04/01/2021 at 14:55 •
Since I am looking to build an injection molding machine to speed up production, I will also need a CNC mill to prepare the molds. I have this simple engraving machine that I built many years ago, and now its finally getting a complete overhaul.
First of I am rewiring all the crappy cables or "birds nest" that I call it. Since I built the machine when I was in school I didnt have cash to buy proper cables and connectors, but used anything I could find.
The machine used to rely on an old Win XP machine with a parallell port that crashed completely some time ago. Now I have bought a USB controller board (the red one in the pic) so I can use it with my newer 32-bit Win7 computer instead. The former computer got cut open and I am rebuilding its case to house all the electronics for the new machine.
Later I will replace some of the mechanics to make it more sturdy. The goal is for it to be strong enough to mill aluminium.
03/31/2021 at 16:58 •
Every single board I make is compiled, hooked up to motors and tested before I ship it off to eager customers around the globe. And today was "test day", with 50 boards getting their firmware.
I still havent gotten the last damn screws in the mail so I can sell some more kits, but hopefully tomorrow. Today I found suppliers closer to home, so the next batch will hopefully only take 3 weeks instead of 7.
03/28/2021 at 14:05 •
One just isnt enough. At the moment I have two printers making noise in my office almost continuously. But the next few months I probably need to invest in building some sort of injection molding machine, which in turn actually requires another 3D-printer - SLA resin printer - for making the molds. But thats OK, I love 3D-printing almost as much as pizza, which is a lot!
03/25/2021 at 14:23 •
I was a bit relucant to spend 60 bucks on a JST crimping tool, but damn it was worth every penny!
Not the fastest way to produce the cables, because it is "single action" you need to crimp twice for each little connector. But quality takes time, and I am not in it to mass-produce anyways. I am more than happy building top notch rotators that people can enjoy for years to come.
Now I'm only waiting for a batch of screws to arrive, hopefully next week. Then I can open the shop again and take some orders, always nice when your hard work pays off. And I'm sure you are eager also to get your hands on one of the kits!
03/24/2021 at 13:45 •
Its not everyday that you order a hundred stepper motors, but thats exactly what I did two weeks ago. And now they are here!
The motors have been one of the biggest issues in scaling up production, since there arent any great producers here in Europe. But after a lot of searching I found a supplier in the far east that can handle the volumes and has a reasonable pricing, but most importantly - can deliver in weeks and not months.
A big shipment of screws are now the last parts that I am waiting for before I can start to sell the next fresh batch of Satrans. Hopefully they'll arrive this week *fingers crossed*
03/23/2021 at 13:54 •
Whats worst? Crimping micro JST connectors, or pulling out your fingernails with a pair of pliers? Probably the connectors...
Since I wanted a more professional way of connecting the DC power cable to the control boards, there werent too many options. I bought the quality looking crimp tool to the left for less than 20 bucks, which felt like a reasonable investment. But a few hours later I came to one conclusion... that it's complete and utter crap!
First I abandoned the plan completely and thought of replacing the JST XH connectors with really small screw terminals instead, but that bugged me for days. So I emptied the savings account and went out and got the one to the right. A japanese-made quality tool for 60 USD, called Engineer PA-09. Hopefully it will pay off in the long run, but its probably the most expensive "pliers" I will buy for years to come.
03/22/2021 at 11:03 •
When scaling up production, 3D-printing quickly becomes a bad alternative. I have two in the shop working constantly, but because of the long time it takes to make the parts for a single Satran - the satellite tracking antenna rotator - I can only produce around 10 full kits each month.
Its possible to buy another printer or two, but I can do better stuff with my time than to babysit the printers all day. Also the quality of FDM-prints can be quite low, with all the layers showing. But its great when I make tweaks to the design, with almost zero time until I can start producing it.
The professional way of making plastic parts are called "injection molding", which requires very expensive molds. I got a quote here in Sweden for almost $10k for a single mold, and my design uses more than ten different parts. There are some cheaper producers out there but its still a minimum $2k per part. Hence not an option.
But what if.... I could make it the DIY way?
A surf around the web revealed an exciting new way of making molds with an SLA 3D-printer. The surface finish probably wont be 100% factory-perfect, but it would still be a lot better than 3D-prints, and would bring the production time for some parts down from 6 hours to a few minutes. Also it would combine the possibility of rapid prototyping with the ability to produce tens or hundreds of parts in no-time.
All I need besides an SLA-printer is some heater element, a little metal work and a hydraulic log splitter... perhaps I should give it a try?
03/20/2021 at 15:21 •
When you have 50 circuit boards to solder in a row, the fumes can get quite annoying and unhealthy. Thats why I built this very simple but efficient solder fume extractor.
An old computer fan, a 3D-printed housing and two layers of an active carbon filter stolen from a kitchen fan. Removes pretty much all the smoke and smell and cost me more or less nothing. A very good investment in my health and sanity.
03/19/2021 at 08:12 •
Building a prototype is a whole different arena than mass production. Thanks to the large interest from all over the world, I am scaling up this production run, so keeping all the parts in a big box just wont do it anymore.
Since every single part is needed before I can start to ship every kit, inventory management is something I am slowly developing, using classic lean management techniques. There are lots of bottlenecks to solve still, but being able to produce five times as much in the same time frame is a big accomplishment for me. Hopefully you have the patience to wait a little bit longer before I can meet the demand.
Getting the product in the hands of amazing satellite enthusiasts and ham radio operators is my main priority. And I am loving every second of it...
03/10/2021 at 06:16 •
The new batch of PCBs arrived a week ago and I've started soldering all the components. This time the goal is to put up 50 kits for sale on the site, which means a lot of work but also lots of fun.
I updated the board to v.1.1 but there arent any big changes. The major change is nothing more than a bigger capacitor of 200uF instead of 100. It seemed that the smaller cap could give an unstable current or voltage spikes from the stepper drivers, that resonated in the stepper motors sometimes giving of an audible noise.
Also the text is a bit different, with the new website address and also the copper tracks for the power is wider to make sure it can handle all the power, but maybe this also had something to do with the strange whining sound. All in all, they work perfectly now.