Voltron Defender of the Universe

Remix of the Spaceman into one of my favorite childhood toys. This design was very tedious, but pretty easy because the shapes were pretty geometric and not as organic as the designs.

Draft print of the pieces. A few fails here

I got a bit lazy and didn’t make a few pieces combine into a single part. So when I tried printing it, the pieces broke as I was removing the support material. It’s ok, I need to physically handle it to get a feel for how to make changes.

Sectional analysis of the pieces together.

The head / torso / wings / neck / helmet were pretty crucial in getting to fit properly. A sectional analysis is amazing for getting an idea of how much tolerance you need to add to each piece in order for things to fit properly, or to know how thick/thin something might be in a specific spot.

Take a look at the helmet where it meets the top circumference of the head. The material is so thin there and initially it was poking through the helmet. Luckily the sectional showed me this and I added a few mm here and there to account for that.

Daft Punk

Remix of the Spaceman of the infamous DJ duo! The helmets were a bit tricky to make because they had somewhat organic shapes. It was a real learning curve to start to work with surfaces in Fusion360 in order to achieve the correct geometries that looked good.

A lot of surface and solid lofting to achieve the correct look

The helmets are a remix of what the real life ones should look on a round LEGO head.

This sketch was pretty fun to draw. A combination of solids and surface lofts.

Lofting is when you transition from one surface to another, or one curve to another to generate a new solid or surface. It’s like morphing 2 lines in 3D space. The most important part of that however is the guides or centerlines. That dictates how the surfaces blend together, otherwise you’re left with a pretty rigid transition.

Designing curves to tell Fusion how to transition from one profile to another is amazing!

Block Like Space Man

This is just an exercise to sharpen my skills in Fusion. The goal was to practice re-creating specific bodies and joints. Learned a lot from doing this. There were a lot of dimensions that I simply assumed were parallel, when in fact there were subtle things that were off.

The arms were the hardest part of this build. Most of the other pieces were pretty parametric. The arms were a little organic and finding the right angles and dimensions was tricky.

Tricks

  • The outside thigh is not perpendicular to the foot/ground. In fact, there is a slight bow inwards, making the feet wider than the hips.
  • The face cutout for the helmet is not perpendicular so the shell of the helmet, which means you can not de-boss the cutout. In fact, you need to cut the opening directly from the left/right sides, making the edge of the cutout appear thicker than the actual thickness of the helmet.
  • The strap around neck (for the tanks on the back) are not a perfect U shape. In fact, the traps bow inwards towards the tank ever so slightly.
  • Given the properties of PLA, I designed the joints to take advantage of the slight flexibility of the plastic. The male part of the joints are segmented to provide some tolerance, and the female parts of the joints had filets to help guide the parts in to snap together. Once the piece is snapped in, chamfers on the male help to keep it gently in place and allow for some wiggle room.
Here is it printed just for testing purposes. Not for sale or distribution, relax.

I added tolerance in the designs of about 0.1mm to 0.2mm to the joints based on what I know about my 3D printer. However, I think those need to be removed because if I print a scaled version, the tolerance will scale with it, which doesn’t make sense because the accuracy of the printer doesn’t increase with the size.

Emergency SPAM

Guys. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic here (Covid19). There is a shortage on toilet paper, PPE and other things. Since I always like to be prepared, I made this emergency SPAM box.

Disclaimer: you can’t actually break the glass, it’s plexiglass.

Granite BBQ Table

I love my kamado! I’ve been wanting to design a custom bbq table for it because the old table didn’t have enough counter space for me.

Does my BBQ need LEDs? Of course.

The top us a custom granite piece with rounded nose on top, and custom cut out designed specifically for my bbq.

Weathered grey stained wood covered in polyeurathane.
Custom sewn cover

CNC Dust Shoe (80mm)

I’ve been building my own CNC machine this year, and slowly designing parts to go with it. I needed a dust shoe to collect all the wood and MDF shavings. Didn’t want to pay $150+ and it seemed like a fun project to design to get acquainted with airflow.

My first design, a big fail

The pink version was my first design. It was comprised of 2 parts (actually 3 but 2 were glued together for better printing orientation without supports).

The idea is to have 1 piece permanently attached to the spindle. The other piece snaps down vertically into the mount. In theory it seemed like it would work, but in practice, as the CNC cut deeper, the materials would push up against the brushes and make the piece pop off 🙁

Into the trash and onto V2. I still wanted the show to have multiple pieces so I could remove the parts and have room to work under the spindle.

Behold, the glorious v2!

The ring, after being squeezed into the flat plate under it, mounts onto the 80mm spindle. Then the front and back pieces slide on to the plate via a groove, then the front and back pieces are secured with binder clips!

Here are the pieces with the brushes attached

The brush strip can be found online, and is just cut to length. There is a groove inside that lets you jam the bristles and the part was designed to be nice and snug. It was printed in PETG for durability.

Universal Spool Holder

There are many spool holders out there. The problem is there are many spool sizes that makes it hard to build a universal one that works well. I decided to make a spool holder that mounts horizontally and uses the weight of the spool itself to keep the spool in place.

This is version 7 of my design, it’s still in progress and was a good motion study for the joints in CAD. How will it work in practice? We’ll soon find out.

Street Light

Not sure why, but I wanted to create my own street light. It features LEDs, an ESP8266 microcontroller with WiFi and notifications, resin-cast lenses from silicon molds, 3D printed parts, as well as some store bought piping.

The Tools

  • 3D printer (Creality CR-10)
  • dremel with saw attachment
  • mini blowtorch
  • hot glue gun
  • soldering iron
  • hand saw
  • C/C++ (Python3 server)

The Materials

  • black and clear PLA filament
  • 2 part silicon mold compound
  • 2 part epoxy resin compound
  • food coloring and epoxy tiny
  • M2 bolts and nuts
  • sandpaper
  • grey filling undercoat rattlecan
  • high temp matte black paint rattlecan
  • pvc pipe
  • ESP8266 micro controller

The Design

Designing the initial pieces

I eye-balled the design after staring at pictures of street lights. I noticed that they are different everywhere. Some have fully round covers, others are cut out like I have. Some have small backs, some large. Some are black with yellow outlines, some don’t. The pro is that I just need to design something close, the con is that there’s no single classic design.

The above files were all designed in Solidworks. They are meant to be assembled using M2 bolts/nuts to give it the industrial look. I didn’t design the pole/stand yet because I wanted to get a feel for the size first before deciding on the pole height and thickness.

The Build

Initial print with “transparent” PLA

I was really unhappy with the “transparent” PLA that i used to print the lenses. There were 2 versions I printed in attempting to get it clear. They were a big fail, but I ended up using it to make a silicone mold which I use to cast resin which worked out much better!

Old silicon mold compound was rock hard

Of course my existing silicone compound had expired. I didn’t even know they have expiration dates. You can see it’s nearly full, only used it once for a test. Had to buy compound as these have about a 1 year shelf life, or a few months if you open the bottle.

Making the silicon mold

I used a glue gun and foam board to put together a tiny box for the mold. I also glued the lens the bottom to prevent it from shifting.

Mold poured

The mold takes about 12 hours to cure. There was absolutely no smell, and the compounds were easy to clean, unlike 2 part epoxy resin.

Green resin casted!

I normally color resin with a few drops of food coloring, but usually you can use acrylic paint. I bought some resin coloring just for kicks and the green came out perfect. The red however was way to opaque and I resorted back to food coloring to get a more translucent resin.

Finally looking legit!

Green and yellow came out perfect the first time. Red took me 3 times to get right. I don’t have a degassing chamber so there are tiny bubbles, I think it will help with diffusing the LEDs under. We shall see!

First test with level converter for 3.3v to 5v signalling on the 8212b

ESP8266 is a 3.3v controller. 8212b is a 5v signal. Here I am doing a quick prototype test to see if the signalling works… spoiler alert, it didn’t. Adafruit’s NeoPixel library didn’t like it.

Soldering took forever!

I used 5v neopixels (8212b) to form an array of lights, 10 LEDs for each street light. I mounted card stock under it to help with the color and adhesion.

Debugging digital signals from the 8212b channel

Using 5v Arduino Nano I was able to get good signalling to the 8212b neopixels. However, this needs WiFi so I switched to a beloved ESP8266 3.3V microcontroller. I could not get the signal to work correctly using Adafruit’s NeoPixel library. Instead I had to switch over to FastLED.

Nightmare comparing signals between Nano and ESP8266!

I used my trusty Rigol to try to diagnose the difference between the signal libraries. At the end of the day, I don’t have time to debug the Adafruit library and running with FastLED. Also look how clean the signal is! those series resistors really help with bounce!

Top of the street light pole
The base of the light
Pole mount to conect to the pipe.

I bought a cheap PVC pipe to use as the metal light pole and just fabricated the base, cap, and mounts. I then painted everything with silver/metallic paint which came out much better than I expected. I had to sand the smooth PVC pipe a bit which gave the paint a grainy metal finish which was perfect.

Pre-painted base

The base fit the PVC pipe perfect, thanks to my trusty digital caliper. The base is slightly hollow to allow the ESP8266 controller to fit within the base flush. The only thing that is needed is a 5v micro USB cable which I left a cutout for.

Above is the C/C++ source code for the light itself. In order to keep code flexible, it acts as a thin client that connects to WiFi and listens to requests on the LAN via UDP packets to port 31337. I chose UDP just to keep it simple. I didn’t need any packet acknowledgement because I consider this low priority traffic (pun intended).

Basically light turns on, connects to wifi, then waits for a light pattern to be received. The pattern then plays continuously until the next pattern is given. The code is organized as a basic solid state machine with only 2 states for the time being.

The pattern string is 2 characters.. “XY” where X is the color (or brightness intensity) and Y is the time interval. R is red, Y is yellow, G is Green, C is clear. If the first character is a number 1-5, then that signals (pun intended) the light to change the brightness. Finally, the letter E specifies the end of the sequence.

For example, “11R5C1R355Y3C5E” – Sets brightness low, then long red light, quick clear, medium length red, set max brightness, medium length yellow, then clear for a long time, then repeat. Currently there is no way to turn on more than 1 light at a time.

The server side code is where all the heavy lifting gets done to monitor weather, stocks, pings, and other fancy events. I thought about building all that into the light to be standalone, but then realized how spoiled I am with high level coding and didn’t want to bother.

I’ll post the server-side code later after a bit more work. It’s running on Python 3 right now. I’m currently working on it to allow “plugins” so anybody can add a plugin for “weather”, set their own thresholds, and design their own light patterns for each event.

Mounted ESP8266 cpmtroller to the bottom

Ok, I got kind of lazy here. I used hot glue to mount the ESP8266 board to the bottom, and used an old broken USB cable to power it via the Vin pin. The board itself runs at 3.3v but the Vin pin accepts 5-20V dc. The broken USB cable red/black wire is a 5V/gnd and I cut off the extra data cables.

I’ve been running this and slowly iterating the code on the server-side. It works great, just writing new plugins when I get the time.

Mistakes

The big black panel was 3D printed.. what a waste of time. Next build I would opt to use the laser with a piece of acrylic or plexiglass instead just for durability and time savings.

Paint Racks

Emma’s paint collection is getting pretty big. It was impractical to find colors in her basket, so I decided to create some parametric wall-mount removable paint racks to hold her Apple Barrel paint collection.

The Tools

  • Fusion 360
  • Lightburn
  • CO2 laser cutter
  • clamps
  • rubber bands

The Materials

  • 5mm birch wood
  • wood glue
  • drywall screws

The Design

I wanted the racks to be easily removable so I made slots for the screws to easily go in at the ends of the rack. I initially made it to hold 12, but it ended up being too wide.

I would post the Lightburn/SVG/DXF files, however, the design is dependent on the thickness of the material. 1/4 inch MDF ranges from 5.5-6.3 mm. The birch I used was 5mm. Also, the laser kerf (thickness of the laser cut) even though small, may be different than your machine. To do it right, you really need to open the file in Fusion and save the sketches yourself after updating the parameters.

Initial design with handle for easy carrying

The design is completely parametric so the bottle diameter, height, count, and material thickness are all customizable so I can use this to hold anything else like paint cans, sauce bottles and spices, etc.

Didn’t have great clamps, rubber bands should do!

Birch wood seems to have a lot of ash when cut on the laser so I had to take a damp towel to clean off the edges otherwise the glue job is a complete mess.

Mistakes

The stock I used was slightly curved which caused distance issues with the laser’s focal point. Not a big deal, but I should add some weights next time to flatten out the stock

Rubber bands are not ideal for gluing things. After the initial prototype, I utilized some strategically placed clamps and the result was much better. Also, if the wood is slightly curved, I realized that you can use the curve to your advantage to put pressure on the connecting edges.