3D Objects From a Laser Cutter

Actors want to be singers and singers want to be actors. The hacker equivalent to this might be that 3D printers want to be laser cutters or CNC machines and laser cutters want to be 3D printers. When [Kurt] and [Lawrence] discovered their tech shop acquired a 120 Watt Epilog Fusion laser cutter, they started thinking if they could coax it into cutting out 3D shapes. That question led them to several experiments that were ultimately successful.

The idea was to cut away material, rotate the work piece, and cut some more in a similar way to how some laser cutters handle engraving cylindrical objects. Unlike 3D printing which is additive, this process is subtractive like a traditional machining process. The developers used wood as the base material. They wanted to use acrylic, but found that the cut away pieces tended to stick, so they continued using wood. However, the wood tends to char as it is cut.

In the end, they not only had to build special jigs and electronics, they also had to port some third party control software to solve some issues with the Epilog Fusion cutter’s built in software. The final refinement was to use the laser’s raster mode to draw surface detail on the part.

The results were better than you’d expect, and fairly distinctive looking. We’ve covered a similar process that made small chess pieces out of acrylic using two passes. This seems like a natural extension of the same idea. Of course, there are very complicated industrial machines that laser cut in three dimensions (see the video below), but they are not in the same category as the typical desktop cutter.

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Animated LED Valentine Heart

With only a week left until Valentine’s day, [Henry] needed to think on his feet. He wanted to build something for his girlfriend but with limited time, he needed to work with what he had available. After scrounging up some parts and a bit of CAD work, he ended up with a nice animated LED Valentine heart.

[Henry] had a bunch of WS2812 LEDs left over from an older project. These surface mount LED’s are very cool. They come in a small form factor and include red, green, and blue LEDs all in a single package. On top of that, they have a built-in control circuit which makes each LED individually addressable. It’s similar to the LED strips we’ve seen in the past, only now the control circuit is built right into the LED.

Starting with the LEDs, [Henry] decided to build a large animated heart. Being a stickler for details, he worked out the perfect LED placement by beginning his design with three concentric heart shapes. The hearts were plotted in Excel and were then scaled until he ended up with something he liked. This final design showed where to place each LED.

The next step was to design the PCB in Altium Designer. [Henry’s] design is two-sided with large copper planes on either side. He opted to make good use of the extra copper surface by etching a custom design into the back with his girlfriend’s name. He included a space for the ATMega48 chip which would be running the animations. Finally, he sent the design off to a fab house and managed to get it back 48 hours later.

After soldering all of the components in place, [Henry] programmed up a few animations for the LEDs. He also built a custom frame to house the PCB. The frame includes a white screen that diffuses and softens the light from the LEDs. The final product looks great and is sure to win any geek’s heart. Continue reading “Animated LED Valentine Heart”

faBrickation: Combining Lego and 3D Printing

faBrickation

While 3D printing gives you the ability to fabricate completely custom parts, it does have some drawbacks. One issue is the time and cost of printing large volumes. Often these structures are simple, and do not require completely custom design.

This is where the faBrickation system comes in. It allows you to combine 3D printed parts with off the shelf LEGO bricks. The CAD tool that lets you ‘Legofy’ a design. It creates directions on how to assemble the LEGO parts, and exports STL files for the parts to be 3D printed. These custom bricks snap into the LEGO structure.

In their demo, a head mounted display is built in 67 minutes. The same design would have taken over 14 hours to 3D print. As the design is changed, LEGO blocks are added and removed seamlessly.

Unfortunately, the tool doesn’t appear to be open source. It will appear for the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, so hopefully we will see more in the future. Until then, you can watch the demo after the break.

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Heavy metal computer case desk

heavy-metal-computer-case-desk

This desk is also a computer case. From this view it may not seem like much, but the build log has hundreds of images which could be called metal fabrication porn. The desk surface is made of wood, but all of the other parts were crafted from stainless steel.

The three components that weren’t fabricated by [Paslis] are the pair of legs and the column supporting the screens. These pieces are actually lifting columns that allow you to adjust desk and screen height at the touch of a button. The build starts off with a sub-surface to house the computer guts. After careful cutting, bending, welding, and polishing this comes out looking like the work surface in a commercial kitchen. After attaching the lifting legs to that assembly a foot for the desk takes shape from square pipe which is then skinned with stainless steel to match the finished look of the sub-surface. After spending countless hours on brackets, trim pieces, grills, and wood accents he sent everything off for painting before the final assembly.

Certainly this is in a different realm than the case desk from yesterday. But a mere mortal can pull that off while this is surely the work of an experienced tradesman.

[Thanks Andreas]

Semi-professional board assembly for your workshop

[Zach Hoeken] has the answer to assembling multiple surface mount PCBs in the home workshop. It’s certainly not for everyone. But if you’ve ever thought of marketing your own small runs he has the equipment and methodology you need.

He had tried using hacked together equipment, but after encountering a range of issues he finds the investment in a few key items saves time and money in the long run. The first is a precision tooling fixture block; that metal plate with a grid of holes that makes up the background of the image above. It comes with machined pegs which fit the holes perfectly, and as you can see, his panel of 16 boards include tooling holes that line up with the fixture. Once in place, a steel solder stencil is aligned with the board using its own tooling holes. The alignment of the stencil and its uniformed thickness ensure that the perfect amount of solder paste is easy to apply with a squeegee. [Zach] hand places his components but he did invest in a proper reflow oven to make the soldering a set and forget process.

Aluminum bending tutorial and a DIY brake

What makes a project really exceptional? Part of it is a, ‘gee, that’s clever’ angle with a little bit of, ‘that’s actually possible.’ One thing the Hack a Day crew really appreciates is awesome enclosures. Altoids tins will get you far, but to step up to the big leagues you’ve got to bend some aluminum. Luckily, [Rupert] sent in a great tutorial on bending aluminum sheets for enclosures.

To make his press brake, [Rupert] scavenged a few pieces of 38mm bamboo worktop scraps. After assembling a few of these pieces with some hinges, he was ready to bend some aluminum.

One trick [Rupert] picked up is scoring the sheet metal on the inside of a future bend. For [Rupert]’s project, he sent his 3mm aluminum sheet through a table saw set to cut 1mm deep. Of course this should only be done with a blade designed for non-ferrous metals with as many carbide teeth as possible. Judging from [Rupert]’s homebuilt Hi-Fi that used this construction technique, the results are phenomenal.

Minimalist AVR programmer is just fab!

Whether you’re burning a new bootloader to an Arduino board, or doing away with a bootloader to flash Atmel chips directly, an in-system programmer (ISP) is an indispensable tool for working with AVR microcontrollers. If cost has held you back, it’s no longer an excuse: FabISP is a barebones USB-based AVR programmer that can be pieced together for about ten bucks.

FabISP was created by [David Mellis] as a product of MIT’s Fab Lab program, which provides schools with access to design and manufacturing tools based around a core set of fabrication capabilities, so labs around the world can share results. But the FabISP design is simple enough that you don’t need a whole fab lab. It’s a small, single-sided board with no drilling required; the parts are all surface-mounted, but not so fine-pitched as to require reflow soldering. Easy!

There’s still the bootstrap problem, of course: you need an AVR programmer to get the firmware onto the FabISP. This would be an excellent group project for a hackerspace, club or school: if one person can provide the initial programmer to flash several boards, each member could etch and assemble their own, have it programmed, then take these out into the world to help create more. We must repeat!

[Thanks Juan]