Sunday, 22 November 2015

A little light prototyping

 Spent a bit of time today making this light prototype out of some MDF I CNC'd and some yellow LEDS (next revision will be white but I bought a 1000 cheap yellow LED's some years back so they get used first!). It was quite a challenge to solder so I'll tweak the CAD to make the pocket a bit larger to give me a bit more room to work in. I have a few ideas for different sizes of these... Firstly the internal diameter of this one matches the spindle currently on the CNC so I hope to have a snazzy spindle light that I'll probably attach with some small neomydium magnets in the back of the case. Another size I'll make for the manual mill spindle and I fancy making one that could fit to my DIY helping hand accessory for use in combination  with a lens. They also could make a nice light to mount on a camera to take macro shots.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Getting into rocketry

rocket launch keychain camera from concretedog on Vimeo.

So I've been getting into model rocketry, I got bought a starter set as a gift some time ago and finally got the 2 rockets built over the summer, I've launched them a couple of times but yesterday was the first time I did some video, both from the ground and also attaching a cheap keychain camera to a rocket. The above is the result. (And yes.. forgot to set the camera date and time so appear to have launched over 150yrs in the future!)

My lad looking very pleased with the larger estes amazon rocket

So... I have plans! I have a larger kit that will step me up to use the highest over the counter rocket motors available and then after that i'm going to look into getting certified to fly high power rockets. I'm looking to diy as much as possible so have been playing with designing rockets in virtualisation using the amazing free design and simulation package OPENROCKET .. I've also got into sewing lightweight ripstop nylon to make parachutes! I'm learning a lot about sewing and am aiming to make some cross form parachutes after reading some chute theory and running some math. I've also built a little prototype jig assemble that has worked well to enable fixing fins at exactly 90degrees from any given centreline of a circular tube.. I'm going to build a better version at some point and post again.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Derby Mini Maker Faire

So, I had the pleasure of helping out at derby Mini Maker faire at Derby Silk Mill museum the other weekend. Here is a photo dump of my shots of the day.. not very good but gives and air of this excellent event. Massive props and respect to Dominic, Hannah, Chris, Andrea and the rest of the team.

The hands of a crewer who has been rigging big steel burny sculptures!
They doubled the size of the show this year with the use of a huge tent...
One of the museum spaces

Maker briefing number 1


I spent a fair bit of time co-hosting the make a keyring workshop, casting polymorph!

Super nice laser sticks..

Pattern printing rolling pins

the mighty ragworm

Supervised this brilliant marble run activity a fair bit

BIG ENGINE and paper aeroplane challenge in this room

Shonkbot workshop


Smaller CNC but scratchibuilt.. (great cheap spigndle tip from the builder!)

I got to put this massive head on this with the sculptor Johnnie White... Brilliant work

Cast ice gearwheel form the drive system of the burning sculpture


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

EM drive, Hackaday prize SEMI FINALS! and International Collaboration

So over the last few months I've been tweeting a lot about parts I've been making as part of a team entering the hackaday2015 prize. They are parts for an experimental (and contentious) drive system called an EM drive. Now.. I need to come clear.. nobody seems to be able to adequately explain the physics behind this possible phenomena... let alone me so it has been fun as people have been asking me a lot of questions and I can only say... I've just been making components! However here is Paul's simple explanation of the project

"The EMdrive is a new type of thruster - recently invented by Roger Shawyer. 
Unlike other propulsion systems which need to repel mass to produce thrust, the EMdrive can convert electrical energy into thrust directly. 

A working EMdrive would start a revolution in spaceflight, enabling manned deep space exploration. 

Several builds have been made worldwide (eg Chinese University, NASA), many show positive results. This topic is still quite new and needs a lot of research. 

Most EMdrives work with frequencies around 2.4 GHz. This makes them big and hard to test under DIY conditions (big vacuum chamber, liquid metal contacts) 
So our attempt is to build one which works with 24GHz, which reduces the form factor significantly. 
A so small EMdrive could be flown to space for 30000$ on a pocketqube satellite. "

  It's got a LOT of attention within the hackaday prize and has solicited hundreds and hundreds of comments on Hackaday, Reddit, Twitter, NASAforums etc and a great interview was conducted with Paul on

I've really enjoyed the feeling of being in a team on this project.. even though we are quite challenged geographically! There are 3 members, myself in Wales UK, Paul Kocyla the project lead in Germany and Montasser Sallam in Jordan. To say we have never met irl, we have forged great bonds and very productive teamwork between us utilising many little productivity hacks... 

One of my favourite little hack/workflows has been our use of OpenScad as a CAD environment.. OpenScad is free and opensource and is a code based CAD environment.. the beauty of this means that it is SUPER simple to share work... me and Paul regularly ping each other direct messages with entire CAD files pasted in as plain text.. I have even been known to open the text in ScorchCAD (an android port of openScad) and do work on the file on my phone.. great for fitting in dev work around other duties... true digital nomadery! 

So we are through to the semifinals and are very excited to be there. The final assembly of the MKII system and test rig (DIY laser interferometer etc) is being put together by Paul to hopefully perform some initial tests just before the final hackaday prize deadline.

If you want to support us.. (we don't want your money) please raise the profile and go visit the main project page on Hackaday and 'like' the project by giving us a skull!

And here is a collection of bits wot I made for it!

 Frustrum cavity.. lots of angles and geometry on this one.. accurate to around 0.02mm and >16um
 Piston assembly for tunable cavity experiment/prototype.
 Improvements in my CNC toolpaths above! Lower one the wrong way top one better! Cavity endplate.
 Above and below, assembly for a RF enclosure and heatsink for test of MKII assembly.

 The MK1 frustrum assembled and dissasembled

Friday, 21 August 2015

CNC router up and running!

So.. I have a CNC router.. hurrah! It's been a long journey getting it together as (like most things) I haven't done it in the simplest way! A while back a conversation on twitter led a wonderful stranger to gift me a YOOCNC controller unit that he had upgraded his machine from.. I already had some really powerful nema23 steppers in stock and so I got to thinking about building a cnc! The first thing I wanted to do was convert the controller to work via usb (like most cnc controllers they run parallel ports) and also so I could use the opensource GRBL controller software to run my machine. So an arduino and some wiring later I had the controller moving 3 stepper motors on my desk!..

I spent a while considering and prototyping a CNC router but then found a dealer on ebay selling mechanical kits for a 30x40cm CNC.. the price was right so a bit later everything was here!

So the last few weeks I've been getting my head around a few needed subjects... my current toolchain to create the required Gcode that GRBL needs is to draw the object/paths in Inkscape and use the GCODETOOLS extension to create the code. It isn't intuative and has taken a lot of tinkering and experimenting but I'm getting there and have started to make a few items that are beyond just test cuts!

First up I got one of these HDMI screens from Adafruit (with some free vouchers she gave me but thats another story!) the screens are great but just come as a bare unit so I've drawn up and routed a screen surround which makes it more handle able and I'll get round to drawing and cutting some triangular legs for it at some point. This was an interesting exercise as I had to mill out an area to a depth and had to work out making the thin tool stepover etc all good learning.

Then next up I've made this desk tidy/tool holder .. it needs a few revisions but overall I'm very pleased with it! I'm probably still being quite cautious with my cutting feed and speed rates but even so it took around 13mins to cut all of this out of 6mm mdf... it would take me hours to do it manually!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

It’s not Rocket Science…OzQube1 media round up

Someone made a comment on my tee shirt today which is great as it enables me to tell someone else about DIY space initiatives and Pocketqube satellites, as well as focusing in on Stuarts brilliant OzQube1 project. It also got me thinking that it ‘s been ages since I did a post about OzQube1 particularly as it’s got a LOT of media attention recently. Check out this timeline of coverage he has received in the last few months. I speak to Stuart via DM most days and his work rate is prolific and it’s great to be (relatively speaking) along for the ride. The challenges he faces in his project are varied from the very technical to the mechanical to the administrative and the interpersonal. However one of his challenges stands out… FUNDING.. if you would like to help fund the launch of OzQube1 feel free to donate to him via his gofundme page and keep up on other news and ways you can support him at his blog .... but for now relax and unwind and watch Stuarts recent appearance on Australia's channel 7 Today Tonight program...

June 2015 edition of SatMagazine – US based web and print magazine for commercial satellites.

17/6/15 – Page 2 of The West Australian (Main daily newspaper for Western Australia)

26/6/15 – ABC talkback radio in Tasmania! (No web link!)
June 2015 edition of SatMagazine – Mentioned in an article, but not specifically about Ozcube

13/07/15 – Guest speaker/Presenter for the Monthly meeting of the Western Australian Astronomical Society

30/07/15 – TV Interview on Today Tonight ( Channel 7 - Western Australia)