December Monthly Meeting

Build Madison – Project Follow Up

Brian presented a project that he built during the 24-hour Build Madison event hosted by Sector67 in November. Brian’s self-homing telescope stand was almost completely built during the 24-hour event.  Brian used several of the tools housed at Sector67 to build his project:  the panel router for cutting the base, laser cutter for a very large belt driven gear and the machine frame.  OpenSCAD was used for the design and digital prototyping.  As he already had belts to use for the project, Brian cut corresponding teeth out of acrylic rather than wood.

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Components/features of the project include a magnetometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, Arduino Mega board, and 9 Degrees of Freedom chip.  Brian hasn’t connected a telescope to his new creation yet so hopefully we’ll hear more at a future meeting.

Pens for Parkinson’s Patients

Parkinson’s disease is debilitating.  The stiffness caused in a victim’s muscles can keep them from doing everyday things like writing.  Eric has been working on putting pens back into the hands of Parkinson’s patients with his new project.  The pen prototypes he shared use vibration to essentially massage the stiffened hand muscles to allow the user’s hand the freedom and flexibility to regain small motor movements like gripping a writing utensil. A small videogame controller motor (think Wii or Xbox handheld device) attached to the pen barrel, vibrates the pen enough to massage the hand but not enough to affect the patient’s penmanship. A potentiometer is used to control the frequency/vibration of the motor, based on the needs of the user.


Eric feels the pens can the cost of the final pen could be reasonably affordable.  The motors are the most expensive component and run $5 – $15 based on size and quality.

Creating a simple AOI (Automated Optical Inspector)

The company Bob works for, Quietyme, is ramping up in-house production of their circuit boards. Every board is checked by a person, which is time consuming and an eye strain. Bob wanted an AOI (automated optical inspector), but they are typically in the tens of thousands of dollars.  Bob decided to try building a miniature version using a webcam and some computer vision software. The hardware is a laser cut enclosure with the base of Quietyme’s product enclosure glued to the bottom. 12V white LED strips covered with a diffuser to reduce bright spots make the PCB evenly lit. A camera is positioned so that the PCB occupies the entire frame. The webcam video is fed into a custom python application which uses the OpenCV library to match patterns of known good soldered components against the video stream. When it finds a match it blacks out (masks) the component on the display. Any unmatched components are shown (as potential errors) and must be inspected by the person. This masking means the technician must look at only a few components instead of the entire circuit board.

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This Family Bakes Together and Makes Together

Scott & Laura, along with their sons Luke and Levi (and Scott’s Mom, Cindy) tackled a big family project for the holiday season.  Rather than creating a traditional gingerbread house, the family aspired to bake and build a gingerbread version of the Notre Dame Cathedral.  Scott was inspired by a papercraft version of the Cathedral he found on Canon Papercraft.

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Scott wrote a great article about the design, testing, baking, and building of this project.  He also shares information about the challenges faced along the way!  Scott posted directions on Thingiverse for making one yourself next holiday season.

A timelapse video of the process process can be found here:  Check it out!


Personal CNC Machine – Build or Import?

After doing a good amount of research and pricing, David decided that the best decision for him was to import the CNC machine of his dreams (via Alibaba) from a manufacturer in China.  Based on his experience, David shared some tips with the group.IMG_9063

  • Plan ahead –  No door-to-door overnight shipping when you order from China!  The process has taken three months… and counting.  At last report, the machine is on a boat from China.
  • Forms, forms, forms – From ISF to CSF there’s alot of paperwork involved.  Be prepared
  • Show me the money – There is the potential to save some money by ordering from an overseas manufacturer, but there are other costs to factor in.  For example, import fees, port storage, port maintenance fees, inspection fees to name a few.  Of course, there are also costs to getting the machine from the U.S. port to the Midwest. Dave had to put 30% down at the time of order and pay the remaining 70% when the order was loaded onto the ship in China.
  • Customization available, prices negotiable – David was able to order his CNC with some custom features and get quotes from a few different manufacturers.  All manufacturers gave him their best price…and when one of the manufacturers didn’t get his order, they presented David with a new best price.

We’re hoping David will have his new machine in-house before the January meeting so he can give us an update!

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