Retrotechtacular: The Magic of Making Cars in the ’30s

retrotechtacular-manufacturing-chevrolet

We usually shy away from calling things ‘magic’ in our features because, you know… science. But in the case of this Chevrolet manufacturing reel from 1936 the presentation is nothing short of an industrialized version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Well, not in the sense of mischief, but in that there is almost no explanation and the way the footage is laced together you get the strong feeling that, at the time, this type of industrialization was magic; a modern marvel. The techniques and skills of each worked passed down from a master to an apprentice but virtually unknown to the general public.

The clip, which is also embedded below, starts off in the machine shop where mold makers are getting ready to go into assembly line production. From there it’s off to the foundry for part casting and then into the stamping plant where white-hot (perhaps red-hot, but black and white film) metal is shaped by man-mangling presses. The image above follows the cast, stamped, and machined parts onto the assembly line. We like seeing a room full of pistons being QA checked by hand using a width gauge and micrometer.  The film continues through to the finished vehicle and we think you’ll agree there’s more than enough voyeuristic video here to overcome that lack of narration.

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Soft Robotics, Silicone Rubber, And Amazing Castings

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Most of the robotics projects we see around here are heavy, metallic machines that move with exacting precision with steppers, servos, motors, and electronics. [Matthew] is another breed of roboticist, and created a quadruped robot with no hard moving parts.

[Matthew] calls his creation the Glaucus, after the blue sea slug Glaucus atlanticus. Inside this silicone rubber blob are a series of voids, allowing compressed air to expand the legs, gently inching Glaucus across a table under manual or automatic control.

Even though no one seems to do it, making a few molds for casting on a 3D printer is actually pretty easy. [Matthew] is taking this technique to an extreme, though: First, a mold for the interior pressure bladders are printed, then a positive of this print made in silicone rubber. These silicone molds – four of them, for the left, right, top and bottom – are then filled with wax, and the wax parts reassembled inside the final ‘body’ mold. It’s an amazing amount of work to make just one of these soft robots, but once the molds and masters are made, [Matthew] can pop out a soft robot every few hours or so.

There’s a lot more info on Glaucus over on the official site for the build, and a somewhat simpler ‘compressed air and silicone rubber’ tentacle [Matthew] built showing off the mechanics. Video below.

 

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Fabricate Your Own 7-Segment Displays

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We see more and more projects that use custom molds and casting materials. The latest is this custom seven segment display which [Ray74] put together. The idea of making your own LED displays couldn’t be much easier than this — everything but the LEDs and wire is available at the craft store.

He started by making models of each segment out of pink erasers. The lower left image of the vignette above shows the eraser segments super glued to some poster board. The decimal is a pencil eraser, with a fence of wood to contain the molding material. Amazing Mold Putty was mixed and pressed into place resulting in the mold shown in the upper right.

From there, [Ray] cast the clear epoxy three times. Once dried the clear pieces were sanded, which will shape them up physically but also serves to diffuse the light. They were then placed inside of another mold form and an epoxy pour — this time doped with black enamel paint — finishes the 7-segment module. The final step is to glue the LEDs on the back side and wire them up.

This definitely trumps the build which Hackaday Alum [Kevin Dady] pulled off using hot glue sticks as light pipes.

 

3D Printering: Advances in 3D printing at Maker Faire

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Needless to say, the World Maker Faire had a ton of 3D printers. It’s really becoming an obligatory fixture of any booth, whether you’re Microsoft announcing to the world Windows 8 now supports 3D printer drivers (don’t ask), or you just have a Makerbot Replicator on your table for some street cred.

Even the 3D Printing section of the faire wasn’t without a lot of what we’ve all seen before. Yes, the RepRap Morgan and Simpson made a showing, but 3D printing to most people attending the faire is just plastic trinkets, Minecraft figures, and single-thickness vases and jars.

Deep in the outskirts of the faire, right by the Porta Potties and a generator, one booth showed everyone how 3D printing should be done. It was AS220 Labs‘ table, and they’re doing their best to make 3D printers more than just printing out owl sculptures and plastic octopodes.

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Making keys after the apocalypse

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Making keys is an amazing art with a lot of skill and technique involved. For those of you living in a post-apocalyptic world, [Dan] has a much simpler solution to the problems of having one too few keys for your locks and deadbolts – just cast them out of scrap with the power of the sun.

To make the mold of the key, [Dan] is using a two-piece plaster of paris mold. First, a thick layer of plaster is laid down in a small container and the key floated on the surface. After drying, sprues are put in with clay and the key embedded in a curing plaster block. After a few hours, a proper mold is created ready to receive molten metal.

The casting material is zinc – not as hard as the original steel key, but more than strong enough to turn a lock. This zinc is melted in a steel and plaster crucible with a gigantic fresnel lens.

As for the utility of this method of copying keys after the apocalypse, we’ll have to wonder how practical this method is. A giant fresnel lens isn’t just something you randomly find unless you’re going house to house looking for projection TVs, and finding a can of mold release after the end of the world is beyond credulity. That said, it’s a cool demonstration of metal casting that can be easily accomplished at home or at any hackerspace.

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Update: lost PLA metal casting — The Movie

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Turning 3D printed plastic parts into metal objects is not a new concept. But we don’t see a lot of it and enjoyed watching the documentary version of [3DTOPO's] lost PLA metal casting process so much we figured you’d want to see it too.

The thirty-five minute video walks through every part of the process which we originally learned about in September of last year. The process was developed as a way to fabricate parts that will be used in high-stress applications. For instance, the part seen above is a mounting bracket for the ball screws that moves the Z axis on a huge CNC build he’s been working on. A plastic part will break under the strain so he needed to make it out of aluminum alloy.

To start, the piece is modeled and printed in plastic to check the fit. Once it’s just right he scales it to 103% and prints it again to account for the shrinking of the metal as it cools. The next step is pictured above, adding paths using rigid foam insulation that allow for the metal pour and for air to escape. This is packed into a plaster and sand mold which dries before being cooked in a furnace to vaporize the foam and PLA. This leaves a perfect mold for the metal pour.

After the break you can see a 5-minute overview version of the project.

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Melting Metal with a DIY Foundry Furnace

Foundry Furnace

If you want to do casting at home, you’ll need a way to melt metal. [Jake]‘s DIY foundry furnace gets hot enough to melt aluminium, and is built out a mix of scrap parts.

The chamber of the furnace is built out of a water heater tank which has been lined with a special cement that refracts heat. The furnace is heated by a Babington burner. This type of burner works by atomizing the fuel and injecting it into the furnace. They are good for burning waste oil to achieve high heats.

A scrap Volkswagen oil pump and a cordless drill are used to feed oil into the burner. Once it’s fired up, the furnace takes about 10 minutes to melt the 11 pounds of metal that it can hold. [Jake] melted about 40 pounds of aluminium alloy from scrap alloy wheels in 2 hours, which should be more than enough for a home casting project.

After the break, check out the overview of the device and a demo of melting aluminium.

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