Posts tagged “laser cutting”
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We do a lot of laser cutting here at Pololu as part of our custom laser-cutting service, so we know first hand how tedious it can be to remove the paper masking from laser cut parts like acrylic. Check out the video below for a simple trick you can use to speed up the process.
A while ago, I made a wedding gift for some friends, both of whom are avid Star Wars fans. The gift was basically a multi-piece decorative set that consisted of a modified toy Han Solo blaster, a stand to hold the blaster, and three edge-lit LED displays: one each of Boba Fett, Darth Vader, and Jar Jar Binks. I painted over the toy blaster to make it look more like it came straight out of the movies and added electronics so that it could interact with the displays (and the couple’s TV!).
The blaster uses IR TV remote codes to do several things: it can shoot the LED displays (and they’ll respond by blinking and playing audio recordings unique to each character), change the color and brightness of each display, and it can act as a limited TV remote by turning on or off the TV. At the heart of the blaster lies an A-Star 32U4 Mini ULV, which monitors the state of a switch, a couple of buttons, and a few potentiometers in order to decide which actions to carry out. The ULV version of the A* Mini is especially convenient for this setup because the toy blaster was originally powered by two AAA batteries, which produce too low of a voltage for a 5V microcontroller. The ULV’s built-in switching step-up voltage regulator allows it to operate directly off of the batteries and power the other components, unlike typical Arduinos that need at least 7V.
The blaster has two modes: one for shooting the displays and turning on/off the TV and another for adjusting color and brightness of the displays. Which mode the blaster is in is determined by the state of the programming mode switch, which is accessible with a flick of the thumb. While powered on, the A* continually checks to see if the programming mode switch is enabled. If it is disabled, the blaster will respond to trigger presses. When the trigger is depressed, the A* does two things: it sends a pulse train to a 5mm IR LED and drives an input pin low on an Adafruit Audio FX Mini sound board, which then outputs sound to a speaker through a 2.5W audio amplifier, producing DL-44 blaster firing noises. The blaster and displays use the IRremote Arduino library for sending and receiving the pulses. For these blaster shots, the blaster emits the IR TV remote code that corresponds to the generic power-on/power-off code for an LG TV. This same code is decoded by the Star Wars displays as a “hit” and the characters react to being shot. You can watch videos of those reactions in the YouTube playlist below (the playlist also includes the displays’ bonus Easter egg content, which is only accessible by sending certain button presses from the LG TV remote!). The sound level is a little low, so you might need to increase your volume to hear what the characters are saying:
If the programming mode switch is enabled, the blaster repeatedly emits a set of IR TV remote codes that contain information on what color and how bright the displays should be. Color is adjusted in the HSV color space using the blaster’s three rotary potentiometers (one each for hue, saturation, and value). There is also a linear potentiometer that can be used to set overall brightness (this effect combines with the change in brightness from adjusting the value potentiometer). So long as a display’s IR receiver can detect the IR signal sent by the blaster, the LED information can be decoded and the LED arrays can be updated.
Each display features a ~12″ tall profile of the head or upper body of a Star Wars character. The profiles are laser-etched onto a 1/2″ thick clear acrylic piece, which also has holes at its base. The holes allow the piece to be fastened to a recessed channel at the top of the display box. A short segment of an APA102C LED strip lines the bottom of the recessed channel and faces upward into the acrylic profile, which allows its light to disperse across the laser-etched surfaces. The display box has the same sound board and amplifier as the blaster, but uses a more powerful 1W speaker. An A-Star 32U4 Prime controls everything and power is supplied via a 9V 3A wall power adapter.
Compared to the rest of the system, the design of the blaster stand is pretty straightforward: it is just several pieces of 1/4″ plywood arranged into a frame that houses two channels. Those two channels have mounting holes which allow two clear acrylic pieces, which conform to the shape of the blaster, to be fixed to the frame. A lip along the inside of the frame makes it easy to mount the silver mirrored acrylic piece. The bottom of the mount features a personal well-wish from me to the couple. The message is written on the inside of the Alliance Starbird, which is cut from gold mirrored acrylic. The stand also houses some scrap metal parts (a bunch of prototype Zumo blades) to give it some weight. Four adhesive rubber feet, one for each corner of the stand, help make sure the stand doesn’t slide around easily and scrape the gold Starbird piece.
I owe a part of the inspiration of this gift to my coworker, Kevin, since in some ways I was basically trying to one-up his Harry Potter-themed wedding gift, which was given to another coworker, Brandon, for his wedding. Kevin also ended up helping me make some good decisions and generate some clean-looking CorelDraw files for the display cutouts/rastering. So, thanks, Kevin! You the real MVP.
Our favorite team of robot-making sisters over at Beatty Robotics has finished making another stellar robot! Their latest creation is a 1/10th scale functional replica of Curiosity, the rover from NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission. The rover uses a variety of Pololu products, both mechanical and electrical. For example, it uses a pair of G2 high power motor drivers to control six 25D mm gearmotors, each of which is coupled to a wheel with a 4mm hex adapter. The robot also features our voltage regulators, current sensors, logic level shifters, and pushbutton power switches. In addition to using our products, the rover also uses some stainless steel parts cut with our custom laser cutting service.
The Beattys are currently in the process of documenting their rover. Right now there’s a blog post out focused on the robot’s exterior, but the duo plans to also post about the electronics and functionality soon. We are looking forward to seeing more pictures and learning about how each part contributes to the whole system!
If you are curious to know more about the electronics inside of this replica rover, you can keep an eye on the Beatty website, or you can stay tuned to our blog – we will update you when they share more.
Laser cutting is an excellent way to make intricate parts for jewelry or decorations. These fantastic jewelry art pieces were designed by Melissa Cameron, an Australian-born artist based in Seattle, WA, who has work displayed in the collections of multiple art galleries, including the National Gallery of Australia. These pieces were cut from birch plywood and stainless steel using our laser cutting service. To get started on your own laser cutting project, submit a quote request here!
One of the main features of the kit is that it provides a backlit 2×20 character LCD to replace the receiver’s original 5-digit 7-segment display, allowing much more information to be shown. The kit includes a clear plastic window to replace the receiver’s original smoked dark plastic window, and a black plastic display mask. Edward gets both of these pieces made using our custom laser-cutting service.
Two laser-cut pieces, a clear window and black display mask, shown on top of the Ten-Tec 1254 receiver’s original face plate.
Ten-Tec 1254 receiver with Edward Cholakian’s display upgrade kit installed.
The display/control board in the kit uses the P-Star 25K50 Micro as its processor. Edward, a consulting engineer who designs embedded hardware and firmware, told us that he chose the P-Star because he was already using a Microchip processor similar to the P-Star’s PIC18F25K50 in one of his previous designs, and it was more economical to buy the P-Star than to hand-assemble his own board. He said the P-Star’s cross-platform USB firmware upgrade software was also a plus since his own bootloading software does not support Linux and macOS.
The kit comes with software for Windows that can control the receiver over USB. The software provides a graphical user interface and uses WinUSB to talk to the P-Star’s native USB interface.
USB control program for the Ten-Tec 1254 Receiver Display Upgrade Kit
For more information, see the Ten-Tec 1254 Receiver Display Upgrade Kit page.
One of our customers used our custom laser cutting service to cut the birch plywood panels for his retro-gaming TV system that he sells on Etsy. The birch panels are stained with shellac. The system runs on a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, to which you can connect (not-included) controllers with Bluetooth or USB. The Raspberry Pi’s Ethernet port, SD card slot, and 4 USB ports are accessible in the back.
Congratulations to Matthew Siracusa and William Rule who placed first in the Robot Arm competition of the Science Olympiad SE PA Regional Tournament last Wednesday! They used our custom laser cutting service to cut the base and structural components of the robot arm out of black ABS. We wrote about another one of Matthew’s projects on this blog when he made a 6-string banjo (that has a frame we also laser cut) as part of the 2014 Science Olympiad.
The Science Olympiad website has more information about the Robot Arm competition.
We’ve been offering quick-turn custom laser cutting service ever since “we” were just Candice and Jan operating a tabletop Epilog out of their home. Since then we’ve cut a wide assortment of customer designs including jewelry, engraved control panels, robot chassis, Christmas ornaments, and wedding invitations.
We started out mostly cutting acrylic, gradually moving into cutting a wider variety of plastics and wood. All along we’ve been improving our processes and increasing our capabilities by buying machines with bigger beds, better control systems, and more power. Without announcing it officially, we’ve been cutting metal for customers and ourselves over the past few years. For example, we cut our Basic Sumo Blade for the Zumo Chassis and the SMT stencils for our in-house electronics assembly. We’ve been refining our metal cutting processes and finding the best cut settings to minimize the chance of burring and dross, so most parts come out relatively clean and smooth to the touch.
The process quality has gotten to the level where we are comfortable announcing that metal laser cutting is generally available to customers!
You can see in the pictures above that laser-cut steel parts have a slight discoloration along the laser-cut edges caused by the chemical reaction that takes place when cutting. Depending on the steel type and whether the cuts are through the material, vector-etched line art, or raster-engraved filled-in areas, the discoloration is different (some tend to be brownish while others are a dark gray). We do not guarantee that parts will be free of blemishes; we ship the parts without any post processing, and we currently do not offer additional services such as deburring, tumbling, or bending.
As stocked materials (shown on our quote request page), we carry #304-2B stainless steel in 0.024″, 0.030″, 0.036″, 0.048″, 0.060", and mild steel in 0.030″ and 0.060″. We can arrange to use material you ship to us, but keep in mind that steel is the only metal we can cut. We cannot cut copper, brass, titanium, aluminum, or precious metals.
To get started on having your laser-cut steel parts cut, submit a quote request here.
Customer Guido Bonelli Jr., who is also the creator of the Dr.Duino Arduino shield, had us laser cut pieces of baltic birch for a unique piece of furniture for his home: a large, interactive puzzle. An Arduino Mega 2560 R3 controls the various puzzles and contraptions packed into this piece. His article in Design News goes into more detail including a parts list and more pictures.