CNC Mill out of a Building Set

I have some aluminum building-set parts on hand and just got a second rotary tool, so I thought I’d try my hand at making a light-duty CNC mill—maybe carve up some cheap pine or make circuit boards. This post explores some of the early decisions I’m facing as I begin the project.

Of primary importance is the basic format of the mill’s chassis. Gantry configuration or put everything in a box of girders? How will the axes move–belts or racks? How will the Z-axis work, the assembly that lowers the tool onto the material? Finally, once the chassis is complete, or perhaps beforehand, I’ll need to figure out how I intend to control the thing.

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Nerf Turret controlled by Slack

What happens when you give a former Navy weapons engineer some development boards and ask him to build “something cool”? What happens when you give a kid finger paints? [Seb] obviously built an IoT Nerf Turret Gun controlled via a team communication app.

The weapon was a Nerf Stampede which was hacked so it could be fired electronically. The safety switch was bypassed and a relay provided the firing signal. The electronics stack consists of an Intel Galileo, a motor shield and a relay shield. The turret assembly was built using off the shelf structural parts from Actobotics. Stepper motors provide motion to the turret. The fun begins with how the software is implemented. An iBeacon network detects where people sit at in the office. So when you type in the name of your target in a messaging app, it knows where they’re sitting, aims at them, and pops a nerf dart at them.

The lessons learned are what makes such projects worth their while. For example, USB is a standard. And the standard says that USB cables be not more than 1.8 m long. [Seb] was reminded of this when his electronics worked on his workbench, but refused to work when placed in-situ and connected via a 3m long cable – the serial link just wouldn’t work.

Mounting the gun such that it was nicely balanced was another challenge. Eventually, he had to use a couple of AA cells taped to the front of the gun to get it right. This could be useful though, since he plans to replace the dead weights with a sighting camera. One last hack was to zip tie heat sinks to the motor drivers, and he had a good reason to do that. Read more about it in his blog. And check out the video as someone takes aim and shoots a target via SLACK, the team messaging application.

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Robo Foam Cutter Makes Short Work of your Foam Rolls

Tired of cutting your foam sheets down to size? [jgschmidt] certainly was, and after one-too-many hours cutting foam manually, he built himself a machine that cuts sheets automatically, and he guides you through the process step-by-step.

[jgschmidt’s] build is a clever assembly of stock parts acquired from ServoCity. That’s a nice touch, considering we don’t often see their components in quick hacks. With a stepper to feed more foam, and a stepper to drive the blade mechanism, the device can consistently cut foam from a roll to desired lengths.

The blade mechanism consists of two exacto blades fixed nose-to-nose such that the machine can cut on both forward and reverse sweeps. While we’ve certainly seen some stellar past foam cutter builds, we can’t resist drooling over the speedy throughput of [jgschmidt’s] machine as it cuts on both forward and back-strokes. Finally, when the blades dull, they can be swapped out for a few dime’s worth of new parts.

Many of the steps in [jgschmidt’s] build are laudably practical with a “get it done” attitude. From hot-glued wire insulation to the double-edged blade formed from exacto knives, we’re thrilled to see him take a few pieces off the shelf and few pieces off the web and build himself a new workshop tool. Perhaps the neatest feature of this hack is its ability to rapidly transform a raw material into numerous repeatable, useful forms for his customers.

via [Instructables]

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SparkFun Stair Climbing Robot Challenge

In case you missed it, SparkFun recently held the Actobotics Stair Climber Challenge competition, where you could build a robot capable of ascending stairs and win some sweet SparkFun cash!

The contest is over now and the winners have just been announced — and some of the bots the contestants came up with are just plain awesome!

First prize went to the [Jaeger Family] who built a wheeled robot that can roll right up stairs without even batting an eyelash — it’s pretty cool to see. Check that out and more below.

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