Instructables / littleBits Build Night

littleBits
Have you heard of littleBits? It’s an open source library of electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets for prototyping, learning, and fun. If you’re the kind of maker who tends to avoid the Electronics Lab, littleBits might be just what you need to start experimenting with circuits.

We’ll be hosting a number of littleBits Build Nights in June, sponsored by our friends at Instructables, who have provided us with a bunch of littleBits Deluxe Kits, as well as a number of their new Arduino at Heart modules, which let you add an Arduino brain to your littleBits creations.

If you come up with something cool, we’ll help you post a step-by-step Instructable for it, so others can enjoy your creation. If you need some inspiration, check out some of these littleBits projects.

These events will be free, just bring yourself (and your ideas!) to 2555 S. Lenox St. in Bay View and make something cool with littleBits.

$5 Upcycled Desk Clock

Last summer I came across a collection of car parts at a garage sale; instrument clusters, lights, gauges, and some digital clock displays.  For $5, I became the proud owner of a JECO Japan, vacuum fluorescent clock display.  The plastic housing held all the clock electronics, membrane buttons for setting the time, and a four-pin connector.  After powering it up, I realized one of the pins could be used to dim the display, which is a pretty nice feature to have.

I’ve worked on it off and on for a few months, but finally decided to finish it this weekend.  On Saturday, I tweaked some dimensions and laser-cut the final enclosure.  I wasn’t happy with the button holes and text I had on the front of the first iteration, so I got rid of them for the final.  You can adjust the time by slipping a jeweler’s screwdriver or a paper clip through a gap in between the plexiglass sides and pressing the buttons to add hours or minutes. 

I added a small single-pole, double-throw toggle to switch between bright and dim, then soldered the connections before closing it up.  The whole thing is clamped together by a single #10-32 machine screw and a wingnut.  The final result doesn’t look half bad.

DIY Exterior Ashtray

For the longest time, members and guests were treated to this gorgeous sight:
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We can do better! All it took was some scrap metal, an old light fixture, and scrounged hardware. Grinding, welding, drilling, done.
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Ninety minutes later, I had chucked the vile plastic bucket in the dumpster and this hotness was bolted to the wall. One project done and a great way to start the Memorial Day weekend.
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The Stratasys lives!

Last spring, I brought in a Stratasys FDM 2000 3D printer for the Makerspace to use for a few months before delivering it to our good friend Frankie Flood for use in UWM’s Digital Craft Research Lab.  Many people had items printed on it and wished we could keep it at the space, so I promised that the next Stratasys I acquired would indeed have a home here.  Fortunately, that didn’t take long, but unfortunately, the machine wasn’t fully working and needed a new support nozzle solenoid and had persistent jamming in the support extruder.  It functioned well enough with just the model material that we were able to run it successfully at Makerfest, but it needed much more work to run properly.

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Thanks to another FDM owner, the solenoid was quickly replaced, but the jamming remained.  I assumed that it was something in the extruder tube itself, and set about a long process of clearing it of all obstruction.  Unfortunately, this provided no benefit whatsoever (but I at least got the satisfaction of a successful head teardown/rebuild and understand the internals better than before).

scumbag nozzle

Even after carefully drilling out all traces of plastic from the nozzle with tiny drills and a pin vise, it would still clog and jam.  Replacing it with another 0.012″ nozzle cured all jamming issues.

2000 first chess set print

As proof, here is a grainy, Loch Ness Monster-esque photo of a print done with support material.  Since printing Duchamp chess sets are all the rage, this seemed like a perfect inaugural print.  Much more tweaking remains – the XYZ offset of the support nozzle needs to be dialed in, there’s a bit of slack in the cable drive system that I think may be causing ripples in the part surfaces, and I’m not convinced that the ‘moonstone gray’ model material is running as well as other colors.  Regardless, full operation is within grasp – ladies and gentlemen, prepare your STL files!

Bay View Gallery Night

Bay View Gallery Night

We did it before, and we’re doing it again! Get ready for Bay View Gallery Night, happening on Friday, June 6th, 2014. Join us from 5pm to 10pm for art from local artists, as well as demos of various things around the space. Interested in learning more about blacksmithing, making armor, screen printing, lasers, crafting with CNC machines, electronics, boat building, tiny electric race cars, fighting with magnets, giant industrial robots?* Come on down!

* While other venues may have a few of the things mentioned, we have all of these things in our 16,000 square foot workshop for crazy people!

Ressusciter Les Mort

About 7 years ago I was given the honor of caring for the family violin. What I got was a neck (separated from the body), the body, and one tuning peg. This is an especially sensitive item because the name written on the inside holds the name Stradivarius, and came over with my family from France. Turns out it’s not a Stradivarius, but it’s estimated to be 100 years old. It’s also estimated to have been silent for about 80 years and no living Massie has heard it played. - More on its background on my personal blog, this blog is for makers

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REBUILD:
I investigated options to pay to have it repaired back to play grade, repaired enough to be an art piece, or just leaving it as is. It is a family heirloom so lending it out for someone to play was selfishly not attractive. Repairing with current parts would obfuscate what was part of the original and what is new. Finally, leaving busted up was just not cool.

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At a later trip to the museum I saw the T-Rex had a bright white resin femur place holder unit they could get a real one. I assumed the stark contrast in color was to not confuse what was original and what was a replacement. I.D. Magazine also had an article some time ago about some Dutch students repairing damaged wood furniture with lime green plastic replacement parts inlaid with the originals.

These use cases inspired me to try replacing the parts in some type of acrylic or pop color plastic replacement.

PROCESS:
As a Milwaukee Makerspace member I felt the best solution would be to replace all the missing pieces in 3D prints based off original parts (scanned and/or measured out). I additionally chose white cause it stood out against the dark wood.

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I measured out the Tuning Peg by hand, rebuilt in SketchUp (don’t laugh) and printed to a Makerbot Replicator for first run prototypes.

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Similar models of the tailpiece and the chin rest were purchased, sanded down, painted a flat brown and then scanned on a 3D scanner.

Once all pieces scans were complete, it was time to bring it all together (Thingiverse STLs  – Violin Peg, Chin Rest, Tail Piece). This was the easiest part, cause it just involved me handing someone a bag of money. Final edited STL’s were sent off to Shapeways to be printed and once returned all parts were taken to someone to be cleaned, assembled, strung and tuned.

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So now that it is done, it’s time to get it into able hands to have it played for the Massies that are still alive.

A Happening Weekend at the Space

As many of you might have known, this weekend we had our monthly space improvement day.  Thank you to everyone that came out and helped make the space even more awesome!  Here are a few of the neat improvements that happened this weekend.

  • Brant and Tiffany finished putting up the new general member storage shelves, now with cart parking!  If you would like a spot on the new shelving contact one of them to get a shelf.

 

 

 

 

 

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  • While he was at it Brant got motivated enough to to put some new wheels on the the rolling stairs.  That’s right, the rolling stairs now… roll!

 

 

  • The space received a new wood lathe and belt sander courtesy of Joe R.

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  • The wood shop got a new table… also on wheels!  It’s great for the planner and router, but also makes for a handy work surface.  Just make sure you clean up after yourself!

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  • spaceimprovement-14Vishal made us some fantastic tool height adjustment devices (read: stools)!  Now our members  can use the drill press without the added thrill of wood spinning directly into their exposed jugular!

 

 

 

  • There’s one for the forge too, so vertically challenged members (read: not 6’something giants) can now benefit from a full range of motion on the anvil.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Meanwhile the forge master spaceimprovement-18himself, Dan, used some ‘forged curvy bits’ to create a stand for the hose on the aluminium furnace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Ed built a table for the new router.  It now rolls nicely into its home, alongside it’s larger sibling in the Kuka room.

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  • See that vacuumed floor?  Yeah that was Ed too.

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  • Or perhaps you noticed the cable running across that floor.  Chris, Brant and Dan made some more progress towards getting us some wired internet at the space…some.

 

  • And naturally,  Charles did what Charles does best…organize! His contributions included a new drill bit organizer, a new air compressor tool rack, and a more organized tool box.

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  • The craft lab storage room got the start of a makeover as well.  More progress to come, we promise.  But it was a long and exhausting weekend, so at least it’s a bit cleaner.
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Weekend Project — Garden Box

My old garden box pretty much rotted away so I made a new one.  I spent $57 on six 2″ x 8″ x 8 foot boards at Home Depot and did the cutting and some assembling at the Makerspace yesternight.  Today, the kids and I connected the sides together and replaced the old box with the new one.  It looks pretty good.   (Thanks Mike for the help.)

Next, I need to attach the PVC frame I made to hold vegetable netting, and plant some veggies.

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CNC Mogul Introduction

A few weeks ago Mike Stone of CNCMogul.com visited the Milwaukee Makerspace.

Mike donated one of his machines to the space for testing and feedback as well as to use for the membership. It should also be mentioned that Mike is local and has his shop and distribution in Wales, Wisconsin.

Joe Rodriguez built one machine and I also put one together at our shop at home. So here are some thoughts on the process as well as some pictures. It isn’t a review as these machines haven’t really been put to the test as of yet. Time will tell.

The CNC Mogul is a general purpose 3 axis CNC kit that is relatively easy to put together and can be used for anything that you like. I’ll be using ours for routing and Joe wants to make a CNC plasma cutter with the one in the space. The basic kit is affordable and it uses the Makerslide as it’s building blocks. The stepper motors are run with a rack and pinion setup on aluminum tracks and gearing as well.

The controller is a Chinese Tb6560 Stepper Motor Driver Controller that is controlled via parallel port.

The power supply is a 24V 14.6 AMP 350W Max Power Supply.

The whole kit can be ordered online from 2ft X 3ft up to 4ft X 8ft. Custom dimensions are also available.

So here is the kit before assembly. This is a 3ft x 3ft kit that I will be building and using with a router.

This is the kit right before opening.

This is the kit right before opening.

Inside the kit there are a bunch of baggies with tons of little parts. You can look at the manual here

I’m assembling the quad rail kit. Once I start pulling things out of the box there is an amazing array of parts that explodes out of it. Fortunately each bag and part are well marked.

Everything that you need to build your own CNC controlled machine.

Everything that you need to build your own CNC controlled machine.

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Everything is labeled really well.

Everything is labeled really well.

Everything is labeled really well.

Everything is labeled really well.

The kit took approximately 3+ hours to put together. The documentation in the manual is hit or miss. The pictures are extremely good and really help in putting this together. The accompanying text is also great for the first 1/3 of the manual and then you’re left to interpret pictures from there. There are a few questions that came up while building this but fortunately I was able to figure it out.

Little by little the parts are being built.

Little by little the parts are being built.

After the gantry gets built and all of the wires are connected it’s time to test. CNC Mogul recommends using Mach 3 for your machine control. And even has a few pointers on how to setup Mach 3 on their site.

I decided to go with LinuxCNC because it’s open source, I’m comfortable with Linux and it’s low cost (free). I loaded it up on a spare computer and after running through the instructions I was able to control the stepper motors on the Mogul.

What I had difficulty with is that the CNC Mogul uses an “A” axis and “Y” axis slaved together. LinuxCNC can do that but you can NOT test for that in the setting up process. You essentially tell the “A” axis to use the same step and direction pulses as the “Y” axis. I also inverted the “A” axis so they would turn the same direction when they are facing each other.

One of the other difficulties I had was figuring out the leadscrew pitch to enter into LinuxCNC. After some experimentation 1.27 inches per revolution seems about right but some more testing is needed.

Once you’re finished building the whole thing you need to mount it to something. I picked up a Craigslist find and the Mogul fit perfectly.

I generated some G-code from Vectric’s Vcarve Pro Zeroed each axis and started to cut.

I still need to put a waste board down and face it off flat and put some type of work hold-down system in place.

After the unit gets setup in the Makerspace the members will have access to the machine and we’ll see how durable it is.

The CNC Mogul with router mounted and ready to cut.

The CNC Mogul with router mounted and ready to cut.

Total time to build, test, and implement the whole system has been approximately 6 hours. There is still some testing and tweaking to be done as well as putting in a dust collection system.

If there are any questions feel free to ask me either on this post or in person. I’ll be putting this through it’s paces as well.

My 2nd test using the CNC Mogul with 2 types of router bits.

My 2nd test using the CNC Mogul with 2 types of router bits.