Saturday, 19 September 2015

New stuff - Bridgeport Mill

For some time I had been looking for a milling machine and thus I'd been scanning the auction sites for a suitable candidate.  Sadly anything within my price range was in really poor condition or had no tooling.  After a lot of searching I found just what I was looking for.

So I was searching on for milling machines and I spotted one in Cheltenham which was within my budget (but still had a week to go) and came with a load of tooling. There weren't any bits and it had a starting price of £800, but I was sure it would go for much more than that but with just a few min before the end of the auction there were still no bids.

I decided in the end to go for it, on the basis that even if it was in poor condition the tooling should be worth what I paid for it but when I tried to bid I found out I was not registered with that auction house and by the time my registration had come through the sale had finished, but the mill had not sold. I dropped them an email and they said they were open to offers so I made them one of £600 and I was very surprised when they accepted it.

This did however leave me with a few issues, first off you could only collect it during the week I was scheduled to be on holiday. I though this was going to be a big issue but I dropped them an email and they agreed I could collect it earlier which was a big relief.  I was however left which the question of how to move it.

At first I thought I would do it myself using a plant trailer, engine crane and the help of friend, but as it could only be collected mid week in the morning I decided it was unfair to expect people to have a day off work. I got several quotes to move it but in the end settled on a guy who would do it for 300ukp which was more than I wanted to spend but a lot less that some of the quotes.

The day came and he collected the machine from the seller. When he arrived I had expected him to just drop it at the door but he moved it into place and even move my lathe to its final position to make space.  Really please with this guy I will definitely use him again.

So I have had the machine for a month now and have got it hooked up and my first impression are that I got a really good deal. There are however a few issues that need to be sorted. The big one is that the DRO does not work, it all lights up but no response from the scales, hopefully this will be an easy fix. The second is that there were a couple of bits of minor damage in shipping, the fan shroud has got bent which stops the spindle from turning and the control box has snapped off (looks like this has happened before and had been glued together not too well).  For now I have just removed the shroud but I will beat it back into shape.  The control box has been cable tied in place but I will need to come up with a better option. Finally the auto traverse is very noisy in one direction.

All in all I am very happy with my purchase, its not perfect but its pretty close especially considering for what I paid and how much tooling came with it!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

I've been busy!

I have been really busy over the last couple of months, hence no blog posts.  I do however have a bit time on my hands now so I am going to try and get caught up over the next couple of weeks and post about what I have been working on since the beginning of July.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Collecting - Yet another bit of cable

Its been a while since I purchased an antique cable sample, but recently a piece of unusual heavily armoured cable came up on eBay. Luckily there was a make an offer button and he accepted an offer of 50% of what he had been asking, so I am happy I got a good deal!

The same seller has a couple of other pieces but I have been unable to negotiate a good enough deal.  I do wonder if he clicked accept by accident last time, it was a very good deal.

I've never seen a cable this well armored before, I would guess its for use in areas with a high risk of fouling with ships anchors? Its also the first twin core cable I have purchased, regardless this thing is heavy so it will be living in the office till I next get a lift home.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

New Workshop - Getting there

Things have continued to progress on the workshop over the last few weeks.  We now have the patio doors fitted on the house side and we have replace the neighbours fence we removed during construction. We have also done several tip runs so things are beginning to look a lot more tidy.

Building control have done the final inspection and although it will take a couple of weeks for the paperwork to go through they have verbally confirmed its passed. I just waiting for sign off from the planning officer.

The biggest change since last time however is that the internal painting is nearly completed. Once again big thanks to my Dad for all his hard work painting! The blocks are really soaking up the paint. So far we have used about 50 litres of paint on the walls, but we will need at least another 10 litres maybe 20.

Hopefully next week we will get the floor painted, the roof insulated and maybe even get the power hooked up. Looks like I might even get everything done by my dead line of the 11th of July after all!

Clipsal C-Bus Dimmer Pack Repair

Been meaning to write up an Instructable on how to repair a Clipsal C-Bus dimmer pack for some time.  This week I finally had a chance, the pack in question had a couple of blown Triacs. The repair all in all was pretty simple but getting the cover off is a nightmare!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

New Workshop - Doors to Manual

Once again its been another busy week on the workshop and we have made much progress. Finally we have guttering up which worked out well although rather annoyingly I messed up and was short on a couple of bits.
The big progress however is that we have now fitted the segmented garage doors.  I opted for these over a roller shutter as they are both more secure and offer a much better seal against the weather.  The only real down side apart from the cost is that you do lose a bit of head room to the track.

Hopefully by the end of next week I will have the double doors fitted at the other end of the garage and thus we will finally be waterproof.  I also hope to make good the fences between my garden and the neighbors.

Monday, 1 June 2015

New Workshop - We have a floor

Sorry the updates have been a bit thin on the ground of recent times, as is often the case work and life got in the way.

Over the last couple of weeks we have made loads of progress, but the big one is that the floor has now been poured and is slowly curing.  I opted for a power floated floor in the end and I'm really pleased with the finish. Once its cured I think I will be painting it if only to help keep the dust down.

Hopefully by the end of the week the segmented garage door will be fitted and we will finally have some guttering up.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

New Workshop - Feeling Drained

I had an unexpected call from the ground works contractor to say he would be able to start work on the floor slab and drainage earlier than expected so thing have once again started to move ahead.  This week they got the drains in and on Monday they will be digging the soakaway.

Big thanks to my dad who came over on Saturday & Sunday and made a start on painting the render. Also to Steve for coming round with his ronnie and drilling the foundation for the power cable.

Hopefully by the end of next weekend we will have a nice concrete floor and maybe even the guttering and downpipes.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Rubidium Lab Frequency Standard - Design Pt 1

Due to the bank holiday I finally had a bit of spare time today so I decided to try and make a start designing my Lab Frequency Standard.  I say start but in truth I have been researching this for some time.  I even ordered many of the parts so I had everything I would need to build a prototype.

Feature List

Whilst I was tempted to add all sorts of features such as a LCD display I decided to keep it simple. Below is a list of the feature I felt were essential.
  1. For it too be mains powered so not to tie up my bench PSU.
  2. A solid enclosure which is available in various sizes so I could make other devices to match.
  3. A combined power and status LED.
  4. Both 10Mhz and a 1Hz outputs.
  5. Independently buffered outputs.
A 24v power supply and the enclosure were easy to find and order online but I opted to prototype the the other parts of the system before designing a PCB.

Prototyping the Status Circuit

I decided to start with the status LED circuit, I had originally thought of using a micro controller but in the end I went with a simple transistor based circuit. After a bit of searching I found a project of which part of the design was just what I needed. Luckily I had all the parts so I knocked up a quick prototype and it worked perfectly.

Prototyping the Frequency Divider

I had originally intended to use a dedicated frequency divider chip to get the 1Hz output but they were a little on the pricey side of things.  After a bit of a search I came across TVB's site where he talks about using PIC microcontrollers to do the same job at a fraction of the price.  You can even order a pre programed PIC from him,  I decided however to opt for programming my own.  This is made much easier by the fact he has published all the HEX on his site.

The only issue currently is I cannot find my old programmer and I have not had much luck getting a cheap one I purchased on eBay to work although I think that might be a windows 8 issue.  Once I have overcome this issue I will get this aspect prototyped as well.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Coming Soon - May

Well writing a public list of what I was going to achieve has been at best a partial success. Like I expected I got distracted by other things, what with work, fizzPOP and Climate-KIC PIP but some progress has been made with most things from the list.  First the successes:
  • As per my previous post the workshop now has a roof, the walls are rendered and I have soffits and facia's.
  • The Printrbot build is now completed and I have done some test prints, although I am yet to use it in anger.
Progress has been made with the following:
  • The design has pretty much been finalised on the frequency standard project and I have most of the parts ordered.
  • The battery tab welder is progressing nicely, just waiting for a few parts to arrive and i can start the build.
And no progress has been made with the following
  • Other than a bit of light research no progress so far on designing my lab programmable DC load.
  • The OneTesla Tesla Coil kit is still sat in the box.
This months list is as follows, I have tried to be a bit more realistic with my goals:
  1. Pour the workshop floor and hopefully get some doors fitted.
  2. Finish designing and start assembly of my battery tab welder.
  3. Finish designing and start building my lab frequency standard project.
  4. Start work designing my lab programmable DC load
  5. Build my OneTesla Tesla Coil kit.
  6. Start designing a USB phone charger run off Makita batteries.
Hopefully I will make my way through a few more of the items than last month!

Friday, 1 May 2015

New Workshop - Rendered speechless

Just another quick end of the week progress report on the workshop.  I am really surprised how much things have progressed this week things have really moved along. The soffits and fascias have been installed and the rendering has been completed which was no small feat considering the weather has not been great.  We didn't get the guttering up but all in all things have moved on nicely.

Things will slow down now as I am waiting for the concrete floor to be poured and the drainage installed which the contractor can't fit in until the end of the month.  Once that done the doors can be fitted and we will be about done other than the fit out .

Sunday, 26 April 2015

New Workshop - Roof

Just another quick end of the week progress report on the workshop.  This week the roof has been tiled and pointed so other that the lack of doors we are finally water proof.  The remainder of the beading and scratch coat has been applied so things are moving along nicely.

Next week we should be getting the soffits, fascias and guttering up. If the weather holds off and with a bit of luck we may even get the render on.

Friday, 17 April 2015

New Workshop - Scratch That

This will just be a quick progress report, largely to help me keep track of progress. Things started slow this week but really picked up as the week continued.  The scaffolding has now been taken down giving for the first time a feel of how big the space is. Some times it feels huge others a bit narrow, but regardless its much bigger than the old one!  Work has started on the rendering.  Nearly all the beads are on and both end wall have received there scratch coats. 

The roofing membrane is now in place along with most of the tile lath. Friday afternoon the tiles arrived so all being well the roof should be completed by the end of next week providing the weather plays ball!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

3D Printing - Printrbot

I first saw the Printrbot kit on a Tested week of builds and as they seemed to like it I decided to order a kit. I was just about to order when a friend who I had discussed the printer with told me he had ordered one so I decided to wait and see how he got on with his.  Pretty much everything I heard was positive so after something of a long wait whilst other things got in the way I placed an order which arrived about a month ago.

Finally had a bit to spare time this weekend so decided to build my Printrbot Metal with heated bed kit.  I've had the kit for some time so was itching to get it done.  It was all in all a pretty simple build but there were a couple hassles / problems along the way.

  1. There are currently no instructions for the version with heated bed, you have to figure it out using the the Printrbot Metal assembly instruction and the upgrade to heated bed instructions. This is not the end of the world but you do have to think thing through, some one not experienced in this type of thing might find it a bit confusing.
  2. The kit came with the heated bed insulator for simple metal, which is a good thing as with out it it would appear the bed struggles to get to a high enough temperature for ABS. There is however no mention of what to do with these in either set of instructions.  I did later find some upgrade instructions on the Printrbot site, although not until I had completed the rest of the build.  When I am ready to start printing ABS I will fit this upgrade but until then, I will leave things as they are.
  3. The biggest issue I had was that I could not get the Printrbot to power up to start with, naturally I assumed I has made a mistake somewhere along the way.  I started checking everything thinking I might of shorted something out or plugged something into the wrong port.  After a lot of trouble shooting I traced the fault to the scotch block they had used to plug the switch line low.  It had not made contact on the switch line.  It was a quick fix but finding the fault wasted a lot of time!
Other than the issues mentioned above everything went pretty smoothly and whilst its a bit early to draw any conclusions I pretty happy with it. So far I have only printed a test block and the fan cowl but I am looking forward to having a go at printing something a bit more complex.  I am also keen to have ago at using OctoPI to control and monitor it, when I do I will post how I get on.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

DataOn 1640 - On trial - Final Thoughts

So before we get to the specifics about the DataOn 1640, a few words about SOFS and Storage Spaces.  In short I'm really impressed, I had played with them both in a visualized lab environment but this was the first time I had used them with physical hardware.  Up until now we have been using internally and selling solutions either based on Starwind or HP Storageworks, in the future I thing in most cases my first port of call will be SOFS and Storage Spaces.  Its quick and simple to setup and does not require any propitiatory hardware or software.  The other big benefit is that its very simple to expand for extra capacity and or performance.

There are however a couple of issues with going down this route.  The main one seems to be persuading clients that this really is faster than there existing iSCSI solution (in fact in may cases we have found it faster them Fiber Channel based solutions as well).  The other is the usual difficulty of getting people to spend money on a software based solution, they just seem happier to spend money on hardware (often because they can get asset finance.

Back to the DataOn hardware its self. First of all its worth noting this is a very simple device, it does very little, but what it does it does very well.  There really is very little you can say about it, other than that through out our testing it performed flawlessly.  As I mentioned previously the disc carriers are a little flimsy but other than that the build quality is excellent.  Its worth noting that HP have now got there 3700 series enclosures certified so this is certainly an option and we will be testing them soon. Going that route however does mean you would need to buy discs via HP at up to a three times price premium although if you already have HP disks to transplant that could be a Bonus for you.

So to sum things up, at the risk of jumping the gun before we have had the opportunity to test the HP 3700 I think we will permanently adding a DataOn 1640 to our lab and subject to further testing going well we will be recommending the DataOn 1640 in future to our clients.

Friday, 3 April 2015

New Workshop - Roof Structure

Evolution EVOMAG28 Magnetic Driller
Made loads of progress on the workshop over the last few days, despite a last minute hick up on Tuesday afternoon. The steel supplier announced that they would not be delivering the steel in the morning as agreed and that I could either take delivery in the next hour or sometime next week. Thankfully a couple of my friend and colleagues, Mark one of the developers from Asptech and Steve our heating engineer volunteered to help unload so with a lot of effort and foul language we took delivery.

First thing Wednesday morning my new magnetic driller arrived, man this thing is good.  I have hired them before but finally decided it would be worth buying one in the long term.  We took the opportunity to drill the steel whilst it was on the floor.  Unlike when drilling by hand I did all the holes with a single bit, we didn't even need to drill a pilot hole.

Then came the really hard work, getting the steel into position. I hired a genie hoist to provide the bulk of the heavy lifting but we did still need to use my old trusty chain block to raise it over the wall. Well that and Dave and Steve's inhuman strength. It does not matter how many times I put a steel in, moving something that heavy, that high in the air still leaves me feeling very nervous.  I was very glad when we had it sitting in its final position on the pad stones.

On Friday morning we bolted a timber to the top of the steel using the holes we had drilled on Wednesday.  With that in place we marked up and cut a template for the rafters, luckily everything was pretty square and even so we could cut all the rafters identically.  Thing were a bit slow going at first but after lunch we really got into our stride.

We got the last of the main rafters in just as it started to rain heavily so we decided to call it a day (we had nearly run out of timber anyway, as I had not though we would of got so much done).  So thanks to Gareth, Jonathan, Rich, Rob and Steve for all your hard work and hopefully we will be able to get the barge board rafters in tomorrow.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Coming soon - April

Like most makers I do sometimes struggle to not get distracted by something new and exciting to work on.  To try and keep myself focused I am going to publish a list of my current projects each month.  You can think of this as my to do list for projects in April, like all to do list I will get about half the things on the list done if I am lucky.  I will also most likely end up doing plenty of other things I had not even thought of yet. Hopefully having a list will keep me on track!  The first few of things are in order of priority after that they are just in the order I thought of them.

  1. Put a roof on the workshop, the sooner I have a proper workshop again the better!
  2. Build my Printrbot, 3D Printer kit.
  3. Build my OneTesla Tesla Coil kit.
  4. Complete my lab frequency standard project.
  5. Finish designing and build my battery tab welder.
  6. Start work designing my lab programmable DC load
Of course this list does not include everything going on at fizzPOP or my work projects. Lets see if publicly making a list helps me stay focused or not.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

New Workshop - Walls

Just a quick progress report on the workshop / garage build. Yesterday morningI sat around waiting for the lintel to support the masonry above the segmented up and over door to arrive (it was meant to arrive Friday, but it finally turned up Saturday morning).

So as we stand all the walls are up to eight foot high and the lintel is in above the pedestrian door and the lintel for the garage door is ready and waiting.  Next week we will hopefully get the second lintel in place, build the gable walls up to ridge height and get the ridge beam installed.  If we get everything done and the materials arrive in time works out we will be framing the roof over the Easter break.