Saturday, February 22, 2014

Printrbot Simple 3D Printer

Finally got into the 3D printer game.  I've been watching this tech over the years, and couldn't decide if I'd go with a CNC router or a printer.  After seeing the hype over the printrbot simple, the decision was easy.  There are plenty of reviews on this machine all over the web (I just linked to one above), so I won't do a full review.  I will list out the positives and negatives though:

Positives:
-It's cheap!
-It's well designed and innovative
-It's available in kit form (which I recommend if you really want to learn how your machine works)
-It's open source (you can legally obtain the plans and build your own from scratch if you really want)
-The operating software tool chain is all open source and works really well and is easy to use (Repitier Host is what it's called)
-It's a ton of fun to build and use! (if you're a maker, which I assume you are, otherwise why would you be reading this?) :)

(contents of the laser cut birch plywood parts from the kit.  Just like a nice RC plane kit! I can do this!)

Negatives:
-Finicky system, requires a lot of TLC. This really isn't too much of a negative for me as I enjoy adjusting and tinkering with machines.  If you're expecting a "set-it-and-forget-it" type appliance, this printer is not for you.
-Strong reliance on zip-ties for fastening critical parts.  Again, that's not much of a negative, as the zip ties work and keep costs low.  However, the consequence of using zip ties mean less strength and more maintenance.
-String is used in place of belts for the x/y movements.  again, it's designed that way to keep costs down, but they require more maintenance.
 -The design really needs a simple filament guide to make sure the plastic filament stock doesn't jam, which it likes to do.  Many builders make this their first mod, me being one of them.

Here's a little 60's style sofa I printed.  The quality of this print blew my mind, as it was the first actual print I made after just a little bit of calibration.  Actual size is about 55mm wide by 40mm tall.  I downloaded the STL file from PrettySmallThings Thingiverse page here.  She makes great designs!

Overall I'm super impressed with this 3d printer.  I'm having a lot of fun learning about CAD/CAM design, and I'm excited to start making my own designs.









Here's a really cool flower vase I printed last night.  It's the largest object I've made so far.  Actual size is 70mm wide by 80mm tall.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Laser Cut Steel Space Shuttle Kit

This was a fun kit I built tonight. It's a laser cut model space shuttle from a company called fascinations. It took me about an hour or so to build and the only tool required was a needle nose pliers. A kid could build this with a patient adult as the parts are pretty small and require a steady hand. This will look nice in my shop.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Robots: Micro-Masetro Hexapod

I recently completed the Pololu Maestro hexapod design.  They did a great job with the build guide, bill of materials and the overall robot's design.  It's simple yet fairly high performing for its specs and total cost to build.  I built in a few performance upgrades including using stiff steel music wire for the legs instead of paper clips.  I bound the wire to the servo horns with poly thread and CA glue- it makes a very strong bond.  I mounted the IR sensors up a little higher using a triangular chunk of styrofoam.  I highly recommend this project if you're looking for a budget minded fun building "scratch built" style bot.  More details on the Pololu project page.  

video

Monday, May 6, 2013

Friday, December 23, 2011

Alien Aircraft "Raven" RC Model Aileron Detail

Here's video of the ailerons in action on the Raven from the Alien Aircraft Corporation. Full wing length controls should provide nice responsive flights. video

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Star Wars Storm Trooper Snowflake




Anthony Herrera's Design site has some really cool Star Wars snowflake patterns that are really fun to fold and cut. I made the storm trooper flake seen here. Here's his page with free, easily downloadable, and printable PDF's. Link Nice design work Anthony, and Happy Holidays to all my fellow netizens.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Using a Cheap RC Toy as Robotics Platform




A lot of hobby robotic builders spend a lot of time on building the motorized platform before they even get to any of the sensors or programming options that can really help to advance the skillset needed for this genre of experimental electronics. I am definitlely one of those builders who has spent way too much time on several past projects with the mechanism of the bot instead of all the fun sensors and programming, so I thought it would be fun to experiment with salvaging an old cheap toy RC tank for it's motorized chassis, and I'm really glad I did as it was quite simple taking it apart and adding in my Arduino Uno that I got from Element 14. After adding some tip122 power transisitors and modifying the stock LED blink program included in the arduino IDE I had an arduino powered bot ready for sensors and higher level programming. The conversion only took about an hour. Check out the video of it scooting around the shop floor and also take a look at the schematic I used for dead simple on/off motor control just to get started. Later on, I'll add a more sophisticated motor controller and sensors as well.



video



Thursday, November 17, 2011

HELP FIGHT WEB CENSORSHIP!

The internet is one of the most important communication tools the world has ever known. Its success is directly related to the fact that it is an open platform for anyone who wants to participate. The U.S. Government and its corporate sponsors fear and loathe this freedom and are moving aggressively to censor it. Please call or write your congress person and let them know this aggresion will not stand!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

RC Airplanes: The Prairie Bird 50 Electric Park Flyer



This is the Prairie Bird 50 radio controlled electric powered model airplane built from a kit manufactured by Peck-Polymers. It may have the aesthetics of a school bus, but it flies like you wouldn't believe. Flat and smooth glide, turns on a dime, practically impossible to stall, and climbs close to vertical at full throttle. Specs follow along with a quick video of the maiden flight. It was a gorgeous Minnesota Autumn day:
  • 50" WS
  • 30 Oz. AUW
  • BP A2212 brushless motor
  • 3S 2200 MAH Lipo
  • 10x4.7 APC prop
  • 3 ch. R,E,T



video

Robotics: Arduino Microcontroller First Thoughts

I finally made the decision to try out the Arduino controller and see what all of the hype is about. I picked mine up from newark electronics's site, and I recommend them as they have a nice web site with a large inventory of everything you'd need for your electronic projects.

I've been using the Parallax BS2 for years; its treated me well and I've certainly not outgrown it yet, as it is a powerful component for hobby robotics. With that said however, I am very impressed with the features of the Arduino Uno in comparison to the BS2, based on some preliminary setup type tests. Here's what I've found so far:

-Right out of the nice, eco-friendly packaging (no blister packs, or unnecessary plastics), the Uno can plug right into my MacBook Pro and communicate with the Arduino development environment without any drivers or special configuration problems. The BS2 does not operate natively on a mac- a special 3rd party IDE is required.

-A separate power supply is not required while the uno is plugged into my Mac. The USB port provides the 5V, 500mah power. The Bs2 needs its own 9 volt connection which is annoying.

-The software that the user creates to run on the uno has extensive libraries to choose from and there is a massive community of experts to help out if you get stuck.

-The last but not least of my initial thoughts on this cool little controller is how I can remove the Atmega chip from the board and integrate it into the project I'm working on and simply buy a new chip instead of an entire controller.

Below is a picture of the Arduino Uno running an LED blink test right out of the box. Took about 5 mins to load the design environment, plug the device in, and load the arduino with the blink sketch. Can't wait to get this into a new robot!




Sunday, August 7, 2011

Alise is armed!


I had some fun with an RC tank that has a built in pellet/airsoft cannon by sawing it apart and integrating onto my hexapod. I removed the excess plastic with a dremel and also removed the motor gearbox for the turret and used a modified standard servo for continuous rotation. To fire the airsoft cannon I used a TIP122 transistor to switch it on and off with a high/low command from the BS2. The code and sensors still need a lot of refinement, but it's ready now for experiments with seek and fire programs. Check out the video below and watch her chase me down while randomly firing!







video

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Robots: Al.I.S.E




Here is my latest robot. Al.I.S.E is an Aluminum, Infrared Scanning Entity; or just an old-school style crank arm hexapod :) This project was based on the mechanicals of the "Hexapod Monster" kit I built and reviewed back in 2008. I scaled it up a little, and added 2 super torquey gear head DC motors I found at a surplus store in Minneapolis. Power comes from a 9.6v RC transmitter pack, along with a separate 9v for the BS2 microcontroller. Motor control is handled by a Solarbotics 1198 CMD driver board kit. I used pencil top erasers for her feet, and found that using scrap pieces of solid core cat5e cable came in really handy for sub-board inter-connects. Obstacle avoidance is fairly rudimentary at this point, as I am only using 1 IR sensor along with flanking IR LED's. It still seems to work fairly well though. I definitely need to tweak the coding some more. Check out the movie I made of her backing away from some library books and making a run for the front door!


video

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Re-Use Eyewear Case for Electronics Storage

Hard shell eyewear cases make excellent protective containers for small electronic gear. Below you can see an old case I use to store my ipod shuffle, earbuds, an audio extension cable and various audio plugs and adapters. This case lives in my bag and can be treated like car keys without worry of damaging anything.





Friday, October 15, 2010

Electronics: DIY Headphone Amp



Here's a project that's been in the pipeline for about 6 years. It's a simple chip-amp style headphone amp that has at its heart a TDA2822M dual op-amp IC. It's powered by a 9V 500mah "wall-wart" style power adapter. It's enclosed in an old TV RF/RCA input adapter case that I had in my junk-box. The old case was luckily very well built. It's all steel and held together by nice metric phillips screws. I had fun cleaning up and modding the case with my dremel, some black spray paint, and some scrap plexi for a window. It sounds pretty good with a noticeable difference in the depth of the sound range. Unfortunately, there is a light but noticeable hiss. I think I need to play with resistor values, but I'm new to this type of electronics so I'm sure it could be a lot of things. There is a wealth of info all over the web for these types of projects, which I highly recommend, as it's not that hard to get good results. Sites I found that especially helped were found here and here . The schematic I used is from E-Dan.









Monday, May 24, 2010

Model Airplanes: DG800S Display Model


This is my first desk display model- a DG800S at approximately 1:35th scale. I used scrap pine for the fuse and balsa for the wings and tail. The stand is an old brass casing from a dead-bolt door lock. I downloaded a 3-view drawing from DG's website for reference while building.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Airplanes: The Easy Glider



This is the 2M RC glider I've been flying around this summer. It's manufactured by multiplex. They're a German company, but the product is manufactured (very well) in The Philippines. The model has ailerons, rudder, and elevator and is a blast to fly. Made out of elapor foam, a combination of EPP and elapor, this craft is incredibly durable. Believe it or not, but the second time I took it out I landed it nose first in the street from about 25 feet up due to a split second moment of dis-orientation. I thought for sure it was totaled, but amazinlgy it survived completely with only a slight dent in the nose. I was back up in the air after a well deserved beer.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Airplanes: JR SX600 Computer Radio




Here is my new computer radio. It's a JR brand Model SX600. Below are some of the features:
-6 channels
-10 model memory
-Exponential rates
-Dual rates
-Handful of mixes (v-tail, delta, flying wing)
-PPM Modulation
There are other features too, but these are the main. Overall I like this rig, but it is missing a few key features that could really make this radio awesome like the ability to couple the ailerons to the rudder, and just more mix options in general. I really can't complain though, because I only paid $90 dollars for this new radio from the hop-me-up RC store on ebay. I was really pleased with this store's service- the price of the radio included shipping and I received the package in two days!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Robotics: Kraftwerk Concert!

I had the rare privellage to see Kraftwerk last night outside Minneapolis. They are pioneers and masters of electronic music and are known for their high quality live audio and video performances. The video imagery was very sharp and I was very impressed with their audio. You can learn more about their history and story here. Check out my phone-cam photos below:



Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Robotics: "Hexapod Monster" Robot Kit Review


I recently purchased a kit that assembles into a 6 legged walking robot with IR obstacle detection. The Taiwanese manufacturer, CIC, produces the kit for about 25 American dollars. It can be purchased here. This was my first kit bot, and I was very satisfied with what I got for the price. Don't expect a high performance, sophisticated machine like a multi-servo powered walker with this kit. You can expect however a very well produced and complete entry level robot that is very fun to build. This walker
comes with 2, 3V motors and gearboxes, die cut plywood chassis parts, and all the electronics to control the motors and provide simple obstacle detection via an IR LED and sensor. The kit went together very easily and was a lot of fun to build. A few of the mounting holes in the chassis were a bit off position, but that was minor and easily alleviated. Pay very close attention to the electronic parts diagram and schematic when soldering the pre-etched board, because it's very easy to make a mistake. What I like most about this kit is its potential to be hacked and easily improved. I would really like to add my favorite microcontroller, the BS2 to this platform and then add sensors, etc. Higher torque motors would be a cool addition too. In conclusion, I think this would be a great project for someone who is looking to enter the robotics hobby world but doesn't want to spend a lot of money. In my opinion, this is probably the least expensive robotics kit on the market that actually has expansion capabilities. This would also be an excellent kit for learning how to solder. Check out the build pictures and video of this "monster" in action below:

The package

Contents of the kit. Impressive for $25.

The gear boxes. Strong but light steel frame with color coded gears.

Plywood chassis with gear boxes attached



video

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Robotics: Wireless Controlled Arm


This is a follow up to the wireless gripper post. Constructed from pine, spruce, aluminum, 3 HS-55 and 2 Futaba S-33 servos this arm has 4 degrees of freedom and is controlled by a sony IR remote controller. The Basic Stamp 2 processor translates the IR signals and creates programmable pulse lengths to power the servos. After seeing the video below, you'll see that this design could use a lot of refinement, such as a more efficient and functional gripper, more powerful servos and software that includes kinematics. Robotic arms are very challenging, so I looked to other designs to avoid stupid mistakes. The main influence for this project was the lynxmotion Lynx 5 arm . The code for the BS2 was adapted from Parallax's IR Kit . After I clean it up, I'll post the code that runs this arm here in an update.

video

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Robotics: Ink Jet Printer Parts Salvaging



If your into re-using and re-purposing parts for your robotics or electronics projects, then tearing into an old ink jet printer should be your first stop. Several useful items can be found in these often trashed items. Above are the items I was able to successfully harvest from an old broken Epson 820. It includes 2 bipolar stepper motors, a power supply with taps for 5 and 43 volts, 2 voltage regulators, a gear train, and various parts- all of which will find their way into future nolebots. I hated that printer, so while tearing that thing apart, I realized why the guys in office space had so much fun!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Robotics: Wireless Gripper







video


My latest project aims at constructing a simple robotic arm that can be controlled with an infra-red stereo remote control. At this point I have completed the gripper portion of the arm. This gripper is based on the design of Karl Williams from his book insectronics I used a portion of the code from my previous robot, the infra-tank which can be downloaded here. I also used the same micro controller from the infra tank, the parallax basic stamp 2. My next step is to build the base and shoulder portion of the arm. The pictures above would provide enough reference for you to build your own. If you do, please share the results in the comments section.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Airplanes: Adjustable Height Field Stand











If you're tired of kneeling or using picnic tables to setup your model aircraft at the field, you can easily use a camera tripod with my clamp assembly bolted to the camera mounting plate. I used a scrap of plywood with dado cuts to help stabilize the two bar clamps. The bar clamps are fastened down with wood screws and washers, but mending plates would be more effective here. The plastic pads on the clamps' jaws were removed so I could epoxy on some scrap bass wood with foam rubber pads to give the assembly more gripping surface area. I plan on adding landscaping spikes to the ends of the legs with hose clamps, so the entire stand can be anchored into the ground. This setup also works well in the shop, when you need your project at a taller working height. Future possibilities for this stand could include an enlarged plywood plate to accomodate a small tool or transmitter tray. Please add any ideas you might have for this stand in the comments.