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.

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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!!

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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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.

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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.