Thursday, October 14, 2010


Building Huxley

Here's the Huxley I have been building. The plastic parts were kindly printed out for me by Nophead and the print quality is really excellent. It was almost a shame to use them. But I got over that.

I have blogged the build so far on my blog and docs site.

As you can see from the piccy the mechanics are almost done except for the Y axis. I am struggling to locate a suitable 2d drawing of the squashed frog that I can put hole centres on and extract dimensions from. Adrian and Erik have been helping with this so hopefully we will have a solution soon.

The Huxley is slightly oversize as it has been scaled up to take standard lengths of Silver Steel (Drill Rod in the US) as guide rails. The dimensions I used for the threaded rods have been added to the the wiki Huxley pages.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


Quick Arduino or Netduino Shields

Ok what’s a Sanguino guy doing messing around with little Arduino’s?

Actually I happened across the Netduino product offering which like the RepRap project supports open source as an operating principle.

The strength of Netduino is that you can program it in C# easily with break points, variable modifications, basically everything you could ask develop/debug environment, except modify
the code on the fly.

How is C# open source?

Microsoft has released the entire .NET micro framework and porting kit under the Apache license, while continuing to support with a small team on the Codeplex website. In support of open source the netduino people are busily extending the support where it can interact easily Mac's and Linux as development platforms.

From a RepRap standpoint I am experimenting with this and specifically looking at creating a virtual com port driver so that we can leverage the micro framework for USB, network and SD card connectivity in front of the Arduino type processors.

The netduino family currently has two members. The base Netduino and the Netduino Plus that has a micro SD card and Ethernet interface on board.

From netduino

Since the netduino is open source we could use the same processor chip with a few components to provide USB interface on steroids for the RepRap project.

Ok back to shields, I ordered a shield kit along with the netduino to experiment with.

From netduino

In working on USB drivers I needed to switch the Netduino from USB debugging to serial debugging and I was able to reuse the USB serial cable from my Sanguino project as the serial interface.

This involved hooking up four wires, which tended to come out so I needed an adapter shield for something a bit more robust.

Not wanting to use up the one shield I had on hand for this simple task I went for the quick, dirty (more on dirty later) and cheap (especially cheap!) solution.

Running down to the local consumer electronics store I was able to procure a perforation prototyping circuit board with equally spaced holes 0.1 inches apart.

Perfect quick cheap solution? Ah not so fast; there is a fly in the ointment when come the Arduino form factor! It turns out that the Arduino is only partially laid out on the 0.1 standard grid!

From netduino

The ones that are, are the power pins and analog pins on the bottom of the board and digital pins 0-7 on the top side of the board. Everything else seems to be offset 0.05 inch off of the standard grid, as you can see from the close up picture with the two jumper wires.

From netduino

Since my project serial cable interface project did not involve the upper range digital I was still free to proceed. So using the one proto board as an outline, I took a marker pen and drew around the basic outline and used a band saw to cut the board. If you do not have such a tool a hack saw could still make short work of it.

So in short order I had created my serial cable interface shield with a couple of big mistakes as my first effort.

From netduino

From netduino

Ok what were the mistakes? First off I made a cut out for the power plug as I had noticed that the circuit board wasn’t flat when I did trial fittings on top of the Netduino with pieces of wire to test alignment, not realizing that connector pin strips would offset the board just enough to clear the power connector.

The second is that I put the serial interface on the centerline of the board which seemed logical at the time.

From netduino

However in doing so, I covered up access to the USB port!

Ok back to the drawing board, here’s how I would make a second attempt.

From netduino

I then got extremely busy at the day job and wasn’t able to return to this for a bit. In the meantime I decided that I didn’t care about it being nice and neat and here’s the next iteration.

From netduino

So another quick trip to the band saw to flip the connector up on top and some quick hot gluing and problem solved!

As to the upper digital pins not being in the 0.1 registration layout you can do like I did and simply make a cutout for them; then use a pin strip with wires to come back to the main area of the perf board.

As a side note the Netduino has a 3.3 volt processor that is 5V tolerant on the digital pins, most people suggest using a 3.3v USB cable, my suggestion is to stick with the 5V cable as you can take power from it and inject it on the 5V pin and have full functionality and power via the serial cable.

Plus you can reuse the cable with the Sanguino and other Arduino’s clones out there!

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