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!

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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();

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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What a week!

Been doing the odd job thing this past week, mainly to keep this place going in a decent fashion and so that I can have more time to do what makes me happy. The progress on my projects seem to be quite slow, I know it seems that way to me. The good thing aboutH being away from them, it gives me time to think about the various problems and solutions to those problems.

Hydro Problems and Fixes

The biggest problem with the hydroponics has been the drip nozzles, they leak and break easy if you over tighten them. A slew of ideas has been swarming in my head from changing the print parameters such over extrusion on the outside walls, increasing infill to 100%, to even doping the outside walls with resin and more. Then had a hopefully brilliant idea, purchasing water nozzle caps to screw on the bottles to run the tubing from one bottle to the other.

The Problems with ‘Bots

No real problems with the bot, except the lack of time to do the design work of the body and how to pack everything inside of it without causing a fire hazard, because a runaway fireball is a bad thing. That statement was pure sarcasm. Got the battery compartments printed to my satisfaction, so just have to decide where to put the buck/boost converter in the bot to hook up the Arduino and the other MPUs to and where to stash the batteries to run the motors and servos.

To CNC or not to CNC

Waiting on the zip ties to get here, they hold the Y plate to the linear bearings. I will probably redesign that part in the future, but the main thing is to get it going first. I do have to redesign the X axis because where the drive screw connects is bigger than the screw mount. Lots of upgrades and redesigns going through my head on this one.

I work through procrastination

Some may wonder how my mind works with a few projects always going on. I work through procrastination, I work on one project so I can ignore another project and when I get bored or tired of that current project, I switch to another one. The method to this ‘madness’ is that I get all the projects done without rushing them and having a quality, well finished project when I’m done.

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Mx Robot’s Sensor Pack

Today’s Topics!

Robots need sensors to gather data and hopefully not harm their environment. Mx Robot will have quite a few and I’ll explain why I choose the ones that I did. Why the ‘Mx Robot’?

Why Do Robots Need Sensors?

Robots need sensors in order to gather data about their environment and various parts of themselves. Such things as not running into walls without harming the environment and the entities that share it with the robot is important. Also being able to sense the remaining battery life so that the robot can use that data to either go charge or complete it’s next task is very important to the battery health and the mental health of the human that is associated with it. If your robot is knocking stuff over or destroying your things, it’s not really an asset to you. Sensors provide the data and the robot’s code interprets the data according to how it’s programmed. The types of sensors that you use in your robot just as important as the code that interprets their data, one is only useful as the other.

Sensors For Mx Robot

So what sensors have been chosen and why for the robot? So far, I really don’t have a hard list of tasks Mx Robot to do. Some ideas have been nightly patrol and getting a can of soda from the fridge, perhaps an individually packaged snack from the pantry. These are lofty goals and will require a lot of coding and robot designing to accomplish, so starting off with a generic robot and letting things go from there, but sensors are very important no matter the tasks the robot will be doing, especially since it’s not in a closed environment by itself.

Working from front to back and looking at the insides of the bot. The line following module is in the very front, it’s primary use will be lining up the robot to it’s charging base. Working back a bit, there will be two SR-04 sonar modules that will be providing data about any obstacles in the front and to the sides of the robot. The back end will have two IR pairs for object detection for obstacles behind the robot. Internally, there will be encoders on each drive shaft, an accelerometer and gyroscope package, and voltage sensors on the batteries. As you may have surmised already, most of the sensors are devoted to keeping the robot on it’s path and away from obstacles, thus far.

Should Robots Be Genderless?

I’ve been thinking about the current times and all the changes taking place, plus how sexist things are, which has started another set of thoughts altogether. Why do we consider robots to have one gender or another, is it wishful thinking or just the norm? Industrial robots probably shouldn’t have human names, but something made up of letters and numbers to identify them, because saying,”Leroy’s connectors need some jingling” would be awkward and the resulting comments probably would get some people fired(Me).

One of the issues that I foresee about assigning gender to a robot is that it may be programmed to act in the society norms of that gender and either allow itself to be abused in some way or be treat humans of the opposite or same gender as norms of the society it is in. Some would argue that having gender would make the robot more acceptable by humans, but I find that to be a sexist excuse to keep spreading those sexist views and not something that would engender good feelings in the long run. Androgyny should be the go to for most robot designers, this is the 21st century and we should as a society grow enough to accept all genders and treat people and machines with respect and not force our own views onto others

That is why I changed Mr. Robot to Mx. Robot, to reflect that it should be accepted as genderless, not a threat to anyone and that it is here to assist within it’s limited capabilities.

P.S.

If you like what I do, please consider sending a few bucks my at http://www.ko-fi.com and my ID there is MechGeek2k, as well

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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

Mr. Robot’s 2nd Post

By the end of the week, there should be a complete pair of tracks ready to mount on a chassis. The chassis is still in the design phase, though. It has to hold the dual gear motor assembly, and six 18650 batteries in appropriate compartments, eventually a triple axis accelerometer, a set of charging studs and be resilient enough to take moderate knocks without breaking, not to mention the amount of wires going to and fro to the micro controllers, dual H bridge, motors, etc.,. A lot of thought is going into this part, because the decisions made now will affect the the design of the rest of the body and it’s capabilities. Something tells me that I am either going to go through a lot of electrical tape or heat shrink(which I’m sure it’s not the size that I have). The good news is that it will all fit, and that there will be no laws of physics or even bent to get it all in there(fingers crossed, cuz the fine for trying to break the laws of physics is failure). Time just has to be set aside to finish the designs and the last unopened spool of orange PLA loaded onto the Creality Ender 3, so that the idea of the chassis is made physical.

So there is a completely finished track, pic below:

<insert here>>>>>

2nd Level Robot, or Taking It to the Next Level

I was looking at the specifications of the ultrasonic range sensors in the SR-04 family, and yes they wide cone that can detect an object at a good range, it initially seemed to create some issues. I was thinking of making the bot body taller so that it wouldn’t be creating false triggers, and thought of putting the receiver module part of it in a tube so that it wouldn’t receive pings of the bot body and a few other off the wall ideas that probably wouldn’t work, anyways. So the final solution that got the go ahead to be designed for was…..wait…..dun dun dunn!….Put two sonar modules and get the twice the data to sort!! What does this solve? A lot really, if you mount at 90 degrees apart of each other then they will be closer to the outer perimeter of the bot body, which means it can be shorter, the servo doesn’t have to make a full sweep for the sensors to get enough data for the micro controller to form a map for the main micro controller to decide how to proceed and if the robot is following the plotted course.

The Pic as Promised

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Mr. Robot Gets His Own Post

Strategy to Start With

Since vision, multiple motor control, internal state management and environment awareness are all resource intensive tasks and are all taking place in real time, and are somewhat interdependent on each other. This is why a fairly complex strategy is needed to with the main variables that the limited reality that the robot will experience. Since most resources are limited, mainly space, time and money, a plan that uses those wisely is best and not necessarily balanced. While, it would be cheaper and use less space inside the robot to just use one micro controller, but then a lot of time would be used to program some sort of multitasking system into the main program and that has it’s own inherent problems. Discussing all the different strategies would not be the best use of one particular resource which is time, it’s the one resource that we never have enough of, cannot store and are literally losing it second by second. Skipping to the best solution, in my opinion at least, is to divide the tasks up by area of the robot and have the appropriate sized or easiest procured micro controller take care of those tasks, report sensor readings and task status to the main controller. This frees up programming time and clock cycles for more complex problems such vision and human interaction. Once the base micro controllers are programmed well enough to do their tasks adequately or better, they can just do their tasks like a well coded sub routine. Just think of the various micro controllers as physical sub routines in a box that can do a set number of tasks when called by the main controller.

You could say that this is Physical Object Oriented Programming or POOP for short. Go ahead and put that on a resume’. *smiles*

Now the Plan!

Here is a plan in place for the bot, it has three layers, and while each layers has it’s own sensor and working payload, it is governed by the one above it in some way. The working plan for the layers are:

  • Bottom layer; battery storage, locomotion and base sensors
  • Mid layer; secondary micro controller storage, some advanced sensors
  • Top layer; main micro controller, manipulator and probable payload area

The bottom layer is the base, which will be really quite stuffed with batteries, a gearbox, tachometers, line following hardware, and charging contacts. Trying to put most of the weight in the bottom of the bot and lower than the axles of the gear box. This will help lower the center of gravity and hopefully the need of heat dissipation

That leaves, the secondary micro controller, power management micro controller, charging circuits and anti-collision sensors for the middle layer. The secondary micro controller captures all the sensor information and reports it the main controller, while getting heading and distance parameters from the main controller, as well.

The top layer has the main micro controller, some sort of vision sensor and possibly a manipulator. This layer cannot be really planned in depth till the lower layers are complete and working. I’m hoping by offloading most of the tasks to other micro controllers that such problems such as vision and human interaction can solved and implemented easier.

It’s generally easier to break things into basic blocks, solve the simpler problems first, integrate the parts back into the equation that the problem is represented by and that is left to do is solve the last few variables.

Implementation!

Will be discussed in future posts.