FreeCAD TechDraw Workbench Tutorial

FreeCAD started out a little shaky, but it has gotten better and better. If you are trying to draw a schematic, it probably isn’t the best way to do it. However, it is a great graphical alternative to OpenSCAD for 3D printing and even incorporates OpenSCAD if you don’t want to choose. However, if you have a 3D part — regardless of how you want to create it in real life — having a proper mechanical drawing is very valuable. FreeCAD’s TechDraw workbench makes this very easy and [Joko] has a tutorial that shows exactly how to do it.

Machinists everywhere are used to looking at these drawings that typically show a top view, a front view, and a side view. The program will automatically project the views you select and then allows you to pick dimensions. It creates them and keeps them up to date if you change them in the model later.

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3D Printing New Cases For The TS100 Soldering Iron

About a year back, [BogdanTheGeek] found himself in need of a new case for this TS100 soldering iron. Unfortunately, while the product is often billed as being open source friendly (at least in the firmware sense), he was surprised to discover that he couldn’t find the detailed dimensions required to 3D print his own replacement case. So he took it upon himself to document the case design and try to kick off a community around custom enclosures for the popular portable iron.

The main goals while designing the replacement case was to make it printable without support, and usable without additional hardware. He also wanted it to be stronger than the original version, and feature a somewhat blockier design that he personally finds more comfortable. The case was designed with PLA in mind, and he says he’s had no problems with the lower-temperature plastic. But if you’re still concerned about the heat, PETG would be an ideal material to print yours in.

It took him many attempts to get the design to where it is today, and still, there are improvements he’d like to make. For one, there’s no protective cover over the iron’s OLED screen. He’d also like to make the switch from SolidWorks over to FreeCAD so the project is a bit more accessible, and says he’d appreciate anyone who wants to chip in. We’re excited to see what develops once the hacking world realizes that there are accurate open source CAD files for the TS100 floating around out there.

Our very own [Jenny List] put the TS100 through its paces not so long ago, and found a decidedly solid little tool. While it won’t replace your high-end soldering station, it’s very convenient for quick repairs and simple tasks, especially if you find yourself away from the workbench proper.

Glia Is Making Open Medical Devices, And You Can Help

The Glia project aims to create a suite of free and open-source medical equipment that can be assembled cheaply and easily when and where it’s needed. Even essential tools like stethoscopes and tourniquets can be difficult to acquire in certain parts of the world, especially during times of war or civil unrest. But armed with a 3D printer and the team’s open-source designs, an ad-hoc factory can start producing these lifesaving tools anywhere on the planet.

Glia member [Tarek Loubani] has recently written a blog post discussing the team’s latest release: an otoscope that can be built for as little as $5. Even if you don’t recognize the name, you’ve almost certainly seen one of them in use. The otoscope is used to look inside the ear and can be invaluable in diagnosing illnesses, especially in children. Unfortunately, while this iconic piece of equipment is quite simple on a technical level, professional-quality versions can cost hundreds of dollars.

Now to be fair, you’ll need quite a bit more than just the 3D printed parts to assemble the device. The final product requires some electrical components such as a battery holder, rocker switch, and LED. It also requires a custom lens, though the Glia team has thought ahead here and provided the files for printable jigs that will allow you to cut a larger lens down to the size required by their otoscope. In a situation where you might have to improvise with what you have, that’s a very clever design element.

So far the team is very happy with how the otoscope performs, but they’ve run into a bit of a logistical snag. It turns out that early work on the project was done in the web-based TinkerCAD, which isn’t quite in line with the team’s goals of keeping everything free and open. They’d like some assistance in recreating the STLs in FreeCAD or OpenSCAD so they’re easier to modify down the road. So if you’re a FOSS CAD master and want to earn some positive karma, head over to the GitHub page for the project and put those skills to use.

We’ve previously covered Glia’s work with 3D printed tourniquets to treat gunshot wounds, a project that led to [Tarek] himself being shot by a sniper while attempting to field test the design in Gaza. If that’s not commitment to the principles of open-source hardware, we don’t know what is.

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Home Made Gears Save This Shredder

It’s very likely that a majority of readers will have had a gear fail in a piece of equipment, causing it to be unrepairable. This is a problem particularly with plastic gears, which shed teeth faster than a child who has discovered the financial returns of the Tooth Fairy.

[BcastLar] has a shredder with a gear that has, well, shredded. He’s posted a video series over three parts that while ostensibly about fixing his shredder, is in reality a three-part tutorial on how to create custom gears using FreeCAD. While the principles of a gear are readily apparent to most observers their intricacies hide significant complexity which he does a great job of explaining. How to measure the parameters of a given gear, explaining mysteries such as pitch angle or beta, he breaks everything down in easy to understand steps.

His tool of choice is FreeCAD, and while he explains that FreeCAD has the ability to make gears from scratch the tool employed in the videos is the Gear Workbench plugin. He shows how this software removes the complexity of creating a gear, and shows the process on his screen as he creates the custom shredder part.

Finally, the process of 3D printing the gear is explained. You might ask why not machine it, to which he responds that tooling for non-standard gear profiles is prohibitively expensive. We’ve placed all three videos below the break, and we think you might want to make yourself a cup of tea or something and work through them.

Thanks [Andy Pugh] for the tip.

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Improving A Conference Badge With 3D Printing

The obsession with over-the-top-hardware conference badges means that we as attendees get to enjoy a stream of weird and wonderful electronic gadgets. But for the folks putting these conferences on, getting a badge designed and manufactured in time for the event can be a stressful and expensive undertaking. To keep things on track, the designs will often cut corners and take liberties that you’d never see in commercial products. But of course, that’s part of their charm.

As a case in point, the OLED display on the 2019 KiCon badge is held on with just four soldered header pins, and can easily be bent or even snapped off. So [Jose Ignacio Romero] took it upon himself to develop a 3D printable mount which integrates with the PCB and gives the display some mechanical support. Any KiCon attendees who are looking to keep their badge in peak fighting condition for the long haul might want to start warming their extruders.

The design of this upgrade was made all the easier thanks to the fact that the KiCon badge is (naturally) open hardware. That meant [Jose] could import the PCB files directly into FreeCAD and have a virtual model of the badge to work with. This let him check the clearances and position of components without having to break out the calipers and measure the real thing.

Playing around with the virtual assembly, [Jose] quickly realized that the mounting holes in the OLED display don’t actually line up with the holes in the PCB; potentially why the screen didn’t get mounted on the final hardware. Once this misalignment was characterized, he was able to factor it into his design: the PCB side gets screwed down, and the screen snaps into printed “nubs” on the top of the mount.

Hackaday Editor-in-Chief [Mike Szczys] was on hand for KiCon 2019, and was kind enough to share the experience with those of us who couldn’t make it in person, including his own bout of hacking this very same badge.

Mechanical Integration With KiCad

Eagle and Fusion are getting all the respect for integrating electronic and mechanical design, but what about KiCad? Are there any tools out there that allow you to easily build an enclosure for your next printed circuit board? [Maurice] has one solution, and it seamlessly synchronizes KiCad and FreeCAD. KiCad will give you the board, FreeCAD will give you the enclosure, and together you have full ECAD and MCAD synchronization.

This trick comes in the form of a FreeCAD macro (on the Github, with a bunch of documentation) that loads a KiCad board and components into FreeCAD and export them as a STEP file. You can align the KiCad board in FreeCAD, convert STEPs to VRMLs, check interference and collision, and create an enclosure around a KiCad board.

KiCad has gotten some really great visualization tools over the past few years, and we would be remiss if we didn’t mention it’s one of the best ways to visualize a completed circuit board before heading to production. Taking that leap from electronic CAD to mechanical CAD is still something that’s relatively rare in the KiCad ecosystem, and more tools to make this happen is always wanted.

KiCad And FreeCAD Hack Chat

Join us Wednesday at noon Pacific time for the KiCad and FreeCAD Hack Chat led by Anool Mahidharia!

The inaugural KiCon conference is kicking off this Friday in Chicago, and KiCad aficionados from all over the world are gathering to discuss anything and everything about the cross-platform, open-source electronic design automation platform. As you’d expect, Hackaday will have a presence at the conference, including a meet and greet after party. There’ll also be talks by a couple of our writers, including Anool Mahidharia, who’ll be taking time out of his trip to the States to drop by the Hack Chat with a preview of his talk, entitled “Fast 3D Model Creation with FreeCAD”.

Join us for the KiCad and FreeCAD Hack Chat this week with your questions about KiCad and FreeCAD. If you’ve got some expertise with electronic design tools, make sure you come by and contribute to the discussion too — we’d love to hear your insights. And as always, you can get your questions queued up by leaving a comment on the KiCad and FreeCAD Hack Chat event page and we’ll put them on the list for the Hack Chat discussion.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, April 24, at noon, Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.