Update April Week 4

DSC_1274This is our tap, there are many taps like it but this one is ours…

The first hack of the session was thanks to DanW who brought down a hose pipe connector kit. Adding this was essential to making the water flow better for our coffee and tea making facilities. I know, I know, the excitement is overwhelming!

DSC_1260DSC_1273DSC_1276DSC_1263Moving very swiftly back on to our 3D printer, we reconnected everything back up from last week to see where we were up to.

Only this time we thought we’d give it a go on Linux, after all the eventual plan would be to use a Raspberry Pi to interface with the RAMPS kit.

DanR got his laptop out and started hammering away at the keys in an attempt to get the “printrun” software we’d tried before to run on Linux.

However, through no fault of his own an error was returned. “ImportError: No module named printcore”, apparently this is a known issue on Debian based Linux systems.

Oddly enough, printrun works perfectly on Windows, so we went back to that until the issue on Linux is resolved with the developers.

Through this software we were able to figure a few bits out, set the dimensions in the configuration and recompile, then upload the updated firmware to the Arduino.

We did successfully manage, with some accuracy to get the bed to go up and down the threaded bars, especially since we’d correctly configured the work area dimensions however there was a bit of a wobble.

DSC_1267DSC_1271Discussion quickly turned to how we were going to solve this problem. We talked about the possibility of moving the existing threaded rods to the corners and adding two additional ones which would be belt driven. Another idea after confirming against the Ultimaker was to use a larger drive nut, or indeed use two drive nuts, simply adding an additional one above the bed, opposite the one below.

Meanwhile, John was getting on with his on-bike sound system. The previous wooden lid had rotted away so he took the opportunity to replace it with an all weather plastic solution.

DSC_1270We also discussed (re)assembling the vacformer into a fixed position, however we’re in need of a heater unit.

Anyone got one of those portable halogen heaters spare?

Better check the attic…

Update: These are the missing videos footage that I forgot to publish.


Update April Week 3


DSC_1042Mark this as the day we officially got our 3D printer actually working. OK, so it’s not printing yet, but everything is moving.

With thanks to Si for his soldering skills and getting things connected, DanR for overseeing the firmware, Tom for completing the chassis we were able to to hook it up to the power and start getting things moving.

DSC_1040As soon as we attached it to the mains we had a little movement, this was good, but not quite what we wanted yet. We hooked up a terminal on the USB virtual port COM4 at 250000 baud and discovered an error.

DSC_1045The first thing we needed to do was re-configure the Arduino Marlin firmware, we set the motherboard as “RAMPS 1.3 / 1.4 (Power outputs: Extruder, Bed, Fan)” and TEMP_SENSOR_0 as “100k thermistor – best choice for EPCOS 100k (4.7k pullup)”.

DSC_1041Using the Arduino software we were able to compile and upload the updated Marlin firmware to the Arduino. This was exciting.

As we are using the Marlin firmware we needed the Python based printrun on a windows machine to actually interface with it.

DSC_1039As we had only attached the extruder so far we decided to test that first, however we couldn’t seem to make it do anything. We realised that it wouldn’t do anything until the thermistor had reached temperature, so we set the temperature.

First the reading went to room temperature and we were all a bit downhearted by this, but a second request for it to increase temperature seemed to do the trick. We watched as the software reported the temperature increase in a nice little graph.

It was time. The thermistor had reached temperature and now we could tell the extruder to move.

Success! Cheers went around the room as we saw the motor whir and the cogs turn. The excitement was all too much. I had to sit down… I did take some videos though…

That’s not all!

In the midst of all this, while while we were up to our eyeballs in wires and code for the 3D printer, we had a few visitors down to come and check out the place. Si kindly introduced himself and showed them around. Thanks for coming down and we hope you’ll come back soon, hopefully we’ll have a finished product by then!

DSC_1051Not only that but John had brought down his battery powered EL wire, so he got to work putting that into a board, which flashes “Hack” in blue and “Space” in orange. A sort of beacon to say: “We’re here!”.

DSC_1053Also, Steve very kindly brought down a spare graphics card (or GPU). We thought it might be fun to get a mining rig setup, sure we’re a bit late in the game, but it would still be a fun project as there’s a few ideas that may give us an edge against competitors. Focusing less on the revenue and more the challenge.


Thanks everyone, see you next week!

April Week 2 Update

2013-04-05 13.17.39Well another week and we’re one step closer to getting our 3D printer up and running.

Last week the RAMPS (RepRap Arduino Mega Pololu Shield) 1.3 kit arrived and I was really keen to get the 3D printer up and running as soon as possible. So Saturday morning I took it upon myself to get started on the assembly. Everything was going well until I soldered something in the wrong place. It wasn’t until I cross reference with a photo that I realised my mistake. A bit disheartened, I downed tools and decided to call it a day. Still, it was good progress.

DSC_1029Tonight Si helped me undo that mistake. With a bit of flux and skill I was soon re-armed with a hot soldering iron and a reel of solder. Despite difficulties with the instructions from the RepRap wiki (which are inaccurate and unreachable again), completing the rest of the soldering was fairly straightforward, especially with Si in close proximity.

DSC_1037Tom came down with the new chassis/case which had been machined only minutes before using an industrial scale CNC wood router and got to work assembling it, however due to lack of an 8mm drill bit wasn’t able to finish it so got stuck in with something else. Don’t worry, I’ll bring the drill bit down next week.

DSC_1025Instead Tom decided to recruit Steve and DanR for the Arduino software. Unfortunately we ran out of time to get the software sorted, but we’re not far off now before it all comes together. Fingers crossed for next week. Time to start learning how to use SketchUp. What are you going to print?

DSC_1028In the midst of all of this, our two youngest members were getting stuck in with a soldering iron and their Maplin electronics kits and before the night was over we had a robot dancing around the hackspace floor.

See you next week!


We’re back after a good Easter, even though everyone was feeling a bit lethargic. Probably due to too much self indulgence, but none the less, we persevered.

DSC_0924Tom borrowed my TP-Link WR703N (imported from China) to have a toy with to see how well it would do connecting from a house with fibre broadband to one that can’t get broadband at all. The answer, after updating to the English firmware, is OK, but due to the lack of external aerial, not great. Still, worth a shot.

DSC_0925We’re getting a bit closer with the 3D printer now. We’ve had the motors turning using an arduino and a h-bridge, we’ve ordered the RAMPS kit and enough A4988 Pololu Stepper Motor Drivers as well as the extruder. They are in the post so I expect to have them by the weekend.

DSC_1002Our most recent flatcap wearing member came down with his sound system in preparation for the Critical Mass Stoke-on-Trent, I’d already mentioned it to DanW so he soon found himself up to his eyes in wires. Suffice to say, it’s much louder than it was before. Critical Mass is a cycling event typically held on the last Friday of every month in over 300 cities around the world.

DSC_1010John brought down his radio controlled helicopter which Tom couldn’t wait to get his hands on… and then hack, of course. I’m not sure where it ended up, but I think it flies slightly to the left now. Excellent. Perhaps we’ll mount a camera and control it by an arduino once it’s fixed, who knows…

DSC_1016Of course, it wouldn’t be a hackspace without injury! Well you know what they say, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and it would seem that you use a sharp tool without drawing blood now and again. Luckily DanR was on hand with his trusty first aid kit. Safety first guys, safety first.

We finished off with a very quick meeting. The change from weekly donations to monthly for regular members went ahead OK. We’re also now working on a “pay what you want” basis, similar to Nottingham Hackspace, but most people seemed to put in a tenner, which was excellent.

There’s a few things we want to get sorted internally to ensure the continuity of the hackspace, such as separation from the downstairs unit, additional key holders and our own security system. This will form the basis for more benefits for members such as flexible opening times, with 35ltr project boxes for regular members to follow.