Our 4′ X 8′ CNC Router takes a step forward!

With a lot of hard work from Ed H. and Steve P. our 4′ x 8′ CNC router has achieved a milestone, instead of the X axis sitting on the ground it has taken a leap up and is now mounted, ready for the Y and Z axis to be mounted to it along with the electronics and motion control.

beam mounted

The X-axis is ready to be milled here.

The X-axis is ready to be milled here.

Robbie is nearly weaponized….


router clamp in foam 2I am nearly done with a custom bracket for my Hitachi router that I will mount onto the end of our Kuka industrial robot arm.  I cut everything out in foam first to check  out the whole scheme and save wear and tear on the cutting bit.

flange for RobbieThe software chain I used to accomplish this was lengthy.  I designed all of these pieces in 3D in Solidworks, created a Solidworks 2D drawing, saved that as an AutoCAD drawing, brought that drawing into Vectric’s Aspire, then created machine code that the Makerspace CNC router used to cut the pieces from a sheet of foam.

finished clamp

Finally, once I was satisfied that everything would cut correctly, I switched to 3/4″ thick Baltic Birch plywood.  This is a “nicer” grade of plywood than the stuff that is used in day-to-day building construction work.  This wood is stronger by virtue of a greater number of plies, and it also looks nicer.  I happened to have a sheet left-over from a previous project, so it was all good!

plywood sheet

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.

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.

BoxMaker

We’ve got a Laser Cutter! We can cut things… like boxes. So head on over to BoxMaker and make a box!

As far as materials, that’s a little trickier. I tried wood, but currently the laser cutter can’t handle cutting your standard 1/4″ plywood. (Update: 3mm Baltic Birch plywood works great though!) Here you can see the results of me trying.

Wood

No matter… I moved on to acrylic, since we’ve got a lot of acrylic scrap to play with…

Acrylic

That worked much better! Hopefully once we do some laser maintenance (cleaning and what not) it might be able to cut wood. Of course you could always use BoxMaker to create your box and cut it on the CNC Router instead.

So here’s my laser-cut acrylic box. Notice anything? The tabs are way too big! In my frustration of not being able to cut wood, I switched to the acrylic, but didn’t measure the thickness and create a new file, and since it was not as thick as the wood, I got the tabs all wrong.

Box

Still, BoxMaker is an awesome tool, and I look forward to getting the cutting part right next time.

First DIY CNC Club Meeting

Today marked the first monthly meeting of The DIY CNC Club at Milwaukee Makerspace.  Ron Bean and Tom Gondek, the creators of the router, guided members and guests through the use of CamBam CAD software to generate G-code and Mach3 software to operate and control the router.  The day before, Tom and Mike tested the machine’s ability to cut aluminum.  On Sunday, Rich created a decorative wooden sign and Brant began making plastic shapes for a project enclosure. As Ron pointed out, in less than 24 hours we had worked in three different materials: wood, metal, and plastic.

Several items were also crossed off our wish list.  Two emergency stop buttons were added to the front of the machine and wired together in series.  Hitting either one stops all motion in the X, Y, and Z planes and pauses the program.  We also built a relay-controlled receptacle box that when wired into the CNC computer, will be able to stop the spindle so hitting the E-stop will kill all motion in all axes and the router.  For some reason the pins we’re using on the parallel port are only producing 1.6 volts instead of the 3 or 5 we expected and the relays won’t turn on.  All in all, a very productive weekend.

Squeegee Update

Squeegee

I’m making progress on my DIY squeegee project. For a little background, I have this 6 foot long piece of rubber, which is the same material used in squeegees for screen printing, but I need wooden handles to put the rubber into. So with the help of of some other members, I’m figuring out how to do it.

Brant helped me determine that the band-saw is a good machine for cutting the rubber. I had previously tried a utility knife, but that didn’t work. Ron and Rich filled me in on how to use a router table, and I was able to cut a groove into a piece of wood I picked up this week. The rubber fits perfectly, so the next step is to drill some holes and put in some t-bolts to hold it all together.

I’d also like to do a bit of sanding and maybe varnish the wood. I figure they might as well look good, right?

I think this project really shows the strength of the Makerspace. I’ve had this rubber for two years, but never got around to making any squeegees. I came up with a few really hacky ideas on how to do it, but now at the space, with the right tools, and the right people, it’s all coming together.

Project Roundup 2011-01-27

Here’s a brief synopsis of two projects currently underway.

Ron is leading the construction of a CNC router.  A workpiece will rest on two platforms, salvaged from a defunct laser cutter, and stepper motors will drive them in the X and Y-axes.  Another stepper motor will move the a router up and down in the Z-axis from a mount above the work.  When complete, the device will be able to produce 3-D objects out of wood and some light metals.  So far, the two heavy platforms have been installed on a wooden frame and Ron is busy working on a carriage that the router will mount to so it can travel in the Z-axis.

Here we see Adam testing his latest creation.  Using an Arduino board, he has built a device that registers a ‘hit’ whenever a magnetic pellet strikes a sensor. The ultimate goal is to build a vest of sensors, lights, and buzzers that airsoft enthusiasts can wear.  Whenever a gamer is shot, it will light up and make noise.  Other possibilities include real-time score keeping and ways of recording who shot who, where, and how often during games.

More next time!