Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category

3D Printing Home Improvement

Monday, August 29th, 2011

I’ve lived in my house for 2 years now. 2 weeks after we moved in, someone who shall remain nameless turned our 2 bathroom house into a 1.5 bath.

They were cleaning the bathroom (that’s how you know it wasn’t me.) While leaning on the D-Shaped shower curtain rod for support, the whole thing came down. Come to find out the support brackets were woefully inadequate.

“I should really do something about that…” but we only really NEEDED one shower, and you can’t buy the brackets separately, so I did nothing. I wasn’t going to spend $100 for a shower we’d never use.

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When a Maker Gets Married

Monday, August 15th, 2011

I got married a couple of weeks ago. We did all the planning / decoration ourselves. By we, or course, I mean my wife. One of the things she wanted to do was have paper lanterns suspended above the tables.

The initial plan was to use throwies, but I felt they wouldn’t give as much light as a commercial 3 LED solution. This led me to a fun, albeit time consuming project.

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Mighty Bottle Opener

Friday, June 17th, 2011

I’ve been wanting something printable that I could carry around with me, especially after this Colbert Report thing. I finally settled on designing a bottle opener: something I could show off.

Mighty Opener

There’s already a bottle opener you can print, and it works really really well. Unfortunately it’s the size of a small moon, so you can’t really carry it with you everywhere. The reason it’s so big is because it uses a penny to bear the load. You need to have something metal to save the plastic, and a coin is an ingenious, albeit large, solution.

To make the opener smaller the coin would have to go. Using a bottle cap came to me almost immediately, but finding the correct implementation took some time. The Coin-Op uses the coin to support the full load, and initially that’s what I tried to do with a folded over cap. Things improved greatly when I discovered that ABS is strong enough to lift a cap, it just needs a protective layer to keep it from being chewed up.

And thus the Mighty Bottle Opener was born! As you can see, naming things is not my forte. I was looking for something that would encompass everything great about this new opener I designed: It’s smaller, lighter, key-chainable, yet still really strong.

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SketchUp to STL Plugin with No Dialogs

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

When designing parts for the Makerbot my tool of choice is Google SketchUp. I’m able to do this easily (and for free) due to the work of Nathan Bromham and Konrad Shroeder. Their skp_to_dxf plugin quickly exports my model into stl format, which can then be read by ReplicatorG.

One minor annoyance though. Every time I run the plugin I need to specify “Millimeters” and “STL”. I’ve been revising a lot of models lately; trying things out then checking the resulting tool path in skeinforge. Somewhere around the 20th time specifying the SAME THING, I decided to go into the plug-in code and just hard-set my options.

The result is my variant of the plugin, which I’ve labeled skp_to_Custom. I did almost nothing. I commented out the dialog code and instead included a section at the beginning of the code where you can hard-set your options. That’s it. But MAN has it saved me some aggravation.


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Laser-Cut Business Cards

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

laser cut business cards
laser cut still wraps nicely

I’ve really been saturating the blog with ear-bud wrap posts lately. This should be the last one for a while. I decided to order some laser-cut copies of the earbud-wrap business card. They were a bit expensive, but I’ve been wanting to laser-cut something for some time. I went with 2-color acrylic, and I think they turned out really well.

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Earbud-Wrap Business Card

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

I made one last (for now) modification to my Credit Card Earbud Holder. The wrap now ends with an over-pass that really locks everything in place. As before, it’s insanely easy to remove the wrap.

Bundle slides right off
<2 Second Removal

The other thing I realized is that, if laser cut from thin plastic, this would make a really neat business card. I don’t really feel like paying for a laser-cut version at the moment, so I just printed out a shipping label to illustrate. If you DO feel like laser cutting this bad boy, I’ve uploaded the plans to Thingiverse. (The plans will also help you if you just want to make one out of an old card)

UPDATE: I got some of these laser cut. They look amazing.

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My Take on the Credit Card Earbud Holder

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Yesterday on Lifehacker they posted a forehead-smack idea. Take a credit card, cut it up a bit. You’re left with a free, light, earbud holder. I’ve got a bunch of old cards lying around, so I made one.

Bud Holder - Theirs

I Didn’t like it. My design grievances:

  • You wrap in the short direction, which means more wrapping to get the job done
  • Having the earbuds stored on either side means you need to put in each bud individually
  • It takes just as long to unwrap as it does to wrap

It needed some work to compete with my current method. The beauty of using cards is that they’re easy to work with and plentiful (in my house at least.) It only took about an hour (7-10 iterations) to settle on a winner. Meet my new earbud holder:

Bud Holder - Mine
Bud Holder - Mine

  • The earbud slots are wide and next to eachother, so you can get the buds in quickly with one motion
  • You wrap the long way, so you’re done in half the time
  • The way the plug is clipped ensures that the wrap stays put, but…
  • Because the wrap isn’t in channels, it slides right off once the plug is detached. WAY faster.

UPDATE: I went through a few more iterations and came up with an improved design.

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Google is Keeping the Offset Header

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

I have a one-track mind whenever I see a new Arduino variant. My eyes drift to one spot to see if the offset is still there. Naturally I did the same thing when I saw that Google is releasing its own Arduino-type thing

Lo and behold, there’s the telltale gap. I’ll need to look at any schematics they wind up open-sourcing, but I’m fairly certain: Sparkfun will be selling these for a while longer.

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Arduino Uno Keeps Header Offset

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Uno Spacing

The newest version of the arduino was announced last week. At first glance it seemed as though they got rid of the offset header spacing, but a closer look at the spec showed that it is still 0.16 inches. It would have been a bold move to change that spacing; there are a lot of 0.16-spaced shields out there. Looks like Sparkfun will be selling offset headers for some time to come.

See also: Offset Header Explained

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This changes everything

Friday, August 13th, 2010

A lot of my projects involve 120VAC, switching relatively slowly. Most people use mechanical relays in that situation, but I don’t like them; I try to avoid moving parts whenever possible. Up to this point, I’ve always used solid state relays. They work really well, but they’re expensive. What this means is that I’ve needed to move my same 2 SSRs from project to project, which is kind of a pain.

Well no more! Enter the humble Triac. They’re tiny, cheap, and in my slow switching applications the circuitry isn’t too complicated. That being said, it’s still the most complicated circuit I’ve ever attempted.

triac schematic

I figured a good first application would be a switched outlet. It’s fairly simple, and it’s something that I could use in prototyping later on.



And there you have it. A neat little package with two independently controlled power plugs. The best part is the cost. The whole thing cost less then $10! With SSRs it would have been ~$80, and I don’t know if they even would have fit in the box.

Triac Box from br3ttb on Vimeo.

There’s one issue I’m going to need to keep an eye on. Apparently, if a Triac overheats, it tends to fail into the on position. There’s nothing here that detects if this is about to happen, so I’ll have to keep an eye on it for a while to be sure there’s adequate cooling

Update: There is NOT adequate cooling. I did a real test just now. 1500W toaster oven on high. after a minute I started smelling perfboard. Everything was disconnected before any damage was done, but some design revisions are in order before I try to switch high loads again.

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