Featured

What a week!

Been doing the odd job thing this past week, mainly to keep this place going in a decent fashion and so that I can have more time to do what makes me happy. The progress on my projects seem to be quite slow, I know it seems that way to me. The good thing aboutH being away from them, it gives me time to think about the various problems and solutions to those problems.

Hydro Problems and Fixes

The biggest problem with the hydroponics has been the drip nozzles, they leak and break easy if you over tighten them. A slew of ideas has been swarming in my head from changing the print parameters such over extrusion on the outside walls, increasing infill to 100%, to even doping the outside walls with resin and more. Then had a hopefully brilliant idea, purchasing water nozzle caps to screw on the bottles to run the tubing from one bottle to the other.

The Problems with ‘Bots

No real problems with the bot, except the lack of time to do the design work of the body and how to pack everything inside of it without causing a fire hazard, because a runaway fireball is a bad thing. That statement was pure sarcasm. Got the battery compartments printed to my satisfaction, so just have to decide where to put the buck/boost converter in the bot to hook up the Arduino and the other MPUs to and where to stash the batteries to run the motors and servos.

To CNC or not to CNC

Waiting on the zip ties to get here, they hold the Y plate to the linear bearings. I will probably redesign that part in the future, but the main thing is to get it going first. I do have to redesign the X axis because where the drive screw connects is bigger than the screw mount. Lots of upgrades and redesigns going through my head on this one.

I work through procrastination

Some may wonder how my mind works with a few projects always going on. I work through procrastination, I work on one project so I can ignore another project and when I get bored or tired of that current project, I switch to another one. The method to this ‘madness’ is that I get all the projects done without rushing them and having a quality, well finished project when I’m done.

Please Subscribe!

It’s a small thing, really. Subscribe to this blog to increase it’s visibility and hopefully others will share in the endeavors posted in it. If you do not want to subscribe or share this blog, then consider dropping a few bucks for some coffee by hitting the button below. Some will go to parts and probably energy drinks to keep me going into the wee hours of the night, therefore keeping me inside during the covid-19 epidemic.

You are awesome!

Featured

Hydroponics Update : July 2020

Finally, got some decent seedlings started. Had a great vacation, which killed my plants. Seedlings got restarted, sort of. Had to make some modifications. Designing and printing new connectors. Unable to find food grade buckets.

Decent Start

I went out of state for a few weeks to an area that isn’t an epicenter of COVID-19. A friend of mine was gracious enough to take care of the seedlings till I got back, but I think moving them and putting them in a warmer and drier environment put them into shock. Not sure if putting them outside for a few hours a day would have ‘hardened’ them or not, but that is what a bit of research seems to indicate, though. They went into shock and just didn’t come back from it.

Great Vacation

Took a trip to Roswell, New Mexico for about two weeks and had an awesome time. Mostly, drove around and took in the dry desert air while taking in the sights. If you like to shop and want to try ‘altitude training’ then I wholeheartedly suggest going to Riodoso, New Mexico and visiting all, and I mean all the little shops there on foot. I’d suggest getting a cabin so that you can take your time and not worry about how long it takes you to crawl back to it, once your low lander lungs start giving out on you and resting a few doesn’t give you a second wind to continue on. There’s lot to explore and you will see why outlaws liked hiding out in New Mexico, trust me. I’d planned on a week or so, but after the report of my plants going into shock and knowing my lack of skill wouldn’t save them, I decided to stay longer and hang out with my New Mexico friends.

Seedlings! Restart!

Not everything died, I’d transplanted the Marigolds and had mixed in the ‘failed’ seed pods into their pot to add volume to the pot, which turned out in my favor. It seems that some spinach and kale seeds finally decided to start growing, so not all was lost. I also replanted everything that I could, and have even more spinach and kale growing and not much else. I do hope that the cherry tomatoes or such do spring to life and push up above the soil, but I’m not putting much stock in that hope. Going to redesign the frame though, so they have time!

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t take up skydiving

Trying to use 3/4″ pvc was not my best ideas. seems that the light and Mylar were too heavy for it, let along hanging four pots of vegetables from it. So back to the drawing board and try again, I decided on tossing a few monkey wrenches into that thought process, the first being wider PVC pipe, the second being design for PETG and the last being to make it modular. I tried to just make it bigger to fit of course, and ended up with 20 hour prints for each piece and there are six altogether, and lots of supports. I tried my hand at designing for PETG, and that was interesting, to say the least.

Printing in PETG, isn’t vastly different, but not using supports is advised since the material is quite tough and getting the supports out or off takes more than an exacto blade or even a hot knife to do. So you have to split things into parts, which you can use the geometry of the printing process to make even stronger parts, that can be assembled or glued or both later. So I initially tried to print as if using PETG, and my printer isn’t dialed in enough or the print came out poorly due to operator error, so going to the drawing board and redesigning the model into something more modular. It’s a good distraction when trying to locate food grade buckets, especially the 5 gallon variety without holes.

Buck, Buck, Buck, Buck, Bucketttss!

Trying to find black food grade 5 gallon buckets has been an adventure, in of itself. Seems that everybody sells them, but doesn’t have them in stock. I thought of mail order, but I don’t need nor want 25 or even 10. One would think that buying more would make the price come down a bit, but ’tis not the case. Though may find out if I can sell the extra buckets, but does seem to be a hassle, though.

Update, get yer fresh update!

Due to operator (Me) error, this didn’t post Friday. I try to schedule the posts to happen during the day, so that it doesn’t get lost in the email black hole and so that it doesn’t disturb anybody’s down time. If I did this right, this post at noon CST.

Featured

Robot update

I really should have opted for a bigger robot body. I went with what I thought would be medium sized robot body that would be a bit cramped, but doable. It seems that it’s a small medium body and it’s going to be quite cramped, mainly due to late additions to the design such as using 18650 batteries instead of AA rechargeable batteries. The battery change also prompted heavier duty motors to move this robot around, no additional weight, more torque and no step down converter needed(Sounds like a win to me). So decided to create my own battery cases with a short grocery list of things that I wanted. Here’s that list:

  • Holds 2 18650 batteries
  • Airflow to draw off heat
  • Integrated BMS
  • As few as possible bought parts
  • Durable

Not a lot, is what you are possibly thinking and I was too. For me it’s a slow design process, due to my unimpressive CAD skills and being thorough. Though with PLA being more available, I am more likely to do a few test prints for fitting purposes and to be able to wrap my brain around things for it to problem solve. For increased airflow and economical use of PLA, a hexagonal mesh design was incorporated into the case design to hold 2 18650 batteries, a BMS board and be sturdy enough to hold 4 battery clips.

The initial design needs to be longer and a bit taller, because the battery clips are tight and will eventually over stress the thin walled meshed case and to contain the batteries and so it’s necessary to make it more rigid.

One will fit in the base, and the other will be somewhere else. I’d hoped to be able to use three such packs, 1 for the MPUs, 1 for the motors and a backup or alternate one for either more MPUs or accessories such as an arm or or other servos.

Should have the case printed out tomorrow, so that progress can be made on the lid and housing the BMS.

P.S. I’ll be adding to the discussion of robot behavioral programming soon. I’ve also been reading up on behavior trees as far as robotics and AI go, ,quite interesting. Also got my first visitor from China, lately. I’m international!!

Featured

Back From Vacation

The World is Losing It’s Mind and so was I

Pandemic, Covid-19 Wave 2, Kanye 4 Prez, Protests, Riots, zoom meetings about putting children back in schools and more than most people can stand or choose to handle. Have people just gone mad from being quarantined with their loved ones or is it something else, altogether? I was supposed to be at Galacticon 2020 (https://www.roswellgalacticon.com/) in Roswell NM, around this time of year, so didn’t bail out, but did go hang out with some awesome people for quite a bit.

This pandemic is quite serious and even has the experts baffled on how to handle it or even treat it, let alone cure it. I get that people are scared, running out of money, looking to the Government for a solution to their problems, and not getting any real answers except to wait. About the insanity that abounds, I’m not even diving into that rabbit hole or would it be holes? I hope that people are making intelligent decisions as far as their health and that of their of their family members go. I figure people are really getting to know their loved ones and probably flipping from WTF moments to ‘ah how cute’ responses and wondering when this will end. So, social distance and wear your mask, and this means you Karen!!

The first week of July is reserved for vending at Roswell’s Galacticon, which is an awesome event with amazing local vendors and some out of stater’s like myself. You can find RPG games, figurines, anime drawings, steampunk gear(some of my stuff) and much much more. So why did I go out there even though the event has been postponed? To hang out with my family of choice, and yes we have all been in self quarantine a long time prior to meeting up and took such precautions as social distancing, wearing masks and driving with fewer stops(mainly to walk around to prevent blood clots and to revive the sensation in the buttocks), though I could have personally skipped Post, Tx due to the smell of cattle and the oil industry. It was a good vacation, even though we just hung out with each other and not talk about business and such.

It will be interesting to see how A-Kon, Comicon, Texas Frightmare and the big conventions end up being held next year.

[Rant Over]

Featured

Mr. Robot Throws His Track Out

Fast! Faster! Throw a Track!

Well, got the motors hooked up, propped everything up on a box, attached the bench power supply to it and tested the track system out. I knew that the tracks were a bit loose, dropping a tread made it too tight and hard for the sprockets to turn, and I thought that they wouldn’t be too loose. I was wrong!

The test went well till about half power, and then it threw a track. I noticed that it started skipping a bit as it got faster and definitely got louder the faster it went. I might be able to get away with the present tracks, but why invite failure? So found the original drive sprockets and printing out sixty new tracks. These should work better, just will have a lower cool factor.

In Other News

Still working on the battery holder design, have designed the holder for the SR-4 SONAR systems and looking into making the Arduino Bluetooth enabled so it can be monitored in real time. I may make a video on how to setup the ESP-12 WeMos Microcontroller, since I’m not finding a very good one on YouTube.com, so far.

Featured

Hydroponics No No No!!

The reason of why there is NOT an update for the Urban Hydroponic Project is quite simple, I fried the seedlings *head desk and sad face*. I should have read the instructions and tested the timer before I left, totally my fault and I own that completely. I could blame my impatience and bad instructions, but I won’t and the reason why is simple, I totally failed at testing and studying the results. Let’s just say that I was away for a job for three days total, was not expecting to be gone that long and I failed to test the equipment beforehand.

What happened? I fried the seedlings. I thought I’d had set the timer to give them 16 hours of grow light time and I had figured that I’d be back within a day. What happened is that I was gone for three days and hadn’t fully checked out the timer module and didn’t understand how it worked. Without delving into details, I got home with some very fried seedlings that had four days of grow light time and not enough water. I tried to revive them, and had very unsuccessful results comparatively. The young onion may make it and maybe a marigold plant or two. I tried to revive the rest, but I’d have better luck reviving King Tut with CPR. So starting over after putting the surviving marigold plants in some soil, as well as the lone onion. I have decided on trying the cherry tomatoes, red beans, kale and spinach, this time for their hardiness.

Try try again

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. I did go over the instructions a bit and played around with the timers, so now I’m an expert…well..just with these timers. I have them set for 12 hour intervals of grow light time. I put a lid on the plastic ware, it’s just laying on the bowl and not sealed down. I’ve noticed that the grow light really dries out the soil, so if I’m going to be gone for days again before I automate the system, I may have to just open the curtains and the tent and let the plants just be in sunlight. Just some thoughts.

Featured

Behavioral Programming : Intro

A more in depth explanation of behavioral programming. Starting off about what it is, how to implement it and what are the benefits of it.

What is behavioral programming?

Behavioral programming is using simple to complex behaviors to accomplish a set goal. A behavior is something that physically affects either the robot or it’s external environment. Simple behaviors are such things as turning on a motor, turning a servo, getting a distance reading from a sonar sensor, checking an infrared sensor, storing a value in a variable, and checking the status of a battery. Individually simple behaviors don’t do much, but when you call each one as needed in a linear fashion, they can be a more complex behavior such mapping, moving the robot in a straight line or turning to set direction, reading an array of infrared sensors to follow a line, etc.

Implementing Behavioral Programming

How do you use behavioral programming? You start off with making some primitive behaviors that control motors that you are using, to read whatever sensors you are in your robot and to implement the algorithms that manipulate internal variables such as the data collected by the sensors. These can be combined to make simple behaviors such as turning on the motors for a set distance and speed while taking continuous readings from their encoders, getting a distance reading from a servo mounted SONAR sensor at a specific angle and taking data gathered from the robot’s internal state and it’s sensor readings to create things like maps, maximum distance before needing to recharge and what it’s next goal is. I’ll list some simple behaviors and a few examples that combine them into more complex behaviors.

Some simple behaviors

  • Motor A(Direction, Speed)
  • Motor B(Direction, Speed)
  • Read Encoder(Pin #)
  • Servo A(Angle)
  • Trigger SONAR
  • Read SONAR

Some Simple Behaviors Combined into Complex Behaviors

Move Forward 100 encoder steps

  1. Motor A(Forward, 100)
  2. Motor B(Forward, 100)
  3. Read Encoder(Pin 5)
  4. Get 100 Encoder Steps
  5. Motor A(Forward, 0)
  6. Motor B(Forward, 0)

Get SONAR Reading

  • Trigger SONAR
  • Read SONAR

Read SONAR at a Specific Angle

  • Servo A(Angle)
  • Get SONAR Reading

This is how you combine simple behaviors into complex behaviors, so that the robot to achieve goals that require complex actions.

Benefits of Behavioral Programming

The main benefits of Behavioral Programming are:

  • saving time
  • saving memory space
  • simplifying tasks
  • simplifying problems
  • making coding less stressful

Those things allow the programmer to have more time and energy to make more complex robots that can achieve greater goals, or just have more time for other projects.

Featured

An update on the PCB factory

Got the GRBL kit in this week and was quite impressed, actually. Everything was professionally packaged in a very proper manner. <insert ebay website> has it together and looks to be around for quite some time. I’d expected to get a bag of parts, some packaged in static proof bags and the others just loose and this was not the case. Everything was packaged and grouped as it should be.

This is a significant step towards getting the PCB factory to completion, with the next big purchase being the spindle. Once, the PCB factory is up and running, then it will be time to design and build an enclosure around for the safety of those around it and those around it. It’s not a matter of if an micro sized endmill is going to break, but when. Not sure about most people, but personally would rather have a 1/8 inch ball endmill be bouncing around in an enclosure between me and it, instead of around my shop with a bunch of other breakable things or people.

Major Steps for Hydro!

Featured

Got the hydroponic garden started, the brains and muscles of the PCB factory got delivered,

Baby Pictures

Later today, there will be pics of the seeds in their new nursery. I had planned on designing and printing something, but in the interest of saving filament for more useful projects, since my plan is to keep growing the plants for as long as they produce, so a nursery can be improvised at anytime for growing more seedlings.

For right now, the plan is:

  • going to use a deep plastic ware(A little irony)
  • grow pods to give them a strong healthy start
  • add some friendly fungi to the soil
  • plant and water as needed
  • transplant to hydroponic garden when mature enough.

Here’s the baby(seed) pics:

Quite a bit done this week, not as much as I had hoped, though. Over the weekend, I ate something that really didn’t agree with me for a few days and is still having a residual effect to an extent. Hopefully, the next few days will show a lot of the progress of the other projects I have going on, though.

Featured

Mr. Robot Gets His Own Post

Strategy to Start With

Since vision, multiple motor control, internal state management and environment awareness are all resource intensive tasks and are all taking place in real time, and are somewhat interdependent on each other. This is why a fairly complex strategy is needed to with the main variables that the limited reality that the robot will experience. Since most resources are limited, mainly space, time and money, a plan that uses those wisely is best and not necessarily balanced. While, it would be cheaper and use less space inside the robot to just use one micro controller, but then a lot of time would be used to program some sort of multitasking system into the main program and that has it’s own inherent problems. Discussing all the different strategies would not be the best use of one particular resource which is time, it’s the one resource that we never have enough of, cannot store and are literally losing it second by second. Skipping to the best solution, in my opinion at least, is to divide the tasks up by area of the robot and have the appropriate sized or easiest procured micro controller take care of those tasks, report sensor readings and task status to the main controller. This frees up programming time and clock cycles for more complex problems such vision and human interaction. Once the base micro controllers are programmed well enough to do their tasks adequately or better, they can just do their tasks like a well coded sub routine. Just think of the various micro controllers as physical sub routines in a box that can do a set number of tasks when called by the main controller.

You could say that this is Physical Object Oriented Programming or POOP for short. Go ahead and put that on a resume’. *smiles*

Now the Plan!

Here is a plan in place for the bot, it has three layers, and while each layers has it’s own sensor and working payload, it is governed by the one above it in some way. The working plan for the layers are:

  • Bottom layer; battery storage, locomotion and base sensors
  • Mid layer; secondary micro controller storage, some advanced sensors
  • Top layer; main micro controller, manipulator and probable payload area

The bottom layer is the base, which will be really quite stuffed with batteries, a gearbox, tachometers, line following hardware, and charging contacts. Trying to put most of the weight in the bottom of the bot and lower than the axles of the gear box. This will help lower the center of gravity and hopefully the need of heat dissipation

That leaves, the secondary micro controller, power management micro controller, charging circuits and anti-collision sensors for the middle layer. The secondary micro controller captures all the sensor information and reports it the main controller, while getting heading and distance parameters from the main controller, as well.

The top layer has the main micro controller, some sort of vision sensor and possibly a manipulator. This layer cannot be really planned in depth till the lower layers are complete and working. I’m hoping by offloading most of the tasks to other micro controllers that such problems such as vision and human interaction can solved and implemented easier.

It’s generally easier to break things into basic blocks, solve the simpler problems first, integrate the parts back into the equation that the problem is represented by and that is left to do is solve the last few variables.

Implementation!

Will be discussed in future posts.

Featured

Best Progress So Far!

Since the pandemic started there have been lots of lessons that we all have had to either learn or relearn, mostly about patience and hygiene. We have gone from a society of practically instant gratification to having to be forced to be patient even when ordering things online. One lesson that I hope that does get maintained is the bodily hygiene habit, especially during conventions like A-Kon and the like. I keep reminding myself that having patience and self-care are good things to have and do. The biggest delay has been due to massive delays, cancelled orders and not being able to find the correct parts, but it has also given me time to research decisions and products that are better or less expensive options that I would not have explored, otherwise. I believe that before this is all over and done with that there will be a lot of changes and a new normal.

Hydroponics Go!

After spending a few hours with Tinker Cad, I had either an epiphany or my brain finally clicked on. I was modelling all sorts of clips to hold the Mylar sheets to the PVC frame, when the immediate solution hit me….dun dun dun!….Tape! I just need to tape the sheets to the PVC pipe and make a roll up blind to cover the aperture at the front. The blame for overthinking things sits squarely on my shoulders. I’ve devoted a good day or three to figure out how to attach Mylar sheets to PVC, when the actual solution i going to take about 5 minutes to implement(maybe half an hour in reality). Now, just need to build it, plant the seeds in the pods and add light and water at the correct times. I’d also had over thought about the seedling nursery and started stressing about the amount of filament that was going to be necessary and such, when it hit me that I have some Pyrex baking dishes that would work wonderfully.

Speaking of seedlings, I put the mint plant and the onion in the Sun light for the last few days, since it’s not been real hot, so they could get a boost of vitamins and get the chlorophyll really working.

This project is shaping up, nicely.

PCB Manufacturing Stalled; Yet Again

Well, an order of second set of smooth rods has been cancelled, not even delayed this time, so the good news is that there is less time devoted to waiting on finding more to order, just to wait around to do it again. Yes, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, but I do change the company, country of origin, etc., so it’s not truly insanity. So going to focus on some of the other aspects of the project and work on them, while I’m attempting to procure items for the main project. One such aspect is safety.

Safety, is paramount around machinery and even more so around CNC type machinery, because it will keep going and going until it runs out of code, breaks or loses power. The best option is to keep fingers and other body parts away from moving parts and tool ends, but accidents happen. I’ve lightly burned my fingers a few times on heated beds and hot ends at full temp, twas not fun at all. While 3D printers that are designed well are pretty safe for the most part, most DIY CNC machines don’t harm humans mostly due to the distance of the machine from nearby humans.

A few things to consider that may happen

  • Broken spindle mount
  • Tool end that shatters or breaks
  • Metal and work surface chips and dust
  • Work surface dislodging
  • Catastrophic failure

What prevents or minimizes the above from happening or causing harm

  • Full enclosure that electronically locks
  • Dust collection
  • Emergency stop button
  • Regular cleaning
  • Replacement of worn or broken parts
  • Routine inspections

An enclosure is only useful if it’s strong enough and used, but most things fall under user error, but it’s up to the user to minimize risks to themselves, others and the environment.

Since I don’t know how big this is going to be, I’m working on the dust collection system next.

Mr. Robot

Well, I didn’t get all the tracks assembled, because I started breaking them one after the other. I was mostly too forceful with them and the design could be improved. Like everything on this blog, it’s an ongoing experiment and I am learning a lot, actually. I am hoping to make a complete track by this weekend, though. I did finally get the battery clips in the mail, so can start working on the power management system. I will also be making a blog post about the preliminary plan for the robot soon, as well.

Have a Great Weekend!

I’m off to work on some tracks and finish up the blog post on the robot.

Featured

Updates

Got a few more things in the mail, today. The package contained mostly robot parts and the mycorrhizal fungi for the hydroponic system. Lots of research going on multiple subjects, I found that changing the subject that I’m researching helps me focus better and lets the information organize and take root in my brain better and faster. It also allows for time for more questions to form and answers to questions on other subjects to form.

Hydroponics or just more research

I’ve been researching indoor grow tents, and it seems that the main advantages for an indoor garden are:

  • Maximize Light Efficiency
  • Local Environment control such ambient temperature and humidity
  • Keeping pests out
  • Controlling smells
  • Containing allergens

The main factors that a grow tent needs to have is a reflective inner surface that is non-porous that is supported by a rigid frame. Yes, there are lots of commercially available choices to choose from, but this is not a commercial venture and is being done on a budget, rather severely limited at the moment at that.

My idea is to use PVC pipe for the frame and solar blankets for the covering. The PVC should be rigid enough to hold up the Mylar sheets and provide a stable enough frame to hold the LED lamp. The Mylar sheeting that the solar blankets are made out of is very light and highly reflective on one side as far as light and heat go, I have used them while camping in the Spring and Fall when night time temperatures can change dramatically and they don’t add much weight or bulk to a pack. Solar blankets are super cheap, so it fits within the budget constraints, as well. I did a bit of research on the price of the connectors for the PVC pipes and they would cost more than a roll of filament, even during this pandemic crisis. So oh deary me, what’s a geek to do?(This is blatant sarcasm) So, I will have to design and print out connectors for the grow tent, good thing I have a functional 3D printer.(Not so blatant sarcasm) It has been printing ‘bot parts and pieces for the Cyclone PCB factory of late, so a change in tasks would be a good thing.

Robotics for the win!

Speaking of ‘bots, I’ve been printing out and assembling treads, a lot of late. Yes, wheels are simpler and have the advantage of cost over treads, but treads are easier to control, compensate for and last way longer than wheels, plus are way cooler. I did find an early copy of my robot control library for the Arduino, so that is a boon in of itself. Treads also allow you to keep a lower center of gravity, thus making a very stable platform that increases the reach of a robot’s arm or other mechanical appendages. Platform stability is very important for most robots, it not only allows you to pack electronics, actuators and batteries into them, but you have less code dealing with how to get the robot back on it’s means of locomotion. Speaking of electronics, let’s move on to the PCB mini factory.

Cyclone PCB maker to the rescue!

Well, actually not yet and maybe not for awhile. It is coming along quite well, though. It’s at the point that I am going to start putting it together so that I can figure out what I am missing and also can get ideas of what I want to add to it or change. I really should go through the parts bins to see what I already have, because I know that I have lead screws, smooth rods, bearings and a RAMPS kit 1.4 in there that can be used for the PCB maker. It’s a good thing that I usually salvage dead projects and pick up useful items when I find them for a good price.

Some notes on creativity

I’d like to take some time and write a few things about being creative. It may seem a bit disjointed, but each part is a thought and therefore complete in of itself.

I really don’t like reinventing the wheel for every project, it becomes tedious and does suck the joy out of me to do that over and over, plus it’s truly a waste of time that could be used to create more advanced and quality code and better physical designs. This makes more time for other projects or time to do things such as improvements and decorative work.

Grander objects tend to impress others way easier and give a greater amount of accomplishment to the creator. By making something grander than it has to be, doesn’t have to be about scale, but can be a better design, higher quality materials or even just adding some flourishes to an object to make it more appealing to the eye.

Work on projects even if you don’t have all the parts. Parts can found or bought later, and you may find a better part than the one that you thought that project required. For the PCB factory, I was going to use a Dremel like a lot of people who have made such, but I found an actual spindle that was designed for use in a CNC machine for etching and carving a variety of materials. It will be way easier to control since it’s a DC brushed motor and is the correct tool necessary to do the job.

Choose your projects wisely, keep the number of what you are working small, but greater than one. Don’t hoard projects for some day, because the best day to work on things is today for tomorrow never comes.

There is a huge difference in buying parts and tools for future projects and buying such to just have them for the purpose of merely possessing them. The former is planning for the future, the latter is merely hoarding. If you know that you use certain things a lot and find them for a great price, if you have the means than purchase them at that time. Already having the parts makes shopping for what you need easier, makes projects come together faster and sometimes depending on your network of people you can trade for things that you need from your own stock of parts.

2021 Is Off to a Slow Start

Basically, got a new laptop for Christmas and still waiting on parts for the printer.

Laptop Upgraded!!

Well, basically got a new laptop for Christmas, by maxing out my current laptop’s memory and upgrading the hard disk drive to a solid start drive. It boots in seconds and runs better than when it was brand new. The only thing that I don’t understand is why they still sell new computers with standard hard drives, unless it’s just to get more money for the upgrade package, of course.

3D Printer Plans

Just have to get the tubing for the printer. Which should be any day now, since most of the Christmas presents that I ordered are in and distributed. I’ll probably replace the nozzle, just to be sure and do a few test prints. Then the test will be the X/Z carriage for the Cyclone PCB Factory.

Cyclone!

I’ve been working on an idea for an enclosure for this since it will be grinding out fiberglass, so something that only contains, but cleans up the filings and powder made from the milling process is a good thing to have. I know that most CNC milling machines have enclosures that the filings are either washed away with coolant or they are vacuumed away from the working end of the spindle. Machining light materials like copper, aluminum and fiberglass poses it’s own set of problems, especially that grinding such usually makes powder and small chips, not long curls of metal that look like they were produced by an artist for their aesthetics. So need to work on that enclosure.

Robot News!

At least with the laptop back up and going, I can get back to work on the robot. At least until I can’t find or craft parts for the robot. The good thing about redoing the programming for both microprocessors is that I’ve done it before and now can be do better this time. So this is actually a chance to make some improvements.

Hydroponically Speaking!

Still keeping plants alive by watering and feeding them. Still doing quite a bit of research about compatibility hydroponically. Most of the stuff that I come across isn’t really the best for hydroponically growing plants, such as shallow net pots when the best thing is for the roots to be able to reach the water quickly and have the nutrient solution protection from UV radiation in order to prevent algae growth.

Conclusion

At least with the laptop up and running, I can work on the robot, at the very least. The 3D printer will be back up and running soonish, The forced offline vacation was actually a good thing, and with things getting worse and spiraling out of control, I don’t envy anyone in 2021. We will make it through, though!

Please buy me some ko-fi

What does it go for? My passion for building better and smarter things that add value to people’s lives. It also helps me to decide where to put my time and energy,

Short Update

It’s been a very busy week, so my free time has been mainly used to rest and plan. Almost prepared for the upcoming shutdown, would be nice if I had gotten the hydroponics going, but yeah 2020.

Robot News

Just need to wire it up! Just not after a full day. Been reading articles and watching YouTube videos on perceptrons, which are the basic units of Artificial Neural Networks. Which is quite possible the microcontroller pair, mentioned in the previous post.

CNC Today

Made some minor tweaks to the STL, so haven’t printed it in PLA, yet. I figure 20% infill should be enough for it hold the spindle while it’s stationary. I can’t wait to get it all put together, so that I can start investigating what safety measures are necessary such as enclosure type, forced air environment and how much negative pressure is necessary to vacuum up all the copper and fiberglass bits from the work surface, etc. The issue of monitoring spin rate, basically solved itself. The fan is connected to the spindle, therefore they literally spin at the same rate, so a couple of magnets, a hall effect sensor and some decent coding, problem is solved and checked off the list.

Spaceship Gardening

I was thinking, a very dangerous thing, that the robot brain would be awesome for managing the hydroponic garden, making it an intelligent plant operator. Okay, that even hurt my head, LOL. Seriously though, the arduino could easily monitor Ph meters, electro conductivity meters and run motors to adjust nutrient and water levels during each stage of a the plants. It would have to still be monitored by a human, but it would require less effort on their part, freeing up time for more down time and be less worrisome.

I Need a Staycation!

Due to the quarantine and the more than likely lockdown in the near future, I can go anywhere I want to, as long as it’s inside head. Actually a few days of sleep sounds awesome.

Robot Body November Update

All Commercially Available Parts

There are no custom parts, and all parts can be found on the major commercial websites and then some. I’ve done my best to keep soldering to a minimum and only use through hole components for ease of assembly and not requiring any expensive tools or more than basic technical skills. This way, anybody with $50USD can build a basic robot that can be customized and added according to their tastes and skill level. This isn’t an over simplified toy that you can’t really do much with, but a basic robot that you can modify it through adding devices and by altering it’s code.

Advanced Features

Through hardware and coding, this robot will have many advanced features such as encoders, a range finder, monitoring and updating via wifi, have it’s own webserver, battery management, having a lot of I/O pins and programming space. It’s all possible due to inexpensive parts and using two popular microcontrollers that compliment each other quite well, in my opinion.

Argh! Brains! Argh!

I know it’s not October any longer, but I couldn’t resist. The robot will not be lacking for computing power, though. One is an Arduino Uno, which uses a robust atmel single chip computer and the other is a WeMos Mini Pro that uses an ESP822-12 board that has built in wife. Both can use sketches made on Arduino IDE, which is a plus. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, but together they make for a very robust package.

The main strengths of the Arduino is the amount and types of I/O pins that provide digital, I2C, analog, PWM and more through it’s onboard firmware that is built in, and a decent microprocessor that is fairly quick at 16Mhz. It’s only real weaknesses are the amount of programming space, which is limited to 32K and that isn’t bad, since you can pick up a good clone for about $10USD.

Where the Arduino Uno style boards lack memory, the ESP8266-12 based microcontrollers more than make up for it, with 4 or more MB of memory and being Wi-Fi enabled, but most of it’s I/O pins are digital, with one PWM and an analog pin, which makes it’s an awesome board for IoT and such.

Looking at IoT sites is where I came up with the idea of using an ESP8266 based board to to monitor and control the robot with. Once I started playing with it, I realized that it had way more potential that I had first thought. At 60Mhz and have 4MB it’s going to run circles around the Arduino and will have higher level duties such as webserver, host any artificial neural networks, data logging, and host any large files such as maps, etc.,.

A Pic of the Robot sans wires

Waiting on a delivery of Dupont style connectors to wire up the sensors, etc. Will be soldering the headers for the WeMos on the shield this weekend.

This Week’s Goals

Cyclone PCB Factory

I’ve made a few modifications to the X axis, like strengthening up certain areas. The spindle weighs about two kilograms, and I don’t want it breaking loose while it’s spinning, could be catastrophic very quickly. So will be printing it in PLA to do a test fit, before having it printed in PETG.

In Robotic News

Finish putting the bot together from retail parts only. Not a real challenge to stay under budget, though I did run out of places to put things. I will have to go up, since down and out are not options to place the batteries. If anybody has list of what parts these robot bodies were designed for, it would be nice to know:

Hydroponics Sort of On Hold

I have to get both printers working, since all the future parts are quite large and looks like multiple of each. Which is not possible since they are not staying calibrated

A few thoughts on the current situation

The numbers are still on the rise, yay USA! Different countries are on lockdown to try to contain Covid-19, I hope it works. It’s becoming a a habit to watch “V for Vendetta” on the 5th of November, this time it hit a bit close to home though.

Since there are threats of civil war and we are deep into Covid-19, and who knows what else is going on.

Buy Me some Ko-Fi to keep things going

It helps to get hardware and such that I can’t normally afford https://ko-fi.com/mechgeek2kblog https://ko-fi.com/widgets/widget_2.jskofiwidget2.init(‘Support Me on Ko-fi’, ‘#29abe0’, ‘R6R220ANR’);kofiwidget2.draw();

Some Plans and Updates

Robotically Speaking

I know that I’ve been all over about the various subjects pertaining to robotics, hopefully it has struck a chord or two to investigate such things as Artificial Neural Networks, Behavioral Programming, Decision Trees and possibly Artificial Intelligence. I hope you have found that robotics is a multi-disciplinary field that spans programming, physics and a bit of psychology, as I have. Hopefully, these subjects have stirred your curiosity and you will join me on the next stage of this journey.

My life has been filled with a lot of patient building exercises, which I have chosen to take the time to meditate while waiting on deliveries, at store pickups and having to do in person shopping. Meditation is key to staying calm, it allows you to take yourself out of the equation and therefore come closer to a solution, which is that most of us are doing the best that we can at that moment. Empathy and compassion is what will see most of us through these trying times. I digress though, lets take this time to do some amazing things and perhaps be a bit entertained whilst doing so!

Want to build a basic robot for about $50?

You will need a few things like the 2WD arduino robot kit, a ESP8266-01 circuit, a 5V to 3.3V buck converter so you don’t fry the ESP8266-01 circuit and a some resistors so you don’t fry the aforementioned circuit. This is a blatant gatekeeper test, if you can successfully procure these items and some of which are mentioned in the next posts, you are on your way to learning more about robotics.

What is the purpose of this challenge and are there more? Yes to both, robotics is a vastly unexplored multidimensional field and it takes people who are not afraid to go the distance or expen the effort, resources and time to pave the way for others to follow in their footsteps.

Cyclone Factory Update

I did gift myself the 300w 52mm spindle to myself for my birthday, so yay me! After sending off the stl file to be printed, it was pointed out to me that there is a major flaw that needs to be addressed. which will be taken care of by this weekend, if the powers that be are willing. So that is one of the last tests or hurdles on this stage of this project, the future progress of so many projects are hinged on the success of this project. See the update about my printers’ status about what is going on with this project in the near future.

Printers not Printing

Both printers are down, the last few prints were not just bad, but unusable. I got one printer almost up and going, I had to tighten all the belts and such, it’s still not printing well. I am going to replace the acrylic parts of the extruder with aluminum ones and upgrade the bowden tube with Capricorn ptfe tubing. The other one is going to get the same treatment, but I’m going to unistall it’s BLTouch and 32 bit controller board and put it back in an almost stock condition. It will get an upgrade on it’s extruder like the other one. In the future, I may get another controller board to mess with, because I do believe that a BLTouch and 32 bit controller board can be used to create a near perfect flat printing surface.\

Goals for November

A short list of goals for November:

  • Get both printers running on octoprint
  • Have a simple robot made
  • Get the Cyclone PCB put together
  • Start the hydroponics
  • Post a few videos

Finally an Update!!!

I didn’t ghost

I haven’t been around or even home much of late. I have been helping some people that really shouldn’t be out in public and doing a few odd jobs of fixing things. Yeah, you are thinking that this guy is a good guy, well not really. You do what is needed when and if your people need something done and I happen to like my people. I also want to make sure that they have best chance possible to make it through this, despite being surrounded by stupid people that suffer from a mental issue called denial. I foresee that contactless options are going to be part of the new normal due to this pandemic and that professions and certain hobbies like personal shoppers, roboticists and personal gardens as well as cobots become part of our new normal.

Hydroponically Speaking

The plants are doing okay, still not in hydroponics. I take full responsibility for that. Still researching things, but the current plan is basically the same. I am keeping the plants alive, though. I am tempted to put them outside for a few days to make them more shock resistant when they get transferred into the hydroponics. Yes, the space garden needs to become a priority, and I’m hoping that time will be freed up soon due to assisting people getting up to speed with online appointments and online grocery ordering(which here in Dallas I hope improves significantly).

Cyclone PCB News

Well, I decided to find somebody local to print the X axis of the PCB Cyclone and was quite successful and they even agreed to print it in PETG, which means that I am going to have a few hours of fun getting off the supports since PETG is quite tough. This piece will be taking a lot of abuse from the stepper motors and the 52mm spindle, the latter capable of about 10K rpm, which prompted the decision of out sourcing the X axis and have it printed in PETG. It’s even going to be locally made, so providing for a local to keep them afloat during this trying time and at this time I don’t have the assets to print in PETG, so this is a win-win situation for both of us.

Robot Update

Not much has been done, mainly due to the stress and fatigue of having to be out and about. I really don’t want to mess things due to being overly tired, so mainly doing research such as reading up on Behavior Trees and machine learning. My most recent item that I am reading is: Behavior Trees in Robotics and AI: An Introduction and here is the link and attributions to the authors.

https://arxiv.org/abs/1709.00084 written by Michele ColledanchisePetter Ă–gren

I’m still reading up on Artificial Neural Networks and will be using those to do tasks, so the final code will be a hybrid of Behavior Trees and Artificial Neural Networks and the usual amount of programming voodoo.

Printer Maintenance Light is On

When your 3D fails horribly, it may mean that the bed is no longer level or that it needs maintenance. I leveled the bed and tried again and got even worse results, so it’s an issue that will require repair to the extruder and will also be upgrading the printer with OctoPrint.

Lots Going On

With the rise in pandemic numbers and people’s denial of how things are, my familial responsibilities has grown exponentially. Doing such things as pickup from store and doing what I can to protect my parents and my family of choice, has been difficult.

Investigation Completed: Cyclone Update

The Butler Didn’t Do it; This time

It took some digging into the Internet, but not too deep really. I didn’t dig too far, not looking for extra organs or hot PPE. The problem was that the print for the X axis stopped at 95% completion and then jumped to 100% complete. I had to plug in the symptoms a few times to get past the COVID-19 stuff and articles, but finally found the answer. It seems that the electronics got too hot from running the extruder motor and therefore shut down before any damage happened to the board.

Onward!!

So the plan now is to load the Purple PLA+ from GST3D.com filament on the older Ender 3(it is just a few months older and less updated hardware/firmware), and knock the infill down to 60% just to be safe. The goal now is to get the project done, because I have bot parts that need to be made. YAY!

Pics or it didn’t happen!

Yes, I have a crappy camera and take sub par pics, but decent equipment costs money. So buy me some Ko-Fi if you would like better quality pics.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Tomorrow, will posting an update on the ‘bot!

Endeavors of Futility

The past week(I know it’s been quite more than that) has been quite hectic. Been having issues of several sorts, had a few issues with my laptop that had to get looked into, had issues with my internet connection and issues with printers that had to be resolved before they could do their thing. All that over a week, just barely seem like a week, to me.

Having one of those times in life that you have to roll with the punches, till you get a few punches in. The past ten days, it seemed that I was waking up to more and more problems than I was solving. Everything was minor really, just there was a lot of issues that needed immediate attention and I didn’t have the necessary at hand to solve it with, so had to get the necessary tools and then work on the problem, such as a clogged shower drain that I tried snaking it out and was moderately successful with pulling a ton of tangles of long hair out of, but that didn’t solve the clog issue. Had to order food anyways, so added clog remover to that list after doing a bit of research, put the order in and then having to making sure that what was absolutely necessary got here(a bit of a fiasco, really).

On the 3D front, I had a two printers that were broken, again nothing major just annoying and time consuming. One the BLTouch wires had gotten yanked and therefore were partially disconnected and the other had a severely clogged and jammed nozzle that fixed itself after leaving the hotend at 260C for about half an hour, both not major just time consuming to run down the problem and fix. Both are running great and thinking of downgrading back to a Z end stop. Still modifying the X-axis for the Cyclone PCB factory, I don’t want to rush it and end up wasting filament. Ordered some stuff for the hydroponics setup that hopefully fixes some issues.

Remember you are amazing, seen and valid!

Mx Robot’s Sensor Pack

Today’s Topics!

Robots need sensors to gather data and hopefully not harm their environment. Mx Robot will have quite a few and I’ll explain why I choose the ones that I did. Why the ‘Mx Robot’?

Why Do Robots Need Sensors?

Robots need sensors in order to gather data about their environment and various parts of themselves. Such things as not running into walls without harming the environment and the entities that share it with the robot is important. Also being able to sense the remaining battery life so that the robot can use that data to either go charge or complete it’s next task is very important to the battery health and the mental health of the human that is associated with it. If your robot is knocking stuff over or destroying your things, it’s not really an asset to you. Sensors provide the data and the robot’s code interprets the data according to how it’s programmed. The types of sensors that you use in your robot just as important as the code that interprets their data, one is only useful as the other.

Sensors For Mx Robot

So what sensors have been chosen and why for the robot? So far, I really don’t have a hard list of tasks Mx Robot to do. Some ideas have been nightly patrol and getting a can of soda from the fridge, perhaps an individually packaged snack from the pantry. These are lofty goals and will require a lot of coding and robot designing to accomplish, so starting off with a generic robot and letting things go from there, but sensors are very important no matter the tasks the robot will be doing, especially since it’s not in a closed environment by itself.

Working from front to back and looking at the insides of the bot. The line following module is in the very front, it’s primary use will be lining up the robot to it’s charging base. Working back a bit, there will be two SR-04 sonar modules that will be providing data about any obstacles in the front and to the sides of the robot. The back end will have two IR pairs for object detection for obstacles behind the robot. Internally, there will be encoders on each drive shaft, an accelerometer and gyroscope package, and voltage sensors on the batteries. As you may have surmised already, most of the sensors are devoted to keeping the robot on it’s path and away from obstacles, thus far.

Should Robots Be Genderless?

I’ve been thinking about the current times and all the changes taking place, plus how sexist things are, which has started another set of thoughts altogether. Why do we consider robots to have one gender or another, is it wishful thinking or just the norm? Industrial robots probably shouldn’t have human names, but something made up of letters and numbers to identify them, because saying,”Leroy’s connectors need some jingling” would be awkward and the resulting comments probably would get some people fired(Me).

One of the issues that I foresee about assigning gender to a robot is that it may be programmed to act in the society norms of that gender and either allow itself to be abused in some way or be treat humans of the opposite or same gender as norms of the society it is in. Some would argue that having gender would make the robot more acceptable by humans, but I find that to be a sexist excuse to keep spreading those sexist views and not something that would engender good feelings in the long run. Androgyny should be the go to for most robot designers, this is the 21st century and we should as a society grow enough to accept all genders and treat people and machines with respect and not force our own views onto others

That is why I changed Mr. Robot to Mx. Robot, to reflect that it should be accepted as genderless, not a threat to anyone and that it is here to assist within it’s limited capabilities.

P.S.

If you like what I do, please consider sending a few bucks my at http://www.ko-fi.com and my ID there is MechGeek2k, as well