Fusing Our Business and Making Aspirations

In the ongoing three-part series at the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab, our class this week primarily focused on the process of soldering, yet another making activity that I was previously unfamiliar with. While the instructional course ultimately proved to be very time consuming and required incredible delicacy, there is little doubt in my mind that this is a crucial tool in any maker’s arsenal of building tools. Soldering allows for more accurate and uncluttered connections between various electronic parts, such as wires, resistors, and other components. An additional benefit of soldering is the ability to maintain the original shape of the soldered metals, considering that the solder has a much lower melting point than the adjoining metal. Since the fusing occurs at much lower temperatures (albeit still incredibly hot), the metals that are being connected do not warp in shape or size, nor do they melt. Lastly, soldering allows for the joining of multiple wires using a single focal point. This can allow electricity to be conducted, as all the wires have been bonded together.

To begin, we were each given a simple kit consisting of numerous wires, six resistors, six LED lights, a lead coil and a photoresistor. Our group leader then demonstrated the actual process of soldering: the heated iron was applied to two overlapping wires, and, when hot enough, the lead coil was briefly touched to the juncture. The heat would melt the lead and fill the joint, essentially bonding the two wires together. We were also shown how to use two different “tricks of the trade”, one being a device fondly called the “helping hands” (pictured in the above photo), the other being double-sided scotch tape. When using the helping hands, one wire would be secured by one of the claws, while the other wire was placed in the other claw. Once the claws were positioned so that the wires were aligned, the process of soldering was made exponentially easier, as the claws were able to maintain a steady hold of the wires. The duct tape worked in a similar fashion, perhaps with less precision. I personally favored the helping hands device, as the setup time was minimal and it allowed for the soldering of more complex joints.

After soldering each wire to a resistor and subsequently each resistor to a LED light, we then connected certain wires to the Arduino board. This effectively produced the same light dependent resistor that we created last week, however the resulting product had a much different appearance. The soldered wires gave the resistor a much more streamlined, uncluttered look, one that made it significantly easier to track and identify connections.

While at first the process seemed laborious and too precise, I quickly learned the added benefits of utilizing a process like soldering. The resulting product boasts useful and concise connections while maintaining its shape and size. Going forward, I hope to incorporate soldering in some capacity into our final project.

The Hands-on Intro to Digital Making. Part 1: Circuits and Soldering.

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CU FabLab. Located at 1301 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana IL.

This week was definitely my favorite class session, because I am a person who loves getting work done physically and having a physical product in my hands. After hearing Jeff Ginger – the director of CUC FabLab – tell us about the lab in week 2, he gave us a great tour through the space where we got to go in as part of a series to get trained on and work with the many great tools and resources there ranging from 3D printing, to digital embroidery and every thing in between such as the biohacking space and laser cutter. It was also interesting learning how it all tied in with a Fablab movement/Network of FabLabs across the globe. Seeing the place in person was definitely more inspiring as they turned a place that could be considered run-down into an environment where ideas and creativity are not just born but brought to life. Its very astonishing how much is possible and available through the lab, they had a section for each of the above mentioned and set up classes to teach each of these concepts.

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Different facets of the FabLab.

After the tour we, were split up into groups to partake in these classes to dive into one of these facets. I started with circuits and soldering using the given starter kit shown below. It consisted of an arduino uno board, batteries to power it, a photo resistor/resistor that changes its resistance according to the amount of light that hits it,

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Starter Kit

So with these resources, we will create a light sensing box that changes color the darker it gets around the sensor on the box. We were taught the basics of soldering – which means to join two wires using a hot-tip soldering iron and tin metal as a joint -then setting up the wires in the right connections with the LED lights and resistors, and finally plugging them into the arduino boards that were preset with the code needed for the final product. I enjoyed my time working on these so much that I bought some parts to work on my own personal projects and thats one of the effects that the FabLab has on people – inspiring the maker mentality to people that visit.

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My Final Circuit

And now that we will have these skills and be familiar with these resources, we will be able to apply them to our own group projects due at the end of the semester. I am looking forward to the next two weeks where I will learn how to use laser cutters, write Arduino code and bring them all together. And I suggest everyone gets involved in the fablab nearest to their communities. Here’s links to learn more about Fablabs and where to find the nearest one. Link 1. Link 2.

Tinkering and Soldering

The Champaign-Urbana community fabrication laboratory otherwise known as the CU FabLab led our class throw 3 different stages of building a small box that has a light sensor and powered by Arduino. The class split into 3 groups, one laser cutting the box, one soldering the wires and builds together and another group worked on coding the firmware. Splitting this into groups and stages made creating this project to be much more manageable and help show how much work truly goes into the design of an item from its conception to its creation.

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I have never soldered before nor worked with Arduino and so it was exciting to be able to learn from professionals and people who knew what to do. Going into the FabLab I did not know what to expect and so to know that there are so many resources at our disposal really gave me hope about how our project can be created here. The soldering material was lead based and so it was instrumental that we do not touch our faces or body with our hands and that was surprising to me that we utilized lead. However, we were explained at how the smoke that rises, aka, flux, is very toxic and so soldering with other materials makes the flux much worse. We were then given our Arduino units as well as LEDs, resistors, sensors and wires.

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Each student in the group had a soldering iron in front of them and we were given a tool that is referred to as the ‘helping hand’ which helps hold wires for you to solder. There were some frustrating moments as solders operate at roughly 800 degrees Fahrenheit and so it was very dangerous as one can easily burn yourself.

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Our outcome after soldering the pieces all together was 5 LEDs each connected to a resistor and then attached to the light sensor. The way the object operated was triggering specific lights when there is a certain amount of light being received by the sensor. So as you can see, the bulbs each flicker as a number of light decreases, then all of them flicker when it is pitch black.

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After learning about Arduino, I became very curious as to what items can be made with it and how it operated. The website Make Use Of highlighted the many potential projects that it can be used for. Through that, I found a personal project I might work on now since I am learning the basics of Arduino. The Fablab sessions are not only very informative but it is allowing me to think outside of the box and reinforces the notion that I can build and make anything I want as long as I put my mind towards it.