It’s been a big year at the EngineerDog household. First it was my new job designing parts on HP’s new 3D printer ;) , in a city far far away, and now a new bouncing baby girl to boot!
As you can imagine, balancing work/sleep/baby/hobby/wife/chores/exercise/dog needs has left me wishing there were more than 24 hours in a day. Certainly my blogging activities and sleep schedule have taken a hit.
Baby Vivian wants ALL of Daddy’s Attention
When I have had time to fool around I’ve spent it experimenting rather than writing and as a result I’ve only shared two articles this year! So here’s what else is new:
A few months ago I sat down to print some prototype BoosterPack parts and I realized that I didn’t have enough filament on hand to finish the job.
Crap, I had like 10 spools sitting around, how did this happen? Unfortunately, no single spool had enough filament leftover to print the large & dense part I needed. The project would have to wait until new material arrived in the mail. Too bad I couldn’t just combine the bits of filament I had leftover. Hmmm…
A little playing around with a lighter, a soldering iron, and various jigs made me realize that it’s actually not easy to splice filament together well. When I was able to get it to stick the bond was always uneven and unreliable.
I’ve gotten a lot of emails about the BoosterPack project over the last few months, and I’m glad that there are so many interested people!
To those of you eagerly awaiting an instructable or EBay listing, I thank you for your patience and have to ask for a little more.
This process has been delayed by significant changes in my life, namely my relocation 2,400 miles west to Portland, Oregon to pursue bigger and better opportunities.
To a lifelong Midwesterner this land of abundant bicycles, dogs, food/beer/wine options, creative/ interesting/outright-weird people, high-tech industry, public transportation, mild weather, and natural beauty is a welcome change!*
It’s taken months of experimentation and testing but the BoosterPack is finally done….and its awesome!
Normal bike riding isn’t the same anymore because this thing has changed what I perceive to be a bikeable distance. Now I can keep up with traffic, carry heavy stuff, and boost up hills without breaking a sweat. All for 2 cents worth of electricity on a unique e-bike system that costs significantly less than anything else out there.
Check out the video of my trip to the grocery store below:
I love riding my bicycle and I think its a shame that the suburb of Dayton I live in is designed for car use only. That means no bike lanes, high speed limits, busy intersections, and a low density packing of places I’d want to ride to.
As a result I’m the only one I ever see pedaling across the nearby 6 lane intersection to the store. Or shopping while dripping with sweat and a backpack full of groceries for that matter.
I figured an electric bicycle could make my life a lot easier. Plus they’re freaking cool.Read More »
A couple years ago I tried to convince the boss to buy a 3D printer for use at work. It’s a general use tool, I said, we’ll probably use it for tons of things. His very reasonable response was that it might happen if I could tell him how the investment would pay for itself.
After scratching my head on that one for a while, I finally made a list of ‘practical’ uses. At the very top was “it will make the engineers happy and I want one.”
We never got a 3D printer.
But I think the question I wasn’t able to answer is still an interesting one. Affordable consumer grade 3D printers are a relatively new type of manufacturing tool (available since 2009), so how are people putting them to use at work?
To get some answers I went to Dayton’s annual Advanced Manufacturing Technology Show (AMTS) to see some 3D printing talks given by industry professionals. (Also it was free!)
Every once in a while my alma mater assigns one of their current engineering students the task of soliciting donations from alumni. Last week I got the call and after a brief discussion about solar cars and my discomfort at the mere thought of parting with money, the student asked me a final survey question:
‘Now that I have working experience to frame my educational experience, how I would rate the quality of the education I received?’
Good question. This topic has been on my mind recently anyway as I’ve been applying for jobs in a new-to-me industry. How much has my formal education prepared me for being a versatile engineer? How much of my ability to function in a new environment will be determined by my professional experience, education, or just my ability to figure things out?
All I can say for sure is that knowing what I know now there was definitely something important missing from the university curriculum.
I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty good at screwing stuff up. Heck, even I don’t count on me to get things right on the first try. If I ever write an autobiography one title I’d consider is “Michael’s Big Book of Blunders”. And it would be a little too easy to write in that context!
But in the process of tripping over every obvious obstacle in my path I’ve learned that while failure is painful in the short term it can be highly beneficial for improvement in the long term.
There’s no shame in making mistakes because learning is an iterative process which requires the critical feedback of trial and error testing. If I’ve messed up enough times to populate an entire book then I’m probably an expert at something!
What follows is a list of engineering specific lessons I’ve learned the hard way through first hand miscalculation and errors in judgement. Hopefully you can learn something the easy way by reading about my experiences.
It’s hard to believe it’s already been more than 4 years since I graduated college. Harder still that I’ve managed to keep track of the notes I made on my university senior design project, a three wheeled vehicle chassis designed from scratch for the solar car team.
This was a pretty ambitious project. Over the course of a year, myself and three other mechanical engineering students designed and fabricated a complete race car chassis including the frame, suspension, hubs, spindles, brakes, & steering.
In retrospect any one of the above systems would have been an adequate senior design project. The decision to attempt all of them together reveals the ignorance/arrogance/ambition of my younger self. Fortunately, we were successful in the end. And I know I learned a heck of a lot about chassis design and what a handful of exhausted engineers can do in a short period of time.Read More »
One of my projects this summer has been analyzing the mechanical properties of 3D printed parts using a homemade testing machine. I’ve been trying to figure out how to optimize the printer settings to maximize the physical strength of parts while minimizing the plastic needed to make them.
As simple as smashing a few pieces of plastic sounds, I’ve had to face a fair amount of challenges on this little project. There’s a reason for the general lack of test data on this topic. It’s not just a matter of sitting down and pumping it out, but rather spending a lot of time redoing tests and staring at graphs that don’t make sense.
In this post I want to discuss some of the challenges I’ve encountered and share the results I’ve been able to produce so far, including what I now consider to be the best infill pattern.