Five-Axis Pumpkin Carving

The day of carved pumpkins is near, and instead of doing manually like a mere mortal, [Shane] of [Stuff Made Here] built a five-axis CNC machine to take over carving duties. (Video, embedded below.)

[Shane] initially intended to modify his barber robot, but ended up with a complete redesign, reusing only the electronics and the large ring bearing in the base. The swiveling spindle is a rotating gantry with two sets of aluminum extrusions for vertical and horizontal motion. The gantry isn’t very rigid, but it’s good enough for pumpkin carving. Software is the most challenging part of the endeavor due to the complexity of five-axis motion and mapping 2D images onto a roughly spherical surface. Cartographers have dealt with this for a long time, so [Shane] turned to Mercator projection to solve the problem. We’re also relieved to hear that we aren’t the only ones who sometimes struggle with equation-heavy Wikipedia pages.

Since there are no perfectly spherical pumpkins, [Shane] wrote a script to probe the surface of the pumpkin with a microswitch before cutting, appropriately named “TSA.exe”. The machine is capable of carving both profiles and variable depth lithophanes, mostly of [Shane]’s long-suffering wife. She seriously deserves an award for holding onto her sense of humor.

With projects like explosive baseball bats and CNC basketball hoop, the [Stuff Made Here] YouTube Channel is worth keeping an eye on.

Going For The Home Run Record With Explosive Help

The baseball home run distance challenge for crazy engineers is really heating up, with the two main (only?) competitors joining forces. [Shane] of [Stuff Made Here] and [Destin] of [Smarter Every Day] did a deep dive into [Shane]’s latest powder charged baseball bat, designed to hit a ball 600+ feet.

[Shane] built two new versions of his bat this time, using the lessons he learned from his previous V1 and V2 explosive bats. It still uses blank cartridges, but this time the max capacity was increased from three to four cartridges. For V3 a section of the bat was removed, and replaced with a four-bar linkage, which allowed the entire front of the bat to move. The linkage integrated a chamber for four blank cartridges that could be loaded almost like a double barrel shotgun and closed with a satisfying snap. Unfortunately the mass of the moving section was too much for the welds, and the entire front broke off on the first test, so the design was scrapped.

V4 returned to the piston concept of the initial version, except V4 contains two parallel pistons, in a metal bat, with a larger hitting surface. With two cartridges it worked well, but parts started breaking with three and four, and required multiple design updates to fix. [Destin] covered the physics of the project and took some really cool high speed video. He and [Jeremy Fielding] hold the current distance record of 617 ft with their crazy Mad Batter. Unfortunately on [Shane]’s final distance attempt the bat broke again, and the ball was lost in a field with tall grass beyond the 600-foot mark, so they could not confirm if the record was actually broken.

[Destin] and his team still remain the undisputed baseball velocity record holders, with their supersonic baseball canon. It sounds like there might be another collaboration between [Destin] and [Shane] in the future, and we’re definitely looking forward to the results of that crazy venture. Continue reading “Going For The Home Run Record With Explosive Help”

Complete Flight Sim Controller Set With 3D Printing And Hall-Effect Sensors.

[Tom Stanton] has been playing Microsoft Flight Simulator a lot recently, and decided his old desktop joystick needed an upgrade. Instead of just replacing it with a newer commercial model, he built a complete controller system with a long joystick that pivots at floor level, integrated rudder pedals and a throttle box. You can see it in action after the break.

The throw of the joystick is limited by [Tom]’s legs and chair, with only 12° of travel in either axis, which is too small to allow for high resolution with a potentiometer. Instead, he used hall effect sensors and a square magnet for each axis, which gives good resolution over a small throw angle. The pivot that couples the two rudder pedals also makes use of a hall effect sensor, but needs more travel. To increase the size of the magnetic field, [Tom] mounted two magnets on either side of the sensor with their poles aligned. To center the rudder pedals and joystick, a couple of long tension springs were added.

The joystick (left) and rudder pedals (right) magnet configurations with a hall effect sensor.

A normal potentiometer was used in the throttle lever, and [Tom] also added a number of additional toggle switches and buttons for custom functions. The frame of the system is built with T-slot extrusions, so components can quickly moved to fit a specific user, and adjust the preload on the centering springs. All the electronic components are wired to an Arduino Micro, and thanks to a joystick library, the code is very simple.

At a total build cost of £212/$275 it’s certainly not what anyone would call cheap, but it’s less than what you’d pay for a commercial offering. All the design files and build details are linked in the second video if you want to build your own.

The flight sim controller builds are coming in thick and fast with the release of the latest MS Flight Simulator. With 3D printing you can augment an Xbox controller with a joystick and throttle, or just use tape and a few electronic components turn a desk drawer into a flight yoke.

Turning A Desk Drawer Into A Flight Yoke

[Christofer Hiitti] found himself with the latest Microsoft Flight Simulator on his PC, but the joystick he ordered was still a few weeks out. So he grabbed an Arduino, potentiometers and a button and hacked together what a joke-yoke.

The genius part of this hack is the way [Christopher] used his desk drawer for pitch control. One side of a plastic hinge is attached to a potentiometer inside a drawer, while the other side is taped to the top of the desk. The second pot is taped to the front of the drawer for pitch control and the third pot is the throttle. It works remarkably well, as shown in the demo video below.

The linearity of the drawer mechanism probably isn’t great, but it was good enough for a temporary solution. The Arduino Leonardo he used is based on the ATmega32u4 which has a built-in USB, and with libraries like ArduinoJoystickLibrary the computer interface very simple. When [Christopher]’s real joystick finally arrived he augmented it with a button box built using the joke-yoke components.

There’s no doubt that Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 will spawn a lot of great controller and cockpit builds over the next few years. We’ve already covered a new joystick build, and a 3D printed frame to turn an Xbox controller into a joystick.

Continue reading “Turning A Desk Drawer Into A Flight Yoke”

Modular Rover Platform Rolls On 3D Printed Flexible Tank Tracks

Master of 3D printed robots, [James Bruton], plans to do some autonomous rover projects in the future, but first, he needed a modular rover platform. Everything is cooler with tank tracks, so he built a rover with flexible interlocking track sections.

The track sections are printed with flexible Ninjaflex filament. Each section has a tab designed to slot through two neighboring pieces. The ends of the tabs stick through on the inside of the track fit into slots on the drive wheel like gear teeth. This prevents the track from slipping under load. The Ninjaflex is almost too flexible, allowing the tracks to stretch and almost climb off the wheels, so [James] plans to experiment with some other materials in the future. The chassis consists of two 2020 T-slot extrusions, which allows convenient mounting of the wheel bogies and other components.

The interlocking track pieces

For initial driving tests [James] fitted two completely overpowered 1500 W brushless motors that he had on hand, which he plans to replace with smaller geared DC motors at a later stage.

A standard RC system is used for control, but it does not offer a simple way to control a skid steer vehicle. To solve this, [James] added an Arduino between the RC receiver and the motor ESC. It converts the PWM throttle and turn signal from the transmitter, and combines is into differential PWM outputs for the two ESCs.

Continue reading “Modular Rover Platform Rolls On 3D Printed Flexible Tank Tracks”

A Geared Bench Vise To Clamp All The Things

On the eternal quest of workshop upgrades, [Alexandre Chappel] has combined woodworking and 3D printing to add a versatile 0.5 m wide vise with some clever internals to his workbench.

The challenge with such a wide vise is that it requires two timed lead screws on either end of the vise to prevent if from pulling skew under force. This can be done with a chain, belt, or [Alexandre]’s choice, gears. Inside the moving part of the vise he fitted series of 5 herringbone gears. By turning the center gear with a lever, it rotates the gears on the end which are fixed to tow lead screws. The external surfaces of the clamp are made with plywood, and the gears are printed with PLA and high infill percentage. [Alexandre] does say that he is not sure durable the gears are, but they definitely aren’t flimsy. He added an acrylic inspection window to the box section, which we think looks superb with the colored gears peaking through. The back of the vise is mounted inside the workbench, which keeps the look clean and doesn’t take up any bench space.

[Alexandre] does a lot of filming in his workshop, so recently he also built a very impressive and practical camera arm to avoid having to move tripods the whole time. A vise is a must-have tool in almost any workshop, so we’ve seen a few DIY versions, like magnetic base vise and one with a hydraulic vise.

3D Printed SCARA Arm With 3D Printer Components

One of the side effects of the rise of 3D printers has been the increased availability and low cost of 3D printer components, which are use fill for range of applications. [How To Mechatronics] capitalized on this and built a SCARA robot arm using 3D-printed parts and common 3D-printer components.

The basic SCARA mechanism is a two-link arm, similar to a human arm. The end of the second joint can move through the XY-plane by rotating at the base and elbow of the mechanism. [How To Mechatronics] added Z-motion by moving the base of the first arm on four vertical linear rods with a lead screw. A combination of thrust bearings and ball bearings allow for smooth rotation of each of the joints, which are belt-driven with NEMA17 stepper motors. Each joint has a microswitch at a certain position in its rotation to give it a home position. The jaws of the gripper slide on two parallel linear rods, and are actuated with a servo. For controlling the motors, an Arduino Uno and CNC stepper shield was used.

The arm is operated from a computer with a GUI written in Processing, which sends instructions to the Arduino over serial. The GUI allows for both direct forward kinematic control of the joints, and inverse kinematic control,  which will automatically move the gripper to a specified coordinate. The GUI can also save positions, and then string them together to do complete tasks autonomously.

The base joint is a bit wobbly due to the weight of the rest of the arm, but this could be fixed by using a frame to support it at the top as well. We really like the fact that commonly available components were used, and the link in the first paragraph has detailed instructions and source files for building your own. If the remaining backlash can be solved, it could be a decent light duty CNC platform, especially with the small footprint and large travel area. Continue reading “3D Printed SCARA Arm With 3D Printer Components”