Friday, May 19, 2017

BrakeFree: A New Smart Brake Light For Motorcyclists!

This morning I received an email from the team who are at this moment crowd funding a new product called BrakeFree.  This project that has already reached it's funding goal is now coming close to ending it's campaign.  The product that will come to market in the coming year is an autonomous brake detection light that attaches to the back of a motorcycle helmet.  This idea is not something totally new but then again is because of the features that have been designed into the BrakeFree light. 


The BrakeFree light is held magnetically to the back of a standard motorcycle helmet.  It has a rechargeable battery  for all day riding.  You simply remove it from your helmet and plug it into a charger using a micro USB cable.  


The helmet is programmable, lightweight, weather resistant and aerodynamic.  There are 100 individual LED's in the unit for a nice bright display that will surely be an attention getter while in use.  


The BrakeFree has a battery life of 8+ hours.  It takes only 2 hours to recharge and has no wires or apps to make it work.  Another plus is that the unit weighs only 6 ounces or 170 grams.  Very light weight for the size of the light.  The BrakeFree has three modes of operation.  Regular braking, engine braking, and emergency braking.  Even with this capability the light will not come on if you bob your head up and down to try and turn the brake light on.  A nice bit of engineering I would say. 


The light is held to a helmet using two magnetic mounts.  I thought about this for a second the first time I saw BrakeFree online and was wondering what happens when you have a passenger on your motorcycle and  you want to use this on your ride. The passenger would have brake lights in his or her face?   No. What you do is have another set of mounts put on the passengers helmet and the unit will work exactly the same way giving you and your passenger a safer riding experience.  Also being as the unit is so light weight the passenger would not even notice that the light was on the back of the helmet.


I for one am a big supporter of this new Indiegogo project and so I wanted to spread the word to other riders that this crowd funding project will be ending soon.  I enjoy riding my motorcycle a great deal and with this product I will feel just a bit safer and  secure knowing that I will be seen when I am traveling down the road and need to stop.  

BrakeFree as I said earlier in this post has already reached it's crowdfunding goal to get this product on the market.  With only eight days left they are trying to expand the capabilities of the BrakeFree light to let everyone have a larger battery in the unit that will give it 2  hours more battery life or 10+ hours total battery life.  Of course with helping fund this project the cost of the unit is less than it will be once the crowdfunding campaign has ended.  

The Brakefree campaign lists the price of the unit at $119 which is at a 25% discount compared to what it will cost once the campaign has ended.  The price goes up from there depending on how many units you would like to order. 

It will take almost a year for the BrakeFree to be available but as with anything new that comes on the market it always takes time to get all of the fine details worked out.  For more information about BrakeFree and have a chance at helping crowdfund it's success further you can find the link to the BrakeFree campaign listed below.  I know I am happy to have helped and will look forward to getting one of these units in my hands as soon as possible. Check it out today!





Saturday, May 13, 2017

Madison Wisconsin Mini Maker Faire Was Huge!

I spent a good portion of today checking out the Madison Wisconsin Maker Faire.  I was not disappointed. I only live around an hour and a half from Madison so it was and easy drive on my motorcycle. Being as the temperature today reached 82 degrees it was a no brainer to make the trip with my bike.

The event was huge in many ways.  I arrived shortly after 11:00 am and already everything was in full swing with more projects, booths, displays, and spectators that I even anticipated.  Lots of usual things were at this maker faire like 3D printers, craft items, and activities for kids, but what caught my eye was the varied interests that makers had brought to the show along with the skill level that came with them.


This boat was one of the outstanding displays that I saw at the show.  I did not get the full details about the boat other than the fact that it was five feet long, is fully R/C controlled, has twin electric motors to power it and was hand built over two years time.  The boat is of a plywood construction with a fiberglass hand built hull.  An amazing piece of work for sure. 




A few steps away from the boat model was rather intricate display of Lego building.  The top two pictures were of a complete town with an operational model railroad. All of the buildings were put together using nothing but Lego blocks.  None of which were glued together. Another nice bit of work.  I like the skyscraper with all of the windows.  


Also at the Maker Faire was this very nicely constructed Iron Man suit.  It was nearly complete and was very well done.


Also another big hit at the faire was of course this working replica of the Star Wars R2D2 droid.  I spoke with the owner and he said that it took him two years to get R2 looking and operating as well as he did at the faire.  R2D2 was completely R/C controlled with all the correct sounds and movements that R2 would make.  I was lucky enough to get this photo as there was at least a dozen people around him all day long. 



Not to be outdone was this interesting little R/C robot/dinosaur running around on the floor.  The operator (namely an 8 year old) could move the robot all around plus also make it's head reach out and bit something.  It was fun to watch and I am sure much more fun to play with on the floor.

This is just a small sample of what I had seen at the Madison Maker Faire. The number of booths that were at the show would have taken me a couple of days to talk to everyone to fill you in on all that was shown.  Sadly to say the Maker Fair was only for one day.

I did manage to talk to some very interesting makers while I was there.  On young lady who is a school teacher was helping her 3rd grade students learn about architecture.  There school this year had just celebrated it's 100th anniversary.  So the class build a simple model of the school and even tracked down that actual blueprints for the building to get everything correctly scaled.  Impress once again.

The best suggestion I have for anyone who did not have the chance to go to the maker faire is to mark your calendar for next year to see it all first hand.  I am sure with the turnout from this years show that next years will be even bigger and better.  It was well worth the time to spend at least a couple of hours seeing the wonderful creations that were on display and meeting some of the creators in the process. 



Monday, May 8, 2017

New Camera Mount For My Goldwing Motorcycle!

Through the winter months I put together all kinds of things that I only get to test out or play with once the weather is more conducive to being outdoors.  Case in point is todays project that I got to test out just yesterday.  The warm weather has finally arrived here in the Midwest and with it a large grin on my face returns after I get to ride my Goldwing motorcycle having been stored for many months in the garage.  To the point here....
  I picked up a small action camera called a Mokacam some time back and this called for a special mount so that I could get some video shot while riding my bike.


I have posted several other projects that needed a special mount or tripod for the Mokacam (shown in the photo above on the right).  On the left is the special mount that I 3D printed so the little 4K camera could be mounted to my Goldwing.  The part in the center of the photo is the connector that ties the camera to the 3D printed mount by a simple threaded rod with a twist knob on one end of it.


Here is a good shot of the mount on my Goldwing's rear saddle bag guard. The mount is simply held in place by screwing together the upper and lower portion of the mount with chrome plated hardware the holds it securely in place around the guard when it is in use.


Here is the complete assembly with the camera in place ready for use.  I also added a safety line to the mount (not shown) when I shot the test video.  I did not want the chance to loose the camera for some reason as I thought it better to be safe than sorry.  The way the camera is pointed in the photo above would be a good view for video but had to be moved to the outer most point on the guard so the camera could be pointed to the rear for the video that I shot and is shown below.   I also mounted the camera up on my handlebars as well as on the front engine guard so that I could get several different camera angles for the video.  The only thing that I needed to make the video even better was to have a camera mounted onto another motorcycle and shooting me on my bike.  That will have to wait for another day.

  Overall I was very happy with how the video turned out as the little Mokacam lived up to the promise of great looking video.  The mount work perfectly and was very solid and smooth.  The only thing that was not so good was the audio.  The little camera picked up a ton of wind noise so the audio was unusable.  This really did not matter to me as I never intended to use the audio but rather wanted to add music to make the video just a bit more interesting anyway.  The "Goldwing Song" came to mind from the start and so it was a good choice for the video.  If your not into the song just turn down the audio and enjoy the scenery.


Here's the complete video.  It's only around four minutes long. Enjoy!




Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tinkering Runs In The Family

A couple of weeks ago I posted about making some vinyl decals for my sister Velma who lives in Tennessee.  She had been working on restoring an old Radio Flyer wagon that had been sitting in her garage collecting dust, dirt and anything else that wanted to crawl into the wagon to call it home.  After taking the wagon apart and repainting all of it's parts she still needed the finishing touch to complete the project. Namely the " Radio Flyer " decals that adorn the sides of the wagon.  I spoke to her at the time and started looking for the correct decals from the company.  The wagon was so old the decals no longer were available.  I told her that any company that did vinyl graphics for cars could duplicate the decals for her but I was also sure that they would not be inexpensive.   At that point I got to work figuring out how to cut vinyl decals of my own and offered to make them for her once I had worked out the bugs to the process so to speak.   


To review a little bit, here is what the original Radio Flyer painted logo looked like on the wagon before Velma did any prepping for painting on the project. With this image I was able to make a drawing to create the new decals that she needed.  This was the simple part being as the tape measure in the picture gave me the information to get the dimensions at least fairly close to what was originally painted on the wagon.  


I got the decals cut with a little effort and shipped them of to Tennessee.  That was a couple of weeks ago.  Being as all of this was new to me as far as making decals and even applying them I had to relay instructions on to Velma on how to put them on the wagon without messing them up in the process. I crossed my fingers that my instructions were enough to have things work out for her project.



The transfer tape that I used for the decal already had a grid printed on it so it made things simpler for Velma to align the new decal when she was ready to apply it.  She simply had to place the decal on the wagon side and then use a credit card to press down on the transfer to squeegee it firmly to the part she was working on. 




Then it was just a simple matter of peeling the transfer tape off of the part to leave the vinyl decal in place afterwards.  The transfer tape is sticky enough to hold the decal but not so sticky as to remove the decal once it has been pressed into place using a credit card.  Best description I can give you as to how sticky the transfer tape is?  Something as sticky as a "Sticky Note" would be. 



Here is the finished wagon that Velma can be very proud of.  She had applied three coats of clear over the paint on the red parts of the wagon to seal the vinyl decals in place. This should insure that they will stay put for years to come and have to be sanded off the next time the wagon should ever need to be refurbished once again.

She and I both learned some new things along the way and had some family fun in the process.  The one person that will surely appreciate the restoration the most is Velma's grandson who will surely get many hours use out of a wagon that had been neglected for many years but now has been lovingly restored to like new condition once again. 

Smiles and bragging rights are well earned with the completion of this project. 😀







Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Learn How To Make Monsters to Muppets From The Stan Winston School Of Character Arts!



I watch a lot of different video presentations online about making things and I was fortunate enough to find something that I am very happy to have come across.  I was watching a show on YouTube called "Tested" with Adam Savage from "Mythbusters".  


On the show one of Adam's co-hosts  Frank Ippolito  and George Frangadakis (creator of Immortal Masks) were touring the 2017 Monsterpalooza convention in Pasadena California.  At this convention were all kinds of artwork, sculptures, make-up demos, and masks from monster movies and the people that make them.  I am really not into movie monsters but it was still quite interesting to see the creations that were at this convention. (See the video link above)  During the video I got to see everything from monster masks to movie make-up being applied to an actor to a full sized alien from the movie Predator.  The one big question that stood out in my mind while watching this video is "How does anyone learn how to create this kind of stuff"?   I got my answer ten minutes into the video.  Frank brought up the fact that people constantly asked him how he learned to make the different creations that he had built in his shop for himself and other people or companies.  He pointed them to a booth at the show and said "Start here".   At that point I paused the video and wrote down the name Stan Winston School of Character Arts.  I then went online and did the research about this amazing site and what you can learn from it.  Here is what I found.


The site has over 100 different video classes that you can take to learn about making everything from Monsters to Muppets!  I have been looking at the site for almost a week now and knew that I had to pass this information along everyone so that you could expand your knowledge on designing and building new projects.  I have my eye set on at least a half dozen different techniques that will be a big help in projects that I want to work on in the future.


In this posting I have images from the Stan Winston site. Sorry you will have to go to the site in order for the preview to work.  To give you a bit of history though before I go any further I should explain who Stan Winston was.  This is a good description of him and what his life's work was about that I found online.

Stanley "Stan" Winston (April 7, 1946 – June 15, 2008) was an American television and film special make-up effects creator. He was best known for his work in the Terminator series, the first three Jurassic Park films, Aliens, the first two Predator films, Inspector Gadget, Iron Man and Edward Scissorhands.He won four Academy Awards for his work.


Winston, a frequent collaborator with director James Cameron, owned several effects studios, including Stan Winston Digital. The established areas of expertise for Winston were in makeup, puppets and practical effects, but he had recently expanded his studio to encompass digital effects as well.


In this posting you can see some of the classes that are available on the Stan Winston site.  Everything from creating a monster in your garage on a budget to how to airbrush.  Airbushing artwork has been on my mind for a lot of years so this is on my to-do list from this site. 


I was very impressed with the different classes that are offered from the site.  The image above looks like it would be interesting as all get out to make a dinosaur that is full size.  A challenge to be sure but with the classes that are offered it would be nice to have the experts walk you through the process.  Not sure what I would do with a full sized dinosaur but you just never now.  Maybe something that would be great for a decoration for my front lawn during Halloween.


Here's another class that I could have used on a couple of my projects years ago.  I find it a difficult task to paint something to make it look like metal when it isn't metal at all but either plastic or fiberglass.  One more  class to put on my to-do list.



The list continues to grow as I go through the Stan Winston site again with this class on learning how to make characters similar to the Muppets.  I have always wondered how they managed to make the creative and fun characters from the show.  Now I can learn it myself.



For those of you into monsters this is the site for you.  There are more classes than I can count on how to draw, design, sculpt, and create monsters to your hearts content.  


One more class on my list is this one on Stop Motion Animation.  I have played around with it over the years and I know the principals of the craft but never went as far as learning how to make the characters for a video.  My to-do list gets bigger and bigger the more I look at this website.


With all of the information that is available from the Stan Winston site I was pleasantly surprised at how affordable the classes are.  Here is a the breakdown of the different payment plans that are available for the 100+ different classes.


Here also is a listing of the different types of web courses that are available so there are some good choices to make if you are by yourself (like me) or a group (like a maker space). 


I am in no way connected to this school.  Not that I would not jump at the chance at getting the opportunity.  I just want to pass this information on to you so that you might find something that you've always wanted to learn but never could figure where to get this kind of education.  So when you have at least an hour or so check out the sites listed below. I'm glad I found this site as it will offer me a lot of fun and interesting subjects to study in the coming months. 

For those of you who want to have access to video training by the masters of character creation here's the link to the Stan Winston site.



Here also is the link to the Adam Savage "Tested" Site















Saturday, April 22, 2017

Find Older Projects Faster With Nine New Blog Pages!

The last few days I have been going over the layout of my blog and have come up with nine new pages so that everyone can find older projects easier and faster.  The pages are broken down into different category's  to make finding projects simpler.  Here is the full list of the new pages.


Designing

Miscellaneous Projects

Blender 3D Projects

Woodworking Projects

CNC Projects

3D Printing Projects

Fiberglass Projects

Drawing Projects

Miscellaneous Blog Posts




Pick one of the category's (Shown above is one project from 3D Printing Projects) and in it you will find a listing of all the posts that have been done on the blog about that project.  Also where it has been possible I've included a photo of the project from that category so you can find what interests you even faster.  Under the photos are links to all of the posts that relate to the project.  Select a link and it will take you to the post about the project.  Much faster than trying to find what your looking for from the date listing on the blog. 




The new pages can be found on the blog home page as illustrated in the image above.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Learning New Processes To Make New Things

I learned a few new things over the past couple of days while working on some projects for myself and my sister.  I own a piece of equipment called a " Tooli " made by Toolbotics.com from Australia.  For those of you who have never heard of a Tooli it is a machine that does a number of things rather well.  It's a plotter, a vinyl cutter, an extruder, an air brush machine just to name a few of it's capabilities.  This week I have been trying to figure out how to have my Tooli machine cut vinyl decals.  I have never worked with this type of material but always felt it would be fun to be able to design and make decals for the projects I build.  So this was the plan for this week.

To explain what I had in mind or should I say what my sister Velma had in mind was that she needed a set of decals for a restoration project that she is working on.  She had come across an older Radio Flyer wagon that she decided to restore.  It has a wooden platform instead of a steel tub and wooden side rails with the name " Radio Flyer " printed on them. The restoration of the wooden parts did  not come without a challenge but the Radio Flyer name on the sides would be gone if she repainted the wagon. So decals would have to be either purchased or remade.  I did some research for her only to find out that the original design and font for the name was no longer available.  So I decided that I would try and see if I could make new decals for her.  It would help her out and get me started in learning how to make decals too.


Here's the what the original Radio Flyer artwork looked like before restoration had started.  My sister had shot this photo as reference for me so I could get the scale correct for the project when I was setting up the new decal. 
From the photograph I was able to create a new drawing for the decal using Corel Draw software.  A simple process of tracing over the original photo to get what I needed.  I tried to find the correct font for the lettering but could not track it down online so I manually had to trace out each letter to get what I wanted.  Again not a hard or long process.  With this step completed I figured I was pretty much home free. This was not the case. 


I had never even seen the hardware used to make vinyl decals until I purchased my Tooli machine.  It was all new to me and I did not have a mentor to instruct me on how to set everything up and get what I wanted made.  Case in point is the strange looking device that is pictured above.  This is actually the vinyl cutter for my Tooli machine. It is only a couple of inches long and believe it or not the blade that is inside of it is sticking out of the rounded off end on the right of the picture.  It took me weeks to find out any information about how to make this little gadget work and set up properly to be able to make vinyl decals.  
  Inside of the device is a VERY small blade that protrudes out of the end of the hollow center of the cylinder. The blade is adjusted using the knurled brass locking ring and knurled aluminum adjustment knob.  The blade only sticks out of this cylinder a very small distance.  Get this..... It only sticks out half the thickness of a credit card!  I'll give you a link at the end of this post to show you the procedure for that one.  
  Anyway after working with the blade mount for a bit I did get it set up correctly and was encouraged to move forward and try and make some decals. 

I didn't want to try and make the wagon decals starting out as I thought I should try something a lot less critical as my first attempt at making decals.  So I decided on this image of Snoopy.  I wanted something fairly simple to make that I could put on just about anything I wanted.  If I couldn't get it to be cut correctly out of vinyl the first time I could try again until I got my machine dialed and or I figured out what I was doing wrong in the first place.  



I lucked out right out of the box and here is where the decal landed. This is my sketch book that I use while working on projects and being as it has a totally white blank cover Snoopy was the place for it. Now I thought I had it made when it came time to create the decals for my sister's wagon project. 

Wrong again.

I got my files together for the cutting of the wagon decals only to find out that my "Tooli" machine was now acting up.  Things were not setting up nicely as it had when I create the Snoopy decal.  I contacted Toolbotix and by this morning I had gotten the answer to my hardware problem with the machine.  I had an adjustment out of whack with the machine and after ten minutes everything was back in order once again. Whew!



I ran the files to make the Radio Flyer decals and here are the results.  They turned out better than I had hoped.  Not flawless but for a first attempt at something this detailed I am happy with the effort.  The photo above would be similar to looking at the decals from around six inches away.  Considering that you will look at the decals from probably at least five or six feet away these will do nicely for the wagon restoration project.

  So with the making of the Snoopy and Radio Flyer decals I learned how to correct some minor problems with my vinyl cutter/plotter if they should happen again and how to design decals in the future that will be cut more accurately which in turn will be easier to clean up when the decal is set up to be transferred from the cutting table to the finished project that it will go on to. So lots of new lessons learned this week. 


Here are the links from Toolbotix.com and USCutters.com

Info about the "Tooli" machine.

How to set up a vinyl blade holder.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Planet Express Stealth Ship Blender 3D Inspiration

As most of you already know I am a big fan of the TV show Planet Express made by Matt Groening the creator of the Simpsons.  I've created a previous lighted display of the Planet Express spaceship weeks back when inspiration hit me. This again was the case this past week while watching another episode of the show playing on my Roku.  In the episode the Planet Express crew needed to save the world by flying a small one man stealth spaceship to destroy an invading death sphere spacecraft that was headed for earth and destroying planets along the way.  Professor Farnsworth the 180+ year old that is always inventing crazy things builds a one man stealth ship to be sent out to destroy the invader.  


I liked the design of the little stealth ship (shown above)  so much that I thought it would be a great project to try and model in Blender 3D as if it was a real spaceship and not just a cartoon.  Shown also in the image above are the complete cast of the Futurama show.  Starting on the right going left is Dr. Zoidberg (kind of a crab like alien), Bender (a girder bending robot), Hermes (the bureaucratic accountant for Planet Express business), Philp J. Fry ( a delivery boy from the 20th century who is now in the 30th century), Leela (Planet Express's pilot/captain and Amy Wong  who is standing behind Hermes (an intern to Professor Farnsworth).  Professor Farnsworth is standing on the platform just above the stealth ship.  To the left of the spaceship is Zapp Brannigan (wanna-be space hero).  Also pictured to the left are two secret service agents and the head of Richard Nixon in a jar.  You'd have to see the show to understand that one for sure.


(Click on the image above to get a full screen view)

Here's the end result of my efforts to recreate the stealth ship in Blender 3D.  I was originally going to only model the spaceship just by itself and thought I would go a bit farther with this project and put the ship in the hangar as shown in the original picture.  I also included Bender the robot with the ship just so I could give it some scale and as Bender was another good subject to try and model I thought it would work out nicely.  I did not count the number of hours I spent working on this latest creation as I was more concerned with getting everything  to look the way you see here rather than bother about it.  Bender himself was a challenge to get his features set up to match what is shown on the show so I was happy with my efforts to come very close. 

As for the stealth ship I got several different images by shooting them with my DSLR directly from my TV screen.  The one thing I noticed after reviewing the images was that the stealth ship kept changing in the episode of the show.  I did not notice this while watching but it sure showed up while comparing all the photos side by side.  I put as much detail into the small spaceship as I could and then worked with the little details that I could see within the hangar itself.  After I was satisfied with that aspect of the modeling I kept playing around with different lighting until I was happy with the scene.  The end result turned out very well so it will hold a place of honor in my Blender portfolio  along with the rest of my creations that I've put together  over the years.  Thanks for checking out my latest Blender 3D effort.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Motorcycle "Fast Glasses" Project Is Dialed In And Completed!

I was happy to find in my mailbox yesterday the smaller Neodymium magnets that I had ordered about a week ago.  I did not expect them for at least another week.  So with a happy grin on my face I got back to work on refining my motorcycle "Fast Glasses".  For those of you who just found this post and have not seen the previous news I had posted about this project I have been working on designing and building an easier way to wear glasses when I ride my motorcycle.  I cannot wear contacts and do not want to get eye surgery but I still wanted and easier way to wear glasses when I had my helmet on.  To put my regular glasses on once my helmet is on is a hassle to say the least and after a couple of hours riding become uncomfortable on top of it all.  So this project was born.   The idea was to design a new set of glasses mounts that hold the glasses to the helmet instead of my face.  Here is the final design.



All of the plastic components for the glasses I designed and made on my 3D printer. The glasses are held into my helmet using Velcro mounting straps and in turn the glasses are held securely into the mounts using very small Neodymium magnets.  The glasses are standard prescription glasses that I had set up for my eyes without any arms on them so that they could be mounted to the side frame mounts using small wire clips that I bent into shape by hand.  These mounts also hold mating Neodymium magnets that allow me to quickly and easily put on or take off the glasses after I have put on my motorcycle helmet.


I went through several different designs of the "Fast Glasses" to get the bugs worked out of them.  On the design previous to the final one I was happy with the mount (shown above on the left) worked but was to thick and caused an effect when driving like having "Blinders" on.  Distracting and not good at all.  I went back to work and refined the mount to use the smaller (1/8" x 1/8" x 1/2") Neodymium magnets which did the trick.  The new mounts (shown above on the right) are only 1/4" thick now and with no "Blinder" effect when wearing them.  The new magnets are also plenty strong as each will hold a pound of weight.  More than enough to hold my glasses in place while cruising down the road.




Here you can see my happy face as I model the new specs with my helmet on.  I worked on a few minor changes to the mounts all day yesterday and finished up with what you see here this morning. The glasses are very comfortable and are solidly mounted inside the helmet now instead of being smashed against my face when I am wearing them with the helmet. It takes me less than a second to put the glasses on or take them off so I've succeeded in accomplishing what I've set out to do.  With no "Blinder Effect" now I'm all set to do some comfortable cruising instead of some uncomfortable cursing as I go down the road.