How to cut Zip Ties

I had to make a short illustrated guide showing how to properly cut zip ties to avoid damage and injury, so I figured I should share it here as well.

When using zip ties care must be taken in cutting off the excess ends. To cut the ends off properly, we should use the right tool. Do not attempt to cut the zip tie ends with a knife or scissors, instead we will use a diagonal cutter, typically used for electronics work.

How to cut Zip Ties

The cutter we use is the Hakko CHP-170 Micro Soft Wire Cutter. These can be purchased from Amazon and other online shops as well as local stores. Other cutters can be used, but you should look for fine point flush cutters that are meant to cut small things.

How to cut Zip Ties

Once you put a zip tie on something you’ll have an end sticking out which needs to be trimmed shorter. Depending on the application you may be able to leave the longer end on, but for some specific purposes cutting them off makes sense. (One example where leaving them longer could cause issues if there were chance of eye injury caused by the end of a zip tie.)

In the photo above we see the start of the incorrect method of cutting off a zip tie end. Using this method will result in a sharp edge.

How to cut Zip Ties

Here’s a zip tie cut incorrectly which now has a sharp edge. The short piece of plastic is much more rigid than the longer piece which has some flex to it. We’ve effectively made a small blade.

How to cut Zip Ties

This one is even worse! We’ve now got a sharpened edge with a point. The edge of this zip tie can cut through fabric and even skin. We usually want to avoid damage and injuries. (Of course if you want to use zip ties as weapons, you can stop reading now.)

How to cut Zip Ties

Here is the correct way to trim the excess from a zip tie. Hold the cutter as close as you can to the head of the zip tie, and cut off the end. (Obviously you should start with this cut and skip the steps where I cut the zip tie end into a blade… I forgot to get a photo of cutting a long one for this step!)

How to cut Zip Ties

Get your cutter nice and flush against the head of the zip tie. Make sure there’s no excess sticking out before you cut it.

How to cut Zip Ties

Here is the result of properly trimming a zip tie. There is no excess to cause injury or damage. Consider this safe(r).

You should be able to run your finger over the head of the zip tie where you cut off the excess and it should be smooth. You should not feel any sharp edge. If you do feel a sharp edge, try the trim again, and if that doesn’t work, replace the zip tie with a new one and trim it properly.

How to cut Zip Ties

I hope you found this short guide to properly cutting zip ties useful. Let’s all be careful out there!

MMS WebCam

It’s been way too long since I posted anything about the Time Lapse Bot project. Here’s some good background info, if needed.

Time Lapse Bot 3, which I haven’t written about since 2011 (or maybe 2012) has seen a few upgrades. Don’t worry, it’s still running an ancient PowerBook G4 (how, I don’t even know) but we long ago upgraded to a Logitech C910 USB camera. We then added a long gooseneck to allow for easy adjust-ability. And finally, it’s also known as the Milwaukee Makerspace Webcam, and it published views of Milwaukee Makerspace at http://mkemake.us/webcam

But really, Time Lapse Bot 3 hasn’t changed very much in the past few years… probably because I’ve been working on Time Lapse Bot 4, which uses a Raspberry Pi.

tlbot4

Time Lapse Bot 4.01 made an appearance at Maker Faire Milwaukee in 2016, using a completely hacked together frame on one of my owl rolling chair bases, and it worked for the weekend, but I’ve got plans… I’ve got plans.

I’ve made a lot of progress with software, and picamera is something I highly recommend! I’ve also got TLBot4 automagically uploading to a server, just like the Milwaukee Makerspace Webcam (running EvoCam, which may be dead now, as the web site of the developer has gone AWOL) and it’s also doing the daily videos compiled from the still images. I’m 90% happy with the software… I mean, the last 10% is the hardest, right?

I’m also working on a new physical build of Time Lapse Bot 4, which will feature many mounting solutions, and an interchangeable wide angle lens for capturing crowds.

Hopefully I can get TLBot 4 up and running for an event in the next few months, but in the meantime, I’ll be testing it in my workshop. (And hey, it’s offline now, so what the heck!?)

Also, I used the knowledge and experience I’ve gained (especially from picamera) to create part of a museum exhibit that has been running trouble-free (knock on HDPE!) since November. Huzzah!

clicky-machine-01

I started this project with a goal in mind: test microswitches. Specifically, test the brand of microswitch that I chose for an exhibit I worked on last year. When I was younger, my dad used to have a subscription to Consumer Reports and I remember years ago reading about how they tested things, like using a machine that opened and closed laptops repeatedly to see how many times it could be done before it broke or wore out. One of my goals is to do that sort of thing, but with things we build for exhibits. This is a start. (And yes, I’ve considered just buying/building a robot arm to do these things… I may still do that!)

Meanwhile, since I’m 3D printing again (a lot!) I figured I’d design and print the parts for this machine. Not all the parts… some parts are scrap wood, and (in a recent version) home-made recycled HDPE. The first iteration was a total hack job, and it worked. Sort of. I get in this habit of trying to do press-fit parts, but then I remember that’s a bad idea, so… upgrades happen.

clicky-machine-02

The first version used a PLA plastic arm. Eventually it started to scrape and wear away, and squeak a lot. It was annoying. (Bearings got added to a later version, along with a proper set screw.)

clicky-machine-03

One thing I found out about the cheap microswitches is that the metal arm would bend, and then stop pressing the switch. That’s no good (but good to know.) Then I found times when the switch just wouldn’t trigger the Arduino to advance. Switch failure after just a few tens of thousands of presses? Maybe.

clicky-machine-04

I also had Arduino problems! At some point the cheap eBay Arduino UNO clone from China gave up the ghost and just stopped working reliably. Then I could no longer upload code to it or connect to it at all. Replaced that too!

clicky-machine-05

I also played around with the switch angle… as demonstrated in the above and below photos. I also considered a spring-arm sort of thing the switch could ride on to allow some flex, which would be interesting, but probably less of a real-world test. Maybe.

clicky-machine-06

Here’s a video compilation of some of the testing from early on. This is when I actually thought I could just slap something together and it would work reliably. I’ve since been proven very wrong. I’ll be writing more posts about the changes this machine has gone through and where it stands today. In the meanwhile, if you check out my Instagram or Facebook account, I often post in-progress/sneak-peek photos and short videos.

Stay Tuned!

3D Part

I love it when a plan comes together! I also love it when you design things and then create them and they work. I like when you can design things to work with the hardware you have, or design things for specific hardware, and then order that hardware and it fits perfectly because you planned for it, and designed for it.

Spinny!

So often when building (without planning and designing) you end up grabbing whatever hardware is around and use it, and you might also grab whatever sheet material is around and use it, and you hope that the length of the hardware and the depth of the material work together, or maybe you make some deep countersink holes or make other weird decisions… When I can 3D print a part I get to choose the depth of the material, the size of the holes, etc. It’s wonderful.

Bolts!

But yeah, I really like when I can plan ahead of time for the hardware I need and then get that hardware. Also, I think I love Bolt Depot now. Prices seem good, shipping seems reasonable, and their web site is easy to use. And they package your hardware in little bags that are properly labeled and nice and clean. It’s sort of beautiful.

Spinnerator!

Oh yeah, I’ve also made good progress on my spinny button pressing thingy. And thanks to Bolt Depot I now know that I had some #8-36 bolts mixed in with my #8-32 bolts. And what!? I didn’t even know I had #8-36 bolts! Weird… Anyway, I look forward to a great hardware future.

Cabinet Lock

Our new(-ish) kitten is still getting into trouble on a daily basis, and he occasionally opens up the kitchen cabinet doors, and either crawls inside, or worse, gets into the trash can and has a good ‘ole time. Not cool, kitten! The solution was simple, those child-proof cabinet door locks. I took a quick look on Amazon and found some, but they typically come in a 12 pack or 20 pack or some other number that makes sense to put on all of your cabinets. Of course, when you’ve got a 3D printer, why bother ordering things you can just print out?

Cabinet Lock

I found Child safety lock for cabinet/cupboard on Thingiverse, printed one, and put it on the cabinet that has the trash can. Problem solved! I printed two more, one for the cabinet with the pots and pans, because who wants cat fur in their frying pan? And the third was for the cabinet where we keep the cat food. It’s probably a good idea to keep him out of that one.

Cabinet Lock

Here’s Mr. Kitten inspecting my handiwork. Or maybe he’s just trying to figure out how to get around this terrible device. This is one of those things where I probably would have enjoyed 3D modeling this part, but I was able to find one someone already created, and best of all, it was created in OpenSCAD, which was nice because I could easily alter it, and I could learn from looking at code someone else wrote. Win all around.

Cabinet Lock

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