Desk-Sized CNC Engraver Does The Job

CNC machine tools are highly useful for when you want to take a CAD design and make real parts as quickly and as easily as possible. Typically, they’re employed in large-scale industrial settings, but CNC machines come in all shapes and sizes. It’s possible to build a useful machine that’s just right to sit on your desk, as [More Than User] demonstrates.

The holes pictured were made with a 0.5mm tool, showing off the precision and accuracy of the machine.

The build consists of an aluminium-framed CNC engraver, designed primarily for the production of PCBs. However, it can also handle plastic jobs, and aluminium if run slowly enough. Like most garage CNC projects, it runs with a combination of stepper motors and an Arduino. The cutting area is 16 cm x 16cm – more than enough for most hobby PCBs.

There are plenty of interesting details, such as the T-slot bed made from U-section steel bolted together, and the simple probe made from a microswitch. Perhaps most impressive though is the tight precision of the cuts. This is particularly important for PCB work, where otherwise minor issues could cause short or open circuits and make the resulting parts useless.

It’s a project that we’re sure will come in handy for [More Than User]’s future projects, and there’s nothing quite like making your own tools. If you’re new to CNC as a whole, consider picking up some design tips before you get started.

Project Egress: A Bracket And A Bell Crank For The Latches

Put yourself in [This Old Tony]’s shoes: you get an email out of the blue asking you to take part in making a replica of a 50-year-old spacecraft. Would you believe it? He didn’t, at least not at first, but in the end it proved to be true enough that he made these two assemblies for Project Egress in his own unique style.

If you haven’t heard of Project Egress, check out our coverage of the initial announcement. The idea is to build a replica of the crew hatch from the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, as part of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing next week. [Adam Savage] at Tested has enlisted 44 hackers and makers to help, spreading the work out among the group and letting everyone work in whatever materials and with whatever methods they feel like. [Old Tony], perhaps unsurprisingly, chose mainly Apollo-era dehydrated space-grade aluminum, machined using a combination of manual and CNC machining. We really like the finish he chose – a combination of sandblasting and manual distressing to give it a mission-worn look.

As for exactly what the parts themselves are, the best [Old Tony] could come up with to call them is a bracket and a bell crank. From the original hatch drawings, it looks like there were two bell cranks, which will transmit force around the hatch to the latches that [Fran Blanche], [Joel] and [Bob], and no doubt others have contributed to the build.

We’re eagerly anticipating the final assembly, to be executed by [Adam] live at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on July 18. Project Egress is as much a celebration of the maker movement as it is a commemoration of Apollo, and we’re pleased that people will get a chance to see the fruits of the labors of all these hackers in so public a forum.

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Project Egress: [Fran] Makes A Latch

[Fran Blanche] is on the team of elite hackers that has been offered a chance to contribute to [Adam Savage]’s Project Egress, a celebration of the engineering that got humanity to the Moon 50 years ago this month. By the luck of the draw, she landed a great assignment: building a replica of one of the fifteen latches that kept the Apollo Command Module hatch dogged down against the vacuum of space, and she’s doing a great job documenting her build with some interesting videos.

The first video below is mostly her talking through her design process, materials choices, and ideas about fabricating the somewhat intricate pieces of the latch. All 44 makers involved in the project get to choose what materials and methods they’ll use to make their parts, and [Fran] decided to use wood. Her first inclination was to use oak and brass, a nice combination with an 80s vibe, but in the second video, which covers more of the initial fabrication, she explains her switch to walnut. Unfortunately, the only CNC option she has is a Shaper Origin, which presents some difficulties; the handheld tool requires some complicated fixturing to safely machine the small parts needed, and its inability to read STL files means that [Fran] is stuck with a complicated software toolchain to drive the tool.

There are more videos to come as [Fran] gets further into the build, and we’re looking forward to seeing how her part and the rest of the makers’ builds come out.

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Building A Googie-Style Sign With The Help Of CNC

The Googie style was a major architectural trend of the post-war period in the United States. It remains popular to throwback to this style, and [Wesley Treat] got the job to create a sign in this vein for a local trailer motel (Youtube link, embedded below).

CNC tools make just about any job easier, and this one is no exception. The smooth curves of the sign were carved out of several sections of PVC sheet, and stacked up to form the body of the sign. These were then sanded, coated in putty, and given a lick of  paint. Steps like these could likely be skipped in the interest of saving time, especially given that few will see those parts once the sign is installed. However, [Wesley] takes pride in his work, and the final piece is all the better for it. It’s also important for the piece to impress the client, not just the public.

The front of the sign is also produced in PVC sheet, and given a coat of paint with brush techniques used to create a faux-wood finish. Vinyl is then applied to the textual and graphical elements in order to create a colored backlit effect. The sign is lit with off-the-shelf LED strips, and the whole assembly is weather sealed to protect it from the elements.

The final product is a beautiful piece, harking back to the classic Googie aesthetic and serving as a testament to [Wesley]’s skills. It’s a great example of how easy it is to create great work with the right tools and the proper attention to detail. It also goes to show how great LEDs are for signage, whether you’re at the beach or the lab. Video after the break.

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Wire Bender Aims To Take Circuit Sculptures To The Next Level

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.

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FarmBot Unveils New CNC Gardening Robot Models

Across the Northern Hemisphere it is now summer and the growing season is in full swing. Vigorous plants that will soon bear tasty fruit are springing forth from the soil, but unfortunately so are a lush carpet of weeds that require the constant attention of the gardener. “If only there were a machine that could take that on!” she cries, and as it happens she’s in luck.

The FarmBot is an open-source robotic vegetable grower able to take care of all aspects of sowing and tending a vegetable plot. We first saw them five years as a semifinalist in the first Hackaday Prize. This is a CNC machine for the raised beds of your backyard garden. Give it power, water, and a WiFi connection, and FarmBot goes into service planting, watering, weeding, and monitoring the soil. Now they’ve shipped over a thousand of their Genesis model and today have announced of a pair of new models that promise to make their technology more accessible than it ever has been.

FarmBot moisture sensor and watering head
FarmBot has a tool changer. Soil moisture sensor and watering heads are shown here.

In a nod to Tesla, FarmBot is calling this their “Model 3 moment” — the new offering is smaller and leaner to appeal to a wider customer base than their well-heeled, CNC machine loving, early adopters. The new FarmBot Express and Express XL models are now shipped 95% pre-assembled to lower the bar on getting up and running.  They cover two sizes of planting bed: 1.2m x 3m or 2.4m x 6m, with an MSRP of $2295/2795 although there is currently an $800 launch discount available.

For us, FarmBot is the success story of an early Hackaday Prize entrant. From a great idea and a functional prototype, the project has successfully made the transition to commercial viability and holds a genuine promise of making the world a better place by helping people grow some of their own produce. Who knows, in five years time it could be your idea that’s reaching commercial viability, we think you should enter the Hackaday Prize too!

Hackaday Links: June 30, 2019

In our continuing series of, ‘point and laugh at this guy’, I present a Kickstarter for the, “World’s First Patented Unhackable Computer Ever”.  It’s also a real web site and there’s even a patent (US 10,061,923, not showing up on Google Patents for some reason), and a real product: you can get an unhackable laptop, and you can get it in either space gray or gold finish. This gets fun when you actually dig into the patent; it appears this guy invented protected memory, with one section of memory dedicated to the OS, and another dedicated to the browser. This is a valid, live patent, by the way.

The 2019 New York Maker Faire is off. Yeah, it says it’s still going to happen on the website, but trust me, it’s off, and you can call the New York Hall of Science to confirm that for yourself. Maker Media died recently, and there will be no more ‘Flagship’ Maker Faires. That doesn’t mean the ‘mini’ and ‘featured’ Maker Faires are dead, though: the ‘Maker Faire’ trademark is simply licensed out to those organizers. In the next few weeks, there is going to be a (mini) Maker Faire in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Gilroy, California, Edmonton, Alberta, Kingsport Tennessee, and a big ‘ol one in Detroit. This raises an interesting question: where is the money for the licensing going? I’m sure some Mini Maker Faire organizers are reading this; have your checks been cashed? What is the communication with Maker Media like?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It’s valuable words of wisdom like that and can apply to many things. Commenting on blog posts, for example. Yes, you can throw sticks at a wasp’s nest, that doesn’t mean you should. Yes, you can 3D print Heely adapters for your shoes, but it doesn’t mean you should. It does look dope, though and you’re automatically a thousand times cooler than everyone else.

The C64 Mini is a pocket-sized Linux device with an HDMI port meant to play C64 games.   There were high hopes when the C64 Mini was announced, but it turned out the keyboard isn’t actually a mini keyboard. Now someone had the good sense to combine one of these ‘smartphone chips running an emulator in a retro case’ products with a full-sized keyboard. The C64 will be around by Christmas, and yeah, it has a full working keyboard.