posts tagged with the keyword ‘makerspace’

2012.11.11

Laser-etched name badges

I made these laser-etched badges at Milwaukee Makerspace recently, and if you’ve see our logo before, you may have noticed it has some thin lines in it. Thin lines are great, except when they aren’t, and when etching with the laser, they might not be.

the photo above shows my three attempts, with the first being on the bottom, and the third being on the top. You can see the difference by comparing the helmet in each badge.

Logos

The image above shows our standard helmet logo on the left, and you can see the line widths, which work fine for graphics we use online, or printed materials like flyers and stickers, but for laser etching, the lines are just too thin. The middle logo shows how I tried to fatten up the lines to allow the etching around them to leave a bit more material (in this case 3mm Baltic Birch plywood.) Match the middle logo up with the middle badge in the photo above… it’s better, but still not great.

The logo on the right side shows the lines around the eyes and nose thickened up even more, and this is what worked the best, as seen in the final (top) badge in the top photo. (And yes, these were done using the 60 watt Laser Cutter at Milwaukee Makerspace.)

Example #1

Here’s a poor macro shot of the second attempt, where you can see that not enough material was left for the eyes and nose, even after the first attempt at fattening up the lines. (I didn’t bother to photograph the first attempt, as I sized up the logo on this, the second attempt, and then maintained the new larger size on the third attempt as well.)

Example #2

Here’s a poor macro shot of the third attempt, the one with the fattest lines. This one worked out quite well, especially for the eyes and nose. The detail in the solder iron were completely lost, which is fine, as it’s extremely fine detail, and we’re etching it at a small size.

I’m pretty happy with the final result, and I’ll keep in mind that thin lines may need to be fattened up in the future. (There’s always the issue of altering someone’s logo or artwork, but in cases like this it’s necessary if you want good results.) I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rules on this, as things will vary depending on size of artwork, material being etch, and other variables, but it’s a nice reminder that tweaking is needed for this type of thing to work well.

2012.09.26

Laser Kaleidoscope

We managed to get Milwaukee Makerspace invited to another gallery night, and this time we’re taking part in Bay View Gallery Night at Alterra, so I figured I needed a new project. And hey, what’s better than a deadline to get a project done? (It’s like college all over again… in a good way!)

Interociter

When I was at Maker Faire Detroit back in July I saw this laser spinner thingy called “The Interociter” and decided I had to have one. And by “have one” I mean “make one”… so I did.

(There’s some debate over whether it should be called a “Laser Kaleidoscope” or “Laser Spirograph” or “Laser Spinner Thingy” and while I do like “Laser Spinner Thingy” I also get sick of people thinking all my projects are Spirograph-inspired, so I went with Laser Kaleidoscope. Deal with it.)

Laser Kaleidoscope

Laser Kaleidoscope

So where were we? Oh yes, the project! It’s really simple: a laser is pointed at a mirror, and that reflects the laser onto another mirror, and that one reflects it onto another mirror, and then it shows up on the wall. You can make the motors spin by turning them on with a pushbutton, and then adjust the speed by turning the knobs. There are 3 motors (an earlier prototype had 4) and by setting them all to different speeds, you can get some crazy patterns going.

So how does it work? The laser hits the first spinning mirror, and creates what appears to be a circle. It’s really a single dot, but it’s spinning around so fast it looks like a circle. Add a second (and third) mirror, and since they all wobble just a little bit, you get much more than a simple circle.

Here’s a shopping list:

I say “shopping list” because those are the parts I (mostly) bought… Of these parts I’ll note that with the laser I leaned towards the “safe” side, but it can be difficult to see in well-lit rooms, so I may upgrade to this one at some point. The round craft mirrors came in a variety pack with different sizes. I may experiment with larger mirrors in the future.

Laser Kaleidoscope

Laser Kaleidoscope

There are a bunch more parts involved, one being the piece of wood everything is attached to, and the other parts were all designed and 3D printed by me. (OK, I had a little help with the knobs.)

The printed parts are:

  • (1) Laser mount
  • (3) Motor mounts
  • (3) Mirror mounts
  • (3) Knobs

(I also considered printing some small U-shaped things to hold the wires in place, but haven’t bothered with that yet.)

And yeah, this is why I have a 3D printer. The ability to digitally design something, rapidly create it, tweak it a bit and print a new one… that’s what I love.

My original plan was to make up a nice laser-cut case for this (I thought that would be appropriate) but with the lasers down for repair, I didn’t get that done in time. That’s actually fine, as I’ll probably end up redesigning things a bit before I’m totally done with it. So far though, I’m happy with the progress.

The video was quick & dirty, and really doesn’t do it justice, which is why you’ll need to come see it in person I guess. I figured I couldn’t write this post without including some sort of proof that it actually works. :)

Lasers! They’re awesome!

2012.09.04

Poundin' Sand

In my last post about my Nerdy Derby car, all you saw was a bunch of laser cut wood pieces… well, here’s the final car.

Poundin' Sand

It’s almost dimensionally the same as a standard Pinewood Derby car. The body is constructed out of panels that were laser cut rather than a block of wood. Because it’s hollow inside, I filled it with sand. Why not lead? Well, someone else is already doing a car out of lead. I also though about marbles or something else that would roll around inside. I also thought about making one with acrylic and filling it with water.

Poundin' Sand - Wheel

The bottom has two pieces of wood attached so I’d have something to pound the nail into to attach the wheels. I glued the two piece together and then drilled a hole between them. (The wood is just 3mm thick, so layering made sense.)

Poundin' Sand

I spaced the wheels the same for the front and back, so there really is no front or back… it’s the same either way. You’ll also notice I did a terrible job of placing the lettering. I just added it to the side panels without thinking about how the wheels would get in the way.

Poundin' Sand - Wheel

The wheels are also 3mm wood, and I’ve sandwiched three of them together to make each wheel 9mm wide. I was going to glue the layers together but I figured I’d just put them on and allow them to spin independently (if possible.)

If this car wins nothing besides the “laser cut wood filled with sand” category, I’m fine with that. I learned quite a bit in the process of building this, and if I build another car, I have some experience to build on. (I also managed to cut a big pile of wheels and have nails to fit them, so we can have supplies for people to make cars on the spot.)

Update: Files are now on Thingiverse.

2012.08.29

Poundin' Sand

If you saw my last post about the Nerdy Derby we are planning, you probably figured at some point you’d see a car. Well, here’s my progress so far.

I cut the pieces from 3mm Baltic Birch plywood using the 60 watt laser cutter at Milwaukee Makerspace. Even the wheels are laser cut. I have no idea how well it will work, but I’m all for experimentation.

I’ve heard at least one person claim they will be building a car body completely out of lead, but I figured I already have plenty of sand around my house, so I plan to fill my car with sand, hence the name “Poundin’ Sand” (some of the runners-up included “Carl Sandburg”, “Sandoval”, “Sandy Bottom”, and “Adam Sandler”, but since “pound sand” sometimes means to engage in a futile activity, I thought it was fitting.

Besides, I’ve already awarded all the style points to Frankie for his belly tanker even though he’s not done yet, come on, just look at it!

Besides the glue to hold it together, the nails to hold the wheels on, and the sand, the rest of my car is 100% laser cut wood. I’m also planning another car that is (nearly) 100% 3D printed plastic. I’ve got some work to do on that yet, though the wheels should be done this week.

(Update: See the completed car.)

2012.07.25

Laser-cut wood

I was at Milwaukee Makerspace, using the laser cutter (that I adore so much) and another maker asked me some questions, and then offered their thoughts. This was nothing new, and it’s a welcomed thing. Often you’ll get suggestions or ideas for future projects (or the one you’re currently working on.)

The maker was looking at what I was doing (making a laser-cut spool) and said he would probably use a band saw to cut the wood, and find a large dowel to put in the middle. That’s definitely one way to do it.

He guessed about how much time I spent on my method, and if you count the file-diddling his estimate was probably low, and I’m fine with that.

Testing...

But hey, it’s all about perspective, right? I’m comfortable with software, and I like learning and designing things, so I don’t mind picking up new skills in solid-modeling and file conversions. These are skills I’d like to improve, as I plan to use them again and again. If I was just picking up a piece of wood and going at it with a saw… that’s not very enjoyable to me. I’m also not very good at it.

Spool

So instead of just finding a piece of wood and making it work with a saw, I prefer the process I took. I found something close enough to what I wanted, modified it to be exactly what I wanted (and along the way got help from another maker (Gary) and learned more about OpenSCAD) and after some tweaks I should have a repeatable process that will allow me to make as many spools as I want with relative ease. Since I’ll be sharing my files, it also means that others can make the exact same thing. To me this is powerful stuff, and while dumb power tools have their place, the smart tools (design software + CNC machines) offer so much more.

I’m also contributing to a community of makers who share their work, make derivatives, suggestions, and mashups of their work, and allow anyone else to do the same. I’m into that stuff, so yeah, that’s my perspective.

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