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Turntable Arm

Arm

You can’t have a turntable without an arm! Well, I guess you could, but where would you put the pen? Here’s some of the design files for the arm. The hole pattern on the larger part was made to match a servo hub from SparkFun, which is also from ServoCity, which provided a STEP file. (Ignore the heart-shaped thing for now. It’s experimental!)

Servo Hub Rhino

Luckily I was able to open the STEP file in both Rhino and in FreeCAD! It’s like I won the CAD file lottery or something. But seriously, if there’s ever a competition to convert from one format to another and then another and another… I think I can win.

Servo Hub FreeCAD

I was able to get what I needed to get the hole spacing right, which is all I really needed this time. The holes are tapped for 6-32 screws. Once again I’m mixing Imperial and Metric. Sigh… Mission (somewhat) accomplished, I guess.

Arms

The arm consists of three layers of laser-cut pieces stacked up, and screws to hold them together. I played around with materials a little bit, trying wood in the center, but finally choosing the red acrylic. I thought about clear, but there is at least one other red element right now, and possibly more to come, so I chose the black and red combo. Always a good choice!

Arm Hinge

There’s also a hinge I cut from a 1mm thick plastic I got from the Midland scrapyard. (Windell from EMSL thinks it might be polypropylene.) The laser cut it fine once I figured out the proper settings… and covered it with masking tape on both sides.

Pen Mount

And yes, I did borrow a few ideas from the Egg-Bot design. Sharpies, FTW! Pen holder designers unite, and all that. There’s a 8-32 square nut in there, really snug. I do not have a nice thumbscrew like EMSL uses… yet!

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It’s a QWERTY Keyboard

QWERTY Keyboard Rendering

I’ve always been fascinated by typewriters. I find them to be curious machines, and their history is no less interesting. (Go on, take a look!) Of course I’m also fascinated by digital technology, and how it empowers people to creating things. Above is a rendering of a QWERTY keyboard, and below is an actual QWERTY keyboard I created using digital fabrication and a tiny computer called a microcontroller functioning as the “brain”.

QWERTY Keyboard

The keyboard is fully-functional. Plug it into the USB port of your laptop or desktop computer and you can start typing. Of course you can only type the letters Q, W, E, R, T and Y… but it does work. Like all of the things we use, it has limitations. Like all of our technology, it doesn’t do quite all of what we’d like it to do.

QWERTY Keyboard

The QWERTY Keyboard is made from wood. (Just like the early prototype of the Sholes, Glidden & Soule typewriter seen below.) My father was good at working with wood, and his father before him was probably even better at it. I am not that good at working with wood, but I am good at creating things digitally. There is perhaps an inverse skill scale at work here. Are we losing the ability to craft real-world objects in exchange for creating digital objects? Maybe digital fabrication is the answer, bridging the gap between the two.

Sholes, Glidden & Soule typewriter

The Sholes, Glidden & Soule typewriter is a weird looking device, as is my QWERTY keyboard. I think there’s a place in the world for both of them, and perhaps a place where the two can meet.

QWERTY Keyboard

For more information on this piece, visit the QWERTY Keyboard project page. There are more thoughts and more photos, and as always, I welcome your comments.

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More Rotary Encoding

When last we discussed rotary encoding, it was all experimental. Since the project (which will eventually be revealed) is complete, I figured I should share a bit more about the exploration and final solution.

Encoding Disk

I moved from printed paper disks to laser-cut disks. I cut some 3mm Baltic Birch plywood at Milwaukee Makerspace. They worked well, but since I was hoping to get more steps/resolution I continued with the paper prototypes as well.

Encoding Disk

The one in the photo above was a bit too fine… too many steps. The more steps the more precise the alignment has to be, and the more chance of errors.

Gap

We had some concerns about a disk spinning between a U-shaped sensor with just a few millimeters on each side, so rather than just go with the GP1A57HRJ00F Photo Interrupter, I started experimenting with the QRD1114 Optical Detector / Phototransistor as an alternative.

Sensors

The idea would be to use a wider disk and instead of it spinning between two pieces, it would have the encoding stripe on the edge, and the sensors would be on the outside of the disk. Back to the breadboard! The QRD1114s require a pair of resistors to work properly, so I wired it up and did a few tests and things seemed to work.

Encoding Strips

My first tests just involved sliding a piece of striped paper across the sensors, but I needed a real disk. I used the laser cutter at Brown Dog Gadgets to cut some disks from 1″ pink foam, and also from 1/4″ foamcore board. The pink foam actually ended up with concave sides due to the melting power of the laser, so I used the foamcore board pieces stacked up.

Stripes

Math time! How long of a strip do we need to wrap around the disk? Well, you can determine the circumference of a circle if you know the radius or diameter. Hooray for math! Above is a letter size file that I could print on a laser printer to produce the stripes I needed. The thin line on the right side was used for alignment since I had to use multiple stripes to wrap around the disk.

Encoder

Here’s a sneak peek of what the final disk looks like. There’s a few more steps before we got this far though, so I’ll continue the story next time.

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Infrared Proximity Sensor (Mount)

GP2Y0A41SK0F

The Sharp GP2Y0A41SK0F is an infrared proximity sensor. You can grab them from SparkFun, Pololu, or many other vendors. (There’s a bunch of different models, but I’m using the GP2Y0A21YK right now. The GP2Y0A21YK appears to be roughly the same physical size.)

If you’re using it with an Arduino, Jeroen Doggen has a nice library called Arduino-distance-sensor-library (which should be easily extendable). It’s just a few lines of code to read distance in Centimeters, so it can be used for robotics or physical computing projects quite easily.

Distance Sensor Mount

Since I’m using this sensor, I needed a way to mount it. As usual, I look around for a datasheet. Datasheets will often contain the technical drawings of a part. If you’re lucky, they’ll be vector based (Hello, Inventables!) but if not, you can still use them to determine the dimensions of things, or where mounting holes need to go.

Sharp GP2Y0A41SK0F Analog IR Distance Sensor

Often I’ll pull a datasheet into Inkscape, put it on the bottom layer, lower its transparency, and draw on top of it. Sometimes that works, and sometimes you just need to pull out the calipers and take a few measurements. In an ideal world, all vendors would release technical drawings of their products in vector formats. (Well, at least in my ideal world.)

Distance Sensor Mount

You may notice that some of these parts look familiar. Indeed, I grabbed part of the motor mounts from my FND upgrade.

Distance Sensor Mount

Oh, I should note than I want this sensor mounted on the inside of things. If you want it mounted on the outside, you really just need two holes for the mounts, and maybe one for the wires.

Distance Sensor Mount

If you were wondering about that part with the notch, that’s to make the sensor level while mounting it inside, and the notch is for the wire connector.

One more note on the mounting holes. They are 3.2mm in diameter, which means using a 3mm screw would make sense, but I only had Imperial hardware handy. I also only had 6-32, which is 3.5052mm in diameter, and no 5-40 which is 3.175mm in diameter. No worries, since the sensor is plastic, a quick shave with an X-ACTO knife on the inside of the holes made them fit quite easily.

At some point I’ll need to test how multiple sensors react to each other in the same physical space… That should be interesting!

Note: You can find it on Thingiverse and YouMagine.

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FND Improvements v3.75

FND v3.75

A few weeks ago I designed what I like to call “version 3.5” of my main drawbot platform. The improvements were still mainly a two dimensional design, with horizontal plates sandwiching things together. I found two main faults with this design, so I started working on improvements.

The first improvement was in the tool holder. The one with rubber bands proved to not be strong enough to hold tools in place easily. The rubber bands were a pain to work with. (They did work well enough to hold clay carving tools though, and we ran the drawbot across some slabs of clay.)

I wanted to move to a new design where a screw could be used to hold the tool. I know that the Egg-Bot uses a screw, and for the unfamiliar, it looks like this.

Egg-Bot Pen Holder

This is a great design, but for various reasons I chose not to attempt to copy it. Instead I borrowed some ideas…

FND Pen Holder

The screw I’m using is a standard 8-32 screw with a wing-nut threaded on backwards to the head, and then a hex nut is added and tightened against the wing-nut. On the other end is another square nut to push against the tool, and again there’s a hex nut tightened against it.

In the above image showing the parts for the tool holder you’ll see the first and third pieces have holes for the screw to go through, while the second plate has a square hole to hold the square nut between them. So far it’s working quite well, and holds things without any slipping or wobbling.

Most of the rest of the plate is similar to the previous version, with the exception that now there is no bottom plate, as this mounts directly to the body.

The previous version relied on four screws and eight hex nuts to hold the motors between two plates. This was less than ideal for a number of reasons. First, there was no good way to align the motors and tighten things up. Alignment isn’t a crucial element of the drawbot, but it’s nice to have. The second issue was structural, as the 3mm wood was flexing quite a bit. I didn’t even try acrylic, but it probably would have been worse.

FND Servo Mount

The new version of the motor mount is much improved! I’m sure I’ll have an issue with some of the other servos I’m using, as they aren’t all the same size, but it should be as simple as printing two new parts with the properly sized and spaced holes. Again, there’s only three parts because this mounts to… the body!

FND Body

Here’s the new body platform. It’s got all sorts of mounting slots and such. The tool holder gets assembled and then attached to the body. (The “assembly” involves a lot of wood glue at this point.) The motor mounts are glued into place on the body as well. It’s nice finally having things rigid and not held together with hot glue and rubber bands. (Well, some things.)

At this point I’ve basically got a (semi-) generic platform with no specifics on electronics or components. You can fit any number of controllers and battery packs on it. That will probably change in the future as I choose the parts I plan to use.

FND 3.75 Plate

The whole plate fits in a 280mm x 100mm area. That’s just under 12″ x 4″, which means you could fit three of them on a 12″ x 12″ sheet of Baltic Birch.

On to the next revision!