Entries in Category Engineering and Inventions

Laser Cutting

It's already a good year for the small R&D team I work with: we've been lucky enough to get a laser cutter to experiment with! Ours is the 40W “fifth-generation” model from Full Spectrum Laser; it can cut up to 1/4 inch wood or plastic and can engrave anodized aluminum. It also features some slick software that acts as an ordinary Windows printer driver so that you can print directly from the software of your choice (for me in this context, usually Adobe Illustrator).

Completed laser setup

Like a lot of digital fabrication machines in the hobbyist end of the market, however, this device requires some setup to get it running. You'll want to mount the laser on a worktable or mobile cart big enough to support it and all the associated infrastructure. We equipped ours with a power strip for all the associated peripherals as well. On the left side of the photo is a small air compressor, supplied with our laser, that provides high-pressure air to the cutting head for purposes of blowing away anything that might otherwise adhere to the optics. This might also be useful in blowing out flames that may occur, which is definitely something to keep an eye on when laser cutting.

3D-Printed Bandsaw Insert

Lacking an insert plate for the 10-inch Delta bandsaw (model 28-195) at work, I made a new one out of ABS plastic using our 3D printer. Here's the result:

Rough-but-ready output from the Solidoodle

The geometry is two discs stacked on top of each other with a little bit of a cutout at the edge behind the blade, which helps prevent the insert from twisting too much. I've modeled a slot a bit larger than the kerf of the blade and included it in the printed part but you could certainly leave that off and cut the slot into the insert using the bandsaw itself, making what's called a “zero-clearance” insert.

Using the STK500 with Atmel Studio 6.1

I'm starting another AVR project using my by-now-venerable STK500 and the latest 6.1 version of Atmel's Studio software. Although I'm sure Atmel would like all developers everywhere to buy STK600s, it's perfectly possible to use the older development kit with the newest software, although this combination is not as well documented as I'd like; hence I'm using this post to collect a few tips distilled from recent experience.

Yet Another Macro-Photography Light Tent

Regular followers of this blog or of my flickr account perhaps noticed an enormous improvment in the quality of my macro photos about a year ago; at the time I put together a primitive light tent using foamcore and tissue paper. Although the photographic results of this project were all I could hope for, the tent itself was extremely fragile, awkward to set up, and likely to collapse while shooting. So I took what I learned from my first effort and built an improved tent with a PVC-pipe frame and a bedsheet light diffuser.

More Building Blocks for 3D Printing

I've added two new types of components to my toolkit of 3D printed machine parts: a snap-fit pivot or hinge, and a dovetail suitable for joining two parts together at a right angle.

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