New Cooling for the Laser Cutter – Part 1

Last Thursday, Ben and Kevin started experimenting with a proper closed loop cooling system for the laser cutter. This is something we’ve wanted to do for some time, as it’ll make the laser easier to move and less likely to spill coolant all over the floor (again). The big push now is that the existing coolant pump is getting noisy, so it’s an ergonomic consideration 🙂

Most of the parts for this build were sourced from the junk pile, including the reservoir, fan and pump. We bought a cheap ebay radiator and a bunch of plastic fittings.

At this point, we’ve got a few slow drips to chase down, and need to figure out how to enclose the system, but as evidenced in the picture, it cools pretty well. Ben is using a blowtorch on that piece of copper tube (our stand-in laser tube), and it’s cool to the touch immediately after removing the fire.

Learn about Lockpicking from a Toool.. member

Would you like to learn about lock picking? Come to our meeting Tuesday July 10th @ 7pm.

The meeting will feature a talk from a member of (The Open Organization of Lockpickers), Steve Beck.

Steve will cover three topics, two of which are a little more hands on-ish, the first will be a basic lockpicking talk, the second will be a re-keying talk with a demo and the third will be about making your own picks with a demo.

Stick around after the talk for socializing and Makery Shenanigans.

Directions to the Makery

RedBull Creation 2012 Entry

RedBull Creation challenge entry. It’s a brain-wave game. The players stand on opposite sides with wireless headsets that measure brain waves. One of them presses the big red button on the back, and then as they focus the power of their minds, the arm responds to their brain wave readings, and moves back and forth according to who is focusing best. After 10 seconds the Bullduino (visible at the front in the window) checks whether the pointer is in one of the green scoring zones. If it is still in the yellow zone, it’s a tie and it just returns to center. If it is in one of the green zones the player on that side is the loser, and the ball sprays that player.

KC Maker Faire 2012

This past weekend, Dave and Eric and I met up with quite a few Omaha Maker Group members at the KC Maker Faire, and had a blast.  We were initially going to have a booth to show off the awesome projects from around the Makery, but had far more people who wanted to go See the Faire instead of Work At the Faire.  Somehow, this change was miscommunicated to the Powers that Be, and we ended up with a booth and sign anyhow (notably unmanned).

We definitely got to see some neat stuff, including one of those optical-resin based 3D printers. ArcAttack was pretty awesome as well, if amazingly loud.

Beyond that,  it was an excellent a venue to share ideas… Looking through my pictures, I think Eric and I had identified at least 3 or 4 projects we want to try, and dozens of smaller ideas.  I saw a few 3d printer innovations, a “bubble printer” (by ArchReactor),  a portable whiteboard cart (For the Makery, at Hammerspace); We also a “waterflow table” (aka a Sluice Box) at Science City, where it pumps water down a trough, and you insert dividers to change the flow paths.  It seems pretty trivial, but would be one of those “fun to mess with” sorts of things.

I was a bit surprised that there wasn’t more merchandise (specifically Arduino kits and whatnot), although I’m not sure that this was a bad thing, in retrospect.

 Overall? Probably one of the more amazing Making experiences I’ve had. I got to see neat things, talk to interesting people and generally have a good time with friends, old and new.
I’ll be back next year, and would seriously consider making the trek to one of the larger Faires on the coasts.

Home-made Hobbed Gears

At the Makery lately, Brandon and I [with some help] have been working on a CNC Hot-wire Foam cutter quite a bit like this one.  Ours is going to be a bit larger, capable of slicing up a 2×4 foot piece of foam (actually, the X is more like 5 feet than 4). For our Z axis, we are using a salvaged set of rails including a rack and pinion setup, but our X axis is entirely homebrew.

I’d initially lobbied for a belt setup similar to the X-axis on a Prusa Mendel, but Brandon objected on grounds of the cost for a 10 foot piece of belting.  He proposed instead using a piece of all-thread as a rack, and a curved gear as the pinion.  That was fine, but seemed like the gear would cost more than the belting. In the end, we decided to try making a gear, in the same way that extruder rollers are made for the 3d printers: Hobbing.

Tonight, I got around to trying to make the gear.  We’d settled on 3/8-16 all-thread, as it’d be sufficiently beefy as to not bend with a gear pressing against it, and to not sag under the weight of a mostly unsupported 5 foot span.  I grabbed a piece of (approximately) 1″ round aluminum from the scrap bin, and drilled a 3/16″ hole through.  I bolted the cylinder to a bearing I had lying around, and chucked it into a V-jaw in the mill vise, with one end floating free.  I chucked up a 3/8-16 tap in the spindle, and set the speed as low as it goes (I around 500rpm, I think).

From there, I aligned the tap so that the centermost full thread was parallel to the bolt through the work, so that I’d be cutting only on full threads. I used the Y-axis of the mill table to position the tap along the length of the work, and advanced the work onto the spinning tap by slowly feeding the X axis as the work turned. (The work spun freely in the bearing, powered by the tap cutting into the aluminum, like when a board lifts as a wood screw is driven.)

I initially had a bit of trouble with the work flexing in the chuck (as I was only supported from one end), but I overcame this by grabbing the outboard end of the bolt with my hand and keeping the bolt parallel to the vise jaws manually.

Overall, the process worked really well.  The tap cut nice, deep, uniform teeth into the aluminum. If I were going to do it again, I’d find a better way to hold the work (supported by both ends) in the vise; I’d also pick a better piece of material, as I didn’t bother turning the surface imperfections of out this one before I started.

The Why of Makerspaces (Hackerspaces)

Ever since I visited Noisebridge in San Fransisco back in November of 2010,  I had burned into my head how amazing it was, and how great it’d be when we finally had a space of our own in Omaha.  What I didn’t see in my brief visit was all the work that someone’s doing behind the scenes. At the Makery, there’s always something to be cleaned up, fixed up or otherwise looked after, and as a Doocracy, those things tend to fall to whoever cares the most (Did I mention, I’m sort of a neat freak?)

Sometimes, I get lost in the maintenance and wonder why we collectively go to the effort of maintaining an actual space, especially after working on robot arms in Dave’s pretty slick basement workshop.  Last night, a few visitors to the Makery reminded me, with phrases like “This place is magic” and “I never thought Omaha could have a  hackerspace”.  That right there sums up what went through my head when I walked in the door at Noisebridge just a year ago.

I’ve said it before (at the Makery’s Founding Day Celebration), but I’ll paraphrase it again here because it bears repeating:  A Makerspace is just a lens that focuses the energy and talents of a creative community.  The people are what makes the Makery great.  Our people collaborate on art projects, build impromptu electric vehicles, entertain out-of-town guests, have Nerf-modding contests, provide material and technical resources for individual projects and are just a generally great group of friends.

Handlebar Camera Bracket

Tonight, I finally got around to finishing up the Handlebar Camera Mount project.  The mount consists of a hunk of printed PLA, sawed in half, and bolted back together around the handlebars. At the moment, I have a piece of rubber tape wrapped around the bar, under the mount, to keep it from slipping, but my Canon S5 is pretty heavy and it needs a bit more wrapping underneath.

The printed portion of the mount weighs around 60 grams, and took about 90 minutes to print on the Makery Mendel.  On the side facing the camera, you can see where we lost a bit of blue tape.  The part has an inner diameter of an inch, and is about 2″ wide, to provide good stability for the camera.

The hardware is 4 1.5″,1/4-20 stainless steel hex head cap screws. I opted for stainless because “It’s a bike, and it’s going to be outside”… The bolts were around a buck a piece, which wasn’t really any more money than the regular steel ones.  Hex-keyed is sorta like metric: It just costs more, and no one knows why.

All this puts total materials cost (including the PLA for printing) at just under $10.  The model for the printed version is available here.


Happy Birthday Omaha Maker Group

Tuesday marked the 1 year anniversary of the Omaha Maker Group, known internally as Founding Day. It signifies the first [large] meeting of Makers at Upstream Brewery where the Omaha Maker Group name was chosen.  It wasn’t until later that we were legally organized, but that’s not the point.

In honor of the somewhat momentous occasion, we had a gathering at the Makery including cake and grilling, for around 20 people.  A good time was had by all, and it was a pretty good excuse to clean the place up a bit.

It occurs to me that the most valuable thing that the Omaha Maker Group has given us in the last year isn’t the physical workspace down at the Makery, nor any of the growing collection equipment there, but rather all of the people we’ve met.  We have really great bunch of  Makers, techies, artists and doers of all kinds; People willing to help when you get stuck on a project or to mock you into starting the project in the first place. For my part, I’ve made more than a few friends along the way.  Here’s to many more years of Making in Omaha.