Sunday, August 28, 2011

Laser Cut Miata Visor Blanking Plates

If you're tall and drive a Miata, one of the first things you'll do is remove the sun visors.  Doing so however, leaves the mounting holes exposed.  To make for a cleaner look, I laser cut blanking plates from 1/8" black Acrylic.  E-mail me if you're interested in a pair. $5/pair blank, $15/pair with simple custom logo and/or text.  These will fit years 1999-2005 Mazda MX-5.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Laser Cutter Cross-hair Guide for under $10

What is it?
Fully adjustable laser cross-hair aiming guide for the FSE 40W laser that can be made using your laser cutter and assembled in less than an hour.

Items you'll need:
Red Line Laser Modules Item# 5928 from $3.96 each
1/8" Acrylic, 3"x3"  (scrap from another project?)
Mounting hardware (I used a pair of screws and nuts on the FSE 40W laser that aren't needed)
Electrical tape
Silicone adhesive (or other glue)
100 Grit sandpaper
Soldering iron/solder

Download and vector cut the SVG file HERE. (Go to File -> Download Original) I used 20% Speed, 100% Power (@ 15ma). You should create a bracket that looks like this:
Unplug the original red laser and unscrew its mounting bracket.  Install the Acrylic bracket as shown below and attached the original red laser mounting bracket to the channel on the right.  I used the machine screws and nuts holding the sheet metal that hides the Retina Engrave Card to mount the Acrylic bracket (any small nut and bolt should work fine).
Remove the "line forming" lens from one of the two line lasers (just unscrew the cap) and glue it to the original FSE red dot laser with the smooth side out, being careful to not obscure the path of the laser with glue.  Solder the terminals of the second line laser to those of the FSE red dot laser (red to red, black to black).  Your lasers should look like this.
To achieve a narrower line, mask each lens with electrical tape leaving a small slit in the center.  This will create a more precise cross-hair.  Position the slit perpendicular to the direction of the grooves on the lens.  Cut off the extra tape.
The hole on the bracket is undersized so that with a small amount of sanding you can press fit the line laser into the hole.  Use your 100 grit sandpaper to open the hole just enough to press in the line laser.  This should be a tight fit.  Mount the original FSE red laser (now with attached line lens) in it's original bracket.
By adjusting the four screws, you'll be able to align the X and Y axis lasers to cross where the cutting beam meets the material, regardless of the height of the material.  This performs the same job (or better) than the $300 beam combiner offered from FSE.

This project was inspired by Rich Olson's work at Nothing Labs:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Inkscape for CNC: Part 1

I was introduced to Inkscape when I first began using my Eggbot.  Inkscape is "an Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format."  What's so important about this, you may ask?  Two reasons.  First, Inkscape creates vector graphics in a format many CNC (computer numerical control) devices like the Eggbot or laser cutters can interpret to cut, engrave, or draw your designs.  Secondly, because Inkscape is Open Source it's free and available for anyone to download and work with!

Unlike your typical paint and pencil graphics programs (think MS Paint), vector graphics programs can be somewhat challenging to use as they're not entirely intuitive.  Quite a few excellent tutorials can already be found on the Inkscape Tutorials Page. The tutorial I'll be presenting here is specifically geared towards creating or preparing graphics to be used with cnc devices.  As with any relatively complex program, it will take time before you can become proficient, but this tutorial should help with the first steps.

You can watch the first part below.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

QR Codes with Embedded Images

Inspired by this Hack-A-Day article, I  created my own QR code (Quick Response code) with embedded image for my blog.  Because these codes use the Reed–Solomon error correction algorithm, a percentage of the code can purposefully be obscured and the correct data will still be generated when the image is scanned. The article is worth reading even if you don't plan to make QR codes as it explains how the alpha-numeric data is stored.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A bit about my work

Since starting at Applied Silicone, I have yet to post about what it is I do.  While a good portion of my work varies from day to day, I'll share the responsibilities I've been tasked with and projects I'm working on.
The first project I worked on is pictured above, and is currently at Silimed in Brazil along with two other machines just like it.  The machines inject silicone into an envelope to form a breast implant.  They begin by drawing a very precise amount of silicone from each of the two drums, then mix and inject the silicone into an implant.  When I began, the concept and basic design of the machine had been completed and I was responsible for taking it from a prototype to a commercial product.  This required a fair amount of cad modeling, followed by work in the machine shop or with our fabricators to create parts from the models, and finally assembling everything and writing the software to control it.  I learned such a great deal working on this project not just in regards to engineering, but business operations as well.
With the alpha models completed and shipped, I began work on new projects while continuing work on the next model of implant "gel dispenser".  Some new projects were simply engineering support to build or modify manufacturing equipment to use at our facility.  I might design a vacuum seal, framework for mounting hydraulics or order parts needed from a distributor.  Above you can see my computer screen with a set of drawings I was working on for a large mixer similar to the one picture below.  When completed these machines are integrated into our silicone manufacturing processes.
Other projects I'm working on will be sold for use outside our facility.  This machinery will mix, inject, dispense, mold, or otherwise form or process silicone according to our clients needs.  Below are some assemblies that will be incorporated into the new gel dispensers we will be selling. 
While I do mechanical design for products to be sold, the majority of business at Applied is from the sale of medical grade silicone materials.  The gels, or rubber like products leave the facility in tubes, buckets, and 55 gallon drums (pictured below) and are shipped all around the world.
I'm given the opportunity to problem solve and design everyday, which is why I enjoy my work so much.  Discovering solutions and creating from your imagination are very rewarding.  These challenges also encourage me to expand my knowledge base and experience in the field of mechanical engineering.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

First Production Run with the Laser Cutter

I gave my brother a few sample coasters for the Boy Scout camp Emerald Bay to see if anyone there would be interested in purchasing them.  Later that day, he sent me a text message:

Just spoke with the camp director and showed him some product. He is very impressed and said as soon as I get to camp I should have a chat with the business director. His first question was, "How fast can you produce these?"
So for the next two weeks I worked on a limited run of coasters, wall hangings, and ornaments as my schedule permitted. My bedroom has a lingering smell of bonfire because the exhaust fan I'm using is slightly less than adequate. While it's unlikely I'll make back the cost of the laser cutter for quite some time, I'm excited to see how well these items sell. It's fun to have your designs purchased, even if you aren't turning much of a profit.