In an effort to make the lighting control system more user-friendly, the original board-mounted switches have been replaced with a laser-cut zone map! Instead of looking up which zone number corresponds to a particular bank of lights, each location is now identified by a green LED pushbutton. You can read more about the lighting control system and how it’s been evolving on our wiki: http://wiki.milwaukeemakerspace.org/projects/mmlc
As someone who has gone to GenCon quite a few years and knows several of the GMs of major events, I’ve started getting asked to make props… This year I have decided to expand my experiences in molding and casting in order to make one of the props. The prop requested was a “Bracer that looks like it is made of Amber – part of the shell of an insect”. Thankfully I was afforded quite a bit of creative leeway beyond that.
In the past I have used Smooth-on products, but one of the members of the Makerspace mentioned they were a distributor for Alumilite, so I thought I would give them a try. This was my first experience with most of the Alumilite products.
I ordered the following supplies:
Other items I used:
3” Diameter PVC Pipe – Approximately 18” long
3” Diameter Hose Clamp
Disposable Mixing Containers
Steel Wire (to hold the mold together)
I wanted to make a “generic” bracer that would fit either arm, not a right or left arm bracer, so I didn’t want to do a life cast of my arm first – it would be too specific. Instead I picked up a piece of 3” pvc pipe, cut a section out of most of it (leaving a part connected) and then used a hose clamp to tighten the open end down. It turned into a really good stand-in for a human arm. The shape is close enough that it is recognizable, but is not left or right arm specific. (Note that the screws in the picture were added at a later stage)
Once I had the basic form for the arm, I used the synthetic clay to create the shape of the bracer. I was going for an organic look, so I wanted curves and no sharp edges. The biggest challenge I had was trying to smooth out the sculpt. I still need to figure out the right technique. Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of the sculpted bracer.
Once I had the sculpture complete, I added some screws around the edges as alignment points. I was careful to make sure the heads were close to the PVC so they would not get stuck in the molding material. Then I got to try my first new material – the Mold Putty. I really liked the idea of it – take two parts, hand-mix, then just push it onto the original. It essentially worked exactly that way. I thought the mixed consistency was almost perfect for my application. Unfortunately, the biggest difficulty is being sure not to trap air in it – particularly when placing a second mixed batch next to an already placed batch. I ended up with some imperfections in the final mold because of this. Would I use it again? Yes, but I think I may also try other approaches – either a box and pourable rubber, or brush-on rubber.
Given the way I wanted to cast the bracer – standing vertically – I wanted to make sure that I was able to hold the rubber mold to the arm form well. So, using the plaster bandages, I made a two-part “mother mold” for the rubber mold. First, I coated everything with Vaseline as a release agent, then I covered half of the arm piece with plaster bandaging, making sure the edges were particularly strong, and that the top edge, where I would be creating the second half of the mold, was also quite smooth. After the first half of the mother mold cured, I then coated the edge of the plaster with Vaseline to make sure the other half would not stick to the first half. Once I was done placing the Vaseline, I then coated the other half with plaster bandages.
Once all of the plaster dried, I used a sharpie and drew lines across the edges of the plaster. These lines are so that I could realign them easily after I took the mold apart to remove the original sculpt.
After I removed the original sculpt, I realized I forgot something major… A way to get the resin into the mold. Oops! After a bit of thought, I decided the easiest way to get the resin in would be to drill some holes through the PVC pipe and pour it in that way. Ideally, I would have designed pour holes and vent holes into the original design of the sculpt. Something to remember for the next one! In order to try to control the fluid a bit better, I used straws to extend the holes out. Bendy straws would have been good – I’m not sure how effective straight straws were.
Using the volume of clay from the original sculpt, I did a rough guess at how much resin would be needed to fill the mold (~12oz). I measured out 6oz of each of the two parts, added one drop of red and six drops of yellow to one of them, then mixed it. I used a syringe to suck up the mixed resin and transfer it into the mold. It worked quite well, although it was a bit disconcerting because of the number of bubbles that were exposed during the suction process. Thankfully, as soon as the resin reached normal pressure the bubbles disappeared.
The resin takes 24 hours to cure. 24 hours wondering if it turned out.
And after that full day of waiting, I de-molded it. Quite the pleasant surprise! I think it may have slightly too much red, so I’ll have to correct that for my next iteration. I’m still debating about sanding and buffing it in order to get it to be more glass-like.
The idea was simple: make something to help keep track of our supplies so we know when we’re running low on the essentials. After weeks of kicking the idea around and various rough doodles, this project finally took shape. Two days after the first cut on the laser cutter, it was complete.
Made from multiple layers of acrylic, cardboard, and wood, the “Milwaukee Makerspace Consumables Super Analog Status Board” is a clipboard-sized device with nine sliders installed in enclosed slots. Sliding the tabs right displays more green to indicate “full” or “lots” and sliding left reveals the red acrylic below to indicate “empty” or “low.” The user can carry the board around the Space with them as they check on supplies and when done, a large hole centered at the top allows the board to be hung up and displayed on a wall.
The hardware holding the whole thing together can be loosened and the layers disassembled. The cardboard insert that the text resides on can be swapped out should we decide to change the list of items we want to keep tabs on. The supplies being tracked currently include:
- Toilet Paper
- Paper Towels
- Hand Soap
- Welding Gases
- Welding Wire
- Duct Tape
- Painter’s Tape
A digital version may or may not be planned for future release.
After a year’s work designing, building, scrapping, redesigning, building, and working through software and firmware issues, the MegaMax 3D printer is now functional. It has some common 3D printing issues like printed objects peeling up off the glass printbed. Tweaked settings in Slic3r, ABS “juice”, and Aquanet hairspray have all been tested with moderate success in attempts to improve adhesion to the printbed. Finally, have_blue gave me a block of foam out of the Stratasys printer to try out and it seems to work better than the other methods and doesn’t require heating the bed! Further experiments to be conducted post-haste.
More info on this project can be found here: http://wiki.milwaukeemakerspace.org/projects/megamax_3d_printer
I’ve always been impressed with exercise bike generator displays at renewable energy exhibits. So, a while back, when I saw a classic Schwinn exercise bike at the thrift store, I nabbed it with the plan to make it into an EXERCISE BIKE GENERATOR!
Earth Week is only a week away, and since our local eco-group is hosting a BIKE-THEMED event this year, I thought I’d “get in gear” and quick put together a bike generator.
I really already had all the parts needed. Mostly, that’s a bike and a permanent-magnet motor. Besides that, it’s just some scrap wood, a bolt, nuts and washers and a bungie-cord.
At the heart of the project is a 12V electric motor. I still had a few parts left over from my electric car conversion project, including the electric radiator fan. My electric car didn’t need an engine or radiator, so I set the fan motor off to the side for future use. I pulled it out for this project. First, I had to remove the plastic fins, which were practically cast in place. I managed to remove them, and get it down to an aluminum hub mounted on the motor shaft.
Next, I cut a scrap of plywood, and used a hole-saw to make a hole in it big enough for the motor to sit in. I put the motor in place, and attached it with three small wood screws.
I drilled a 3/8″ hole through the corner of the plywood, and ran a long bolt through it into the front frame of the cycle. That way, I was able to test alignment of the motor shaft with the front wheel. It matched up pretty well. I would just need to smooth out the hub on the driveshaft and add a stabilizer and tensioner to the motor.
The hub on the driveshaft was bumpy, which made a lot of vibration on the exercise bike tire, and the gear ratio was just a hair off. If I could trim down the diameter of the hub a bit, it would smooth out the ride and allow me to pedal just a tad slower while at the right speed for 12V charging.
I did NOT have a lathe handy, so I thought it would be pretty tough to smooth out the hub. That’s when I realized there was nothing stopping me from JUST SPINNING THE MOTOR. So, I clamped the motor down to a work-table, grabbed the jumper cables from my truck and a 12V battery, and just spun-up the motor! I then used an angle-grinder (with a flapper disc) to smooth down the hub, and reduce its diameter a bit. Because it was spinning at high speed, it came out perfectly concentric and balanced. Not bad for an improvised “poor-man’s lathe”.
I put the motor back onto the cycle and added another piece of plywood opposite of it and a cross-piece to made a basic box shape. This holds the motor solid and lets it swing up and down but NOT side to side.
At that point, all that was left was a tensioner. I added a drywall screw to the wood and attached a bungie-cord from it to the base of the cycle. That applies a light, but steady, force of the motor against the wheel.
I clipped my volt-meter to the two wires coming off the motor and pedaled. Sure enough, it was pretty easy to pedal at a rate that gave me an output voltage between 12-14 volts, what’s needed to charge a 12V battery.
After that, I hooked it up to my Fenix Intl. Ready Set – a 12V battery with built-in charge control and 12V and 5 outputs. It also has a nice charge indicator light on it, and universal power input on the back, meaning I could just run my bare wires straight in and tighten them down without even needing tools. I then only have to pedal fast enough until the “Now Charging” light comes on to know what speed I need to maintain for 12V charging.
This isn’t exactly a fancy or high-power exercise bike set-up, but it sure was easy to build. I did some testing, and it’s simple to output 10 watts of energy. That’s just about perfect for charging an iPad. That also means it’s pretty easy to do something like designing a setup where if you want to watch a movie on the iPad, you have to pedal to make it happen!
Just think how much more fit the average American would be if we all had to pedal to watch TV!
This project took about an afternoon of work and cost me $8, the cost of the cycle at the thrift store. I already had the motor, nuts and bolts, bungie-cord and scraps of wood. All in all a nice little weekend project.
Have you built your own exercise bike generator? What do you power with it? What did you do different on your design? Let us know!
Take care, and keep pedaling!
This gallery contains 4 photos.
My apartment has sub-par to poor lighting. Combine that with our lease’s “no painting walls” policy and you’ve got a one-way ticket to Drab-ville. Many moons ago I planned to replace the over-cabinet lighting in our kitchen with RGB LEDs controlled by Arduino, but I never found the motivation to actually do it. Then one […]
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/
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!
From Ben the Snowman.
I want to open my first blog post with a statement that continues to impress me: Milwaukee Makerspace is a wonderful place! I mostly show up for the free meetings. MMS provides an excellent environment to be social, to learn (happens every time I go!), to teach (when I can!), and to get the creative juices flowing.
I had recently started working with Arduino (after a failed run at Microchip’s PIC series of microcontrollers), and was making progress quickly. I learned how to read infrared remote control codes, how to use an infrared motion sensor, and how to control servos. What I did not have, was a sense of direction as to where to go with all of this!
After listening to the Bay View Neighborhood Associate pitch their idea of MMS helping with the Pumpkin Pavilion, and listening to Royce Pipkins describe his idea of animatronic pumpkins singing along to a song, I was struck with my own idea: an animatronic skull.
Thus, it was born!
http://vimeo.com/55121596 <- Link to the video
I’ll post more details in a following post about how I built this guy. :)
Many thanks to Royce, Tom G., and Ed C. for their help on this project!
A microtome is a device for slicing very thin cross-sections of stuff, in order to view them under a microscope. Commercial ones are available, but they cost upwards of $50. There is a classic DIY solution, but it involves a piece of old technology — a wooden spool for thread. Outside of antique stores, those aren’t common. Plastic ones tend to be hollow, meaning there’s no guide surface for the razor blade; and the razor is likely to shave the plastic instead of slide across it. Gluing a washer to the plastic spool would address both of those problems. But there is very little gluing surface on the end of a hollow plastic spool.
Lacking a wooden spool, I cut a cube off the end of some scrap 2×2 and bored a slightly-oversize hole through it. Using Gorilla Glue, I attached a flanged nut and a flat washer to opposite ends of the hole. Before the glue set, I used the bolt to center and clamp them over the hole. Gorilla Glue expands 30% as it sets. To avoid permanently gluing the bolt into the body, I carefully removed it after a few minutes. You can see glue in the threads adjacent to the bolt, in the image at right. A few minutes with a wire brush cleaned the bolt threads.
Lastly, I flattened and polished the washer on a lapping plate. The edge of the washer-hole was rough, and glue had expanded out of the hole and onto the surface.
The nut & bolt are 1/4 x 20. One complete turn is 1/20″. So a quarter-turn should be 0.0125″ thin. That, and a fresh razor blade, should make slices thin-enough for a microscope.