Friday, March 6, 2015

8x8x8 LED cube

It's been quite a while since I've updated this page.  I've had a lot of stuff going on for the past three years and sadly very little of it involved building electronics.  I might get into that on some other post, but right now I'm just posting to let you know I'm back and currently in the middle of teaching a good friend how to build and program digital electronics.  So we're both building ourselves our own 8x8x8 LED cubes.  I've been documenting the process and have been kicking around the idea of creating an in depth guide on how to do it all, but there are some really good guides already put out there by people and I've been following closely one person's guide in particular on Instructables.  His user name is "chr" and his guide is very deep with nearly half of it devoted to explaining how the code on the Arduino works and how to modify it to your liking.

Led Cube 8x8x8 by chr on Instructables

Jameco BoM for chr's 8x8x8 LED Cube with schematics

Jameco also has essentially the build with a parts list on their site.  I ended up ordering a few parts off their website, but I got most of it through eBay as I was willing to wait 2-3 weeks for it to be shipped from China or Hong Kong.  The pictures are of my test 8x8x8 cube using 3mm red LED's although the two final cubes we're building are going to be 5mm super bright red LED's.  I had a few thousand 3mm LED's laying around and figured I should use them as a test since our build is based around the idea of making loops on the LED's legs and then creating rails from bare copper 18gauge wire to run through all the LED's looped legs.  It works well, but there were lots of challanges in trying to build it that just aren't present when building 3, 4 or 5 by cubes.  For one it was a giant PiTA to reach the 4 central columns with the soldering iron initially, but part of the fun and sense of accomplishment in these kinds of projects is figuring out how to overcome the hurdles that continually get placed in front of you.  Well, I'm posting this during a lunch break that is almost over so I'm cut this post a bit shorter than I'd been intending.  Expect updates to start becoming somewhat regular again as I start documenting the various projects.

Right now I'm trying to finish up the 8x8x8 LED cube build, but after that I've already got most the parts for a couple smaller projects I'm really excited about and there's always my electronics white whale to contend with which would be finishing that RepRap Prusa 3D printer I started 3 years ago and then got sidetracked with a very intense 2 year long relationship that left me torn up and spit out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Busy last week, but not with the 3D printer

The view from my kitchen table, Juneau and the Gastineau Channel
Things were busy this last week with birthdays and other things that kept me from doing much with my 3D printer.  I've finally got some time this evening so I'm starting at step 5 in the illustrated manual for building a Reprap Prusa Mendel and tightening down the frame while using the digital calipers to check all the measurements.  I'm hoping I'll get through the print bed assembly this evening.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I started building my 3D printer on Saturday

I got the last of the parts I needed to start building my Reprap Prusa Mendel 3D printer.  I finally had some time to start building it last Saturday.  I got up to measuring the frame and tightening it up when I finally had to get some sleep.  Probably not going to do much on it today since it's mothers day.  I'll probably have some more time a couple of the evenings in the next week to set aside a few hours here and there to get the rest of the frame set up.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Saturday.... I get to start building it... no, really....

Had a lot going on this week, so I'm not going to really get into the building phase of the reprap Mendel Prusa until Saturday.  Sunday is Mother's Day so I'm not planning on working on it then.  So I guess it's all day Saturday and then some late nights during the week to finish it up.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I think all my 3D printer parts are in

1 kilogram spool of PLA plastic @ 3mm diameter
I went through all the hardware for my 3D printer and besides missing a couple washers it looks like I'm all set to build a reprap Prusa Mendel v2.

Hobbed Bolt for the filament feed on the 3D printer

I got another notice in my mailbox that I've got another package.  This should be for the digital calipers and infrared thermometer which are needed for the calibration process.  I tried to pick up the package this morning, but the apartment's office was closed.  I should be able to grab the package before the weekend which means I'll be building the frame and hopefully mounting the electronics this weekend.

Threaded Rod and Linear straight rod for the 3D printers frame and print bed.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Disruptive Technology

I've grown somewhat weary of WIRED magazine in the last decade, but they still have some amazing articles from time to time.  Right now they are covering the Disruptive By Design conference in New York City.
Daniel Pink on Disruptive technology...
Disruption is giving the world something it didn’t know it was missing. Three years ago, did you know you were missing an iPad? Ten years ago, did you know you were missing a web browser? Perhaps the savviest of Wired readers did, but the majority of us only knew we wanted these things after we’d experienced them in some way. Now that they’re a mainstream part of our lives, we couldn’t imagine life without them.

I really hope 3D printers will be a disruptive technology in the next 10-15 years.  I think they have the potential to make us look at the way we do a lot of things now and realize how asinine many aspects of intellectual property is.

Monday, April 30, 2012

TimeLapse Camera hack

For building my 3D printer I was thinking of setting up a my Canon to capture a time lapse of the whole build over the course of however many nights it takes me to build the whole thing.  I found this guide for building a super simple camera trigger and using a firmware upgrade called CHDK.  I've used CHDK before on my camera, but it was a few years ago.  This might just be the perfect use of an arduino nano, 16x2 LCD screen and a few TACT buttons to navigate a simple menu system.  Ideally I'd like to set this whole thing up to tie into a 3D scanner I've been looking at building.  For the short term I'd be happy if I could have it take a picture every one or two minutes during the build.  I have an 8GB SD card so it can hold thousands of pics so storage for all the shots shouldn't be an issue.  If I don't get around to doing that I do have a 720p webcam that I've used in the past.  Still not entirely sure I want a video of me beating my head against the wall as I run into problems that I'm just going to assume will happen as there are so many different things that can go wrong while building a 3D printer.

DIY Shutter Release Cable for Canon Cameras


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lulzbot Order came in

Lulzbot RAMPS board
RAMPS 1.4 board from Lulzbot, seated on an Arduino MEGA 2560 from BuyInCoins

My order came in on Thursday, it was securely packed with bubble wrap and everything came through the mail in good shape.  Now I have to wait for the rest of the hardware to be shipped on Monday so I'll hopefully be able to start building it next weekend.  I'm hoping I haven't forgotten anything major so I can start building it right away.

LulzBot order came in, bubble wrapped up and protected.
Budaschnozzle 1.1 for my Reprap's hothend, boxed up and secure

Budaschnozzle 1.1 with .5mm extruder tip

Budaschnozzle 1.1 Profile

Budaschnozzle 1.1 

Budaschnozzle 1.1

Wires and connectors for Budaschnozzle 1.1

SDRAMPS card reader modification for the Reprap Prusa Mendel (top)

SDRAMPS Card reader modification for the Reprap Prusa Mendel (bottom)

Mechanical Endstop Switch

Mechanical Endstop Switch (reverse side)

Pololu A4988 Stepper Motor Driver, Assembled (top)

Pololu A4988 Stepper Motor Driver, Assembled (bottom)

RAMPS 1.4 board (top), you also need four Pololu A4988 stepper motor drivers to mount to it.

Wiring for the RAMPS board
I picked up a  few back up parts in case I screw up my hotend.  If I don't end up needing them I can always buy a cheap hotend and use these components to heat it.
6 Ohm resistor for heating the hot end of the extruder

100k Epcos Thermistor

100k Honeywell Axial Thermistor

Friday, April 27, 2012

Reprap Prusa Mendel Quality questions

I've been trying to figure out what it takes to build a Reprap printer as well as it's limitations and just what the level of difficulty is to actually achieve good quality 3D prints.  Of course good is a relative term and what I think looks pretty good below, could end up looking like a dot matrix print next to a modern laser printer's output in another ten years.

Best detail I can hope to expect from a current Reprap printer.
(This was many pieces printed and put together like a model)
On the left a DIY 3D printer, on the right an "inexpensive" pro 3D printer
The quality is good enough for what I want to do, which is building very customized cases for my electronics projects and so many, many other awesome things I haven't even thought of yet.  If a year ago you would have told me when I was first learning how to program Arduino's and build basic electronics that in another year I'd be building my own 3D printer I'd never of believed it.  So why not just build a 3D printer and see what that leads me to next.  Deep down, I'm really hoping these printers will get to be high enough quality and simple enough to use in the next 10 to 15 years that for under $500 you could have a high quality 3D printer that can print in colors on the fly and have incredible detail and not require massive amounts of technical understanding to use.  I have also been a fan of open source groups that make it possible to contribute back to the community to potentially help refine the process and quality of 3D prints through software and hardware hacking.  This whole DIY 3D printing movement is going to pioneer a whole new generation of engineers, coders and tinkerers as well as having the potential to radically change how we think of  .

A calibration test print
The item on the right was printed before calibration was totally dialed in.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

There's a top 10 list for everything...

While doing some digging through the Google heap for some inspiration for Arduino projects I stumbled across a website called Nothing But Reboots that had a post from January 2012 about the Top 10 Arduino Projects.  Most of the top 10 were links to youtube videos and a few were really damned cool.  My favorites was the oscilloscope, RFID sensor and the Wii remote hacking to track it's accelerometers.

Oscilloscopes and Arduino's

ARM Oscilloscope DSO-201 Nano (Mini 2.8in) Digital Oscilloscope
I was looking at digital oscilloscopes and kept seeing these really inexpensive (around $70) DSO-201 units showing up all over ebay.  I've only run into one problem so far in the last year where an oscilloscope would have helped me and it was a simple beginner mistake of not taking a tact switch's debounce into account while setting up the sampling rate.  A quick google search of my problem brought up tons of pages of people running into the same problem and their solutions so it was easy enough to fix.  Still, as I get deeper into building electronics it might be another helpful skill to have.  I tried doing a google search for oscilloscope arduino and found Accrochages webpage about using an Arduino to create a very limited, low end oscilloscope with similar capabilities as the DSO-201.  So I guess I have another project to build one of these evenings.  Good thing I just bought a bunch of super cheap Chinese Arduino UNO's.

I figure building a really simple oscilloscope with an Arduino will let me learn the basics of how to use one.  Plus if it does turn out to be useful I'll probably have a better idea of what kind of specs I'll need as there seems to be a big price difference depending on the sampling rate and number of inputs it has.  Although in the $400 price range they start to come with a few more bells and whistles.  Seems like that might be around the price range if I wanted one that would give me a little room to grow into it as I keep building bigger and ever more complicated circuits.

OWON SDS7102 100Mhz Oscilloscope 1GS/s 8" Color LCD USB FFT 2 + 1 Channel

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

eBay Reprap kit almost ready to be shipped to me!

I got an email from the person I ordered my reprap plastic parts and all the hardware from (excluding electronics).  He apologized for not having sent me the kit yet, but he still has a couple plastic parts to print out.  I let him know I'm waiting on a bunch of other hardware from other sources and getting the Reprap Prusa Mendel frame right away isn't a big deal since I'm waiting on so many other parts to arrive as well.  I'm hoping it will be sent out before the end of the week and I might have it before the end of next week.  That will put it in the same time frame as the last of the parts I need.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Buyincoins, good enough!

So far after a quick test of a couple Arduino's I got from (BiC) I'm going to have to say I'm pretty happy with the items.  I wish I had a nice little light tent for shooting macro pics of all these items (another thing to add to the long list of things I need to build). For the most part you can read most of the text on the chips, but I was having a tough time balancing glare with enough light to see everything well.

Everything seemed to be in good shape and the only thing with a little damage was the breadboard power supply which suffered a few slightly bent legs during the international shipment, but that seems like a small issue for how inexpensive most of this stuff was and it was pretty easy to bend them back into the proper position.

First up I picked up a couple of Arduino UNO's.  I had a genuine UNO R2 (release 2) I purchased about a year ago to compare to the one I got from BiC. There are a few minor differences, but I'm not sure if that's because the BiC UNO is just an R1 instead of an R2.

LEFT: BiC Arduino UNO                RIGHT: Original UNO r2
High Quality Arduino Uno ATmega328P-PU Module ATMEGA8U2 AVR
 The bottom of the boards gives a little more info on the boards.  Since the BiC board doesn't have an R2 or R3 after the UNO I'm assuming it's probably an R1
LEFT: BiC Arduino UNO                RIGHT: Original UNO r2
High Quality Arduino Uno ATmega328P-PU Module ATMEGA8U2 AVR
Next up is a  motor shield, I picked up one from Adafruit last summer that was unassembled so all the poor soldering on the original Adafruit board is my own poor soldering skills.  I've gotten much better with soldering since last summer when I put the board together, but honestly not that much better.

LEFT: BiC Motor Shield                RIGHT: Original Adafruit Motor Shield
Motor Drive Shield Expansion Board L293D 
LEFT: BiC Motor Shield                RIGHT: Original Adafruit Motor Shield
I assembled the original board so the bad soldering... me.
Motor Drive Shield Expansion Board L293D 

I also picked up a couple of Arduino Nano V3's I didn't own any original Arduino Nano boards so I didn't have anything to compare it next to and the same goes for the rest of the stuff I got from BiC so from here on out it's a picture party... wooooooooo     The captions below each picture is the listing name in BiC of each item.  I was a little confused by the Arduino UNO MEGA 2560, but I was just hoping it was some kind of typo or copy pasta.

Arduino Nano V3.0 AVR ATmega328 P-20AU (bottom)

Arduino Nano V3.0 AVR ATmega328 P-20AU  (top)
cheap 3 axis accelerometors I had to pick up a few.  I have no projects in the near future I would need these for, but I'll figure out something awesome to do with them eventually.
MMA7361 Angle Sensor Inclination Accelerometer

MMA7361 Angle Sensor Inclination Accelerometer

New Character LCD Module Display LCM 1602 16X2 HD44780 Blue Blacklight

Perfect High Quality MB102 Breadboard Power Supply Module 3.3V 5V Arduino Board (top)

Perfect High Quality MB102 Breadboard Power Supply Module 3.3V 5V Arduino Board (bottom)

I'm hoping to use the Arduino MEGA 2560 to control the RAMPS 1.4 board and Pololu stepper controllers to control the reprap prusa I'm currently building.
New High Quality Arduino UNO Mega 2560 ATmega2560-16AU (top)

New High Quality Arduino UNO Mega 2560 ATmega2560-16AU (bottom)