Evolution of a Blog

This blog has evolved as I have as a maker. It starts at the beginning of my journey where I began to re-tread my tires in the useful lore of micro electronics and the open-source software that can drive them. While building solutions around micro-electronics are still an occasional topic my more recent focus has been on the 3D Printing side of making.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Too Much Filament?

When you have a man cave with two Ultimakers you can not have too much filament!  Well that may not be true based on the below list.  I have been doing printing for people through 3DHubs and donating half my proceeds to the MS Society.  The other half, however, have gone to my filament inventory.  Since I did a couple of big jobs recently there may have been a splurge!  All stored in two cabinets with dehumidifiers to keep it from absorbing moisture.  I am coming close to running out of space.

White PLA30%
Snow WhitePLA100%3DFilaprint1kg
Steel GreyPLA90%1kg
WoodSpecial100%PLA Coconut

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ship Update - PCB Design

I am just about ready to send away the PCB design to be FAB'ed in China but needed to do one more bench top validation.  The small breadboard was assembled following the PCB design and did uncover and issue with said design.  I knew there was a reason for doing it!

My ability to print my own PCBs for testing purposes is still in the future but I am hoping that I will be able to do a test or two using the below setup (though obviously not inside the ship)!  You can see a couple other areas that I am still working on.  I still do not have a form fitting battery.  I have a smaller servo but have not fitted it.  I am also working on the motor mount and the servo mount.

Some notes on the PCB.  The elements on the PCB, or attached to the PCB, that drive the ship are as follows:
  • Arduino Pro Mini micro controller,
  • Pololu DRV8833 Dual DC Motor Driver,
  • Pololu S7V7F5 5V Step-Up/Step-Down Voltage Regulator,
  • Micro Speed Reduction Gear DC Motor,
  • Sub Micro Servo (H-King 282AS),
  • Bluetooth Serial SPP Module (HC06), and
  • Port for Programming via ICSP.
There are also some features designed into the board that my current project does not need.  When I design one of these things I try to leave some latitude for possible additional or extended uses.  In this case there is the capability to use two motors though you do have to run a couple of jumper wires.  I have also exposed terminals for power and for three analog and three digital pins.  There is also a jumper that lets you choose between input power or 5V board power to drive your motors.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Another Crazy Assed Project - A Ship

I get project ideas from a couple of the groups to which I belong on Facebook.   During my tanks phase it was from the Flames of War communities.  More lately I have been doing N-Scale bridges and the like so it has been a couple N-Scale groups.

A member of one of those groups suggested the idea of an N-Scale ship.  Since I have done a bridge and a scene with a bridge might need a ship and I like ships.  Part two of the suggestion was to have the ship be remote controllable.  Now that will obviously require electronics and I like electronics....so.....I decided to do it!

I don't have a full scale prototype as I found a model that I liked while I was searching for a prototype of a small freight steamer of about 100' long:

This is a model that is part of a layout called the "Wrightsville Port Waterfront Layout".  I figured that since my work is all non commercial, and that I am giving them full credit, and that I left a note on their blog, that they will not mind my stealing their idea!

Here is what my version of this ship is starting to look like.  This is a first assembly of a draft print so excuse some of the obvious issues (some of which are hard to see due to the colour of the plastic)!

As I mentioned above the model is of a ship with a length of around 100 feet.  This has resulted in a model that is about 200mm long and 40mm wide.  Into that hull needs to go a circuit board of electronics, a motor, a servo, a bluetooth card for communications, and a battery.  Here is what the prototype electronics are looking like.  The controller and its blue tooth card are on the left.

Finally, the circuit board that will go inside the ship is coming along as well.   I have a little more to talk about in regards to the circuit board but that can wait for the next post.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Cura 2.3.1 Upgrade (and Simplify3D)

I am the happy owner of a new Ultimaker 3 that is now sitting beside my Ultimaker 2+.  I think that I may have been the first person in the UK to get a UM3 and because I was so early I needed to use Cura instead of Simplify 3D which I have been using for a couple of years.

I have been happy enough with Cura, and frustrated enough with a couple of S3D idiosyncrasies, that I have shelved S3D and been using Cura exclusively for the past month.   Here are some observations relative to that experience.

Two Things that I miss about Simplify3D

The first thing that I really miss is the ability to manually set where support is to be created.  This can be a truly useful feature.

The second thing is the ability to create a "factory" that remembers the models and print settings that went into doing a particular job.   Ironically one of the things that I hate about Simplify3D is the lack of a refresh or reload function for the models that comprise a factory (or models that are on the build platform regardless of being in or out of a factory)!   It would be nice if Cura remembered everything about a job, from what files, to what settings, but I would be happy if it just remembered the list of files.  I do a lot of iterating when doing a design and since I design kits of multiple parts Cura can be cumbersome.   More on the multiple parts issue below.

Things that I Really Like about Cura 2.3.1

I have not used Cura for a couple of years so the changes from what I remember to now are enormous and I am not at all sure what features are new versus been around for a while.  One of the things that I like has been alluded to above already and that is the update model facility.  The other, and bigger, feature is the quality of the profiles that come with Cura now.  For the range of nozzle sizes and material types these profiles can not be beaten for getting a leg up on quality.  Finally, I like the cost of Cura!

Things that I would Change about Cura 2.3.1

As I mentioned above, I would like to see a "factory" like concept added.  Initially this could just be to remember the models loaded but remembering the rest of the settings for a job would be great, as would the ability to manually control support placement.  As the latter is probably a lot more of a challenge I would recommend that the first be attacked soon!

My other major gripe about Cura relates to the USB driver.  Why does it do a destructive poll of printers when it starts???  I have deleted the USB driver from the Cura directory structure to prevent this behavior but I do not think that I should have to do so!

The last thing that would make my life easier is to have a little bit larger of a bounding box around the models that are on the build platform.  This might be peculiar to the way that I work but it can be hard to grab small parts to move them around!

Possible Bugs in Cura 2.3.1

There seems to be a circumstance where the slicer looses the ability to reset model positions on the build platform.  I have not been able to isolate when this happens but when it does the only solution is to quit and restart.  There are some other things about using profiles that I think may be issues but I have not been able to isolate an issue to be able to describe said issue!


I really like the new Cura!  I have not printed anything using S3D on either of my two printers since I took delivery of the UM3.