wire-bender-1894

We’ve got a project at Brinn Labs where we need to bend some 16 gauge wire. The wire bends very easily, in fact, too easily, and you can bend it by hand, but you can’t really get nice curves. I looked up “wire benders” and found “fret benders” which people use to curve the frets for guitar building.

wire-bender-plan

So I found this video titled DIY FRET BENDER – $5 USD FRET BENDER and I was in such a hurry I didn’t even realize the guy provided a bunch of design files! I guess I just often assume people don’t supply files, so I took a screen shot of the design and then dropped it into Inkscape and…

wire-bender-2d

I just whipped up my own design quickly. Since I didn’t want to screw around with using the CNC machine for this, I just exported the DXF and extruded it in OpenSCAD so I could create an STL file suitable for 3D printing. Since there’s a slot and not just holes, it’s not the most fun thing to make with a drill press. Typically slots require a bit more work than holes, with filing and other time consuming hand tool work that is often best left to machines…

wire-bender-render

I designed three parts, and then printed the body and three spacers and six guides. You’ll notice a small lip on the guide piece. That’s to just touch the inside of the bearing so they can roll smoothly. The bearings? Yeah, tear apart that fidget spinner! We’ll need three bearings.

wire-bender-1893

We’ll also need three 5/16″ bolts and nuts, though you could certainly use 8mm if you’ve got those handy. Hey, look, we’ve now got a wire bender!

wire-bender-1901

There’s a little room for improvement on this version… The slot could be a little narrower, and I’ve found that without pliers it’s a bit difficult to tighten the nut. I fixed that by 3D printing some nut knobs so it can easily be tightened by hand. (I already had my own nut knob design file, but you can find plenty on Thingiverse and Youmagine.) No photo because I added it later. :/

wire-bender-1898

This was a really simple build, and since fret benders often cost $50 to $100 (though I saw one for $25 on eBay) this was pretty dirt cheap. I don’t know if it’s up to the task of bending frets, but it should work fine for the wires we need to bend.

wire-bender-1911

If I get around to it I’ll clean up the files and release them. You never know when you might need to bend some wire!

lc014

I’ve been using LaserCut 5.3 to control a G.Weike LC1390N Laser Cutter, and since I use Inkscape to create my files, I thought I’d go over a few of the settings I use so that in the future when I forget I can read this post.

I won’t go too deep into using Inkscape for laser cutting, as it’s a topic I’ve covered before, and besides having to use DXF files instead of PDF files, nothing else has really changed.

lc000-inkscape

In the image above you’ll see a file being exported from Inkscape as a DXF file for a “Desktop Cutting Plotter” which, I guess, is one way to describe a laser cutter. :) I’ve avoided selecting the ROBOMASTER option, as that does strange things to DXF files. I’ve also avoided the LWPOLYLINE option. While the LWPOLYLINE option sometimes works, it sometimes causes issues. Don’t select either option when outputting from Inkscape to import into LaserCut 5.3.

I create my files using millimeters for units, and then export the DXF with pixels (px) specified. I believe there is still a bug in Inkscape that will screw things up if you choose millimeters for the export. (We’ll double check the imported size later to make sure it worked properly.) One more nice thing about Inkscape is that it’s easy to switch between millimeters and inches on the fly while drawing.

lc001

When importing the DXF file into LaserCut 5.3 it may show some weird dialog. Ignore it. Files seem to import fine even when this shows up.

lc003

Our file has imported and looks okay. You’ll notice that the lines in the file are all black, well, actually they are all red here, as they are highlighted because they are selected. (Anyway, I forgot to set colors for some objects, but we’ll touch on that later.)

lc006-scaled

After importing your file you can check the size of it using the “Size” button in the toolbar to bring up the size dialog when your object is selected. It will show the length and height (well, it calls them both “length”) and some boxes where you can type in new values.

lc007.png

Pro-tip: If you fill in one value to scale your object, you can scale it proportionately by clicking the ‘…’ button on the other value. Here I’ve typed “100″ in the x value box and then clicked the ‘…’ button on the y value box.

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The other trick I’ve learned from the folks at Brown Dog Gadgets is to use the “Unite Lines” feature.

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I just use the default settings it presents…

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I think this combines the individual line segments that the DXF file is made up of. If you know for sure, let me know!

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Here’s what I forgot to do in the above example. I’ve set specific items to specific colors in Inkscape, so that when I bring the DXF file into LaserCut 5.3 I can use the colors to change the order of cutting operations.

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Here’s our DXF file imported into LaserCut 5.3 with the colors of the lines showing. Up in the right corner you can see where LaserCut 5.3 recognizes all of the colors in the file and allows you to choose individual settings as well as the order. Typically you want to cut inside pieces first and then outside pieces.

Finally, I’ve relied heavily on the work of others, and here are some links that might prove helpful when using LaserCut 5.3 and a G.Weike laser cutter. (And yes, some of it may conflict with what I’ve posted here. Again, if I got anything wrong, please let me know.)

chad-blasters

It’s been an interesting six years… Back in 2012 I was just a lowly member of Milwaukee Makerspace who stopped by Kenilworth Open Studios to check out what was happening there, and mainly to meet Frankie Flood.

mike-flex

I remember running into Mike Massie at Kenilworth, and he said he had stopped to talk to Frankie on the third floor, so I went to find him. I’m gonna straight up say I was really excited to meet him, but what threw me off was how excited he was to meet me! It was weird, but totally awesome, and we hit it off right away. It’s safe to say becoming friends with Frankie on that day changed my life. (I’m sure many of his former students would probably say the same.)

adam-gear

A few months later we started the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup and later on I somehow got him involved with the e-NABLE project, then I left my job to attend grad school and work with him, then left grad school, then taught at UWM, then Frankie left, and I left, but Kenilworth is still an awesome place to visit each April.

chad-carbonite

This year I saw co-workers, and former students, and friends, Sometimes people were all three of those. I saw the work of people I really don’t hang out with much, but follow online every day, and much of it was inspiring, and got me excited about art, and design, and making. (More excited than usual!)

mike-wood

Kenilworth (and UWM) will always hold a special place in my heart. I really would not be where I am in my life right now without it, and I’m thankful for that. Also, there’s really nothing that compares to seeing former students doing amazing work and being excited about it. My time teaching at UWM was brief, but I enjoyed every minute of it, and hope I had a positive impact on the students I interacted with.

stern-plants

sarah-costume

chad-skulls

I look forward to attending Kenilworth Open Studios next year, and for many years to come.

DSC32D_1794

I made a plaster bolt and painted it red. Sometimes I do things in the “wrong” way so I can see why it’s the wrong way and to see if it might work doing it the “wrong” way. Also, I like a challenge.

bolt-render

I started by using OpenSCAD and the thread-drawing modules for OpenSCAD and created a Metric bolt. I added the bolt head and rounded the edges just a bit.

bolt-mold-exploded

Once I had my bolt I used it to create the two part mold by doing a difference into a block, and then cutting the block into two pieces. I also added some alignment holes and pegs. (And I managed to forget to make the holes a bit larger than the pegs, but a drill bit fixed that easily enough.)

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Here’s what my mold looked like printed in ABS plastic. Yes, I should have used a flexible filament for this so I could demold the cast, but I didn’t. Again, wrong, experimenting, etc. (I’ve got some flexible filament on order, so we’ll see how that goes.)

bolt-003

I taped up the mold and added some rubber bands to hold it all together. Somehow I missed getting a photo of the wet plaster, but I just poured/shoved it into the top and leveled it off…

bolt-004

Here’s the result after letting it dry for a few days. Oh, I didn’t have any proper mold release, or any good substitutes so I used some silicone spray. I don’t know if it worked that well. You can see some of the threads broke off. To be honest I was expecting much worse! It was totally stuck in the other half of the mold though, and I didn’t want to force it…

bolt-005

…so I ended up putting the mold into a bench vise and crushing it until it released the bolt. I know, in theory you should be able to use a mold more than once. But maybe part of the beauty of 3D printing it is that it’s low cost compared to silicone molds. I’m also thinking that a 3 or 4 part mold might be the way to go, rather than just two parts. At least for something like this.

DSC32D_1778

I think I could still use one side of the mold, so it wasn’t a total loss. (More like a 50% loss, which isn’t too bad for this experiment.) Enjoy the photos below. This is, of course, and art object, and not a functional bolt. I like the way it turned out, and I plan on doing more weird experiments like this. (By the way, it’s about 60mm long.)

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See Also: Fail Of The Week: Casting A Bolt In A 3D-Printed Mold

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