Archive for category projects

A Kiln In Our Midst


There is a kiln. Now, if it was a normal kiln, it would be working and would cost a lot. This one is not working, was picked up for free, (and will cost a little).

What can we do with it? Heating things up to 1000C. What happens when you heat things to 1000C? Well, you can bake clay pots, but more interesting, aluminum melts at 660C. However, we can make lost wax parts on the 3D printers or carve them from Styrofoam, put them in sand, and cast! There are many many tutorials about how to make these moulds online.


Back to the machine. I have been digging around and found a Omron E5CX. This is the temperature controller that will turn on the relay, measure temperature, and do the heating. This is being donated. (New one would cost ~$70). This turns on a zero-crossing circuit. This circuit turns on a triac when the AC voltage is zero. That way the triac does not have a power surge through it.

I almost got the wrong one too. I am using a MOC3043M for 240V instead of a  MOC3033M for 120V.

The triac is a standard 40A triac. A simple circuit with awesome power.

Ideas are floating around about where to mount this thing. It takes 220-240V 16amps. That means we need a 20A single phase. Also WE DO NOT WANT TO CAST INSIDE ON A WOODEN FLOOR! As a result, it is thought that the kiln could stay outside and a small casting area could be built outside. It would only have the kiln, a box of sand, a socket, and other standard tools as needed.

The machine will be wired to a NEMA 6-20 plug with a covered socket. This will cost ~$100 for the plug and socket. The socket will need to be linked up to the breaker, but we know where all the wires are to do so. Other things needed are two new 4 ohm heating coils. I have contacted Pottery Supply House to see if we can get some new ones.


If anyone wants to help, there is work needed on the power source (wiring of socket), getting the new heating coils ($39), getting a Type K thermocouple to measure the temperature($22), and figuring out what is needed to turn this into a casting machine.



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Digitigrade Stilts nearing completion

Questions have been asked about these stilt things. They are digitigrade stilts. They change the walking motion so that it is akin to me walking on my tip toes…. but also stilts.


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They are based off of a design I found online. I did make the design online and the current design is Mk.2. I did not email the creator of the design online, but his old design has a factor of safety of 0.8-0.9 or so. Really dangerous. I did a bunch of CAD, structural analysis and FEA to make sure that these will take the load. Using my engineering degree for something, I guess.


FEA tests. Note: full weight on one linkage.


And as for why I am making it? Because it is clear cut, straight foward, and should look good at the end. Webbing, testing, refinement, and a few small machining tasks to go!


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The Benefits of a HackerSpace

Some of the really great things about having a HackerSpace, and being a member of it,  are that you get access to some really cool tools, like lasers cutters, and thinks that people have brought into the space, like the kit from MakerBeam from their successful KickStarter campaign, as well as the ideas of the members.  And having access to great Open Source Hardware ideas like the Nautilus Gears by MishaT ( can lead to some interesting works in progress.


I took the initial .dxf file included in the Nautilus Gears and expanded it 375% to get something that was about as large as the laser cutter could handle. But that left me to figure out the best spacing for the gears.  For that I constructed a small frame using the Aluminium extrusions, along with assorted other parts, that we got as part of the MakerBeam KickStarter campaign, which allowed me to easily adjust the spacing to find the best distance between the hubs of the gears.  With this I was able to easily move the center points back and forth and to know that they would not move otherwise.   I had also needed to make a small part on the laser to attach the gears but that was easy using a few small scraps.


Some of the ideas that were discussed with various members also expanded the potential of the original design and gave me more ideas on where to look at making the original gears even more assume.  The original gears were really interesting to begin with but expanding them makes them even better.  It is really interesting to watch as they rotate.

This test rig has allowed me to try a few things and to ensure that further progress will indeed work.  And it is all possible by being a member of a HackerSpace and having access to the things within it.


Now to make it even better.



Lazzor upgrade

Long time since an update, so I might as well talk about two recent laser upgrades. First I converted an unused exit sign box into a big hey-don’t-forget-laser-station-is-on indicator light. A couple of times we (/I) have forgotten to turn it off and have left the computer + pump + vent fan running. Not horrible, except that the pump runs quite warm and that ain’t good. Plus, I’d been thinking of ways of making turning on the laser more awesome, so this was a good opportunity. Read on after the break!

Read the rest of this entry »

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2x success!

So I’ve been experimenting with a new feature I’m adding to the Inkscape plugin – basically it allows for assisted double-sided cutting with the laser. You can run the laser at less power (or higher speed) by cutting halfway through one side, flipping over the material, and cutting through the other half. Read the rest of this entry »

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Unusual Storage Contest

So here it is, an official announcement for our opening party hacking contest.

There is no pre-reg for this contest, it is more in the fashion of con badgehacking where your entry is presenting your creation at the time of contest closing.

The When:
The contest will cover a 2 day time span. It will commence on Dec 10. The contest building will continue until 11:30pm of Dec 11th. Demos and judging will start immediately after this deadline. Once all entries have been presented by the contestants the results and prize(s) (not yet figured out, but will be announced when they are) will be announced.

The Objective:
As the title states “Ùnusual storage“, meaning to find unorthoox ways to store data. Using traditional sd, eeprom, flash, ram, fram, rom, etc… is so very boring,so lets come up with something different. This can include repurposing an alternate storage medium to store data on ie. using an audio device to store encoded data for a microcontroller. Alternately the storage medium can be some completely asinine inefficient electromechanical device that the host controller can write and read data back off of.

The Rules:
1) The host controller (microcontroller, computer, plc, cyborg) can not store any data within its own devices. The host controller can be any type of device you choose. The host controller must only store data by means of communicating to whatever method of interfacing you choose to communicate with the storage device.
2) Since mechanical devices can get very large the minimum data capacity for the device must be at least 32 bits, less will still be allowed, but please no 1 or 2 bit machines. This rule applies as well if removable storage media is by design, the single removable media should meet this minimum.
Note: this is not a size matters contest so most storage capable will not necessarily score you more points.
3) Volatile data or non Volatile data? Doesn’t really matter.
4) Planning and component gathering (even prep) can be done in the time leading up to this contest but all implementation of the storage system must happen during the contest.
5) Contest entries can be individuals or teams. For sake of putting a number to teams the max is 5 people per team. There is no restriction on external help.
6) No materials or methods will be barred from this competition, I would hate to discourage outrageousness, silliness or otherwise potentially hazardous implementations.
7) Rules can be challenged during contest times and will be governed through feats of strength.

– Judging will begin at 11:30pm on December 11th.
– The judging will be done by myself, and some other undetermined individual.
– If your entry is not ready by the time others contestants have finished presenting, your entry will be judged as is. Extra build time may be achieved by means of alcohol delivery to the judges and waiting contestants.

Good Luck!

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HOWTO turn a cheap Chinese laser engraver into a pretty good laser cutter

…using only a computer, LinuxCNC, and lots of scrap cardboard.

Every hackerspace needs a laser cutter. Unfortunately, they can be very expensive. Deals like the one got don’t happen very often. However, there are factories in China turning out laser engravers and selling them on eBay for relatively cheap. We found a local distributor that appears to buy them directly from China, make sure they work, and resell them.

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Team Power Fist – Power Racing Series Update

At Maker Faire Detroit (July 31 – August 1 2010), the folks from Pumping Station: One have challenged hackerspaces around the world to participate in the Power Racing Series.

The idea is this: buy a Power Wheels car, mod it to make it MOAR AWSOME, and race it against teams from other hackerspaces. Very simple.

We got ourselves a used Extreme Dune Buggy, and let Jason go at it with the Sawzall.

There was much drilling, lathing, cutting, grinding, and welding.

The organising people announced the Early Bird Challenge a few weeks ago – post a video of your car driving 150 feet, powered by the motor you intend to race with. We didn’t quite get the points, but we did post a video:


Making Games at think|haus

The past few weeks have seen several members working on games at think|haus. Peter designed and made a lasercut chess set, I made some pieces for my travel Settlers of Catan, and JamesQ posted about his 3D chess idea below.

Peter took some really nice pictures of his chess set and posted them on the facebook. His pieces are really nice – very clean and sleek. Each piece is made out of two pieces of acrylic fitted together at 90°. Here’s the thingiverse link.

A few years ago, I bought travel Settlers of Catan so that I could bring it with me on trips. Even the travel set is fairly big though, so I just used the cards and port pieces out of the box, and made my own tiles and cardboard pieces. The cardboard pieces are pretty awkward though, and I’ve never really been pleased with them. Today, I made up a little gcode file to cut out tiny roads, settlements, and cities.

handmade settlers tiles with lazzored pieces

If you want to build your own, check out the thingiverse project.


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Filling laser etched acrylic: wax vs polymer clay

I made some business card holders for think|haus a few weeks ago. They turned out pretty well, but there was one problem: the etching isn’t really legible from any reasonable distance. I clearly needed to paint/fill the etching with something. I tried two different methods: wax crayon and polymer clay. Photos below the cut. Read the rest of this entry »

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