My TIG welding frustration suffered more than usual the other day .
I have an ESAB Warrior Tech helmet which works really well when welding but it would not stay flipped up when I wanted to see things in daylight. Every time I leaned forward the helmet would drop down over my eyes and thump me on the chest. Added to the fact I was trying to TIG some thin wall tubing I was no in no mood for distractions.
Before the helmet joined the happy hunting ground over the neighbours fence I took it apart to see why the latch up action was not working. Inspection revealed that the backing plate had cracked around the latching cam.
I could have bought a completely new head band assembly but the part in question might just be 3D printable. The Fusion 360 sketch ended up being very complicated based on eyeball guesses on curves and centres but on the second version I had a printed replacement which did the job …. for the time being anyway.
If anyone is suffering from a bruised chest let me know and I will forward the Fusion file.
You know how I keep on going on about how solutions to problems are often solved by coming at them from different and often unconventional directions, by utilising and marrying available resources ? It was a philosophy that I encouraged in my team while running my business and it has carried over into my way of working in retirement. A recent job brought his home to me.
A client had a very old clock that had had a new barrel wheel made and fitted but the clock would not run for more than a few minutes. There appeared to be an incompatibility either between the modulus of the new wheel and its mating pinion or the shape of the original pinion did not match the shape of the new wheel.
If you spun the barrel wheel you could feel the resistance build up as the synchronisation between the two profiles drifted out. Adding extra weight to the barrel helped but did not solve the problem.
So what to do ?
The barrel wheel was serious engineering and I did not fancy making a new one. The existing mating pinion was a seven leaf format and its leaves were what you might call pear drop shaped rather than the expected profile. The pinion arbor had a 72 tooth wheel driving the next part of the clock train but we did have a spare one of these to hand from the minute dial.
Calculations from the geometry of the barrel wheel resulted in a modulus figure of 1.86. A rather large value and not one that conventional cutters are readily available for. The pinion was perhaps something that could be drawn in Fusion 360 and then made on my Tormach CNC PCNC440 milling machine. The only snag was that the profile needed on the pinion would likely be weird and the world’s supply of brass could diminish rapidly while getting the profile correct.
Using Gearwheel Designer I created what would be the expected profile for a 7 leaf pinion with a modulus of 1.86. This was exported as a DXF line drawing into Fusion 360. This outline was extruded in Fusion into a 3D design and a boss was added to mount the 72 tooth wheel.
The design was 3D printed on my Sindoh 3DWOX printer and was mounted on a 6mm silver steel arbor. I added a driving disc that interlocked with the printed pinion and the crossings on the wheel to drive the assembly. Surprise surprise it didn’t run but it did mirror the regular pattern of stiffness of the original pinion.
I now had the test bed for quickly making and testing different pinion profiles. There followed a number of hours watching the engagement progression of the profile of the pinion into the barrel wheel and then trying to conceive a profile for the pinion that might run.
Fusion 360 made this process so easy and round 10 printed test profiles later I had success with a clock that now ran. The driving weight on the barrel was around 11kg and it looked to be worthwhile wasting some brass making a ‘proper’ one.
I took the 3D design and produced CAM code in Fusion. This would cut the profile ‘on end’ using an adaptive first cut with a 4mm end mill followed by rest machining the remaining material with a 2mm end mill.
The resulting brass pinion was mounted on the arbor and the clock ran with a strong beat. As expected the brass pinion gave less surface to surface resistance than the 3D printed part and the barrel driving weight was now able to be reduced down to 6.25kg.
I ran my Microset Timer on the clock overnight and had a first off timing error of 5 minutes per day which was fixable with a pendulum tweak. The movement had an instability of a few seconds per day which was quite astonishing.
The conclusion of the experience is that at first glance this seemed like a conventional pinion cutting exercise …. but M1.86 cutters are not readily available. If a cutter could have been found at less than a King’s Ransom it is likely that the resulting conventional profile would have been wrong to match the barrel wheel.
The alternative route that was taken of Gearwheel Designer to Fusion to 3D print to Fusion CAM to CNC machining solved the problem albeit with a final weird profile. The purists and traditionalists will groan. There will be a gnashing of teeth and a pulling out of hair.
Does it really matter if the result is new life for what could have become a heap of scrap metal ?
At last a 4th axis drive for the Tormach PCNC440 !
I have waited 4 years for this to be available and did not hesitate to put in my order to Tormach for one of the new MicroArc drives. Probably the best way to get a good idea of this product is to watch John Saunders’ video.
The MicroArc wasn’t a low cost buy and because 4th axis was not around when my 440 was originally shipped, I needed a fitting upgrade kit as part of the order. Having placed my order with Tormach it took exactly 7 days for DHL to arrive on my doorstep with the shipment. Quite amazing considering the difficult times we are experiencing at the moment.
It took me about one hour to fit the new stepper driver and additional wiring. As ever there were good clear instructions from Tormach. I switched on the 440, enabled the 4th axis in PathPilot and I could control the A axis from the PathPilot screen. Very impressed.
I watched John Saunders video on the MicroArc and how to do 4th axis programming in Fusion 360. I drew up a simple model in Fusion but could not get it to produce working GCode. I had some comms with John and he gave me some pointers. The model had a rotational repeat pattern but while I could run a single op code, if I tried to run the rotational pattern the post processor came up with an error message and would not output any code.
I thought at first it was because I was only using a Fusion hobbyist licence and that 4th axis maybe was not possible. A really helpful dialogue with Shannon McGarry at Fusion cleared up that issue so it must be something else.
After some experimenting I discovered that you have to set the axis of rotation in the post processor dialogue options list. All then worked fine.
My wife has presented me with a sign that has just got JSN written on it. It is to remind me when I answer the phone to a ‘can you just do’ enquiry…… to Just Say No.
I try my best to live up to her expectations but sometimes something comes along that should really be a JSN job but which scratches an itch. You know what I mean. You think about it and you do all the right mental arithmetic in your head and the answer keeps coming back to the same – don’t even think about it. But the the other side of my brain is screaming at me … what a challenge, what a learning experience, what fun to have a go at it. Providing the asking party is aware of your thought process or lack of it and accepts that it might just go belly up and never come to fruition then why not ?
Back to the story – 10 days or so ago I had a call from David Pawley who is a turret clock expert extraordinaire to say someone he knew was after an escape wheel for a turret clock and was desperate. David passed on the details and a couple of days later the potential customer arrived on our driveway. After a suitably socially distant conversation and a rubber gloves inspection of the old damaged wheel …. I got sucked in and turned the JSN sign over to face the wall.
The Brocot is no ordinary escape wheel. In fact it is a real challenge. Not a simple fly cutter job. Traditionally it would be cut in an indexing device such as a lathe with two different cutters, one for the curve and one for the notch. I didn’t have these so I thought I would probably upset the traditionalists and try to use CNC.
Lots of activity to be documented and posted but let’s start off with a short note. Not earth shattering but might help someone somewhere.
I had the bright idea of using Micro USBs as a connecting medium on a couple of projects. This was driven by the need for a 5 wire connection. The design was finished and I dug out the Micro USB to Micro USB cable that had been bought in for the project and connected things together. All the LEDs went out on my project circuit board. Gloom.
After buzzing the cable through I found that on a standard Micro USB cable the Sense pin is linked to the Ground pin. There are not 5 independent and isolated cores as you would expect. Just four. What to do ?
By chance I had some Micro USB connector ends with solder tabs but no shells. I did not have any flexible small diameter cable with 5 cores. After some discussions with my other half she offered to plait 5 independent cables together for me as a cable form. These were soldered to the Micro USB ends. Two small end caps were quickly designed in Fusion 360 and took 10 minutes to print on the 3D printer. Job complete and project back up and running.