Categories
Builds

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.

Categories
Builds In Progress

Mini Mailbox

I receive (and send) lots of packages from my front door. I love creating scaled versions of things, particularly undersized. I decided to recreate a small version of the classic USPS mailbox for my front door as a place for packages to be held.

Additionally, my idea is to add LEDs, a camera, and make it WiFi enabled so I can monitor at all times, assuming the delivery carriers understand what it’s for. Hopefully I can make it intuitive enough but still retain the classic unmistakable design.

The Materials

  • 1/4 inch MDF
  • wood glue
  • painters tape
  • blue paint
  • inkjet adhesive paper
  • LEDs
  • WiFi camera
  • adhesive spray
  • colored card stock
  • flexible TPU filament

The Tools

  • laser cutter
  • fusion360
  • lightburn
  • Cricut Maker
  • paper trimmer
  • Canon Pro-100 inkjet
  • 3d printer

The Build

Fusion version

I envisioned this to be about 2 feet tall. The parametric design would let me adjust the dimensions. The hardest part of the design (and newest challenge for me) is the curved top. So far, everything I’ve created is pretty square. For this, I’ll have to use some tricks to make the curved top.

Cutting out the curved top

Cutting this took forever! It’s basically an alternating pattern of cuts. In Fusion360, I measured the inner curve length, and built a new piece based on that. The outer curve length is irrelevant for this because the cuts would provide the longer length that I need.

It came out super bendy! So excited. After test fitting the top curve, in the future, I’m going to make the piece slightly shorter than the inner curve surface. Even the the top is doing most of the stretching, the bottom also stretches as well so leaving some room would do just fine. I didn’t leave any tolerance to i had to really tape down the piece well during the gluing process.

First test assembly

Always remember to use the correct height when setting your laser/bed distance. The laser beam is hourglass shaped, and the middle of it should be the middle of your material. I didn’t quite adjust it right so the edges were slightly angled and required a little sanding.

First delivery!

Emma wanted to be the first one to deliver a message in the new mailbox. She is the best!

Testing some packages

I had a difficult time deciding on the right amount of storage. I think the majority of packages will fit in here. it’s roughly 13x13x17.

Glued together and ready for paint

Glued all the pieces together. I used tape to hold down the top curved wood while using wood glue. Everything came together as expected!

Painted with decals and logos

After painting, I added the logos and also lined the inside with colorful rainbow card stock. I also added a little disclaimer label in case somebody actually believes it’s a real mailbox.

Final product installed outside

Here is the mailbox with all the logos and actually being used outside!

Updates

MDF legs on concrete are not great. I’m going to design flexible TPU feet for it to protect it from bumps and scrapes, but also leave it off the ground to prevent moisture.

My original designs were built for 6.4mm MDF. I adjusted the material thickness to 8mm, then generated this STL for flexible TPU. The reason is that I’ve found that TPU needs quite a bit of tolerance. Even if there is extra room, I can fill it with glue.

Installed the feet with a hot glue gun

20% flexible TPU infill + 2mm tolerance fit perfectly! The flexible material really helps to protect the piece and also prevent it from sliding.

Camera installed and live

Using double sided padded tape, I mounted a camera to the top and now get motion alerts. Going to finally put this project to rest for awhile. Thanks for reading!

Categories
Tools

60 watt CO2 Laser Cutter

To put it in simple terms, this is a machine that uses mirrors to direct a laser (from a long glass laser tube) down into material. Adjusting the power will scar the surface (engrave) or cut right through the material. The material can be pretty much anything except PVC (dangerous fumes) or metal (60 watts not powerful enough). You can engrave Macbooks, cut hotdogs, or engrave logos on top of your cappuccino.

Before deciding on this machine, I did my research. There are quite a few other alternatives out there. GlowForge, Muse, Dremel… All of them are either smaller (12×20 working area) or much more expensive ($5k+). Being a tinkerer, I decided to take a gamble with this no name “Chinese” laser machine and use the extra money saved to mod/upgrade.

Super heavy delivery

This machine is 500 x 700mm and has passthrough for bigger pieces. You can find it on eBay but be wary of the “free shipping” because I ended up paying $150 for a lift gate service which is a required fee for residential delivery. You’ll need another person to help unbox and move this thing around.

My laser with some mods

Out of the box, the laser works fine. I was able to do test cuts and some small projects. Being a tinkerer though, I had to mod it to get the best out of it. Here is some information on the mods that can improve your machine if you choose to get it or one similar.

Cool picture of the laser firing.

Air Ducts

Original air ducts

You’re using a laser to burn material so you need good air flow to move the smoke outside. These are the original air ducts that were thick, heavy, and smelled weird. The shape also deformed when exposed to the sun. I decided to replace it with the one below.

6″ Air Duct – 25 FT Long, Aluminum Flexible Ducting with 2 Clamps, 3 Layer HVAC Ventilation Air Hose – Great for Grow Tents, Dyrer Rooms, House Vent Register Lines

This hose is way lighter, can expand and compress well, retain shape better, and was much more pliable but still cheap.

Hoses

The long laser tube has water running through it constantly to cool it down, that means there are 3/8 inch tubes carrying the water. The original tubes that came with the machine were weak, cracked, and smelled pretty bad. After running my machine a few times, I noticed water was leaking from somewhere, no matter how tight the connectors were. I replaced the tubes AND the connectors with brass fittings.

Before and after with replaced connectors

I replaced the tubing with food-grade vinyl tubing. It was a little more sturdy and no more water leaks. The brass fittings were also a huge help, so much so that it didn’t even need the hose clamps anymore.

Rollerflex Food Grade Crystal Clear Vinyl Tubing, 3/8-Inch ID x 1/2-Inch OD, 100-FT

Joywayus 3/8”ID Hose Barb Thru-Bulk Head Fuel Hex Union Fitting Intersection/Split Brass Water/Fuel/Air

Water Pump

The machine comes with an aquarium-type water pump that pushes water through the laser tube to keep it cool. This will improve the life of the tube and also provide optimal firing. Since laser tubes are expensive, I decided to upgrade to an actual water chiller.

Beer bottle for scale

I made the mistake of getting the CW-3000 which does NOT have a compressor and refrigerant. This CW-5200 was expensive, almost $400, but since it’s protecting and extending the life of the most important part of the laser machine (the laser) I decided to add it. The compressor keeps the water at a specific temperature you set, and more importantly keeps the laser firing under consistent temperatures for even cuts and engraving.

Ammeter

At the end of the day, the laser tube is pulling just under 20 milliamps of power. When you cut things, you specify the % power like 20% or 80%. Initially 80% might mean 18mA, but as the tube is getting weak and dying, 80% might mean 13mA. Adding this analog meter will let you keep tabs on the strength of the laser tube.

Mounted after cutting a hole in the machine

Installing this was a bit of a feat. The metal that the machine is made of is not the thickest, but heavy duty enough to make cutting and drilling through it impossible if you don’t have the right tools. There are plenty of videos online on how to wire this thing. Basically there are 2 terminals, and the current passes through the laser tube circuit.

Karcy DC 0-30mA Rectangle Analog Panel Ammeter for Auto Circuit or Other Voltage Measurement Devices Ampere Tester Gauge Pack of 1

Fan

The fan that comes with the machine is pretty scary looking. I’m sure it works, but it looked really loud and clunky and took up a lot of space. I decided to get an inline fan with adjustable speeds.

VIVOSUN 6 Inch 390 CFM Inline Duct Fan with Variable Speed Controller HVAC Blower for Ventilation

Much quieter adjustable fan

This is pretty optional, but wasn’t that much to upgrade. I really like it, it’s quiet and looks reliable and worked fine with the upgraded air ducts I got.

Lightburn

The RDworks software looked horrendous. After a bit of research, everybody seemed to have good things to say about Lightburn which is a 1 time 2 or 3 computer license for $80. If you want updates after the first year, you need to pay a renewal license, but it seems like as it is, the software is great. Most of the time I design things in Fusion 360, export the drawings as DXF, then import DXF into lightburn. They are basically vector files like Illustrator.

The software works perfectly with my machine’s Ruida controller. It recognized the controller, bed size, zero issues, highly recommended.

Camera

The camera really isn’t necessary, but if you’re using Lightburn, there are some cool features you can do. Glowforge laser machines have cameras. Muse and Dremel also have similar features. This basically allows your Lightburn software see what’s there. You can also take pictures of something and let Lightburn convert it into shapes to cut out. Or simply use it to spot check that you have enough material to cover your cut. Or, if you’re engraving something like a laptop, you can ensure it’s going to be in the right place.

The correct camera to get for this machine is the 140 degree fisheye lens. It lets the camera capture the whole area. Calibration was a little frustrating, but after about 20-30 minutes and multiple tries, I finally got it to “flatten” the image and accurately map out the working area.

Control Panel

This is my own custom upgrade that is currently in progress. With all these things plugged in and running, it was cumbersome to walk around turning things on and off. So I designed this control panel with AC switches to easily control the peripherals and also have a place to plug in the Lightburn camera.

There’s also a switch for “light” because I’m adding additional LED strips inside the machine. There is only 1 small strip of LEDs and I want lights on the other 3 sides of the working area. I don’t need that on all the time so I added a button for it on this little control panel.

Conclusion

This machine has been a dream. It feels so fast to create and prototype things compared to my 3D printer. As you can see from my builds section, it’s keeping me busy. It also allows me to start building larger things (until my CNC machine comes in). It’s like my Cricut machine on steroids.

If you have any questions about it, let me know. More than happy to help and share experience or knowledge.

Categories
Builds

Drink Coasters

Machines that serve a single purpose are fun. But it’s even more fun to combine different materials and machines. I decided to make drink coasters that were laser cut out of foam place mats and print 3d coasters and a holder to test all my filaments for moisture.

The Materials

  • cork placemats from IKEA
  • tons of different filaments (PLA and wood)
  • spray adhesive
  • dessicant packages

The Tools

  • 3d printer
  • laser cutter
  • fusion 360
  • lightburn
  • cura
  • food dehydrator

The Build

This build is pretty simple. I cut out 80mm circles from the cheap cork placements I got from IKEA.

The design is super simple, just enough height to cover at least the foam pad

The real reason to make these is to test my filament. All filament spools are subject to moisture which causes print quality to have issues. With PLA, you will hear cracks and pops (which is the water vaporizing at 200C) and the prints will become flakey and uneven.

Here are all the different filament colors I have

Several of my PLA spools were damanged from long term exposure to humidity. If you want to test filament without printing, simply bend it and if it snaps easily, then there is moisture in it. Good dry filament should be able to be bent (permanently deformed) but not snap.

In order to fix filament, you can put it in the oven at about 140F-160F for a few hours.

Putting my food dehydrator to use!

I didn’t want to use the oven and preferred to do a longer slow moisture extraction, so I used my food dehydrator, removed the top, cut a circular hole in a cardboard box, and put the top of the blower in the hole. I also cut out air outlets at the bottom of the box to allow the air to flow out from top to bottom.

New color changing filament. Coaster wasn’t big enough to see color change, but i still got a really nice blue coaster out of it.

After drying out the filament, the prints started looking much better. No flaky surfaces or brittle filament. I then designed a holder for it that fits 6 coasters.

I used special wood-infused filament for the holder.

This special wood-infused filament can be stained like normal wood and even smells like charred wood when printing. Overall, happy with the coasters and it was a good exercise in understanding the affects of moisture and how to fix it and save my spools.

Updates

It’s not too late but I want to add engraved logos on the coasters to make them a little more interesting. Not sure what the logos should be yet, but it should be easy to throw under the laser and etch in.

Categories
Builds

Raspberry Pi Rubik’s Cube Case

I have a 3TB RAID1 ext4 NAS and set up a Raspberry Pi 2 to serve as a streaming media center. I wanted to come up with a cool case. Since the dual drives + Pi is roughly square-ish, I came up with the idea to make a rubik’s cube case. Initially it was just going to be a solid block, but then I decided to make it actually rotate horizontally.

The Materials

  • 1/4 MDF panels
  • color card stock
  • Raspberry Pi / NAS hard drives, power cables
  • black matte spray paint
  • wood glue
  • spray adhesive

The Tools

  • CO2 laser cutter
  • wood glue
  • Fusion360
  • Lightburn

The Build

One side of the cube with the color panels

All the panels will be made of 1/4 MDF. If you look closely, you can see the perforations between the color panels that is meant to allow air flow.

First cut, surprisingly everything is working out perfectly

This is the most cutting I’ve ever done for a project. I used a full 2×4 and them some.

60 watts and 50-60% cutting light butter

I noticed that new/dry MDF cuts much better than old or boards with some condensation. Usually I would have to pop the pieces out, but this project, everything fell out perfectly.

I used card stock to color the panels

I used adhesive spray to add the colored card-stock to the panel pieces. I designed the panels to stick up to give the the colors texture.

The inside of the cube

The design uses a thin cut ring to allow the 3 levels to spin around. I just used wood glue to stick the thin ring to the 1st and 3rd levels, and the middle level circle is slightly larger. I didn’t leave any tolerance, but it was a tight fit and so far works perfectly.

Got impatient placed some of the panels on for a preview
Painted the interior with matte paint

The inside of a rubiks cube is black, so did a light spray of matte paint. Also works to hide the laser cut edges.

Final product, time to install the Raspberry and hard drives.

All that’s left is to install the hard drive and Pi. In retrospect, I made the cube a little too big. I could have spent the time to disassemble the SATA base/connectors. I might redo this to make it more compact.

Installed internals, up and running!

Here is its final resting place, next to my router, serving media. If i didn’t make it able to turn, I could have definitely made the case smaller.

Mistakes

  • built the inside too large, however, might make the most of it by adding motorized movement
  • used card stock instead of adhesive vinyl, which would look more like a rubik’s cube
  • the blue color i’m not a fan of, need a darker blue but we’re in a quarantine because of coronavirus

Updates

  • I got new cardstock and updated the blue color to match the classic cube, so much better!
  • Replaced the Pi 2 1GB with Pi 4 4GB… runs so much faster

Categories
Builds

Espresso Station

This is a little cubby drawer station I made to go with my Breville Barista Express machine. It is meant to store drink mixes, tea, espresso supplies, sugar, cups.

The Tools

  • 60 watt CO2 laser
  • rubber bands
  • Fusion360
  • Lightburn

The Materials

  • 5mm birch plywood
  • wood glue
  • sandpaper

The Build

The main body with mini handles for easy lifting, and a small wall around the edge

The empty space will have a drawer that slides in and out for main storage of tea bags, supplies, etc.

Draw with openings on both sides

I designed the drawer with a 2mm tolerance on all sides and found out that was way too much. I should have done 1mm or less. I put the hole handes on both sides to allow for air to escape because I assumed it would be a tight fit.

My trusty 60 watt CO2 laser

This is my first project with birch plywood. I did NOT know that the middle layers of the plywood were not 100% filled. Surprisingly, this 5mm birch cut much easier than 6.3mm MDF.

Rubber bands and wood glue

Putting together the pieces was messy. I used steel wool to brush off the ash from the laser cuts, but it still got everywhere.

Wood dried and cleaned

I tried to sand off the dirty ash, but found out that a damp cloth worked even better to clean up all the dirty ash from the surface.

Finished product

I engraved a little coffee logo on the front just for fun. In retrospect, the design is much too long, I could have made it a little more compact.

Mistakes

  • top-front piece was designed with no interlocking joint and relies entirely on glue
  • the 2mm gap tolerance for the drawer is way too much
  • tried to sand off ash instead of wiping it down
  • design too long, need to shorten it
  • found out i added tolerance to BOTH pieces, doubling up on the gap
  • need to engrage the logo a bit darker next time
  • need to round off the fillet on the handles more to match the drawer handle

Updates

Redid the design to make it shorter, also fixed the front top piece so that it interlocks properly. I also burned the espresso logo in the front darker and rounded off the fillets.

More reasonable looking
Categories
Builds

LEGO Minifig Display Case

I previously built a minifig display case but it was big, heavy, and awkward. It also did not have a glass cover in the front and seemed to collect lots of dust, so I decided to redo it.

The Tools

  • Fusion 360 / Lightburn
  • 60 watt CO2 laser
  • staple gun
  • drill (only for pilot holes)

The Materials

  • 1/4 inch MDF
  • 5x3mm circular neodymium magnets
  • plexiglass
  • support board
  • sawtooth picture frame mounts
  • epoxy
  • hot glue gun

The Build

Shelves with engraved placement markings

I decided to make it 5 columns 4 rows of minifigs so 20 per display case. The Fusion360 design is totally parametric (I think) so I can easily adjust these to customize it.

Case put together

There are 3 types of material used. 1/4 MDF for the frame and shelves, the white support board (like you get from cheap bookshelves), and plexiglass for the front cover.

M3 nuts and bolts to hold the frame together

I used bolts for the 4 corners of the frame. I did not want to use glue. Here you can see the notch that holds the M3 bolts.

Glass with magnets holding the cover

I used neodymium magnets, 5x3mm circles, to hold the front glass together. The 1st and 3rd shelves have notches where I used epoxy to glue 4 magnets to the shelf. There are also 3mm holes cut in the plexiglass. It’s kind of weird, but works and I didn’t have to use any hinges.

Added the minifigs

I used a hot glue gun to mount the minifigs using the engraged indicators for perfect spacing!

Small collection of figures

After the first one was a success, I made 2 more. Still need another one!

Mounted using picture frame hangers

I used 2 sawtooth picture frame mounts per display case to mount everything to the wall. All done!

Mistakes

  • probably could have designed the frame mounts in the other direction so the frame can sit flush on a flat surface

Updates

I created another size for my 4 larger minifigs. It really tested my parametric design, which didn’t do so well so I had to make updates.

2×2 custom frame

I noticed that my MDF was pretty fresh, so it was dry and also not as thick as I spec’d it out for. Also, I put the magnets in the middle, but since there is only 1 shelf, it’s a little wobbly. Going to add stoppers the top and bottom to make sure the glass sits straight.

Categories
Builds

Giant Creeper

Don’t waste old Amazon cardboard boxes! I used my CO2 laser to build parametric boxes with variables for height, width, and depth to recreate this finger jointed Minecraft creeper!

Here is a look at the creeper without the skin

These are the parametric boxes. The head is 8x8x8, the body is 12x8x4 and the feet are 8x6x4

Categories
Builds In Progress

CO2 Laser Control Panel

I absolutely LOVE my Class 4 CO2 Laser cutter/engraver. But it definitely needs some improvements. I’ve added custom lighting, camera, and analog milliamp reader to it and needed a control panel to manage everything. I designed this as an inset panel that controls the AC lines (which are connected to a new UPS).

Prototype test plate

My 3d printer always prints a little larger. My designs need about 0.5-1mm tolerance for fittings so I printed out this flat plate to test the panel mounted switches and hole placements.

Categories
Builds

Picture Frame

Emma made me this beautiful ceramic heart for Valentines Day! I decided to make a lightbox style frame to hang it on the wall using slots and glue to keep everything secure.

Test cut done with Amazon boxes!

I designed the frame in Fusion360. It was built with 3 different materials and thicknesses: plexiglass, MDF, and supportboard for the back. This is my first multi-part laser piece.

Cutting like butter through the 1/4 MDF

These settings work for me for 1/4 dry MDF. 60watts, 10mm/s, 40-50% power, 2 passes (roughly 13 milliamps). It’s just enough to see the burn through the bottom and pop the pieces out of MDF.

Cut with the final materials

Pieces fit together perfectly. My laser hasn’t been calibrated yet so the cuts were slightly at an angle but for such small connections, it wasn’t an issue.

Added heart to the box, secured with hot glue gun

I added the piece to the frame. The light blue/white heart didn’t show to well with the white background.

Red really made the piece stand out

And here is the final product! Might engrave something on the bottom right later just for fun, but for now it looks amazing.