Makerspace Aluminum Casting Foundry

I arrived at the Makerspace on Thursday without an idea of what I would cast in metal, and in less than two hours I was removing my piece from the steaming petrobond! Check out the fruit of two hours of labor cast in metal!

That’s right! The Milwaukee Makerspace had its first (and second) aluminum pour on Thursday! Thanks to the hard work of several members, the Makerspace now has a fully functional aluminum casting foundry.  The custom built propane and diesel powered furnace melted an entire #16 crucible of aluminum in less than 20 minutes.  Check out Brant’s video to see our fearless foundry foreman leading the two pours!

To get the foundry running quickly, we’ve started out by using a lost-styrofoam casting method.  That is, styrofoam is carved into the desired shape and then a sprue and vents are attached with hot glue(!).  This assembly is placed in a wooden form, and is surrounded by tightly packed petrobond, an oil bonded, reusable sand.   Then, the molten aluminum is poured directly onto the styrofoam sprue.  The styrofoam is instantly vaporized by the 1250 degree Fahrenheit aluminum, which fills the void in the petrobond formerly occupied by the styrofoam. The air and perhaps even some of the styrofoam residue escapes from the mold through the vents.  We’ll be phasing in bonded sand and lost wax casting soon, so stay tuned for those details.

Eventually we’ll be having aluminum casting classes; however, we’re definitely going to be having aluminum pours on alternate Thursday evenings for the next few months.  Join our mailing list / google group to get more details.  Metal pours are spectacular to watch, so feel free to stop by to see the action around 7 or 8 pm, or join the Makerspace and participate!

The New Milwaukee Makerspace

Lenox

When Milwaukee Makerspace started in August of 2009, Tom and Royce gathered a group of people who had a common interest in starting a hackerspace/makerspace in Milwaukee. A group met at Tom’s house for the first meeting, and then moved to the local Culver’s, meeting each week to discuss current projects, and plans for a space. By November 2010 the group acquired a space in the Chase Commerce Center, and with 13 founding members they launched at our current location, and then added two more members before a soft opening party in January 2011.

We’ve gone from 15 members at the start of 2011 to over 70 members near the end of 2012. We’ve seen our capabilities expand, the list of equipment grow, the number of projects explode, and we’ve also gotten involved in the community. It’s been pretty amazing the last 20 months… and we’re ready for the next step.

We’re about to start the process of moving from our present 6,000 square foot space to a new 16,000 square foot building. Don’t worry, we’ll still be in Milwaukee (and still in Bay View) and in fact, we’ll be moving more into the heart of Bay View, into an entire building at 2555 South Lenox Street on the corner of Lenox and Otjen, one block off Kinnickinnic, next to the McDonald’s. If you’ve been to the Bay View Library, The Hi-Fi Cafe, or Rushmor Records, then you know the area.

So what does this all mean? It means that instead of exclusively working on our own projects for the next month, many of us will also be working on building out the new space: having a Sawzall party on the roof, knocking down a wall or two, building up several new ones, etc!

We hope to offer a lot of new capabilities at the new space, things we’ve wanted to do but may not have been able to due to limitations of our first space. We’ll also be looking at hosting classes and other events at the new space.

If you’ve been interested in joining Milwaukee Makerspace, you’ve got two options… join now, and help with the move (and have a hand in what the new space will be) or wait until we’re all moved in. That second options sounds sort of boring though, and I’m sure you’re more interested in helping us create an amazing new space here in Milwaukee, because you’re a bold maker with great ideas.

Lenox

Robotics @ UWM

Robot

We’ve got a number of robot builders at Milwaukee Makerspace, but we’re not the only robot-lovers in town… via Frankie’s blog, check out this video about Tom Consi and the robotics work he’s doing at UWM.

(We’ve seen some renewed interest in the Milwaukee Robotics Club recently, so we’ll probably start up regular meetings again in the next few months… that way everyone can show off what they’ve been working on.)

Magic Mirror Theater Prop

My sister is a Theater Manager at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, FL.  About two weeks ago she texted me and asked if I could make her a prop she needed for an upcoming production.  “How keen would you be on making me a mirror for “Beauty and The Beast,” she said.  “They want a mirror that lights up and sparkles like the one from the movie.” Even with limited experience just tinkering around, I knew I could do something fairly easily, so I agreed and got to work.

I combined two different circuits (a 555 timer to flash and a RC circuit to fade) and built a wooden frame with acrylic plates for the front and back.  The wood and plastic were CNC-milled, then sanded and painted before the electronics were installed and glued into place.

The result was a fairly decent-looking, shiny, light-up hand mirror with a small thumb button on the right side that flashes 16 bright green LEDs when pressed.  It all runs off a single 9-volt battery and the back can be unscrewed to replace it should it ever die.

Total build time from start to finish was probably close to 15 hours over the course of one week.  The play was Thursday, July 19th and from what I’ve heard, it was a great success.  I’ll add pictures from the performance if I get some.

The Milwaukee Makerspace Makership

The Milwaukee Makerspace Makership Program

Milwaukee Makerspace is proud to be a part of Milwaukee and to provide a shared workspace where people can explore their passions in making and exploring things, whether it be art, technology, electronics, alternative energy, or rapid prototyping and fabrication. Our members are eager to share their skills and equipment with others, and we recognize that we learn better when we learn together, so we’re introducing a “makership” program, which will allow a local maker to become a full member though a sponsorship from the group.

For our first Makership, which will take place during the summer months, we’d like to offer the opportunity exclusively to college students. You’ll see that one of the eligibility requirements is that the applicant must be a student currently enrolled in an accredited post-secondary institution. (Don’t worry, we do plan to open this up to everyone, student or not, in the future.)

If you’re interested in joining us and gaining access to our space, our tools and our community, come up with a killer idea and apply today!

Find out more at: http://milwaukeemakerspace.org/makership

Thanks, Stan!

Stan Miller

Check out Stan Miller’s last column for JSOnline: Goodbye Milwaukee: Covering tech has been a blast.

Having had some involvement with Milwaukee’s tech scene over the years, I’d like to personally thank Stan for some great coverage. As he mentions in his column, he’s attended BarCampMilwaukee (which is something I help organize) and has been a real champion of Milwaukee Makerspace, mentioning us numerous times over the years. I always hope it was partly due to what we help bring to the City of Milwaukee, and not just because we occasionally build crazy things. :)

We’ve been meeting a lot of interesting people lately, from artists, to high-school teachers, to department chairs at local universities. Part of talking to these people is just getting out story out, that Milwaukee Makerspace is for creative people who loved to make things. Stan played an important role in helping us tell the story since the beginning, so for that, Thanks Stan!

Thursday Night Time Lapse

A time lapse video complied from the Milwaukee Makerspace CCTV system. 7 hours of video compressed into 4 minutes. All events took place between 4:30 and 11:30 PM Thursday, September 29, 2011.

Activities include:
– Rich welding
– Chris and Rich working on their electric cars
– Chris driving his electric car in and out of the shop
– Tom, Adam, and Royce working in Diptrace
– Bret, Rich, Royce, and Adam blacksmithing items with the forge
– Various people working on misc. projects and chatting
– Royce, Brant, and Adam etching and tin-plating circuit boards
– Pete working on his Makerbot 3D printer

Ridiculously Large Jacks

On June 18th, Milwaukee Makerspace participated in The Great Milwaukee Race as a challenge sponsor.

Great Milwaukee Race 2011 - Ridiculously Large Jacks

The Great Milwaukee Race is a scavenger hunt/series of challenges across downtown Milwaukee that was started in 2010 by Fit Milwaukee and friends.  This year’s event was put on by Fit Milwaukee, AJ Bombers and Performance Running Outfitters.  In 2010, 50 teams of 2-4 racers competed in the inaugural race. This year 75 teams raced throughout downtown Milwaukee and along the lakefront to find all 10 of the challenge locations and get their passports stamped.

The post i made a couple weeks ago (I’m welding! I’m a welder now!) about my Ridiculously Large Jacks was a preview of the challenge that we would run at the race.  After the initial batch of jacks was finished, Sean, Kevin, Adam and David helped me fine tune the game a bit in our hangar before the event itself.

Shane helped me run the event on race day and it worked like this:

  • Team would decode the clue to our location and decide on when they should come to our station.
  • When they showed up, they had to nominate two players.
  • One player was the bouncer and was in charge of bouncing and catching a kickball.
  • The other player (the grabber) donned a pair of gardening gloves and had to pick up the jacks.
  • On the first bounce, the grabber would have to pick up and hold onto one jack before the bouncer caught the ball.
  • On the second bounce, the grabber would have to pick up 2 more jacks while holding onto the previous jacks.
  • Repeat for 3 and 4 jacks.

The game only took a couple of minutes when done correctly, but some teams were faster than others. We also saw a variety of techniques.  Some grabbers would try to stash the nearly 12″ diameter jacks under their arms.  Some folks spread the jacks out between their hands and used them like claws to scoop up the remaining jacks.  One women even stashed the jacks in her running shorts, but they were a bit heavier than she bargained for.

We were stationed at the underpass at water and pearson, across from Trocadero.  After watching what was happening for a while, the Trocadero bartenders popped out to see what was happening up close.  We invited them to play a game and they did pretty well!  Another couple came by to watch and started laughing at the silliness they saw so we invited them to play as well.  They had a few close calls with some wild bounces, but took care of the round with only a couple of do-overs.  They looked pretty happy by the end of the game.

Great Milwaukee Race 2011 - Ridiculously Large Jacks

We heard really good feedback from racers and the organizers of the event.  The game was odd enough to give people pause before they jumped in, but easy enough that it could be completed in a couple of minutes.  The fun we had with this has led us to discuss making some more oversized games to bring to parks in the area. Stay tuned for more info on this front.

Thanks again to Fit Milwaukee and the other Great Milwaukee Race organizers for letting us be a part of this event and thanks to the racers for being such good sports!