.
It was purchased as a kit from the US. The kit included the electronics, all the pieces for the gantry, chains, gears, bolts and some rather difficult to follow video instructions. Still, it saved us quite a bit of screwing around and you can get the kits at buildyourcnc. The table it all sits on we constructed ourselves and I’ll cover that in more detail in the future.
This is a 3 axis machine. The X and Y axis are running on chains, while the Z axis uses a lead-screw.
The whole unit is quite large, about 1500mm by 3000mm (About 5’ by 10’). If I had to do it all over again I’d go something smaller, simply to make it easier to work around.
At the moment we’re using a Makita 900 router. It’s probably a little small for this job and we’ll be upgrading it “soon” (been saying that for about 4 months). There’s a 100mm (4") hose for the dust extractor hanging off the gantry that actually does a pretty good job at collecting the dust. It’s hooked up to a 1HP dust extractor unit that seems to make the most noise in the whole arrangement.
At the moment we’re restricted to cutting at 3mm depths. This doesn’t give us the best cut, but it does reduce the noise an amazing amount. Cutting at 6mm makes an amazingly annoying high pitched whine and we’ve yet to identify exactly why.
The control machine is a Pentium 4 running LinuxCNC. LinuxCNC is open source control software that uses a real time kernel and it controls our machine through the parallel port. We set the rotational speed of the spindle using a SuperPID controller. At the moment this is done manually, but we could wire it into LinuxCNC for more precise control.
When we first started looking at this project, one of the ideas that really appealed to us was the idea of making a Billy Cart (Soap-box racer for those in the US) that lived up to the expectations of our youth. Growing up on a farm, I had built many, many carts out of various materials and various levels of danger.
My favorite was a three wheeled thing that we had clocked doing 60kph down the hill behind my parent’s place. Myself and my neighbour had a routine where you’d fly down the hill being followed by the paddock basher car. When you finally ran out of roll, the car would drive past and you could grab a rope to be towed back to the top of the hill.
These will probably never do that sort of speed. The wheels are way too small for one thing. Now I’m older (more responsible?) I suspect that doing a more reasonable speed is a good thing.
Argus helped me design these. We’re going for a classic racer type idea. They were both hand built using jigsaws and rulers with the idea of producing something that could be repeatable using the cnc machine.
We succeeded and have since built a few with the machine, but they’re quite large and represent a large investment in both time and materials. The intention was to sell them but they’re so big they’ll always be a custom on-demand item.
The Mark I was the first one built and is the least advanced in the steering column. It’s a bit of a pity since Chixor did such a great job with the painting. The Flames really pop!
Stage two of our balcony plant boxes was to add a self watering system. Chixor and I are busy people and it seems to be all to easy to forget to give the plants the love and attention they need.
So we decided to go for a simple timer based self watering system for now (queue ominous music.) Perusing the watering aisle of the local Bunnings I found a simple battery powered pump and timer unit that was made to hang over the side of a bucket (Electronic Pot Plant Watering Kit). This unit was almost exactly what I was looking for. It uses 4 AA batteries to run a submerged pump at the bottom of a short pipe that’s just deep enough to get to the bottom of a bucket. The only problem is I didn’t want to hang it on a bucket!
After several trips back and forth to Bunnings I ended up with a handful of pipe clamps, some 8mm hose and some appropriate glue. I voided my warranty and opened up the control unit. The pump has 4 wires soldered to the control board, 2 for the pump and an extra two for the water level indicator. I found some 4 core wire in my scrap bin and soldered an extra 500mm to the board. I then joined this to the existing wire (it was still in it’s waterproof protective covering) and sealed the joins with heat shrink tube. This joint is still out of the water, so I wasn’t too worried about a perfect water-tight seal.
I did a similar thing with the hose, using hose clamps and an insert. I made it a bit longer again and it’s probably closer to 1.5m. As an added bonus, the new pipe is clear and you can see the water moving through it.
The whole pump unit fits great into a 20L gerry can and using the pour cap means I can keep as much dirt and crud out of the water as possible.
At the moment the pump runs twice a day at approximately 7am and 7pm, pumping for about a 1.5 minutes (the maximum). The 20L tank lasts about 2 to 3 weeks. The batteries about 2 months. When the tank runs out of the water the unit beeps at you, but it sounds a lot like a cricket and more often than not I haven’t been noticing.
Clearly there’s room for improvement and I’ve got an Arduino unit sitting here waiting to make that happen.
Yesterday was the first Maker Faire in the Australasia region and I had a fantastic day.
That actually summarises it pretty well. More does probably not need to be said, but hey, this is a blog, it’s practically required.
The Maker Faire was run by the local Melbourne Hack Space group with the level of dedication only seen in the true Maker enthusiasts doing what they love.
And that made me realise something, I am one of those Makers. This wasn’t something that had sunk in before. I’ve spent the last 12 months building a CNC router, making cool things, reading about Makers and seeing the cool things that they make, but I never really made the mental leap to identify with the group.
Yesterday Chixor and myself spent the day walking up to Makers, looking at said cool things (often thinking “This is like the ….. I made”), turning them, twisting them, thinking how they were made and how I might do it differently and talking to the Makers in general. Inevitably we would be asked “Are you Makers?” I would half shrug but Chixor would immediately reply “Not really, but HE is." This would lead to discussing what tools we use and normally an interesting expression when I explained how big our stupid unit is (incredulity mixed with a kind of lust.)
Not that the lust was all one way of course. I wish I had the time/confidence/money to put a laser on our gantry to cut those perfect cuts. I wish I had the 3d printer to play around with. I wish I had a shed that didn’t leak with decent soundproofing (ok, so that one WILL happen.)
All this made me realise how easily it could be me on the other side of the table, showing off my latest creations and putting ideas into the heads of these talented people. To quote Dr Claw, "Next time Gadget! Next Time!”.
From here Chixor and I’ll be joining Hack Melbourne (I expect they’ll have a lot of new members in the next few weeks.) I’ll be trying to push out more posts here to cover the giant backlog of stuff I’ve been working on (there are currently 3 half finished posts waiting for me to finish copy so I haven’t been completely idle.) I also had a great talk with the freetronics guys and promised them a forum post detailing our automatic watering system that’s based on their EtherTen Arduino board.
It’s looking like another busy year.
Chixor and I live in small flat, with a small balcony overlooking quite a busy road. In the past we’ve used the balcony rail to hang flowers and herbs on to give us a bit of colour to a rather drab building.
Of course, the problem with this is when you hang plant pots from a rail at waist height and sit down on our deck chairs the pots are at eye level. Above them, you can see the sky, below, the traffic. You can’t actually see the plants you want to enjoy.
So for years our balcony was a nice place to sit, provided you were happy looking at the road or the sky. Finally Chixor had had enough, taking inspiration from the local out-door cafe’s she decided to build a free-standing plant box, to get the plants low enough to see them, but high enough to provide us with some privacy from the road below.
As luck would have it, my parents had just started replacing their picket fence. The old one had started out as white painted hardwood, but 15 years of neglect and weather meant that panels were cracking and rotting away.
We rescued a boot load of panels and used dad’s thicknesser to remove 60-70% of the paint. This gave the panels a nice weathered, reclaimed look without leaving them ratty and covered in moss.
We used a very simple box construction method, building a skeleton using 25mm x 40mm pine poles. The skeleton was constructed using hugely overkill screws (70mm 8g’s) that I had leftover from another project.
At the bottom, 4 small casters make it easy to move around.
The panels were attached at regular intervals with flat-head galvanised nails. We needed to pre-drill the holes first. Hardwood that’s spent 15 years in the weather is tough stuff.
One side panel of each box comes off, making use of the storage space inside and giving access to the watering system (more on that later!)
A couple of coats of polyuerethene clear coat will hopefully protect the wood’s finish. Given half a chance this wood goes a grey colour that is a little drab.
Obviously this isn’t the end of build. The rest will follow soon.
So Chixors drew a fantastic picture of a robot chillin’ out with some books for me to use as a unique cover for my kindle. (Check out her write-up at “I want to ride my…”)
Originally, I tried to engrave the design in wood, but the grain lost the fine detail that makes this picture pop.
When I finally got some reliable speed control on my router, I couldn’t help myself. This particular piece is engraved into a piece of 3mm extruded perspex with a 60 degree V bit. The engraving depth should be around 0.2mm (At this level of detail, I’m a bit less precise than I’d like when I zero it in).
The speed controller means I can run the router at 12000RPM rather than my routers top speed of 27000RPM and stop it from just melting everything. I set the feed rate (the speed the router moves) at 1200 mm/minute. It could have been faster and next time I’ll fine tune it some more.
As I mentioned, high router speeds cause plastics to get a little bit melty. This speed felt about right, when I switched to a ¼" endmill to cut out the square the plastic peeled off in nice large chips that the Dust Extractor had no problem picking up.
I was incredibly happy with the end result, particularly given it was a test piece. I milled this piece with the protective coating on, possibly not something I need for the finished side and it took longer to remove the tiny pieces of sticky stuff off the piece than it took to mill it.
I’m having a great time showing this off to people. It’s spured a few commisioned pieces and a lot of great ideas for LED lighting displays and maybe even one day finishing my Kindle cover….
So rather than just jump straight into pictures of various projects I’ve been working on, I thought I’d cover the why of this blog.
In August 2010, myself and two friends sat down at computers in my little home office fully intending to spend the evening playing Company of Heroes. Before we started I pointed out a website I’d spotted while trawling the internet for god knows what.
That site was Patrick Hood-Daniel’s website - https://buildyourcnc.com/. Two of us promptly spent the next two hours talking about what we could make if only we had such a tool, while the third sat back and contentedly watched us build on each others enthusiasm.
From there….well….it’s been a hell of a year. Not cheap, but it gets us out of the house, keeps us out of trouble and off the streets.
This blog is trying to record the process of building our own CNC router and what goes into each piece we make. The posts won’t be chronological as I’ll be filling in older details as I go. Not all the articles will be CNC related either, expect some Arduino posts and other little build projects too.
I also plan to repost and link to my partners blog (https://chixors.tumblr.com) when appropriate. Her designs help us produce unique pieces and where I can I want to show how her digital artwork becomes part of the physical world.