3D Printed Wimshurst Machine

Steampunk extraordinaire [Jake von Slatt] has released his latest creation. This time he’s built a Wimshurst machine from mostly 3D printed parts. The Wimshurst machine is an electrostatic generator and was originally invented in the late 1800’s by James Wimshurst. It uses two counter-rotating disks to generate an electrostatic charge which is then stored in two Leyden jars. These jars are also connected to a spark gap. When the voltage raises high enough, the jars can discharge all at once by flashing a spark across the gap.

[Jake’s] machine has a sort of Gothic theme to it. He designed the parts using Autodesk’s 123D Design. They were initially printed in PLA. Skate bearings were used in the center of the disks to ensure a smooth rotation. The axle was made from the fiberglass shaft of a driveway reflector. The vertical supports were attached the base with machine screws.

The Leyden jars were made from sections of clear plastic tube. The caps for the jars were 3D printed and are designed to accept a short length of threaded 1/8″ pipe. Copper wire was used for the interior contacts and are held in place with electrical tape. The metal sectors on each disk were made from pieces of cut aluminum tape.

You may be wondering how this machine works if it’s almost entirely made out of plastic. [Jake] actually painted most of the parts with a carbon paint. This makes them electrically conductive and he can then use the parts to complete electrical circuits. Unfortunately he found this to be rather ineffective. The machine does work, but it only produces sparks up to 1/2″ in length. For comparison, his other machine is capable of 6″ sparks using similar sized Leyden jars.

[Jake] actually tried rebuilding this project using ABS, thinking that the PLA may have been collecting moisture from his breath, but the result is still only 1/2″ sparks. He suspects that the bumpy surface of the plastic parts may be causing the charge to slowly leak away, preventing a nice build up. He’s released all of his designs on Thingiverse in case any other hackers want to give it a whirl.

Refurbishing A Vibratory Tumbler With A Dryer Motor

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[Jake von Slatt] of the Steampunk Workshop is at again, this time refurbishing a cheap vibratory tumbler that had died after just one project.

The original Eastwood tumbler looked nice, but obviously didn’t go through much life-cycle testing at the company that designed it. Upon taking it apart, [Jake] discovered that the bearings in the motor were shot — after only a few hours of operation! Because of this he decided to start from scratch, keeping only the bowl, lid, and of course, the tumbling media.

[Jake’s] redesign makes use of Volkswagen brake drums for a very heavy duty base, a custom machined ball bearing plate made out of scrap aluminum, a flexible motor coupling made by welding a heavy spring onto two shafts, some more springs to balance the bowl, and a reclaimed dryer motor. It might not look pretty, but we think it’ll last a wee bit longer than the original.

He’s calling it his latest feat of post-apocalyptic engineering by using only parts on hand, and while we’d have to agree that his use of scrap material is impressive, we’d like to see him be able to power his rebuilt Bridgeport Mill off the grid when the apocalypse hits!

As always, he’s made an excellent video describing the project — don’t forget to check it out after the break.

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A Table Saw To Cut Solar Panels

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Steampunker extraordinaire [Jake von Slatt] loves the idea of solar-powered garden lights soaking up the sun’s rays during the day and powering a LED in the evening. Commercially available solar lanterns, as [Jake], you, me, and everyone else on the planet have discovered, are universally terrible and either don’t have solar panels large enough to charge a battery, or only last a year or so. [Jake]’s solution was to make his own solar lanterns and in the process he came up with a great way of cutting his own solar panels.

[Jake] turned to ebay to source 100 3″ x 6″ solar panels for about $30. These are broken panels, factory rejects, but still are able to produce the 0.5 Volts they should. Since these are rather large panels for a solar lantern, [Jake] needed a way to cut these panels into manageable sizes.

To cut the panels, [Jake] made a box to fit a Dremel with a right angle attachment and a port for a vacuum cleaner. There’s a sled for the panels with markings at 40, 80, 75, and 150 mm so the panels can be quickly cut to size with a diamond cutting wheel.

After the boards are cut, [Jake] checks them out with a multimeter to be sure they’re producing the half volt they should. After that, it’s a simple matter of soldering them together and adding them to his solar lanterns.

Make Your Own Custom IPhone Back Glass

[Jake von Slatt] is at it again; putting his own artistic spin on ordinary items. This time around it’s the glass on the back of an iPhone. It kept breaking and after a few replacements he wanted to try to replace the glass with a piece of etched brass. But part way through that experiment, he figured out how to use toner transfer to develop these stunning custom iPhone glass back plates.

The first step is to source the correct replacement back for your phone. These are made of two parts, the glass and a plastic backer. By carefully heating and wedging the two parts with some popsicle sticks he was able to separate the pieces. Next, he cleans and buffs the glass, preparing it for the artwork he is about to apply. Toner transfer paper, just like that used for PCB resist, is used to print and adhere a design to the underside of the glass. From there he hand paints over the black outline to achieve the results seen above.

It takes time and patience, but shouldn’t be any harder than etching a circuit board.

Rebuilding A Bridgeport Mill

It looks like the Internet’s resident steampunker is moving up a century or two. [Jake Von Slatt] rebuilt the CNC portion of a Bridgeport Series II mill so it can interface with a computer. It’s a feat even more impressive than moving the mill into [Jake]’s garage.

The first step of the build was tearing out the BOSS 5 industrial microcomputer and replacing it with a Win XP laptop running ArtSoft’s Mach 3. This allows G-code to be displayed directly on the screen. The old power supply for the mill did give [Jake] a few problems. The Gecko stepper drivers that replace the old electronics couldn’t handle the voltage of the old power supply. That can be dealt with by opening the transformer and removing a few turns of wire.

[Jake] has been sending in a few of his hacks as of late, so it’s good to see Hack a Day has another fan, especially one of [Mr. Von Slatt]’s caliber. There is a problem with the mill modifications though – [Jake] hasn’t figured out how to program it. If any HaD readers would like to chime in on the best way to program G-code for the mill, feel free to leave a message in the comments.

Altoid Tin Etching Tutorial

Eminent steampunker [Jake Von Slatt] wrote a small article on etching candy tins for The Steampunk Bible, but the limited space available in the book didn’t allow for a full exposition. To make amends for his incomplete tutorial, he posted this walk through to compliment the Bible’s article.

The process is very similar to the many tutorials we’ve seen on home-etching PCBs using the toner transfer method. Removing the paint from the Altoid tin, creating a mask, printing it on the Sunday circulars, and taking an iron to the tin is old hat for home fabbers.

Unlike PCB manufacturing, [Mr. Von Slatt] doesn’t bother with Ferric Chloride or other nasty chemicals – he does everything with electrolysis. After adding a few tablespoons of table salt to a bucket of water, [Jake] takes a DC power supply and connects the positive lead to the lid and the negative lead to the base. a bit of electrical tape around the corners of the lid keeps the metal from getting too thin.

A nice Copper finish can be applied to a finished tin by swabbing on a solution of Copper Sulfate – a common ingredient in “Root Kill” products. Of course that’s not a necessary step; you can easily enjoy and elegant Altoid tin bare metal.

Wooden Retro Keyboard Build

[phirzcol] sent us this cool step by step build of a retro looking keyboard, Inspired by [Von Slatt] and his work. [phirzcol] starts with a standard keyboard and removes the keys. He steams some wood to wrap the keyboard, then finishes it off nicely. The process of making the keys looks pretty grueling. Each key has 4 parts which have to be hand cut and assembled. A blue accent light is a nice touch as well.  The keyboard looks pretty good, but we’d like to try typing on it for a while to see how usable it is.  If it looks like too much effort, you can actually buy it on ebay.