Holiday Make-A-Thon Recap

Holiday Make-A-Thon

We hosted this year’s Holiday Make-A-Thon on Friday, November 29th, 2013 and it was a big bundle of fun! Lots of people came and we helped them make thing. Lots of members showed up to volunteer their time sharing the maker ethos with the folks of Milwaukee, and that was great to see and be a part of.

Tom makes some ornaments

Besides our CNC cut ornaments from previous years, new member Tom showed people how to fold a diamond-shaped ornament using paper. (He even put a tree together out of pink foam Tuesday night after the meeting just so we’d have something to hang the ornaments on.) For the CNC and laser-cut ornaments we had the typical paint, glitter-glue, and googly eyes for decorating.

Learn to solder

There was also soldering using our tie-pin kit. Under close supervision, even kids are able to assemble this kit, which includes some surface mount soldering.

Jenie does some printmaking

Local printmaker Jenie Gao joined us to help people make blockprint holiday cards, and we also had crowns made from felt, melty-crayon ornaments, pet collars, necklaces, beads, bracelets, and my own personal favorite…

Make-A-Thon

Laser-cut ornaments that we let people design! We used Snowflake 2.0 from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories which is a super-easy to use Processing application that lets you design a snowflake. We had two computers set up and we helped people do the design work, and then Lance would laser cut them from 3mm Baltic Birch wood. People could then decorate the snowflake they designed.

All in all, this was a great event. People came in and saw the space, made things for the holidays, and all of our members who volunteered seemed to have fun as well. A big ol’ thanks to everyone who showed up and made it a spectacular day of making!

Molding & Casting a Prop Bracer

The mold and final cast part.

The mold and final cast part.

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:

UMR 12 oz.

Alumilite Dye 1 oz. Red

Alumilite Dye 1 oz. Yellow

Mold Putty – 15 2 lb. Lt. Blue

Amazing Clear Cast 2 gal. Kit Clear

Synthetic Clay

 

Other items I used:

PVC Pipe form

A form made out of a 3″ PVC pipe shaped to look like a human arm.

3” Diameter PVC Pipe – Approximately 18” long

3” Diameter Hose Clamp

Plaster Bandages

Vaseline

Disposable Mixing Containers

Stir Sticks

Steel Wire (to hold the mold together)

Syringe

Drinking Straw

 

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.

 

The form and original covered with mold putty.

The form and original covered with mold putty.

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.

 

The mold with half of the mother mold present.

The mold with half of the mother mold present.

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 raw bracer prop as removed from the mold.

The raw bracer prop as removed from the mold.

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.

Brown Dog Gadgets on Kickstarter

Kickstarter

Joshua is a recent addition to Milwaukee Makerspace, and as we mentioned before, he runs a kit company called BrownDogGadgets. Well, the latest on Joshua is a Kickstarter campaign he’s running… and yeah, did we mention it’s over $71,000 now!?

He originally had a goal of $5,000 but the backers showed up in force to support his Folding USB Solar Cell project, and even though it’s been cloudy and raining all week here in Milwaukee, it’s all sunshine and smiles at the success of the campaign so far.

Check it out on Kickstarter if you’re into solar power, got an iPhone you need charged, or just like brown dogs. :)

MegaMax Lives!

The video shows the last few layers of the calibration cube “printing” at 414% speed (according to my LCD display).

The Bucketworks 3D printing meet-up on 8/12 paid off big-time!  Gary Kramlich helped me debug a problem that was preventing me from flashing the firmware on the controller board for the MegaMax 3D printer.  After a few tweaks I was able to get it moving.

DIY Slide Scanner

DIY Slide Scanner

I have a confession to make: I’m about 80% done with my own device to photograph slides and convert them to digital form. I’m pretty sure I will abandon all of my efforts and attempt to replicate this DIY Slide Scanner I saw from the Metrix Create:Space folks.

And yeah, I’ve already got a working slide projector. It may be the same model you see in the photo above. (I picked it up at a WCTC auction for $5.00 years ago.) I’ve already got code to trigger my Nikon via an IR LED, so the main thing I need to do is wire up the remote to advanced the slides, and fit it all together. I’ll probably just build a wooden platform to hold it all.

And then it’ll be time to… DIGITIZE ALL THE SLIDES!

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.