Saturday, October 13, 2007


Go Team Go!

Recently, I joined the newly formed electronics hacker club, NYC Resistor. It's an awesome club that just started up in the NYC area. We meet every 2 weeks to talk about / work on / think about cool electronics projects and just technology in general. I told them about RepRap and quite a few people are really excited about it! Its really nice to find a group like this that shares my passion for cool electronics.

Anyway, the past couple weekends, I invited people out to my workspace to help out with building my McWire Cartesian Bot. Today, 3 people came out! It was a fun day, and I think we all enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. It was so nice to have other people helping me out with this project, as well as just being there to bounce ideas off of. With their help, I got a TON of stuff done that otherwise would've taken me a lot longer. It was a very productive day.

First off, I breadboarded the new stepper motor driver circuit I've been working on. At first it didnt work, but I tracked down the problem to a couple miswirings in my breadboard circuit. After that, I wired it up and it worked great! I wrote a little test program for the Arduino, then lo and behold, the stepper motor started to turn!!! It was really awesome to see a design that I worked on come to life like that. I don't have video, but this stepper motor was turning so smoothly! It was really awesome. It's a L297 + L298 based stepper motor driver, which made interfacing with it super easy. It has a step pin, and a direction pin. Set the direction to tell it which direction to go, and then send a pulse on the step pin to have it take a step. Bingo! Instant stepper control.

While I was messing with that, the rest of the guys worked on the McWire bot. We got all of the rails assembled with lots of bearings and such, which means that in a couple weeks when we get the new stepper boards from china, we'll be ready to rock.

I came to the decision that I'm going to code the Arduino firmware to accept the SNAP protocol from the reprap software. I've been debating the best way to go about interfacing the machine with the computer, and I really want to build on the reprap software that we already have. There are definitely some things that really bug me about it, but having looked through it, I also see some really solid coding that Adrian and crew have put together. It definitely needs a better frontend, and the slice/dice algorithms could use some work, but once I have a reliable machine at my disposal, I aim to transform that piece of software into a lean, mean printing machine.

Anywho, I just wanted to share some progress and let you guys know how awesome it is to work on RepRap with some friends. It can be a bit intimidating when its just you working on it alone, but if you throw some other people into the mix, then it can be very rewarding as well as just a generally fun time.

General point: the more places in RepRap where we have an interface defined and then people can put whatever they like either side of the interface, the more robust and wide-ranging the project becomes. If you can do an Arduino SNAP that talks RepRap to the Java that would make just such an interface, and open up more options for people. Go for it.
PS I'm just up US 1 at the moment, but listening to the BBC online - how culturally isolated can you get...
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