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Labs Projects

A Visual Aid for Bike Design

short wheel base drawingA visual aid for designing recumbent bikes.


Originally published at Bike-Recumbent.com

Front Wheel Drive Moving Bottom Bracket Experiments

front wheel drive bikeSome random experiments with front wheel drive bikes.

Originally published at Bike-Recumbent.com

Foundry Furnace - Part 2

Part two in my foundry furnace project, click through for more details.

[Yes, I do have a Persian rug in my workshop. What of it?]

Foundry Furnace - Part 1

This past Monday I finally got started on my foundry project!  I've been collecting material for some time so I was ready to roll once Maker Faire '09 concluded.  The goal is to built a foundry furnace capable of melting brass and perhape iron, if I'm lucky.  

I'm using Dave Gingery's Building a Gas Fired Crucible Furnace as a general guide, but I intend to fuel my furnace with gasoline and waste oil (both veggie and motor) rather than propane (that would be far too easy!).  The main reason for the use of this dangerous fuel is to gain experience with petrol burners for application in a future steam car project.

More after the cut . . . 

Car Carrier Trailer

finish trailer without deck

If you've visited here before you know that one of my long term projects is to built a fully road-able steam powered automobile.  In addition to requiring a great deal of research, such a project requires tools.  I will need machine tools such as a lathe and a milling machine.  I'll also need a flat bed trailer, initially to bring home the machine tools, but also to fetch the donor car that I'll base my vehicle on.

Gas Mask Sawdust Respirator

powered respirator made from gas mask and automotive filter

Sometime during the work on my school bus to RV conversion I developed an allergy to pine sawdust.  So I built this powered face mask filter so I could continue to work with wood in my shop without unpleasant effects.

How to Make a Large Flash Diffuser

slave flash on tripod

Making nice photographs when all you have for lighting is a bunch of tungsten shop lamps can be a real challenge.  It is particularly hard to photograph polished brass under these conditions.  So this weekend I set out to build a flash diffuser to improve the quality of the photography on this site.

How to Make a Cheap Lightbox

lighbox acetate and rear vent holesFor many of my recent projects I have found myself in need of a lightbox so I took a couple of hours from working on my latest project to put together this one.

Thoughts on a DIY Electro-Chemical CNC Machine Tool

motors and parts salvaged from HP inkjet printermotors and hardware salvaged from a xerox copier

There is a class of machine tool know as CNC, or Computer Numerically Controlled.  These are computer controlled tools capable of cutting complex shapes with a high degree of accuracy and repeatability.  They generally cost tens of thousand of dollars and weigh over a ton.  They're often available used for a few thousand dollars and I'd consider purchasing one for the workshop if I had the room for it.

There are also a large number of hobbyist kits for making small table top units with cutters based on Dremel tools and wood-working routers and there is an active community of people designing and building DIY machines, see Lab Links for resources.

I want to leverage these resources to build a CNC Electro-Chemical Machine tool.  It will consist of a gantry that can move in 3 dimensions and hold a variety of "cutting" tools.  Another key component is a electrolyte pumping and filtering system to prevent material build-up on the cathode "cutter".

Another type of tool, the Electrical Discharge Machine tool, is physically very similar to an ECM tool.  However, with the EDM a high current discharge is used to melt tiny bits of material and the resultant collapsing vapor pocket in the fluid then blasts the molten metal from it's pit.  A circulation and filter system is also required,  but a dielectric fluid is used rather then an electrolyte.  

Both of these machines have the advantage that the cutting electrode or "tool" does not actually touch the work and thus, there is no side loading.  This means that the machine tool does not require a huge chunk of cast iron to keep it rigid and repeatable.  I plan to construct my machine with inter-changeable components so that I can experiment with both EDM and ECM modes.

I'll use  LinuxCNC.org's EMC2 software to control the operation of the machine.  EMC2 supports a variety of drivers, both stepper and servo, and appears to be the most popular of the OpenSource CNC projects.

First steps are playing with EMC2 and collecting hardware.  I stripped an old Xerox copier and an HP inkjet printer this past weekend and, though they yielded many nice parts,  none of the motors are approriate for this project.  Suprisingly, the HP Inkject printer used servo motors with encoder wheels, I had expected it to use steppers.  The Xerox copier, on the other hand, used simple AC motors and had no steppers either.  It's not a total loss as the HP servos will work fine as models for testing servo control electronics if I choose that motor technology.


Toner Transfer Fuser

Fuser assembly from Xerox copier

This weekend I picked up an old copier for $10 to strip for parts.  There were lots of motors, optics, and hardware within, but the real gem was this 11" toner fuser assembly.  The heater element is a 1300 watt quartz light bulb and the rollers are coated with a nice dense silicone rubber.  The little motor you see on the left side is actually for an oil soaked fiber belt that has been removed from the assembly.  The belt either lubricated or cleaned (or perhaps both) the fuser rollers.


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