Fusion 360 Electrical Personal Library tip

Custom Library in Fusion 360 Electrical module

PCB layout created in Fusion 360 Electrical module
PCB layout created in Fusion 360 Electrical module

My knowledge in the use of the Fusion 360 Electrical module improves by the day as I use it more.  Not having used a PCB design package before I don’t have anything to compare it to so I can’t be objective in any comments.

One thing that does frustrate me is the Library of parts.   Everything is wonderful if the part I want use is available already created but if it isn’t readily to hand then a work around is needed.   First call is to use a similar package part and edit the Value.  Second option is to use Mouser’s Library Loader which seems to work well …. providing they have the part available.  Last resort is to try to create a new part.   I have done this a few times but not enough to make it an automatic process and hence frustration still reigns.

The other issue with using Libraries is that I am slowly building up a physical stock of my preferred parts.   It becomes frustrating when beginning a new design using my preferred parts, trying to remember which available standard library I had selected them from.  I recently stumbled upon the EXPLIB command line macro.   This allows you to create a unique new library of just the parts used in a particular design.  So now I can easily find the part I used in Design X to be able to use it in my new Design Y. 

Progress indeed.

Onwards and upwards.

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Adding thrust bearings to the Myford Super 7 with Clough42 ELS fitted

Some time ago I documented my implementation of the Clough42 Electronic Leadscrew on my Myford Super 7 Big Bore lathe.   I also wrote up adding thrust bearings to the top slide and cross slide adjusters.   What remained outstanding was adding thrust bearings to the leadscrew.  While there is a commercial kit from Hemmingway Kits to install these, my implementation of the ELS involved a direct drive to the leadscrew at the tailstock end of the bed and made things difficult – I ran out of length on the leadscrew.

After considering the situation I opted to retain my ELS drive concept and gain space for the bearings by shaving metal from the Myford leadscrew bracket.  It is not an ideal modification as I am always very reticent about physically changing the structure of my machines.   Despite this I have to say it seems to have paid off and I now have a very stable and repeatable leadscrew feed from the ELS.  Here is a photo of the result.

modification to the leadscrew mounting for adding thrust bearings
The final assembly using the ELS drive concept to the end of the leadscrew and how space was made for thrust bearings to be fitted

I have added details of the modification to the original thrust bearing write up and this can be downloaded as a PDF from the link below.

Myford Super 7 Thrust Bearing Mods including leadscrew

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Experiences with SFR – Orange – FreeBox in France

We have been to France, hence the lack of posts.  Initially the idea was for 3 weeks to sort out the house and make sure all was good before winter but we ended up staying for over 5 weeks.

Why ?  Well there was the weather which was stunning over the whole period. Then there was our broadband connection.

Until June 2021 our broadband to the house was arranged by UK Telecom who subcontracted to SFR locally in France.   UK Telecom decided to change to Orange as the provider so our broadband got chopped in June while Orange took up the reigns …. or not as the case maybe.

We arrived in September and still no broadband via UK Telecom from Orange.   I visited the local Orange Boutique and they were keen to subscribe us directly to their fibre service which is now available in the village.  We signed up and 2 weeks later had heard no more.  Promised installation dates came and went with no contact or visit and we stayed in specially for these dates.   After my third visit to the Boutique we told them we were no longer interested and to cancel the contract. This they did without quibble.

We then went to FreeBox who are a new kid on the block.   Same routine, keen to sign us up, promises of dates etc.   Nothing further.   So we did not have a broadband connection at the house and had to depend on Vodafone roaming for the 5 weeks we were there. This meant buying another 2GB of data to keep us connected.

I am working on what the plan will be for the next visit … should we go back to SFR direct ?

We love France and we love the local people.   I don’t know what it is about businesses in Frances that makes them incapable of managing customer expectations.  We are blessed in the UK with a high probability that if you email a company you will get an answer or at least an acknowledgement of your message.   This probably spoils us when we are in France where there is an enduring black hole of little or no comms or at least no timely comms in response to messaging them.   This assumes that they give you a contact email address but usually they hide behind web based decoupling. You would think that the likes of Orange or Free as communications companies … would communicate ?

Rant over.

Back to the workshop and am I am trying to remember what was work-in-progress 5 weeks ago.

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External battery pack to extend the battery life on wireless tags

A game of tag anyone ?

I have installed a network of low cost wireless sensor tags to monitor our homes here in the UK and also in France. These are really useful little devices that measure temperature, humidity and motion such as a door opening. 

They store their readings and can be interrogated via the Internet to see a profile history.   They also have limit alarm trip options that push messages to email to let you know if anything untoward is happening.  The product website is here.

Tag device
Image of a tag device

As examples of their use, here in the UK we have one fitted inside our freezer to check that the temperature is within limits.   Should the freezer fail or the door be left slightly ajar we get a message. 

In France we have one installed inside the spa pump cabinet to check the temperature over winter to check that the pipework does not see freezing temperatures.  This works in conjunction with a greenhouse tubular heater that is also in the spa cabinet wired to a frost stat set to 5C degrees.  If the temperature drops the pipes are protected by the heater coming on.   If the AC mains fail the heater will not come on and the sensor tag warns us to ask the neighbours to visit and check the electric distribution panel as we do experience frequent power outages.

Under normal circumstances the tag internal CR2032 battery will give a reasonable battery life approaching 12 months.  These are not normal circumstances however and due to COVID we have been unable to visit for over 12 months.  As a result all the tags at our house in France have dead batteries.  Their use inside freezers and outside in the cold degrades the battery life achieved. This got me thinking about fitting a larger battery pack to the tags in France to help longer battery life monitoring while we are absent.

My solution is not elegant but functional.   I have wired an external battery pack containing two AA batteries to the tags.   The battery box is a commercial item and is available in packs of five on EBay.  They come fitted with an ON/OFF switch and more than enough cable to connect to the battery contacts inside the tag. 

The tag case can be sprung open with a fine screwdriver or wood chisel and the PCB removed.   The dead battery can be slid out of the PCB battery holder. There are a string of five module probing lands at the foot of the PCB and after some checking I discovered that two of these are connected to the battery holder contacts.   The external battery pack wires can be fed into the case via a 3mm hole in the top edge.   The wires then pass through the old battery holder down to the bottom of the board and are soldered in place.   The tag is re-assembled, batteries fitted and switched on.  The tag will bleep if all is well.

How to wire the external battery pack
Internal view of the tag and how to wire the external battery connections

This electrical modification works but it is physically a bit gangly and scruffy.   A few minutes on Fusion 360 produced a simple 3D printed holder to contain the battery pack and the tag.   This has a slot so the temperature sensor is not obscured and a sprinkling of holes to allow physical mounting as appropriate.

Fusion 360 pictorial view of the tag and battery holder
Fusion 360 pictorial view of the tag and battery holder
Final assembly of the battery pack and the tag
Final assembly of the battery pack and the tag. The dot on the battery pack is a retaining screw.

In theory this modification should dramatically improve the operational life of the tags between battery changes but time will tell whether it is borne out in practice.

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Lockdown Pallet Beehive by Jonathan Powell

My side interest in bees brought this booklet to my attention where the author Jonathan Powell describes how he created a beehive from a couple of scrap wooden pallets.

Beehive made from scrap wooden pallets
The beehive mounted in a tree. Length is around 1m.

The hive is intended just for the bees with no intention of humans taking honey. It provides them with a tree like cavity to inhabit in keeping with a natural hole in a tree.  We humans seem to chop down our trees at an alarming rate and the potential for ancient trees with cavities suitable for wild bees diminishes by the day.

The hive has an inner core and an outer core with an insulation layer between the two using the sawdust created in cutting the pallet material.  My engineering brain kicked in and below is a spreadsheet that helps calculate the dimensions required for a multi-sided structure having the required 40 litres volume that bees appear to prefer.

Plenty of time is available to make one of these before the spring swarming period starts.

Pallet Hive Calculator

I do not claim to be an expert on bees but my interpretation is that such hives with high levels of insulation lead to less stress in the occupants.    This in turn means they are less prone to disease.   There is also much published information about the stress induced by having high density clusters of ‘domesticated’ bees leading again to disease.   Having simple well insulated hives for the wild bees to populate in relative isolation to each other must help these problems albeit at the expense of man being less able to raid honey. 

Here is an interesting link on the interaction of wild bees and domesticated bees.

For those wanting an interesting read I recommend ‘The Honeybee Democracy’ by Thomas Seeley.   Fascinating book.

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