Many years ago I worked with a friend of mine to do custom electronic design. We had a few projects that required a custom circuit board and he took on the job of cutting out the first prototypes on a local CNC machine we borrowed.
I wanted him to teach me how to do it but it just never happened. Since then I've designed 100's of boards and had most of them made at a board manufacturer. The prices have become very cheap to get 2 sided FR4 boards with solder mask and silk screen lettering. So I never really pursued the milling idea but it was always there on my "things I want to do" list.
About two years ago I saw that the Shapeoko CNC dropped to $499 and I bought one to try and make circuit boards. I ended up learning a lot about CNC but never was successful in milling a PCB. About a year ago Inventables.com offered me a large X-Carve CNC for my YouTube channel. I accepted and did a few videos on it. It wasn't until recently that I decided to put the time in to figure out how to make a board on the X-Carve. I finally figured out all the steps and successfully created my first CNC'd circuit board for a Filament Friday project. You can see the video below.
It wasn't the most complicated design but it was fun to make and I'm sure I'll be doing more in the future.
My latest book Arduino - A Beginner's Guide to Programming Electronics has been released. Its available on Amazon but even cheaper here on my site. The book has 11 projects that teach you the fundamentals of Arduino and how to get started.
The book uses a standard set of components for 10 of the projects and also, as an alternative, use my CHIPINO Demo Shield that I featured on Kickstarter. So a reader can skip the hardware setup and just code or build the circuits if they choose. The 11th project is for an LCD module that again can use a DFRobot LCD shield or a standard 2x16 LCD.
I hope to release more books in this series to teach more complex programming using this popular electronic module.
I did a review of the FlashForge Dreamer on my YouTube Channel for Filament Friday. I've since used this 3D Printer a lot. I've concluded that this is what I had hoped the DaVinci 1.0 would have been when I bought that 2 years ago.
The Dreamer has dual extruders as well which I don't really need but it's nice to have PLA loaded on one side and ABS on the other so I can choose which filament to print with just a few selections in the slicer. It also works great with Simplify3D.
The review can be seen in the video below. I compared it some of my other printers and the results were good. Overall I liked it but as time goes on it's becoming one of my favorite printers to use. It prints so reliably. It's a great addition to my shop.
I used Tinkercad to create this 3D printed XBOX One Controller stand for Batman Vs Superman controllers from Gamersoption.com. I detailed the full build on my YouTube Channel for Filament Friday.
The base used PLA and the symbols used ABS. Printed on a MAKERFRONT and Fabrikator Mini 3D printer.
This was fun to make and came out better than I expected. It's shared on Thingiverse.
I used the PICkit 2 Starter Kit for all my Beginner's Guide to Embedded C Programming books but its no longer available from Microchip. You may be able to find one on EBAY or elsewhere but the nice thing is the PICkit 2 is open sourced so there are many clones available. I even created a clone design for fun and posted it here on my site.
I created a recommended replacement list of parts so you can put together your own PICkit 2 Starter kit. Nuts & Volts Magazine is also planning on offering a kit that includes my recommended replacements.
You can see the detail at my page here.
Now I could have just re-written the books for the PICkit 3 starter kit but Microchip also changed from MPLAB 8 to MPLAB X and also introduced a new compiler in XC8 to replace HI-TECH compiler I used and recently released the MPLAB Code Configurator which helps you build projects and makes coding much easier. So all these changes have made me tear up what I was doing and kind of start over. Needless to say, this is gonna take me a lot longer than just updating the current books. I also had plans to use another Microchip Development Board but recently found out that may be getting replaced as well. So stay tuned for a future book that brings all this new technology together.
Many times I’m using my 3D printer to make some bracket or box for my lab or one of my projects. But once in a while, it goes the other way and a 3D print inspires a project. That was the case with the 3D print of a traffic light I saw on Thingiverse. It was a design by a Thingiverse user name holgero. I thought the design was interesting and I wondered how well it would print on my Davinci 1.0 3D printer. I also liked the base, which had room for electronics and posts for screwing in the top post that held the traffic light. He designed it to be powered by a USB port but I had other thoughts.
The traffic light portion was hollow so my plan was to insert an X section inside the design so each traffic light direction had its own compartment for LEDs. This was easy enough with Tinkercad. I imported the .STL file and went to work. I inserted two flat blocks so they formed the X insert.
I used the Tinkercad hole feature to make the Traffic Light shell look like an x-ray in Figure 2. This allows you to see the red X piece I inserted into the original design. I’ll change the shell back into a solid object before I produce the .STL file and combine it with the X so it all prints as one solid piece.
Tinkercad makes it easy to modify any .STL design but you can’t just edit the original. You have to add plastic or use hole elements to take away plastic. Once everything is brought together as one .STL file then I can send it to the XYZware software that converts it to the G-Code file the 3D Printer needs. This design can be used with any 3D printer.
Once I had the 3D printed parts the way I wanted them, I decided to use Great Cow Basic and a CHIPINO mini module to run twelve LEDs to form a full working traffic light. This could be used as a desk decoration or a functional toy for kids. The CHIPINO mini fit in the base and I thought I could fit some batteries but I later found out I was wrong. It was just too tight.
I already had some sample code for a three LED Traffic Light in my book Programming PICs in BASIC so I just modified it for Great Cow Basic and 12 LEDs.
The program is simple as it just rotates through three I/O for Red, Yellow and Green on one direction and a second set of three I/O for the other direction Red, Yellow and Green. The LEDs on opposite sides are connected together, Green-to-Green, Red-to-Red and Yellow-to-Yellow.
Inserting the wire into the channel created by the X insert required 28-gauge wire and a lot of it. The cathodes (ground) for the LEDs on one lane of lights were connected together and through a single resistor because only two LEDs would be on at one time per lane.
I printed the traffic light out in white plastic first and wired up a single set of three LEDs just to make sure everything fit. I used hot glue to hold the LEDs in place. Everything worked great so I printed the final version in black plastic but yellow would probably have made more sense. I didn’t have any yellow so black it was.
The base and the shaft printed out and fit perfectly together so then I was ready to run a bunch of wires through the long tube of the post and then into the traffic light head. The result was a lot of wires. You can see them all connected to the CHIPINO mini module in Figure 4.
The final design fit together nicely except I didn’t have enough room for batteries so I powered it up through the programming header on the CHIPINO Mini module. Using a 28 pin PIC16F886 was probably overkill but it worked great. As a future improvement, I hope to print a new bottom that is taller and has grooves to hold a couple AA batteries.
The final design is shown in Figure 5. It has independently controlled LEDs and is easy to see with the black background. A could of small screws held the shaft unit to the base. I was able to position the programming header into the slot originally designed for the USB connector.
Code sample using Great Cow Basic Compiler. (www.greatcowbasic.com).
'A program to create a traffic light
'on Digital pins 8 thru 13 on CHIPINO
#chip 16F886, 4
#include <chipino.h> 'Defines CHIPINO setup
#define Red D13 ‘RB5
#define Yellow D12 ‘RB4
#define Green D11 ‘RB3
#define Red2 D10 ‘RB2
#define Yellow2 D9 ‘RB1
#define Green2 D8 ‘RB0
set Red on
set Red2 off
set Yellow off
set Yellow2 off
set Green off
set Green2 on
wait 4 s
set Red on
set Red2 off
set Yellow off
set Yellow2 on
set Green off
set Green2 off
wait 1 s
set Red Off
set Red2 on
set Yellow off
set Yellow2 off
set Green on
set Green2 off
wait 4 s
set Red off
set Red2 On
set Yellow On
set Yellow2 off
set Green off
set Green2 off
wait 1 s
'Jump back to the start of the program
See this project on YouTube.
I recently purchased a Fabrikator Mini 3D Printer. It was $179 when I bought it and $192 with shipping. The specs looked perfect for a small 3D printer that I could travel with. There are many times I'm traveling for work and have a difficult time getting my Filament Friday video out for my YouTube Channel.
This 3D printer is small and only has an 80mm square print area but that works well for many small prints. Plus a print can be broken into smaller pieces and glued together.
For $179 I was shocked that it came fully assembled. Most low cost printers come as a kit and I didn't want a kit. It took a little assembly which was minor, such as connecting the Bowden tube for the filament and hooking up some cables, but that's standard with any printer.
My first prints went really well. They supplied a small amount of black PLA filament and it was just a little short of the plastic required to print the Chess Pawn from my book "Beginner's Guide to 3D Printing". The next steps are to test print with ABS plastic.
My first impressions are, this is a great printer. Especially for such a low cost. In fact, I'm getting better prints from it than I get from my Da Vinci 1.0's which cost a lot more. Stay tuned to here and my YouTube Channel for future updates on this 3D printer.
I reached a point in my 3D printing experience where I couldn't put up with the limitations of the Da Vinci printers from XYZprinting. They are so busy trying to prevent people from using other third party filaments that they are now affecting customers who are already buying filament cartridges from XYZprinting. I have never used a resetter and prior to last month had never re-flashed a printer to open source Repetier firmware. It all came to a head when I got a message on my Da Vinci 1.0 that I was using an illegal cartridge (which it was not!) and the software shut down my machine. I had had enough. I reflashed my Da Vinci 1.0A that I bought on EBAY used, and have been printing with open source Repetier control ever since. And I love it.
XYZprinting, which promoted my channel on their Facebook page didn't like it and quit promoting me. After one full year of videos promoting their product and helping many of their customers get their machines working, they dropped me like a lead balloon.
I figured that was coming though but I was already upset with their lack of customer support and the way they kept releasing new printers but doing next to nothing to help those that bought prior or releasing new filaments. Plus even the filaments they released required a $100 updated extruder to print PLA (which they falsely advertised it could do). I made the mistake of updating my firmware as they recommended as that let them into my machine to control when they decided it should be shut down. Never again.
My plan now is to shop for a true open source printer and possibly re-flash my other two Da Vinci's or sell them. Re-flashing is easy because they use the Arduino bootloader. The firmware can be flashed as long as you can get a version for the Da Vinci and the open source community released that long ago.
What is really interesting to me is that the XYZprinting company is using a bootloader in the 1.0 and 1.0A that is compatible with the open source Arduino IDE. It implies they are using open source GPL code in a closed source product they sell. Seems a bit illegal to me but I'm no lawyer. It does give us Da Vinci owners a way out of the closed source control they have tried to place on us so they failed in their attempt to control us. Having said that, I would not buy a newer Da Vinci Jr or any of their future printers based on this and their existing practices of thinking they licensed you the printer rather than selling it to you to own.
So going forward, I cannot recommend their products and am looking for a more open source company to work with me and my YouTube Channel. If there is any open source 3D printing company that wants to work with me, please contact me at my contact page.
For my channel subscribers, it's just gonna get better and better as I expand what I do at my channel, so stay tuned for more.
I'll be setup at Maker Faire Detroit once again!
I have been setup at the Faire every year since it started except for last year and I missed it. This gives me a chance to meet some of the readers of my books and this year I'll get to see some of the subscribers to my YouTube Channel. I look forward to that the most. I hope many can make it out to the Faire.
This year I'm bringing my 3D printers to the Maker Faire to talk to anybody interested in getting started with 3D printing. I'm sure I'll get all kinds of questions and comments about the Da Vinci's (both good and bad) but I'm ready for the discussion. In the past I focused my booth on electronics but not this year. I'll have some of my books available but other than that the focus will be my YouTube Channel and the 3D printing.
I also plan to bring my Shapeoko CNC just to show it off and some of the projects but I won't be running anything on it. It will be there just for discussion purposes.
I'll be inside the Henry Ford Museum this year. I've been outside in the past and the heat and rain made it horrible so a nice air conditioned booth is fine for me this year. I'm not sure where I'll be positioned so you'll have to search around to find me but that's the fun part of Maker Faire. So many things to see while you search.
I hope to see you there.
I've been so busy with my YouTube Channel that I've completely neglected this blog. My fascination has been the evolution of the low cost 3D printer. The Da Vinci Jr is now released at $349 and I'll soon have one for 30 days to evaluate. Also Printrbot Play at $399 is now released. The M3D is another Kickstarter success that is now shipping. At $349 its another low cost option.
In all three printers you are mainly looking at printing PLA on a small platform. The M3D claims to print ABS and Nylon as well but without a heated bed that makes me wonder. If that's true, its a great value at $349.
All three feature a smaller print area. Jr is the largest at just under 6"x6"x6". Simple is slightly over 4"x4"x5" and M3D is basically 4"x4"x4". I have a couple Da Vinci 1.0's that print effectively 7.5" x 7.5" x 7.5" and there are many times I need all that space. But there are enough times where a smaller bed would work fine.
I mainly print with ABS plastic but recently started using PLA. I've found more choices in plastic with PLA but I like the results with ABS better. It's more flexible, more resistant to temperature, and easily smoothed out or repaired with a little Acetone.
These low cost 3D printers are making "a 3D printer in every home" more of a reality everyday. I know there are other printers in this low price category in the works as well. So it is still early in the 3D printer evolution and I'm having a lot of fun being part of it.
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Chuck has been programming with PIC Microcontrollers since there were only five devices. Now there are over 700 and growing. He also has a lot of fun 3D printing designs using his Davinci 3D printer and TinkerCad software. In this series of blog posts and occasional videos on his YouTube Channel he tries to help you get started with electronics and 3D printing.
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