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Electronics

DIY Oven Build Using a Filing Cabinet

April 26, 2016
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Cheap and extremely effective! A DIY Oven for DIY powder coating, wood drying, acrylics and plastic; you name it!

Cheap and extremely effective! A DIY Oven for DIY powder coating, wood drying, acrylics and plastic and any other idea that needs heating or baking in future.

You did what?  Hacked a filing cabinet to make a home DIY workshop oven?!

Yes, perhaps we are crazy, but this DIY oven really IS made from a standard office filing cabinet and it works like a dream!

It is great for curing electrostatic powder coating on CNC milled metal parts; melting plastics; bending acrylics; scorching wood, sealing natural bamboo wood wax and any number of other DIY projects where oven heating is required.

See more about how we made this DIY oven from a filing cabinet here.

Industrial, or even DIY hobby ovens are extremely useful in a home DIY workshop. Unfortunately, they are also usually unjustifiably costly for most small projects.

Cheap toaster ovens can be used for small scale applications as a ‘make-do’ alternative, but are often not physically large enough to fit many DIY projects.  They also usually offer very poor thermal efficiency.  A big downside when working over longer periods as the units tend to get hot inside as well as out.

We recently cut some large aluminium parts and components using our home built CNC machine. We wanted to coat the metal parts using an electrostatic powder coating system to give them a lasting professional finish. Powder coat curing however, requires parts to be heated to high temperatures for extended periods. (And strangely, the cooking department said the kitchen oven was considered off limits well before we mentioned curing powder coat paint or the carcinogenic gases they produce….)

We needed a large, cheap DIY solution. A robust, purpose built DIY oven capable of maintaining high, evenly dispersed temperatures for lengthy periods.

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Fixing a Dremel® Hand Held Rotary Drill – A Step-by-Step Guide

May 26, 2015
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Dremel® Multipro (Model 395) Rotary Drill.

There comes a sad time when all great and trusty tools in the workshop begin to die from overuse.

Murphy’s Law states that this must occur at the most inopportune time. In the case of our ever faithful hand held Dremel® MultiPro rotary drill, this breakdown just happened to be in the middle of an important PCB shaping, drilling and cutting project.  Our rotary drilling tool was mounted as a router on top of a mini CNC machine at the time.

Dremel® Hand Rotary Drilling Tool - Exploded Parts Anterior View

Dremel® Hand Rotary Drilling Tool – Exploded Parts
(Click to see our step-by-step hand held rotary drill strip down guide.)

When the problem started, the tool motor suddenly became erratic and there were problems with the variable speed control (VSC) switch. Then, the sliding switch no longer provided any motor speed control what-so-ever.  It only provided power ON at full speed – a heat blasting 35,000rpm …. and a silent OFF.  This wasn’t at all ideal for our CNC cutting project where cutter heat control was important.

So what was our obvious DIY reaction to this? Find the cause and fix the tool ourselves of course!

You can find photos showing how the internals of our Dremel® MultiPro tool looked here.  We have also provided a step-by-step dialogue on how the tool was taken apart; how the faulty part was found and replaced AND importantly, how the hand held drill was successfully put back together again!
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Etching DIY Circuit Boards (PCB)

November 29, 2014
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PCB Screen PrintingElectronics hobbyists who have never ventured into the realms of making their own circuit boards, are missing out on half the fun.  Here, we present a quick step-by-step guide to the UV light transfer and Ferric Chloride etching method for making your own printed circuit boards.

Home DIY electronics projects can be a lot of fun for discovery and learning.  They can also be extremely useful for those  extra buttons and remote devices in your home.

What is even better, is being able sit the project components on a printed circuit board (PCB) that you also made yourself.

It is extremely satisfying seeing a finished DIY electronics project which looks so professional it could have just as easily come from the nearest electronics store.  Learning the skill of etching your own PCBs will help you obtain that same satisfaction in your home electronics projects too.

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Looking Inside a Lead Acid Battery

November 21, 2014
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lead acid car battery cut awayHere’s something just for interest’s sakes.  Photos of a modern, but humble lead acid car battery and its internal electrode plate arrangements for those who may not have seen similar before.

Common lead acid batteries in cars and trucks work by developing and storing electric potential between sets of positive and negative electrode plates.  The electrodes are commonly made of Lead (Pb) and Lead Dioxide (PbO2) mesh and paste, separated by a non-conductive porous material to stop them touching and short circuiting.  The battery cells are submerged in approximately 35% Sulphuric Acid (H2SO4(aq)) which acts as an electrolyte and allows electrons to flow between the plates and to deliver current when the battery terminals are connected to a circuit.

The basic energy storage and delivery concept of lead acid batteries was invented over a century and a half ago by French physicist Gaston Planté.  Since that time, this kind of battery chemistry has been developed to become a standard and efficient workhorse in everyday life for us all.

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Drone Helicopters for Spraying Crops

May 20, 2014
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Drone helicopters are replacing traditional techniques for spraying crops in Japan.

Drone helicopters are replacing traditional techniques for spraying crops in Japan.

Drone helicopters are quickly finding their place as efficient tools within the Japanese agricultural industry.

Drone helicopters specifically designed for crop spraying and inspection are well suited for use over confined farming land with numerous obstacles.  Drones do not have the same drawbacks or carry the same risks as alternative ground or aerial spray application methods.

Rice paddies and other farming plots in Japan tend to provide exceedingly poor access to farmers for servicing of crops once planted.

Irregularly shaped plots scattered over the semi-rural landscapes are closely entwined with a multitude of barriers and confinements in surrounding infrastructure.   Deep drains, pump  houses, power lines, communication towers, houses and roads all become access barriers and dangerous aerial hazards when it comes time to spray crops.

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Fixing a Chinese Made TB6560 Stepper Motor Control Board

March 3, 2014
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Fixing a Chinese Made TB6560 Stepper Motor Controller Board A few relatively simple modifications made a huge difference to how my stepper motors run and how the overall CNC machine performs.  (All details and illustrations for the total fix of the Chinese made TB6560 Stepper Motor Controller Board are here.)

I am happy to share my approach with anyone else who may benefit from my project information and the photos I took.

I initially experienced missing steps, poor calibrations and intermittent axis travel problems.  The changes to the CNC driver board resulted in:

  • No more missed CNC motor steps (due to the Chinese TB6560 controller board itself)
  • Quieter axis travel and CNC motor operation
  • Calibrations that were accurate and stayed set
  • Noticeably more torque on each axis.
  • Stepper motors were no longer screaming when holding.

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Lithium Battery Destroys iPhone

February 17, 2014
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“I didn’t open the case.  It was found like this!  DIY dead I tell ya!”

dead-iPhone

Notice the curve on the circuit board as it was “stretched” by the puffing lithium battery.

Hardly a DIY project of my desire or making, but my iPhone definitely DIY destroy itself!

The battery of this iPhone 3 puffed up so much that it cracked open the phone case all by itself and bent, broke and destroyed the circuit board and connecting contacts inside.  The total movement caused by the puffing Lithium battery was approximately 3cm (ie: a bit over an inch).   Should I think myself lucky that there wasn’t a Lithium fire too?

This iPhone 3 was used in the workshop for listening to music.  It was used regularly and the battery was kept well charged most of the time.  It was approximately 2 years old.

This damage occurred over about a week when the phone was left in the cold.  Some mornings dropped to around minus -5C and it appears the Lithium battery discharged beyond it’s limits.  The Lithium battery was puffing like a blowfish!

Unfortunately, the battery had destroyed many internal connections.  The hold down screws in the corners of the PCB circuit board had snapped off.  Repair was simply not a feasible option.

The culprit. Knowing I had a payload of lost data on my hands unless involving exorbitant costs, I did pull the phone apart completely to see if there were any parts to salvage.  I also wanted to remove and dispose of the ailing battery properly.

The lesson in this is, be warned!  Check any phones or appliances that use Lithium batteries often.  Even more often in Winter.  Your ever trusty devices do have the potential to destroy themselves when left alone.

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Japanese Ibis CNC Design Series – Free Download

February 4, 2014
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Soaring Japanese Ibis CNC designToday, we have made available for download, the first design in a series of three CNC designs.

Following our earlier cat design series, we decided to give things more of a Japanese touch.  This series is of Japanese Ibis birds with the first design being of this magnificent bird soaring high in the sky.

We chose to produce a CNC design series of the Japanese Ibis not only because the bird is an absolute icon of Japan, but because it is a bird which is commonly sighted in the rural areas from around where we produce this website.  The adult Japanese Ibis birds can often be seen nesting in treetops on river banks, or wading in green rice paddies while feeding on frogs, fish  and insects during the Summer months.

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Free Telescope Automation Software

July 30, 2013
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SkyChart - Free Telescope Automation Software

SkyChart (Cartes du Ciel) – Free Astronomy and Telescope Automation Software under GNU General Public License

SkyChart - Free Telescope Automation Software Ever since writing about making DIY serial communication cables for Meade telescopes (DS-114 / DS-115), I have received bundles of questions from budding astronomers wanting to know more about the free telescope automation software shown in the post.

Amateur astronomy really comes alive when telescopes are combined with quality star and planet tracking software.

After calibration of your telescope, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, or how much you know about astronomy.  Telescope tracking software makes it easy to just click on a virtual celestial object of interest (on your computer screen) and your telescope motors are off to automatically find and motion track the real thing in the night sky.  Life for an amateur astronomer suddenly becomes far more interesting and all too simple when you have full reference to unlimited viewing options in front of you!

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Fritzing – Easy Access to PCB Manufacturing for DIY Electronics Hobbyists

March 2, 2013
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Fritzing.org allows the DIY electronics hobbyist to produce professional quality PCB's through use of their creative commons software and their online ordering service.

Fritzing.org allows the DIY electronics hobbyist to produce professional quality PCB’s through use of their creative commons software and their online ordering service.

We are constantly amazed by the evolution of fantastic resources available to DIY hobbyists and designers.

A couple of weeks ago, we provided a step-by-step guide to making printed circuit boards (PCB).  The UV imaging and Ferric Chloride etching method is not particularly difficult all up, but there are still serious draw-backs and barriers to making DIY PCBs at home for many.   Suitable work areas and ventilation are required; relatively nasty chemicals need sourcing and handling; and disposal of waste needs very careful attention for environmental reasons because it contains toxic Copper salts.

For anyone who just wants a professional looking printed circuit board on which to place their newly designed electronics project without the fuss, we really recommend considering what Fritzing.org has to offer.  They provide a fantastic fabrication alternative for electronics enthusiasts living in close quarters, or where DIY PCB etching is simply out of the question.

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