One of my favourite additions to the workshop has been a laser centring tool for use on my Tormach PCNC milling machine. The tool consists of a low cost laser diode mounted on a 3D printed disc and with a 19mm steel shaft. The tool is held in the Tormach spindle power drawbar. The laser is angled inwards towards the spindle axis at approximately 20 degrees. The 3D print has facilities for a battery supply and ON/OFF switch such that when the laser disc is pulled into the power tool bar collet it switches on the diode.
In use, as the spindle is raised or lowered, the rotating diode creates a circle of light on the milling table which can be used to locate and centre the spindle on features of the item being machined. This might be to locate the centre of a hole or the centre of a block depending on need.
I recently had the need to use my four jaw centring chuck on my Myford lathe. Usually I duck and dive to avoid having to use the 4 jaw as I find it frustrating to set up. This recent bout of frustration lead me to wonder if I could adapt my laser centring tool for use on the lathe such that it would give me a guide ring of light to show where the material was sitting relative to chuck centre.
On the milling version the laser rotates and the job stays fixed. On a lathe version this would be similar. The chuck would be stationary and the laser would rotate in the tailstock.
This is nothing magic but worth a mention. Being fundamentally lazy I don’t like to assemble and solder electronic multi-way connectors. There is never enough room to work on the contacts and the cables never lay up how you would like them to. This could have course be a function of my eyesight ..
I am currently working on boxing and installing the Tormach USB Expansion Board which has a USB connector interface. I wanted the cable to pass through some form of gland into the box but didn’t want to cut a standard USB cable and remake the connector at one end of the other.
After some head scratching I came up with the following simple cable gland/cable grip. It is nothing revolutionary but made life easy and the parts only took 20 minutes to design in Fusion 360 and then 3D print on the Sindoh 3DWOX.
It has two identical semicircular halves that hold the cable and there is a ring that pushes over these on the outside of the box. A small flange holds these in place on the inside of the box. The hole in the box and the ring inside diameter are both 16mm to allow the USB connector largest dimension to pass through. This is also one of the standard cut rings on a cone cut hole drill which makes cutting the hole in the box very straightforward.
Not rocket science but you never know it might come in useful and the dimensions can be tweaked to suit other cables and connectors. Similar or related subjects : –
If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I have got involved with the local church clock which is a Cooke of York movement. I have been working with a fellow engineer in the village to try to bring the clock to time and we are slowly getting there. Our last major breakthrough was finding the fly was lose on the gravity escapement arbor. Since tightening the fly the clock has been much more reliable.
There is a weight tray on the pendulum which has an assortment of coins in it where someone historically has been fine tuning the pendulum swing. Because the clock has been running fast by a few seconds per day we have been slowly removing the coins one by one to bring it closer to time. I think it is now at a point where we need to monitor it long term with the Microset.
Bryan offers an upgrade to the Microset that allows a temperature sensor to be added to the recorded information. There will almost certainly be temperature changes in the clock tower so it seemed like a good idea to upgrade with the temperature option. This was ordered and duly arrived from Bryan and is now fitted. There is also an upgrade to allow the Microset to record data into internal storage in the Microset rather than depending on having a PC connected. I would be more comfortable leaving just the Microset in the church pendulum cupboard rather than my portable PC so I also ordered this upgrade.
It took me about an hour to do both upgrades on the Microset. The memory upgrade involves a chip change inside the device and the temperature monitor needs an additional 3.5mm jack socket fitting and wiring to accept the new temperature sensor. Neither is a difficult task but clearly need to be done carefully so as not to do any damage to the Microset. Bryan’s instructions are well written and illustrated.
Since the upgrade I have been running the Microset on the bench with a Smith’s clock movement. (It is actually the one I stripped down, cleaned and rebuilt on my ‘Clocks 1’ course at the BHI). The new Microset facilities seem to work well and as expected.
A New Sensor Needed – 1st Attempt
To implement measurements on the church clock the supplied optical sensor as shown in the picture above is not totally ideal. It has a very narrow gap between the transmit light source and the receiver detector diode which on a turret clock is not easy to use.
It is possible to get round this my fitting a cocktail stick or similar to the pendulum bob and using this to break the beam but it is a bit messy. I had picked up a bag of laser diodes and detectors at a local ‘ham’ radio junk sale and I decided these might form the basis of a new sensor which might be more useful to a large pendulum assembly. Bryan is a really helpful guy and although he does offer a larger laser sensor he was more than happy to help me with the required electronic interface to the Microset. The one proviso is that the amount of current drained from the Microset 5V power supply must be kept below 30mA.
I set to and made the most elegant and over engineered solution for my laser sensor. This is shown below. The black mountings were designed in Fusion 360 and 3D printed on the Sindoh 3DWOX.
The spacing between the emitter and detector is adjustable by sliding the transmitter along the steel rods. The power to the laser is also carried down the steel rods. A small DTC transistor provides the interface to the Microset and the 5V supply provided by the Microset is dropped via two diodes to power the laser. It works really well ….. but … when I went round to the church to install it I realised I should have checked one or two things first. The rating nut at the bottom end of the pendulum (used to make course adjustments to the pendulum length) was almost touching the floor of the pendulum cupboard. My wonderfully elegant laser detector would not fit under the pendulum to monitor the swing. A serious re-think was needed. The gap was so narrow that at best I will only be able to get a piece of 16 SWG aluminium sheet or PCB underneath the rating nut.
A New Sensor Needed – 2nd Attempt
I did say I had a bag of laser diodes and detectors so a new version would be possible and I could then save the posh one for more public facing activity.
As mentioned above I decided to use PCB as the base board. This is shown below.
This has the advantage that I can use the copper surface to mill tracking into it to aid the wiring. The downside is that it is quite flexible and therefore possibly not stable enough to keep the laser aligned with the detector diode. To resolve this I soldered strips of nickel silver (could have been more PCB) either side of the centre line as shown but leaving a gap for the pendulum swing.
I designed a common holder for the laser and detector diode in Fusion 360 and 3D printed two of these on the Sindoh 3DWOX.
The finished detector assembly still had a tendency to flex so I stuck some old pieces of credit card on the lower surface, one at each end before the mount and a large piece in the middle. This seemed to cure the problem without adding significantly to the base thickness.
When plugged into the Microset all seemed to work well. Here is a typical PC display of the Microset data.
I now need to get it installed in the church tower.
We have a couple of rigid golf caddy cases that take a full golf bag plus whatever else you can squeeze in when going on a holiday trip. Last trip to Hawaii this included lots of shoes, snorkels, flippers etc. These have or at least had two cabinet style locks on them but not anymore. Customs / security at Seattle decided they wanted to have a look inside and took the easy option and smashed the locks off, had a look inside and then Gaffa taped the case back up. Lovely.
Everything arrived home safely with nothing missing but now the debate on how to replace the locks. Clearly the idea of locking them does not go down well with baggage security teams. I have knocked up a design in Fusion that only needs a single cable tie to make it secure. I have 3D printed a concept model from the Fusion design and I have now run the finished items in aluminium using the Tormach CNC. I used a combination of CNC and manual milling to get the results and this highlighted once again that the combination of a CNC and manual is incredibly useful.
I first of all edit the centre clearance hole in the boss in Fusion in preparation for printing. I then 3D print the power supply box and lid and while putting this together I get the boss print underway. The boss takes around 7 hours to print on standard quality. . Given the amount of interest being shown I think a formal write up would be useful for others with perhaps the Fusion file as a download. Working on it and more to follow.
Update – the ring lights are available on Amazon at around GBP14 per pair and you can select diameter (and colour). Buy the largest diameter you can so that there is reduced shadowing around the tool point in the mill or drill press. They are cheaper to buy on EBay from China but there is a longer delivery time.
Having got home from Chicago I had a few weeks at home before we left for Hawaii where my son was participating in the Ironman World Championships. This is a crazy triathlon event in 30 degree heat and he finished in just over 9 hours.
We played a few rounds of golf on the Makalei course on Hawaii which is at 2500 feet above sea level. Sometimes in sunshine, sometimes cloud and sometimes hissing down with rain all of which made it challenging. We also visited Pearl Harbour which was quite moving and this included visiting the Aviation Museum on Ford Field.
No visit to Hawaii by a Brit would be complete without a visit to the Captain Cook monument in Kealakekua Bay. We completely misjudged the arduous terrain we would experience in getting down to the monument and nearly came to grief with dusk fast approaching.
On the way home from Hawaii we stopped over in Seattle for a few days which was a culture shock on body temperature. We visited the Pacific Science Museum and the Space Needle plus a tour of the Boeing works as part of the stay. The PSM is brilliant for kids (and OAPs).
All in all a good trip but will now be glad to get back in the workshop.
CAD & Farming
Being away home and more precisely away from the workshop, allowed me to do a few write ups that might be of interest and both of which were stimulated by reading forum posts on MEW. My waffle would have been too long to post in the normal way.
The first write up is about CAD/CAM and my concern that there will probably be unfilled expectations from the news about Alibre doing a special deal for MEW readers.
The second write up is about harvest time in North Yorkshire that is based on my younger days in a farming family. This has been on the stocks for some time and the posting on the forum kicked me into finishing it off.