Author: Mike

GRBL Postprocessor for Solidworks

 

As part of mentoring out High School’s First Robotics Team Andromeda One I have learned Solidworks.  Since we have a Jet Mill converted to CNC (running GRBL and a Chinese controller) and several of the other mentors, including myself, having CNC routers like the ShapeOKO 2 and X-carve we wanted to be able to have a one-stop shop for doing our design and CAM toolpath generation.  There are some generic postprocessors for Solidworks but none seemed to support exactly the post processing options and syntax I wanted to see.  As such I embarked on writing my own post for Solidworks.

I downloaded “Universal Post Generator” from Camworks who provides the CAM functionality for Solidworks.  This can be found here:  https://camworks.com/universal-post-generator/

When installing it is necessary to install it as Administrator.  If you do not it will not install properly/fully and may not work properly.  I then used this tool to edit a Postprocessor from scratch and compile it into something Solidworks understand.  Note, this was not very straight forward and resulted in several iterations of trial and error until I got it close enough.  I’m still getting syntax errors on comment lines.  For some reason the line starts with an “*” then the line number and then the tool comment.  I cannot determine where this “*” is coming from in the post or how to get rid of it.  The second issue is the line numbers,  These are very much a personal preference but even if they are disabled in the post configuration they still appear on the output in Solidworks.  In the end the postprocessor output needs to be post processed to run on my CNC with a text editor to fix the tool comment lines.

You can download the fruits of my labor here: SW_GRBL_POST.zip

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CNC/Laser Heart Box

I created this heart shaped box in November 2017 and never shared it here.  This box is laser engraved on my 2.5W Laser in Meranti and CNC’d inside and out.  Each side takes about 8 minutes on the CNC with 4 Minutes on the laser.  This is version 1.0 of the box and I think I’ll be refining the design and possibly adding more depth to it this year.  This whole design was done in Vetric Vcarve including the laser toolpaths.  Finish is boiled linseed oil.  Box is unlined.

 

DIY Rapid Carbonator

Parts List

Parts cost me about $110.  Blichman’s QuickCarb runs about $180.  Mines mounted on a piece of oak plywood and Blichman’s Is mounted on a nice piece of stainless steel.  I actually spent about $40 less because I already had some of the parts on hand like swivel flare nuts and and the disconnects and beer line cleaner on-hand  The ball valve, optional, is used during the sanitization process.  One can simply kink the hose instead. Read more

Programming Chinese Arduinos on Mac

I recently purchased a package fo some cheap Arduino Nano development boards from Amazon.  For a couple bucks more you get 5 instead of 3. The only downside is they have the CH340G serial chipset.  In order to get these to program on the mac and avoid the stk500_getsync() errors a couple steps need to be followed:

  • First download the latest serial driver for OSX from the vendors website here:  Mac CH341 Serial Driver
    • Follow the installation instructions in the readme.
    • I had an old driver installed so I removed it first before installing the new driver and rebooting my machine
  • Connect the serial cable and open the Arduino IDE
    • In the IDE make sure you have the Arduino Nano selected and the appropriate com port
  • This step is critical in the Tools menu select the Atmega328P (Old Bootloader) option.
    • If you don’t to this you will still get stk500_getsync errors.

Hope this is helpful for someone having these issues.

K40 LASER Chiller

I recently renovated an Iceman Clear3 Chiller I had recieved from someone who had a knee replacement.  The pump no longer worked but I kept this around for the hose quick disconnects and the nice bucket.  When I removed the two screws holding the pump in the nice trim plate on the back fell off.  So I whipped up these retainers in Fusion 360 and printed them out on my trusty old Makerbot Thing-O-Matic and about 10 minutes later I had it back together.  Works like a charm, looks nice, and as a bonus I can see the water flowing into the tank.  Just drop in a couple Blue Ice to keep things chill for the long jobs and replace them later.

Retainers installed with original hardware in the back of the chiller

You can download the STL for the retainers on Thingiverse:  Iceman Chiller Backplate Retainer

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Getting Started with your new Jayco X213 or any Travel Trailer

I am writing this post to let new owners of a Jayco Jayfeather X213 or similar recreational vehicle what they need to bring along with them on their camping trips.  The camper comes well equipped from the factory but several items are required to make your vehicle completely usable and enjoyable on a camping trip.

Bare necessities
  • Utilitiy Connections
    • 30A to 20A Adapter – You might not be able to run everything but you will at least have power if you need it and there isn’t a 30A Socket
      • Also handy when you are setting up at home since more often than not you will not have a 30A exterior socket on your home.
      • A heavy-duty extension cord would also be good.  If using a cable over 25 feet get a 10 Guage one instead.
    • Sewer Hose and Clear Elbow – If you are going to make a sewer connection or clean out you black and grey tanks
      • The clear elbow makes it easy to tell when your black tank is clean
      • You will also need black tank deodorizer.  I prefer the Porta-Pak portioned tablets but there are many options out there
      • Rapid dissolving toilet tissue is also highly recommended, the last thing you want to do while camping is unclog your sewer line
      • A hose support is also good to have to keep sewer moving in the right direction
    • Fresh Water Hose – to connect to the city water connection
      • Optionally a fresh water filter will remove some of the bad odors that can be found in some campground water
      • Sometimes water pressure can be amazingly high at campgrounds and as such can damage some of the plumbing in your camper. This makes a water pressure regulator also good to have and is cheap insurance against over pressure damage.
      • If you are dry-camping but have access to a spigot you can fill your freshwater tank with this water bandit.
      • Important: Never use your freshwater hose to connect to anything other than city water and never use it near a dump station!
  • Site Setup
    • Wheel chocks such as these light weight ones for lots of travel or these heavy duty X-Chocks when you are going to be around for longer
      • I have these One-step chocks and they lock the wheels nearly as well as X-chocks but setup way faster
    • Leveling blocks like the Tri-Lynx to level your camper side to side
      • You could use wood, however you don’t want to carry wet or insect laden wood between campsites.
      • Some campgrounds may prohibit any wood from being used
    • Stabilizer Jack Pads – to protect your landing gear from rusting on the ground
    • Tongue Jack Stand or something hard like the stabilizer jack pads for the tongue jack
    • A tongue or coupler lock – nothing can shorten a trip like a missing camper

Once you have the basic supplies for your site setup you can prepare your camper for the road.  I always go-through my pre-travel checklist to make sure I am ready to go.

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HomeKit Control of X10 Devices

HomeKit serves as a software framework that lets users set up their iPhone to configure, communicate with, and control “smart-home” appliances.  By designing rooms, items and actions in the HomeKit service, users can enable automatic actions in the house through a simple voice dictation to Siri or through apps.  This is also a closed protocol which also means only registered vendors can have their products certified to work.  In addition X10 was a protocol developed in developed in 1975 for home automation.  Because it’s been around for a while the devices are somewhat cheaper but  this also means that it doesn’t sport a connection to the newest protocols like HomeKit.  I experimented with voice control years ago (circa 2000) with HomeSeer but was never satisified with the quality and the fact that I would have to wire microphones all over my house.  Now that we have Siri and other fantastic voice recognition and this cool HomeKit integration the future for this old protocol is now.

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