Projects – Hobbybotics Serial LCD Controller V3.0

p80900101Some of the projects I design make use of character displays. The Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD) I typically use are based on the Hitachi HD44780 LCD command set. Most HD44780 compatible LCDs use a standard 16 contact interface and are known as parallel devices. This project presents a design that allows the LCD to be controlled by a single serial pin from a microcontroller or a serial connection on a computer. Check out the project here


Projects – Crazy for 3D Printing – First 3D Design

In the first installment of my adventures with 3D printers I talked briefly about Cubify Invent from the makers of the Cube 3D printer.

For just $49 you can pick up Cubify Invent which has many features that are contained in more expensive 3D packages such as Solid Works.  The work flow is similar to 123D by AutoDesk (free software).  You start your design by drawing a sketch in a 2D plane and selecting extrude or many of the other tools to convert the drawing into a 3D representation.  There is a 15 day trial so you can test it out.

Cubify offers some basic video tutorials to get you started.  You can also checkout Cubify Fans blog for more in depth tutorials (my favorite).

As a personal rule-of-thumb, I typically give myself roughly 30 minutes to figure out the basics of new software without having to reference a manual.  I believe that basic user experience should become routine within the first 30 minutes of use with more time reserved for tutorials and manuals once I have buy-in.  I found Cubify Invent easy to understand and within a couple of hours I had enough knowledge to create my first design.

In the first installment I stated I was using my Replicator 3D printer to build a Ecksbot 3D printer. Since the introduction I have aligned the frame, installed the stepper motors and selected the control electronics.  I decided to go with the Ramps 1.4 electronics and power it all with a WW1230A 12VDC @ 30A switching power supply.  The Ramps electronics and power supply can be found for a great price on Ebay.

I decided to clean up the mounting scheme for the electronics during the initial phases of the Ecksbot build. I’m looking for portability so, I decided to mount the power supply onto the printer. I also wanted to add more protection against accidental contact with the AC wiring than what is afforded by the barrier strip cover. As such, I present a front cover, rear cover and mounting plate for the WW-1230A 12VDC 30A switching power supply.  The design was created with Cubify Invent and available here on Thingiverse.






Follow the below instructions if you want to duplicate this project:

I printed the design files on the MakerBot Replicator with the following settings:

Object Infill: 10%
Layer Height: 0.3
Number of Shells: 2
Feed Rate: 41
Travel Feed Rate: 56
Print Temperature: 230
Heat-Bed Temperature: 115

Print one of each:

WW-1230A Front Coverx2
WW-1230A Rear Coverx1
Mount Plate Leftx4
Mount Plate Rightx4
Mount Plate Centerx4

Print 4 mount brackets from thing:10621 –

The mounting plate is made from three pieces:

left mount plate
right mount plate
center mount plate

Snap the three pieces together and use super glue or acetone/ABS glue to bond.

Use M4 x 16 mm bolts to secure mount plate to 3D printer frame.

I’m using the following components from Mouser Electronics:

Power Entry Module

SPST ON/OFF Rocker Switch

I’m using the following component from Ebay:

WW-1230A 12VDC 30A Switching Power Supply (search for 12V DC 30A 360W Regulated Switching Power Supply)

This wraps up the discussion of my first experience with using Cubify Invent.  Next time I’ll continue the Ecksbot build with a discussion of how I intend to mount the electronics along with what hot-end I chose and how I mounted it.

Projects – Crazy for 3D Printing – An Introduction

Back in June 2012 I posted about purchasing a Makerbot Replicator 3D printer with dual extruders. Since then, I have been working with it so much that I have neglected many of my other project(s). As such, I intend to document my journey into the world of 3D fabrication.

According to the RepRap wiki:

“RepRap is humanity’s first general-purpose self-replicating manufacturing machine.

RepRap takes the form of a free desktop 3D printer capable of printing plastic objects. Since many parts of RepRap are made from plastic and RepRap prints those parts, RepRap self-replicates by making a kit of itself – a kit that anyone can assemble given time and materials. It also means that – if you’ve got a RepRap – you can print lots of useful stuff, and you can print another RepRap for a friend

RepRap is about making self-replicating machines, and making them freely available for the benefit of everyone…”

The RepRap movement has spawned improvements and innovations that led to derivatives such as The PrintrbotFoldaRapRostock and Replicator.  These printers use a method known as extrusion or addictive layering in which material is placed onto a build platform a layer at a time.


One of the first actions I took after many laborious nights of tweaking, adjusting, test printing and more tweaking is heading over to Thingiverse and downloading some open source creations.

One of the first objects I built is a derivative (with some modifications) of the Original Eggbot by Evil Mad Scientist.

Here is the Original Eggbot:

Here is the printable version that is available on Thingiverse:

Here is my version of the printable Eggbot:

I added a modified endplate from here so that my pin attachment will have full range.

Naturally, after printing many designs from Thingiverse, I wanted to embrace the RepRap movement and print a 3D printer.  I scoured the RepRap wiki for ideas and settled on the Ecksbot printer which is a derivative of the Prusa Mendel.  Building your own 3D printer is not for the faint of heart but, the savings and knowledge gained is worth the journey.  The first issue I ran into is the Ecksbots files are designed to be printed on a larger build platform than what is available on the Replicator.  This posed a problem when I wanted to print the Y-Carriage.  A request made to the Ecksbot creators yielded a resized Y-Carriage that fit on the Replicator’s build platform.  If you plan to build your own and intend to use the Replicator to fabricate the parts, be sure to download the file labeled “Y_Cart_ReplicatorResize_x1.STL.”

Here are some pictures of my mostly completed Ecksbot:

There are two software options supported by Makerbot for use on the Replicator and the recently released Replicator2.  The first being ReplicatorG and the second being MakerWare.

ReplicatorG focuses more on the Skeinforge slicing engine whereas MakerWare focuses more on the Miracle-Grue slicing engine in active development by MakerBot.



MakerWare is currently in beta but offers some welcomed capabilities that are missing from ReplicatorG.  My favorite is the ability to import multiple parts onto the build plate.  This allows one to easily combine prints into a single session.  Another favorite is the ability to run multiple slicing sessions at the same time.  Again, the software is in beta and lacks the capability to decipher between the difference in the build area size of the Replicator2 and the Replicator.  The way I get around this is to add parts to the build surface in MakerWare, save the session as an STL file and open in ReplicatorG.  Now I can adjust as necessary and print from ReplicatorG or MakerWare.

A natural progression after getting comfortable with a 3D printer is to design some objects.  There are a number of free offerings that can export to the STL format.  The STL file will be converted into g-c0de by the slicer application.  A couple of popular free applications is Sketchup and OpenSCAD.  Sketchup loosely follows the path of traditional 2D/3D CAD applications while OpenSCAD takes a programming language approach.



An online offering is Tinkercad:

For just $49 you can pick up Cubify Invent from the makers of the Cube 3D printer.  Cubify Invent has many features that are contained in more expensive 3D packages such as Solid Works.  The work flow is similar to 123D by AutoDesk (free software).  You start your design by drawing a sketch in a 2D plane and selecting extrude or many of the other tools to convert the drawing into a 3D representation.  There is a 15 day trial so you can test it out.

Cubify offers some basic video tutorials to get you started.  You can also checkout Cubify Fans blog for more in depth tutorials (my favorite).

This wraps up my introduction/experience in 3D printing.  I’ll continue this series with some projects that I am working on as I learn to use Cubify.  My initial designs are currently centered on modifying the Ecksbot 3D printer I presented above.  I’ll also dive deeper into the printable Eggbot I briefly discussed above.  Till next post, enjoy!

Parts – Teensy 3.0, an affordable 32 bit ARM Cortex-M4 board, for development in Arduino or C/C++

It took me a while to jump on board the Arduino bandwagon but, I found myself hooked on how easy it was to learn, the many libraries available and the subset of the C/C++ programming language that it uses.  What I do not like about the Arduino is its limited flash memory.  I’d like to have something with more flash memory and the same ease of use.

Along comes the Teensy 3.0 that just wrapped up a very successful Kickstarter campaign.  The Teensy 3.0 is a small breadboard friendly development board designed by Paul Stoffregen and PJRC.  The design uses a low-cost 32 bit ARM Cortex-M4 chip and is compatible with the Arduino programming environment as well as the C/C++ programming language.

Technical Specifications:

  • 32 bit ARM Cortex-M4 48 MHz CPU (M4 = DSP extensions)
  • 128K Flash Memory, 16K RAM, 2K EEPROM
  • 14* High Resolution Analog Inputs (13 bits usable, 16 bit hardware)
  • 34* Digital I/O Pins (10 shared with analog)
  • 10 PWM outputs
  • 8 Timers for intervals/delays, separate from PWM
  • USB with dedicated DMA memory transfers
  • 3 UARTs (serial ports)
  • SPI, I2C, I2S, IR modulator
  • I2S (for high quality audio interface)
  • Real Time Clock (with user-added 32.768 crystal and battery)
  • 4 general purpose DMA channels (separate from USB)
  • Touch Sensor Inputs
  • All pins have interrupt capability
  • 14 Digital-only and 10 Analog/Digital pins are accessible around the exterior of Teensy 3.0, and available when used on a breadboard.  10 more Digital-only pins, and 4 more Analog-only pins are accessible at interior and bottom-side pads.

Checkout the Kickstarter and project website for further details and to purchase.  Check out the Teensy forum for support and updates.

Software – File2Part: Software That Makes 3D Printing Easy

I am now a supporter of the crowd-funded open-source project known as File2part.  File2Part provides slicing and file fixing software compatible with a range of 3D printers including MakerBot and Bits from Bytes.  The software provides an easy OneClick solution for 3D printing and supports importing of STL, PLY, VRML, 3DS, DXF, OBJ, LWO and SketchUp Collada files.  Each file is automatically checked for printability and repaired if necessary.  Parts are automatically positioned in the build box and all the user needs to do is press a build button.

Pledge $99 and you will receive lifetime upgrades.  Versions will be available for Windows and Mac with Linux to follow in future upgrades.  More information can be found on their website here.

Software – codebender: A Web Platform for Hackers, Makers and Artists

I am now a supporter of the crowd-funded open-source project known as codebender.  Codebender is a cloud-based Arduino IDE that provides the capability to edit, compile and upload your code to an Arduino from a web browser.

The cloud based IDE implements clang which is a compiler that provides descriptive warnings, fast compile times, low memory usage and compatibility with GCC.  In addition, codebender contains built-in highlighting, Arduino documentation, support for libraries and a serial monitor.




Pledge $150 and you will receive exclusive access while the project is still in development, a monthly newsletter and an Arduino Ethernet preloaded with codebender’s (upcoming) TFTP bootloader.  The bootloader will allow any Internet connected Arduino to be programmed through a web browser locally or away from home.

All of the sources for codebender can be found on the associated Github page.

Tools – MakerBot Replicator

I wanted to get into 3D printing so that I can start working on some physical interfaces for my design circuits. Traditional 3D printers are way out my price range but, along comes the RepRap movement and with it an army of 3D off-shoot printers.  Now, 3D printing is within reach of the hobbyist.  I decided to purchase a MakerBot Replicator because the company is pretty well known for quality products and the Replicator has a dual extruder.

MakerBot fully builds and tests each Replicator before shipping and packages each machine very well.


I followed the instructions from the MakerBot setup videos and manual without any issues.

The Replicator has an SD slot built in so that you can save designs to a card and run them straight from the machine.  I selected one of the sample designs already loaded onto the SD card for my first print.


Another option is to load designs into the ReplicatorG software, connect a USB cable and print from the PC or MAC.

Here is a screenshot of my next print loaded into ReplicatorG along with the results:


These are replacement feet for the Replicator as the stock set is cut rubber tubing which does not stay on very well. The design can be found here on Thingiverse.

I need to go through some more tutorials before I feel comfortable enough to create and print my own designs (there is a slight learning curve to the Replicator).

Onward I march so that I can finish up my Probotix FireBall V90 CNC build.

Tools – FireBall V90 CNC Build – Day 5

On day 5 I got all of the limit switches mounted to the machine.  I spent some time trying to figure out where and how I wanted to mount the switches.  I also needed to find an easy way to actuate them when the machine reaches a limit.  I scrounged around in my junk parts bin and came up with some pretty neat methods on how to actuate the switches at each limit.  The main requirements of my chosen scheme is to make it look neat and keep it functional.  Go here to read about the ongoing build and take a look at some pictures along the way.

Tools – PCB Shear

I typically send my circuit boards to ITead Studio to have them produced since it is cheaper than ordering them from US companies.  International orders can take a long time to ship..usually around 3 weeks.  This can become painful if I find a mistake in my design and have to re-order boards.  This is why I occasionally bite the bullet and have them made locally.  One of the techniques I use to minimize the cost is to place multiple circuit designs onto a single PCB.  The problem with doing it this way is there are no snap off tabs between the circuits like you would receive from a panel.  There are numerous methods that a hobbyist can use to separate the circuits such as a Dremel or saw.   I want a clean cut so using a Dremel tool is out of the question.  Also, the material the boards are made of is toxic thus, it is not recommended you cut them out on a table, band saw, etc.  A PCB shear will give you a clean straight edge and makes short work of cutting out the individual circuits.  I have seen some individuals using a heavy duty paper shear but, I wanted something that was more accurate with a longer lasting blade.  The shear is available from T-Tech.  The cost is a tad on the high side but, it is better to spend now and save later IMHO.

Here is a picture of the PCB Shear: