Working on glass

Working on glass

After watching a glass worker in the River Arts District in Asheville, I decided to try my hand. We already had a torch for heat shrinking wires, and the safety gear, so she bought some glass stock and other supplies and went to work on it. Here’s a picture of my sister and I doing our first experiments.

Machining CNC parts for the telegraph

Machining CNC parts for the telegraph

Today, we worked on the wireless telegraph project. We decided to mount the electronics on brass and copper plates, so we designed the parts on the CAD system and then machined the parts on our home made CNC mill (one of our many projects over the last year). Using the CNC to make project parts was a really cool use of what has become our favorite tool. Here are some pics of the CNC.

Here is our CNC mill just after machining the copper telegraph base plate. Top left: the computer and electronics box we built. Top center: Cooling tower for the water-cooled spindle. Top right: The 3-phase Variable Frequency Drive (VFD), which powers the 24,000 rpm spindle, is mounted on the wall. Mounted on the wall just below the computer box: an LCD panel for the CNC user interface. Right hand side: The stepper-motor-driven CNC machinery, which is made out of steel and aluminum. You can see the copper part on the blue riser (which is machinable wax).  Front center: the system’s keyboard, the emergency stop button box we built, and the jog box (for moving the CNC manually).

 

A close up of the copper base plate just after it has been machine by the CNC.

 

Camille showing off her new copper base plate, fresh out of the CNC

We needed two of the base plates (one for each side of the telegraph system), so we machined the second one out of brass instead of copper (using the same CNC file).

Here Camille assembles the telegraph electronics onto the baseplate

Here are the electronics for the telegraph system mounted on the copper plate. The electronics shown here include an Arduino Nano in a screw terminal board, a 7.4v Lithium Polymer Battery, an Xbee Radio, a potentiometer (for tuning the voltage to the Telegraph Sounder), and a small speaker). This copper plate will be mounted inside the base of the telegraph system.

 

 

 

Working on wireless telegraph

Working on wireless telegraph

Here at Beatty Robotics, we have a keen interest in mixing cool, old technology with exciting new technology. Recently, we became interested in Morse Code and telegraph equipment. We began exchanging written secret messages in Morse Code. And then we continued on by learning to tap the codes with rocks and listen to them at some distance. We are still learning and practicing, but it’s pretty clear that they are getting better and better and will soon be fluent. So now we’ve embarked on our next project, which is to build a functioning telegraph system by refurbishing several very old, antique telegraph keys and sounders, and then combining then with our modern electronics knowledge. We aren’t ready to show the completed project quite yet, but here are some pics of us wiring up the electronics. As we complete the project over the next few weeks, we’ll post pictures of the complete telegraph system (we’re hoping it’s going to look pretty cool), an explanation of how it all works, and the list of components.

Genevieve solders the headers on the Arduino Nano while I wire up the screw terminal board

I power up our wireless Xbee LCD screen to see if test messages are being transmitted properly from the Telegraph key. (The telegraph system itself won’t include an LCD screen. This was just for a test.)

Working together on some delicate soldering on the main microcontroller

See the finished product here: Wireless Telegraph

Working on the CNC

Working on the CNC

Up to this time, we’ve been using hand tools to build our robots. But over the last few months, we’ve been working on building a Computer Numerical Control Machine (CNC) that will allow us to precisely cut, drill, and machine aluminum, brass, plastic, wood, and other materials.

Part of this project is to design and build a custom electronics enclosure that will be a combination computer / CNC / motor control system. This will be the “brain” of the CNC. After trying a few different approaches, we decided to build the box from scratch out of 1/8″ acrylic sheet and Microrax, with are tiny, 10mm 80/20 aluminum beams. The enclosure is about 22″ long, 12″ wide, and 8″ deep. The beauty of Microrax is that we could easily cut the beams to the size we wanted and then use small machine screws and brackets to bolt them together. This allowed us to not only construct the overall enclosure, but to bracket the four cooling fans into place, frame the I/O ports, and add an acrylic lid with hinges. MicroRax is very flexible and cool stuff that I look forward to using for future projects, not only for enclosures, but robots as well.

CNC Electronics Enclosure

On the left side of the enclosure we mounted a mini-ITX motherboard, a small SSD hard drive (not visible in this picture because it’s under the motherboard), the RAM (blue), an internal USB hub, ports for communication with the motor controller, and various other computer components. In the center of the enclosure we installed the main power supply (clear) and the fan control system (black). The right side of the enclosure will contain the motor control boards and other CNC-specific components (which we haven’t installed yet).

There are four main enclosure fans (two on the top and two on the bottom) and four smaller internal fans.


Here is the CNC Electronics Enclosure in the workshop, along with the screen, keyboard, and mouse. We will most likely be mounting the enclosure on the wall so that the lower two fans are more effective.[/caption]

In this close-up, you can see that the fan control system displays the rpm speed of each fan and allows you to adjust it. It also displays the temperature of the corresponding sensor. We’ve attached the sensors to the microprocessor heat sink, the RAM, the motor controllers, and other critical components.[/caption]

Here are various parts for the CNC that we’ve been working on, including the CNC’s aluminum T-Slot table, various fixtures, the largest of the three interchangeable spindles the CNC will use (for 1/4-inch end mills), and a block of blue machinable wax.

Here is a close up of the smallest spindle the CNC will use. This is a high-precision 1/8-inch spindle for delicate work. It will be driven at a spindle speed of 25,000 rpm by the brushed motor via the two black belts, which in turn will be controlled by the motor controller, which in turn will be controlled by the CNC software running on the computer. At least theoretically! Keep your fingers crossed! :)[/caption]

Steampunk Necklace

Steampunk Necklace

I made this steampunk necklace. The gears, cogs, machine screw, nut, and chain are made out of copper, bronze, steel, and brass. The main round part with little hobnails on it is bronze plated pewter. The little gears and cogs in the middle actually turn, which I think is pretty cool. I was inspired to make this necklace after reading about Tess McKinett’s necklace in my father’s newest steampunk manuscript. Then I made matching copper earrings to go with it. Click on the photos below to see a close up.

Steampunk Necklace

Steampunk Necklace

Steampunk Necklace

Steampunk Earrings

Camille with Steampunk Necklace and Earrings

Blinky Belt

Blinky Belt

When we were ordering some parts for our Mechatron robot and we discovered a cool strip of LED lights that worked based on “RGB,” which stands for Red-Green-Blue. These are special LED lights that you can program to whatever color you want by combining red, green, and blue together. I looked at my sister and asked if she was interested in making a “Blinky Belt” that we could wear and would light up in various patterns. “Yes!” she said. When the parts arrived, we started building immediately. We cut wires, soldered, and heatshrank. I learned how to tin wires for the first time. Then we soldered the strip of little lights to a tiny Arduino microcontrolller. Then we connected it to a belt buckle and a little pouch to hold the battery and electronics. After we were done with the building phase, we worked on programming it. We were able to program each little light separately so we could make any pattern we wanted, including violet, green, and other colors. Because it was the 4th of July, we made a wild red, white, and blue dancing pattern. It was fun to hold sparklers with a glowing Blinky Belt!

We’ll post a video soon, but for now, here’s a pic.

Blinky Belt

You can purchase the main kit at Adafruit here.

You can put the electronics in this case: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001OBYPQ4

Attach it all together with this to make it a true belt: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000OR5QRQ