Pointing out the new ping pong ball lamp in the Castlemakers window on Franklin Street is a natural follow-up after writing last month about the micro:bit in the window. It’s a great fun, low cost project built by one of our member with items found at the makerspace, except for the ping pong balls.
Recently several of us started experimenting with ESP32’s, a ‘system on a chip’ device that’s less than $10. I’m working on a squirrel proof bird feeder using an ESP32 with a camera for squirrel recognition, more on that later. This project is built however with an ESP8266 module, predecessor of the ESP32, which cost even less. The ESP8266 modules, bought some time ago for $4, are still quite capable having both wifi and a control channel built in. Ian, who’s known to build things for the heck of it, turned an ESP8266, a bit of leftover led strip lights, some 3D printing, ping pong balls and some glue into a flashy user controlled lamp!
There was mathematics involved in figuring out the right way to spiral the LED strip up the side for tight ping pong ball spacing, which depends on the diameter of the 3D printed cylinder. What’s also impressive is the built in web server. If you’re at the makerspace and logged into our network, type http://pingpong1.local to change the lamp pattern. Pretty darn impressive for a $4 circuit board!
We’re thinking about creating a class to help folks build these. If you’re interested stop by to let us know, post on this blog or send us an email.
One of our more prolific makers, Ian Girvan, recently created a 3D printer using mostly scrap parts found at home and at Castlemakers. It’s impressive, using old computer CD-ROM and DVD drives for their stepper motors and mechanisms along with a second hand computer power supply.
What a great way to learn about 3D printers, brings to mind how the first consumer level 3D printers were created in the early days of the RepRap movement. I’ve been watching in awe the last few months as he figured out how to make the old parts work, only buying a very few new items like the hot end. He’s detailed some of his work for us on this webpage, it’s definitely worth a look!
Some meandering thoughts on successfully building a 3D printer based on old DVD laser head linear movement mechanisms and an old PC power supply:
Greencastle Makerspace has a great selections of 3D printer options (https://castlemakers.org/about-us/equipment/) to allow members and interested members of the public to get hands on experience with this Fuse Deposition Modelling (FDM) additive manufacturing technique. With 3 actual printers to choose from it all with varying sizes and mechanical designs, one might think that as a member, there wouldn’t be much desire for anyone to roll their own. But sometimes as they say, sometimes it’s the journey not the destination that provides the most enjoyment: – or at least the most learning opportunity.
The other activity that has some momentum at the Makerspace in recent months is the addition of CNC capabilities. In addition to the Carbide 3D Nomad, and more recently the Carbide 3D Shapeoko XL, we were gifted a generic 3040 type desktop CNC/router. (http://castlemakers.org/one-persons-trash/) This CNC had the disadvantage of requiring a legacy parallel port from a host computer. All though this could have been arranged, we felt that a better option was to retro fit it with a GRBL controller that has a number of advantages including being able to be used by any of the PCs at the Makerspace and not requiring any drivers of software that is getting progressively outdated. This exercise got me impressed with what has been achieved with open source Gcode parsers and machine controllers with cheap and ubiquitous embedded controllers such as the Arduino range of boards.
In conjunction with this, there seems to be an ever-increasing amount of outdated or superseded technology devices that end up in landfills or otherwise need to be dispose of or (hopefully) recycled/reclaimed to reduce potential environmental impacts.
With this a background in mind, I started wandering around google looking for options to use old commonly available electronic legacy components to create a 3D printer. What I discovered was a good number of examples of people using the head positioning systems from particular CDROM/DVD drives to successfully produce small print volume 3D printers. (To see some of these take a look at the links at the end of the post.) Using this as an inspiration, I decide that I’d get my hands on some DVD drives and see if what I had seen on the internet could be reproduce with minimal financial out lay. To this end I made a trip up to the attic, move the Christmas decorations, luggage and other various totes until I discovered a couple of PCs that had seen better days. A few minutes later I had a couple of potential DVD candidates in hand and returned to start the disassemble. What I found was a little disappointing. I was hoping to see some small 4 wire stepper motors combined with small carriage on rails carries the laser heads, all driven via a small diameter lead screw. What I found was the later models that used a standard (and no doubt cheaper) standard DC motors.
Back to the search.
A quick review of the computer hardware in the Makerspace, came up with 3 potential candidates and with the luck of the Makerspace, they all had stepper motor-based mechanisms. The basis of the 3-axis movement was in hand: – time to “glue” it together in some fashion.
Framing Things Up
In my Google travels I came across a design for a laser cut frame for this type of printer. Give the Voccell laser (https://castlemakers.org/about-us/equipment/ )is another one of the tools at the space I decided I’d make a couple of adjustments and press that laser into action to produce a plywood frame.
The Hot Stuff
One of the key pieces of a FDM 3D printing process is the hotend mechanism to heat up and extrude the filament on the bed or build plate. Also to ensure the initials layers of filament stick to the bed, the use of heated bed is often used and allows printing materials that would otherwise be challenging to get to effectively adhere.
The examples I found online of printers built at this scale didn’t use a heated beds but rather focused on limiting the materials printed to those that would allow unheated beds like PLA. I thought it would be interesting to include bed heating to potentially allow using more varied material. A small scrap of 50mm x 50mm 1/8″ thick aluminium was used as the bed. 2 1 ohm 7W wire wound resistors were attached to the bottom of the bed with high temperature JB Weld.
The resistors were connected in series and some tests run to see if the bed could be effectively heated with this arrangement. The tests were positive and this bed was attached to one of the DVD mechanisms in place of the laser head.
When looking at options for the hotend, it became clear that building a hotend from scratch, although fun (perhaps another blog post in the future) would probably not be within the spirit of keeping the over build time within realistic limits. As it turns out, eBay provides a large number of relatively cheap hotends with the necessary heater elements, temperature sensor, nozzle, cooling fans etc ready to go. I was able to purchase an E3D style hotend for under $10 shipped. I decide to go with this approach for now and leave the option to build my own for the future challenge.
Bowden Tubes and Extruders
Because of the very small motors that make up the DVD mechanisms I estimated that they simply would not be able to carry the weight of a direct drive extruder so it was an easy decision to look at a remote extruder with a Bowden tube to guide the filament to the head. This also factored into the selection of the e3d hotend.
Having manually pushed filament into a hot extruder it was clear that more power would be needed from a motor than was available in a DVD drive.
The standard for the consumer class extruders is to use a nema17 standard motor of around the 1-2 amp phase current. Back before we had CDROMs there were 5-1/4″ floppy disk drives and they often used nema17 stepper motors to move the heads. It may be showing my age, but I did harvest a few of these motors before disposing of them. Unfortunately, they are of the unipolar variety rather than bipolar which most common current stepper driver electronics are set up to work with. It turns out these motors can be purchased on eBay for less than $10. As fortune would have it, an eBay seller known to the Makerspace has an online store and provide a number of parts with no shipping overhead. This included the aluminum extruder itself. All up the extruder, motor and pfte Bowden tube came it at ???
We’ve still had projects at Castlemakers this summer, even with the Covid shutdown hampering our hands-on education efforts. One that I’m excited/impressed with is a high school student built project that includes programming, electronics, 3D printing and using a laser cutter – all made with items at the Makerspace!
Ever since we gave every 6th grader in Putnam County a micro:bit last year, we’ve wanted to do more micro:bit projects to help youth and adults see the power of microprocessors and IoT devices. And to get a chance to expose and use some of the some different fabrication tools often found in a makerspace. This summer Hunter Miller made a really interesting project, an edge lit sign controlled by a micro:bit. It looks a bit like an emergency exit sign with a disco like effect and instead our logo on it.
The design and case was modified from something created at the Cambridge UK makerspace, who was looking to create something to experience the different makerspace tools. We used our 50W CO2 laser to cut and etch an insert for a 3D printed case that with led lighting on the edge makes our logo stand out. Hunter, who was looking for something else to do this summer, then cut a section of a 2m LED strip and after some soldering connected the wires directly to a micro:bit. Then he wrote a micro:bit program using MakeCode that makes the LED strip change color and intensity.
It’s on display right now in our front window on Franklin St. Stop by and take a look or come in and we’ll show you how it works – the different lighting modes may have you dancing!
Our blog posts have been running behind lately, but we’ve been busy the last few months. We’ll update with some older entries since like many folks we’ve had more ‘stay at home’ time with the COVID-19 mess that’s been going on.
Even though we’ve stopped having public events since mid-March, there have been things going on inside (using recommended guidelines). Our main 3D delta printer has never been worked so hard in such a short time since we got it 3 years ago.
The picture to the right has some examples of what’s been made there to help first responders and others with the COVID-19 battle. We can’t make things in large quantities, but we can fabricate and adjust quickly – plus worldwide the makerspace community has rapidly stepped up to help people where they can. Longer term existing manufacturers will and are already starting to fill the gap, but it sometimes helps to do locally what can be done until the gap is eliminated. We’ve got a special webpage with some local covid making projects in Putnam County and more details about how the face shields, face masks, and ear savers can be made.
Our downtown location gives us a great opportunity each month to participate in Main Street Greencastle’s First Friday. Each month we not only have ‘open shop’ to share what’s going on inside the Makerspace, but also try to have some themed making events that folks can see / participate in.
This month Main Street was promoting a luau theme – so making a carpet tube palm tree and some Tiki heads were naturals. The Moai head printed on our Rostock Max 3D printer inside was so big that it took nearly 11 hours to finish; although started at noon I’m fairly sure no one else saw the finished print Friday night.
A lot of folks don’t realize that world’s largest 3D printing meetup is held right here in Indiana. This year several of us went to the 2019 Midwest RepRap Festival (MRRF) in Goshen Indiana – and it exceeded expectations. It was impressive in a number of different ways, from the 3D printing ‘names’ and prototypes that were there to the number of innovative ideas that people were trying and showing off. You could describe it as a Maker Faire just focused on 3D printing.
This is not a Midwestern or even just a USA event. I talked with firms from Britain, China, Czech Republic, Israel, and I’m sure other places I don’t remember. You could learn about products directly from the manufacturers present, then walk over a couple of aisles to someone that was using their parts in a 3D printer they had built.
And the really exciting part was being able to network with all of the interesting people and the things they brought. From a school built/designed concrete printer to a home-built printer designed to print outdoor 4-5’ tall artistic spires (which lit up from internal LEDs), innovation was everywhere with tables of folks showing off what they had made. Filament mixers to create multicolor prints? Stopped counting, too many. Continuous 3D printing on a belt? There & being open-sourced. Even someone rebuilding 3D printers & shipping them to underdeveloped countries.
It was actually hard to get around, between the massive crowd and number of Youtubers that were there making segments for their online channels. Sure many printers & prints were complex and daunting. But there were also tons of simple ideas like an enclosed 3D printer case using a food dehydrator to keep things warm & humidity low.
Definitely won’t miss next year & started planning our table for the annual event. We’re discussing 3D printed R/C cars for the race & perhaps Rob will bring out one of his 3D printer designs for next year…
Castlemakers offered our first class on photogrammetry, or using photographs to create 3D objects, in October. But the more interesting story to me was how we got there. It began just before our Intro to 3D Printing class last spring, when a couple of folks wanted to learn about 3D printing so they could hopefully print things from an archeological dig in Italy in the summer. While I had experimented some with earlier software, this was mostly new territory.
But Rebecca, one of the students in the class, took it to another level. She was able to get a copy of a professional program, Agisoft, then take pictures at a Roman dig site in Italy this last summer. Using the program, she generated 3D images of artifacts they found and even took photos of the excavation at the site (a Roman bath house) which she was able to turn into a 3D image. When she got back in August, in a little over a week she was able to 3D print not only artifacts but also make a model of the dig site using the 3D printers at Castlemakers.
As we prepared for the Castlemakers class to show others how to do it, we discovered what may be an even better solution – a program called 3D Zephyr. We decided to cover both, especially since 3D Zephyr has a way of extracting photos from video to make the 3D image – a pretty amazing feature! The experiments will continue with local landmarks and we’ll be doing the class again this spring.
If you walked by the Makerspace this summer and looked in the window, you may have noticed a very large model rocket. It was the first stage of a creation that Nick Adams, who taught our ‘build a model rocket’ class, built last year and launched. Several people have stuck their head in since it left and asked us where the rocket went. The short answer is he prepping it for an even higher/faster launch this Labor Day weekend in Kansas.
Earlier this year Nick asked if we could make something that would plug the air intake holes, the kind of project we love! When you go supersonic a flat surfaces creates even more turbulence, so for his upcoming flight he wanted a more streamlined version. Plugging 4 intake holes on the side of the rocket would help.
We initially fabricated a plug out of foam, using a hot wire cutter at the Makerspace, then scanned the piece so it could be 3D printed. Creating the styrofoam piece was easy, scanning… well the Makerbot Replicator we have wasn’t quite up to the task initially. Learned that covering the foam with masking tape helps (the foam color and irregular surface created problems), but it was still less than a satisfactory design.
Then one of our younger makers, Ephraim, helped by creating by creating a quick model in Autodesk’s Inventor. That design came closer, but we missed measuring a few key dimensions like the chamfer where the plug goes into the rocket. We finally ended up redrawing with Fusion 360, which turned out to be the best solution. Although the program has a steep learning curve, it allowed us to make several more design changes quickly & easily to get the 4 pieces printed out last month.
This weekend Nick’s letting Castlemakers take the rocket to show off at Makevention in Bloomington, Indiana – an annual celebration of making things. Located at the Monroe County Convention Center, it’s open to the public and a great event! Stop by and see the assembled 12.5 foot tall rocket and also stay tuned to Nick’s YouTube channel. I’m sure he’ll have a video of the launch posted not long after the launch on August 30th!
One of our main goals as a non-profit is providing educational opportunities to the community. Like our Learning to Solder class in May and our upcoming Introduction to 3D Printing Design July 8th (2-4 pm at the makerspace).
In May participants built an LED Chaser (or Larson Scanner), to get first hand experience soldering electronic components, LEDs, and an integrated circuit on a circuit board. Thanks to George Edenfield of Putnam County Auxiliary Communications (local Amateur Radio group) for leading the class.
For the Intro to 3D Printing Design class, we did a prototype class last December when we had kids design & print holiday ornaments. Everyone had fun and we learned that too many people trying to print 3D parts at once can take a long time! We’ve added 2 more 3D printers in the makerspace, more laptops, and changed to a quickly printing basic design that offers more learning.
In the upcoming class (for both old and young) you’ll be designing a custom ring to fit your finger and adding an adornment on top. It’s a great way to learn the basics in Tinkercad and prints in 4-5 minutes per ring depending how elaborate you get. Special thanks to the Maker Lab at Chicago Public Library for the idea – like almost all makerspaces they willingly exchange information and share ideas to help the maker movement!