Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jewelry in Progress - Two More Experiments

Last time, I shared a piece of Goth jewelry I'm working on. That's not my usual style, as I noted in that post. Here's a couple more pieces I'm developing. One is a neutral tone antique look, the other is a high tech version of Steampunk.

Washer art steampunk antique circuit board jewlery
A piece of antique random washer art and some hi-tech Steampunk - or at least the foundation for them.

Neither piece is finished, they're really just the base layer.

The round piece is a washer that I covered with paper that I cut to size with my old craft cutter machine. It's from a series of experiments I was doing - sort of forcing myself into randomness. I would slap some tear-outs from various magazines onto the cutting mat and cut randomly, then try to make something pretty from the results. It was meant to be an antidote to the precise, overly planned activities that my coding and 3d design require. And it sure was fun, so I might do that again.

The other piece is a scavenged PCB (circuit board) with a bright gold frame. I didn't realize it until too late, but I'm probably the only person who knows that the board is nearly flat and all the other stuff is added on. Only an electro-geek would know that... jeesh, what was I thinking. So I added an antique frame and stamp to steer it towards the Steampunk realm. I like the balance and rhythm of the objects, but no one will know that they came from me.

I didn't touch them today. I needed to cogitate and agitate a little first. I think I've got a plan now, but we'll see how it works out.

It seems that I'm trying to develop a new style, whether I really want to or not. I hesitate to even call it that, but that's what I get for trying new things. Normal people are starting tp create the types of stuff I did years ago, so now I'm trying to move beyond that. When I started doing Steampunk it was weird and people looked at it slightly askance. And I was okay with that. Now everyone is doing it and I've got to move on.

So I'm forced to try new things again... and I'm okay with that. And sure, my new stuff looks odd even to me. I haven't found a dependable visual vocabulary yet. I don't even know what the pieces are about, what their narrative is. I don't see other people doing it yet, so I don't really have anyone to steal from or prop my decisions against for surety. Basically I don't know what I'm doing yet.

It does seem, at least to me, that I'm repeatedly trying to marry different materials and time periods. The "style" hasn't congealed into anything coherent yet, though. I feel like I'm treading water, like I'm just slapping stuff together with no plan. And I'm okay with that. Sometimes things turn out well, even better than expected.

If you're trying something new, or want to, then that's what usually happens. I've been here before, so I'm comfortable. Just thought I would leave a note here for anyone else that's struggling to find their new thing... you're not alone ( and it's really kind of fun travelling without a map.)

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Friday the 13th Jewelry

Missed posting this on Friday the 13th but going to show it now. Starting to make some new jewelry for an upcoming show. Not even sure if I'll be in the show, but it's a good excuse to try some new techniques.

The skull matched the dark depths of the scavenged LCD screen. I thought a silver clock face and a spot of red were good accents.

This isn't my usual style, but I needed something to offset the black square and a skull worked nicely. For some reason I felt all goth that day. Maybe it's just my attempt to balance the "natural tones" pieces that I'm making at the same time.

This piece is comprised of an upcycled LCD screen I scavenged from a teardown. It had a spooky, dark depth to it. And the screen becomes semi-transparent when a strong backlight is put behind it. I thought the black-and-white skull looked like it was floating on a pool of darkness.

I could never find a use for the silvery chrome clock faces before since most of my jewelry has a kind of antique or steampunk look. But the silver seemed to match the theme well.

And I had some old buttons I had scavenged from a calculator. The red color made the piece pop a little, and the glue distorted the printed cross just enough to make it cool. Glad I could finally repurpose these parts.

I'm also trying to incorporate some pretty and glittery things, some canvas and some actual plant materials. We'll see how it goes, and I'll post more samples as I complete them.

Skull clock face goth jewelry necklace
The LCD screen is semi-transparent in strong backlight and the clock face shows through as the skull floats in space.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Mythical Vibrator Found?

I might have found one of the legendary LRA vibration motors. I can't be sure yet, but all the signs are there. It looks like a standard ERM, but it acts more like a piezo and its magnet is incredibly powerful.

Is this an LRA linear resonant actuator virator motor in an old cell phone.
So is this an LRA vibration motor? It looks like a standard ERM pancake motor. But it's got a really strong magnet and operates like a piezo. I'm going to hook it up to my haptic driver controller and test it out.

What's the big deal? Well the LRA (Linear Resonant Actuator) is rumored to have a better feel for haptic feedback devices. When your phone vibrates, or the screen clicks or taps or buzzes when you touch it - that's an LRA.

An LRA acts like a speaker. When current is applied, a weight moves back and forth in a linear motion. Like a speaker, this allows you to create complex waveforms that can be felt kind of like you hear waveforms in music.

Compared to a regular ERM (Eccentric Rotating Mass) vibrator, LRAs provide a wider range of sensations. That's why they're used for tactile feedback in all your phones.

You can find standard  ERMs everywhere, from the tiny disk shaped motors in a bristlebot, to the huge versions in your back massager. They are cheap, readily available and easy to work with. But they have a very limited vocabulary. All you can really do is adjust the speed and duration. Even with modern controllers, you can't use ERMs for sophisticated feedback tasks.

By contrast, LRAs are difficult to source and many use connector sizes I'm not comfortable working with. You also need to be either a serious programmer or buy a specialty controller board to use them. I do own one of those controller boards, a haptic feedback driver, so I can test my newly found vibe as soon as I figure out how to tweak the registers. Luckily, this motor is also large enough and uses connectors that I can see without a magnifying glass.

If I get it working without blowing anything up, I will certainly post my experiences here.

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Am I Still a Maker

What is a "maker" exactly? Is a janitor a maker? What about facilities-maintenance staff? I took time off from my personal projects to do some repair and maintenance on several buildings this week. I was using the same tools and techniques, but somehow it didn't feel like I was "making."

None of the people I worked with this week consider themselves "makers" even though they are all more skilled than I am in many areas. For the entire week I was more like an assistant or apprentice to them. They do this type of work full time and have a deep knowledge of many things. I'm a dilettante who thankfully knows enough to call in experts when safety or financial efficiency are at stake.

I did some good, solid real-world work this week. When I knew what I needed to do and had a plan for the task, I thought of myself as "merely working." When I had no plans, when I was just exploring and dreaming - then I thought of myself as a maker.

In fact, it wasn't until I made a cartoon face out of an old light fixture that I thought of myself as a maker. "At least I made one thing this week," I thought to myself.

What the... what does that mean? Why is my mindset like that? And am I the only one who thinks like this?

Why do I consider this silly cartoon face from scrap parts to be "making."

And why do I not consider replacing these old light fixtures with new LED versions a form of making?

I get to hang out with carpenters, contractors, welders, mechanics, cabinet makers and chefs. I also hang around with painters and photographers and jewelry artists. None of them have really adopted the term "maker" to identify themselves.

I also know people who identify as tinkerers, shade tree mechanics, DIYers, hobbyists or amateurs in various fields. I even know people who still use the terms "home brewed" and jack-of-all-trades. These people consider making and repairing and creating a basic life skill that everyone should have, not something particularly special. They have not adopted the maker moniker either.

In fact, these folks seem to have a distaste for the new marketing term of "maker." They see the hoopla and overuse of the term in advertising and grant proposals and seem determined to avoid the term.

So I wonder if "maker" is becoming a name for people who haven't fully integrated creativity and physical work in their lives.

I don't have any answers, just a lot more questions. Why do I never post my artistic work here? Why do I not post about repair and maintenance? Why do I avoid posting real programming, mechanical and engineering challenges? Do I really think makers are so easily frightened that I'll scare them off by posting professional level tasks?

Until now, my biggest worry was that I bounce around between so many materials, techniques and project types that it will take a year before I post a similar project. What if people show up because of my electronics projects and are disappointed to find arabesque shadow screens instead, or wood carving, or halter tops, or graphic design tips? That is, after all, why I chose such a weird name for the blog, "You've been warned, you knew what to expect from the title."

Maybe I need to stop limiting the types of things I post here and start sharing the full range of project types and levels of difficulty.

Okay, that's enough overthinking and public rumination for one post. Time to go do something, make something, create something... doesn't really matter what I call it now does it... as long as I do it.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

DIY Blacklight Tutorial now on Instructables

Created a step-by-step tutorial for the DIY Blacklight Flashlight and entered it in a cople of contests over on the Instructables web site.

Check it out on Instructables.com

The redlight version is good for finding dropped items at night without losing your night vision.

I forgot to mention some things in the video, or didn't emphasize other things strongly enough. So I felt like I needed to add some more information.

But doing a tutorial on this blog seemed kind of silly when there is a great platform with tools specifically made for creating tutorials. That's why I published to Instructables.

Sometimes I forget to mention my posts on Instructables and YouTube. My friends are tired of hearing me talk about my projects by the time I'm ready to publish them. But I'm realizing that a lot of people who visit this blog don't have weekly coffee meetings with me, so I'll try to post more regularly here and keep everyone informed.

Also find me on: FACEBOOK or Instructables or YouTube

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Tiny DIY Snow Blower - It Kind of Works

I've wanted to make an RC snow-blower for a while now. I've made or played RC vehicles with tires and treads, plus some for the air and even a prop driven Klingon Patrol Boat. But I never got around to making the snow blower attachment.

When it snowed on the first day of Spring, I realized I had let another Winter go by without working on this project. So I grabbed a plastic auger and started to experiment.

It works well enough to prove the principle, but not well enough to actually use.

The auger did move some snow off to the side, but most of the snow was moved bay the blade from the plastic bottle I used as the scoop.

The auger is scavenged out of the refill kit for a laser printer. I've successfully used it to move ball bearings, bird seed and cat food (think airsoft and automatic pet feeders). It's sturdy and easy to attach to a motor or drill. But the blades are small, about an inch in diameter, and only run for about 6" along the shaft.

I anticipated that it might be too small to move much snow. But it is the perfect size to fit on some of my RC wrecks and even the LEGO Mindstorm robot base. So I had to at least try. I was halfway correct.

It did move the snow... sort of. But not nearly well enough to make any real difference. All I want is to have an RC toy to clear the snow on the front deck. I'm not expecting to clear the driveway with this thing.

But the blades on this auger are so small that they barely moved the snow. Most of the movement came from the blade-action of the scoop, not the auger itself.

You can see how the clumps of snow got bigger than the auger. I've got to scale this thing way up before I can actually ise it for any real deck-clearing fun.

The auger did move the snow, but as the snow got pushed down the length of the scoop (plastic bottle) it clumped into chunks bigger than the entire auger. At that point the auger lost effectiveness. It tried to move the chunks, but mostly it just chopped it up and re-compacted it.

It looks like I'm going to have to make an auger with wider blades - probably 3 inches deep (6" dia.) with 2-3" between the blades at minimum - something larger and deeper than the snow clumps. Whether it winds up 3d printed or made from scrap metal is still to be determined.

I would call it a successful experiment, but not a working prototype. I learned something and have a better idea of the scale I need. After I get the auger made, I will need to figure out how to "blow" the snow - probably a more difficult problem than the auger.

And from past experiments I know that I will need some good treads on the tires or wheels. Again, scale is important. So really exaggerated treads and an overpowered blower will probably be needed. It looks like I'll need to use my biggest RC toy car just to carry the blade, but it's made for speed not power at low speeds. So looks like some gearing needs to be changed too. Maybe this isn't going to be as simple as clamping an auger to the front of a toy car after all, LOL

BTW, I didn't come up with the idea of a scale RC snowblower. There's a whole community on youtube that do really detailed and realistic versions. Check them out if you want to skip the experiments and go straight to building.

I just wanted an excuse to have some fun outdoors during the winter. Maybe by next year I will have a better prototype and be able to toss some serious airborne snow.

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

DIY Blacklight made from a Flashlight

Remember how much fun blacklights are? I had totally forgotten until I made my own UV blacklight out of an old flashlight and some cheap LEDs. Now I'm running around shining the purplish UV beam onto every surface I can find.

At the same time, I modified another flashlight into a red spectrum night-vision-safe flashlight. Now I can see at night without blinding myself. It's great for night photography, stargazing and camping.

UV blacklight flashlight hack mod on LEGO
The UV blacklight really made the orange florescent eyes of this LEGO creation glow - and the silvery body looked pretty cool too.

The red LEDs created a handy night-vision saving glow. You can see what you are doing, even walk around on a moonless night without blinding yourself.

This turned out to be a very simple project, only about ten minutes of actual work per light. But it wasn't a straight path to the final product. Deciding what to make and how to do it took me a week, and filming it took a half day plus another hour after the sun set to get example shots.

I had a bunch of those pillbox style flashlights that are so popular right now. They're everywhere and you can get ones with dead batteries for a buck each. They have one big 20+ LED array of lights on the flat side and another, smaller 3-4 LED light on the skinny end. They use one button to toggle between on/off and the bright/dim settings.

These rounded box lights are super handy and I already have at least one of them at every work station, car and backpack. Then I got several more in a donation box and I started to get the itch to modify some of these excess ones into... into... well something.

My original idea was to use these new ones as light sources for my macro videos, like my teardown or jewelry-making tutorials. I hoped that I could combine several of the LED arrays into a single larger light-panel - maybe even put a dimmer circuit into the combined array to make a "real" video light.

But I noticed that each of the flashlights had a slightly different brightness level, or color (temperature) or a different coverage pattern. I thought maybe I was imagining it. But after opening a few of them I realized they were all different. They had different wiring and PCBs and different LEDs.

All that is no big deal if you're just using it for a flashlight. But using them as a video-light would create a blotchy, random light source - not what I was hoping for. I want a smooth, even and color correct light for my videos, not a random quilt of illumination.

I also realized that, even though they are blindingly bright as a flashlight, they were both too dim and too harsh for my needs. Even four of them combined didn't provide enough light to make a difference in videos except in the most close-up shots. It's astonishing how much light you need for high quality video.

With large, high quality, dimmable video lights available for less than $50 I couldn't justify making a version that wouldn't work well. If I'm serious about improving my videos I should just buy a good pre-made one and keep filming.

But I had opened all these cases and I needed to make something so I could feel better. I thought about making an IR version so I could use my phone camera as a night-vision scope. I have a few IR LEDs that I use for remote control projects. But when I tested them they were all too dim for the camera to see (unless pointed directly at the camera.) I can get the powerful illuminating versions of the IR LEDs very cheap, but I wanted to make something right now.

I do. however, have lots of red LEDs and some UV (blacklight) LEDs left over from previous projects. And I knew these LEDs were all 5v safe so they would work with the flashlight's 4.5v (with inline resister) without further modifications. I decided to replace the small 4xLED strip with my own LEDs. That way, I still had the big 20xLED white light to use as a flashlight. And the four LEDs for something else.

I cut out the existing strip of LEDs and arranged the new LEDs into a parallel circuit, then soldered them together using the long leads already on the LEDs. It's one of the simplest and oldest ways of making a circuit.

And it worked!!! In fact, it worked really well. The blacklight makes objects glow from several feet away and the red LED version is bright enough to see the ground well on a moonless night, but is dim enough not to night-blind me.

I'm very happy with the results. I have several more of these flashlights and I'm thinking of buying some of those strong IR LEDs to make a true night-vision illuminator (torch). And there is plenty of room in the case to include a small Arduino microcontroller. How about a variable speed strobe light, or maybe some RGB LEDs for making a custom light show.

I think I've found a great, inexpensive platform for experimenting with portable light sources, so stay tuned for more projects with these handy little flashlights.

Also find me on: FACEBOOK 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

DIY Thermal Vision Camera for < $100

Now, you too can see heat maps of human bodies or car engines like Predator - or identify cold spots and drafts in your house like a home-energy expert. And with a little DIY electronics knowledge, you can do it really inexpensively.

Although the sensor is only an 8x8 array, you can interpolate the readings to emulate a finer grain, and with a little coding, adjust how the temperatures are shown.

A big price-drop on Panasonic's AMG8833 8x8 Grid-EYE thermal sensor array has finally allowed hobby electronics suppliers to create a fun and useful thermal camera at a price everyone can afford - less than $50. Compare that to the more than $250 for a FLiR dev board with an 80x60 grid.

As you might expect at this price point, there are limitations. The sensor is only 8x8 pixels and has a range of less than 25 feet (7 meters). You will not be able to identify enemy paintballers from across the battlefield, and you can't get a full-house image of your heat loss. It requires a brain (Arduino or RasPi) with I2C, libraries and a graphics screen. Most people reading this probably already have a microcontroller and screen, so that's no big deal. But faster processors will give you smoother video feeds.

Here's a great teaser video from Adafruit on how to make this into a cute camera version.

Looks cool right, then see the full tutorial and make one of your own.

Adafruit has two versions of the sensor module: a tiny breakout board (item# 3538) and a Featherwing daughter board (item# 3622) made to snap right into any of their Feather boards. And of course the best thing about getting the Adafruit version is their high quality libraries and well written tutorial. They even have a tutorial on hooking it up to a Raspberry Pi

Sparkfun has also released a breakout board (SPX-14568) from their experimental SparkX labs. It uses their QWIIC connection system and also has a library for Arduino.

All the tutorials I've seen so far use a graphic display. But you could display the output on NeoPixels, on a servo-array or translate it into sounds. You could draw images with sparklers. Since you also have access to the raw data you could store time lapses. Combine this with traditional movement and distance sensors for more accurate navigation for your robots, or add another layer to your home security system. If you can code, you can create anything you want.

For less than $50 you get a useful sensor that's far more than a toy - definitely worth checking out for a wide variety of uses.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Comfort Food - An Abstract Concept

Comfort food means different things to different people. It might be a bowl of Mac-n-Cheese or a plate full of your grandmother's homemade cookies. It's an abstract concept, this comfort food, because "comfort" is such a subjective feeling.

I got to see a sick friend perk up and feel better after a stop at one of their favorite roadside diners - complete with original 70s era décor and an ambience of continuing after-school employment. This place is classic.

My friend's food choices might not have been what a doctor would have ordered for gastrointestinal distress (it involved chili, cheese and lots of fried items), but the positive affect of the food was undeniable.

The kind of place where "all the way" means mustard and ketchup - perhaps to match the bright original décor.

Or maybe it wasn't the food itself that had the positive affect. Maybe it was the childhood memories of family and friends and high-school escapes that helped my friend feel better.

Either way, there is still a place and a function for the few genuine roadside diners remaining in our landscapes. Adding some checkered tiles and reprinted posters might help a chain restaurant get more customers. But it's the real mom-and-pop ships, with the third generation of kids from the same families doing their stint at the register and fryer, that established that original emotional connection and still give the chain shops their meaning.

These old diners might not have a clever name for every burger variation (it's a hamburger with ???, not an outdated car brand) but the people at the register might know (because they know you) that extra mayo means a LOT of extra mayo, and they know to leave the fries in a little longer because you like them crisp.

I think that's what made my friend feel better, visiting with something unchanging and familiar when they were wondering if they were ever going to feel normal again. Just being in the diner and seeing it so eternal and unchanging confirmed that. yes, things would continue and some things can still be counted on.

BTW, I have no history or emotional connection to this place - I was just there for the food... but my fries were extra crispy, just like I like them.

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

Welded Washer Bowl - Flawed but Finished

Admit your faults and make the best of them. That's true for personalities and projects. I tried to make one of those spectacular bowls made out of welded washers and the project failed horribly because I have a flawed personality.

I have already described how I painted this bowl in a previous post. In that post I promised to "tell the story of my own idiocy." So here is my official, "I fail a lot too, so you have no real excuse not to try making things, we all fail, just do it" post for this month.

welded washer bowl fail
Good idea, bad execution - just add some spray paint.

I looked at how-to videos on YouTube and thought, "Hey, that's simple enough - I can do that." Well I couldn't do that, but I do have some legitimate reasons why this bowl isn't as pretty as the ones on Pinterest.

First, I only had a few hours of stick welding experience. They had taught me how to do horizontal, vertical and overhead tee-welds using the same thick stock and forgiving 7018 rods. We had about half of a class left free at the end of the short course and the teacher said we could do our own projects.

I had some washers that were too big to use in even my largest jewelry or other projects, so I said I wanted to make a washer bowl. The teacher advised against it but let me do it anyway, perhaps knowing that public failure after a strong warning is also a good teacher.

The teacher, a patient and skilled mentor, knew that I should wait until I had access to the MIG machines in the next round of classes. The YouTube videos also used MIG. But I could lay down a 6" multi-pass bead so obviously I could do anything.


The poor suffering teacher did the best he could, handed me some 6013s and warned me that they would sputter and splatter and be generally more fussy than the 7018s, especially on coated metal.

He also mentioned that the washers were much thinner than the stock we had been taught on, so I needed to be careful not to burn through the washers. He also warned that the washers were of various thicknesses, so joining thin to thick ones would be different than the single thickness plates I was used to. And he also noted that welding a tiny joining face would feel different than the solid metal plates we had practiced on.

Sure, sure.... dude I can lay down a bead 85% of the time and barely stick it on starting. I'm good to go.

He was right. I was wrong. The bowl sucks. I learned a lot.

First time welding metals of various thicknesses and sizes plus first time using 6013s gave... ummmmm... various levels of quality in the welds. You can see the results of my learning curve by comparing the upper right quadrant with the rest of the so-called bowl.

All I have to do is use the same speed and settings as I did on the thick plate stock, right? Wrong... I burned through most of the first few tries before I even knew I had a spark. These thin washers don't act anything like what I was used to.

Still not the prettiest welds, but at least I didn't burn away more metal than I deposited.

Everything the teacher warned me about turned out to be accurate. You can tell which part of the bowl I started with. It's the part with drippy holes where the weld should be. As I started adding more washers though, I realized I just needed to tack them, not lay down a bead.

Be quick with the stick young grasshopper.

So most of my welding problems turned out to be personality flaws. Luckily for me, I am also stubborn.

But I own spray paint, so all is not lost..

The bowl is way too ugly to use inside, not even worth grinding down. It will never grace the table at a dinner party where I casually say, "Why yes, thank you... but I didn't buy it... I made it myself in my first welding class." Nope, not gonna happen.

But maybe if I add enough coats of paint I can find a place for the so-called bowl in a remote corner of the yard.

So if it's not good enough to display in bare metal, maybe some spray paint will help hide the errors.

It's still not pretty enough for use inside, but maybe add some sphagnum and some ferns, set it outside, way back in the corner of the yard where no one ever walks.

If ivy is the best friend of bad architects, a large mass of ferns may become the best friend of a bad welder.

And just so you know, the teacher did come to look at the bowl and said, "Hmmm, that's not as bad as I thought it would be." He, of course, knew exactly where I started welding and where I started to understand just by looking at the welds. I think he was just happy that he had managed to teach me enough that I could learn from failures and adjust - not well, not fast - but still learn and adjust on the fly.

I might be an idiot, but the teacher is an extremely skilled welder and also a really good teacher. I also took the Intro to MIG class and learned a lot - both what I should do and, like this project, some things that I think should have worked but didn't.

I've made fun of myself a lot in this post. But I should point out that the teacher also helped me learn how to successfully weld basic components in a reasonably proficient way. Repetition, knowledge, examples, repetition and more repetition means that I can actually do some basic welds. I am grateful for his patience and help, his insistence that I stick to the basics until I could do them well, and then allowing me to fail in such a way that I learned WHY he insisted I do it a certain way to begin with.

Seeing the results of doing things both the right way and wrong way is good preparation for when I don't have an expert to ask before every weld - which should be very soon (hint).

And finally, to those five artist friends who keep talking about taking a welding class but never do (you know who you are) --- you see how bad I am at it and I've shared it in public. Now get over to the local community college or trade school and take the introductory class. It's cheap, it's fun and it's actually pretty easy if you follow directions.

Also find me on: FACEBOOK 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Hack Your Game Controller - Part #1 the Teardown

Everybody dreams of hacking their game control pad and making it control something else. Maybe to run their RC car, a robotic arm, or maybe their home theater system.

Other folks need to mod their controller so they can use it better. Not everyone has full use of both hands, yet most game controllers require two hands. What if you want to reconfigure the buttons and place them elsewhere, or turn them into foot pedals.

Either way, the process of modding requires a medium level of electronic knowledge and some crafting skills. There are some good tutorials out there for hacking specific controller models to do specific things. That's great, but what if you don't have that specific controller. Or what if you want to do something different than the what the tutorial shows you.

I've seen too many people start modding their controllers and then stop because their model or their needs are too different from the tutorials. Also, I don't know of any good generic introductions to hacking and modding game controllers.

I was one of those people who gave up the first time I tried it, and it has taken me more than three years of tinkering with electronics to learn enough that I can take parts from multiple tutorials and mix them together to work with my controllers. Now it all seems so simple, not even worth writing a tutorial on.

But I recently saw another person starting the learning process and remembered how overwhelming it could be. So I thought I would do a series of simple videos to help get newbies started - to teach enough of the basic concepts so that they can pick out the useful parts from other how-to guides.

The first step is look inside some game controllers. Then poke around and notice the differences and similarities in various models. That's what this video does - we tear down three old game controllers and have a quick look around.

(Or go directly to the YouTube video on my channel)

Just cracking the case and looking around can be really scary for first timers. Having buttons and switches falling out, not really understanding how it all works, where the electrical signals come from or where they go - it can be overwhelming.

Remember back to when you didn't really understand the difference between digital and analog signals, and you didn't "just know" which components did what. That's who these first few videos are designed for. So be patient, the real fun stuff is coming up after we cover the basics.

In this video we salvage a few parts, just cut them right off the PCB and leave the wires dangling and unconnected. Savage!!! The next video will explore how to re-use the parts we scavenge in this video. We'll look at the buttons and the joysticks and get a better understanding of digital versus analog signals.

We'll even explore how we can hook these salvaged parts up to an Arduino microcontroller. And all these concepts will be useful if you want to simply relocate buttons using your existing controllers.

As the series grows I will make a project page. There is a lot of good information out there on modding game controllers, so as the concepts are introduced I will link to these videos and tutorials.

If a few of you crack the cases of your controllers and rip parts out to use elsewhere, then this video will be a success.

Also find me on: FACEBOOK 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

3d Printed Door Handle Extension

Making useful and functional parts was a big reason for me getting a 3d printer. I made this door handle extension in a few minutes and thought it was such a good example of the power of 3d printing that I would share it.

3d printed door handle extension in Fusion 360

I know I post about a lot of fun 3d printed stuff ( like bikini tops or shadow casters or even jewelry ) but I also design a lot of stuff for everyday use. You know, the boring replacement knobs or obscure parts for outdated equipment. Most of the time I think it's so boring I don't bother to post about it.

After all, you can buy a new knob cheap, and who wants to spend three hours designing a replacement part for an almost dead power tool anyways? But people seem to like this project, maybe because it's a brand new object instead of a replacement part.

Check out the Instructables guide - I put all the details there. If you like this type of project then let me know and I'll post more useful (if somewhat more boring) projects with 3d printing.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

My Cup Runneth Over - 3d Printed Bra v1

Support your local makers - I'm doing my part with this 3d printed bra. Yes, that's right... a custom bikini top bra cup designed in Fusion 360 and printed on a hobby level 3d printer.

Okay, so the project started as a hat. Think "fascinator" base or mesh ball-caps. I wanted to see how different types of French curves joined together when bent. I knew different curves could result in any shape from a cone to a perfect sphere, or onion domes to flattened rounded-corner cylinders. But I had never really designed something with a variable curving shape. Hats looked like a good item to test with. Little did I know.

So I started experimenting with curves and shapes and bending --- and voila, I had my first piece of 3d printed lingerie instead. It not only  turned out better than I expected, I decided a 3d printed bikini top is way more useful and fun than a hat anyways - pretty happy with this failure discovery.

3d printed heat formed mesh bikini bra cup
Bright pink bikini bra cup printed on a 3d printer and designed in Fusion 360. It's a bit of over designing, but it sure was fun.

I've been experimenting with heat-shaping 3d printed panels recently. Sure, I can print the model pre-shaped, an all in one standalone print. I could have easily printed this object pre-bent and ready to wear. But as I discovered when printing my mini-terrarium greenhouse, it's sometimes a lot quicker to print flat objects and assemble them.

My first experiment with heat-forming 3d-prints was a simple bowl made from a flat 3d-printed sheet, which turned out okay. Good enough that I wanted to try something more complex.

The bowl shaping experiment relied on the patterns within the perforations to allow deformation when heated. The corners in the pattern are arranged so that the surface can bend in three dimensions without significantly changing the structure. That technique worked fine, so I wanted to add a second variable to better control the shape.

I know a little about traditional pattern making for clothes. I also have some experience shaping and heat-forming foam panels into costumes and props for cosplay. So I figured heat shaping PLA wouldn't be that much different.

I also wanted to use this series of tests to better understand just how curves affect the final shape. I have Fusion 360 and Meshmixer and several other programs that could take the final shape and create a cutting pattern for me.

(I had to print a couple of quick failed experiments before I remembered that I needed to use those traditional pattern making skills though. Not always the smartest cookie on the shelf.)

But the software makes most of the decisions when I use those techniques, and I really wanted to understand how to do it manually. I think when I understand pattern making better I can probably force or at least suggest settings for the programs to give me better patterns.

This is the first experiment that gave me the smoothly varying curves I was after. It was a very simple pattern, but it was also the first time I used splines (aka French curves) instead of simple arcs. The result is a lot closer to a single, flowing shape and less like the segmented domes I got when I used simple arcs and lines.

That's when I decided to declare, "This is now officially a bra." Well, half a bra... okay just one cup. But still, it's a much more body-friendly form than anything I had created before.

3d printed heat formed mesh bikini bra cup

Also notice that the decorative-infill pattern is simple. It is NOT designed to flex and deform. That means this sheet of plastic reacts to bending in a manner very similar to that of paper or non-stretchy cloth. It's really just the way the two curves join that makes the final shape so much smoother.

If I combined the deformable-mesh technique from the bowl experiment with the spline-curve edges from this experiment, the plastic sheet should begin to behave more like cosplay-foam or stretchy cloth. Then... print it in flexible filament to actually make it comfortable to wear. That's the next phase of experiments.

And yes, there should be more experiments with 3d-printed fabric and clothing coming soon. But understanding the traditional methods of pattern making is still an essential skill. For instance, my 3d-printed chainmail is pretty flexible. But to get it to fit properly at any large scale, like a vest or corset, I will still need to create differently shaped pieces of the mail just like you would with old-fashioned cloth.

pattern for 3d printed heat formed mesh bikini bra cup
The pattern in Fusion 360. You can see the different types of curves on every edge. Sure, it's 3d, but the principles are the same as used in traditional clothing patterns.

So no matter which direction I go, I must get better at pattern making. Right now, I have my hands full just with this, but I can already tell it's going to be a fun journey.

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