Sunday, 15 October 2017

15 minute make! Small router table


So, I've been thinking about how I can form consistent bevels in materials mainly for making rocket fins and am experimenting with a few different methods.. yesterday I got a bit of shed time and very quickly made this small router table. It's simply a piece of MDF screwed to my workbench and some holes made to accommodate a cheap Katsu trimmer router I bought a while back. The trimmer router itself is really good for a ridiculously low price! I bought one a while back as I'd seen lots of people using them in CNC builds and was worried that the source might dry out so picked one up! As a small table router it works well on most materials by is to fierce and unforgiving for balsa (I'm currently building a rocket with balsa fins) so my next idea is to try and make a hand powered sanding jig.

Hole cutting drills.. I always tread carefully with these as they seem to want to fling the drill about as they engage!


Couldn't be  simpler way to mount the table... and yes ... my shed needs tidying!


Friday, 13 October 2017

DoES Liverpool Rocket Design Workshop



Had a great evening last night running one of my rocket design workshops in DoES Liverpool. A brilliant group of people turned up from all over the place and a good time was had I think! Its the third time I have run this workshop and I cover a bit of rocket 101... how model, mid and high power rockets work and are launched and a bit about stability. We then all build an example design in the open source OpenRocket design and simulation package and the final section is I share some ideas and approaches to scratch building with a focus on using makerspace type tools but also alternatives if the snazzy stuff isn't available.

Heres a few shots from last night!

Met with a mug of tea... awesome!

Not a bad turnout with a couple of people also not in this shot!

Didn't take many shots of the different spaces but here's one!


Some very nice 3d printers including a sweet Ultimaker extended (good for BIG nosecones!)


Do we get the pun?! A cheesey rocket pizza.... Top work and great pizza was consumed!


 

ESTEC European Space Agency open day













So, went over to Noordwijk in the Netherlands last weekend to attend the Open ESTEC day with thousands of other people! ESTEC is the technical heart of ESA and they open a massive amount of it and a load of the staff volunteer to come back in to talk about the work that they do. It was a fabulous day and met some wonderful people. I took far to many photographs to upload them all so for now I though I'd chuck some of the tweets I did in the storify below. It was great to see all the science and technology but additionally brilliant to meet up with a few people again or for the first time! Most notable was to meet Montasser who works at Innovative Solutions In Space who I have talked to for 4 years and even been on a Hackaday Prize team with but had never met irl. I also got to see the DARE rocketry team (blog from when I visited them earlier this year here) and also got to see Jasper from the Delfispace program who does a lot of work on Pocketqubes. A fabulous event.. if you get the chance to go... GO!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Quick random hack! Digispark, neo pixels and USB battery




 




A few things collided this week... one being I managed to knacker my back and therefore spent some time trapped in the house! The next thing being the constant stream (as my long suffering postperson will attest) of small cheap random components from the far east creates little pools of tech that lie await for such times (you can tell I've not spoken to many people this week with my waffle?!). So I came across this small Digispark clone which I hadn't played with and I couldn't quite remember what I'd ordered it for! Essentially its a Attiny85 on a board with a PCB USB connector and after some trials and tribulations I managed to get an Arduino IDE to talk to it on a windows 7 machine (my linux box is poorly atm but that's another story!)

Also in the tech flotsam I have a few of those excellent poundland USB batteries and a small plan emerged! So with the addition  of a piece of white heatshrink glued to the battery pack into which I inserted a 8 pixel adafruit neo pixel strip (needs to be inside something cos dang they are bright!) and a microswitch glued to the side of the Digispark/Attiny board we have a switchable portable superbright mood light/torch! I've stuck a couple of strong neomydium magnets to the back of the USB battery so I can stick it to metal things! Its handy to stick to my field toolbox and also I've added a short strip of metal to the back of my larger rolling toolbox I use for workshops.. useful for a bit of light but also a be seen be safe addition on these dark winter nights! Code is just a tweaked version of the button cycler sketch from the adafruit neopixel library.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Level 1 Rocket Certification Achieved!

Panta Rhei on the rail ( and some dodgy geezer) Photo Credit Charles Simpson.

Panta Rhei is away... Photo credit Damian Burrin

Lovely to see the chute deployed! Photo Credit Damian Burrin


Just over a week ago I travelled down to the beautiful BMFA regional centre in Buckminster for the UK rocketry association AGM and launch day with my main purpose being to try and fly my completely scratch  built rocket "Panta Rhei" and achieve my level one certification in high power rocketry.

So I've been building up to this for a while and in a way I have done it in a tricky but rewarding manner.. I scratchbuilt Panta Rhei after creating the design in the opensource rocket design software Openrocket and it was designed to use some cheap cardboard postage tubes I had bought off ebay as opposed to tubes made specifically for rocketry. As postal tubes are slightly random sizes it means you have to make everything (nosecones, centring rings, coupling sections etc) from scratch and so you can't buy anything off the shelf that fits! So the cnc router and the 3d printer saw a lot of use in the construction of Panta Rhei... I went even further in that I didn't even buy a parachute I rather cut and stitched my own and even went as far as buying a length of Nomex to sew a flameproof parachute protector!

The other challenge for me, was that I (until arriving at this event) I had never been to a high power rocket event and had no knowledge/had never seen another high power rocket in real life! I had no real knowledge of launch rails and launch procedures or indeed how (apart from I had read in a book) the delay adjustment tools for rocket motors work or how they are packed etc...

The Saturday morning morning came and everyone started to show up.. I was quite nervous tbh and so pressed on to try and get the flight out of the way in the morning. I tell you what... HPR rocketry people are great... whilst I had to do everything myself in terms of the preparation of the rocket, everyone was there to give me advice if needed but also to leave me alone to work through prepping Panta Rhei. I was assigned a certifying officer Charles Simpson the chair of UKRA and my range safety officer (RSO) was Damian Burrin. Both of whom offered really constructive support and guidance. The other LEGEND of this story is another UKRA council member Andy Mell .. who is one of the most supportive guys you'd wish to meet, he gave lots of advice the night before and also allowed me to test fit Panta Rhei on the launch rail to check clearances etc. Andy had also brokered getting the motors (cesaroni 29mm H133 3 grain bluestreak) to me and also supplied me with some of the correct rail buttons I needed to fit the launch rail... and most importantly he was up for a pint in the local pub the night before!

Motor all prepped!


By around 11.30 am everything was ready and walked out to the launch rail and proceeded to mount Panta Rhei and  connect the ignitor. My nerves got the better of me though and after the obligatory photo I nearly forgot to remove the remove before flight tag that would arm the altimeter! However, the tag was removed, the bleeps confirmed the altimeter was working and I retreated to the launch controller. After the RSO and those present looked around the sky the RSO called that the airspace of interest was clear and gave me the signal to put the key in the launchpad.. once confirmed a countdown was given and I hit the button!

Panta Rhei leapt off the pad in a beautiful (even if I say so myself) vertical flight into lovely blues skies with no wind.. perfect! The motor fired the deployment charge a little after apogee and seperation was followed by a couple of heart stopping seconds before the bright yellow chute unfurled perfectly! I didn't have too long a walk but arrived to find Panta Rhei in great condition in a textbook landing with everything laid out in a straight line! Having launched and recovered with no damage... I'd passed my level 1 high power rocketry certification! The altimeter put the apogee at 460 meters which was around what was simulated.



So finally.. I can heartily recommend trying to get your L1 certification, but I definitely recommend its a good idea to go and check out how launch days work and look at some HPR rockets being prepped in advance if you can.. dates of launch events can be found on the UKRA website.



Thursday, 24 August 2017

My first ever review! Tool Hanging Hooks!




So, a while ago I posted a picture of a rocket I was building on twitter in my terribly cluttered and untidy shed and an account, @1Buy_UK suggested I might find some tool hanging hooks they sell useful. I cheekily replied "feel free to send me some for review".. and fair enough they have!



So full disclaimer is I did not pay for these but today 10 of these tool hooks arrived and I've put a couple up in the shed. They are pretty good, they are large enough to accept tools such as a spade or shovel handle and will happily take a saw handle.



For less "garden" items they are pretty useful too, when I am using the milling machine I always need to hand my large hammer and my 12" adjustable wrench, the wrench for removing my ER32 collet holder and the large hammer to give my drawbar a sharp tap to free the taper in the spindle, these hooks are perfect for both items.




So, all in all a thumbs up from me, and at £3.99 for 10 plus £1.20 postage they are a bargain and even come with the right amount of screws. Get them here www.1buy.co.uk

So there's my first hardware review.... who's next!

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Manchester Makefest 2017


So here is my little photodump after Manchester MakeFest last weekend.. It was an interesting event for me as it didn't really feel at all like a maker fair.. more a collection of kids activities in the science museum.. However.. I had my kids and they enjoyed it although didn't really feel like they'd learnt anything new.. (although they've been to a lot of maker fairs now tbf!). I must admit I was a bit wary of how this event was going to pan out as it was astonishingly quiet on twitter and social media in the run up to it. That all said, it was great to catch up with people and lots of people really put a huge amount of work into their activities so massive respect and kudos to them.. particularly as I know how demanding 2 day events can be.

A small robot I made at the Hacman stall. I called it "spod" it requires iterations... :)

Harri playing minecraft... supposed to be coding minecraft.. but just playing minecraft!

The mighty Manchester Girl Geeks, was too busy to have a go but they where doing great work with conductive sewing kits.

The Hacman stall with the hacman crew doing all the hot glue and soldering for the build a robot activity (punters not allowed :(  )



The fabulous Made Invaders by the corking DoESLiverpool team.


Steve Varding one of the Drake Music artists did hourly shows and frankly smashed it! Great sounds me and the kids had a bit of a rave!

 And finally... Manchester Science Museum is a treasure trove of gauges for my @gaugeoftheday account :)


Friday, 4 August 2017

Inspace One 3rd Aug 2017





So last night I ran a space workshop, inspired by some of the stuff I heard at the UK space conference earlier in the year I decided it was about time I started to push myself to try and get a few more people possibly interested in space stuff locally. I am really passionate about the fact that I think a lot of people think the space sector is less accessible than it really is!

So kindly NorthWales Technology  (a meetup organisation for North Wales technologists of all flavours) hosted me and negotiated a space within Pontio Innovation, and also arranged out fabulous event sponsor S2recruitment who paid for a mass of pizza and refreshments.



So about 25 people turned up and I started of with some slides about the different routes I have come across that different individuals, startups or not for profits I've linked into have taken into getting into the space sector. I also looked at how these entities had funded their activities (from bootstrapping/crowdfunding, angel/VC, European space agency funding applications and finally through winning funding through competitions!).  We then spent the best part of 3 hours exploring the Astrosat and Huntsville CountyChamber competition that sits within the range of competitions currently running in the Space Exploration Masters program which is headed by AZO and ESA.

We looked at the Dream Chaser vehicle and the competition requirements that state that they are looking for commercial applications for dream chaser that use the platform beyond current earth observation and crew and cargo resupply missions and develop “space as service” ideas around themes of wider exploration of the universe, interplanetary, moon, mars missions etc. I armed the participants with some dream chaser plans, 3d printed models and a heap of pens and paper and off we went!



The ideas within this really wonderful varied cohort of people were fabulous and everyone really entered into the spirit of the evening... I'd love to give a complete list of the fascinating ideas that arose but frankly there were too many! However here are a few I recall...

  • Flat pack space laboratories, Dream Chasers are used to deploy and equip expanding LEO laboratories to allow scaling of microgravity research.
  • Multiple dream chasers as a wide reconfigurable interferometry platform for deep space exploration/measurement/telescopy.
  • Dream chaser as Biological lab allowing remote un-crewed safe environment for experiments using volatile/toxic/bacteria etc.
  • Space ark... an off world seed bank.
  • Dream chaser as Bio lab exploring biofuel using the different decay rates of organic material on orbit.
  • Dream chaser mission for 200 commercial cubesats to be flown to the moon.
  • Using SLA 3d printing and dream chaser to enable new 3d SLA techniques to be used as Dream chaser could create different gravity/reaction at differing parts of the print process.
  • Dreamchaser in LEO as Deployer for interplanetary cubesat missions.
  • A Dreamchaser dock in LEO, a multifaceted structure with an IBDM berthing docking ring on each face, inside a robotic system acts as cargo shifter to allow exchange of cargo/fuel/equipment between Dream Chaser allowing flexibility in usage.
  • Space recovery, Using dream chaser to de-orbit space debris but rather than burning up in atmosphere debris could be sold into the high value space collectors market.
  • Dreamchaser space burial!
  • Dreamchaser space prison (although we all thought this would encourage crime)!
  • Space tourism..... but dream chaser would need windows!

And many many more! We finished off the evening with a quick look at how people entered the competition and what details the competition required for entry. So, finally, I think everyone had a good time, apparent both in the room and also on twitter on the hashtag #inspaceone, I got this lovely tweet which really made my day as reducing barriers to space is exactly what I was aiming for!


And finally this lovely bit of written feedback... and yes... here's looking forward to Inspace Two!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Liverpool Makefest 2017

So here is my quick picture dump post from Liverpool Makefest 2017. I was there showing some rockets and satellites stuff and had a great spot as the first stall in the foyer so got to tell everyone a bit about how much fab stuff there was to see and do as well as talk rockets/space/satellites.

I had a great time and didn't take much time off my stall to walk around as I was enjoying myself.. on a quick break (cheers Crew members who covered my stall) I  ran round and took a few quick snaps... not great but give you a flavour of the day. Hats and caps doffed to the mighty Liverpool crew who put this all together.. top work...



Above.. my stall all set up!

Reception soon filled up!

Central library is such a good building! 


A group showing amateur radio tech and operation on the 4th floor terrace, great to see!


Top floor pilot a drone (with code) workshop!

Loadsa stuff happening on the top floor!

The mighty RC2014!

The CPC makerspace massive..

Very cool drone rover with thermal imaging... Nice chassis!

Still loads of people ... all day!


An absolute pleasure for me to meet these guys from the Librespace foundation.