Saturday, May 25, 2013

New project - "Bin'da" the mill

Well what can I say..
Firstly a bit of an apology for not updating the webpage - plenty of things to blame, but that's that.

Secondly - yes I've picked up another project - Yes I'm aware I have more projects on my list than hours in the day, and time, money and space is always an issue - let's see what I can arrange over the next 12-18 months.

So, what have I been up to?
Cut down a number of trees around the property (ones which posed a danger to structure, fencing, etc)
Done a number of minor repairs in the house and "shed"
Built a woodshed
Filled said woodshed with timber dried and split from the tree feeling
Started various minor projects including a keyway shaper for the lathe, minor doodads, etc
Worked hard on a number of key projects at work (mostly centred around Documentation systems)
Started designing my real shed - the one I hope to build one day

My new project...
Back in January 2013 (this year) I found this milling machine in a skip bin. It is a bridgeport clone, sold by Herless (Melbourne) and seems to carry dates from the mid 1980s.

It took some effort from a number of people, but I was able to get permission to rescue it, got it lifted from the bin, and eventually transported to my house (Photos of that endeavour wil have to wait for now)

Since it's arrival here I've researched the mill as best I can, and commenced cataloging the damage.
Briefly the damage is...
Handles for X and Y axes are damaged
Y screw is broken
X screw is bent
Z handle is missing
electrical circuits are damaged (cables and controls)
nearly every knob from the head is missing
quill controls (handle, fine feed, and clutch) are missing

I have commenced fixing her up (yes the mill is a "She") and named her "Bin'da" based on her being "Binned"

Thanks to a number of people on anumber of forums, I have been able to track down photos and dimensions of some missing pieces and have already commenced making up the missing parts (more articles and photos on that to come as well)

In the meanwhile, hopefully you see the potential in this the same way I do...
Until next time

Monday, November 26, 2012

Symmetrical Alignment Method

Symmetrical Alignment method, is a method for marking and drilling holes so two plates align, and they can be rotated in relation to each other and still align.
Where did the need for this method come from? – I was constructing a Lantern Chuck and needed to make two plates which would be rotated in the lathe, and I was concerned about needing to ensure the alignment of the two plates when screwing the parts together. Typically I would try for a good fit, but mark the two parts to ensure the same assembly orientation in case there were any errors in drilling or marking out. I reasoned this practise would not be beneficial for something which was to be rotated, since my typical method for marking the orientation was to dock matching corners off, or use one fixing bolt as a larger size – both which had the potential to influence the balance of the final device.

Presumptions:
Drill press is vertical and holes are shake free fit on pins or bolts of the same nominal size.
Clamping is firm, but non-distorting

In reference to the drawings, the two plates are "Back Plate" and "Front Plate", with three holes to be placed in each plate. The two centre holes are labelled "BC" and "FC" - for the Back Centre, and Front Centre respectively. The other two holes per plate are labelled as "B1", "B2", "F1", and "F2" as a means of showing how they are drilled in the method. (refer Sk. 1)

The plates are marked with the longitudinal axis, and the centre holes (BC & FC), and one hole in F (F1) are punched for drilling. Holes "BC" and "FC" are drilled to match a bolt which will serve to join them together for the marking/drilling - In the case I'm describing I used a 6mm bolt and nut. Hole "F1" is also drilled at a size to match the required task - 5mm in the real world case I'm describing since it is the tapping size for M6x1 threads. Sk. 2 shows the two plates with the centre holes and F1 drilled.

The two plates are laid together and joined with a bolt or pin through the centre holes (Shown as a solid RED sectioned bolt in holes BC and FC in Sk 3). Then the hole F1 is lined up over the longitudinal line for B1 as shown in Sk. 3. A clamp is used to stop the plates moving in relation to each other.

With the plates clamped, a drill is used to drill through F1 to create hole B1. Since I used a 5mm drill to drill F1, I used a 5mm drill to create hole B1 and effectively used hole F1 as a drill guide. – the result is shown in Sk. 4

Once the hole B1 is drilled, the clamp can be removed, and the plates rotated relative to each other – in Sk. 5 I’ve shown the “Front Plate” being rotated about the central bolt which joins it to the “Back Plate”

The top plate is rotated until the visible hole (F1) lines up with the marks for the bottom hole (B2) and then the plates are clamped together again. This orientation is shown in Sk. 6

With the two plates joined at the centre, and clamped in position, the Hole F1 acts as a drill guide for the drilling of hole B2 as shown in Sk. 7. As noted in Sk. 7, the previously drilled hole (B1) is hidden by the undrilled portion of the “Front Plate”

Once the hole at B2 has been drilled by using F1 as a drill guide, you can either leave them clamped, or slip a close fitting bolt or pin through the holes as shown in Sk. 8 as a sectioned BLUE pin.

Irrespective of how the two plates are joined together (clamped or two pins), the whole assembly should then be turned upside down so the top plate is at the bottom, and vice versa – this is illustrated in Sk. 9 and clearly shows how the previously drilled hole B1 is now visible to use as a drilling guide for the hole at F2

Sk. 10 shows the resulting hole at F2 was drilled using B1 as a drill guide.

Sk. 11 is the result and culmination of the “symmetrical alignment method”. Each plate has the three holes drilled, and can be placed with a shaft through BC and FC and have F1 line up with either B1 or B2, similarly with F2 lining up with either b2 or B1 – this means a part will fit either way, and compensates for any minor errors in marking out.

This information is offered as additional information to support the article which was written for MEW (Model Engineers Workshop) for the Lantern Chuck article.

I suppose I should apologise for the dearth of articles lately - things are being worked on, jsut not as quickly as I'd like, and time for writing the articles is becomings scarce again.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Still kicking - Home repairs, and FIFO

This is yet another "I'm still alive and sorry the webpage isn't being updated" posts... what can I say - life gets in the way of updating this page.

What have I been up to?
I'm now in a house my wife and I bought - reasonably good, but in need of some love and attention. I've had to fix a few things here and there - assisted the sparky in moving some lights, installing some ceiling fans, and running data cabling throughout the house. I learnt a lot, and did all the prep and finishing work (patching the walls after the work was completed)

I'm in the midst of changing roles again - the first role change annouced last year moved me from residential callout support to a Fly in, Fly Out (FIFO) shift worker, and this new role will keep me FIFO, but into a supervisory role wth a lot of scope for personal and professional development and opportunity. With the move from residential to FIFO, I've been less active in Volunteer Fire and Rescue in the community, and have instead joined the local Bush Fire Service in the little town I settled in. I'm still active in the minesite Emergency Response Team (ERT) and hope to transfer my ERT membership to the new role and new site.

I hope to be able to do some reviews in the next few weeks - some of the engineering books I've been reading, the GPS unit I bought (so I didn't get lost in the city), and anything else which is of interest.

Current projects:
a - arranging the house and garage to create a workshop
b - Obtaining planning approval for my permanant shed from the local council
c - planning the electrical design for my permanent shed, revisions to the house wiring, and additional works
d - assemble the taig Mill, and commence using it
e - assemble a tool and cutter grinder
f - assemble a small propane furnace for aluminium, brass and bronze.

Longer term projects:
everything else I've put on hold

The only other thing of note is I've got back into "indexing" work - I allocate a couple of hours each Sunday afternoon and index records for Familysearch.org - it's interesting work, and helps those researching their ancestors. Well worth the minor effort on my part.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Still alive - some news

Well it's been a while since I posted - lots happening.
Long story short, I'm in the middle of moving house due to a change in my employment conditions. This means for the past 4 weeks I've been working shifts, and had the house in boxes... and those boxes won't open for another few weeks, and I'll continue on shift even after that.

Longer term this means a shift in my projects whilst I shake down the house, and get the shed/s up. For quite some time, the projects will be limited to small things done in the field desk, and a lot of home renovation/ repair work.
Whilst I'm in the shift situation, I will be flying a lot, and getting very little done except on my off swing - then it's flat out getting work done at home.
I don't want to be doing FIFO (Fly In, Fly Out) and shift long term, this was a decision accepted based on the conditions under which I currently work, my scope for promotion, and other factors. I am applying for other work within the company since it is a great company to work for, and I don't really want to leave it if at all possible.

Current challenges:
trying to keep losing weight whilst surrounded by "camp food"
trying to remain busy developing my skills in Control Systems, Electrical Engineering, and Managemnt (Personelle and Project)
trying to keep busy with my hobbies and interests
trying to not let the distance and seperation from my family cause issues or concerns

Next challenges:
Overcome whatever obstacles prevent me from obtaining my next job - the one which allows me to spend time with my family, and still meet my financial commitments.
Underfloor ventilation in a building built in the 1950's (or was it 1850's?)
adjustments to various sewerage/septic systems
repairs alterations to fencing - boundary and pool
repairs and alterations to existing "shed"
minor extensions and modifications to house
construction of shed/studio on site to suit my needs - now and future
construction of granny flat (ancillary accomodation) on site

That's it for now - Once everything is unpacked, and settled down, I'll update this with some archived projects, and some of the "home owner" projects as they arise. Hopefully I'll be in a position to accept a new role, and spend more time with my family, and less time away from them.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Construction Photos for Serial Cable kit - Mk3/4

The serial cable kit was formally released at work last week - the usage instruction manual was completed, and the construction manual as well. Confirmed cost came in at $48.87 per kit if 20 were made, $97 to make a single using company approved vendors and their MOQs for certain parts - If Ebay was used, the price per single kit still sits around $40. Either way you look at it, it is a dramatic reduction in price compared to the Mk2 kits I made back in 2008 - they came in at $400 per kit for the same functionality as the Mk3/4 Kits.

In the meanwhile here are a few photos taken during construction, and a couple of snapshots of the finished kit, and construction manual.
Photo 1 - breadboard cut to form baseboard
The baseboard is a small segment of breadboard anchored to a baseboard which incorporates the breadboard, the serial cable terminations, cable anchors, and module "ejection mechanism"


Photo 2 - Baseboard and anchor plates - under construction
Everything in this kit was designed to minimise costs, and as such salvaged materials were used wherever possible - including salvaged screen-door extrusion for the anchor plates -the construction manual has drawings of all parts to be constructed, and alternate dimensions/ drawings if the extrusion was substituted with pieces made from simple sheet metal.

The "modules" are simply modified IC sockets, which are later labelled and "potted" for protection and resilience.
Photo 3 - "Modules" under construction
The serial cable is modified to suit the cable kits requirements. All construction for the prototype kits was made using tooling and equipment in my field desk - including the third-hand, modified pliers, solder pens, etc
Photo 4 - Serial cables being modified to suit kit
Compact/ resilient storage of the kit and components was one of the deliverables I placed in the kit design. I accomplished this by modifying a commercially available storage box, and then constructing stack-able compartments which slid inside the outer case.


Photo 5 - Completed modules in stacked storage compartment
The user manual was deliberately formatted so when printed it could be trimmed to fit in a designated space in the the container - the finished manual measures 245 x 185mm (9 5/8 x 7 1/4") and is around 25 pages thick (printed in duplex, but with 6 pages of blank paper for notepaper)

I will have to "de-crest" the manual/s if they were published here since they reference work, and the department I work in - since they were the target audience of the design.

I've blanked out the company/ section details, and my address information on the thumb-drive label - hence the white blotches

Photo 6 - Completed kit with instruction manual in lid
The construction manual contains a number of progress photos, drawings, tips and  alternate materials discussions. I wrote the manual with second year electrical apprentices in mind - some familiarity with basic hand-skills, interpretation of drawings, and the sense to know what holes get changed if you change a countersunk screw from 3/16"-24 to 4mm. The manual printed out to 29 pages of duplex A4.

Photo 7 - Sample page from construction manual
As mentioned, I'll have to de-crest the manuals before publishing them here - not a huge amount of work, but still anything which adds to my "TTD (Things to Do) list" is not overly welcome right now. If I get some time spare, I'll do it in the next week or so, and add them here: (links will reference google docs)
User Manual
Construction Manual

I'll post again when something is completed, progressing, or worth discussing.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

solder pens, electronic tooling, and catch up

I was at a course the other day and one of the whiteboard markers ("dry-erase" markers according to Dilbert) ran out - I intercepted it before it got tossed out to make another "solder pen" No-one at the course had heard of them, so here is a quick explanation and construction article.

When I first started in electronics I simply used solder held in my hands - quite mindful of the warnings regarding lead poisoning, and always washed my hands after working. I don't remember where or when, but somewhere I saw someone use an old de-soldering wick packet to hold small coil of solder (see picture) - this became my preferred soldering method for the next 10-15 years.

When I built the field desk, I set about duplicating my old faithful toolkit, and found I didn't have any spare de-soldering wick packets...hence I turned to the soldering pen idea. I can't claim credit for it's invention, it's been around for years in various guises from clear containers with the solder poking out, to references on aus.electronics to people filling chemy pen (permanent markers) cases with solder.
Photo 1 - Original "solder - holder" and de-soldering wick
So how to make a solder pen - select an old marker which has run out of ink, and remove the nib (pliers simply pull it out) and then get the cap at the end out. Sometimes it's necessary to trim away about 10mm (3/8") of the outer case at the end to allow the end-cap to be removed.

Photo 2 - dismantled marker pen

Then measure the internal length of the casing, and select a screwdriver or other thin smooth rod as a mandrel.
Wind the solder around the mandrel to match the length of the length of the case internals leaving around 50mm (2") of solder free at the start - this starting piece will end up being the first of the solder to be used. once one layer has been wound to the correct length, carefully wind back over for a second layer, stopping about 2-3 turns shy of the beginning of the first layer. Keep winding back and forth adding layers neatly until the wound solder is a loose fit in the case.


Photo 3 - screwdrivers being tested for length

Cut or break the solder at that point, and gently remove the screwdriver (I found gently rotating it made extraction easier). The bundle of solder will be quite flexible so care must be taken to not stretch or kink it.



Photo 4 - solder bundle completed

Straighten the starting piece of solder, and centre it along the axis of the bundle, then feed it into the marker case so the starting piece protrudes where the nib used to be... this means the coils of solder will feed from the inside of the bundle, hopefully preventing tangles.
Replace the end cap, and you can fold the protruding solder over the nib holder and replace the original cap.



photo 5 - Solder test  inserted into marker body

In use, simply remove the cap, tug an inch or so of solder out, and apply solder as required by holding the marker body. As the protruding solder is consumed, simply tug more out of the marker body as required.

I measured the weights of all my solder pens, and found they averaged 50gm (about 2 Oz) of solder in each one.
Photo 6 -  solder pens completed  with other tools
A bonus tip...
When I was at uni, I got on to a bulk purchase of quality electronics tools - cost us $120 to get excellent tooling - a fortune back then. When I duplicated my kit into the field desk, I wanted similar shape and quality tools, but did not want to spend too much money.
I purchased cheap pliers from the local KMart, and then using grinders, and files, reshaped them to suit my needs. In photo 6 you can see 2 pairs of pliers I've reshaped - the yellow handled pliers are just as good to use as the expensive ones in my old kit. The red ones are too small for use, but are handy for periodic use with the yellow pair for straightening or bending wire.

What else to talk about....
I finished the serial cable kits - Mk3 and Mk4 in total. Mounting boards, storage containers, etc. I've practically finished the user manual, and have only 2 sections left in the construction manual to finish... Mostly final edits in the sections, then renumbering the photos and illustrations. Still deciding if the documents should be published here or not, but I'll most likely add some of the construction photos at the minimum..

Various things happening at work... not much to talk about yet, but I daresay I'll have something to talk about soon.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Serial Cable Kits - Mk1 to Mk4 - the answer for versatile industrial connection

Now for something a little different

In my day job, connecting a PC (laptop) to various industrial devices is fairly common. As is typical of these types of devices (VVVFs, Sensors, CPUs, etc) each manufacturer will require a different cable pin-out for their devices, (and some like Siemens require different cables for different models)

When I first started in my role, the "cable kit" comprised of a couple of cardboard boxes full of cables - each cable was around 1800mm (6') long, and sometimes labelled to say what it was used for.
I consider that the "Mark 1 cable kit" - large clumsy, difficult to use, and quite heavy.

I made up the "Serial Cable Kit" - this comprised a single full length DB9 straight through cable, and a number of "dongles" which were fitted to the end to change the internal wiring configuration. Each dongle was labelled, and an instruction book allowed the user to look up the device they intended connecting to, and the manual would tell them what cable and dongle combination to use - eg Siemens Masterdrive would require cable "C1" and Dongle "D2".
Photo 1 - Mk 2 Serial Cable kit in case

This system worked for a few years - it was well received by all who used it - a number of the kits were stolen, and other parts were added as new devices were added to the plant equipment.
Since I made this kit from home, I tried to keep the costs as low as possible (using double ended connectors proved cheaper than using 2 DB9 head shells with a short intermediate cable), the carry case was one from the local K-Mart (Think Wallmart) and modified.
The new kit was a considerable improvement over the original system, but after some time, and sick of fixing/ replacing missing parts, I decided a newer iteration was in order...
Figure 2 - Mk 2 Cable kit concept drawing
If the box of cables was "Mk 1", then the original "Serial Cable kit" would have to be "Mk 2"... Mark 3 would need to be smaller again, cheaper, lighter, and more versatile...
Photo 3 - Mk2 cable and dongle on relevant instruction page
The "Mk 2" dongles were 2 DB connectors separated by a distance of around 40mm (1 3/4") with the cores between being short lengths of flexible cable.. I could accomplish the same effect using a piece of bread board (electronic prototyping board) and a number of pre-terminated jumper wires. That would significantly reduce the weight, cost, and increase the versatility infinitely. I bought some cheap breadboards off the internet and got one of my spare straight through DB9-DB9 cables. I cut the cable at the PC end, at around 400mm. In use the breadboard area would need to be close to the laptop so it was supported, not hanging off the front of a panel in a substation.
Photo 4 - Mk 2 Dongle with dongle schematic
I belled out the pins and soldered the cores to a short length of header strip in order - pin 1 at the top, pin 9 at the bottom. This was repeated for the second length of the cable (around 1500mm (5') long.
The two header strips were inserted into the breadboard with pin 1 in row 1, and the same on the other side of the center strip. - This gives each pin of the serial cable 4 holes to connect cables into - the same for each pin on the outbound cable.
Using the diagrams in the Mk 2 instructions, I know I can rearrange the jumpers to make any combination of cable schematic, and I also know 4 holes per core is enough since the most any current dongle uses is 3 cores to one pin.
Photo 5 - Mk 3 prototype configured as if Dongle 2 in place
The shields from the two parts of the split cable are joined to the backing of the breadboard underneath - Once it passes all tests, the breadboard will be enclosed in a small metal tin to complete the shielding.

The Mark 3 version sounds great  doesn't it?... meets all requirements, how could it be made any better? - it can be.

Mark 4 (or Mk IV if you prefer)
Photo 6 - Mk 4 "dongle" in place for Master drive communications
Currently the Mk 2 kit has 12 dongles in it - these are used to access over 20 different devices on site. Imagine the scenario where you are working on a fault - you need to talk to a VVVF drive, then talk to an ultrasonic sensor, then back to the drive, then to the PLC CPU... with the Mk 2 kit, you simply changed dongles as you moved from device to device... With the mark 3 you would be constantly changing the jumpers... if you're tired, distracted, you could too easily make a mistake - you could damage equipment, or at least waste time complicating your own fault-finding strategy.  I needed a way to make the Mk 3 system as easy to use as the Mk 2...
The step to Mk4 was easy - simply use the existing breadboard to hold a "dongle" which had the jumper configuration in it. Make it removable, and make it "labelled". Immediately the concept of using a DIP IC socket sprang to mind. If I used a 18 pin DIP socket, that would give me 9 pins up one side, 9 up the other, and a small space in the middle to solder in the jumper configuration. The DIP socket has a notch for Pin 1 which can be used to ensure the correct orientation when inserting it, and I could pot in the jumpers to provide a space for a label.
NB: I chose machine pin DIP socket since the pins are stronger and round - making them better for the breadboard when compared to typical cheap DIP IC sockets.

I ordered a fistful of machine pin DIP 18 pin IC sockets from Futurelec (along with some other goodies) and started planning the next design. Once the sockets arrived, the first dongles were being made.

Since I don't have a Siemens VVVF at home, I cannot show photos of the system in use, but if possible I will get one from work.

In use the new kit will comprise of the Mk3 and Mk4 parts. The Mk3 cable and base forms the base kit, and 12 jumpers will be included for new or experimental equipment. The current manual will be re-written for the Mk4 "dongles" which will need to be renamed, and stored. This new kit has more versatility than the current kit, and is significantly cheaper to make up. Each "dongle" in the Mk 2 kit costs over $7 AUD, whereas each "dongle" in the Mk 4 kit costs $0.40 AUD. The new kit is much smaller, lighter to carry, and should be cheap enough to make as a "personal issue" tool - that last bit is handy to reduce theft and loss of parts.

I keep talking about "versatility" - it's the ability of the kit to handle making a new configuration out in the field - The Mk 1 kit had none, the cables were made "as -is", the Mk 2 kit had one spare unassembled dongle of each configuration (M-M, M-F, F-F) in the kit to permit making a new dongle, whereas the Mk3 (and Mk4)have the breadboard space and jumpers to create new configuration cables on the fly.

Photo 7 - Showing size comparison for Mk 2 dongle and Mk 4 dongle
So the Mk 3 and Mk 4 work on the same principle of changing pin assignments, the difference between the Mk 3/4 and the Mk 2 is that it's done "inside" the cable, and reduces the amount of needed hardware.

Figure 8 - Mk3 and Mk4 concept schematics
There was one dongle which needed a special case... D12
All other dongles in the Mk 2 kit terminate with either a male or female DB9 connector - the Mk3 and Mk4 kit has a female connector at the end of the cable, and a miniature gender bender included for when a male connection is required... but dongle "d12" however terminates with a RJ11 connection - this is used for the HMI AnyBus equipment.
I had 2 options... option 1 was to reuse the existing "d12" dongle and simply have a "straight through" dongle for the breadboard... Option 2 is to have the 4 core cable for the RJ11 come off the "dongle" and leave the remaining 1500mm length of 9 core cable unterminated. I've made both, but look forward to testing option #2 since it makes for a more consistent approach.
Photo 9 - Mk 4 version of Dongle "d12" for 4 core RJ11
Some statistics (estimated where shown *) - excludes Siemens Simocode Pro cable and USB-RS232 Adapter from all comparisons - based on cables/ configurations to perform tasks of Mk 2 kit.

Mk 1 kit - weighed 4000g*, volume 400x400x400mm* = 64L, cost ~$400-800 - No labels, no instructions, no versatility

Mk 2 Kit - weighed 1800g, volume 360x290x70mm = 7.3L, cost ~$250 - Labelled, instructions, limited versatility

Mk 3 Kit - Weighed 300g, volume 250x200x50 = 2.5L, cost ~$45 - No Labels, instructions, versatile

Mk 4 Kit - Weighed 350g, volume 250x200x50 = 2.5L, cost ~$50 - Labels, instructions, versatile

Labour? - all costs do NOT include assembly labour - I made the Mk 2 kits myself over the period of 2 weeks working 4 hours each night (7 kits) - I've made my own Mk 3 kit, and will complete the Mk 4 kit over the next week or so... what takes the longest is writing the instructions, and hand construction of the dongles. - you should allow between 15 and 30 mins per dongle based on intermediate hand skills.
What's not shown in any of the photos is the base plate for the Mk 3/ 4 set - I'm still trying to design and construct a "flipper" to permit easy extraction of the IC sockets - I was using an IC extractor in testing, but would prefer something "captive" so it can't be lost. In the meanwhile testing continues with another piece of breadboard for the noise immunity of the Mk3 and Mk 4 designs.

If you think this is a good idea and want to manufacture them - go for it - please give credit where due though... I do when I write the manuals.