Friday, April 22, 2016

Definitely The Light Side

So this was fun. Start with a design from Thingiverse, use netfabb to slice it into bits, print, and paint. The "blade" is a simple separate design, sized to fit in the hilt piece and made from glow-in-the-dark blue filament.

But the pommel? It comes off. It stays quite snugly on the USB plug.

 And I'm sure you can see what's happening.

That's a pair of UV LEDs powered by the USB drive. And since it's the glow-in-the-dark filament, it keeps fluorescing gently for a while after the drive is unplugged.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Where No Drive Has Stored Before

Another little thumb drive.

The design should have some familiar elements. The disk on top, the nacelles along the sides. Pretty standard original series Starfleet stuff, right? Cute.

Now, let's plug it in (and dim the lights, since this is a new camera which I haven't figured out entirely yet).

This is my first foray into not just casemodding, but actually messing with the electronics. The core of what's going on behind the scenes is in this diagram:

If you look closely into a USB plug, you'll see that there are four contact strips in a row. The two in the middle are where the data comes in an now. The outer ones provide power you can use for your own applications. They're the reason you can charge your phone through the same socket you might use to get upload/download data or plug into accessories. But what I wanted here was to light something up. Unlike earlier drive cases I've made, this one has actual infrastructure, looking a bit like this:

Internally, the case is hollow and divided into three compartments. The center is about the width of the drive itself but a bit longer. The nacelles are hollow as well, just wide enough to accommodate some 3mm LEDs. There are walls dividing them, but I thinned them out where the arrows are in the diagram above, leaving gaps for wires to pass through. Using wire glue (rather than soldering; I'm not a steady hand with the iron and don't want to inadvertently fry the electronics, I connected the "hot" contact to a resistor and the resistor to two wires leading the the LEDs in the nacelles. The ground-end leads from the LEDs were long enough that I could bend them to where they'd make contact in the middle (using a slip of paper to insulate the drive from the bare wires above) and then run a single wire to the ground contact. Took a bit of doing to get everything to work in the tiny space allowed, but, hey, lights.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

More Drives

It's a frivolous thing, but I like putting thumb drives in unusual cases.

Both have 3d-printed cases, with assorted gears, nails, and other components added on, and the one on the left has a window for the drive's integral LED. More interesting than the rather drab plastic boxes they come in.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Wind-Up Thumb Drive

Not really, but it looks like it. I do enjoy doing cases for thumb drives.

The main body of this steampunky little number was 3d printed, then painted and various parts applied. The "hub" has an opening down into the body of the drive so you can see if its integral LED is blinking.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

I For One Welcome Our New Breakfast-Making Overlords

At long last, the Pancakebot we got from the Kickstarter arrived, and it's pretty much what you'd expect. It's like a 2d version of a 3d printer, laying down a single layer of pancake batter onto an integral griddle. The makers also provide a simple drawing program which is a sort of minimalist CAD/CAM package specifically designed for the Pancakebot. It lets you work in four "shades" of pancake. Depending on the darkness you select for any given line or area, it'll stagger when those lines are extruded onto the griddle. Darkest lines are first, then it pauses to let them cook, then the next lighter batch, then another pause, and so on. The nifty thing here is that ultimately the Pancakebot speaks gcode, the language (or family of languages) used by CNC machines and 3d printers. In theory, I could come up with something which converted, say, .dfx files to gcode suitable to the Pancakebot, and bypass the manual drawing interface altogether.

Now, some of the cooking process is manual. Notably, the griddle temperature and the pressure at which the batter is extruded are set with separate controls with no connection to the pancake CAM. That's probably a very good thing. Variations between batches of batter mean that you'll need to make countless small manual adjustments as you go. In our case, the batter ended up quite thin, which means I had to crank the pressure well down from the medium level I started with, though the medium heat on the griddle worked quite well.

But enough technical details. What about the pancakes? We made a mix of designs downloaded from the manufacturer's web site and ones we worked up here. It took a bit of adjustment to get things right, but once I had the right settings dialed in, it went consistently pretty well.

With the pressure up too high, the lines of the Eiffel Tower were almost entirely obscured.

Designed this one for the lovely and talented spouse. Came out pretty well.

Spider pancake, spider pancake,
Does whatever a spider cancake.
In the US and in Europe
Catches thieves like maple syrup.
Look out! Here comes the spider pancake!

In Soviet Russia, dinosaur eaten by you!

It's ultimately slower than pouring cups of batter on the griddle, but the scope for shape and shade is immense. We'll be doing this again. And we'll probably be tinting the batter; we've got some additional bottles on order, so we can do four-color pancaking.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sweet Dreams

A friend of my lovely and talented spouse is getting into cosplay. One of the things she's been working on is Peggy Carter. And given the opportunity to wear a fabulous red hat and totally punch a dude out with a stapler, who can blame her?

It happens that the shade of lipstick Peggy uses is commercially available. It also happens that one of the gadgets Peggy uses from time to time is a knockout agent disguised as lipstick:

You see where this is going, right? My lovely and talented spouse saw that someone had 3d-printed a "102 Sweet Dreams" case and thought that would be a suitable accessory. I agreed and ordered a tube of the right lipstick so I could properly measure a case for it.

I ended up making the case out of a whole bunch of pieces. There are the upper and lower halves of the case, of course (printed open end up to save a lot of time and support material), but I decided to print the cap-like ends as separate pieces for a smoother appearance. Likewise, to get a maximally good appearance for the name plate, I printed that as a separate bit and attached it rather than having that imprinted into the side of the printed design.

So, works pretty well. The bottom is snug enough to hold the original lipstick without having to shove it in, and it comes out reasonably easy for replacement.