Sunday, September 29, 2013

Glass water bottle for Louisa

My beautiful girlfriend, Louisa, is a super health-conscious woman.  She has recently gotten into juicing, and has been looking for a reusable water bottle that is not made of plastic (which often contain harmful BPA chemicals) or metal (which is often coated in BPA plastics.)  

Below is our DIY solution:

Materials for our glass water bottle:  Large glass mason jar, glass straw (from Amazon), and 3/4" rubber grommets from local hardware store.

Step 1: Drill hole in mason jar lid.  I used a sheet metal bit to slowly step up the hole diameter until it fit the rubber grommet just right.

Step 2:  Insert grommet and straw.

Step 3:  Enjoy your new glass water bottle.

*Edit* Upon testing the bottle, we immediately found that the rubber grommet makes such a good seal that it creates a vacuum when you try to drink from it.  So I ended up adding a small "vent" hole to the metal lid.

DIY hydraulic press.

I wanted a hydraulic press for my shop, and didn't really like the design (or the price) of commercially available ones.  So I decided to design and build my own.  

Above are most of the materials I used:  One 20-ton hydraulic bottle jack, Three steel theater weights, two 3/4" threaded rods, 8 nuts, 8 washers, and 2 extension springs (I ended up using different springs than pictured above.)  I also ended up shrouding the 3/4" rod with some blue PVC tubing.

Here are all the materials assembled, with the blue PVC tubing added to the threaded rod, sandwiched between the top and bottom plate.  The theater weights were great because I didn't have to drill any holes for the 3/4" rods.

I drilled and tapped holes for four 1/4-20 nuts to hold my extension springs (these springs will return the press to it's "open" position.)

Extension springs added on opposite two corners, applying tension between the middle and bottom plates.

First test subject:  Coke can.

A bit smaller now...

Hard to see, but the coke can is still in there... somewhere.

Pictured above is the most I've ever smashed a soda can.  The press works fabulously!  Now to use it for something other than recycling...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New studio mate + new equipment!

Aaron, my new studio mate, began to move his equipment into my space a couple days ago.  Pictured above is his full spectrum laser cutter.  We will be sharing all our tools and equipment, so I'm thrilled to welcome him and his wonderful gear to my shop!

He's also a talented artist/designer/metalsmith, so there's a lot I can learn from him.  Check out his blog here.

He also brought over his brand new Taig CNC Mill, yet to be assembled.  This is another amazing addition to the studio.

We spent the afternoon setting up ventilation for the laser...

And finished installing this high-tech water cooling system to keep the laser from lasering itself to death.

Super excited to get this equipment up and running!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Glove One iPhone Case: first coat

Sanded with 80 grit, dry.

First coat of Krylon "Plastic Fusion" - glossy black.

Taking shape...

First pass with 320 grit, wet sanded.

From this point on its rinse and repeat, slowly stepping up sandpaper grit.  I'll finish this up tomorrow!

Glove One iPhone Case: Raw Print

I decided to use my Mendel Max to print this case.  It's a simple design, and well within the abilities of this printer!

The print came out flawlessly.  Is a bit rough around the edges, but nothing some intensive sanding, painting and polishing can't fix.

Test fit of the aluminum detail... perfection!  Now for a bit of elbow grease...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Glove One iPhone Case: Drawing

 Just over a year ago I created Glove One, which included a couple custom-machined aluminum details (Frankie Flood helped me out with these.)

To be safe, I milled a couple extra copies of each aluminum part.  I still have these, and they are just lying around waiting to be utilized in a project. 

I purchased an iPhone 5 a few weeks back (yes, I finally succumbed to the smart phone) and upon sketching some protective case designs to 3D print, I realized this was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the extra aluminum glove one "hand logo".

Here's my preliminary drawing of the case.  A few details to tweak, and it's off to the 3D printer with this design!

I'll be sure post the results when I get to that point.

Summer job prototypes

This summer some former students and I designed and fabricated prototypes for a client of Frankie Flood's DCRL (Digital Craft Research Lab) at UWM.  Because we were waiting on some outsourced components (custom fabricated circuit boards, electrical components, etc) we just recently finished assembling the first batch of stage-three prototypes.  They turned out to be beautiful and robust pieces of equipment.

Above you can get a sense of the underlying aluminum structure of the device.

Because the device itself is pending patent protection, I cant write much about what these things actually DO, but I didn't think it would hurt to show off how well they turned out. 

And a little snapshot of yours truly donning the first completed prototype.

Finally, a detail of the batch of five we recently completed.  Can't wait to see these tested in the lab!

To the students/colleagues that contributed to this project (Cherise S, Mike E, Aaron D, Chad B, Emily M, John B): You guys did amazing work and it was such a pleasure working with you!

If I get the opportunity, I'll post more about this project in the future.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Student work: AI top-view contour

Some examples of outstanding work from my Art 101: 2D Digital Design class this semester.  This was the first assignment in vector imaging: Create a top-view contour drawing of an object (I brought in a bunch of items to choose from.)  The objective here was to get them familiar with the Illustrator pen tool, and to familiarize them with the tactic of breaking objects down into geometric components.

The astounding thing is that none of these students have ever touched drawing software before.  These guys have a way better start than I did when I had my first go at Illustrator.  Excited to see where I can take them this semester!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Modular robots.

On the topic of modular electronics...

I'm doing a bit of research on what could potentially be my next project.   I'm dying to build another robot, but I haven't quite zeroed in on what it will be.  These videos are intriguing... I love how the simple interaction between the above robots brings so much life to them.  They are uncannily organic - despite taking the form of cubes and cylinders. 


While I'm a sucker for anything modular, especially electronics, I really think this is a beautiful concept.

Not only does it aim to tackle the problem of electronic waste, but it offers customers the option to customize their device to their own experience.  I would love to see this expanded beyond phones, tablets, and consumer devices - into the realm of prosumer electronics and machines (CNC and rapid prototyping equipment, robotics, etc.)

Learn more, or help support phonebloks at their website.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Salvage bot.

I've had so much success with finding recyclable electronics and mechanical components from used/discarded inkjet printers and desktop scanners, that I decided to build another 3D printer.  This one is a derivative of the Prusa i3, modified to incorporate the recycled components.

Recycled components from printers and scanners include: All four NEMA 17 motors (X, Y, and Zs), 6 precision ground rods, 2 pulleys, 2 timing belts, and 4 brass bushings.  The rest of the components and materials (acrylic sheets, circuit boards, 3d printed parts, nuts bolts and misc hardware) ended up costing a total of about $250.  Far less expensive than the Mendel Max I built last summer.

 First print:  An OM symbol trinket for Louisa.

This printer also is capable of a .15mm Z layer height.  While it inst quite as consistent, this is much higher resolution than what my other printer is capable of.

Salvagable printer & scanner parts for 3D printers.

I see so many printers and scanners on the curb that I figured it might be useful to try to recycle some of the components.

I've been compiling a list of desktop printers and scanners I come across that have parts worth salvaging for building 3D printers and desktop CNC machines:  Here are models I've found so far:

Epson stylus: 4xx, 6xx, 7xx, x60, C86, CX3200, Color 777

Epson perfection 2400 photo, Microtek Scanmaker 5600, CanoScan 9900F

Noteworthy are the NEMA17 stepper motors, many of which already have pulleys and timing belts.  Perfect for 3D printer X and Y axes.  There's also usually always at least one usable precision-ground rod and a set of brass bushings for linear motion.

Often you can peek inside and see if the printer is worth snatching for this purpose.  If you can't see the motor directly (like in the scanner pictured above) you can still usually spot a NEMA17 by looking where the motor is mounted for four screws spaced about 30mm apart from one another.

New job.

Right at the end of summer I landed a job at Cardinal Stritch University as the Assistant Professor in Digtal Media.

Right now I teach classes in digital imaging, 2D design, web design, video and audio.  The faculty are incredibly kind and generous people, and I'm looking forward to working with them and getting to know my new colleagues and students.

New studio

 Moved into a new building with Louisa.  The lower level used to be a candy store and deli in the 70's.  The perfect location for my new studio...

 It was a bit rugged when we moved in.  I ripped out the drop-tile ceiling and carpet and nuked the whole place with an industrial paint sprayer. I managed to blast myself in the face when investigating a clogged nozzle, pictured above.

 I shot a panorama after I moved my gear in and arranged everything.  Some of my friends from college came to Mke for the weekend, if you were wondering about the cots.

My "Desk area".  For general computer stuff and tinkering.

 Audio/video production studio.

 Electronics and prototyping lab.

Machine shop.


New blog.

Since many of the blogs I follow are hosted here on, and I require my students to create blogs here,  I decided it was time to migrate my log of occasional ramblings.  I also hope that the accessibility of blogger over google sites will encourage my more-than-occasional participation.