A Winner Is Me!

I’m a slave to memes, get over it.

So, out of the blue, I got a package this morning… I wasn’t expecting a package at all, let alone one from Digi-Key, because while they may be one of my two go-to domestic suppliers for electronic components (The other being Mouser), I hadn’t even ordered anything from them!

When I opened the package I got quite the surprise.  I was greeted by a brand new extra-shiny Fluke 117 ‘Electrician’s True RMS Multimeter’, and the appropriate soft carrying case… (Total retail value: about $225, not including the Digi-Key logo stickers. ;P)  Needless to say I was ecstatic, my best multimeter is some Chinese bootleg that– while it has served me well enough –I can’t vouch for the accuracy of like I can a Fluke.

Yessss! A real multimeter!

Yessss! A real multimeter!

Okay, I had however taken part in a contest via their Twitter account, as I have many times in the past.  The contest was a series of ‘word jumble’ puzzles, one every day, all week.  Each jumbled word had circled letters that made up the answer to an initial question… And the whole thing was rather fun, though I really wonder where they got the puzzles…it’s like there’s a book of ‘Electrical Engineer Dad Jokes’ out there.  Example: “Q: Why was the capacitor angry at the marketing department? A: It’s not a farad.”

In case you aren’t enough of an enormous NERD to have gotten that– count your lucky stars –the joke is: farad (unit of capacitance) -> homophone of ‘fair ad’ -> etc. (cue sad-trombone.wav)

Yes, they were all terrible puns and wordplay like that.  Seriously, is there a book of those? I want it in case I ever need to torture somebody to death without leaving any evidence.

Amusing aside: Out of curiosity I tracked the package, and it was shipped the afternoon of the second day of the contest…which pretty much means I had to have been the first day’s daily winner. :D  There was an overall grand prize as well, a stunningly-expensive Fluke ‘ScopeMeter’…a portable full-color digital oscilloscope.  No idea who won that, though. (Obviously not me. And frankly, if I had I would’ve sold it on eBay, bought a cheap bench scope, and used the difference to help fund my business.)

Week 05, 2016 – How Soon is Now?

Okay, I got off to a slow start this year.  But things are looking very promising.

First things first, on a sad note one of my internet comrades, Tim Lazicki, had his house burn down on Christmas.  Some of us banded together to make a new PC for him… It seemed like the appropriate thing to do, after all if it weren’t for computers and internet access, none of us would know him…and his absence due to no longer having one had not gone unnoticed.  (I’ll write a separate in-depth post about this later.) Anyway, working on a new computer for Tim inspired a few other projects which I will be posting about…

The new year also marked my acquisition of a video camera.  The quality isn’t the best without super-duper lighting, which I don’t yet possess, but it’s a hella nice little camera… A Canon VIXIA HF-R62.  I got it very cheap right before Canon debuted the R72…which seems like a thinly-veiled excuse to go back to getting full price on a camera… Since as far as I can tell it is all but identical to the R62 in every way.

I plan to start shooting YouTube videos regularly… Things would go a lot easier if I got some contributions to that end, and I will be making a Patreon and a couple different Amazon Wish Lists once I start posting videos.

I’m going to replace my previous ‘brain dump’ post type with “What’s On The ‘Bench?” videos, where I do a 1-2 minute (each) pitch about any ideas I have or things I’m working on.  This way I can try and both gauge and garner interest in nascent ideas in a more natural and conversational way than simply writing a post about them.

I got so sidetracked with stuff after removing the stock bed of the laser cutter that I never got around to draining the water or doing anything about the coolant loop, and now I think there’s algae growing in it… FML  Oh well, these things happen.  I ordered some Copper Sulfate Pentahydrate to add to the coolant loop, that oughta take care of the stuff.  (Good thing I hadn’t finished the coolant system and added all the water yet.)

Things are getting started, I would expect videos to start showing up any time now.

Subscription-Based Licensing; You’re Doing it WRONG, Autodesk!

Well, here it is, exactly one week before my birthday, and looking at Autodesk’s site this morning, I stumbled across a wonderful little present they’ve decided to give me; as of the 31st, they will no longer offer the perpetual licenses that I have been hoping to one day be able to afford, opting instead for an equally unaffordable subscription plan. Fuck me, right?!

As far as I can tell, they won’t even be offering suites anymore. (See update at bottom!)  You used to be able to get a whole suite of apps, such as 3D Studio Max, Inventor, AutoCAD and a ton of others, together for, what? Nine grand, one time? Now, you’ve got to pay like $1,900 a year just for Inventor.  Which is fine for all their big corporate customers who make all their software purchases without a second thought anyway, but any individual who isn’t a student is basically fucked.  Leaving people like me with no choice but to continue ‘stealing’ their software.

Yeah, I know, “What could some unwashed underachieving poor like you possibly know about such things?” Well, for starters, I can do the maths*, so that makes exactly one of us, Autodesk.  I also know that when Adobe launched Creative Cloud in May 2012, and went Subscription-only a year later, they didn’t try to put the screws to their customers and make it too expensive for individuals and micro-businesses.  An individual can get the whole fucking Creative Cloud suite– which actually has more apps than the old Creative Suite ever did –for $49.99 a month.  That’s affordable.  So affordable that it’s actually less trouble to go legit than to keep pirating it. Think about that.  Adobe made the Creative Cloud so inexpensive that it’s literally not worth the hassle to steal it.

And you tell me, even with such low prices…how’s Adobe doing?


Spoiler Alert: Their stock price has almost TRIPLED since they began offering Creative Cloud,
a subscription plan so cheap that even poor-ass people like me can afford it.


And because some people just have to be taught visually…
additional art courtesy of Google Finance:


(Click to embiggen.)



* Oh, right, ‘the maths’… I almost forgot.  How many people out there do you suppose pirate your software, Autodesk? What if you made the subscription price more reasonable and even just ten percent of those people started paying for it?  Well, you know what they’re paying you now? In the immortal words of the hero of Canton:

“Ten percent of nothin’ is, let me do the math here…
nothin’ and a nothin’, carry the nothin’…”



UPDATE: Okay, so it turns out you can get a Suite subscription, the site was just harder to navigate than it should have been and there’s some UI/UX people who need to be shot out of cannons.  Not that it really matters, I mean, sure a whole suite is maybe $2,000 to $3,200 a year, instead of $1,900+ a year for one friggin’ app…but $160-260/month still isn’t affordable for the kinds of users I’m talking about. Plus, there should be an a la carte suite option so people aren’t saddled with a lot of apps they’re not going to use just because they want more than one app at all.

Week 50, 2015 – Quick Update… Quick like a Laser!

A blog post, on time?! Is it an illusion, or am I one miracle closer to sainthood?! (Is there an evil equivalent of a saint?)

I still haven’t posted the November Acquisitions– which ought to be a hell of a post considering I spent $2,500+! –nor the December Acquisitions… (Blame Fallout 4; 130 hours in and I haven’t touched the main storyline. great game!) So just bear with me for a moment!

Yesterday I finally got the stupid exhaust duct out of the laser cutter, having long since removed the original bed.  This required that I completely remove the XY table assembly.  I wasn’t too keen on doing this, but it turned out that it couldn’t really go back any way but how it was because of the tight tolerances. One interesting thing of note; the holes in the enclosure’s mounting flanges were properly made as part of its construction…but the ones in the XY assembly were very roughly drilled in the steel U-beams with no cleanup, I really don’t get it.  It’s like the whole XY assembly was handmade and put into an off-the-shelf machine enclosure. The cut-out in the rear beam for the exhaust was rough-hewn with some manner of saw, too. (And not even deburred!) In a perfect world, I would have taken the XY assembly completely out of the machine and cleaned those up, deburred the edges, and so on…but life’s imperfect.

Anyway, now I have to align the mirrors… I needed to do it anyway because I hadn’t after receiving the unit, but now that I’ve taken the whole bloody carriage out and put it back in, I definitely have to do it.  There are some helpful 3D-printable tools for this, which I will link to down below.

After that’s taken care of, I can find the focal point of my laser and that will help me determine how to mount my new honeycomb bed.  I ripped out the shitty old bed which was utterly useless, and now with it and the exhaust duct gone, I can cut/engrave basically the entire space within the XY table area… That’s like 12×14 inches, certainly a fair sight better than the 9×12 the machine is supposed to do*, and it sure makes the 12×12 sheets of birch plywood I picked up more useful.  (*And the work-holding clamp in the stock bed had a capacity of like 2.5×6 inches or something absurd like that, and you only got the 9×12 if you laid something on TOP of that.)

Though, after everything is back to normal, I’m going to want to install my new air-assist head and high-quality 18mm Zinc-Selenium lens… The air assist will aid in cutting by blowing smoke out of the way of the beam, as well as helping to keep stuff from getting deposited on the lens and mirrors. (And blowing out small flare-ups.) The lens is purported to give a 15-20% increase in power over the regular lenses they were selling, and I’m sure those are already a little better than the stock lens.

Doing that will of course require me to readjust the bed height to account for the new lens height and focal length…but such is life.  I don’t want to do all my upgrades at once and then try to figure out why everything’s gone to hell.


Here’s some helpful links for laser cutter users.

Week 46, 2015 – Radiation and the Stimulated Emission Thereof

A new post? After Fallout 4 was released?! And it’s actually ON TIME?!?!?!  Yeah, I amaze even myself sometimes.

Five days ago, Fallout 4 dropped.  So I’ve kinda been doing nothing but playing that since then…  But that doesn’t mean nothing of note has been going on, because yesterday… This happened.

Excuse the certain earthy potato-like flavor of these pics, I used a Samsung Galaxy S3 to snap them, because I’m sick of not getting these sorts of liveblagging images when I can’t be bothered to set up a bunch of lights and a tripod.  I need a point-and-shoot that can do RAW. :<

A FREAKIN’ LASER! From China, with cheapness.


In its new (at least temporary) home between the 3D printer and the NEO-GEO cabinet.


The inside. I’m going to need a power bed upgrade and an air assist… And I’d like to get rid of that stupid exhaust duct.


A 40 Watt, water-cooled, CO2 laser tube.


The second test, after using the laser to engrave the word ‘TEST’… I wonder what it is?


It seems Vault Boy approves of my use of ‘Science!’ Guess I can go back to Fallout 4 now.

I’ll do a more in-depth look at the laser soon, as well as the November acquisitions post.

Frequency of Updates and Placeholders.

This post is a sticky, it will remain at the top of the page for the time being, new posts will continue to appear below it, so keep an eye out.

You’ve no doubt noticed that I have a hard time keeping on the update-a-week minimum, but I do try and go back and fill them in as best I can to cover what’s been going on, and I’ll continue to do that.  Just fair warning; Fallout 4 is about to come out, so I may never be heard from again, until there’s a way to send blog posts from within the game.

Also, a note on the media placeholders: Those are to remind me of images I still need to rescue from my doomed storage array or that are still working their way through my processing queue, part of my massive backlog.  I had something like 6+ months of posts that were piling up in draft form simply because I didn’t have the pictures for them, so I made this placeholder and started publishing instead of piling.  It’s not ideal, but life’s imperfect.

Week 41, 2015 – October Acquisitions

Okay, this month I’m putting the cool stuff up front!

3D Printing

Push Plastic (3D Printer Filament)

This month Push Plastic had some clearance items, including their 5-packs of randomly-chosen 0.2kg PLA samples.  I figured it was a good way to check out all their colors, and boy was I right! They had some colors of filament for $21 a spool, and I could get 1kg in 5-color random bundles for $18… Normal price on a spool from Push is $29.

Lavender PLA Filament, 1kg Spool — ($21 – Push Plastic)

This is a nice soft purple, unlike the garishly bright or pointlessly too-dark purples many other brands offer.  It makes me think of purple-colored pencil erasers and bubblegum.

Redwood Brown PLA Filament, 1kg Spool — ($21 – Push Plastic)

A very nice red-brown. It’ll be a good color to have when I one day figure out how to do detailed multi-color printing and actually ‘print’ wood grain into parts using the Diamond Hotend.

PLA Color Packs RANDOM COLORS, 5x 200g Coils — ($18 x2 – Push Plastic)

Well, first of all… They accidentally only sent me one.  But when I noticed, I told them and they apologized and shipped the second one out immediately. So now I know how good their customer service is.  Anyway, I got: Black, Red, Orange, Purple, and Translucent Green in the first pack.  And White, Metallic Gold, Dark Grey, Pink, Teal, and Translucent Blue in the second pack.  I can’t wait to print swatches of all of them!

PrintedSolid (3D Printer Filament)

This seemed like a cool place, and they import colorFabb filament from Holland, as well providing small samples of ProtoPasta filament.  They even threw a tiny– almost novelty-small –bag of Haribo gummy bears.  I didn’t open them, it’s such a cute little bag.  Seriously, it’s like the size of a large sugar packet.  Only complaint I have about them, is that they don’t display prominently the fact that the colorFabb PLA/PHA is 3/4 kilo spools… So they’re really even more expensive per-kg. :(

Shining Silver colorFabb PLA/PHA Filament, 750g Spool — ($38.99 – PrintedSolid)

A fantastic metallic filament.  Unlike the other silver filaments I have, this seems to have a lighter base filament, where the others had like a translucent black or grey, which made them darken when polished.  And PLA/PHA is proving to be very nice; if you’re not familiar with PHA, to quote Wikipedia:

Polyhydroxyalkanoates or PHAs are linear polyesters produced in nature by bacterial fermentation of sugar or lipids. They are produced by the bacteria to store carbon and energy. More than 150 different monomers can be combined within this family to give materials with extremely different properties. These plastics are biodegradeable and are used in the production of bioplastics.

PLA/PHA is more UV stable, has higher impact strength (one of the big advantages ABS has over PLA) and is somewhat less susceptible to moisture.

Pale Gold colorFabb PLA/PHA Filament, 750g Spool — ($38.99 – PrintedSolid)

Rather like the above, this is lighter-colored than other gold filaments.  Very nice.

ProtoPasta Conductive PLA Filament, 125g Coil — ($17.00 – PrintedSolid)

Haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but it’s really the ‘original’ conductive filament, it’s like the standard everyone uses for comparison.


Ever since I saw a video demonstrating it, I’ve been wanting to get some Polyetherimide (More commonly referred to as PEI) to slap on a second borosilicate glass print bed.

Borosilicate Glass Sheet – 0.25″ Thick, 9″ wide, 6″ long — ($19.02 – McMaster-Carr)

The first borosilicate bed I got, I paid like $35 for on eBay.  Normally I check McMaster for my raw materials first, but for something like glass, I just assumed that either they wouldn’t have it, they wouldn’t have it in the exact size I needed it, or it’d be prohibitively expensive to get it cut to size.  But someone on /r/3DPrinting set me straight, and sure enough when I looked there it was.  Hell, they even have decent prices on borosilicate glass discs, perfect for delta printer heatbeds.

It came wrapped in a 6-inch diameter ball of self-adhesive bubblewrap (I didn’t even know that was a thing, but the flat side was tacky and allowed it to wrap securely to itself without tape.) as well as a bit of foam…nonetheless, there was a tiny chip out of the edge… Figures.

Polyetherimide Sheet – 0.03″ Thick, 12″ x 12″– ($16.20 – Amazon)

A sheet of PEI, it had a nasty saw-cut edge with these jagged burrs that almost took a bite out of my hand… But eh.  It’s got protective film on both sides.

TapeCase 468MP Adhesive Transfer Tape (3M), 12″ x 12″ sheet, 6-pack — ($17.80 – Amazon)

Can’t say much about this except I didn’t like the price when all I really needed was half of ONE sheet…  Well, technically I could use one whole sheet, if I use the remainder of the PEI to do another bed…but I digress.


Yes, this month I actually ordered something other than 3D printing stuff! Can you believe it?  But in the interest of getting this published only a month late— as I sit here writing this, on a cold November morning, two days and change before Fallout 4 drops on my life like so many nuclear bombs –I’m going to finish this part later!

(And that was the last time anyone ever heard from him.)

A Regular Pint-Sized Atom Bomb

falloutanthologySo, Fallout 4 comes out in just over a month.  To kill time while I wait, I’ve decided to start making Fallout props.  Starting with this Fallout 4 version of the 10mm Pistol, by lilykill on Thingiverse. Pictured here with my awesome Fallout Anthology box and its Mini-Nuke.

After I re-print the side pieces so their orientation match (They very obviously don’t match.) I’m going to print the other weapon mods, and then at minimum give the whole thing a nice sanding. Though…I might just skip finishing this one (I probably should finish it though.) because I want to re-model the gun from the ground up in Inventor, with ‘function’ in mind. I want to be able to rack the slide, and remove the magazine and stuff.

The post title is of course a reference to the song ‘Atom Bomb Baby‘ by The Five Stars, a real song from the 1950s that you can hear on the radio in Fallout 4.  (And which they used in what is now one of my favorite game trailers of all time. Where you can also see the Mini-Nuke and the 10mm Pistol in action…in fact, the modeler of the pistol used that video and the crafting demo video for reference.)

Week 40, 2015 – Ideate, Iterate, Create!

Sorry, again with the ‘pictures on the way’, I have to clear off the workbench so I can take pictures of a bunch of stuff…so no pictures in this post yet.

Yes, I know the first weekly of the month is usually the acquisitions update…but most of my purchases won’t arrive until next week, so…
┐( シ)┌

I’ve been busy with a couple projects this weekend, related to some of the stuff I bought– the few bits that are here already, namely some audio rigging for my podcasting/video setup –and I figure this is a good time to cover this bit of process.

As someone who has spent the majority of his adult life ‘almost making things’– always failing for one reason or another –it is not lost on me just how absolutely mind-blowing it is that I now have a literal god damned magic box that just substantiates my ideas from thin air.  (Or more accurately, from the 1s and 0s of the designs on my computer, and spools of plastic filament.)

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah. So, I got this cheap little microphone boom, and I got a new mic cable.  First things first, I needed a way to attach the cable cleanly to the boom and manage it.  Calls for some little cable clips, methinks.


btw, I thought ‘ideate’ was a ridiculous portmanteau I came up with, but apparently it’s an actual for-reals word that only sounds ridiculous and made-up. Go figure.

I figured I’d better keep it simple; no point getting flummoxed at this stage of the process by trying to outsmart myself design-wise… So just a simple double-clip. A square clip to attach to the boom’s square tube frame, and a circular clip for the cable.  Out came one of my trusty digital calipers, and soon I had the measurements; the frame tubing was nominally .410″ square, and the XLR mic cable was a little under .250″ in diameter.  So those are the numbers I worked with.

Three minutes later, I had the simple design ready to print.  Dropped it into Simplify3D, warmed up the printer, and 5 minutes later, I had the part.  Fit like a charm! It was slightly loose though, and that brings us to…


One of the wonders of 3D printing is pretty easily summed up in the name of the process/industry it has given rise to; Rapid Prototyping.  Not only does it allow you to near-instantaneously go from idea to reality, but to quickly and inexpensively go through countless design iterations, working out flaws, testing refinements, and so on.  I mean, it costs me $0.11 worth of plastic to print eight of these clips, so printing one, trying it, tweaking some things, and printing another hardly costs me anything, except time…and at 5 minutes a pop, that’s not a huge concern when I can be working on plenty of other things (Or relaxing!) while the printer does its work.  So, anyway… The clip was a little loose on the frame, so I made the dimensions a little smaller.  That still didn’t seem to do it, so I tried again, but now it was too small, and still loose…there was something missing. So I took the first one, and squeeze the legs together– bending them a little –and when I stuck it on, it stayed put. Aha!

So this time, I set the dimension back to what it was, but I designed a 5° inward bend on the legs. (I had also, in an earlier iteration, merged the outlines of the circle and square completely, to make the cable lie flatter on the boom…the original design only had them overlap 50%.)


Knowing this design was as perfect as it was going to get, I printed eight of them.  About 30 minutes and 1.8 meters of filament later, I had them, and they were great!  They still don’t stay put on the frame perfectly– not like on the cable, but the cable has a really ‘grabby’ rubber surface –but they’re no longer loose enough to slide around under their own weight.  Maybe I should try dual-extrusion printing them with a NinjaFlex inner wall to grip the metal tubing.  (I still haven’t received my Teflon tubing yet, so I haven’t reassembled the left extruder…)

Week 37, 2015 – Everything’s (not) Ruined Forever!

So… That went well.

I ended up with a hard plug of PLA in the teflon tube of my printer’s hotend, and trying to clear it I mangled the teflon tube.  Of course, to get even that far, I had to completely disassemble the hotend.  And since I was doing that, I figured it was a good time to replace the thermocouple on the left extruder. And since I was doing that, I figured I’d do some upgrades I’d been planning on. And since I was doing that, I figured… Yeah, the slope just kept getting slipperier and slipperier.

Things didn’t go terribly as you can can see in the few pictures I took…  Nonetheless, things were not working correctly.

Dual-extruder assembly removed from printer.

Dual-extruder assembly removed from printer.


Old thermocouple unplugged from MightyBoard.

Old thermocouple unplugged from MightyBoard.

So, I got it back together, with some modifications…  I like the replacement top plate… The 3D-printed strain relief for the cable bundle and the pneumatic press-fittings for the PTFE bowden tubing are fantastic additions.  However, the spring I used in the new 3D-printed extruder was not up to the task and was simply not capable of extruding anything…

Partially re-assembled extruder.

Partially re-assembled extruder.

I ended up disassembling and reassembling the whole thing two or three more times before I got it back up and running.  Still, I’m not happy with the hotend barrels I got off Amazon, they have PTFE linings with a 2mm ID and 4mm OD, and are threaded full-length.  The original barrels only had threads at the end, the rest was smooth, and used PTFE tubing with a 2mm ID but a 3mm OD, and the temperatures and behavior of the new parts were very different.  Also, the original nozzles butted up against the barrel, but the PTFE tube extended down into the nozzle…  The new barrels’ linings don’t stick out…but I do have additional nozzles designed to interface like that…so I put those on there.  Nonetheless, I’m going to try and get some 3mm OD tubing.

UPDATE 2015-09-16: Teflon Tubing Trials and Tribulations.
I couldn’t actually get PTFE tubing via Amazon Prime, so I had to order it from China– meaning it will be here whenever it bloody-well feels like it –and instead I ordered some PFA tubing that was rated for the same temps as PTFE.  Anyway, that’s a god damned lie, because when I went to print PETG, the god damned PFA tube liquified.  Not ‘melted’, not ‘distorted’ or ‘deformed’…it straight-up fucking liquified, leaving a quarter-inch blockage of rock-hard PFA in the end of the barrel.  Managed to get printer back up and running by using one of the new nozzles, and the old barrel, and cutting the original PTFE liner so that it’d fit. (And thus removing the part that’d been all crinkled up.)

Melted PFA tubing.

Melted PFA tubing.

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