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.

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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.

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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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.

A Rather Busy Week

Progress and Such

It’s been a rather hectic week, trying to get enough dry goods to last for awhile and get some work done on a few projects, has been quite challenging since it’s getting hot and going into any store requires a mask. Both even together are not bad, but combined with humidity, it does complicate things, quite a bit. Plus, doing the exchange of effort for monetary gain was a good thing, as well. Most can’t wait for things to go back to the good ol’ days, but I’m beginning to believe that they are gone for good and this is the new normal. By the way, feeling much better than last week, was out and about in the heat a bit too much, I guess.

Off to more fun topics, though. Mr. Robot has tracks and a chassis now, and the hydroponics mini lab is coming along fine.

Mr. Robot Has Bod!

Got another track set made and sealed the ends and the chassis modified and printed. I found the 6V-12V motors that will fit in the Tamiya Dual Gear Drive kit and the Line Follower kit came in, as well. So, just need to hook those to an Arduino and a Dual H-Bridge for the coding to begin.

Mr. Robot's grey tracks and orange chassis

Plenty of internal storage for things like battery banks, the line follower kit and the dual drive motor kit, and maybe a few small sensors. This coming week, I’d like to get the battery banks done, at the very least designed. I’ve gone with this particular layout, because it’s quite modular and when I change or add things, I don’t have to reprint an entire chassis and such. This is very much a rough draft.

Hydroponics Laboratory Update

Got the base done last weekend and let it dry completely outside for a few days, it came out rather well since I’m not a great carpenter, mediocre would be a better term for my carpentry skills(smile). I did mount the stand on it, hung the grow light and put the seedlings under it. I had tried a method of growing the seedling using a compact fluorescent light, but they really did not take to it, very well.

It may just be my lack of skill, or too much water or something else. It looks like the kale, cherry tomatoes and the marigolds made it, though. It was not a complete failure, I should water less and use a grow light for seedlings, especially for indoor hydroponics. I’d thought of putting it outside, but figured that the heat would have destroyed the seedlings’ chances altogether.

DIY grow tent out of mylar sheeting to reflect back the light from the grow light for the plants to absorb

The frame was mounted on the base, and the next experiment is in progress, which is the grow tent. I did tape the mylar sheeting to the outside of the frame, and it’s not entirely transparent, but let’s just say that my living room has a creepy purplish glow to it in the evening till the timer shuts off.

Some future goals are:

  • Wash the hydroton
  • Set up a way to measure the water/nutrient level of the reservoir
  • Print the venturi tube for the pump system
  • Upgrade the frame to thicker tubing

Major Steps for Hydro!

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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.