Thursday, January 19, 2017

Planet Express Lighted Display Project

I wanted to get this post out before another day goes by so that I can keep you up to date as to what I have been working on in the shop lately.  First off the Goldwing cooler project is still progressing nicely as the painting of the cooler is coming along slowly.  I will post the final build on that project just as soon as I am happy with the end result.  But for today I want to share with you another new project that I have been thinking about for some time and have managed to put some hours into this past week.

  I call this the Planet Express lighted display project. I am a big fan of the show Futurama and of course the spaceship from the show.  I came across this picture online of a poster that has been around for some time of that spaceship.  I like the poster but I wanted to make something similar but also a bit different.  So I thought why not do a line drawing of the poster and then backlight it using LED strips in a frame.
Here is what the line drawing looks like after I reworked the design using my computer and a lot of effort to get the cross hatching the way I wanted it.  I printed off a 18 x 24 inch copy of the drawing on my plotter several times to get all the detail that I wanted in the drawing correctly done.  This was quite a task in itself as it took a little over an hour just to print one copy of the drawing and I went through four prints before I finally got it all worked out.  This does not even include the hours that I spent just creating the line drawing itself.

I plan on reprinting the drawing hopefully for the last time on to Mylar film using my plotter once again and a drafting ink pen. Once this is complete I will taking the print and sandwiching it between two pieces of Plexiglass and mount it into a framework that will also hold a LED light strip.  This light strip which will wrap around the inner perimeter of the light frame. It also will be behind the plexi/print sandwich assembly and the light frame that will have a backing board at the rear of the frame.  The Mylar is just translucent enough to allow light to pass through the material to give the display a nice even look.   I could have used a paper print but the paper itself when lit from the rear shows all the paper fiber.  Not the look I want in the project.  
  One of the pluses already with the print for the project being 18 x 24 inches was that the Plexi glass that I picked up today was exactly the same size so it simplified part of the construction.
  I have the led lights on order and I will have to pick up the wood for the light frame to get the construction started in the next couple of days.  I also will have to wait for the drafting pens to show up so I can make the final print of the drawing.

Here's a short little video that I put together of the line drawing on my plotter.  Kind of fun to watch if you've never seen a plotter running before.  I could not show all the detail as again it takes over an hour to do the entire drawing with all the cross hatching that is in it.

So that's the latest update for this week.  I'll post more once I get this project started in earnest in the shop.  Have a good one.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Blender 3D "Holli Project"

I've been wanting to get this post out for the last couple of weeks to kick off the new year with another video tutorial and this one is a good one.  I call it the "Holli Project" which is my idea of a holographic device that I created an image of using Blender 3D software.

I liked what I managed to create here in Blender so I thought I would pass along my learning experience to all you Blender users to show you how I put it together. 

Here is part one of the video tutorial for the "Holli Project".  I had to split it into two videos as it got to be to large to set up as just one. 

Here is part two of the "Holli Project".  Both videos will walk through the process of creating the holographic lady that is shown in the first picture in this post.  The first video is around 20 minutes long and the second is 16 minutes in length. 

 Click on the images for a larger view

Here I've included images of the node setups that are used in the video tutorials.  The image above is the nodes that are used in the compositor to combine two scenes into one image. Once scene for "Holli" to make here glow and another for everything else.  Just follow along in the video and it will make more sense.  It took me awhile to figure all of this out but after you get into it the fog begins to clear and starts to make sense.  Again watching the videos help a lot.

The image above is the node setup to make "Holli" glow.  A simple node setup compared to the compositing node setup.

Lastly here is the note setup to get "Holli" to be seen only by herself without any border or background around here.  Without this it would not look correct in the Blender render when it was completed.

In the first video I talk about taking a photo of a lady (seen above) and converting it to a black background for the project.  I was fortunate enough to find this image with a white background and then do the conversion.  But after doing this I realized that a lot of people would not have this image or may have an image that has a background that they want to remove.  So I tracked down the link below online to show you how to remove a background for this project or something similar using Gimp.  Gimp by the way is a free photo editing software that is similar to Photoshop.  Again being free works for me anytime and you can download it online.


Here is what you'll create in Blender from the video tutorials I put together.  The first image is like the original only with a black background and the second is what is called an "Alpha Mask".  Without this second image it would not be possible to create what the final Blender render looks like. So if you find some interest in this type of Blender project follow along using the video tutorials as I took it nice and slow so it's easy to make what I created.  Hope you enjoy using them for you next Blender 3D project. You'll learn some new things along the way that will be handy for many other Blender projects.  Enjoy! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Small Tripod For A Very Small Camera

A couple of days ago I was playing around with a small action camera called a Mokacam.  This I acquired through Kickstarter and am just now finding the time to figure it all out.  In the process of shooting some test video I realized that I needed a small tripod to get better camera angles. I have a small tripod that I've had for years but I wanted something even smaller and lighter. 

I started going through various drawers in my computer room and came across this little suction cup device. I had purchased this on eBay some time back for a couple of bucks but found it to be near worthless as a mount for any type of video camera.  The suction cup just was not strong enough to hold properly.  But the swivel mount was just what I wanted for this little tripod.

The swivel mount was the only good thing about this little gadget as it was made of solid steel construction and I could easily remove it from the suction cup part of the mount.  It was just a matter of unscrewing it from the base.

I went to work once again on my computer using Fusion 360 CAD software to create the new mount for the tripod as shown in the images above.  It took me several tries to get the threads for the swivel head on the tripod mount the right dimensions to match up correctly to the swivel mount but it was worth the effort.  The legs are held in place using small machine screws that get fed into three mounting locations around the tripod head.  The holes for the legs themselves are a little oversized so that they pivot smoothly and do not bind.  

Here you can see the new 3D printed tripod with the original swivel mount from the suction cup assembly.

With the swivel mount in place on the new tripod the total height only comes to 5.25 inches tall.  The Mokacam then easily gets screwed on to the top of the mount using a standard 1/4-20 type mount.

The plus side to the swivel mount is that now it can be position in various angles to get the photos or videos that I am looking for.  It will come in handy in the shop when I want to shoot video and get a good wide angle view of the shop to show what I am working on. 

I designed the legs of the tripod so that they easily could be folded up to make it a snap to store when it is not in use.  The cost to 3D print the tripod was only a couple of dollars and with the swivel head I now have something I can use while shooting video in the shop or on the go and is small and light weight in the process.

It pays to look through storage drawers to scrounge for bits and pieces for projects.  I had completely forgotten about the suction cup attachment and had written it off as a lost cause years ago.  Now I find that it was worth holding on to it for this little tripod. You just never know what can be made from scrap parts, a little design time on the computer, and a 3D printer.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last Project Of The Year..... The Utility Cart Project

Being as this is the last day of 2016 it is fitting that I finish off the year with one last project.  If you have been following my blog over this past year or longer you will have seen one of my earlier projects which was a work table spray booth.  I have been using the spray booth now for a couple of weeks and I wish that I had built it years ago.  It's a great tool but with it comes a minus.  That being that the booth is awkward to move in or out of the workshop.  It's not terribly heavy just a big piece to move by myself.  With that in mind the utility cart project was started a couple of weeks ago and completed today.  So let's check it out.

As usual I start out my projects by designing them in my computer using CAD software.  In this case the project was designed using Fusion 360 software from Autodesk. (It's free by the way. Get a copy online for your next project.)  The cart had to be large enough for the spray booth and the window ventilation insert so I designed the cart with a flat top so the booth could of course sit on top.  I also made the second shelf lower so that I could put the window insert through the openings between the top of the cart and the second shelf.  I also wanted a nice handle to top everything off.

                                                                (Click on image for larger view)

Part#                Part Dimensions                  Number Needed

1.                     23" x 3.5"                                     (3)
2.                     2.5" x 31.5"                                  (4)
3.                     3" x 18"                                        (6)
4.                     3" x 31.5"                                     (2)
5.                     3" x 28.5"                                     (2)
6.                     3" x 30"                                        (4)
7.                     3" x 37"                                        (2)
8.                     4" x 5"                                          (4)

Here is an image of the cut layout for all of the pieces for the utility cart along with the dimensions and number of parts needed for each piece.  The entire cart can be built using only one 4' x 8' x 3/4" sheet of plywood.  From the cutting diagram above I was able to first cut all the parts out using my table saw.  This could also be done using a circular saw.  Once this was done I sanded all of the parts smooth using an orbital sander.  This took a little time but paid off big as it saved me the hassle of having to sand the cart once it was assembled which would have been much more difficult to do.

I started assembly with the front of  the cart.  This consisted of two #2 pieces (2.5" x 31.5") and three #3 pieces (3" x 18") laid out as you see above. 

Using a Kreg pocket hole jig I drilled all the holes that I needed for the first assembly.  The Kreg jig is as simple to use as a pencil sharpener and gives you perfect pocket holes every time.  Another tool that makes this project a simple one to complete.

I then glued, clamped and screwed the assembly together. Once the screws are in place the clamps can be removed and the assembly set aside.  This made putting the cart together a fast and simple process. I made two assemblies like this one and set them aside when completed and moved forward.

The next part of the assembly was to work on the sides of the cart.  This consisted of one #4 part (3" x 31.5"), one #5 part (3" x 28.5"), two #6 parts (3" x 30"), and one #7 part (3" x 37").  This last part I tapered on the end that sticks out in the photo above to make a nice transition for the handle that would be added later.  I measured the end length that was sticking out and tapered the ends inward by a half and inch.  (Check out the later photos of the completed cart to see how this ended up looking.)

Here are all of the sides that were needed for the utility cart.  The taper on the top side parts that I just spoke of you can see in the photo above.  This taper cut needs to be done before the side assemblies are put together.  Once this is done assembly is completed just like the front and back assemblies with pocket holes, glue and clamps.  Again these assemblies were set aside until final assembly of the cart started. 

Here I started clamping the sides together along with the bottom panel in place.  The top of the cart as well as the shelves are all the same size.  This being the # 1 parts  (23" x 35").  I was happy at this point that all the care I had taken in cutting all the parts out was right on the money and the fit-up looked good.

I moved the first part of the final assembly up on my work table and started to glue, clamp, and screw the sides to the front assembly and the bottom shelf panel.  You can still see the clamp on the back of the assembly in the photo above.  The bottom panel was only put into position to keep the frame of the cart nice and square while the sides and front/back panels were assembled together.

Once I was happy with the framework of the cart I placed it back on the floor and clamped, glued and screwed the bottom shelf into place.  You can see all of the pocket holes that were need in this bottom panel in the photo above.  The pocket holes were place around four inches apart.  I took a while to put the holes in it but again was a simple process to complete.

Here the cart assembly is nearly complete with the middle shelf and the top surfaces installed the same way the bottom shelf was.  I made sure all the pocket holes were on the bottom surfaces of the shelf panels so I could get a nice clean look when it was assembled.  The only other thing that I had installed in this assembly was two small strips of wood that ran the length of the cart from front to back underneath to top surface.  These I glued in and screwed in from the underside and the topside of the top surface using 1 1/4 wood screws.  Again I have a close up view of this in a later photo in this post. This was needed as the pocket screws caused problems with the top surface being flush with the sides of the cart frame.  Simply was not enough material to allow the screws to not poke out of the outer surface of the frame.  If the top surface of the cart was recessed like the shelves the pocket holes would have worked fine.  I just needed the cart to have a flat deck on the top so I had to have the extra bracing to get it to work the way I needed it.

With all of the major assemblies of the cart put together and assembled to each other I turned the cart upside down to mount the caster blocks as shown above.  I had some scrap 3/4" plywood that I had used but realized after I had mounted these that I could have cut them out of the original 4' x 8' panel in the first place.  But this worked just the same. 

I glued and screwed the mounting blocks onto the base and then screwed the casters on to the blocks.  Two caster for the front of the cart swivel and the two back ones remain stationary.  All of them using 3" wheels.

Next came the steps needed to install the handle for the cart.  I traced out the shape of the overhang on the upper rails of the top of the cart.  I cut these two pieces into shape with my bandsaw and then drilled a 1" diameter hole for the 21 5/8" x 1" long wooden dowel.  Along with this larger hole I need two more smaller holes that I counter sunk for the 1 1/4" wood screws to mount the blocks in place.

To install the handle all I needed to do was insert the dowel into the holes of the mounting blocks. I then applied glue to these block and moved the assembly between the overhanging parts of the top of the cart.  I slid the mounting block outward to mate up to the overhangs and then screwed them into place.  I clamped the ends of the blocks to get a nice tight fit.  After the glue had dried I used my orbital sander and evened everything out and rounded the outer corners off to get the shape that you see here.  Turned out better than I had hoped which is always a good thing in any project.

This is how the cart looked just before painting.  I was very pleased with my efforts at this point.  A nice new cart that should serve me well in the coming years in the shop.

After painting a couple nice coats of red paint this is how the cart really came to life.  I was fortunate enough to find a rubber mate that was exactly 2' x 3' in size for the top of the cart and had some left over vinyl wrap from a previous project to black out the handle as well.  Pretty spiffy don't you think?

The rubber mate is a good thickness and will protect the top surface of the cart when I haul stuff on it.  I have not found rubber mats for the inside of the cart but I am sure I can come up with something if I put my mind to it.  The top mat was only $7.00 so it was a good deal.

The casters for the cart work well and it's going to be perfect for the job I need it for.   The cart is 24" wide, 40" long with the handle and 36" tall.  A good sized cart to be sure.  These numbers could be reduced by adjusting the size of the parts that make up the cart if you wanted a smaller version.

This is a closer view of the top surface of the cart with the counter sunk holes for mounting the top surface.  I was just a bit happier with doing this mounting this way as it gave the top a nice look and worked well with the added bracing on the underside of the top.

Here's what the underside of the top looked like with the additional bracing strips that I had installed to the cart.  The pocket holes were there as well but realized as I said earlier that this would not work so the bracing strips were needed to get it all to work.

Well that's it for this year.  Another great project and a great year.  I'll be happy to bring in the new year and with it some more great new projects.  Have a happy New Year in your shop as well.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Something Fun From My 3D Printer

Now that the Christmas rush is over and the dust has settled a bit I thought it would be a good time to make something fun on my 3D printer.  With that thought in mind I starting thinking about a game I played with when I was in grade school a long time ago.  It was a simple game called "Instant Insanity".  It consisted of just four cubes with different colors on each side of each cube.  The goal of the puzzle was to align the four cubes and have four different colors on each side of the row of faces when you were done.  Not an easy task as I could recall so the puzzle gave me many hours of fun and frustration all at the same time. 
  I did a little research on this game and found out that it had been called by several other names over the years and had been produced much earlier than when I had first seen it.  So this was the project that I chose to make. 

Here is the layout for each of the four cubes to be used in the puzzle.  This layout I found online is a bit different than the original game that I first played with as the combinations of cubes also could be set up to have one color on each side of the cube when they are aligned as well as different colors on each cube as they are aligned.  So the puzzle could be played in two ways.

Each cube is made up of two halves.  The contacting faces on the inside of the cube have a 45 degree chamfer on their edges so the cubes will mate up nicely and be uniform on all side when glued together.  The circular indents on all six sides of each completed cube allowed for the placement of a colored disk for the game. In my version I also added four shapes to these disks as well.

Here is an image of the cubes with three already assembled in the background. Each cube is 1 3/4" square in size. They could be printed smaller but I thought this was a good size to work with as the inserts would have a bit more detail to them once they were installed into each cube.

Here are all of the inserts that I printed for the puzzle.  As you can see there are triangles, stars, hexagons, and squares all in different colors.  Twenty four pieces in all. Laying all of the parts out in the computer made the task of making this puzzle an easy problem to work on.  I used Fusion 360 software to get the job done.

To assemble the game I first glued all of the pieces for the black cubes together using plastic modeling glue.  After a few minutes the glue had did it's job and I could start gluing all of the colored disks into each cube per the diagram from the first photo in this post.  I did not have any green 3D printing filament so I substituted it for orange instead. 

The image above shows what the puzzle looks like as it is being played.  None of the sides that you see and even those that you don't see are correct...... and so the game begins.  The faces of the cubes that mate against on another do not matter when you play the game. So each cube needs to be twisted, turned, rotated, or position in a different location to complete the puzzle.  Hours of fun and an easy project to complete using my 3D printer. 

Now I just have to give it a new name as my puzzle is just a bit different than other ones that I have found online and played with in my younger days.  Maybe "Crazy Blocks" simply because it will drive you crazy once you start trying to complete the puzzle.  It's a thought.  Anyway enjoy the images and build one for yourself and see if you can complete this simple yet difficult puzzle.