3D Printer Owners Meetup

It’s been a very busy week at the makerspace, even though a lot of our equipment is still coming in/being decided. Besides the Castlemaker Kids meeting & open shop nights, the 3D printer build continues and there was a lot of activity there for our Putt Putnam County miniature golf build.

3D Printer Owners share their experiences.
3D Printer Owners share their experiences.

We also had our first 3D Printer Owner’s (3DPO) Meetup a monthly meeting to get 3D printer owners to share their successes, failures, and experiences with each other. Anyone that’s done 3D printing  quickly realizes it can be a complex undertaking. Like many things in life, product manufacturers tout things as simple to do but really are quite challenging to master & do well. This group’s 3D printing experience is with Fused Filament Fabrication, although one attendee has a beta Stereolithography 3D printer kit.

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Jacob shows off the leatherman belt holder his son designed and printed, while Bojan reaches for his smartphone DLSR camera mount/control that was a Kickstarter campaign.

What an interesting group of people and first meeting at the makerspace! We started with background/experiences and then discussed future meeting topics.  Six people attended (and 2 regrets) which represented a broad range of printers and experiences.  No one had the same 3D printer/manufacturer, although one person did have 2 models from one firm. Reasons for a printer were even more diverse – ranging from artistic endeavors, “building a prototype for my Kickstarter campaign” (which he brought to show us), gift, curiosity/interest, and of course wanting to make things. We even had someone there who sells 3D printer parts on eBay & is designing his own RepRap printer!

Future topic ideas included software used to slice 3D models and control the printer, designing printable parts, and the physical hardware used. But most of the interest was troubleshooting prints. So for our next meeting everyone will bring in a ‘bad’ print to share to get comments from everyone else.

Becoming a community innovation resource for technology has been a long term goal for Castlemakers, last week we took another important step towards that.

Initial Castlemakers CoderDojo Session

Alice and Rebecca working on projects at October 2016 CoderDojo
Alice and Rebecca working on projects at October 2016 CoderDojo

Saturday afternoon, October 1st, saw our first CoderDojo session at the makerspace on Franklin Street. What’s a CoderDojo?

CoderDojo is a worldwide movement of free, volunteer-led, community-based programming clubs for young people. Anyone aged seven to seventeen can visit a Dojo where they can learn to code, build a website, create an app or a game, and explore technology in an informal, creative, and social environment. [coderdojo.org]

Evan shows Brian what he's been making
Evan shows Brian what he’s been making

Assisted by student mentors from DePauw, Brian and Mike spent three hours with kids ranging from Jacob, who worked through introductory tutorials from the Hour of Code, to Alice, with a fair amount of experience already in JavaScript, who learned details about working with HTML and CSS.

The next session will be Saturday, November 5, from 1 to 4 pm. Bring a laptop if you have one, or use one of ours! Bring a project to work on, or try out some of our coding activities! Bring a friend!

Alice taking a quick break from fiddling with fonts
Alice taking a quick break from fiddling with fonts

3D Printer Manufacturer Visit

Rostock Max V3 like what we picked up printing a continuous cross-section fractal print. About 11 hours in, it's a really cool print we'll be trying!
We picked up a Rostock Max V3 like this, which is 11 hours into a continuous cross-section fractal print (cool print!).

Yesterday we made a trip to SeeMeCNC in Goshen, Indiana to get a large format Rostock 3D printer kit from the manufacturer. SeeMeCNC began as Blackpoint Engineering 20 years ago, but got into the open source 3D printing world early on and began making 3D printers as SeeMeCNC in 2011, their primary business today. Their main product line is a series of 3D printers based on the delta robot design, versus the more traditional Cartesian design in most RepRap style printers that uses XYZ coordinates.

Nathan, their master machinist, programs a CNC machine that is making parts for extruder.
Nathan, their master machinist, programs a CNC machine that is making parts for their extruder/hot end.

SeeMeCNC embraces the open source design movement. Their design information (both hardware and software) is readily available and the active user community helps to improve it. They also make the parts right here in Indiana. Once you see all the equipment jammed into their facility, you realize this is not a firm that buys different parts and boxes them up; they actually design and make their own parts to have parts designed for each product and to have better quality control.

Their largest injection molder, there are two smaller Niigata machines that get used. SeeMeCNC makes their own dies for the molded parts.
Their largest injection molder, there are two smaller Niigata machines that also get used. SeeMeCNC makes their dies for the molded parts inhouse.

We currently have a member loaned Printrbot Metal Simple that is an awesome compact printer, but wanted something for the makerspace that offered a little larger build area. A delta robot design is a different design that most of our participants have seen (except for Travis who sells 3D printer parts).  We chose the Rostock Max V3 printer, which has a build area of 275mm dia. by 400mm tall (10.8”x15.7”). The SeeMeCNC Rostock line is well proven; the new version adds an accelerometer probe on the hot end plus significant fan and heater improvements. They’re transitioning over from the V2 due to simplified parts and reduced assembly time.

A really big delta robot printer at the NYC World Maker Faire. Yes, the street clock in the distance was 3D printed.
A really big delta robot printer at the NYC World Maker Faire. Yes, the street clock in the distance was 3D printed!

Thanks to JJ in engineering who gave us a great tour. We’ll be putting the unit together over the next week or two (if we can wait that long!). Join us or come to one of the open shop nights on our events page – we’ll be glad to show it off!

Steve "parts daddy" shows off a newly assembled Rostock Max V3 on his desk.
Steve “PartDaddy” shows off a newly assembled Rostock Max V3 on his desk.

Hydroponics Lab Tour

Airy Knob Farm Hydroponics Concept Lab
Inside Airy Knob Farms Hydroponics Concept Lab.

After the interest in the Subaru Indiana Automotive tour, a group of Castlemakers went on a tour of a Hydroponics Lab at Airy Knob Farm just outside Greencastle last month. The ½ hour tour, which was a science project for Victor & Linda Hunter’s grandkids, went over the basics of hydroponics in their proof of concept center for growing fruits & vegetables year round. There is a pretty big ‘concept center’ with over 500 plants growing when we visited & the kids did an awesome job with the tour.

After placing seeds into rock wool cubes, they are inserted into the growing unit.
After placing seeds into rock wool cubes, they are inserted into the ebb-flow growing unit.

Hydroponics grows plants in a mineral rich water solution without any soil. Because the plant’s roots don’t have to use energy seeking out nutrients, most of the growth goes to top portion of the plant with the root ball being significantly smaller and a much bushier, more compact plant. Supplemental lights often help that growth when it’s used in practice today (hydroculture goes back to Babylonian times & the 1600’s in Germany).

Our hosts show how water/nutrients are added to a nutrient film hydroponic system.
One of our hosts show how water/nutrients are added to a nutrient film hydroponic system.

We learned a lot, including 3 different types of irrigation systems used there, the process of germination to harvest, and how the lighting & cooling systems are used to control plant growth. The kids on the trip put seedlings into the larger growth units & also could test the nutrient solution used with the plants. With the water/nutrient solution recirculation, this type of plant growth uses a lot less water than traditional farming!

Testing the growing solution is very important for larger scale hydroponics.
Testing the growing solution is very important for larger scale hydroponics.

There’s a lot of innovation going on with hydroponics, including the addition of raising fish with the nutrient solution used for hydroponics (called aquaponics, there’s a lab down at South Putnam High School). Castlemakers also has a very small hydroponics unit at the makerspace. There’s been some interesting open source printed systems & Kickstarter projects for Hydroponic systems, projects anyone?

Castlemakers Model Rocket Launch

Ty launches the first rocket of the day, one he built several weeks earlier in the model rocket class.
Ty launches the first rocket of the day, one he built several weeks earlier in the model rocket class.
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One of the later launches

Despite the forecast, it was a beautiful sunny afternoon at Big Walnut Sports Park after we delayed the rocket launch a week. Besides the DooDad rockets built by the Castlemaker Kids, we had others show up with their own rockets, creating quite a show. We ended up with multiple launch pads and variety of different sized rockets and objects becoming airborne.

No that's not a flying saucer. It's actually two interlocking plastic plates floating down after launch...
No that’s not a flying saucer. It’s actually two interlocking plastic plates floating down after launch…

The ‘objects’ part are a little hard to describe, although they all used rocket engines. There were various polyhedrons and cardstock printed lawn darts (no chute, but colored with crayons by some younger kids – landed with a ‘thud’ nose first). Then there were the flying plates…

Recovery is much quicker & easier when you have an energetic chase crew!
Recovery is much quicker & easier when you have an energetic chase crew!

All of the kids (and a few of the adults) learned the proper setup and launch procedures before launching the model rockets. Thanks to the Greencastle Parks & Recreation Board (along with the Putnam County Airport) for letting us use Big Walnut Sports Park for launching the rockets. And a special thanks to Nick Adams for teaching the class, bringing his launch equipment, and teaching/supervising everyone  who launched that day. And to Jonathan Green for bringing his tub full of objects, it definitely added some more fun to the event!

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Setup area for launching with a few onlookers at Big Walnut Sports Park.

Subaru Indiana Automotive Tour

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Some of the kids that went on the trip pose in front of a vehicle in their lobby. Photography is not allowed in the facility for group tours.

Earlier this month we arranged for a Subaru Indiana Automotive (SIA) plant group tour in Lafayette, Indiana.  The 2.3 million sq. ft. plant was officially opened in 1989, but has undergone some remarkable expansion the last few years to a facility that has now almost doubled in size. Cars were coming off the production line every 63 seconds when we visited; it will be under a minute by November.

We had 29 people sign up for the tour, which takes you through the stamping, robotic welding, paint, inspection, and assembly areas. Most of the tour is in the overhead catwalks, which offers a great view weaving between the 16+ miles of overhead conveyors hauling parts and vehicles. You get a chance to see body parts made from giant rolls of steel, a symphony of over 800 robots welding and assembling car frames and components, and then it all coming together into a finished product that’s driven off the assembly line. With over 4 million square feet of building space, we hardly saw it all but it still left both young and old amazed at how this small city of over 5000 workers creates  soon to be 390,000 drivable vehicles a year!

Thanks to SIA for allowing us to book the group & giving us the great tour. Everyone that could make it loved it and we seem to have enough interest to do other group tours in the future.

Model Rocket Build

The dooDad rocket fins are glued on the outside the rocket tube speeding assembly.
The dooDad rocket fins are glued on the outside the rocket tube speeding assembly.

For our end-of-July Castlemakers Kids project, we built model rockets to be launched in August. Nick Adams led the group in building the FlisKit dooDad model rockets, a good rocket that first timers can get assembled in less than 2 hours. It uses laser cut basswood fins that are assembled on the outside of the rocket tube, making it easier to put together in a short period of time. The basswood fins (vs. balsawood) reduces the chances of fin breakage – they are quite stiff!

The kits were simple enough for first time builders to figure out the assembly. In the background some parents discussed more elaborate designs.
The kits were simple for first time builders. In the background parents discussed more elaborate designs.

The build was also our first class/event in the new Castlemakers makerspace in downtown Greencastle. We’ve got a lot to do before it will be open for use as a makerspace, but it’s a great location that with some tables and chairs worked well for the model rocket build. With our laser cutter/engraver on order for the makerspace, I kept eyeing the fins on those rockets thinking that soon we’ll be able to make those…

The rocket launch for these (and others) will be at Big Walnut Sports Park in Greencastle on August 27th from 3-5 pm. Feel free to join us on the east end of the park, near the Frisbee golf course.

A special thanks to Nick for doing all the research into model rocket kits for first timers, the donation of kits to our group, and his time in helping everyone build the kits!

Summer Enrichment Program

Simple catapult testing built using 8 popsicle sticks and 2 wooden craft sticks.
Simple catapult testing built using 8 popsicle sticks and 2 wooden craft sticks.

Last month we were asked to do a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) related activity with the Summer Enrichment Program at Gobin Memorial Church. It’s a great program which provides positive interactions for at-risk kids in Putnam County. Their goal was exposing these elementary aged kids to a STEM activity; I also wanted them to make something that they could experiment with at home.

We originally looked at doing something with Brushbots, but it turns out those kits are hard to find now & pricey. For Castlemakers Kids we built our own from scratch, but didn’t have enough pager motors on hand & ordering in bulk would take too long. So I settled on making catapults using wooden craft sticks and rubber bands.

There’s a lot of different craft stick catapult designs, but we went for simplicity. Had to, there were more than 60 kids in two sessions – plus only around an hour to build them. The large range of ages, 2nd through 6th grade, meant some would get the ‘lesson’ and others would have no idea what I talked about, but at least they were exposed to it!

Testing an alternate design which uses a stronger spring.
Testing an alternate wooden stick catapult design which uses a stronger spring.

After dropping a few names, like Galileo & Newton, I explained the basics of a lever using a see-saw example. Also mentioned Newton’s laws and apples falling from trees; then told them they were to decide which would hurl further – a marshmallow or a grape. This craft stick design can provide fairly consistent force input since everyone pretty much pulls it back all the way (who doesn’t want to launch it the furthest!).

The kids each build a catapult with 6-8 kids and 1-2 counselors helping at each table. It worked well, especially considering there wasn’t time to coach the counselors first. Everyone involved certainly had fun and when they’re exposed to levers and Newton in a more academic setting they will have heard of it. Lessons learned: Grapes have more mass than mini-marshmallows but don’t go as far & the model I made with a binder clip (stronger spring/more force) definitely shot things further. Mini-peppers… well things were degenerating at that point & we ran out of time.

We didn’t have enough bottle caps to glue on the throwing arm (they still work without them), and several of them were going to add when they got home so they could launch more. I also brought one with a longer lever (2 craft sticks), hopefully a few of them made those at home!

Paper Mechatronics

The June 20th Castlemakers Kids build project was paper automata.
The June 20th Castlemakers Kids project, paper automata.

This week we explored the world of paper mechatronics (sometimes called automata or Karakuri in Japan).  In the Castlemakers Kids meeting, using 2 sheets of paper cardstock, we created a cam/lever mechanism that caused a sheep’s head to nod when the crank was turned.

The kids cut out the parts from 65 lb cardstock then used glue and folds to create the assembly.
The kids cut out the parts from 65 lb cardstock then used glue and folds to create the assembly.

For thousands of years people have created mechanical toys and dolls out of metal, wood, or in our case paper. The primary use seems to be for entertainment and amusement, but it also offers incredible opportunities to teach people about levers, cams, gears, linkages and other mechanical mechanisms. Ever looked inside a mechanical watch, clock, or older film projector? You’ve probably seen a Geneva stop or Maltese cross (along with a lot of other mechanisms), but may not have known what to call it.

A completed paper sheep that nods it head when you turn the crank on the side.
A completed paper sheep that nods it head when you turn the crank on the side.

We made a design created by Rob Ives, who has an UK website on cardboard cutouts, called “Agreeable Sheep”. It’s a cute model and uses a single cam along with a lever which nods the sheep’s head when the crank is turned. I can also heartly recommend the book Karakuri by Keisuke Saka if you decide to try a hand at making mechanical paper models.  He covers how they work and has a wonderful gallery of karakuri that he and high school students in Japan have created. The tips and instructions for basic mechanisms are worth the price of the book if you want to try make different models or creations of your own.

I’m sure we’ll be doing this in the future again, there are plenty of other things to try. My mind is already buzzing about scaled up models could be made out of big sheets of corrugated cardboard…

What’s a Makerspace

It’s been a busy time for Castlemakers this last month; we received our first grant a few weeks ago for equipment. A group of us have been working very hard to create a physical location for Castlemakers, a makerspace, and watch for an announcement soon.

Map of Artisan's Asylum in Somerville, MA
Map of Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, MA.

Several years ago I wrote something about ‘what is a makerspace’, which have become even more popular since then.

Their numbers and importance has grown since that first post, with the White House proclaiming this week in the US as a Nation of Makers  and hosting a reoccurring Maker Faire this coming weekend (June 18th & 19th). If you visit different makerspaces, as some of us have, it’s a very entrepreneurial movement with many different makerspace models. You’ll find makerspaces as community co-ops, ones associated with libraries, ones that are affiliated with science and children’s museums, and even some at universities.

One of the main halls in Artisan's Asylum. Besides all the workshops, space can be rented for people working on their projects.
One of the main halls in Artisan’s Asylum. Besides all the workshops, space can be rented for people working on their projects.

Perhaps one of the largest and most successful makerspaces is Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, MA which I visited last year. Started in 2010, it’s grown from a 1,000 sq ft “hole in the wall” to a 40,000 sq ft facility with over 600 members! What impressed me the most in my visit: the projects being built & how they bridged different disciplines along with oozing creativity and innovation. The sheer size & scope of the current facility was also impressive, but the people involved & what the makerspace environment seemed to be the key why it works.

Locally we’ve been making great strides in creating our own makerspace here in Greencastle. Thanks to a June 2016 grant from the Putnam County Community Foundation we’ll be purchasing our first major piece of equipment, a CO2 laser cutter. Of course we’ll need a place to house it, and we’re very close to that.