Monthly Archives: November 2019

Conways Game of Life

Working on a new project, combining making something fun with learning some new skills. In this instance the primary goal was to learn a little more about python, Visual Studio Code + Github, and object oriented programming (my first class!).

Sneak peek below, but this will be a RGB 48*48 matrix framed in a shadow-box on the wall. Initially it’ll run the game of life, but could be updated later to display anything. Early pics of the physical project below, and link to gitHub repository.

First cuts on new CNC

Not a super exciting project, but it did let me actually make something on the new CNC. My son has been playing with epoxy and learning to make things by watching youtube. We made a table for the basement a while ago, and it needed some coasters. Pretty basic profile/pocket of our lake, and he did the epoxy fill!

CNC Upgrade :: Bed

For the bed of the machine i just used a 1/2″ steel plate. I went with hot rolled as they didn’t have cold rolled available. This was an eehhhhhh sort of choice. Its not dimensionally flat across the work area, and I really don’t have the power available to mill it directly. For the interim i attached a 1/4″ aluminum sacrificial bed on top of the plate which i could mill flat.

This gets us to the end of the physical construction. Final touch was drawer fronts, with some wrenches i got from my dad when he retired his mechanics business.

CNC Upgrade :: Electronics

This machine is based around a smoothstepper control board driving gecko stepper motor drivers. On the pc end of things gcode is processed by mach4. It’s an interesting relationship between these three companies as the lines of support are pretty gray. I had some issues during the build and its amazing how on the back-end their engineers all seem to know each other. In particular the smoothstepper guys were super helpful on some issues that wen’t pretty deep into mach4 territory.

I also just wanted to say that you’ll pay a bit more for the gecko drivers, but their support is top notch. I blew up a board due to ignorance, and they replaced it without even an admonishment!

D-rail rookie here missed that common ground bar on his second-hand components. Shorted out all the outputs from the gecko driver. Pro tip :: that lets the magic smoke out.

I did as much of the wiring on a backer-board on my workbench as I could before mounting the panel in the back of the machine. The stepper drivers need a heatsink, and I had this one in my garage for 10+ years. Originally it was going to be for a home theater amplifier.

I 3d printed up a bracket for the smoothstepper, and even printed some cable management loops. On my last build 3d printers really weren’t a thing so maybe i went overboard, but this was pretty fun. Used a lot of ferrules which I learned about volunteering at the high school for First Robotics. Nice to cross pollinate skill sets!

We bring in 220 on the left, which goes through a big contactor, with only the 5v rail-mount power supply always being powered. The contactor is initiated through a the aircraft toggle mounted on the estop box. That basically turns whole machine on/off. The limit switches on the machine were 24v so i had to solder inline resistors so they would work with the 12v inputs on the smoothstepper.