How to get started making hardware projects?

(Jon) #1

I’ve got a career break coming up, and although it is for the purposes of getting back to my software projects, I have a few hardware projects I’d like to make, just for fun. A busman’s holiday, perhaps! :smiley_cat:

I wonder how people here are designing and creating hardware items based on one-off, low-cost pieces? For example I’ve seen laser-cutting of wood as something that can be done in a maker workshop, and from YouTube videos I’ve seen, these seem to cut with a good degree of accuracy (such that working gearboxes etc can be machined). There’s also 3D printing, though my impression of this is that the results are rather rough-and-ready.

My ideas, to help with answering the question, and for general interest, are as follows. They somewhat stem from my gentle-wake lighting post - I’d like to make a Raspberry Pi-based clock. My first thought is to see if a laser can be moved fast enough, using Persistence of Vision, to create the illusion of digits projected onto a wall. As it turns out, my research indicates that this has already been thought of! Professional light shows use something called a galvonometer, which uses perpendicular coils to move X and Y mirrors separately to deflect a laser beam, and they are capable of making up to 50,000 movements per second.

These devices are, unfortunately, expensive (£100-£200 and much upwards) so people sometimes make home-made versions out of servos or stepper motors. Since these are much slower, sometimes phosphorescent paper is used to lengthen the POV effect.

My other idea is a set of square “pixels” mounted in a frame, each of which rotate about their own (horizontal or vertical) axis. This will allow a robot arm capable of X-Y addressing to move to a pixel and turn it on or off. This could be done from the back of the device, so that the front shows a large 8x16 display. I would expect this would be made out of wood pieces.

(I did ponder a different approach to this, where pixels are loaded and emptied like Connect 4, but I suspect the resulting clatter every minute would not be ideal for a sleeping environment! :sleeping: Maybe there is a way this can be done quietly…)

The first idea would need a platform for the servos. It would be simpler to make, but various online reports suggest that non-galvo builds are susceptible to non-linear responses at the outer edges of the scan. This can produce image deformities, especially when attempting to run at high speeds. The second project is a lot more parts, but does not need as much prototyping, since the mechanics seem (to my untrained eye) pretty straightforward.

I seem to recall the JQ has (or had) maker facilities available for hire. Are they still active, and can anyone here recommend one? What design software is suitable, and is there a standard file format?

(Andy Wootton) #2 Black Country Atelier

(Jon) #3

Thanks @Woo, but BCA looks like it only does courses. I’m only after a manufacturing service (either where I can have parts cut to order, or I can be taught how to use a laser cutter).

(Andy Wootton) #4

I think they changed their business model.

(Daniel Hollands) #5

Hey, @halfer.

There are two places which spring to mind:

My understanding of the former is that you pay a monthly fee (of £25, I think) and have access to all their equipment, of which they have a lot (CNC, 3d printers, textiles equipment, woodwork, metalwork etc…)

The later is a different deal, where as a member of the public, you’re able to use their equipment (3d printers, vinyl cutter, laser cutter) for free of a Friday afternoon - as long as they’re not required for something else. This is how I was able to complete the Halloween box.

There are a couple other things that I’d like to mention - first, to repeat my desire to help out with such a project, should you find a suitable (part time) spot for me. And second, to let you know of the new maker channel which we’ve added to the brumtech slack channel, if you wanted to come and chat with us about it there.

(not that I’m trying to stop being from using the forum, I just figure the slack channel complements the forum, as they fit different types of discussion)

(Jon) #6

Thanks @LimeBlast. Fizzpop looks like a nice idea. At this stage though I’d rather be dipping my toe into Maker waters rather than committing to monthly fees. I did wonder whether they might be useful as a co-working site as well, especially since they have 24-7 card access, but the images on Facebook indicate it is really more of a workshop. Their website indicates they have a trial Wednesday so I might pop along at some point.

Eagle Lab looks more active community-wise, though sadly it’s not home grown as FP - backed by MegaBank Inc. I’d have thought they would have shouted about their free Friday afternoons, but sadly I could not find mention of that on their site. The business incubation is nice too see, I wonder if the Brum one has a good community?

I’d be more than happy to do some co-making. I’m not engaging brain on this until mid-late March, when I finish my current contract, but happy to then!

(Stuart Langridge) #7

Definitely. I’ve popped down to fizzpop to talk to them about an idea I’ve had and they were helpful; it’d be worth dropping in, explaining your plan, and asking how that would work with access to some of their machinery!

(Daniel Hollands) #8

I’ve been looking for an excuse to pop along to one of their Wednesday sessions, let me know when you’re going and I’ll pop along too.

The only reason I know about it is because I was at the right place at the right time (i.e. a Raspberry Jam they held there back in the summer). From what I understand, it’s a very casual thing, and only if they’re able to accommodate. I have plans on heading back there on a Friday afternoon soon for another project I want to work on, so, again, if you wanted to join me, I could introduce you to the relevant people.

(Daniel Hollands) #9

(Daniel Hollands) #10

(Jon) #11

Nice, thanks! I will have a watch of those.