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.

Other

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.

Electronics

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.)

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.

Ideate!

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…

Iterate!

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%.)

Create!

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.

Week 36, 2015 – September Acquisitions

Well, let’s see here…  First of all I got a replacement part for my computer chair, because the bloody thing basically broke in half a week or so prior… I actually found a reinforced one on Amazon with Prime shipping, and had it overnighted for the extra four bucks!  But we’re not here to talk about that.

I got a whole lot of cool stuff, some of it very important. Details after the jump! (Pictures are coming) Read more…

Week 23, 2015 – We Are Now In Control (Part II)

In the previous post I talked about the mod I made to turn the practically useless rotary dials on the X36’s throttle into a pair of On-Off-On momentary switches.  Well, Elite: Dangerous is a very demanding game when it comes to controls…  It’s not quite up there with Steel Battalion… Nonetheless, there’s a lot of ship functions you might want to have at-hand… Landing gear, cargo scoop, exterior lights, chaff, shield cell (consumable power cells to dump power into shields), silent running… All sorts of stuff.

First I needed a controller board… I had an old USB arcade controller board sitting around, so I reused that. (Just takes a bunch of simple on/off inputs and turns it into a game controller.)  The second hurdle was designing the switches… The toggle switches I have are relatively small, and besides being hard to hit in the heat of the moment, they’d also kinda hurt. So I decided to design and 3D print caps for them like I did in the previous article.  I also wanted guards to separate the different switches in the bank.  Well, I found both solutions in the same place; the design of the switches and switch guards in the Space Shuttle cockpit.

mct_placeholder

Drawings of the parts.

mct_placeholder

Prototype parts.

mct_placeholder

Test assembly.

The next problem was figuring out how to attach it to my flight controls… I ended up settling on designing and 3D printing a little housing that hook into the keyed holes in the throttle’s underside for the optional suction cups that let you secure it to a surface, and at the top I simply added tabs that went under the pre-existing case screws.

It ended up being a very elegant little solution, though I’d certainly like to revisit it at some point to make it even better.

x36switchpanel_02

The assembled switch panel, showing the mounting points.

x36switchpanel_01

The assembled switch panel.

I’d like to to try this again, with laser cut/etched acrylic for the panel… Because then I could add backlit markings and the whole deal.  I’d also, of course, like to try making the switch parts out of actual aluminium.

First though, I need to come up with a better method of attaching the parts to the switches– such as threading the shafts of the switches –as well as a method to shorten the shaft to better accommodate switches the way I want them. (Example: The thumb switches on the throttle have an additional like 4-6mm of height because of how far up into it that shaft of the switch has to be concealed.) And of course, having them threaded, with threaded inserts in the caps, would prevent them from rotating.

Anyway… Those are conversations for another day!  Here’s what it looks like assembled:

x36switchpanel_03x36switchpanel_04

 

Week 22, 2015 – We Are Now In Control (Part I)

Ever since I saw a magazine ad for one over a decade and a half ago (Yes, a magazine, like the printed-on-paper kind!) I desperately wanted a Saitek X36 HOTAS, but they cost like $200 and that was the gameport version! They later released a version that also had USB, but by then I had too much other stuff on my mind and years passed (As they tend to do.) until finally, a few years ago, I snagged one on eBay for $12 shipped (!?) and then a few months later another for like $30, because why wouldn’t I have spares?  This was of course just in time for the Elite: Dangerous hype.

x36throttlemod_01

A little worse for wear, but not bad for being over a decade old, and certainly not bad for $11.95 including shipping!

But, because this is me we’re talking about, things cannot possibly be that easy, can they? Read more…

Week 20, 2015 – I Can See For Miles and Miles…

For quite some time now I’ve been interested in computer-generated stereoscopic 3D graphics and the required display technology… And for quite a bit longer I’ve been interested in virtual reality.  As an extension of my previous work on head-tracking for Elite: Dangerous and thanks in no small part to my little sister’s generous donation of her old Samsung Galaxy SIII– Having upgraded to some manner of S5 –I decided to work on a DIY VR headset.

The Hardware

First, I got this design off Thingiverse, just to try it out… It was okay, but hard to work with.  I used these bi-convex lenses off Amazon…which, at the time, were almost 50% less…  Later I settled on this design, but had to scale it up slightly to fit the lenses I already had.  I used springs from this assortment for the phone holder, and this 1.5″ elastic webbing for the head straps.  The fasteners are all 14-4 Stainless Steel 3mm SHCS, nuts, and washers, from Bolt Depot.  The webbing hardware is all printed as part of the headset design.

It all turned out rather well.

BakaVR_mk2_01BakaVR_mk2_02BakaVR_mk2_03BakaVR_mk2_04BakaVR_mk2_05

The foam was just some random stuff I had lying around because I couldn’t find what I wanted to use… I later DID find where it was hiding, so here’s what’s on there now: McMaster #8694K144 Weather-resistant Neoprene Foam, adhesive back, 3/8″ wide, 1/2″ thick.

Overall everything was great…having to make it like 7.5% larger to accommodate the lenses I bought for the other design was less than ideal though. Obviously I need to experiment further.  I want to design my own headset along these lines, but with a mind given to sturdy manufacture and keeping dust out.  For starters I want to design it for heat-set threaded inserts. instead of fastening everything with nuts and bolts.  Another thing I will do is NOT make the cover that the phone is attached to rely on a friction fit to stay closed! That damned thing always flops open. :|

The Software

For the software I was using TrinusVR in USB mode…it was also less than ideal…but it was more than workable.  The software basically streams the currently focused application to your phone. It can even do ‘fake 3D’ if the image you’re sending isn’t already SBS3D, and it does lens correction, and can even fake head tilt. It can pass head-tracking back to the computer from the phone’s sensors in the form of FreeTrack, TrackIR, Mouse emulation, and other methods.

Future Developments

Since the major drawbacks of this current solution are resolution and the required processing power and bandwidth on the hardware side, and a combination of game incompatibilities and TrinusVR’s limitations on the software side, the next step in development should be to do away with the phone altogether in favor of a small high-resolution screen.

I’ve seen 6″ IPS panels on AliExpress and and eBay for as little as $200 that offer 2560×1440, connect via HDMI, and are powered via USB. That’d be perfect, especially paired with a USB 9DOF tracker that emulates a standard joystick input… I wonder where I can get one of those… ;)

Week 12, 2015 – Lab Renovations… For Science!

Lately, I’ve been acquiring quite a bit of wire shelving, transforming the other half of the livingroom from what was an actual pile of junk and empty cardboard boxes, into a proper workspace worthy of my MAD SCIENCE!

labdisarray

It’s still in horrible disarray as it remains in a state of transition.

 

It now more closely resembles the corner of the room that my ‘battlestation’ encompasses. (Except that half is in even more disarray…)

Picture of Battlestation

Picture of Battlestation

I even got one for out in the kitchen, for the screen printing supplies.

Silkscreening area renovations.

Silkscreening area renovations. (Multiple pictures)

Which reminds me, I never got around to showing off a lot of this stuff…  Next time I silkscreen something, I’ll do a proper write-up.

Week 11, 2015 – Still Printerating…

3D Printing still dominates much of what’s going on in my world at the moment.  This week I made what I consider to be my first ‘real’ part; my skate bearing filament spool holder.  Sure, I made that webcam mount and whatnot, but it turned out so rough and unrefined…  I needed these spool holders for various reasons that I’ll get into when I write a post about them, but for now, you can see them in action here:

My spool holder in action.

The spool holder, doing its job.

 

I backed a Kickstarter campaign for a new controller board that sounds like it’ll be a drastic upgrade for any 3D printer or laser cutter you put it in.  Not just in performance, but also as far as interface options.

Cool 3D Printing Links:

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