Sunday, October 30, 2011

How To Get Started Using Blender 3D

Over this past week I have been hard at work on another new project that I will post on the blog once it is farther along. In the mean time I have been asked by several people to post some help on how to get started creating 3D images and animation using Blender 3D a free software you can download online. Here is the first of a set of videos I now have posted to do just that. These videos come from a site called Blender This is a perfect way to get your feet wet and start learning how to use this software. If you have not already seen some of the creations that I have made with this wonderful software check out my Blender 3D Creations page here on my blog.  Also at Blender there are further tutorials and information that will help you to create a lot of different things once you learn the basics.  I hope you will enjoy using Blender as much as I have over the past ten years.

Getting started with Blender - Interface

In this video you will learn about the Blender interface and navigation.

Getting started in Modeling with Blender - By Blender Cookie

Watch this video for an intro to modeling in Blender 3D.

Getting started with Materials in Blender - by Blender Cookie

This video will get you started with materials in Blender 3D.

Getting started with Animations in Blender - by Blender Cookie

In this video you will learn the basics of animation in Blender 3d.

Getting Started in Blender Rendering - by Blender Cookie

Here is the video to learn how to render your computer image in Blender 3D.

Getting started with Lighting in Blender - by Blender Cookie

Getting started with Lighting in Blender 3D by Blender Cookie.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Makerbot Semi Sneak Preview

For those of you who have been faithfully following my blog I wanted to pass along the latest progress that I have been making on my Makerbot Semi project.  Here are a couple sneak previews of how the cab will look on the semi chassis that has already been completed.

   I was at the QC Co-Lab maker space in Davenport Iowa most of the day yesterday and got a few more parts made for the cab assembly.  I could not resist and had to take a few shots of this assembly.  None of the parts are glued in place yet but I was able to prop them up into place to get these photos.  Gives you a much better idea of how the Makerbot Semi is taking shape.   This portion of the semi is ten inches long 4 and 1/2 inches wide and once the wheels have been printed and put on the semi will be 7 and 1/2 inches tall. Stay tuned for further progress here on my blog!

Jacob's Ladder CNC Case Parts

  Over the past couple of days I have been cutting parts on my CNC machine.  The parts will be used to make a display case for a Jacob's ladder.  For those of you who do not know what this contraption is the best description I can give is this.  In a lot of the old time Sci-Fi movies there is always a laboratory with a mad scientist.  In this lab is a Jacob's ladder running.  It is two wires that form a "V" and a large electric spark moves up this "V" getting larger and larger and it looks very scientific.  My friend Steve Hamer at the QC Co-Lab maker space in Davenport Iowa built one of these devices. 

This is a Blender 3D image that I put together of the Jacob's ladder case. As in real life this devise is dangerous with the use of high voltage to make it work so a display case is  must.  The case would be approximately two feet tall or so.  Originally Steve and I thought that a plexiglass clear cylinder would be a great idea until I tried to find one online.  Great idea but EXPENSIVE! So I came up with this design.  The plastic for the cylinder is actually the center sections from two liter pop bottles.  The labels on the bottles can be easily removed and with a little WD-40 the glue cleans off nicely. 

These parts make up the base and outer rings of the display case and are cut from 3/4 inch pine.  I drew up the parts in my ProE design software and then did all the conversions that needed to be done in order for my CNC machine to understand what I wanted to make.  This involved modeling the parts in the computer, creating a STL (stereolithography) file, sending it to Mesh Cam software which takes the STL file and creates the G-Code for the CNC machine.  It sounds rather complicated but really it's just a matter of learning a bit of software and hitting the right buttons when needed.  After the rings were cut out on the CNC machine I sanded them smooth with a sanding drum on my drill press.   The CNC machine cutting bit leaves a rounded corner when you cut a slot so I cleaned up these up with a band saw in order to square them up for the outer support rails.

These three pieces are the outer support rails that hold the display case together.  These parts were a little to large to make on my CNC machine so I marked the wood up from a drawing I created on my computer and then cut all the parts out on my band saw.  It was actually faster this way and it all worked out very well.  As with the wooden rings and base parts these parts were also made from 3/4 inch pine and are 23 inches long with the widest portion of the supports only being one inch wide.   The notches in the parts will lock the rings and base in place when assembled.  With some good wood glue it will be plenty strong enough for this display case project.  I'll post more photos of the cylindrical case once Steve gets all the parts put together and painted.  Hopefully I'll even get a video of the mad scientist's Jacob's ladder running.  Just what we need for the QC Co-Lab.... something else scary looking and dangerous. What could be more fun to build? 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Makerbot Semi Building Once Again

  After months of waiting for new plastic material for our Makerbot 3D printer in Davenport Iowa,  I was finally surprised and pleased to see new spools of multicolored plastic waiting for me and ready to be used at the QC Co-Lab maker space.  The first thing that needed to be done was to modify the original spool setup that would only hold one color of plastic.  I got an immediate brain storm once I got my hands on the new spools of material.  The inner diameter of the opening was exactly two inches so I started looking for a suitable shaft that would work with this diameter.  Luckily laying in the workshop of our maker space was a piece of PVC pipe.  It was a diameter of one and seven eights outer diameter.  It slid into the spools perfectly with enough room too spin freely.  Unluckily the piece of pipe was way to short to use.  I dashed off to Menards picked up a new section of pipe with some nice end caps and was set to modifying the spool holder.  This is how it turned out with the help of my friend Steve Hamer at the QC Co-Lab maker space in Davenport.

The new spool holder can hold five spools of plastic for the MakerBot.  For some reason we did not get a spool with the white plastic but if we had it would fit easily on to the new holder.

  So with this task completed I immediately started printing parts for the Makerbot Semi I had started on weeks and weeks ago. 

I had already gotten the tractor frame painted and printed (see earlier post for photos and description) so the next step was to start the cab of the semi.  Now with the new colored plastic I would not have to paint the new parts. 

  These pieces are the sides of the cab along with the floor.  The floor pieces have a couple of pieces already installed in them in this photo that I call dog bones.  This will hold the floor together without glue.  

Here is the completed floor of the cab with the dog bones installed.  The holes in the floor are the mounting holes to hold the floor in place on the frame and to mount the seats in the cab once they are printed.

These two photos are set up just like the cab floor and are of the front grill and hood assembly for the cab.  I will have to make inserts for the grill in black which will make the grill stand out better once it is all put together.  The parts that I printed yesterday took a total of five hours to complete. This brings the total time to print the frame and what parts you see here to 22.5 hours total.  Needless to say it will be a lot more hours before the semi is completed.  I will keep a running tally to let you know the grand total once it is all done. A long time to be sure.  A challenge to design and build and a lot of fun along with that challenge.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A little sanding and three coats of varnish.

  I put the finishing touches on my caliper box late last night.  With the engraving that I did on the box it really stands out just with the varnish and no stain.  The box is made from poplar and not aspen as I originally said in an earlier post.  The box also is 1 x 4 x 9.75 inches in size.  If I do make another box in the future I will build it piece by piece instead of carving it out of on solid block of wood.  Probably will take less time and will be a lot less mess on my CNC machine for sure.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another Day...... Another Project

  After working for a couple of days dialing in my CNC machine and reworking G-Code files I completed another small beginners project on my machine.  I did about a half dozen test cuts in styrofoam so as to not waste more expensive wood and since I've got a pile of foam in my garage it was the perfect thing to use.  
  I wanted to make a small box for my calipers that I use on a lot of my projects.  The calipers is nothing real expensive but it works and so I thought the box project would serve two purposes as I need the practice in working with CNC and the box actually could be useful.  The little plastic container that my caliper came in was nothing more than a plastic blister pack.  Real cheap and flimsy to be sure.  I wanted something that would be a lot more sturdy.

The foam gave me a good visual as to the size of my box and if I had designed it to fit my needs. This was cut at 30 inches per minute. 

  The vacuum system worked.... kind of.  That was until It got clogged and I was removing very little of the sawdust that was left on my part.  I cut this part at 30 inches per minute but dialed it back to 20 which worked just as well and the machine ran smoother too.

There's a part under there some place.  Needless to say I removed the vacuum skirt and foot and ran a straight vacuum hose directly on the part.  It was a bit messy but not anywhere near this bad.   I will keep the guard when I am doing engraving or not trying to make a massive cut though wood like this one.  

This looks a hundred times better.  I still want to varnish the box but that is the easy part now. 

Pretty close to a perfect custom fit.  I'm pleased with it considering it is the most complicated piece I've tried to put together so far.  A friend of mine at the Co-Lab in Davenport said that the hardest thing to make in wood is a box.  After doing this little one.  I believe him.  Looks simple but it's not.  
  I'm glad to put my tools down for the day and let the dust settle.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

CNC.... A Real Learning Process

  Over the past two days I have been working with my CNC machine trying to get to know how to make it work properly.  First on the list was getting the table level with the "Z" axis so that when I want to engrave a piece that it is a constant depth throughout the entire part.  I had to level the upper rails for the "X" axis so that at every corner of the table the cutting bit when touched to the part would read "Zero" on the Mach3 milling software that runs your part you want to make.  I had to figure out how far out the table was in the first place and it did not look good.  I started with the lower left front of the table and set my cutting bit to zero at this point.  Then I checked the lower right corner.  This was 3/16 of an inch lower.  So was the upper two corners.  In order to correct this I had to make some washer shims that I could slide under the mount for the "X" axis.  This axis runs from the front to the back of the machine.  The "Y" axis runs from side to side and the "Z" axis is the vertical axis the moves the cutting bit up and down.  After about an hour or so of work and a couple of days of thinking about it I managed to get the table leveled to less than 1/64th of an inch on each corner.  I was smiling at this point. Now I could do engravings and it would look great.  
  The next problem I encountered over the last two days was a problem that cropped up while trying to cut a simple little wooden box for my micrometer.  I tried to cut this two part box in foam luckily as after five bad tries I was ready to pull my hair out of my head with frustration.  What was happening was that the "Z" axis started to loose it's zero calibration that you set up before you start cutting a part.  This calibration tells the machine that all measurements come off of the top surface of the part.  The problem that cropped up was that the zero calibration started to change during the cutting of the part.  In other words instead of cutting a 1/4 inch cut into the part the machine now would cut almost 1/2 inch deep cut.  This made for bad parts every time.  Luckily the parts were test cut in styrofoam instead of wood.  Would have been a very expensive couple of days.  After doing some research online I finally think I have the problem solved.  I had made adjustments to the speed at which the machine cuts on all axis.  I wanted the fastest possible speed without bogging the stepper motors down.  Good idea but not for the "Z" axis.  This axis as I said earlier moves the bit up and down into your part.  But with too much speed the machine looses calibration and the cutting depth starts getting deeper and deeper somewhere in your part. I slowed the axis speed down and now it looks to be cutting correctly.  One of the test pieces that had failed earlier today came out beautifully this afternoon.  My sanity has been restored!  Stay tuned for the final word and photos of the next finished part from the CNC machine and my workshop.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Hamilton Technical College Lectures

  I had a big day yesterday giving a series of five lectures to the students at Hamilton Technical College in Davenport Iowa.  I was asked by Gene Brack one of the faculty members if I would give the lectures to help kick off a new program called the Student Creative Initiative that the school is just starting.  I agreed to do the lectures and so my day was filled with informing close to 200 students during the day of what I have been working on over the years and what projects I am currently working on and some ideas for future projects. 
  The students will have the opportunity to submit their ideas to the faculty for a project that they may have been thinking about doing but simply could not start because of lack of tools, guidance or money.  If the project they want to create is approved it will be funded by the school and the students have until next March to complete their projects.  Hamilton Tech is heavy into electronics but the students were told that their projects need not be only about electronics but must include this aspect of their schooling.  I was asked to do the lectures to hopefully inspire the students in to thinking about different things that they could create and how the creation process takes place.  At least how it takes place with me anyway.
   It was a busy day for me and I was asked a lot of good questions concerning the projects that I have designed and built and also some great ideas about future projects.  Hopefully I managed to spark a few ideas in the minds of the students with the slide presentation that I showed them and the smaller projects that I could pass around the room during the lecture.  As you can tell by my blog here I enjoy doing what I am doing and hopefully a little of that enthusiasm has rubbed off  me and on to the students that I spoke to.  I wish them good luck with their ideas and hopefully something great will come out of the program.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What Every Kitchen Needs..... Emergency Ketchup

Here's my first completed project that I put together with the help of my new CNC machine.  I had come across a very small bottle of ketchup in my travels and saved the full bottle for just such a project. 

I encased the little bottle in a display case for my kitchen.

The case is 3 1/4 inches square and 4 inches tall.  Made of aspen wood and stained in red oak with countersunk brass screws.  The enclosure is complete with plexiglass windows that are recessed on the inside of each side panel.

Not that I ever would, but the labels on two sides of the ketchup bottle case are there because it just had to be done.