Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ultimate Novakon meltdown, and other musings.

  Hello all,

  Again a fine fall day. Best time of year to me. Mostly because I no longer have to mow the lawn or clean the pool.

  Last post I commented that ting were running smooth. Boy did that ever piss off the gremlins and they launched an all out assault. Literally everything is going haywire, not the least of which was the Novakon CNC. It just sputtered, and simply lost its position again. I have had it with that piece of crap so I decided to re-make it. Every time it goes off mission it ruins a piece of metal and throws away hours of work.


  This is the VFD or variable frequency drive. It died a long time ago. These were junk from the factory and the company did not really offer much support other than to allow you to wait on hold for an eternity. The proximity sensors are also shown in the top picture. These caught on fire because no sealant was used to protect them from the coolant which flowed in and shorted them out.  So I disabled the proximity sensors and had no working limit switches for the past 5 years.

  This is an aftermarket VFD added to replace the factory junk. It works OK.  You can see on here also the toggle switch to control the coolant I added to replace the factory one that went bad. For years every time I turned on the machine it would start spraying coolant until boot up was complete and I told it to stop.  The strange coil of wires is an attempt to prevent magnetic interference from corrupting the pulse of electricity. It is some type of shielding.

   Also, the E-stop button has not worked for years. Not sure why since I tried everything I possibly could. So- no limit switches and no emergency stop. A limit switch is handy, but an E-stop is really nice when your sleeve gets grabbed by the spindle.

  And finally to twist the knife, the machine also began for no reason to spin the spindle upon startup to go along with the unwanted coolant spray, and randomly stop spinning while also missing steps and losing its location. When I opened the access panel it sprang to life. So the CNC machine was as reliable as the juke box at Arnold's that Fonzie would punch to enjoy music. This was not going to work.

  So it had to either go or be re-built. A new one is going to be over $10,000.  So I got this device off of e-bay for less than $10 and decided to go for broke and re-wire the mess.

  What you are seeing is pretty much the only directions that came with the device. It replaces this one that came on the machine.
  This is called a breakout board. It connects to the printer port on your PC and directs all the signals normally used to print stuff in to different sections of the CNC telling it what to do. The problem is that EACH pin has to be carefully programmed or the results are disastrous.
   I will be in therapy at some point for what followed, but somehow it seems to be working. Along the way the proximity switches were replaced and now work and the E-stop is working just fine. Two tubes of caulking should keep things dry and stop that expensive leak.  (coolant is $200 a bucket and watching it pool up on the floor is enough to make a grown man weep)  Going to return to milling and see how it does. Preliminary tests all seem to be a go. I can control the spindle off and on as well as RPM from this new board. This is done using PWM. This stands for pulse width modulation or some technical crap and it really is as screwy as it sounds. I input an incorrect setting and spun the motor so fast the cooling fan on the top exploded as the plastic fins could not withstand the force and were torn apart.
  The thing about the CNC home workshop stuff seems to be that you have to become your own engineer. And everyone is super helpful on forums but each person has a Frankenstein that they pieced together and no 2 are alike.
  Oh, and also the PC I design on and am typing on at this moment is having corrupted registry issues. Sometimes it forgets who I am and rejects my password. It hilariously locked me out of all my music, photos and e-mails. What a joy. Got that sorted but it might suffer a complete meltdown soon.
  So as you can see the gremlins have been beating me like a baby harp seal gets beaten by a fur trader.  Thank God I have 40+ molds lined up to make parts out of because these delays are frustrating for sure.
   Which brings me to something I saw today that was super inspirational-coolest man alive
Sorry about all the ads on the link. The internet is almost unusable with all the crap everywhere.
  Anyhow, think about what this guy is doing. He built a home made space ship and is going in to space to de-bunk the round Earth hoax. While running for governor. Seriously, who is NOT going to vote for someone who can get things done like this man. He also spent a tiny fraction of NASA's budget to do it. He does not just reject reality, he gives it a kick in the teeth.
  I got to say this has made me want to tackle even bigger challenges. This guy has the brains to build his own space ship and the balls to pilot the thing. His impending death will be a great loss.
 On that uplifting note, I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving.  More posts on the way soon as nothing else can possibly go wrong.  And for that I am very thankful. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

More odd ramblings

  Hello again folks.

  Things are chugging along, more or less the same as always. Thought I would update on a few things.

   Sales are steady, with 10,000 packages being shipped since opening the store 7 years ago.  Only about 10% are from the store with the majority going via other sales channels. If things stay the same all will be well. There have been no price increases for about 6 years. None are planned. Every time one of my costs go up I find some way to offset it. I am on my 3rd packing supplier because of this.       

   Shipping is very challenging, and it has simply eliminated overseas sales. Go to E-bay and you will see a host of items being sold from Asia with free shipping. Some items as cheap as $1. Try to return said item and the cost is $22.50. The government subsidizes their shipping. Some times you just have to admit defeat and dust yourself off and move on. This problem has no solution.

    Machines are running as good as possible. There was some relay issues that caused me some grief but things are smooth currently.

   The die assemble is going to be replaced. It has pounded out over 100,000 parts and is now out of square. One side is down .060" from the other. This results in mis-aligned parts.

  It is going to cost some money and time but this has to be fixed. I am replacing the existing die, and making it perfectly flat with more re-enforcement to prevent future damage. Being slammed together with 28 tons of force hundreds of thousands of times I guess will tend to bend things a bit.

  In addition, a new die is being designed and built. This one is going to increase the working space available from 4" X 6" to a whopping 8.5" X 12".  The amount of plastic injected can not be increased, but the flexibility in part positioning and size is going to be a huge improvement. This die is going to accommodate 1/8" ejector pins and 1/4" ejector pins.  Waiting on materials to show up at the door any day to make this a reality.

  The primary driver for this new die is this all consuming distraction/challenge.


  Is it possible to create a mold to make this car? Yes. Can I do it? Not really sure at this point, but I am spending a lot of time and money to find out.

  From a business perspective, it seems to make sense to look for different types of products to create. The gaming industry is very crowded with better run and better equipped companies pouring out a flood of products. I posted in this Dakka thread and it explains things pretty well. dakka link

  I have been a life long fan of classic American cars and there are 3 that I want to make for slot car racing. It is going to take a slide action mold for this and thus the spending of large amounts of money to buy hardened bushings, springs, and pins. The mold pictured is the back of the wheels for the car design.
   All 3 cars are getting the same wheels, chassis, interior, and driver. What I am hoping to make is equal to these from long ago-

    As usual, failure is the best teacher. I made this mold for a guy, and now I have to make the whole thing over again. (sorry Andrew).

  The bottom door for the shipping container will not fill with plastic. The reason is because I put it on the wrong way. I did not notice that one door is inset and therefore thinner than the other. I filled the thinner part first. This does not work. The plastic fills in and cools before the thicker side gets filled. If you flood it with hot plastic it might work, but the thick side will get sinkholes as it cools. You have to flow from thick to thin. It is a shame because he did some stellar work designing it.

  Making figures is on the back burner for a while again. Although I ran some tests with the EDM machine and it was very promising. The only problem is that it is the slowest process I have ever seen. It sparks and cooks like a mad scientist lab but after hours of smoke and fire it has managed to drill a hole .01" deep. Something that could have been done on a drill press in seconds with a lot less cost and drama. But it is the fact it can drill a face shaped hole that makes it unique.

  The shop overall is in the best shape it has been in years. I purchased a label maker and it seems to motivate a person to label stuff and put it away. So things are organized and in place instead of the usual post-tornado look.

  And this was very fortunate, because a visitor stopped by. The goal of creating a maker space is going to finally happen, and not because of me.     makerspace

  The leader of the board of directors spent an hour or so visiting. This is a legit maker space, with a funding grant and actual grown ups running it. The building has 6000 amps of 3 phase electricity!!!!!

  I think a Tesla coil built there could arc to the moon. Although I will not be suggesting that right at first, instead trying to stick to more practical projects like time machines and re-animation of dead tissue.

  They are non-profit so no howling swarms of tax collectors to fend off, and they are INSURED. In addition, there will be free legal advice from Penn-State from their small business start up help called Launch Pad. There will be conference rooms and the chance to network with other locals. This is scheduled to open on January and I am hoping to secure a position on the technical committee. There is a good chance that the space will someday include plastic injection molding equipment for the members to use.  After seeing my workshop the director seemed very keen to replicate it for the maker space.

  So this is really good news if it comes to pass. The only unfortunate thing is that this maker space is going to be a slow process because of government involvement.  I am just glad to finally see one in our area.

  So that is where we are on this fine fall day. I will post some pics and updates if anything of note occurs.



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

From bad to worse and back again!

Alright.  Well things went from really bad to significantly worse.

Multiple items are getting scarce and there is no option to make more things. The heating problem has been repaired, with only one or 2 minor injuries. If you ever take 220 volts through a finger, be assured it is not fatal and feelings return to your extremities in as little as 2 days.

But the hydraulic system has utterly failed. Moments after the heating system got to working again. It seems to be a conspiracy.

This is going to take a major effort and it is very dirty, greasy work done by crawling about under the press.

So, expect some major delays unless a miracle happens. I will keep reducing the inventories as needed, until everything is gone.

I can not complain, the little machine was headed for the scrap pile and it has found a second life in my workshop. It has dutifully cranked out thousands and thousands of parts.

I guess it just wanted some downtime.

Ok, just enjoy the summer and hang in there.

EDIT:  The machine is back, and better than ever! I guess a miracle did happen, because for no reason I can figure out the machine is now pumping away. The new heater wiring is fantastic. Previously the machine had been wired with heaters in sequence and only using one of the 3 available phases. I wired everything in parallel so each heater is getting a full blast of power, and am using 2 phases.  (using all 3 would result in voltage jumping to 380)  The warm up time went from 45 minutes to 10. And the machine stays locked on the temp with no fading. You can almost hear the plastic pellets scream in agony as they are cast in to the fiery chasm. The machine shows no mercy as they are brutally crushed in to parts.

  The hydraulics just started working on its own. I unplugged a connector and plugged it back in, which had been done at least 3 times before, and it sprang to life. So all connectors got a good spray with contact cleaner and just like that things are looking much better.  I will be making parts every morning for a week or so but that should get things caught up.

  Regarding accidents; this is no laughing matter and I advise anyone attempting to do this to try not to be as stupid as me. The incident mentioned above happened during testing. Power was turned off, and the hot wire was disconnected and cut, so the shielding was covering the wire with only a tiny circle of metal exposed. This wire was placed in an out of the way spot and secured while I turned the power on to run a voltage test and figure out what was what.  Well I dropped the test lead and without thinking reached to grab it as it fell. This caused my finger to brush the very wire that had been moved out of the way. And it took a hit that was a bit surprising.  A real tough guy would not even need a fancy voltage meter.  He would simply grab each wire and determine the voltage by the amount of pain he felt, after wetting his fingers on his tobacco juice.  Those types of guys are getting scarce nowadays.

  So while it is fun to tinker around with discarded industrial machines, try to respect the fact that things can get serious in a second.  I have made a major effort to install safety guards and make the shop a very safe place to tinker. It seems that during maintenance things are most likely to go wrong. And this was a really freak incident that involved involuntary reaction to a falling object.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Old Yeller is dead.............for now.

  Hi again,

  Boy have I been busy. Work has become 7 days a week, in addition to making and shipping products every day.  There is a distinct possibility that my next day off the day job will be upon retirement.

  A couple of updates;
   First on the meetup. I had to leave that platform because they were spamming people with resist messages regarding President Trump. It is not the part of a social network platform to interject themselves in to things. The owners of meet-up offered free services to anti-Trump groups and even created them to help foster the resistance.  Not sure about Trump at this point personally, but pretty sure meet-up crossed the line by spamming my paid for group.

  Second on the demo. Attendance was a disappointing 0. Not sure why, but starting to reach the conclusion that this avenue is a dead end. It is obvious the local community is not going to produce any people who have an interest.

  Third.  Got another rejection on insurance. This one was looking good until they discovered I make the plastic parts. They assumed I merely assembled them. Luckily, this dovetails pretty well with point 2. Insurance is not needed if there is no one to get hurt.

   Ok, that is the bad news. It is strange to hear reality online sometimes. The world is full of false impressions that people try to create. It is something that has gotten a bit out of hand, to the point that most things online are a deliberate attempt to create an overly positive spin.   This blog tells the dirty and painful reality of plugging along one step at a time. 

   Oh, forgot to mention number 4-  Gremlins-  ( again)

  The plastic machine has died. It stopped heating up, and the breaker was thrown. Trying to reset it caused it to trip immediately.  With no manual or wiring diagram it was going to be tough to troubleshoot this. Compounding the problem is the fact the machine is 44 years old and has been used hard that entire time. There were so many sloppy repairs on the machine over the years that nothing is as it should be.

  This is the important stuff, and it looks pretty self explanatory. There are wires that goes here and there.........some breakers...........a transformer...................some other things..............a gismo............and this other part.  Pretty basic.

  Except it is 3 phase. In case you are wondering, 3 phase electric was invented by Tesla after drinking a case of Vodka and wondering through the forest eating hallucinogenic mushrooms. He thought it would separate the real electricians from the pretenders.  Regular 110 electric has a hot and a ground.  Regular 220 electric  has  2 hot and a ground. Three phase has 3 wires, all of which are simultaneously hot and ground. Apparently.

  Yeah, this one was a puzzler for sure but everything worked out in the end. Someone had wired all the heaters to the same phase, which is not as efficient as using all 3 phases. I am going to wire each of the 3 heaters to a different phase, which is going to save electricity and make pre heat up take a lot less time.

   Than there is this part.
  I actually re-wired this before so it is easy.

 And here is the problem, after much trial and error.

 The wire on the heater band is shorting out and is broken. New heater bands, relays, control units, and switches are on the way. When done it will be better than ever.  The parts are going to take a while to arrive. They were ordered from Amazon with 2 days shipping. But that means they will arrive 2 days after they are shipped. And they are not going to be shipped until mid to late June. So inventory is going to be stressed and things are going to get a bit crazy. Already 20mm rounds are out of stock and it looks like a couple more are going to be out before things get back to normal.

  And now the good news, besides the crushing Gremlin defeat already detailed.

   I am in preliminary communications with someone who might be a huge help and catapult things in an amazing direction. Online of course, the locals are no help.

  The current obstacle is the day job. But that is being sorted and should be better in the near future.

  In spite of the negative comments at the start this is a positive update. In many ways the things that I failed at are not meant to be. Not having helpers is probably better in the long run.

   Shipments will reach 10,000 packages sometime soon. Amazing, and I have to again thank all the people who are out there who keep coming back for more bases and bits.

  So there it is, another great summer is on the way. I hope you all enjoy it.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Meetup- here it is

  Hi folks,

  I finally started the Meetup group for being creative.  Here is a link.  enter the madness

  The group is restricted, meaning I have to approve people joining.  There are 2 questions to answer, and already I have used those questions to screen out several people.  I will see how things go. It could be a waste of $60.

   One of the problems with meet-up is the volume of complete strangers you are going to end up meeting. I guess that is the point, but it is also supposed to be a method to find people at least partially of similar mindsets. As long as there is no gun play all should work out fine. The location is a comic shop nearby.

   After the event I will fully detail the good, bad, and ugly of the continuous quest to find the right folks to collaborate on projects. Right here on this blog.

  This is an interesting weekend at the house. I am going through the lead pile and cataloging every single model, entering it in a database, and storing it away in a referenced location. At least that is the plan. A casual observer would describe it as shuffling junk around. Again.

   I will also be purging the collection of areas I have no plans to dabble in. I have been doing that a lot of late. At a certain point it becomes evident that time is not a renewable resource. There are a lot of things that will simply not get done. The new goal is to finish the important ones. And figure out which ones are important.

  Anyhow, if you want to learn every secret I know, stop by the meet-up. 

  Spoiler alert- it is really not a great volume of knowledge.  More like a few tips.............

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Overloaded-3000 pounds of potential.

  Hello again folks,

  Well the year is off and running.  I guess a re-cap of last year is in order and as usual an insanely optimistic and completely unrealistic set of goals for the new year. All of which I will fail utterly to achieve, but try again anyhow.

  Last year was actually pretty amazing. Shipped 6400+ items plus some wholesale orders. I kept off forums for the most part, only once making a fool of myself and getting some strangers to vow never to buy from me. Forums are interesting. Some really great people and a couple of folks with an insatiable desire to flame. Not worth getting involved with the latter. Just raises my blood pressure.

   Speaking of which- I am on some new meds for said condition. Which lists these actual side effects:
Constipation; indigestion; dizziness; faintness; dry mouth; cold extremities -hands and feet; confusion; depression; insomnia; nightmares; edema; fatigue; lack of energy; hallucinations; sensation of pins and needles; skin reaction-rash, hives; blurred vision; difficulty speaking and hearing; unsteadiness; wheezing; stomach pain; low fever; dark urine; jaundice; bloody urine; lower back and side pain; swelling of face, fingers or lower legs; vomiting; weight gain; black, tarry stools; bleeding gums; loss of vision; bone and joint pain; disturbed color perception; double vision; feeling that others are watching you or controlling your behavior; feeling that others can hear your thoughts; feeling, seeing, or hearing things that are not there; halos around lights, night blindness.

  So nothing really negative and free nightmares as a bonus.

   Last year I picked up a lot of hardware and got it configured. A new PC with a Quadro graphics card, the EDM rigged and functioning, new controls designed and wired up for the Arburg, a new dust collection system for the ACT machine, actual non-toxic coolant for the Novakon,  and a 3D printer working. I printed out some tooling fixtures to hold and standardize things. So that was some progress.
  A couple of general points that may have good or bad implications this year. I am currently working 40+ hours per week in order to get health care and keeping up with orders in my "free" time. So far things are going well. Slow selling items are not being re-made until everything else is caught up. I will make them as time allows. My full time job is looking very promising, as I have a new staff person starting at the end of the month which will grant me the usual 2 day weekends.

  There has been a change in leadership here in America and it might mean a change in the health care law. If this happens I could be back at Proxie working full time a lot sooner than I expected. Not sure if anyone reading this is a small business owner, but trying to pay for mandatory health care is very difficult. Hence the full time gig.

  The only problem that has been really causing trouble is lack of time. Too many things to do and not enough time to do any of them properly. Gaining time through efficiency has helped a lot but things are moving along at about 1% the speed they should be.

  Some more positive developments.  A location to host meet-ups has been spotted. It is not my house, but the gaming area of a local comic book shop. I have to work out the details on times but this is going to happen within weeks, once those elusive weekends make an appearance. I loaned them my 28mm sci-fi scenery. I am selling off a lot of it and pretty much leaving behind this scale for sci-fi and switching to 1/72. So they get some scenery and I can some room to use once in a while.

  I was rejected for insurance again, and this time I was as charming as possible. So a friend offered some very sage counsel. "Don't let idiots in the shop".  A simple yet effective method to ensure there are no injury/lawsuits.  I can use the comic shop to meet and greet and cast a first level "detect idiot" spell over the crowd. Here is an example of what to look for-

   See what I mean? Of course I have to exempt my self from the policy.
   The shop is filled with supplies also.
 This is the low tech delivery system used to bring in plastic. This box holds up to 1500 pounds. There are 2 of them unloaded in the shop. One is neutral and can be died in to any color, and the other is black. 3000 pounds can make a lot of bits and it is nice to start the year fully supplied with materials. This is the smallest size box to qualify for free shipping and it just saves so much money to buy in bulk.

  Updates will be posted as things happen. If things go as usual this post will most likely be copied and pasted next year. Or maybe something better will happen. Or it could be another hallucination.

  Have a good day everyone!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Falling Down

   Hi folks!

   Ok, so it has been a while. I managed to keep my mouth shut over the election so as not to alienate anyone.  People get uptight real fast and foaming at the mouth seems to have become a national pastime. But keeping my head down and mouth shut no one was offended. I hope. Anything you say will piss off someone, including saying nothing.   Thank God its over, although the next one has started I guess.

  What have I been doing? Playing Oblivion. This is a great game and I put it aside when Skyrim came out. Since I beat the game of Skyrim's main quest I thought I would go back to Oblivion. Pretty neat to go through it again. My previous save game was from 2011 so I started a new character and made it to 13th level before becoming afflicted with Vampirism and had to retire. I could not bear being a Wood Elf force to guzzle healing potions because the sunlight is burning my flesh off. It was humiliating.

   Just one tip; avoid the town of Hackdirt. I found this area and was given a hard time by the shop keeper. In fact everyone in the village is a jerk and the squabble escalated until each and every one of them lie dead and their meager possessions were looted. What a crappy town.

  So last time I played video games was during a period of healing, and this time was no different.  I stopped for an oil change and the mechanic tried to sell me an air filter. As I walked out to tell him "no" a bad thing happened. It turns out there are these large holes in the ground under your vehicle, placed so as to swallow up the unsuspecting. Let me tell you something, 32 feet per second per second does not really sound all that fast, but it feels like it. Luckily I made my saving throw and only took half damage. By grabbing my truck bumper on the way down I managed to dangle by one ankle and a few fingertips and pull myself back up. My knee bent the wrong way and took all my weight, tearing some ligaments. The ankle was also twisted around and got all purple and swollen. So it had to be elevated and hence the weeks spent playing Oblivion.

  In the meantime I have not progressed on my mold very much. In addition to shredding my leg I got a promotion to supervisor at my day job. Apparently supervisor means "person who fills in unlimited hours for missing staff".

  But all is not lost. I seem to have a new enthusiasm for a project I recently undertook, which I will elaborate on as it comes to pass. Just something I am doing for me at this point. Pretty much everything I make is something somebody asks for or I want to have for myself.  It is just fun and creative and I find it very enjoyable.

  There are a few new things in the shop. Some new pill bases and a damage tracker I made for Kings of War.

  I thought they would enhance my troops a bit, but I have not really been able to stand much or find time to play. Just something little I knocked together one day.

  What I am really focused on this year is getting some more people involved, and that means insurance. One thing my recent plunge into the grease pit has taught me is how easy it is to get hurt and how quick people are to sue. Almost every person I told my story to assumed I was going to call a lawyer, which I did not do. But it really drove home the fact that I have to be insured before opening my shop up as the Maker Space I want it to be.

  So now it seems some of my posts on this blog were not that wise after all. Sure it is fun for me to talk about tricking out a milling machine by boosting it from 24 volts to 220, and preventing all my neighbors from listening to AM radio at the same time. But a potential insurer seems to balk at things like that.

  Here is a typical conversation-

[insurance person]  " Ok, so you want to take discarded industrial equipment with unauthorized modifications, and then invite total strangers in to your home to operate this equipment. And, I might add, strangers with no experience or training."

[me]  "Yes. And don't forget my discount for having a fire extinguisher and band aids."

[insurance person]  "Get out."

[me] [incredulous]  " What?, are you from Hackdirt?"

  In any event, that is what has been happening. I will post more as things progress, or less if I find a cure for Vampirism. Sorry, but someone has to close those Oblivion gates.

  I hope everyone has a Great Holiday Season.  Whatever you are doing, enjoy yourself. That is what makes life worth living.