Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Weekly Wednesday Update #4

Goal Update

Miles Swam: 0 [0]
Miles Run: 19 [73.84]
Tacos Ate: 15 [80]
Miles Biked: 58.07 [161.11]

February will be pool time! Already 18 miles behind schedule! This week has been a recovery week (every 4 weeks), where I have been attempting to reduce mileage and effort by ~10-25%.

Things I worked on

Time is flying by! Wow. Started cracking open the books and doing practice problems in preparation for the Mechanical Engineering Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam in April! This is the last step needed to obtain my PE License; and to be honest, my book problem solving capabilities is a bit rusty. Well, I have about 3 months to study up and get ready for the 8-hour exam. The good news is it's already coming back. :)
As can be expected, while the amount of aerobic activity and studying increase over the next few weeks, the time in the shop will be a bit limited. Don’t worry though! This weekend I plan to build the rest of my new workbench, my new electronics enclosure and hopefully finish the 1000 → 1800mm upgrade to my X-Carve, effectively transforming it into what I will deem as the Z-Carve. I will try some to capture the mess on camera with stills, time lapse and video so stay tuned!
Line up remains the same, few things moved around:
  • Aluminum Supports for 1800mm axis
  • Work bench with enclosure
  • Electronics case for Z-Carve
  • Dust Shoe version 2 (version 1 post here)

Favorite Podcast of the Week

In this podcast, Dave interviews the host of another one of my favorite podcasts, Jordan Harbinger from the Art of Charm podcast. Throughout this interview you hear how AoC came to be and some of the crazy things Jordan has gone through during his lifetime. It is a very inspirational podcast that helps introduce the Art of Charm podcast and give it some credibility. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Favorite Quote(s) of the Week

"Being realistic is the most common path to mediocrity." - Will Smith

“Don't count on motivation; count on discipline." - Jocko Willink

Random of the Week

This week while working on my electronics case, I have had to dig into lots of [Raspi C#] code and wiring diagrams to begin making sense of the magic behind the electronics that we now take for granted. I forgot how much I enjoy diving into the nitty gritty details of these magic boxes! The attention to detail required is awesome as one mistake can cause a component to 1) not work [as anticipated], 2) break or 3) cause a fire. Don’t worry, I am doing my research and documenting the circuits with a nice free tool called Fritzing to ensure I put the electronics together correctly and don’t start a fire! This project also gives me the opportunity to add some safety features to my controller that I currently do not have such as fuses and motor kill switches. And so I don't feel like I am skipping out on studying for the PE exam, I have used this opportunity to jog my circuit analysis memories (honestly, with simple LED circuits where I basically only use V=IR) in order to size my resistors correctly.

While I understand the basics of circuits analysis and was rather good at it in college, it is honestly one area that takes me out of my comfort zone, which allows me to grow. This reminds me of another quote (gotcha!) “You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ― Roy T. Bennett.

This week I challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone, honestly, what’s the worse that could happen?

Time to write post: 34 minutes

Sunday, January 22, 2017

X-Carve Upgrade - C-beam Z-axis

While trying to push the feed rates of my X-carve through some tougher materials, I began to notice some chatter in the Z-axis. This chatter was not up and down, but rather side to side. While the spindle was moving around (most notible in the Y-direction), the bit would chatter side to side (in X-direction) and could be stopped by holding the spindle with my hand. After some investigation, I found the spindle could be rocked side to side because the v-wheels on the Z-axis did contact the makerslide with equal pressure. After adjusting the eccentric nuts, the problem was reduced, but still noticable; therefore, I decided to replace the Z-axis assembly.

C-Beam Assembly

Image 1
C-Beam Bundle Pack
To start off this upgrade, I purchased the 250mm C-Beam™ Linear Actuator Bundle without motor. It came nicely pacakged with all the parts to build it as pictured. After digging through many resources, I found these two videos that explain the assembly in depth.
  1. Start this video at ~30 mins
  2. Watch this video from the start
C-beam Z-Axis next to Stock Z-axis for X-carve
Additionally, I purchased the following items to make this build.
Optional items purchased for belt reduction / install motor behind C-beam

Note: while building this, be sure to insert any t-slot nuts before placing both of the end plates on. I added 2 t-slot nuts to the two middle slots on the back side to install on the X-carriage. I also added 1 t-slot nut on each of the 4 side slots for installation of a dust shield at a later time.

T-nuts in two center slots of C-beam (view from back)

Installation onto X-carve

This was really easy. First, remove your spindle from the X-carve.

Stock Z-Axis with Spindle removed

Then remove the stock Z-Axis. Next, to install the C-beam, line up the TOP SET of t-nuts you dropped into the middle two slots on the back of the C-beam with the top holes on the X-carriage. Add screws loosely so you can still slide the C-beam up and down. 

TOP SET of t-nuts attached to X-Carriage

Next slide the C-beam down, and align the BOTTOM SET of t-nuts with the bottom holes on the X-carriage. Add screws loosely, then slide the C-beam all the way up before tightening all the screws. 

BOTTOM SET of t-nuts attached to X-Carriage
Finally, install the Spindle and tighten down the spindle mount.

Spindle and C-Beam on X-carve (no Z-Motor)

Belt Reduction Fun

Instead of mounting the motor over top of the C-beam, I opted to mount it behind the C-beam similar to how the X-carve does it. The only issue is that the 140mm belt that comes standard with the X-carve is too short. 

For a temporary solution, I purchased qty:10-200mm belts from amazon utilizing a 8mm bore and a 6.35mm bore GT2 pulley (12mm diameter). Well the 200mm belts were too long, so I rigged up a few bearings to give a 200mm path so I could start carving. It's not pretty but it will work for now.

Since the standard belts didn't work I figured I would improve on the belt drive by adding in some belt reduction gears to improve my Z-accuracy and increase the torque. After much reading from here and here and here and here, I found my solution. I purchased this gear reduction from ebay with the 8mm bore 50T pulley (diameter ~ 51mm) and the 6.35mm bore 25T pulley (diameter ~ 26mm) and sent a message to the seller to get a wheelbase of 70.2 (length of belt ~270mm).

[Insert picture - once installed by 02/10/2017]


With the stock Z-axis on the X-carve, I was experiencing lots of side to side chatter in the Z-axis. This was due to the eccentric spacers and v-wheels not being tight enough no matter what I did. Many other people have upgraded their Z-axis to a linear slide like this, but I did not want to drill into my X-carriage or make any adapter plates. The C-beam linear rail is a bolt-on, un-doable and upgrade-able option that costs around the same as the linear slide. Overall, it has removed any Z-axis chatter I was seeing; now the weakest point is my X-axis (which I will upgrade to the new wide makerslide extrusion once it arrives). After about 3 hours of run time, I can already see the improvement! I am able to run slightly faster that I was with no signs of chatter! 

Now its time to make a new dust shoe...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Weekly Wednesday Update #3

Goal Update

Miles Swam: 0 [0]
Miles Run: 22.32 [54.84]
Tacos Ate: 22 [65]
Miles Biked: 46.42 [103]

Things I worked on

Well, I have a confession… I honestly don’t think I want life to slow down. At the end of last week, I applied to get a seat at the Professional Engineering Licensing Exam (8 hours) that will occur in April; i.e. good-bye any free time I didn’t have, hello 3 month college studying session. The PE won’t really do much for me in my current job, but it is a highly sought after certification which will open many many doors in my future, and my sister can’t be the only kid in my family with letters after our names (love ya Dr. J!)! Requirements vary by state but usually is take and pass fundamentals of engineering exam (8 hours), work under a PE for a few years, take and pass the PE exam (8 hours) - simple right? I’ll let you know in May.

Still haven’t received those 200mm belts I ordered… However, I did re-order them and that set arrive, and was installed with a little ingenuity (see my installation post - link over the weekend). Needless to say, my X-Carve is up and running again!!! (Well, until I tear it apart to install a new X and Y linear rail, new belts, and some extras).

Since getting the machine dialed in, I made some acrylic plaques for my Fantasy Football league trophies (pictures to come after paint dries), a new spindle camera mount and a magnetic probe connector. The line up of things to make remains the same as last week :(
  • New dust shoe (acrylic)
  • Acrylic shadow boxes to hold bottle caps / wine corks (oak and acrylic)
  • New X-carve electronics controller (material TBD)
  • Aluminum Adventures (Milbot Industries brand, aluminum supports for Y-axis, and minimalist wallets)
I did make a lot of headway with utilizing a Raspberry pi with LEDs and buttons for control at the workbench! I will be writing up that blog post shortly (hopefully over the weekend)!
Acrylic 'Medals' - Paint gold, carve mirror image, paint black

My Fantasy Football Trophy - "Life's unfair" due to most point for, most point against and 3rd place

Favorite Podcast of the Week

Very interesting interview on how terrible canola/vegetable oil is for you. Some interesting spoiler alert facts: Vegetable oil actually changes the structure of fat and is linked to that nasty cellulose we see; Dr. Shanahan also says it's more healthy to smoke a cigarette a day than eat fried food (due to the vegetable oils).

Favorite Quote(s) of the Week

"Sometimes people fear starting a company too much. Really, what's the worst that could go wrong? You're not gonna starve to death. You're not gonna die of exposure - what's the worst that could go wrong?" - Elon Musk

Random of the Week

Time for a product review! At the end of last year, I purchased the Garmin 920XT GPS watch to help me better track my triathlon training and goals. After having this watch for just about two months, I don’t think I could go back to any other GPS watch. It is purely amazing! Garmin’s app syncs nicely showing all the things I want, including a 7 day, 4w, and 12 month review! The heart rate monitor is comfortable; I hardly notice it is there while running and biking, and the display is large and easy to read. What a great product! For those that are serious about triathlons or just want a great multi-sport watch, I couldn’t recommend the Garmin 920XT enough.

Yes, I am a gadget man… For another time… But the items on my list of next purchases include:

Time to write post: 34 minutes (proof-reading after a long day…)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Weekly Wednesday Update #2

Goal Update

Well, I am still on track (other than the swimming… something about swimming while there is snow on the ground just seems wrong.)

  Miles Swam: 0 [0]
  Miles Run: 12.34 [32.52]

  Tacos Ate: 28 [40]
  Miles Biked: 45.37 [56.62]

  in the past 7 days [total for the year]

Things I worked on

It has been a busy week! I finally installed a new Z-Axis on my X-carve (using Openbuilds C-beam); however, the belt I had to connect the threaded rod to the motor was too short and the amazon order for longer belts has been lost for the past two days. Damn you Amazon prime/USPS/mother nature! Hopefully this gets resolved so I can get my machine up and running again! Once everything is installed I will post my write up of the upgrade process (spoiler: it was super easy) and my opinions on the upgrade on this very blog; the article is already 90% done so stay tuned!

Once I have the X-carve up and tuned in, I will be making various things. Here is the line up:

  • New dust shoe (acrylic) 
  • Acrylic shadow boxes to hold bottle caps / wine corks (oak and acrylic) 
  • New X-carve electronics controller (material TBD) 
  • Aluminum Adventures (Milbot Industries brand, aluminum supports for Y-axis, and minimalist wallets) 
In any spare time, I have actually been working on setting up my Raspberry pi with LEDs and buttons to be able to better control my X-carve from my new workbench. Oh right, I will be doing a HUGE upgrade to the x-carve, replacing the 1000mm y-axis with 1800mm rails so I can cut ¼ sheets of plywood in one go! So excited!!!

Favorite Podcast of the Week

This is a tough one… but I really loved The School of Greatness Episode 425 with James Altucher.

Well, I have some time left on the clock so, I will introduce one of the podcasts I listen to regularly.

As mentioned above, I added The School of Greatness Podcast to my list during the summer from a recommendation of a friend. Lewis Howes goes around interviewing various people from various walks of life and finds out what makes them great. It is a very interesting, entertaining and informative podcast where you hear the stories, successes and failures of normal people who seem to be well on there way to greatness. My favorite section is at the end where he asks for the three truths. Listen to the episode above to get hooked! Let me know what you think in the comments.

Favorite Quote(s) of the Week

  “No one will ever give you permission to create the future.” - James Altucher

  “Calling it an experiment gives you permission to fail.” - A.J. Jacobs
                         Well, this blog is an experiment… so… yeah…

Random of the Week

Fine, I’ll let you in on a little secret I am borrowing from Tim Ferriss. Tim (whose podcast by the way is awesome! Thanks Tim!) is a chronic self experimenter who has a rule that he will not quit on something until he has given it the proper amount of effort and focus. For example, when he started podcasting, he committed to producing 6 episodes before he could throw in the towel. Borrowing from Tim, I commit to posting 6 weekly updates before I can upgrade my website to a more expensive (but still cheap, <$30/yr service) to enable better functionality. This will not only help me organize my brain dumps/rambles/whatever you want to call it, but do some fun, nerdy things to the page, teaching me more about website design and building. I am looking at some variation of wordpress, perhaps bluehost or gator host; if you have any recommendations feel free to comment below!

Time to write post: 31 minutes (damn last minute linking!)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Year, New Me: Wednesday Weekly Update #1

It has been a while since I last posted on my blog. To be honest, I started it with good intentions, and then became lazy and shifted my focus to many other things. This year, I really want to start up my own side gig (I've been making custom things for friends and family over the past year) and what better way to do it than to share some of the crazy with the internet. 

So lets put it out there: this is the first 'Wednesday Weekly Update' of the year where I will share an update on my goals, my favorite podcast and quote of the week, an update on things I have worked and one random curve ball for fun. This post will not take me more than 30 minutes to produce (focus on efficiency and accuracy) and take you less than 5 minutes to consume.

With that, let's get this show on the road!

2017 Goals

Normally, like a minority of people, I do not set new years resolutions. I always felt not setting resolutions was a better method than setting new years resolutions, crowding the gym for the month of January and then getting on with the normal fat, lazy American life. After listening to who knows how many hours of influential podcasts and reading hundreds if not thousands of blog posts, I decided to 'walk the walk' instead of 'talking the talk', or in my case 'thinking about talking the talk'. While most people set resolutions as a fresh start with only blind will-power to guide them, I actually gave each of these goals a test run in Q4 2016 as I learned it is a great way to not only achieve your goals, but to form good habits. 

  1. Run 1000 miles - because that just seems crazy (I must have run 500+ miles last year and the year before training for races)
  2. Eat 1000 Tacos - because I need fuel for these miles, some guy on instagram is doing it, tacos have all the things I need (meat and veggies) and I want this shirt
  3. Bike 2017 miles - because I didn't want to run 2017 miles with all the swimming and biking required for triathlon training
  4. Swim 270 miles - because I need to get more comfortable in the water 
  5. Complete a full Half Iron man (swim was cancelled at the 2016 Austin 70.3)
  6. Move to a warmer climate - because my body does not function for the 4-6 months it is below 40F in Michigan
  7. Challenge: Run a sub 3 hour marathon (PR of 3:16)
  8. Challenge: Become an ambassador or sponsor for a race/brand/organization.

Goal Update

Miles Run: 20.18
Tacos Ate: 12
Miles Biked: 11.25
Miles Swam: 0

Things I worked on

Well this past week I was in San Francisco, California on the 3rd Annual Beercation with the two best friends that anyone could have (the third hasn't been able to join us due to being lame). While I did not work on anything per-say, I did improve my alcohol tolerance while consuming over 126 new beers including one of the best IPAs known to man [Pliney the Elder], saw some beautiful sites, realized people from all over the world think living in the tundra is ridiculous and spent tons of quality (and some not so quality) time with my best friends and new friends. While no tangible progress was made on a project or potential product, much reflection, inspiration and idea generation occurred, probably due to the quantity of creative juices consumed.

In the coming weeks, you can expect to see the design, building, and assembly of my upgraded X-carve CNC machine and work space, my 4th iteration of a minimalist wallet, a USA medal display and potentially a surprise project.

Favorite Podcast of the Week

I use pocket casts to listen to podcasts while driving (~45 mins a day commuting to work, plus hours upon hours of weekend travel); as I am running out of time, I will post a list of the podcasts I listen to some other time.

Favorite Quote of the Week

"Failure only happens when you quit trying" - Heard on The School of Greatness Podcast #422 - Scooter Braun

Random of the Week

For Christmas, my Iron man support Crew (my older brother and his wonderful girlfriend) got me the Roll Recovery R8. I saw this thing during my first official Ultra Ragnar Race (Michigan 2016) shortly after I finished my final run and the sun began to break the horizon. Note: this will f***ing hurt and destroy your muscles, but it will help with the recovery soooooooooo very much. I first used it ever so gingerly after running ~40 miles in <24 hours in the pouring rain, and was out running the next day with legs as sore as a normal Sunday recovery day. This product definitely gets the highly coveted 'Zach Stamp of Approval.'

Time to write post: 53 minutes (shit, perfectionism and ramble-ism in full effect, better luck next week Zach)