Aluminum Pour

Bill M, Bret D and I went by Dan Dricken’s studio this past Sunday to watch his aluminum pour.  It was great fun to watch. Dan has a custom built furnace with a 40lbs crucible. Audience members prepared sand scratch blocks. They were shallow square that participant carved designs into to form an aluminum tile.

I learned that there is really quite a close-knit community of metal pourers. Bret D is going to help us out making our own aluminum furnace and eventually even an iron furnace. I’m really looking forward getting more involved with that community.

Art Jamboree!

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Here at Art Milwaukee’s big shindig at Flux Design. Man, I’ve done a lot of talking. Gave away the last of our complete tie pin kits. Met lots of great folk in Milwaukee’s art community. Mad props to Jason H to getting Milwaukee Makerspace more involved with this community. I really feel like there is a lot of potential for awesome interaction between makers and artists and events like this one can make that happen.

I’m looking forward to next month!

Food Not Bombs Bronze Pendant and Final Star Trek Assembly

Previously I had blogged about a Star Trek logo that I cast as gift for my sister-in-law. I’ll update that project later in the post, however, I held a second casting back from the blog as it was intended as a gift for my wife.

For a couple of years my wife co-ran Milwaukee’s Food Not Bombs movement. She has always had fond memories of that time and has on more than one occasion brought up their logo: a hand clutching a carrot. So, I decided to make her a pendant with a relieved carving of that logo. To begin with I pulled the jpg logo into Inkscape loaded with the Better Better DXF Output plugin. I used the Inkscape drawing primitives to trace over the major outlines of the logo and then export the tracing to DXF. Once in DXF I imported the file into CamBam where I cleaned of the drawing a little more and defined machining operations for our CNC Router to perform. I turned the outlines into a series of adjacent polygons. (e.g. a wrist polygon, a thumb polygon, etc.) I then setup pocket operations of varying depths on each polygon. Finally, I exported the file to G-Code for consumption by the Mach 3 router control program.

FNB Logo in Mach 3If you look you can kind of see the polygons even if the depth setting of each pocket is not apparent.

Above you can see the pendant in the process of being routed out and also the finished wax mold after routing. Below you can see the pendant after casting! She loved it and wears it frequently. I was a really good feeling to actually put some effort into making a gift this year. It made the act of giving the gift that much more special.

I also completed the Star Trek logo. I turned that into a broach.

Above you can see that I have mounted the Star Trek logo to a plastic backing. I’ve also cut one of Adafruit’s EL Panels way down in size and hooked it up to another one of her small inverters. The small inverter normally cannot run her panels, but after being cut down so much, it wasn’t a problem. Below you can see the two pieces put together.

And finally the finished gift!

As I said, I really enjoyed giving gifts that I made this year. I am going to try to do more of that!

 

 

Spin Casting!

Tonight we successfully spin cast a  few bronze models! This is the first time ever, at the Makerspace. I’m totally stoked to have a new and neat piece of equipment operating here.  Spin Casting now joins one of the many skills you can learn here.

Below you can see JasonH taking the torch to the bronze sitting in the crucible.

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Neither JasonH nor myself have any real idea of what we are doing, but we gave it a try and it turned out! Below you can see the Star Trek logo that came from the wax mold I posted about earlier as well as bits of the sprue. It still has a good bit of investment stuck to it, but I’m out of time for tonight.

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Below is a video of the spin caster in action. You can see the red glow of the molten metal being driven into the investment cavity.

BeagleBone

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I got my BeagleBone in today! In brief it is a high speed (720Mhz) ARM development board that takes a lot of inspiration from Arduino. At 720Mhz, however, there is plenty of juice to run Angstrom Linux or even Android.

It comes with a Linux SD card so I fired it up an gave it a whirl. Out-of-the-box the board runs a web server that runs Node.js and serves a web-IDE called Cloud9. They’ve set up Node.js libraries to make the programming look a whole lot like the Arduino. Check it:

They say it’s not quite ready for prime time and won’t be until sometime in 2012. But the blinky light program worked just fine. Seems like they are off to a great start.

I am thinking about this device as a fixed function server that will serve up a configuration GUI for my access control system and poll the door readers. Right now the Access Control server runs on a normal Ubuntu server, but in a commercial application you’re going to get folks who just plain have a black thumb with computers. These folks can be a real drain on support. This BeagleBone device could possibly be made black-thumb proof.

Spin Casting

So we recently got a spin caster in the space.

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Jason H and I are working towards doing our first casts. To that end I’ve milled out a wax Star Trek logo that I hope to cast into a gift for my sister-in-law this holiday season. It will have an EL panel behind it and will be worn as a brouch.

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Tie Pin PCBs!

The tie pin PCBs came in and they look great! We’ll use these PCBs to teach folks how to solder and spread the word about Milwaukee Makerspace!

In the photo above you see two identical boards each showing the opposite side. On the logo side two flashing rainbow LEDs go into the eye sockets and two current limiting resistors go to the left and right of the welder’s mask. On the back side, near the bottom of the pcb you can see two large rectangular pads that bracket a very large circular pad. The feet of a surface mount coin-cell battery holder that goes up and over the circular pad are soldered to the rectangular pads. The resulting cavity is a perfect fit for a standard CR2032 coin cell battery. Near the top is an oval shaped pad where the tie pin is soldered down.

Whenever we offer a Learn to Solder session at an event we’ll have these PCBs and associated electronic components in kit form available in exchange for only the time and effort required to learn to solder one together. (Small donations are appreciated, but in no way required) Most folks take less than 10 mins to master the basic soldering technique and are rewarded not only with a flashy tie pin or broach but also with a newly opened door to possibilities by virtue of their new ability to construct electronic circuits.

RN-42 Carrier Board

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I got that RN-42 carrier board populated and working! Its ready for the GyroSkirt driver board, once I get that built.

There are a few errors on the board. TX and RX are swapped somewhere. Either on this board or on my USB to TTL-Serial board or in the RN-42 documentation. Also it seems the LEDs were meant to go to Vcc rather than ground. As a result my LED indication for connection status and RF traffic is inverted.

I can live with the errors as the actual data transmission works like a champ. To test the tranmission I hooked the carrier board up to a PC via a USB to TTL serial converter configured to operate at 3.3V.  The venerable Hyperterminal program was used to open the virtual com port on the PC. Then I downloaded Sena’s Bluetooth terminal program to my Android phone and used it to form a Bluetooth serial connection between my phone and the modem. The result: keys pressed on my phone’s keyboard appeared inside the Hyperterminal running on the PC and keys pressed on the PC keyboard appear inside the Sena Bluetooth terminal running on my phone. Bi-directional data flow at 115,200 baud.

Now that I have proven my wireless link works, I need to update the GyroSkirt/GryoBelt firmware to allow me to adjust the gain and the deadband over the Arduino’s serial port.  (In addition to actually making a driver board that has a spot for the modem.)

iTead Boards

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I got my first batch of iTead Studio boards in!  iTead Studio is a  pcb printing shop that offers absurdly cheap prototype boards. The new boards look great. I’ll definitely use them again. It only took 2 1/2 weeks to get here. For the price its an awesome service.

The particular board shown is a carrier board for the RN-42 Bluetooth modem, which is only $15 from Sparkfun if you buy it in its surface mount form. For another $15 I now have 10 12! carrier boards that allow me to adapt the surface mount device to through hole technology as well as control infrequently utilized device specific features such as factory reset, BT Master mode, force 9600 baud and more. The more you know the cheaper electronics gets.

The carrier, populated with the modem, etc., is destined for the GyroSkirt. The idea is that I’ll be able to adjust the gain and deadband processing on the gyro sensor reading wirelessly from a program on my Android phone via the Bluetooth radio in my phone and one of these boards affixed to the GyroSkirt driver. The GyroSkirt will again be driven by an Arduino,  so I hope to leverage the Amarino library to speed my development time.

Screeching Cat Railing

CNC Cutout of screeching cat inserted into porch railing

Recently we completely re-built our aging 2nd story porch. During the process I took the opportunity to add a little flair courtesy of the makerspace’s CNC Router. The idea was to place an emblem into the railing of the porch as decoration. After thinking about the emblem I’d want I decided that I’d never be happy with just one, so I incorporated spring hinges (look carefully below the cat in the photo) that allow me to pull back and replace the emblem at will with ease. With that done the only thing to do was decide on the first emblem. I decided on seasonal/occasion emblems.

Rich showed me a great site with free CNC artwork, some of which was Halloween themed. I downloaded that artwork, selected the screeching cat and had the CNC router cut the cat out of a 2’x2′ plywood. I installed the cat as part of the porch railing as you can see in the photo.  I’m now looking to round up a turkey for Thanksgiving, a snow man for winter, etc.

During the design process TomG had the bright idea to shine a light through the cutout. So I took a high brightness LED out of a malfunctioning flashlight and attached it to some sheet metal on a malleable aluminium boom. The result is that I now have a screeching cat projected down onto the sidewalk below. (It’s too dim for me to capture on camera)

I’m really looking forward to cutting out more shapes on the CNC Router!