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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Update on the Com Center exhibit @ LLPA

Previously I posed on an exhibit I have been working on at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, this is an update.

The install was completed a month ago, just now posting. It was build modular so that we could install it quickly and minimize the aquariums downtime.

It is now operational as the pictures below show.

We still have electronics panels to complete (upper blank 19" racks) as well as some display surface content in the center. These panels each have an Arduino that runs the lighting effects. The upper panels on the left are examples.


While looking for a unique and fun gift to build for my nieces wedding gift I came up with the concept of a "Lifehouse".

It is a lighthouse turning (one of my other hobbies) that you can turn on when something pleasantly memorable happens in your life.

The build:
The lighthouse is turned linden finished in a whitewash and water based polycrylic.
The Fresnel is a 1/8" clear 3D printed cylinder.
LED's provide the light, powered by cell phone brick.
Center of tower is bored for power cable

Stay tuned for some Arduino animation in the next version :)

Pictures below are self explanatory.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

3d printing and molds

I am building a mock ships com center for a client and we installed fake water lines in the overhead.
As part of the pipeing I used some old pipes whose flanges needed to look like they were attached to a sidewall.
3/4"  bolts were expensive and I needed 20 of them.
The obvious solution was to 3D print them. I went to cad downloaded some bolts and printred a few. They looked great......
They took 45 min a piece to print, that's a long time and a lot of wear and tear on my printer.

I went back to cad and designed then printed a two piece mold. I decided to use polymer clay as the medium. Good idea except the clay would not come out of the mold. 3d printing doors not really leave a smooth surface and the clay stuck like crazy. After trying PAM, water, acetone, laquer and sanding as a release method. I was about to give up. When I presented the problem tho my wife she without hesitation said;  "use cellophane"... Great idea, it worked perfectly.
The only other challenge was to hold the mold together while forcing in the clay.I solved this by making a form for the mold to be inserted in.

-Insert mold in form
-Lay in cellophane
-Slice clay on 1/4" strips
-Force strips into mold a layer at a time
-Insure that each layer is blended into the last.
-Push loaded mold from the form
-Peel cellophane from clay
-Add to cookie sheet for baking
-Bake and the bolts are ready for gluing in place.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Improved 3D printer spool

I noticed that 3D printers have a strange (engineering-wise) way of mounting the filament spool. Its hub sits on a curved plastic bracket and rotates by the pull of the extrude heads stepper. There are no bearings just a guide tube the bracket and the spool. The extruder feed mechanism pulls on the spool which is balanced on a bracket (see the white bracket on the left of the printer)

Afinia H-Series 3D Printer
Then after printing for a while I got surprised by the multiple spool hub sizes ... uggh.
I started down the conventional road to printing multiple size spool holders but all the while it just felt WRONG that the spool was not on a hub with a bearing.
I looked at a number of designs on Thingiverse and it seemed that most designers were also trying to get rid of the friction of a bearing-less spool feeder. I also noticed that the conventional approach was to mount the spool vertically on a horizontal axle which meant that changing filament and spools required removing and replacing axles and hubs (for different size spools).
There is one design that I liked which had the spool ride on its circumference on bearings. I built one of these and quickly found out that tracking was a challenge unless everything was aligned and parallel. Loading and unloading spools was easy since there are no axles and no hubs.
From these experiences and ideas I came up with a hybrid design.
In this design the spool lays on its side over a hub that is supported by two bearings which is dropped on a vertical shaft.
The hub has 2 bearings, one on top and one on the bottom.
The shaft is fixed in a 2x4 frame and the hubs bearings slides down over the shaft.
Hub Adapter:
There is a hub adapter (to the right in the picture below) that adapts the hubs smallest size to various other sizes.

Guide Arm
The guide arm keeps the filament under control while feeding although I have printed successfully without it by just using the guide tube. I still wanted a control arm that I could mount a cleaning sponge on, so I kept it in the design. In the proto it is made of 1/4 fiber board since its length would have called for a multiple piece flat 3D printed design. Not everything is best 3D printed especially if you want it longer that 5.5 inches and flat :). Of course the hub adapter and guide are 3D printed.

Filament Guide:
The guide arm hosts a filament guide, also 3D printed, which is bolted loosely to it. The filament guide captures the feed tube holding it a fixed distance from the spool. The filament guide also houses (crudely with hot glue just now) a cleaning sponge.
Note: My research revealed that some believe cleaning the filament before going into the extrude'r helps to eliminate clogging, so I incorporated that into the prototype for testing.
My sponge is currently the conductive foam that IC's come in,I like that it is conductive since rubbing plastic would seem to build up static otherwise.
The spool is loaded on the hub and a filament guide arm slides down on top of the spool.
The filament and guide tube snaps into the slot in the filament guide.
The prototype can be seen in the video below and I have been using it successfully for a few months.
Simplify the Guide Arm with an integrated upper flange on its lower surface (the video is using a previous designs triangular hub. [I originally tried an triangular hub to eliminate the hug adapter but it was not a stable way to hold the spool and it would tilt]).
Add a cavity to slide the cleaning sponge into so that it is more stable and can be easily replaced when dirty.

Here is a video of the prototype operating.. smoothly... on bearings!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Comm Center" progress

For the past few months I have been working on a project for the local aquarium designing and fabricating an exhibit.
The exhibit is a mock "Communications Center" for a ship.
We are in the final phases of fabrication and assembly.

Here is a single console (one of four):

... and here is a full view of the entire center:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Fountain of Youth

Another instructable that I had to try.

Everything from home depot.

Fountain pump
Plastic planter
Acrylic cut in circle with hole for fountain and holes for the water to drain into the bottom of the planter below the rocks.

Cut the acrylic in a precise circle so that it stays about 4 inches below the lip of the pot.
Install pump-acrylic-fountain pipe-rocks-water-power.

Getting "Cool"

I saw this idea on instrucatbles and had to build one with an old cooler I have been keeping for no good reason.
Works great but could use a stronger fan!

  • Fan: from WallMart (12v battery and adapter powered)
  • Cooler:  old one off the shelf
  • 2" PVC elbows with reducers to go though the wall to 1.5" on the outside 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Copy machine tear down

Lots of good stuff in a copy machine......

Now I have to sort it all out and put is somewhere!

Sunday, April 6, 2014


After a long wait received my Pinoccio yesterday.
Uggh, got to learn a new platform...sort of. Supposed to be Arduino. Compatible,  we'll see?
Which project first?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dog exerciser...

Another ongoing project, a dog exerciser!
My dog loves to chase a laser pointer and needs regular exercise.
Built from:
-Arduino (duo)
-Custom sheild
-3d printed bracket and laser housing
-Micro servo from here:
-Home brew laser driver:  2N222 with laser connected in collector (+to 5v) and base connected through a 1k resistor to Arduino pin. Emitter to ground.
Laser diode with driver: Could use a laser pointer, this was easier and more rugged than taking a pointer apart and adding wires. Specs say it draws 25ma max mine measured at 15ma.
Current Features:
-Set the min and maxsweep-angle 
-Start and stop the sweep
-Laser turns on when sweep start, stops when it ends.
-Controlled from serial console, 
-BT Android app for remote control
-Pluggable BT radio so that I can use one radio and paring for many devices.
-Algorithm to adjust speed that is dependent on the angle. Insures that the linear speed is constant.
-Alarm to sound when laser starts, unit boots and on error.
-3D printed enclosure.
-Convert to a smaller Arduino like trinket
-A switch that my dog can activate
-A timer
Hint: I found that it is pretty easy to make a custom shield by taking perf board (RS) and solder pin segments just into the sections that you need for connection to the Arduino. If you do this right the board cannot- be installed wrong. I hate things that are not keyed.
As you will note this board becomes the mother board for the Arduino that plugs into it.  I leave the copper facing up and solder the parts on that side with solder bridges and wires in place of lands. I like that you can see the parts and wiring from the top making probing easy.
The only time that this is a problem is if you need all four connectors because one connector is not ion the same grid as the others (why did they do that?). In that case I cut a slot in the board with a Dremel saw and superglue the pin segment in the right place, then solder directly to the pin.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Watering sensor fail...

My watering sensor failed when water got in the battery pack..duh!
This is a new design that is smaller with a  watertight battery pack and a smaller momentary switch.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

UP+ heater failure

A few weeks ago my printers platten heater failed to heat.
As you can see from the picture below the connection to the platen and heater was poorly crimped, creating a cold joint, high resistance and finally it opened with the heat.
I recently got a new part from the manufacturer under warranty, replaced it and my printer is now up and running just fine.
-Prints warping
-Platen not heating but the printer thinks it is. Temp on printer software never changes but no error from printer.

UP+ experimental spool holder

It seems to make better sense to me to put this spool above the printer rather than on the side.
This is an experimental spool holder above the printer holds multiple size spools also think it should be mounted on a hub with

Friday, March 21, 2014

Snake Pit

I often work on display and interaction projects for our local Aquarium. This one is a simulated snake sound as a reaction to someone putting their hand in a hole in a snake put that is fabricated in the wall of an exhibit.

The project is made from:
I used the tutorials provided for the wave shield as the base code for the project and added code to convert the sensor analog value to a threshold function that will play the snake sound when the sensor is interrupted inside a preset distance.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Moisture sensor

This is an inaugural post to help me get set up for more fun things to come.