Your source for daily hacks

Published on: August 16, 2013 / Comments: None

For the best 3D Prints, keep your filament dry

If you want to get the best possible 3D Print out of your 3D Printer, you must keep moisture away from your filament.  I stumbled on this video that does a great job of explaining how desiccant works like silica gel.  A common mis-conception pointed out by the video is that you just toss a gel pack in the environment and it will absorb the humidity, this is only half true.  It actually depends on the moisture that the silica gel has already absorbed.  You may need to dry your gel out first and then keep it into a closed system.

This is extremely important when dealing with certain filaments like Nylon.  ABS and PLA also suffer from moisture absorption but not as much as Nylon.   If your filament absorbs moisture it can cause irregularities in your extrusion and possible bubbling or pockets.  This can lead to excessive curling and other deformities.

The only real difficult part is keeping the filament in a closed loop system.  Most hobbyist 3D Printers are an open design.  I heard something about patents on enclosed systems are to blame for that but I haven’t confirmed.  So if you were to build something around your printer you could control the moisture.  The other option would be to simply take your filament off of the printer when you are not using it, and place it in an air tight container with silica gel (that is already dried) and put it back on when you want to use it.  Sorta like keeping your bread from going stale.


Published on: August 15, 2013 / Comments: 2

Run your LEDs on AC power


Dealing with mains voltage is no joke, please be careful

Running your LEDs from AC voltage is pretty efficient, you can light up a whole lot of LEDs with little effort.  Most Christmas lights you buy nowadays already do this, but as Matt points out in the video they flicker a lot.  Matt decided to set up a bridge rectifier, and a capacitor to smooth out the flickering.  As shown on the oscilloscope those simple modifications make a huge improvement!

Of course you can’t just plug the LEDs into the wall and expect it to work (and not catch fire).  A little planning is needed.  By calculating the collective voltage drop of the LEDs in series you can run a lot of LEDs with very little current limiting.  Cool hack Matt.

Published on: August 11, 2013 / Comments: None

Optimizing your arduino for low power

If you want to make your Arduino (or Arduino compatible) rig run for a good amount of time on batteries, you’re going to have to start optimizing your power usage.  Marco has a good start on the subject.  He’s using a library called JeeLib made by the guys who make the JeeNode (which oddly enough is very well suited for this type of activity or wireless sensors).

The tutorial gets you started thinking about your peripheral consumption (like those LEDs) and then finally working on the main CPU itself.  Using the JeeLib library gives you an easy way to put your Arduino asleep for a while and wake up later to do whatever it is you need to do, or wake up based on some event.

While not very highly technical, it’s good to start getting in the mindset of power consumption when you are building battery-powered devices.  Check out the article.

Published on: August 2, 2013 / Comments: None

Your guide to making solder paste stencils out of soda cans

Felix has put together the ‘definitive tutorial’ on making solder paste stencils out of soda cans, who am I to argue with that ?  Looking at his previous attempts to perfect the process I can buy that.

The soda can appears to be just the right thickness (and price) for a sharp stable stencil.  Felix uses the toner transfer method to etch the holes in the soda can using readily available chemicals.  If you’ve ever etched a circut board it’s a similar process.

The write-up is here.

If you make it that far, you’ll want to check out Felix’s solution for a cheap manual pick and place that he put together for $20.  Just add a home made reflow oven or hot plate and you’re making your own surface mount boards in no time.

Published on: July 28, 2013 / Comments: None

Some solid tips for designing PCB’s

Michael has put together a really sweet in-depth run down of designing a PCB.  If you’ve never designed your own circuit board but you have done some breadboarding then you need to get with the lingo.  What the hell is a blind via ?  Go check out the article and find out.  If you’ve made boards before, there still might be some tidbits that you didn’t know or at the least take in some of Michael’s process for visualizing how the board is going to go together before laying it out.

This was only part 1, he has a landing page ready for part 2 but at the time of writing this article it wasn’t up yet.  I look forward to reading it when it’s available.

Published on: July 24, 2013 / Comments: 1

Give your acrylic project that polished look

Acrylic is a great medium for DIY projects.  From laser cutters to CNC milling, people are making more and more things out of acrylic.  In Ben’s case he is milling custom-made lenses and is looking for the best method to polish them to a glass-like finish.   Ben really does a great job of going through the gamut of acrylic polishing techniques, and mixing and matching to see composite results.

I really thought that the flame technique and the vapor technique would have yielded better results.  Ultimately good ol’ fine grit sandpaper seems to be the best bet.  Well I’m just glad Ben took the guess-work out for the rest of us.  Next time you are milling your acrylic or get some laser cutter splatter, don’t be afraid to hit it with a fine grit sandpaper, then move up to a ultra-fine grit sandpaper (in Ben’s video, he gets up to 2000 grit which is probably the best you’ll find easily).