Acrylic sheets are brittle and crack easily, but a hacksaw is a good way to cut it by hand. After cutting, [Marija] uses a small portable gas stove at its lowest setting to provide gentle heat until the acrylic becomes soft, then it can be formed into different shapes using common shop and household items. It’s a process that requires patience and practice, so she shares some useful tips:
Remove the protective film after cutting, but before heat forming. Otherwise the film will be much harder to remove.
Heating too aggressively will result in bubbles that ruin the acrylic.
Uneven heating will result in a bad bend, or “hot spots” which can result in bubbles as mentioned above.
This heating method naturally softens a wide area, but it’s still possible to get straight and flat bends by using wood forms and letting the acrylic cool before moving it.
[Marija] used this method of heating and bending acrylic to complete an earlier lamp project of hers that we featured in the past. Acrylic might laser-cut beautifully, and there may be inexpensive tools for heating and bending it, but it’s always nice to have some tried and true techniques that don’t require anything special.
There’s no doubting the allure of a nicely crafted LED cube; likewise, there’s no doubting that they can be a tremendous pain to build. After all, the amount of work scales as the cube of the number of LEDs you want each side to have, and let’s face it – with LED cubes, the bigger, the better. What to do about all that tedious lead forming?
[TylerTimoJ]’s solution is a custom-designed lead-forming tool, and we have to say we’re mighty impressed by it. His LED cubes use discrete RGB LEDs, the kind with four leads, each suspended in space by soldering them to wires. For the neat appearance needed to make such a circuit sculpture work, the leads must be trimmed and bent at just the right angles, a tedious job indeed when done by hand. His tool has servo-controlled jaws that grip the leads, with solenoid-actuated lead formers coming in from below to bend each lead just the right amount. The lead former, along with its companion trimmer, obviously went through a lot of iterations before [TylerTimoJ] got everything right, but we’d say being able to process thousands of LEDs without all the tedium is probably worth the effort.
It doesn’t seem as though bending wire would be much of a chore, but when you’re making art from your circuits, it can be everything. Just the right angle in just the right place can make the difference between a circuit sculpture that draws gasps and one that’s only “Meh.”
[Jiří Praus] creates circuit sculptures that are about as far away from the “Meh” end of the spectrum as possible. And to help him make them even more spectacular, he has started prototyping a wire-bending machine to add precision to his bends. There’s no build log at the moment, but the video below shows progress to date. All the parts are 3D-printed, with two NEMA 17 steppers taking care of both wire feed and moving the bending head. It appears that the head has multiple slots for tools of different shapes. For now, the wire is rotated around its long axis manually, but another stepper could be added to take care of that job.
[Jiří] tells us that while he loves making circuit sculptures like his amazing mechanical tulip, he hates repeating himself. He hopes this bender will make repeat jobs a little less tedious and a lot more precise, and we hope he goes forward with the build so we get to see both it and more of his wonderful works of circuit art.
Metal fabrication is a useful skill to have. There’s plenty you can achieve in your workshop at home, given the right tools. There’s lathes for turning, mills for milling, and bandsaws and dropsaws for chopping it all to pieces. But what do you do if you need to make hoops and bends and round sections? You build a metal roller, of course – and that’s precisely what [James Bruton] did.
The main body of the tool is built out of box section, chosen largely as it’s what [James] had lying around. Bearings are of the familiar pillow block variety, with 20 mm bright steel serving as the rollers due to its better tolerance than mild steel stock. Set screws hold the shafts in place to avoid everything sliding around the place. A 10-ton bottle jack then provides the force to gently bend the workpiece as it passes through the rollers.
Initial tests were positive, with the roller producing smooth curves in 4 mm thick steel bar. There were some issues with runout, which were easily fixed with some attention to the parallelism of the shafts. It’s a tidy build, and can serve as a basis for further upgrades in future if necessary.
Look around your bench and chances are pretty good that there’s a PCB or scrap of perfboard or even a breadboard sitting there, wires and LEDs sprouting off it, doing something useful and interesting. Taking it to the next level with a snazzy enclosure just seems too hard sometimes, especially if you don’t have access to a 3D printer or laser cutter. But whipping up plastic enclosures can be quick and easy with this simple acrylic bending outfit.
At its heart [Derek]’s bending rig is not much different from any of the many hot-wire foam cutters we’ve featured. A nichrome wire with a tensioning spring is stretched across a slot in a flat work surface. The slot contains an aluminum channel to reflect the heat from the wire upward and to protect the MDF bed; we wonder if perhaps an angle section set in a V-groove might not be more effective, and whether more vertical adjustment range would provide the wider heating area needed for wider radius bends. It works great as is, though, and [Derek] took the time to build a simple timer to control the heating element, for which of course he promptly built a nice looking enclosure.
We can imagine the possibilities here are endless, especially if you use colored acrylic or Lexan and add in some solvent welding. We’ve covered acrylic enclosure techniques before; here’s a post that covers the basics.
PVC pipe is a valuable material to the backyard hacker. It’s cheap, readily available, and comes in a range of different sizes. However, what do you do if you need to bend it? The typical approach would be to grab a heat gun or blowtorch, warm it up, and go from there. These methods can get messy however, with kinks and melted surfaces spoiling the final result. Now [Linn] has released a video with a method that delivers impressively neat results.
The method is simple, using that classic hacker staple — duct tape. The end of the pipe is taped off, and the pipe filled with sand. With the correct amount measured out, the sand is heated on a cooktop, then poured back into the pipe. After giving the heat some time to soften the plastic, the pipe can then be manipulated into the desired shape.
[Linn] does a great job of explaining the process in a clear and concise manner, and shares tips on how to use a bending jig to guide the final shape. Results are best with smaller pipes that are easier to heat through, but larger sections can be manipulated with patience.
A motor mount. A sturdy enclosure. A 43.7° bracket. The average hack requires at least one angled metal part, and the best tool to make one is still the good ol’ press brake. Bending parts requires a few extra thoughts in the design and layout of the flat patterns, so if you want to know about bend allowances, bend deduction and how to bend accurate parts even without a press, read on.