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.

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.

So What is Planned for the rest of July 2020?

Hydroponics

Still getting the hang of growing food, if the world depended on me to grow their food, I’d be hunted down and probably end up in a pot *nervous chuckle*. Like all skills, it takes time to get it right and more time to perfect it, so I’m not worried, yet. Fortunately, the endgame strategy is to have an Arduino or such regulate the nutrient content, grow light times and such, so I only have to get good enough to code basic skills into the arduino and have an Neural Network System or a smart enough expert system take over to grow vegetables and such. So, the plan for the rest of this month is to transfer the seedlings that have survived thus far into a hydroponic system and hope they thrive, while setting up a system for tomatoes, beans and probably peppers of some sort. About my only fear is that I may have to rely on my ability to grow plants for my continued survival, at some future date.

Robotics

Either have to redesign the battery holders or butcher the base to be able to store the batteries in it, so far redesigning seems to be the best option, thus far. I got the line following kit in the mail and got it assembled, so just need to tune it. After the battery storage is solved, the Arduino and ESP modules can be made and put in the bot. It seems that a lot of stuff is being crammed into the base, but it’s all necessary and I will agree that a bigger base is necessary in the future, but that may require switching over to stepper motors for locomotion. Once stuff is all in it, then coding can begin. This is probably the biggest and most complex personal project ever.

PCB Factory

This project is going so very slowly, I know. Mainly due to the lack of available resources, because I’m a poor geek. It’s also a very resource hungry project that has multiple parts that are not cheap, such as the spindle, PSU and controller board, which all are above the $50 range before shipping and handling charges. Plus, some parts are designed be others and therefore they may have to be modified to fit what parts can be procured. So will be assembling as parts come in.

This may be the most used piece of equipment in my future arsenal of tools for robotics and automation.

3D Printing

I’d like to get Octoprint set up on one of my printers this month. It’s more of a ‘sit down and do it’ kind of project, really. It isn’t just a cool mod, but also a time saver since I could check the progress from anywhere within my network range to see how the current print is coming along and to be able to remotely set up prints.

TTFN!

I hope everybody is doing well and please subscribe to this blog if you are getting something from it or at least enjoying it

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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.

More Good Progress

This has been a busy weekend, found the right items for things and took some small, but significant steps in most areas. I’ve been looking over some of my stuff, and if I didn’t know better, I’d say that I was colorblind. The good thing about all this being experimental is that it’s not for sale and I don’t have to really impress anybody, just keep the few followers that I have with ongoing progress reports. Yes, there will be a few picks of the completed steps, at least one I promise. Why the pics of just completed steps, well I don’t like pics of my unfinished stuff. Sometimes, I have bad ideas or took on way more than my skill set allows. It’s never a good idea to try to make elephant soup out of a living dragon, and yes I mixed those up intentionally. *wink*

Go Hydro!!

Now that all the Canadian Marvel fans are confused, lets talk about hydroponics while they uncunfuzzle themselves. Lots of good progress this weekend, got the table designed and initial cuts made for it. There was a bit of an evolutionary process even while making the cuts, had an epiphany while the saw was NOT running. The epiphany was on how to check the nutrient depth of the nutrient in the bucket under the frame without having to put another probe in the nutrient. Also, got the the plant tags printed out. I used orange and brown filament, since the brown is almost completely out so used it for the lettering on the tags, there is maybe just a meter left on the spool.

<insert pic here>

New 3D printed veggie tags, brown on orange

CNC Fun

Finally found the right parts(sorta) and they should be here by Thursday, supposedly. Been researching different controller boards, lots of knockoffs out there and they don’t say which one they poorly copied to generate their ‘version’. I did find the source of the GRBL controller sheild in New Zealand, but they are still in shutdown due to the COVID-19 there, so will have to contact their distributors. Protoneer.com if you desire to look them up, for yourselves. On a happier note, I was going through some stuff and found a piece of 1/4 inch acrylic, it’s kinda scratched up, but looks like it’ might either repel or slow down an shattered tool end, so it doesn’t cause bodily harm or just bounce off the sheet rock. Just my opinion, no responsibility taken here or ever, remember that if you do this, you are responsible for your actions and accept the consequences of such actions.

Do the Robot Dance!

Yes, Mr. Robot gets another post all his own, again! There are pics, too!!

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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.

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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.