Saturday, 4 April 2015

Rustic Dice

I've been making some custom dice as a favour for someone, mostly to figure out how to do it and to see how they come out. I believe these cubes were approximately the right size and within budget. They're not very cube shaped and are a bit rough but we can call them rustic and they still happily fit in a LRP scenario. The problem is lining them up under the laser, because they're all slightly odd shapes it worked out easier to do them individually and of course one face at a time. I made up a frame, using magnets and scrap, the magnets at an angle push the scraps together and pinch the dice. The images are close enough to the centres of the dice for any misalignment to not matter. The result is fairly effective but these odd shaped cubes won't be going in to production any time soon.

Project #4, Hardware transferred

Another productive evening on the open source laser and I managed to transfer all of the hardware from the Blacknose base to the new Blacknose plate. This is an exercise in drilling and tapping holes (putting screw threads in them). The XY gantry is across, the mirrors and the tube mount. Tonight I hope to move the existing electronics, I doubt I'll find time to turn it on as well but it's all good progress.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Rifled Barrel for #MFUKLC

Continuing my build for the Mega Fun UK Laser Challenge I built a barrel for our ping pong ball gun. The barrel is made from dozens of stacked slices, I used a section of 41mm waste pipe to help keep them all aligned (I cut a slot down the side to make it fit neatly into the barrel). As I was stacking them I realised that If I twisted them round I'd get a fancy styling on it. Yes I realise rifling should be on the inside but in this case it wouldn't work anyway so this is just to look good.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Project #4: Major Blacknose Modifications

In addition to my open source controllers for the Blacknose Laser cutter I'm giving my machine a major overhaul. As you can just about make out I'm taking all the parts off of the machine on the right hand side and placing them all on the plate on the left. This should reduce the height of a Blacknose by about 50%. It'll also leave a hole right through the base of the machine so in theory you could just put the laser in the middle of an extra large sheet and let it cut that.

Now all I need to do is figure out where I'm going to rehouse the extraction and all of the control electronics which currently live in the base, no big deal really :P

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Z Controller Software

I've not really written any PC software since I quit my job a year ago and I've quite enjoyed making this little program for the Z controller. I'm pretty much at the final revision so I thought I would describe some of the features.

Firstly and most importantly the software is able to detect the presence of the Z controller. The Z controller is an arduino nano, this means it has a USB to serial chip on it and it can be plugged and unplugged at any point. The PC controller detects removal and arrival of USB devices and uses those notifications to check that the controller is still attached. It gets a list of current serial ports and attempts to open them all one at a time, if successful it pings the device with a "?".  If the Z controller is on the other end of the port it replies with "Z Controller" and the PC knows it has found the device. The status is updated in the square at the top which show green/pink for connected/disconnected but it also gives a tool tip text response too.

The interface was intended to be very straight forward, there are 6 buttons, vertically aligned. The numbers represent how many millimetres the Z axis will move when the button is clicked, the top 3 move the bed upwards, the bottom 3 move the z axis down. This is similar to the way the 3D printers work and inspired by the pronterface controls.

Because this is really going to be used to drop the z axis by a specified amount between cutting layers (allowing for n passes of a thick sheet of material) I added a text box on the bottom which you can enter a specific value in to. The value is parsed to make sure it is a numeric value, again with pink/green qualifiers. The actual value is sent to the controller when you click the Green +Z and -Z arrows.

So if you want the Z axis to drop 2.5mm change the value in the text box and click the down arrow.
The User Interface is designed to be skinny and unobtrusive so it can sit on the computer and not get in the way of Lasercut or CAD package. This means the program can't have a header like a normal window (but it still appears on the taskbar). 

When you hover over the middle white button the cursor changes to arrows, if you click and drag this button you can move the form around to wherever you want it. When you release the button the form stays in that location and it remembers where you left it when the program closes.

A menu system pops up when you right click the middle button, this allows you to close the program but also decide whether the program should be displayed above all the other programs. This means it can stay on top of Lasercut even when Lasercut is running full size. The program also remembers this option when the program closes.

40W Handheld Laser Cutter

My most recent project again has gone up over on Just Add Sharks but it's too good not to at least warn you guys about it.