Laser Engraving in Color?

Here’s a fantastic way to add a new dynamic to your laser cut and engraved parts. Did you know it is possible to color your engravings on acrylic? It’s kind of one of those moments where you go “Why didn’t I think of that?”

[Frankie Flood] works at the Digital Craft Research Lab (DCRL for short), which is kind of like a hackerspace for the University of Wisconsin — complete with CNC routers, lasers, 3D printers, and all your basic manufacturing tools.  [Lionel Rocheleau], one of his lab technicians at DCRL was interested in doing some experiments with the laser cutter, so they came up with this experiment…

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The Nicest Home Made Spot Welder We’ve Ever Seen

By golly, look at the build quality of this homemade spot welder.

Just about everyone on here knows it’s quite possible to build one of these things using a re-wrapped microwave transformer, but they’re usually made of wood like the one we swap on Friday, and we often wonder how much real use they get other than “hey look I built a spot welder!”. I myself made one, but then ended up buying a professional one because it works better. Not [Matthew Borgatti] though, his looks better and has more features than even the one I bought!

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Why? Because he put some serious thought into his design. He even 3D modeled the whole thing in SolidWorks.

Beyond the excellent laser cut enclosure (complete with ratcheting work piece clamping), [Matt’s] also added an Arduino to create a timing circuit. Most times you just squeeze the clamp, press the button, and watch the metal heat up — “I think that’s good…”

But with an actual timing circuit you can calculate how much time you need versus current and electrode size to produce a good quality weld.

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Your Brain Thinks Its Burning You, But It’s Not

In the cult classic Dune, there’s this fictional device called the “Pain Box”. If you touch it, you’ll feel like your hand is burning, but in reality, no tissue is being damaged. In the real world this is called the Thermal Grill Illusion, which was discovered back in 1896. Much to our chagrin, [Adam Davis] has just finished building a working prototype.

Sound familiar? We covered a similar project a few months ago — but unfortunately it didn’t work very well. Luckily, and boy do we love it when this happens, [Adam] saw the post, and got inspired to try it himself. He had actually designed a system years back but never got around to building it. Upon seeing the post — and the difficulties in making it work — he just had to figure it out.

So how does it work? The Thermal Grill Illusion uses alternating warm and cool bars which stimulate the temperature receptors in your skin — and confuse them. Neither the warm or cool bars are extreme enough in temperature to do any harm, but your confused little temperature receptors make it feel like you’re either burning or freezing your skin off!

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Crawlspace Warehouse Includes Midget Forklift

Meet [Cliff Stoll], producer and entrepreneur-extraordinaire of the ACME Klein Bottles. Years back he helped a friend program a glass oven to get the right temperature profiles for glass blowing. When asked how he wanted to get paid for his help, he asked if they could blow a Klein bottle — and so they did.

Excited at the prospect of his creation, he showed it around to some friends, and was surprised to find out that people wanted to buy it! The one he created took 3 days of sweat and tears to build, so he wasn’t about to start manufacturing them himself. Instead, he decided to call around to some glass manufacturers and see how much he could get Klein bottles made for… That’s when he discovered the power of buying in large quantities.

So what do you do with over 1000 Klein bottles? You build a mini-warehouse in your crawlspace — that’s what.

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Rise of Hardware: A PCH Hackathon

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of helping out at the KW Hackathon in Waterloo, Ontario, sponsored by PCH Hardware, who hosts hackathons and meetups around the world to help inspire invention and entrepreneurship. This was the sixth hardware based hackathon they have hosted.

When they host a hackathon, they gather local sponsors and provide the tools and resources for the entrants to actually develop a working prototype in less than 54 hours, that they then can pitch to a panel of judges to win some awesome prizes. Did we mention it’s free to register? The next one is in London, England.

Personally, I provided some mentorship in product design and development, but more importantly, I opened up the use of my giant laser cutter to help the teams create real prototypes, and learn more about rapid prototyping using a laser cutter. Everyone wanted to 3D print their prototypes at first — but there was a limited number of printers available, and long wait times. We introduced them to sites like www.makercase.com, a site that will generate laser cutter plans for enclosures that you specify the dimensions of, and of course, the ability to search google for “laser cut arduino case” to find pre-designed laser designs for electronics.

Some teams more experienced in CAD got creative and made cool decahedrons which actually helped create a working prototype the way they envisioned it on paper.

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In addition to the main event, they hosted keynote speakers and workshops to help take teams ideas even further — we think Communitech (the hosting venue) really summed up the purpose of having hackathons nicely:

“Useful stuff does really emerge from hackathons: some realized ideas, but more importantly, new human hacker connections and a deeper sense of capability and our capacity to create beyond the software realm.”

Overall, the event was fantastic, and it makes us wish there were more like it. You could feel the buzz of excitement in the room when creative people got together and started designing and making things. Oh and the free food was pretty awesome too — especially for students.

For more information about the event, check out the news piece by [Darin White] for Communitech News.

A Different Kind of Plastic Shredder for 3D Filament Making

Haven’t you heard? You can make your own 3D filament nowadays from plastic granules (10X cheaper than filament), or even by recycling old plastic! Except if you’re recycling plastic you will have to shred it first…

[David Watkins] came up with a different way of shredding plastic. Typically we’ve seen shrunken versions of giant metal shredders used to dice up plastic into granules that can be melted down and then extruded back into filament. These work with a series of sharp toothed gears that kind of look like a stack of circular saw blades put together inside of a housing.

But that can be rather pricey. [David’s] method is super cheap, and you can do it at home with minimal tools, and maybe $10 or less worth of parts?

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6-Axis Robot Arm 3D Prints A Metal Bridge

Do you remember the MX3D metal printing robot? It’s now capable of 3D printing a metal bridge. Here’s the news release, but it’s in Dutch (translated).

Over one year ago we covered the beginning of the MX3D project, which was a rather ambitious foray into 3D printing in metal with a industrial six-axis ABB robot arm. They had previously done a version using resin (MX3D Resin Printer), but then upgraded the system to use a heavy duty welding machine to deposit various metals.

One year later, they’ve tuned it even more. To show it off they printed a free form standing bridge that people can actually walk across.

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