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.

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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.

Delays, research and 3D printing

Seems that certain things are not ‘critical’, but that just means that patience is required. By patience I mean, finding alternative sources for the things that I want and finding other things to do while waiting for deliveries. There is a difference between need and want, one is necessary and the other is desired; the former causes fury and the latter creates disappointment when unavailable. I’ve not been idle of mind or with hands since the last post. Amazon is having massive delays on ‘non-critical’ items, so tried researching the companies to contact directly to little avail, therefore using my go to solution of finding parts that I can’t get source locally, Ebay.

So what have I been doing since the last post, I shall inform thee. Been doing quite a bit of research, which it has been hard to not go down a bunch of rabbit holes that has created. It has certainly proven the fact of the more you know, the less you know. For instance, seeds started in soil seem to do better than seeds in a pure hydroponic situation and it might be due to the lack of certain type of root fungi. The fungi that I am typing about is Mycorrhizal fungi, it’s type of fungus that attaches to the roots and assists the plant with water and absorbing various nutrients from the soil that the plant needs to grow and therefore provide the fungi room to grow as well, it’s a symbiotic relationship between plant and fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi is not just one specific fungus, but is actually a group of similar fungus who do the same job, for more information on how they work and how this relates to hydroponic gardening, click here – https://mycorrhizae.com/do-Mycorrhizae-have-a-role-in-hydroponics/. Also been designing the 3D printed PVC connectors for the hydroponic garden.

Speaking of 3D printed things, the Cyclone PCB maker is coming along quite well, each set of prints is taking about 20 hours of print, so about down to the wire of whether or not getting a 52mm spindle or try using a dremel tool for the business end of the Cyclone. Leaning towards the 52mm spindle, because it’s used in CNC mills for wood working, PCB making, etc,. It’s also driven by a DC motor that would require a simple H Bridge to control it’s speed. There are a few ways to sense it’s speed and that’s a whole discussion in of itself. So going to make a jig for the wire to go into and a guide for the saw to keep it in a straight-ish line so it’s easier to make the connectors for the treads.

Overall, I’m quite happy about the progress on these projects, so far. Considering that I’m using a bit better than hobby grade 3D printers and hobby grade electronic components from China, everything is going along quite well.