ePortfolio Reflection

Expectations

As an Information System/Information Technology, there are a bunch of electives we can choose from. After living with Gian Luis in Barcelona, he highly recommended this class with Vishal. I actually first applied to be in this class in the Fall of 2015, but the class ended up getting cancelled. When I heard about this class starting up again, I immediately applied. Looking back at the semester, I came a long way. The biggest surprise in this class was how many skills we were going to gain other than just the basics of 3D printing. Coming into this class, I thought we would only learn about 3D printing and computer aid design software. This all begin in week 3, when we started learning about design thinking. I would have never guessed we would do something like that in a 3D printing class. In addition, I would have never guessed we would have multiple workshops in the fab lab either. I’m extremely grateful for that, as I now know how to solder, laser engrave/cut, and program an Arduino.

 

Class Experience

Overall, I absolutely loved this class. Like stated in one of my earlier post, I wish the BADM department would invest in more technical classes for IS/IT majors. I’m positive many would agree with me but I would much rather take a technical class versus a class that has nothing to do with technology but still counts towards my degree.

Before taking this class, I really wanted to purchase a 3D printer, but I was intimidated by how complex it seemed. With the help of this class, I quickly realized that 3D printing is not that hard. Using Fusion 360 was frustrating at times, but definitely doable. We learned the entire process of 3D printing. From creating an object in Fusion 360/TinkerCAD, to slicing the object up in Cura. Luckily for me, using Fusion 360 wasn’t terrible. I did have experience with a difference CAD software, which is why my experience with Fusion 360 was overall a positive one.

For me, the coolest thing we learned how to do was use the Laser Engraving/Cutting machine over at the FabLab. I enjoyed my experience there so much that I actually ended up taking a project for my business fraternity of laser engraving paddles for when the pledges got initiated. Needless to say, everyone in the chapter loved it. I do have to thank the entire staff over at the FabLab. They are extremely patient with everyone and are always ready to help with any problem. Moreover, we also learned how to solder, learned the basics about circuits and wiring, and Arduinos. For our semester long project, we actually used an Arduino as our microcontroller controlling a servo motor via Bluetooth connectivity.

In addition to all the technical skills I learned throughout the semester, another thing I learned was the power of the internet. What I mean by this is how much open source there is out there. We got lucky with our project. The code to controlling a servo motor via Bluetooth was already out there. Then, we found an app that worked perfectly with our Arduino. The only thing we had to do is connect the phone to the Bluetooth and the app did the rest of the work (this is in terms of controlling the servo motor). It’s crazy how much information there is out there. Sometimes we don’t have to create stuff from scratch. One could simply do some research and just work with what’s already out there.

 

Conclusion

I’m extremely happy I took this class. I do wish there was a class one could take following this one to continuing perfecting those technically skills. After taking an AutoCAD class in high school, I forgot all of my inventor skills about a year later. I don’t want that to happen with everything I have learned this year. Vishal, I highly recommend creating a different class the revolves around 3D printing and the FabLab. I will most definitely recommend this class to all of my friends. Doesn’t matter what major they are, I think everyone has a lot to benefit by taking this class. Thank you all for such an amazing semester!

Final Project Update

Another exciting week for our group! We were finally able to program the servo motor to rotate using a smartphone. Lucky for us, we found an app that lets us do just that. This app just saved us a lot of time and headaches. The only thing we had to do is connect the servo motor and Bluetooth module to the Arduino. The image below is the circuit we have for our project. For those wondering, I created this circuit using Fritzing.

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The only challenge we have is creating the box where we can mount the servo motor. Hopefully, we have enough time tomorrow to have a working prototype. For now, we are only worrying about putting the motor in the housing and not the Arduino board, cables, and batteries. Instead, we’re just going to run the cables through the bottom.

Approaching the Testing Phase

This past week was quite exciting for JJJ Inc. in a couple of ways. We were finally able to get the servo motor to flip the light switch. This is exciting for us because the servo motor we have (blue motor) is very small with only 1.2 kg/cm of torque. We ended up ordering a more powerful servo motor with 13 kg/cm in torque. As you can see, this new motor should not have a problem with moving the light switch up and down.

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Now that we have the mechanism of flipping the switch up and down, we can go ahead and finalize the housing of the motor, possibly the Arduino board, and battery. This is where we run into another problem: getting the correct measurements of the housing that will allow us to mount the motor in the perfect location. We expect to have these calculations down this upcoming Monday so we can start 3D printing (possibly) the final housing prototype. Other than that, the code to controlling the Arduino is pretty much set. Implementing the Bluetooth module with the Arduino won’t be hard. What will be hard is putting everything together in the housing. For this reason, we might just run cables to the box and not have the Arduino or battery in the housing for the working prototype. Ideally, we would like to be able to fit everything into the smallest box possible.

3D Scanning and Final Steps

This past week we had Arielle Rausin teach us the basics of 3D scanning! The class got a chance to mess around with the 3D scanner to scan their heads. Unfortunately, Team JJJ Inc. has no use for a 3D scanner, at least not for this first prototype.

 

Our project is coming along. Slowly, but surely. This past week, we focused on making sure our rack and pinion had even better/more precise dimensions. However, even with the better dimensions, I don’t think we will be able to get the light switch to flip with the rack and pinion idea. We might have to modify it a bit to get more torque out of our servo motor. Through some research, we also noted that a normal RC motor won’t work since it’ll be extremely hard to get the motor to turn only a certain degree. This leaves us with only a servo motor. The only problem with this though is that the servo motor might not be strong enough to flip the light switch. My goal for tomorrow’s class is to get a working prototype that actually flips the light switch.

 

For those interested in possibly buying a 3D printer for your own use, check out this 3D printer that comes with multiple functionalities. When I first saw this printer, I wanted to get it. I still want to get it but I currently don’t have the funds. The very basic printer (only for 3D printing) costs $699. The Delux package that comes with a laser engraver, blade module (for precise cutting) and a holder module (for putting a pen/pencil and having it write on paper). This printer also has the capability of 3D scanning. Here are some pictures of the printer.

3D Printing and Music

Both of my parents are musicians, so it was natural for me to take an interest in music at such an early age. I started playing the violin in 4th grade. I continued playing in the school orchestra through elementary school and middle school. In 6th grade, my mom made me join the local church choir. Little did I know that my music “career” would take off because of the church choir. I ended up learning the guitar and bass guitar in that first year of joining the choir. The choir director, my brother and I decided we would start a Mexican trio. Click here if you want to know what kind of music Mexican trio’s play. After a couple of months, we started getting extremely busy on the weekend; we would go from weddings, to birthday parties, to even playing at Mexican restaurants. What most people don’t know is that the majority of musicians have to carry their own sound equipment. If you’re a big musician, usually the venue will provide the audio set up. This is where I believe 3D printing can excel for musicians.

I decided to do my research on 3D printing and music because it is incorporating both of my passions: music and technology. In terms of repairing a musical instrument, there is not a lot of content at the moment. There are a few but most of the items are what we can all consider accessories. Back to my point about musicians carrying their own audio equipment, one must be extremely organized when dealing with audio equipment. Audio equipment consists of dozens of cables, adapters, microphones, stands, etc. I came across a very useful article that has the top 23 3D printed items for musicians. Here are my top seven;

1. Simple Cable Clippers

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2. XLR caps
3. Cable drum
4. Mic stand cup holder

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5. Guitar strap button

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6. Volume knobs

Without getting into too much detail, simple organizational items like the ones I mentioned before can make keeping track of audio equipment a lot easier. Ideally, musicians would be printing these items as they need them. The way I see this being helpful is if a musician faces a problem but quickly solves it by creating something in a CAD software and print it right away. When doing my research, I came across a lot of 3D printed musical instruments, mainly guitars. However, I don’t think this is technology being used correctly. A lot of these guitars that I came across cost over $4,000. For that price, you can get a very nice, hand-crafted guitar. I think 3D printed instruments should be cheap to make and be used as the back-up of the back-up. I was very skeptical of the sound quality of 3D printed guitars. However, I was extremely surprised with the sound quality they produce. Click here to listen to a sample of a 3D printed guitar. As of now, 3D printers and repairing musical instruments is not that popular. It’s not that popular because there is a limited number of parts one can 3D print to repair an instrument. People right now are 3D printing mouth pieces, volume knobs, guitar strap buttons, and bridges for violins. I would argue that musicians around the world would love to see more tutorials online on how to go about repairing an instrument with 3D printed parts. This would save time and money. I personally believe that the whole point of a 3D printer is to have the ability to make something somewhat quick and cheap. Making a $4,000 3D printed guitar is not what I envisioned 3D printing and music. I do believe that as the technology advances, making more sophisticated prints will become a reality.

Putting it all together

After going through all the resources we have available, we finally got a chance to start designing and prototyping our idea. Our group, JJJ Inc., has decided to design a smart device that will allow a user to turn on/off the light switch using their phone. This device can be attached to any (ideally) light switch without taking out any screws or rewiring the light switch. Our first problem we ran into was thinking of a way to actually make the light switch move using a small motor. We went to the FabLab to talk to some of the volunteers there. They suggested we use a rack and pinion.

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The rack we decided will have a hole in it where the light switch will go through (see picture below).

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The gear will then be attached to a motor. The gear will have a fixed position, which will allow the rack to move up and down, which will then turn on/off the light switch. Using this design will allow us to easily add a button on top of the device. This button will allow users to turn on/off the light switch without using their smartphones.Here are to sketches of our design. We have decided to not put the Arduino inside the box, which is why you don’t see an Arduino sketched in.

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We currently only have the rack and pinion 3d printed. We must make sure we make a rack and pinion small enough to fit in certain dimensions. After we figure this out, our next step is to design a box that will attach to the light switch. This box will house all the components except for the Arduino. Once that is figured out, we can then go ahead and start programming the motor how much to turn. Overall, I think as a group we have a solid foundation to have a working prototype in about two weeks.

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The Final Workshop

After our third week at the FabLab, we were able to finally put all components of the project together. The very first week, my group learned how to use a soldering iron. The following week, we learned how to create a box, design in, and laser cut it. This week, my group learned how to program an Arduino. This entire process has definitely been beneficial to my group’s project idea. My group is already planning on using an Arduino for our working prototype.

 

I have actually used and Arduino before. However, I would just copy and paste the code and follow the diagram they provided for the LEDs and resistors. During this week’s session, I learned where and why you place LED’s/jumper cables/resistors in a breadboard. Here’s a picture of the circuit we created. This circuit is the same as the circuit we soldered during our first week.

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We then learned how to program the LEDs to respond to the photo sensor. Each light would indicate how much light the photo sensor was getting. Here’s a GIF demonstrating how each LED changes due to the change in light.

 

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I don’t know about the rest of the class but I personally believe the biggest challenge was putting it all together. The way I approached this problem was I began with glue four sides of the box together. Then, I glued the photo sensor in place followed by gluing the LEDs to the top part of the box. Before putting all the sides together, I connected all the cables to the Arduino. I kind of just jammed it in the box and hoped for the best. Luckily for me, none of my joints came undone nor did any cables touch each other. This wasn’t the case for some of my classmates. Overall, I’m extremely satisfied with the workshops the FabLab volunteers put together. Although we’re not experts in any of these areas, it gives us a good foundation for our project.

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Laser Cutting Faster Than 3D Printing?

Our second week at the FabLab consisted of more technical training. My group moved to the laser cutting workshop. Overall, this week’s workshop wasn’t bad! We learned how to create a box and design each phase of the box. The purpose of this box is to house the Arduino and the LEDs that we made during our soldering workshop. I had no experience using Inkscape or laser cutting. Designing the box wasn’t terribly difficult. This website creates a laser cut ready box. All one has to do is give it dimensions. Once the website generated the PDF, we imported the file into Inkscape. Once that is set, we start importing silhouettes and design the box with whatever we want on it. Here’s a picture of the design in Inkscape.

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Here’s a GIF of the laser engraver doing its job!

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I don’t know about you guys, but watching the laser cutter cut through the wood is extremely satisfying. Just take a look!

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Here’s a final look at the box before and after it’s fully assembled (without the Arduino or LEDs).

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I’m excited for tomorrow’s last session at the FabLab! My group will be learning how to program the Arduino to illuminate a certain LED depending on how bright it is. I can already see how we can implement soldering and using the laser cutter for our final project. Our team can save a lot of time by laser cutting boxed versus 3D printing them. My box took roughly 20 minutes, which is significantly better than the 3D printing time. Extremely excited to start designing our “smart” lightswitch.

Soldering @ the Fab Lab

For this past week, our class had the opportunity to visit the FabLab on campus! To be completely honest, this was the first time I walked to that side of UIUC. Before taking this class, I had no idea that this existed. It makes me sad because I’m a junior and I have not taken full advantage of the resources the University has to offer. As a tech nerd, this place is amazing! I will definitely be going back on my own time to see what kind of projects I can work on.

When we first arrived, Jeff Ginger, the directory of the CUC FabLab, gave us a quick tour of what one is capable of doing at the FabLab.

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One of the first things we saw was a WaterColorBot in action. I had no idea these things existed! It was pretty cool. Check out the GIF!

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After the tour of the FabLab, our group got split up into three different groups. One group learned how to program an Arduino. The second group got to work on wiring and soldering things to use the Arduino with. The third group learned how to laser cut to make a box for the LEDs that we soldered on earlier. I was part of the second group and worked on wiring and soldering. I have actually soldered before, however, I still think it’s a difficult skill to pick up. Although I have some experience in soldering, I still struggled to solder and LED to a cable. Here are all of the things we were given (plus LEDs that are not shown in the picture).

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We first learned the basics of wiring. For example, how an Arduino works, how the longer leg in a LED is the positive side, etc. After this, we started soldering LEDs to some cables.

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After about 45 minutes of struggling to solder on a good joint, here is the final product. The purpose of this product is to create a box with LEDs that indicate how bright it is. For example, if it’s extremely bright, the LED that is assigned to the highest setting will light up. As it gets darker, the LED changes. If it’s completely dark, the LEDs go back and forth really fast. Here’s a video showing how this works:

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I can’t wait to start working on our project and implementing the skills we will be learning in the next couple of weeks.

Solving Real World Problems

Trying to come up with a problem to solve was quite difficult. In addition, it was difficult to answer the “how can we…” question. Our team brainstormed a bunch of problems we face in our daily lives. We wanted to start very broad, and then narrow it down to a specific community. Since taken this class, it has really changed the way I approach a problem. I am definitely more open minded. Here are the three problems we came up with in class.

  1. How can we conserve water when doing dishes and washing our hands?
  2. How can we make smart home products less expensive?
  3. How can we stop hot air from escaping through window cracks?

Our first problem was an idea that came from a Kickstart project that claims you can save use 98% less water using the same tap. Our second part to this problem is, how can we use this product, and make it better. As of now, it seems like this “nozzle” only works with certain taps. We would like to come up with a tap that can be universal to all taps.

Most people in today’s day and age want a smart home. However, most smart home products, like light bulbs or wall switch, can be pretty expensive. In addition, most of these products require some sort of techy-ness. We want to create a product that does not require any drilling or changing the electric wiring. We want a product that you can just place over an existing light switch and make it “smart.”

For the last problem, most college students notice a huge increase in the electricity/gas bill during the winter times. This is most likely because a lot of hot air escapes through all sorts of openings, causing your heating system to be used more frequently. Currently, the only product that helps with this problem is insulation or a plastic film you put in front of your window. We thought this is great but can cause some problems. So we want to create some sort of product that can be used throughout the years and is easy to install every year.

Here’s the “drawing board” for the three problems I have just discussed.

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In last week’s class, Mark Bohmann, the Assistant Dean of the College of Media, came to talk to the class about his passion for the Maker Movement and all the side projects he uses 3D printing for. Mark displayed to the class some of his amazing work with 3D printing. The most memorable one is how he created a rack for one of his board games. Another one I really liked was how he programmed an Arduino with programmable LEDs for a board game. I don’t really remember how the game was played but the LEDs would light up if the town was being attacked (or something like that). I have actually worked with Arduinos before. I haven’t done anything crazy with them. The only thing I’ve done with Arduinos thus far is learned how to program LEDs and make them do cool little things. My long-term goal by doing this was to make a 6×6 LED cube that would do some cool animations. Here’s a video of what I wanted to accomplish. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEm3tqcn3U0. Unfortunately, I did not end up making this, as I did not have the time necessary for this project.

The Arduino website has some great guides for using the Arduino. If you plan on using an Arduino for your project and have no idea how to use one, I would highly recommend going to this link to learn more about how to use one. https://www.arduino.cc/en/Guide/HomePage

In honor of the Academy Awards being today, click here for a video on how the Oscar statuettes are made. I think it’s crazy how even these statuettes require 3D printing! Check out the video, it is quite interesting!