posts tagged with the keyword ‘diy’

2019.08.03

laser-cutter-exhaust

Someone on the Milwaukee Makerspace mailing list posted an email with the subject line Laser cutter expert, so I could not ignore it. The person was specifically asking about exhaust systems. Above is a photo of what I built for the 40 watt laser cutter in my basement, and below is most of my reply.

laser-stock-exhaust

The exhaust from my laser cutter is a 4″ diameter vent hose, which I connect to a 6″ hose with an adapter I got from Home Depot. (In this photo you can sort of see the while plastic piece that attaches to the back of the laser cutter. It has a small and inadequate fan that came with it.)

laser-inline-fan

The vent hose coming out the back of the laser cutter connects to an inline fan that is mounted to the ceiling…

laser-exhaust-coupler

The output of the inline fan goes to another step down adapter and then a quick connector that twists to lock into place.

I’ve also got an AC Variable Voltage Converter which allows me to run the blower at lower speeds if desired. (I sometimes dial down for paper, thinner material, etc. to reduce suction and noise.)

laser-exhaust-mounting

I then have a basement window that I replaced with a piece of wood on the outside and pink foam on the inside which has a hole in it (covered with a laser cut screen) on the outside, and on the inside the quick connect that I connect up when I use the laser cutter.

This just gets all the fumes out of the tiny room the laser cutter is in. It doesn’t scrub the air. I am not cutting for hours at a time. My main goal was to not have my spouse come home and say “why does the whole house smell like melted plastic!?” and I think I’ve achieved that goal.

Here’s the list of all the components I could remember:

Oh, and if you want to see a real laser cutter exhaust system, or at least the details of building one over many years, check out lasercutterventingsystem on the Milwaukee Makerspace wiki.

2018.11.18

roof-rack-05

I’ve come to love my Honda Element more than any previous car I’ve owned. The fact that I can pull out the back seats and use it to haul all sorts of things is awesome, but sometimes things still don’t fit, and need to go on the roof. The one advantage my Honda CR-V had was a roof rack, but luckily the Element was designed with a roof rack option in mind, and a DIY version is pretty simple.

template-01

This forum post got me started in the right direction, and gave me a template to use. There were also a few useful YouTube videos on DIY roof racks that helped a bit…

template-02

I used the PDF template to create my own template in Inkscape and then printed it on paper, which I found to be less than ideal in getting the holes precisely lined up, so I did what I often do…

template-03

I turned to 3D printing. I took the SVG file and exported it to a DXF that I could pull into OpenSCAD and extruded into a 2.5D shape. From there I printed a nice (solid) template that I could use to drill the holes for the pieces that would hold up the rack.

roof-rack-03

The parts that hold up the rack are some scrap pieces of HDPE plastic, which is very solid and resistant to wear from the elements. The template worked great (with a drill press) for making the needed holes. There’s a 6mm bolt that holds everything in place. Yeah, I ended up just using one bolt instead of three on each piece, so in the end the template didn’t matter as much.

I didn’t use stainless steel bolts, so I expect they may rust out, and I might replace them. The main reason was I bought a bunch of bolts from Bolt Depot in various lengths because I didn’t know which I would use. Now that I know the length I should probably replace them. I also used Aluminum washers which are left over from using a hole saw to drill out button holes from guitar pedal enclosures. (Long story!)

roof-rack-01

The rack itself was just some square steel tube I got from Speedy Metals. It’s 1-1/4″ SQ x 1.084″ ID x .083″ Wall, BTW. (I ended up painting the tube black with an enamel paint, which was supposed to stand up to the elements but has done a terrible job and the metal has rusted quite a bit since these photos were taken.) I’ve been told grill paint or marine paint might work better. At this point I’d need to pull everything apart and sand off the rust if I want to make things look better. (Which means I probably won’t.) The other nice thing about getting the square tube from Speed Metals was that I was able to just have them cut them to length, so I didn’t need to cut the metal precisely.

roof-rack-04

The other piece for the roof rack are the end pieces. Yes, they are green instead of orange or black, but that’s due to the filament I had loaded into the 3D printer at the time…

tube-end-01

Amazingly enough, they are printed in PLA and have held up quite well through one winter and one summer. They didn’t melt in the summer or get destroyed by the cold and wetness of winter.

tube-end-02

They are not held in place as securely as I’d like, and are easy to remove, but they’ve stayed in place without falling out for over a year now. I should really print some replacements in another color… though it does make it easy to spot my car when other orange Elements are nearby.

So how does it work? Well, it’s a roof rack, and it works fine. If anything, I’d consider raising it a bit higher, and to be honest, I think I use it a lot more frequently when I need to tie down the back window when hauling things that stick out the back, which is good enough for me. In total the cost with the square tube, hardware, and paint, was probably around $30, which is a lot cheaper than a roof rack purchased.

2017.02.05

PCB Milling

One of my goals with the Little CNC Milling Machine was to make my own PCBs. I’ve typically made my own printed circuit boards at home by etching them with chemicals, but the mill opens new opportunities to etch and drill the boards, so I gave it a shot.

I knew the basics, but did a a quick search for posts that might explain things a bit more. (I should note I planned to use Fritzing, Inkscape, MakerCam, and GrblController, all free/open source software available on multiple platforms.)

The two useful posts I found were: PCB designing and isolation milling using only free Software and Hello World, How to Mill Printed Circuit Boards (PCB).

OpenSCAM

I wasn’t really planning on documenting this in-depth, but I got a few photos and screenshots, so I’ll share what I can. I had some bits I grabbed from eBay, 0.1mm Carbide PCB Board 60 Degree V-shape Engraving Bits and 0.8mm Carbide PCB Endmill Engraving Bits (a total of 20 bits for under $10) to work with, so that’s what I used. (I may want to try some 45 degree bits and 0.6mm bits next time.)

Milling Traces

Here’s the “isolation milling” I did with the 60 degree engraving bit. Not bad! You can also see a little mark on the copper board where I homed the machine.

Yeah, I did not have double-sided tape, so I just taped the board down to my spoil board. The board wasn’t completely flat, and bowed slightly in the middle. I’ll use double-sided tape next time, which will also help with cutting the final profile of the board.

Set Home

I swapped the bit from engraving to drilling and drilled all the holes. It seemed to work well, so… yeah. (Sorry, no photos of drilling!) I then switched back to the engraving bit to (attempt) to cut out the board…

PCB Milled

It worked, but I miscalculated how deep it would need to cut, and ended up lowering the z home and re-running the job again. I might want to use a different bit next time. When I thought the board was cut out enough I pulled it off the machine.

Light Test

The board held up to the light. Oops! Well, the holes didn’t all work. They were close, but not quite all the way through. I ended up using my Tiny Drill Press to finish the holes, and it didn’t work very well as it was difficult to hit the center. Not great.

I also didn’t cut all the way through with the outside profile. Not a big deal for this board, as it would be easy to cut out on the band saw, but more complex boards may not have this luxury. No matter, the amount of board left was paper thin and it came right out. I’ll definitely use a different bit for the final cut next time.

Final PCB

Here’s the final board. It totally worked, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. This probably won’t be the method I use for all my boards. OSH Park does a great job and prototyping PCBs, and Seeed Studio is great for production runs, but I’ll probably mill any new boards I want to test out before sending out to a fab house. Milling also allows me to have a PCB in an hour or so, versus waiting a few weeks.

Of course I’m (sort of) limited to single sided boards, but most of my PCBs are pretty simple, so I’m not concerned yet. Also, once I master the single sided board, I’ll certainly try a two-sided board, I mean… how hard could it be!?

2017.01.04

CNC Machine

Hopefully you’ve read Little CNC Milling Machine (Part I) in which I completed the mechanical build of a tiny CNC machine. Here’s Part II!

CNC Machine Electronics

The electronics didn’t take much time at all, it was pretty much “plug and play” as far as connecting the three stepper motors and the spindle. No stripping, cutting or crimping wires. The only issue I had was once I tried running it nothing was happening. Turns out the power supply was DOA. I found a 16 volt laptop power supply in my junk bin and tried that, and it still didn’t work (or so I thought.) I ended up cutting the barrel jack off that power supply and putting it on a 24 volt supply I found. It was then I realized that the spindle wasn’t responding because I never set the “spindle speed”. So yeah, steppers worked fine with the 16 volt power supply (but not the original 24 volt supply I got) but the spindle didn’t go, because I’m a fool. All good now! I’ve got functioning 24 volt power supply and a functioning CNC machine.

CNC Machine Electronics

I’ve used Grbl before, usually with an Arduino and a CNC Shield with some steppers. Some of these kits seem to use an Arduino Nano, but this one is its own board with an ATmega328P and a CH340 chip. So yeah, an Arduino with Grbl 0.9 pre-loaded.

There are no endstops, but it looks like there’s room on the board to add them in the future. I can think of a few other improvements as well. I may add an e-stop, or just an “on/off” switch for the power supply. One nice thing about these machines is that if you make a mistake, like jogging the head too far in one direction, you can just cut power to the motors and the software will keep going, assuming the motors are moving, and then once the software is done, you can resupply power and try again.

Oh, you might also notice that next to the spindle connector on the board is a spot to plug in the laser. Yes, there’s also a 500mw laser that can be put in place of the spindle. I’ve not really tried that yet, and have to figure out the software to control it first. (I’ll get into software in a future post.)

CNC Machine Bed

Another area that could use some improvement is the bed. Attaching things with the screws meant to attach things to the Aluminum extrusion is not great. I’ll work on a better clamping system. (Maybe a 3D printed piece, not sure yet.)

You might also notice I left the lead screws hanging in mid-air. I did have a little bit of a binding issue with the x axis, so I just removed both lead screw holders. I think it’ll work fine without them, as the lead screws are not that long.

CNC Machine Collet

The machine came with two tiny collets that allow you to attach bits to the spindle shaft. It also came with super-small set screws. I’m pretty sure I’ll lose the screws, but…

M3 Set Screws

…luckily a few years ago my friends at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories sent me a lifetime supply of M3 set screws of various sizes. I think I’m good!

CNC Machine Electronics

And yes, I did actually mill something. I’ll cover that in the next post. Overall I have to say I’ve been pleased with this machine (so far, it’s still early, obviously.) It was easy to put together and it works. Once I get things dialed in I’ll look into milling PCBs, and foam, and wax, and chocolate…

Stay Tuned!

2017.01.02

Little CNC Mill

I’ve completed the mechanical build of a small CNC mill/engraver. I’ve seen these on eBay from various sellers (like this, this, this, and this) and I’ve even seen one on Amazon from LinkSprite. I didn’t order from any of those sellers…

Somehow I happened across a blog post at TC Maker about a CNC Building Class at The Hack Factory. While I would have loved to have attended the class, I couldn’t make it, but I got in touch with Alex to ask a few questions, and the next thing you know I’m ordering a kit from him.

Alex said he’ll be doing another class, and hopes to sell these to other people as well. (I guess I’m one of the first customers?) I was attracted to the mill because it’s small (my workshop is cramped already) and it runs Grbl. I’m hoping to mill PCBs with it, and other small things. If I get really ambitious I can extend the machine with some longer lead screws and Aluminum extrusion. But first I have to get it working… I still have the wiring and electronics to deal with.

I’ll go through a bit more about building it in this post, and probably follow up with a few more posts once it’s complete.

Little CNC Mill

First, let’s talk about the instructions. Remember, Alex does an entire class on building this, which I did not attend, but I’ve built a few CNC machines in the past, so I wasn’t too worried. I did get a construction manual, and it was helpful, though in the end it sort of reminded me of building my RepRap. At some point the instructions seem to lose their usefulness and you just have to figure things out. Luckily, there’s the Internet.

The page titled DIY CNC 3 Axis Engraver Machine PCB Milling Wood Carving Router Kit Arduino Grbl is helpful, as is the video LinkSprite DIY CNC 3 Axis Engraver Machine installation tutorial. I should mention that these kits come from different sellers, and they all seem just a slight bit different. Minor things here and there, so again, if you can figure things out on your own, it’s not that bad.

There’s some videos from Jingfeng Liu that might be useful, including LinkSprite CNC Kit base Video 1, How to assemble LinkSprite CNC kit front video 1, and How to assemble LinkSprite CNC kit front video 2. Again, use them as loose guides.

Little CNC Mill

The worst problem I had during the mechanical build was dealing with the rod holders. Now, I’ve used rod holders before to hold smooth rods, and didn’t have issues, but these caused me some heartache. The one on the front right was the first I dealt with. I tried to tighten it up on the rod, and I could not get it tight enough to hold the rod. After I sent an hex key flying across the room, I tried one more time to tighten it up enough by putting a Torx bit in a drill (I know, bad idea.) This just stripped out the screw, and now it’s in there, and not coming out. (Oh, before I over-tightened/stripped it, I tried to put a little tape on the rod. Kapton tape seemed thin enough, but was still too thick.)

Little CNC Mill

I still had three rod holders to deal with, so I took a different approach. I put one in the vise and cranked on it to pre-bend the metal just enough to hold the rod tight, but not too tight. Well, I managed to do that with one of the rod holders. The next one I cranked too much, and then had to pry open a bit with a slotted screwdriver. (You can see in the photo above a little bit of the damage from that. In the end I got them all working good enough, except for the first one, but since the back rod holder is good, I may not have to worry about the front one being tight enough. (It doesn’t wobble, but I was able to rotate the rod when it was just in the front holder.)

CNC Machine

There’s a 3D printed part on the front for the lead screw to set in, with a bearing. I have not mounted this yet, as I’m not sure it’s a good idea. Some builds use this, or a metal plate, and some let the lead screw hang free in the air. (The x axis has a similar holder.) As this is not a super-precise machine, constraining the lead screws might not be the best thing…

Little CNC Mill

The shaft coupling is one rigid piece, which means that if not perfectly aligned, constraining it on the other end could cause binding while trying to turn. I’ve used flexible couplings before and they might be a better option. Again, I’ll probably get the machine up and running first to check the performance before I think about upgrades. (I talked to Alex and he suggested that flex couplings might not work as well as I think they would. I’ll do more research on it.)

Little CNC Mill

The mechanical build took an evening, not a late-night evening, but a full evening. I expect the electrical portion to take maybe a few hours at most, including getting it up and running. Hopefully I’ll find some time this week to get that going, and report back.

See Also: Little CNC Milling Machine (Part II)

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