Categorizing Projects

Friday Night Drawbot

I got invited to take part in a gallery show and display some of the art created by my art robots, and I must say, the whole experience reminded me a little bit of my time in the arts program at UWM. Late nights with X-ACTO knives, cork-backed metal rulers, foam core, spray glue, looming deadlines, things not working out as well as you’d like them to… repeatedly. Besides all that though, it was a lot of fun.

I tend to get distracted by other projects after I reach the stages of “it works!” and “I showed it to people!” and I’m not alone… many members of Milwaukee Makerspace suffer from this as well. We’re starting a support group. Actually, we started 5 support groups, but we keep getting distracted by other projects. (I kid, I kid!)

The thing I really like about projects that involve hardware and software is that you can work on one side for a bit, and then switch gears and work on the other side. Many of the makers I know write code all day (which they like doing) and do hardware stuff at night (which they also like doing) so combining them is a double-win.

Arc-O-Matic

I started thinking about some of my projects, and I think they fit into a few categories:

  1. Idea Only: These are projects where I come up with an idea but never follow through on them.
  2. Completed/Forgotten: Projects that get “done” and then I just move on from them without ever improving or creating new versions.
  3. Always in Progress: These are projects that are never finished. They may reach finished “stages” but there’s always a chance they’ll get upgraded, or completely rebuilt, or replaced with a better version.
  4. Failure: Things I try, that just don’t work out. They typically get abandoned.

You might think the Completed/Forgotten or Always in Progress projects are the best, but there’s a lot to be learned by the Idea Only and Failure projects as well. In the end, I love learning new things, so even if I don’t finish a project, learning something new, or even learning how not to do something, can be very valuable.

How do you categorize your projects?

HOPPY NEW YEAR!!!

WE DID IT! We made it to 2013. To celebrate, Milwaukee Makerspace built the New Year’s Hop Drop. This was epic from the beginning. Jeremy from Art Milwaukee asked me if I wanted to build a giant beer hop for new years. LOL, What? Sure! So here goes the process…

This is the concept rendered by the great Ali Carlucci.

Victory shot after set-up at The Milwaukee Art Museum.

We started out with the skeleton for the hop. Designed by Makerspace’s own Shane Thelen.

Here’s another Maker, Matt Wittmann, attaching the leaves on the hop.

After attaching the leaves we built the base to support the hop. The hop will rise 20 feet and get lowered at the 30 second countdown to the new year.

Here’s Shane painting the base.

Now, to test the motor.

WooHoo it works! Here is a video of us doing a test,

Hoppy New Year! Stay safe, Stay classy.

Snow-Globe Video

Just a minor update here from my recent Snow-Globe blog entry ( http://milwaukeemakerspace.org/2012/12/custom-snow-globe/ )

I made two VIDEOS about the snow-globe. The first is just a brief video showing the finished project. The second video is a longer “How-To” which includes some video, but is mostly a photo slide-show of all the steps I took to create the project.

For an in-depth step-by-step of how I built the project, check out the info I posted on Instructables. http://www.instructables.com/id/Custom-Singing-Snow-Globe/

-Ben

Custom Snow Globe

 

Well, I’ve been slaving away on creating a unique X-mas gift for my wife and two-year old daughter, and I think I got it right. They loved it!

I’m talking about a Custom Snow Globe!

A while back, I was working in the driveway on a styrofoam project. Of course, that white stryrofoam dust gets static-charged and STICKS TO EVERYTHING. I also found that the best tool for cutting it was my wife’s kitchen electric carving knife. When I headed inside to take a break and warm up, I was COVERED with styrofoam. My two-year-old girl looked up at me and squeeled “Daddy a Snowman!”.

Indeed I was. I imagined myself inside a snow-globe with styrofoam swirling around me like a snowstorm. But could I actually BUILD a snowglobe that would match my imagination?

I started looking at every snow globe I could find and set to work building one. I looked around and found a glass dome, used for light fixtures. I got two of them, and gave one to my brother-in-law, who is a clay artist, among other things, and commissioned him to make a caricature of me. Since he had one globe, and I had the other, he could make a figure that would fit inside the globe, and I could do the woodworking on the base, and insure that the globe fit that.

I headed to the local cabinet shop and talked to old high-school class-mate Steve about what wood to use for a base. He gave me a maple block, and I grabbed some scrap maple from the bin to practice cuts and routering on. At my Dad’s back-of-the-garage shop, I experimented with routing, until I could get it right, and routed a circle for the base of the glass globe, cut the wood base to length and cut a 45-degree bevel on the top edge, and routed a pocket in the bottom for the electronics.

I wanted to make a “singing” snow-globe, so I bought a singing greeting card at the Hallmark store, and then dissected it for parts. The electronics were then mounted on the bottom of the  wood base, along with a custom switch.

I headed to the Milwaukee Makerspace to use the laser-cutter.

Using the vector graphics program on the laser’s computer, I laid out an inscription for both the top and bottom of the snow globe base. I practiced on a piece of paper, and then when I actually focused the laser properly and had everything else figured out, I wood-burned the maple block, front and back.

I also used a solder station to add the momentary on switch to the greeting card electronics, so that the song would play whenever the globe was picked up to shake up the snow.

Next, was clear-coating the figure and the wood base. I used “Parks Super-Glaze”, a two-part epoxy clear coat used for bars, to completely seal and waterproof both the figure and the base, as well as to permanently attach the figure to the base.

Then, it was a matter to holding the globe upside down, filling it with water, filling the routed circular grove of the base with silicon glue, and flipping the figure and base, upside-down, into the dome of water. Once it was cured, the snow-globe can be flipped right-side-up, gift-wrapped, and put under the tree!

I’m glad to say that the project turned out just great! It was a bit of a stretch to my skill-set, so THANK YOU to the people who gave me a hand with it. Nothing quite like a project that runs the gamut from sculpture to wood-working, electronics, glass, water, laser-engraving, and more! But that’s how we grow… by stretching a little bit more every time!

Merry X-mas

From Ben the Snowman.

We help in all departments!

Becky Tesch

We’re currently in the process of moving to our new space, but we had our last Tuesday night meeting of the year this week and we had a few guests stop by looking for help with some projects.

Becky’s a local artist who works in “duct tape & bike parts” making unique recycled jewelry and other things. (You can check out some of her work on Etsy.) She was interested in using the laser cutter for some of her pieces. While we didn’t get a chance to do any test cuts due to some laser downtime, we grabbed some inner-tube rubber and we’ll be giving it a test run for her.

The Artery

While talking to Becky, a guy named Jacob showed up and asked about cutting some stencils to sandblast things for rewards. Rewards? Yeah, he’s one of the guys involved in a recent Kickstarter campaign. Check out Matireal in this OnMilwaukee story. We gave Jacob some good advice and a member offered to cut the stencils he needs. Pretty cool! (And yeah, it did seem a little weird that we had one person who works with old inner-tubes and another who works with old car tires, but we love recycling too!)

So yeah, we like helping people who like making things, and even if the laser is down or we’re in the process of moving the entire Makerspace, we’re glad to help!

FEAR

 

I’ve updated Robert Indiana’s iconic sculpture “LOVE” for our times!  While “Love” may have been an appropriate sentiment from 1964 to 1970 when the 2D and 3D versions were made, I think that the revised text is more appropriate for the 2000’s and 2010’s. Fear is 8” tall and 4” deep, and while not a monumental outdoor sculpture, FEAR appears fairly sizable on a table top.

Fear, which is solid aluminum and weighs over 7 lbs, was cast last Thursday with quite a few other pieces.  The great thing about having an aluminum foundry at the Makerspace is that the whole thing cost about $7!  – $4 for propane, $1 for Styrofoam, and $3 for some Rotozip bits.  If FEAR were cast in bronze, it would weigh over 20 lbs, which would cost $200 for the metal alone.  As it is, we melted down old heat sinks, stock cutoffs and hard drive frames, so the metal is essentially free.

In the spirit of Indiana who made his own font, I drew FEAR up in Inkscape using Georgia Bold, but I increased the height of the Serifs a bit.  Shane helped me with the file manipulation and G-code generation (Thanks!), so I could use the CNC router to cut FEAR out of styrofoam.  I exported FEAR’s hairline thickness outline as .dxf so it I could bring it into CamBam to generate the G-code. The outer contour of FEAR was selected, and the following settings were chosen:

  • General -> Enabled -> True
  • General -> Name -> Outside
  • Cutting Depth -> Clearance Plane -> 0.125 (inches)
  • Cutting Depth -> Depth Increment -> 1.05 (inches)
  • Cutting Depth -> Target Depth -> -1.05 (inches)
  • Feedrates -> Cut Feedrate -> 300 (inches per second)
  • Options -> Roughing/Finishing -> Finishing
  • Tool -> Tool Diameter -> 0.125 (inches)
  • Tool -> Tool Profile -> End Mill

Identical settings were chosen for the inner contours of FEAR, with the exception of General -> Name -> Inside.   Then, I just selected “Generate G-code.”  Check out the real-time video of Makerspace CNC router running the G-code and cutting out the 1” thick Styrofoam (Owens Corning Foamular 150).

After cutting four 1” thick pieces, they were stacked and glued together.  I buried the foam FEAR in petrobond, and then attached Styrofoam sprues and vents.  For a more complete explanation of the quick lost-styrofoam casting process, check out this post.   Stay tuned for details of our next Aluminum pour, which will be in January in the New Milwaukee Makerspace!

 

M1 and M2

M1

M2

If you saw Shane’s post Submission for the 100 Square Feet of Art Charity Event you probably wondered if anyone else managed to create a piece of art for the event, and if they too used the laser cutter. The answer to both questions is “Yes!” and here are the two pieces I created, M1 and M2.

There’s an in-depth (and potentially boring) post about these pieces over on my blog titled Two Square Feet of Art. Enjoy!

SAGA: Semi-Automatic Gmail Assistant

My friend Rob is a smart engineer, and throughout the course of a work week he receives dozens of requests for his assistance on various projects.  He’s such a positive and helpful person that he finds it difficult to say “No.” to any of these requests.  I’ve helped him out by making a USB device that can provide a clear and simple email response to some of these requests.  SAGA, or Semi-Automatic Gmail Assistant, is approximately the size of a mouse, and plugs into a computer just like any mouse or keyboard would.  Here is the first prototype:

SAGA comes complete with a key lockout feature that prevents accidental activation. Once a worthy email request has been received, Rob can calmly make the call whether or not to arm SAGA by inserting the key, and rotating it clockwise 90 degrees.  After rotating the key, an octagon of LEDs lights up around the chrome button, enticing Rob to press it.  The extra illumination from the LEDs also further highlights the artfully coiled wiring that fills the prototype SAGA.  When the button is pressed, SAGA sends the keyboard shortcut to respond to the email and types out “Go F*** Yourself.” at a respectable and slightly humorous 200 wpm.  After waiting a half second for dramatic effect, SAGA automatically sends the email.  Note that there is a 1% chance that SAGA will instead respond “That’s a Great idea, I’ll get right on it!”

SAGAis powered by a Teensy 2.0 and $15 of electronics parts.  SAGA appears to the computer as a standard keyboard, and some helpful startup hints I followed appear on RasterWeb! and here.  One enabling trick was using a 2n2222 NPN transistor to drive 140 mA into the eight LEDs (connected in parallel), as this value exceeds the current available from any one of the Teensy’s outputs.  Note that keyboard shortcuts must be enabled in Gmail settings, and that Yahoo! Mail is also SAGA compatible. Upon moving an internal jumper, SAGA is probably compatible with some versions of Outlook (although installation of service pack 3.0 may be required).

Due to popular request by the few folks who have seen SAGA in action, I’ve built up a few, and they are for sale now on Etsy.  Check out the aesthetically pleasing, high gloss powder coated aluminum enclosure! Here is SAGA in high-speed yellow:

Alternate colors are available too – Just follow this link to Etsy!