Motorcycles, tools, and garages! A little bit of everything mechanical and technical.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

MakerGear Plastruder Assembly

Began assembling the "plastruder" from MakerGear today. This was one of the more expensive pieces, which I guess is understandable as it is the business end of the printer. I bought it in kit form here: http://www.makergear.com/products/plastruder . For only $10 more I could have gotten it with a pre-assembled hot end, and having mostly built mine now I think the extra money is a bargain unless you really enjoy teensy wires, solder, and wet ceramic paste.

Maker Gears instructions were pretty good, and can be found here: http://www.makergear.com/pages/stepp...r-instructions . There were a few things that I found confusing, mainly putting the larger pieces together, but overall its pretty straight forward.

Start by assembling the hot end. This is covered nicely already in the link above, so I'll just include a pic or three of what I did.

Start with this little ball in the center, attach clips to it, attach wires to the clips, and solder. The little ball is a piece of brass with nichrome wire wrapped around it and a first coating of ceramic already applied.

Thread it onto the included bolt and washer (these are only used to hold the pieces together while putting the paste on).

Apply goopy paste.

The paste looks ugly but when you cure it it smooths out nicely. To cure it, you have to zap it with 12 volts for 2 minutes to heat it up, then let it cool, then repeat several more times. The heat cures the ceramic and hardens it apparently...

Putting it all together was a little confusing to me, but it was pretty easy to figure out.

The directions for this part were pretty straight forward.

On their website they have about 4 different choices of assembled plastruders, and none of them seem to match exactly what I have, so here's what I figured out. Here's all of the parts in an exploded view.

Follow the pics, its pretty straight forward. The black plastic tube gets slid into the notch in the wood. Notice the screw in the bottom of the pic is shorter than the one in the top... Thats important in a minute.

The wood plate is attached to the plastic extruder block.

See the shorter screw? Don't know why they didnt just use 2 short ones...

Install the stepper motor. The one screw is short so it doesnt hit the motor.

The rest of these pics just show the innards of the hot end. Once the hot end is complete, its not really something you take apart. It's designed so that you just take the wood plate off, and everything from the black plastic tube to the nozzle comes off as one piece.

Still needs the temp sensor and covering installed.  Plan on letting the ceramic cure overnight, and zap it a few more times tomorrow just to be safe and then finish it up.

Thats where I'm at now. Tomorrow I will finish the hot end with the temp sensor and wiring, and them I'm out of stuff to do until the rest of the printer shows up- probably not until the second week of February.

I figured it would be a good idea to record the time I've spent on this. I'm only going to count the time I spend working on the printer- not counting time spent sourcing parts, scaring up funds, figuring out software, etc.

So far, with the assembly of the plastruder and wiring of the power supply I'll call it an even 2 hours. This DOES include time spent re-reading the instructions and double checking I was doing things right.

Time today: 2.0 hrs.

Total Time: 2.0 hrs. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Printer Parts!

Parts started showing up today!  Got the stepper motors, the power supply, and the plastruder.


I bought a few limit switches with the stepper motors, not sure if I will end up needing them or not.  The power supply looks pretty straight forward, although it looks like it got dinged in shipping- one corner is a little bent.  The plastruder... "Some assembly required".  Looks like fun!

Here is what a plastic printed part looks like.


Still playing with the edge former, starting to get some decent results.  Here is the "speed bump" for the back of the seat on my cafe.  The cover will be cut off on the bottom and attached to a piece of wood that will act as the seat base.  It will be hinged so the cover can swing forward- plan on storing a small can of premix in there just in case.  Not sure what the back will look like, but plan on having a tail light inset into the bump.



I have got to get better at takin pictures... 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Edge Forming.

I suck at it.  Had an idea for a quick little project to try and get better at using my edge forming machine.  I gave up after practicing with a few scraps but the project came out great anyways!

Usually things like this end up as scrap when I touch 'em.

Drew up a shape on a piece of paper real quick, traced it onto some aluminum and hacked it out.

Ran it through the slip roll to give it a bit of a curve and tried it on with some duct tape. I did run a bead around the edge with the edge former, 'bout the only thing I can do with it.

Did a little creative measuring... Made some brackets to mount it to the headlight ears, and viola!

Now maybe someday I'll start on the tank...

In other news, I get to wake up at 4:00 a.m. tomorrow, sit in a car for 2 hrs with a bunch of 8th graders, spend all day at a lego robotics tournament, and then come home.  Yay.  Ahh, who am I kiddin, its going to be fun.  I'm sure I'll have pics to share of the event in the next day or two, hope they do a great job!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The first 3D printer in Blackfoot, Idaho?

After about a month of going back and forth, scrounging, dickering, begging, borrowing, and stealing (not really... at least, not yet), I ordered parts today to build a 3D printer for my classroom.  Sure hope this works out, because if I don't get reimbursed for this my families gonna be eatin Ramen for the next year...

Makers Tool Works (http://www.makerstoolworks.com/) has been wonderful to me, working with all of the headaches that come with trying to get money from a school. They agreed to get me a kit for the brand new Mendelmax 2.0!  It all came together and I was able to get one of last 3 kits (from the first run of 50).

This is something that is totally new to me, so I'm pretty excited to get parts and figure this all out.  I've been doing a fair bit of reading and talking to several different groups of people.  I figured I would post here the components I've ordered so far, which from what I can tell *should* be everything I need.  Here's the list:

Mendelmax 2.0 Build

Printer Hardware Kit
Stepper Mtrs & limit sw. (4)
Print Controller & Stepper drivers $99.00
Power Supply
Plastruder (3mm)

I was able to get a bit of a discount on some parts because this is a "Beta" version and it is going to a school.  The prices above are actual prices a normal person would pay.  There are dozens of other options as far as electronics go but I decided to go with the basic (and cheaper) recommendations- it appears that if I want to in the future it is very easy to upgrade. I ordered the kit and all of the parts today.  Can't wait to get on this project!  Wish I had the parts right now...  Not much I want to do in the garage when the thermometer in the car reads -9 in the morning on the way to school and maybe 20 on the way home.  Brr.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Year Book.

The year book students have been coming the last week to take pics of my different classes.  I think a couple of them turned out great!  Looking back at them this afternoon made me realize what a huge variety of classes I teach- wouldn't have it any other way.  Love being able to mess around with all these different things all day long!  These pictures don't show any of my Tech and Design classes either!










 Guess the photographer has a thing for close-ups.  Love the welding ones, they turned out great.  Trimester is half over- had Parent Teacher conferences last night, midterm grades are all turned in, and now we get a long weekend.  It's flying by, we have waaayyy to much to get done in the next 5 weeks!

Hoping to have something to report back on the 3D printer by next week.  Sounds like I've got the okay to get one- the question is whether or not its going to be  Mendelmax 2.0 beta version or a good 'ole 1.5.  Hoping to hear back from the guys at http://www.makerstoolworks.com/ soon!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Getting to the point where I can do these in my sleep... These are the "labs" I have my sheet metals students do before they can pick a project.  The first is a Joining Lab, where they get to practice measuring, marking, cutting, bending, and different joining processes.  I've thrown dozens of these out but they seem to keep showing up, usually whenever I have a metals class going on.  The boxes I tend to save- they make great organizers in all of my drawers and lockers.


Today was our last flight day for the rubber band powered airplanes.  Had maybe a little more than 1/3rd of the 14 or so airplanes make it through all of the days looking like they can still fly.  Kids can be pretty rough on a "gentle" toss.  That, and meeting a brick wall 20 feet up can cause some damage!  They tend to get excited and toss them too hard, meaning they shoot straight up in the air.  Three of the planes below are headed for a good crash landing...






Kinda hard to get pictures of them in the air.  The gym has some huge air vents in the ceiling and they create some serious turbulence.  Makes for interesting flying!  I always enjoy teaching this unit and it seems like the kids do too.  Test tomorrow and then we move on to Lego Robotics.

Still dabbling with the TIG and aluminum.  Trying to get at least 15 minutes a day in, and I've been getting at least that.  My little 1/8" sheet of aluminum is now almost 1/2" thick, and I got a darn near perfect bead on some 20 gauge.  Course, when I tried to replicate it on a fresh piece so I could take a picture, I was running too slow so the base metal got too hot giving a poor finish.  At least I'm not burning holes anymore.

Might be MIA for the next few days-  my book showed up which means I have 909 pages to get through!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

From Sketchup to 3D prints in 4 easy steps?!

Spent the day on the computer figuring and scheming... Hate days like this because it feels like I didn't get anything done.  In reallity, I think I got quite a lot figured out today in preparation for a 3D printer.  Since Sketchup is free, I teach it to my Tech and Design students.  It's not the greatest for all situations but its easy to learn and quite powerful.  Unfortunately, you can't build a model and click "Print 3D".  Theres quite a process, so with a lot of help from several other sources, here's what I came up with.

Please keep in mind if you choose to follow this information you do so at your own risk... I do NOT yet have a 3D printer so this is all *theoretical* for me at this point.  There also appear to be several places where actual printer settings would need to be set, which I can't verify yet...


First thing you need is Trimble Sketchup, available here for FREE:  http://www.sketchup.com/

You will also need an .stl exporter script.  I used one from Github, also FREE:  https://github.com/SketchUp/sketchup-stl

Once you have Sketchup installed with an .stl exporter, make something!  Here's the widget I made.  Once you have a model, simply click File/Export STL and your done.



Download and instal Netfabb, also FREE:  http://www.netfabb.com/basic.php

Open the software and open your .stl model.  Click on "Repair" (the red cross) and then save the file.



Download Slic3r, also FREE:  http://slic3r.org/download

No need to install, once you unzip the folder you just have to open it and away it goes.  Open the repaired .stl file in this program, and then click export gcode.


If you want, you can view the gcode by simply opening it with a word program like this:


Gcode!  Been a looong time since I've seen any of that!


Download and install "Printrun" or Pronterface, also FREE:  https://github.com/kliment/Printrun#readme

Open Pronterface and open the gcode file, and that's pretty much it! There appear to be several settings here and I'm assuming the "Print" button is shaded out because I don't have a printer plugged in.


Looks like it gives you all kinds of useful info- temps of nozzle and bed, estimated amount of filament used, etc..

There you go.  I would love to hear if this works for anyone or if anyone has another free easier method, lets hear that too!

Even though I didn't get anything physical done (unless you count 3 loads of laundry) I did get this figured out and sourced all of the printer parts.  Hoping to order the first set of parts next week if I can get it okayed but I'll be roughly $200 shy of having enough to get the entire thing this school year.  *Sigh*

Friday, January 11, 2013

Snow Day!

No school, which of course means some time to snuggle up with a good book.  Finished another one this morning- excellent read, but it leaves me in a bit of a bind...  Do I start another book or wait for my late Christmas present to show up and read it?! Guess I'll start another one, there's already too many on the pile!


The top shelf have been read in the last couple of months, the next two down are on the "to read" list.  If only there was just this one bookshelf...

I also went in to play around in the shop for a bit this afternoon.  Got my grades mostly done for parent teacher conferences coming up and mucked around with the TIG welder a bit more.  Spent some time trying a few different things I've read about, and am starting to get a little success!

Some great resources for welding:

Adventure rider welding thread- http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=210053

Welding Web-  http://weldingweb.com/

I could spend hours on that second one.  Who'm I kidding, I could spend hours on both of them.  Below are a few of today's tungsten's.  A few people suggested I had my current set too low, so the one on the left was at about 150 amps, AC smooth, 1/16th tungsten and filler rod.  Didn't last more than 5 seconds.  The next was turned down to about 100, the next 80, and the last two are at 65.  I switched to 1/8 rod on the last tungsten and managed to keep it going for a long time, although I probably *should* have changed it because it got contaminated...


The results.  Might not look like much but it is getting better (I hope)!  It can be tough welding over top of junky welds but they are starting to smooth out.  Finally getting the dip/jump rhythm.  The thicker rod makes it a lot easier to dip/jump for me.

I'm also starting to get the hang of telling when the base metal is too cold or hot to weld.  To cold and the puddle just won't carry and the rod beads up on top.  Too hot and it sinks in and looks "filmy" after it cools.  Just right- you get a nice puddle that is easy to carry, the rod melts nicely, and the finished weld is nice and shiny with the "stacked dimes" appearance.

Three or 4 more years of practicing every day, I might just be able to weld aluminum. Then I can start trying the thin stuff.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Not quite right.

My engines class is getting their motors back together.  One of my students asked me to check a head bolt for him, and I'm glad he did!  It threaded in fine most of the way, but suddenly got harder to turn.  I pulled it out and looked at it for a bit and something didn't seem quite right...

Can you see it?


How about now!?


If you look really close, one bolt is about 1/8th of an inch longer.  If you look even closer at the long bolt, you can see where a section has necked down and the threads are stretched out.  Think that head bolt has been torqued a time or two!?  I did some quick figuring and in the 3.5 years I've been teaching here, my engines have been torn down and reassembled roughly 15 times.  Who knows HOW many times in the last 20+ years these motors have been kicking around...  These bolts

Also working on sprucing up the welding booth.  Now that I have a class that actually uses it, I needed to make it a bit easier to use.  Been re-arranging things and updating a few minor things.  Finally got the TIG welder moved  and tidied up all the  cords laying around.  Much easier to use now and no tripping hazard.  Still need to build a cage for the bottle though...


Monday, January 07, 2013


Don't you just hate it when someone reads over your shoulder?


That would be Chester... We adopted him a few months ago.  Found him in my front yard with a broken wing- think he flew into a window.  Tried to bandage it but it healed funny.  He is getting better at flying but he still can't go more than 50 feet unless he's running on adrenaline (for some reason, he is TERRIFIED of brooms).   Hoping to release him in the spring, but he's getting awfully tame.

Still trying to catch back up at school after the holidays.  Making a bit of progress- finally got the junky wire feed welder back together.  Adapted a different "standard" gas diffuser to the torch handle so I can use normal tips and hopefully avoid the last issue I had with it.  Picked up some new shields and it should be ready to go.  Little late for my class, but just in time for the scouts that will be using it tomorrow night.

So I get to teach a "Community Class"  and I'm kind of excited about it.  I really don't know what direction to take it- I would LOVE to do basically an open shop where people could come in and, with a little guidance, use the tools to create things.  I would also be willing to give instruction in different areas that interest people, but I don't have a lot of room for large groups.  We'll see how this first session goes.  Hoping to get about 15 people at a time.  There are a few people interested in welding but my welding booth is pretty small.  Still need to come up with a name for it though... Don't think dorkPunch Garage will work.

In other news: I am SOOO ready for the cold to go away.  Been getting down to around -8 degrees F lately.  Brr.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Getting there?

Been playing with the TIG welder more. I'm getting closer. I really have very little experience with these but they are soooo much fun! After reading several different (chapters from) welding books, reading about 800 different website's "tips and tricks", and watching 37 million youtube videos, it starts to make sense. I spent some time practicing the movement without any juice- just resting a finger on the table lightly, sliding the torch along, and dabbing the filler rod in. Felt like a doofus sitting there, but that's pretty much par for the course.


Not real pretty, but progress. I actually managed several long welds without gunking up the tungsten once!  Some of those welds are from a few years ago when I took a real short community class on welding. I spent an hour or two playing with a TIG and got to try welding stainless, plain old steel, and aluminum. Stainless was really fun to weld, aluminum not so much. We had some really nice welders with the foot pedal control. Makes it really easy to get into position, stomp the pedal, and then back off to a nice heat to match the speed you were moving. No such luxury on my welder- and it shows. I have a tendency to slow down as I weld, and with aluminum (from what I have read) you need to either speed up or back of on the juice because the aluminum absorbs and spreads the heat so quickly. Meaning, my longer welds, by the time I get to the end, have way to much heat and the puddle is starting to sink through the metal. I'm doing better at remembering to keep the torch darn near vertical and the rod more horizontal. Speaking of the rod- dabbing sure doesn't work well for me. I tend to just rest the rod on the base metal and slide it back and forth.

Here's a set of welding videos I found pretty usefull-

LOTS more that have a lot of good info.  The interwebs is an amazing tool.

Thought I'd also post a pic of the painted parts for my truck motor. I think it turned out swell! Now if only I had the money for all the internals, I could start stuffing it back together. Hoping to have this "quick summer project" (that's going on 2 years now...) done THIS SUMMER. Expect pigs to fly.



Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Not a clue.

Well, maybe a little bit... Just enough to get me in trouble.  Sure is fun to play with though!  Scrounged up a large-ish DC/AC welder with a high frequency arc stabilizer a couple of years ago that was "broken".  Got the welder part fixed easily enough and it worked great as a stick welder.  Then I discovered that it could be converted fairly easily to a scratch-start TIG welder.  Got that all figured out and it worked okay.  Little too hard for my students to use, but I'm still hoping to at least give them a chance to mess around with it.  I have always wanted to be able to weld thin metal- especially aluminum.  I don' think I'm a real great welder but I do okay for someone who has had no "formal" training.  Did some research and figured out how to wire up the Hi-freq box (good grief, there are wires going EVERYWHERE in the welding booth), and it works!  I don't have to scratch start it anymore, and switching over to AC I can theoretically now weld aluminum.


Still experimenting with it.  Only aluminum I had available was some 20 gauge 5052, and the welder only goes down to about 30 amps.  If I'm lucky, I can get about an inch of decent weld in before I dab the tungsten with the filler rod and bung it up.  Just keep trying...

In other news, the jigs for the airplanes work great.  About 5 minutes of set up, then let them dry overnight and they are done.  No more waiting 3 days for different parts to dry!

New year is off to a good start.  Spoke with my administrator today and it seems like I just might be able to finangle a 3D printer into my classroom this year.  If not, I'm definitely budgeting my money for that next year.