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,

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

Investigation Completed: Cyclone Update

The Butler Didn’t Do it; This time

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

Onward!!

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

Pics or it didn’t happen!

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Tomorrow, will posting an update on the ‘bot!

Another update: Slow Progress

This week is proving to be a week of slow progress, a couple of key orders were cancelled by the sellers and a key component is taking a tour of the U.S. On a personal note, been dealing with a migraine, as well.

I had tried to initially go through Amazon, but due to the fact that what I require is considered non-essential parts there was a probable delay well into May which is like ordering from China. So I went on eBay and basically did that, still to no avail since both sellers have cancelled and refunded my order. Though, most people would be jealous of one order, because it’s travelling about the Lower 48 like a tourist, I’m expecting post cards from it, any day now.

Plus, I have been dealing with a migraine since Sunday and sudden storm Tuesday night, that wasn’t in the forecast, only encouraged it to continue to take up residence in my head. On the upside of things, I have had time to brainstorm, to figure out some designs and to think of other projects and devices to make. Even when down, I try to make positive progress.

Besides the some delays in procurement and an annoying health issue, the plans are moving along at a decent pace.

Hydroponics Update

Trying my hand at actually growing something the past few weeks, some mint and an onion, and have been working on the design of the connectors for the PVC frame, as well.

About a month ago, I found a few mint seedlings at a big box store and by the time I got it home it had gone into shock. I gave it some water and a bit of plant food with plenty of light after deciding to try to bring it back. That’s been somewhat successful, half of the seedlings survived and their roots are bunched up, so going to try make cuttings out of the surviving plants. So will be trimming them off at the base with sharp scissors and pinching the tops, before putting the cut ends in water to try to encourage new roots to grow. Pinching the tops discourages growth on that end so most of the plants’ energy will be used to grow out the root system. The plants that look like they have the best chance to live will be planted in pods and given beneficial fungi treatment. I feel for the plants, because they got a bad start and I’m very much a novice at this.

Speaking of moments of spontaneity, I was fixing some Frito pie and was chopping an onion and decided to try to regrow the onion for chives and eventually the onion back, in less than a week it’s root system is developing rather nicely. I’m giving it plenty of light and once the roots start really developing, I will cut the center part and plant them in soil pods and given the beneficial fungi treatment. Best of luck to it!

3D printers are amazing machines to have and use, that being said, you can find what your current limits on designing objects and just being patient while waiting for it make an object is not the only test of your patience that you will find. It takes patience and skill to design objects that are worth your time, money for electricity and consumables such as filament that are not just functional, worth using a lot and joyfully claiming that you made it. Which why I’m probably on my 5th maybe 7th version of the connectors before finally printing them. Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.

Cyclone PCB, a Mini Update

Going to have to find new suppliers for the smooth rods and threaded rod for the Cyclone PCB cloner, but the good news is that a complete refund for all that was not delivered. I do try to go with U.S. based sellers if possible, but quite a few have shut down or on staycation. I have been researching different modifications and upgrades, but really want to get it working first. From personal experience, it’s easier to start with a basic and functional project to build off of, than it is to troubleshoot something that should work in theory. I’m going to be printing the rest of the parts and assembling what I can by the end of this weekend

Robot Tracks and Power Management

I haven’t been printing at night, mainly due to the frequent storms that we have been having, therefore there have been power outages and brown outs. Since filament is neither easy nor cheap to procure, I’ve been playing it safe in order to not waste filament. There are still lots of tracks to print and assemble before the fun parts of this particular project can have a chance at having it’s own posts in the robotics category. I have purchased a smallish battery back up to put between the surge protector and the electrical outlet that they are on, so over night printing may continue.

I was planning out and procuring the basic parts for the power subsystem such as charging circuit boards, battery springs, etc. The springs might come in next week, or next month. I’m not entirely sure of how I am going to do power management, so I’m not going to solder bars of metal across the battery terminals just, yet. Power management is a big challenge, because a robot can only go as far as it’s batteries can take it and hopefully there is a plan for it to be able to recharge.

Some Goals for This Weekend

Goals for this weekend;

  • Print all connectors for the hydroponics and assemble
  • Separate the mint and start their rooting process
  • Solve and implement how to hang the Mylar sheets
  • Monitor the onion and decide when to take it to the next stage
  • Get as much as the PCB Cyclone built as I can
  • Print and assemble at least 40 treads

Featured

Updates

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

Hydroponics or just more research

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

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

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

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

Robotics for the win!

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

Cyclone PCB maker to the rescue!

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

Some notes on creativity

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

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

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

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

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

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

More progress on most projects

Just waiting on a few things to appear in my mailbox, it does seem that way since everything has been due for a week now. I think that everybody, very much including the USPS on that list, is doing awesome with everything going on. Going to the store wearing a mask and it actually being encouraged is a bit odd, though. Though, I do miss seeing the wall of boxes of filament and having to go through each shelf looking for a certain colour, type and size, because right now the selection is….nothing. Still printing the parts I need, just not in the colours that I desire. The printers keep on going and going.

The hydroponic garden is coming along, waiting for various things to come in the mail and printing the connectors for the PVC pipe as I type. I’m still researching a lot of things on hydroponics and thinking of what things are going to be needed to automate the process of having a hydroponic garden that is beneficial and grows nutritious food. Task to overcome to automate the growth process that have come to mind are;

  • Nutrient level in the reservoir
  • Electro conductivity of the nutrient in the reservoir
  • PH balance of the nutrient
  • When to turn on or off the light
  • When to turn on or off the pumps
  • Adding nutrients to the nutrient
  • Taking into account of human feedback to adjust nutrient levels

As you can see, there is a list of tasks to overcome, but nothing seems insurmountable as of yet. While I am waiting on things to arrive, I do have other projects to work on, such as the PCB factory and the robot. I’ll be assembling my notes of different plants and their different preferences. By the way, going to try to separate the mint and try to convince the cuttings to grow roots.

It seems that the process to get it to take root is to cut the stems, pinch the tops and place in water. I’m not to sure about the process, but will try it and see what happens. I probably didn’t let the water sit long enough for the chlorine to evaporate out of it, or some such. Onward to other projects!

Almost all the printed parts for the PCB are done, still have a few pieces to print and have some that are waiting arrival. I’ve decided to go ahead with the 52mm spindle, since it’s designed for use in CNC machines and would be way easier to control since it’s a DC motor. The next step will be assembling the machine and finding the missing parts for it.

As far as the robot goes, got the cogs, frames and some of the tracks printed. Even got some of the tracks linked together, which takes about an hour to do about 15, not too bad since each track looks to take about 60 tracks. Thinking of making it a puller, since I want the batteries in back to keep it’s center of gravity low and towards the back, under the eventual arm. Did get the 18650 LiPo charger boards in the mail, so that is an upcoming challenge to wade through.

Till next time,

Mech

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.