Monday, November 21, 2011

My Makerbot Semi Project..... 27.87 hours and counting

  With all the projects that I have my fingers into lately I did not want anyone to think that I have given up on my Makerbot Semi build.  Progress is still being made one part at a time and today I was able to put a lot of these parts together to get closer to completing the Semi tractor assembly.  Current time now just printing parts has reached 27.87 hours.  This does not even include the design time, painting or trial parts that just did not work out just right. So I would say to double that amount of hours would be a fair guess as to the time I have put into this project.  But it is all looking really good so it is worth it.  My sister thought I need a time clock to keep track of all the hours I put into a project.  Sounds like another project in itself to put a time clock together.

In this photo the Semi cab complete with seats, steering wheel and windsheild were added to the main frame.  Also the front bumper was glued and mounted at the same time. The sides of the cab were located using 1/4 inch wooden dowels that were inserted into mating holes in the parts.  Photos of this process are included in this post further down the page.

These two photos show the floor/back wall of the sleeper test fit into the assembly.  I was able to print this part all in one piece which worked out very well. 

Here you can see the locating dowel pins that are used in both sides of the sleeper.  This 1/4 inch wooden dowel is sanded slightly to make it easier to be pushed into the mounting holes. Then they are glued into place. 

I slide the sides onto the center sleeper floor/back wall part and it was nice and tight so the sleeper is finally starting to come together.  I even have a clear plastic rear window mounted into the back wall of the sleeper compartment.

In these two photos you will see the red mounting clip that is used to hold the floor of the sleeper to the Semi chassis.  This clip has two oval shaped protrusions that slide into two corresponding oval slot in the sleeper floor. 

In these three shots the Semi cab and sleeper parts are glued together using modelers glue for plastic and then taped together to hold everything together until it all dried.

Once all the glue had dried I was able to mount the sleeper in it's proper location behind the cab by glueing the sleeper to the Semi chassis along with the chassis/sleeper mounting clip into the sleeper floor. This made for a nice easy installation.  Next will come the printing of the roof air dam, and the ten tires, rims, and hubs for the Semi.  I'll use 1/4 inch wooden dowels for the axles to make the asembly easy and strong. I also will mount the exhaust stacks last as these will be the safest way to keep them from getting damaged during the final portion of the assembly.
  Once I have the Semi tractor assembled a low boy trailer for the model will be next on my to do list. (See earlier posts of photos of the tractor and lowboy together.)  As usual I will keep tracking the hours that I will have in this assembly for anyone that is interested. 
  It will take me a while to finish the rest of the model as I have to travel 70 miles to get to the 3D printer in Davenport at the QC Co-Lab maker space. Needless to say I want a 3D printer of my own here at home. A Makerbot or a Ultimaker 3D printer would be great. So if anyone out there is feeling REALLY generous this year and is listening, Christmas is just around the corner!.................. I can dream can't I?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Let there be light.....and some time to go with it...... The Plexi-glass clock project

  Over the past couple of weeks I have been working on projects such as the Makerbot Semi that I have posted before on my blog and some secret projects that I won't post simple because they are Christmas presents that I want to keep secret.  Along with these projects I have come up with another idea that I hope will interest everyone as it has already for me.  My CNC machine has made it possible for me to make some interesting things like the 40 inch blimp that I just completed so I thought I would figure out the correct way to do engravings with this wonderful tool.  It took me several tries to work out the best CNC machine settings to engrave acrylic plastic and to do so I just took a piece of scrap that I had laying around in my workshop and started experimenting.  With this playing I aquired the know-how to engrave whatever I wanted to make so that it was near perfect and then more ideas started popping up in my head. The photos below will tell the rest of the story.

This is the simple little engraving I did with the piece of acrylic plastic and of course I just had to put my name on it. It is only three inches long and an inch high and a half inch thick.  Nice material that I want to find more of.  After doing the engraving I taped off the back side of the part with painters tape and I cut it to size on my bandsaw and then sanded the cut edges smooth.  The tape on the back of the part keeps it from getting scratched on the table of my bandsaw. The bandsaw by the way cut through this stuff like a hot knife through butter.  The next step was to carefully and slowly heat the sanded edges with a propane torch.  Slowly is the word here as if you go to fast the plastic will simply melt out of shape or worse yet burst into flames. The heating with the torch clears the foggy effect you get when you cut and sand clear plastic and gives you a nice smooth clear finished part. It's nice but not that impressive to look as some people may say and I agree, but that changes once you see the next photo.

Now this looks a whole lot better!  I took a small piece of cardboard and cut a hole in it and then shined a light through the hole.  Then I placed the little name plate engraving into the cut out which in turn lights up the engraving like a neon sign. Again some people will say " what?".  Wait there is more.

Now this is a photo of the famous Pink Panther engraved on acrylic plastic with a red colored light from a lighting base.  Just a bit more impressive than my little name plate engraving. Getting more interesting as I go along don't you think?  Keep reading.

Now comes the idea and another interesting project.  I got to work using Blender 3D graphics on my computer once again and created a 3D model of my idea for you to see.  How about making a plexi-glass lighted clock?  It would be made up of several layers of clear acrylic plastic that would be lit like my little scrap name plate and the Pink Panther. Each column in the clock would have three separate layers of clear engraved plastic.  One number would be engraved on each layer. On the left of the display would be the hours and on the right would be the minutes. This clock would have a black case and background for the display. You could also so the seconds on the clock if you have to be that precise in your time keeping.  Me personally I would be happy that it just displayed the correct time.

This clock is exactly like the previous image only the display would be clear with no black background. The individual numbered layers in any column would be lit by led lights from the base and a small circuit board with an internal clock would keep the time. It could be made to practically any size that you wanted.  My design here would have a display that is three inches tall by ten inches wide.  The overall size of the clock would be a couple of inches more on both dimensions to include the clocks outer case. 
  This would make a nice desk top clock that would not be overly large.  I will have to print out a display on paper to double check that it would not be to big for a desk. If it is I will adjust the display size accordingly. I also plan on making some test clear plastic pieces for lighting each column in the next couple of days.  If this works out as I suspect it will I'll then proceed further and start building parts for the Plexi-glass clock project.
  Follow along with me and we can both keep our fingers crossed that it will all come together as I have planned.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lighter Than Air..... Almost

  After a busy two weeks I can finally let the dust settle just a little bit in my workshop once again.  Everyone has been wondering what my latest project that I have been working on is so now I can bring it out of my little shop into the light of day.  I talked with my friend Steve Hamer at the QC Co-Lab about building a blimp for the  maker space in Davenport a month or two ago.  We have a lot of empty space to fill up so I designed this one which will be on display when I make my next trip to the maker space.  The blimp took me around three days to design and the next ten or so days to build.  With the help of my now trusty CNC machine and the MakerBot 3D printer at the Co-Lab it saved me a ton of work and all in all the parts went together as planned.  So check out the photos of the construction here and leave a comment or two on what you think of another one of my creations.

This is one of the ten rings that needed to be cut on the CNC machine.  I used luan board which is only .20 inch thick.  Nice stuff to work with.

Here are all of the rings cut out and laying on my living room floor.  Total time at this point was around five hours work.  I love the fact that the accuracy of the CNC machine in making the slots for the outer spars made this project possible.

These odd shaped pieces are the mounts for the two radial engines that you will see being built next.

Cut little radial engine don't you think?

These were printed on the Makerbot 3D printer one half of an engine at a time.  Time to make each engine was around 40 minutes.  Not to bad considering the time it would take to make these by hand in wood.  Would be a real pain to try for sure.

Here are all of the parts that I cut out for the blimp using my CNC machine.  As my machine can only cut pieces up to 24 inches long I made the front and rear spars link together like a puzzle piece and then bonded them together using fiber glass to get the length I wanted for the blimp.

These intricate looking pieces make up the gondola for the blimp.  The white colored piece is the plastic floor.  I was really happy that these parts turned out as well as they did.  The floor was a nice touch to the model to put in a little more detail.

Here the radial engines, prop spinners, and engine cowls are laid out.  The engines have a small bolt that runs through the center of each engine with a rubber washer that will be used to hold the prop disk off of the cylinders.

The engine cowls were then glued to the engine mounts.  I like the contrast in colors of the white, silver and red with this set up.

The prop disks, prop spinners, and radial engines were then glued into the engine mount assemblies using epoxy resin.  The clear disk I cut on the CNC machine which again saved me a lot of work to get just right.  I like the look with the disk in this photo as it give you a nice effect of a spinning prop.

Another good shot of the radial engines and mounts.  I left these assemblies sit over night to dry so everything would be bonded nice and strong.

These two interesting pieces are the nose and tail mounts for the eight spars that make up the shape of the blimp.  The larger piece on the left took an hour and a half to print on the Makerbot 3D printer.  Again something that would be more than a little difficult to make by hand and get the accuracy that is needed.

Now the painting begins.  I laid down a lot of paper in my basement workshop to spray these and all the rest of the parts.  After getting the job done I think I should have papered the entire basement.  I had paint dust over spray all over the place.  Just another reason to sweep out the cob webs again.  Or should I say red cob webs now.

Test fitting the blimp rings to the spar sections.  A little fussy but not bad.  

Slowly starting to take shape.

Almost all of the spars are installed into the rings in this photo.  Notice the nose section that was made on the Makerbot printer. Worked out very nice to finish off the nose and tail. I thought for a minute or so that I might like to leave the spars unpainted at this point but then realized that it would be more difficult to finish the assembly if I did not.  You'll see why later on in this post.

  In this photo the spars are painted and just starting to be put into the final assembly.  I could not install all of the spars as three of them needed to be repaired when I was removing them from the test fit up.  I wanted the assembly to be tight..... just not that tight.  After a quick fiberglass and epoxy repair on the damaged parts they were better and stronger than when I started. 

Nice symetry in the design.
 Looks more like a submarine than a blimp in this photo.  Here the upside down blimp is getting all of the joints bonded together with fiberglass epoxy resin.   This made for a very strong and light structure but was hours to put together.  Each intersecting joint had a fillet of epoxy applied to each face.  I counted up all the fillets including the ones for the gondola.  Would you believe 240 fillets?  Believe it.  I now can caulk my bath tub blind folded. 

 The painters tape in this photo of the gondola help hold all the little pieces together so that I could fillet the joints properly.  I applied the fillets of epoxy using nothing more than a popsicle stick.  Makes a nice smooth fillet and is easy to reduce the amount of epoxy resin that is needed for each joint.


Finally all of the filleting work is done.

Here the blimp is finally hanging in my computer room for final photos after painting a couple more times to cover up all of the white epoxy fillets.  

The radial engines with the white cowling and prop spinners really stand out now.  The clear prop disk is another nice touch.

Also a good shot of the tail feathers of the blimp. The center tail mount blends in nicely in the assembly after all of the painting is done.

I had to put this shot in to show the scale of this model.  It is 40 inches long and very light weight.  Cost to build?  $20 tops.  Half of that cost is just the paint. Another fun project that I can cross off of my bucket list.