Office organization

There was a discussion on the askelectronics subreddit about part storage, which reminded me that I’ve been meaning to post about the latest office arrangement. For the video tour, see this post. Since the main question is about components, I’ll start there. Since the organization has grown over a decade or so, there is some duplication and some things that could be grouped better, which is an ongoing process. This is the main electronics workbench in my office: From top row, left to bottom row right: Grey bins – the oldest bins. Contains US machine screws, wood screws, nails, etc. Teal bins – until recently this was metric hardware and rivets, but most of that has moved to primary storage (covered below) – now mostly empty Partitioned containers. These are $10 from the container store. There are 5 in use here and 3 more emptys in primary storage. This is […]

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Octopi on the makerbot

Problem: Running my makerbot over serial can be problematic because I have an aged laptop. I’m still using an old laptop I scavenged when IT was giving away tired machines. It has a Core 2 Duo at 2Ghz, a 40GB hard drive and 3GB RAM (32 bit OS). It’s still kicking, and can usually do what I need without too much hassle. Recently though, The act of switching windows during a print caused the serial buffer to run out, and the printer would sit for 30 seconds oozing while it waited for more data. Solution: Enter OctoPrint. I recently got a Raspberry Pi model B for a larger PCB design project I was planning, but that is temporarily on hold. I did some reading about what I could do with it, and was torn between a pandora interface for the stereo downstairs, and a mini-host for the 3D printer. Once […]

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You just got a 3D printer – now what?

With the holiday season upon us, and the availability of 3D printers increasing, we have reached the year that many people will be getting or building a 3D printer and then wondering what they can do. There are two main ways to get things for your printer to print – you can download them or you can design them. Downloads There are quite a few sites now that host 3D printable models. The first major one is Thingiverse, which is owned by Makerbot (who is owned by Stratasys). Thingiverse had files for 3D priting and for laser cutting. Some models are extremely well made, and print with ease. Other things may not be well designed or could even be impossible to print. A good rule is that if there isn’t a picture of a printed part on the thing’s page, then it’s probably not printable. Also make sure that the printed […]

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Meet Sparky

Quick project last night to upgrade a skull with flickering red eyes. Steph had properly themed bouncy balls to go in the eye sockets.  I added some red LEDs and an ATTiny13. I borrowed two different code snippets to make it blink with a nicer look. Hackaday Link for project 1 (used the LCG formula) Zenlogic’s PWM code (modified to use only two outputs) Click to view video.

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Designspark Mechanical

I just heard that Designspark, working with Spaceclaim, has just released a free edition of spaceclaim designed to help make enclosures for PCBs designed with Designspark’s other free EDA tools. This could be a huge advancement for the hobby 3D printing market. Designspark Mechanical can export STL, and being based on spaceclaim means that editing will be quite nice. I have used Spaceclaim Engineer in a previous job, and really was impressed. Other common tools for 3D hobbiests: Autodesk 123D: Painful interface (on older computers), and a medium learning curve, but still quite usable. They recently hid the 3D export option, but it is still there. SCAD: Much larger learning curve, but very good (especially paired with DraftSight to make DXFs). Also very nice for the parametric aspects. Sketchup: As someone with real CAD experience, making precise things and doing any kind of editing was quite painful. Sometimes has problems […]

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New electronics for the makerbot part 2

Here is my makerbot electronics as of Friday. Including the relay board, there are 7 boards involved in running the bot. I finished soldering the proto board to connect my Pro Mega to the Quadstep Friday night. I got everything torn off and installed my new board stack in place. Still some work to do for making it look nice, but it’s already a big improvement. Moving on to the software side, I had a heck of a time getting anything to load from the Arduino environment. After nearly 8 hours of debugging and finally loading the basic blink program via the AVR Isp port (which involved teaching the Arduino environment that my pololu AVR programmer is like an stk500v2), I discovered what was happening. It was toggling the blink Led every 2 seconds instead of 1! I triple checked the fuse settings against various AVR calculators and they were […]

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New Oscilliscope Part 3 – Screen Capture

With the TDS544A up and running, I decided to take a crack at getting data off of it. The scope has a floppy drive (but my laptop doesn’t), a GPIB port, and a printer card with both parallel and serial interfaces. The hardcopy menu has around 18 options for filetypes, and is capable of sending the screenshot to any of the ports or the floppy drive. Of the options available, I decided to try sending a windows BMP file over the serial port. I used a F-F null modem cable and a USB to Serial converter. On the program side, I started with this autohotkey script which spews data from your serial port into notepad. With a little bit of munging (removing anything to do with sending data, and removing some of the ASCII conversion logic), I was able to get and write BMP files. A full 640×480 color bitmap […]

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