Jan 19

PCBArt

Authors Note: While PCBWay has offered to sponsor a run of the boards, everything purchased for this post was paid for out of pocket and without their knowledge. I wanted to make sure they were good on my own.

Hey All,

I’m a collector. I like to collect things. Video games, Raspberry Pis, Pokemon cards, and Pins. I don’t have many pins, but they really appeal to me. It’s like pixel art. Making awesome designs with limited colors on a small canvas.

The department I work for has always made our own logos for our teams and projects. We usually print stickers and give them out at conferences, or to our students when they hit certain milestones (like their first commit).

Techrangers Logo

A eureka moment hit when PCBWay contacted me this month asking if they could sponsor my next PCB board. I’m not ready to make another PiPlay run of boards (we are slowly working on version 2), but I loved the silkscreen art I was able to put on our original run.

What if I could turn our teams logo into a PCB?

I quickly started investigating and found an awesome plugin for Inkscape called SVG2Shenzen!

I use Inkscape for a lot of things, mostly for setting up projects on the Lasercutter at FamiLAB, but I never thought of using it to create PCBs! The boards came out amazing!

PCBWay

Pros:

  • The boards I received from PCBWay.com blew me away.
  • I was not expecting much for $5 (+ $15 shipping from China).
    • I ordered the boards on Saturday, they shipped them out on Wednesday, and they were in my hands by Friday.
  • The production speed is incredible.
  • They audit every board before you pay and begin production.

Cons:

  • The ordering experience was a little clunky.
    • I had to input my dimensions and order details BEFORE uploading my Gerber files. Other PCB manufacturers usually get order details from the Gerbers.
  • Because I was making pins, I didn’t need anything drilled. This caused the audit to fail, and due to the timezome difference, their message to me and my reply caused a 20 hour delay in production. edit: Adding a note to ignore the drill file for my second order caused it to pass the audit test without delay.

The Pros HEAVILY outweigh the very minor Cons I experienced. I will have zero problem using them from now on for my board needs!

Using SVG2Shenzen

https://github.com/badgeek/svg2shenzhen

Once the plugin is installed, you goto Extensions->Prepare Document and click on Apply.

This will generate a new vector document with layers for each layer of the board. Each layer represents a portion of the boards manufacturing. They are:

  • Drill
    • Parts of the board to be drilled out
    • Example: Holes for a key-chain, or for through hole parts like a resistor or LED
  • F. Silk
    • Front of the board’s silkscreen
  • F.Mask
    • Front of the board mask – I have found that the Mask and Copper should be the same design
  • F. Cu
    • Front of the board copper
  • B. Silk
    • Back of board silkscreen
  • B. Mask
    • Back of board mask – Again I have found that the Mask and Copper should be the same design
  • B. Cu
    • Back of board copper
  • Edge.Cuts
    • This is the shape of your board that will be cutout.

When you are happy with your layout, click on Extensions -> Export Kicad, and click apply.

You will now need to open the generated *.kicad_pcb file in Kicad’s pcb tool pcbnew.

You can check a render of your finished board by going to View->3D Viewer. You can change all the colors and see what your finished board will probably look like. If its good, it’s time for the most important step! Generating your gerbers!

Click on File-> Plot to open up the plotter dialog. Select your output directory, and leave the settings as default for now. Click on Plot and a bunch of files will be generated in that directory. These are the files you send to your manufacturer to generate a PCB for you!

Congrats, you made a board!

Happy Birthday To Me!

On another note… I turned 35 this month. Happy Birthday to Me! I couldn’t have had a happier birthday. Spending a nice day with my Wife and Son, watching the little dude play on a swing-set his Grandpa’s built in our backyard.

Have a good one all! – Shea

Dec 31

2018

Hey All,

I almost didn’t blog for the whole year. To be truthful, it’s been hard to write this past year. Lots of amazing wonderful things have happened to me in 2018, but I’m exhausted. And this blog was easy to overlook. I want to write again, but at my own pace. I’m going to try to start again.

That said…. BEING A FATHER IS AWESOME! I have an amazing little mini me who is 20 months old and is just so much fun. He has made me grow in ways I never even knew imaginable.

Maker Faire Orlando 2018

My friend Jacob and I worked on an awesome project for Maker Faire Orlando this year, and I am so proud to say we won Maker of Merit! It is a deep honor to me to win that award. And of course it’s Raspberry Pi related 😀

We made a 4096 LED pixel framebuffer display powered by the Raspberry Pi!

LED Display playing a clone of Snake
Prototype at the Orlando Science Center

How it works?

We are using P10 LED panels as the basis for the screen. P10 means a 10mm dot pitch, so 10mm between each LED. They range from 3 – 10mm. The panels also usually come in a size of 16 x 32, but luckily they are daisy chainable!

The Raspberry Pi can even handle upto 32 of them in 3 chains! For our purposes we only used 8 16×32 panels in one chain.

8 P10 Panels, daisychained to an Adafruit LED matrix bonnet, connected to a Raspberry Pi 3b+, with power distributed via a CFOL Distro 8 board.

The above picture may look complicated, but it’s not that bad.

8 P10 panels are daisy chained together using a standard HUB75 cable (it’s like an smaller IDE cable).

The panels are mounted together with the orange and red 3D printed brackets.

The first panel is connected to a Raspberry Pi 3B+ via an Adafruit LED matrix bonnet.

The power for the panels and the Pi comes from a 10amp DC supply, which plugs into the bonnet. The bonnet powers the Pi, and has two screw terminals for the voltage output. The +/- screw terminals connect to a CFOL Distro 8 PCB (in the center of the board) which takes the input and breaks it out to 8 screw terminals. We only need 4 since each cable powers two panels, but it gives us room to expand.

After that we use https://github.com/adafruit/rpi-fb-matrix to copy whats on the HDMI framebuffer out onto the LED matrix!

and Voila! You now have a giant low resolution display!

Many thanks to Adafruit for making such a great beginner tutorial that we could jump from, and building a great bonnet for the Pi!

Happy Making and a Happy New Year! Here’s to a wonderful 2019 everyone!

-Shea

Sep 02

Monoprice Maker Ultimate or how 3 point leveling made 3D printing fun again

Hey All,

TL;DR: IMHO 3 point bed leveling is so much better than 4 point bed leveling and auto bed leveling.

So the PiPlay Portable Kickstarter has ended, and we have been doing tons of fulfillment these past few weeks.  One of the add-ons was originally a laser cut case, but realistically, it didn’t work well.

My friend Nick from P3DCreations was able to design us an awesome 3D printable case at the last minute, and the demand for it was high.  Higher than I could reasonably print on my current printers.  3D printing is a lot slower than laser cutting, so I needed to add a new printer to my “print farm”.

Enter the Monoprice Maker Ultimate

The Monoprice Maker Ultimate is a rebrand of the Wanhao D6 (or Duplicator 6) which itself is a mix of an Ultimaker and a Zortrax M200.  I have been printing with it non stop for the past 2 weeks and it has been a workhorse.  I love this printer.  It has made 3D printing fun for me again.  Pro Tip: Wait for it to go on sale, as I got mine for $550 shipped.

Leveling Up

The difference comes from how you level the bed.  The most common bed is a piece of aluminum with 4 screws attached at each corner.  As you screw down each corner, you are bending the bed, trying to make it flat enough for your print to adhere correctly at all points.  Realistically you end up warping the bed.  Every time you get one point leveled, you’ve just unleveled the opposite point.

Auto bed leveling uses a probe and triggers when it detects the bed.  It does this at multiple points on the bed at the beginning of each print to determine the shape and warpness of the bed, and then tries to correct the skew as it prints.  When it works it’s amazing, but if it doesn’t you risk damaging your bed, hotend, and printer components.  Also, depending on the controller board and software determines how well the software can compensate.

On the Maker Ultimate (and numerous other printers) the bed is leveled by 3 screws.  One in the front and 2 in the back.  Doing this makes a plane and makes leveling a quick affair that just works and tends to stay in place for longer.

I also like that the bed is stationary and just moves on the Z axis, rather than i3 type 3d printers that moves the bed on the Y axis.  I’m not a fan of how much motion is generated when moving the bed like that.  I’ve had failures due to the wobble of the bed causing a print to fall off.

There are many great i3 printers, and a well tuned printer will make good prints on any machine, but man, I’m so pleased with this Monoprice Maker Ultimate.

It’s made 3D printing fun again.

 

May 26

Friday Post: PiPlay Portable funded :D

Hey All,

Thank you, to my backers, and supporters, for helping to fund the PiPlay Portable. I’m so excited to get to make this.

We just got the latest prototype boards in, as well as our stickers from StickerMule.  We were also able to get some polybags for real cheap (they are in beta, so why not!)

Also MegaCon is this weekend!  I finished making my Nintendo Switch Arcade Machine and made it an Ultra SF2 Machine.

Have a great weekend all!

-Shea

Dec 31

End of 2016

Hey All,

It’s the last day of 2016.  What. a. year.

  • Finding out I’m going to be a Dad in 2017.  We just found out it’s going to be a BOY!!!! I’m so excited, and terrified, and excited.
  • K and I just got back from New York City.  We wanted to do one last big adventure before our next big adventure is born 🙂
  • We’ve been working on the PiPlay Advance handheld.  We think he have it down now.
  • Maker Faire Orlando was amazing!
  • I ran for Florida House of Representatives, and while I didn’t win, I received 31% of the vote!!!
  • I was able to hire a very talented student in our department as a full timer after he graduated!
  • I spoke at InstructureCon in Colorado, did a CanvasLive webinar for a bunch of schools, and spoke at the Online Learning Consortium conference here in Orlando.

I haven’t updated as much, and every Friday I look at the clock and miss the post.  So I’m hoping to do better at that again.

Thanks for reading!

Have a wonderful 2017!

 

 

Maker Faire Orlando 2016

Nov 30

Migrated Hosts

Hey All,

I’ve been in the process of migrating hosts this week.  I’m sad to say that my friends company, VNucleus, has shuttered it’s hosting business.  Oh well, on to bigger and better things.  If you see this, you are on the new host and your DNS has migrated!  Yay.

-Shea

Jun 27

Qualified!

Hey All!

I am very proud to announce that I qualified for the Florida House of Representatives District 49 race.  My name will be on the ballot this election!

2person

This is exciting, and will be an extremely tough race.  I am running as a No Party Affiliated candidate.  I believe in:

  • Equal Rights
  • Let Teachers Be Teachers
  • Single Payer Healthcare – Medicare Expansion
  • Paid Sick, Paternity, & Maternity Leave
  • Expanding Mental Health Care
  • Online Education
  • Lowering Textbook Prices
  • Lowering Student Loans
  • Better Internet Options
  • Open source and Open Standards for Government Documents
  • Bodycams for our Police Officers
  • Abolishing Private Prisons
  • Turning Prisons into Places of Rehab
  • Net Neutrality
  • Marijuana Reform

If you believe in that as well,  I would love your help.

-Shea

Jun 13

Sunday At Home In Orlando

Sunday Sucked.  I haven’t felt this numb and exposed in a long time.  My deepest sympathies and love go out to all the families, victims, and survivors in this awful tragedy.  The only shining light in all of this was how we as a community reacted to the aftermath.

To quote Mr. Rogers:  “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

My thoughts on gun control:

I have grown up around guns. I was taught how to handle them, fire them, clean them and store them safely.  From an early age my mother and father put into me a healthy amount of fear and respect when dealing with firearms.

We need to extend the 3 day waiting period to all firearms, not just handguns.  The waiting period should also be increased, and having a concealed weapons permit shouldn’t waive that requirement.

My thoughts on gun violence:

What happened in my home town was a tragedy.  I never want to blame the weapon, for that shifts blame to an inanimate object.  It is a person’s own decision to brandish and use a weapon.  It should be easier to get mental health care than it is to get a gun.

-Shea

Oct 10

Friday Post: Orlando iX 2015

Orlando iX was amazing.  I was expecting nothing, and I got treated to an incredible 3 days of awesome tech heads talking shop and showing off their cool stuff.  From cool indie games such as Battery Jam, to a storytelling “robot” plush named Trobo.  The entire event was just filled with energy.

IMG_5772 IMG_5839 (Large) IMG_5841 IMG_5837 IMG_5835 IMG_5831 IMG_5830 IMG_5829 IMG_5825 IMG_5822 IMG_5821 IMG_5820 IMG_5819 IMG_5818  IMG_5810 IMG_5813 IMG_5812 IMG_5807 IMG_5795 IMG_5794 IMG_5790 IMG_5788 IMG_5786 IMG_5781 IMG_5779 IMG_5778 IMG_5777 IMG_5776 IMG_5775 IMG_5774   IMG_5833 (Large)

I had so much fun.  And I took this whole week off.  I spent most of this week just relaxing, sleeping, and playing a fan translated version of Mother 3.  So good!

Have a good weekend all!

-Shea

May 14

I’m Back! Thanks to my new host vNucleus

Hey All,

Hopefully I didn’t worry you all too much.  I’m kinda embarrassed to admit this, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been effectively locked out of a lot of my web apps due to my old host’s server not being able to handle the load.  I’ve been with them for 3 years, and in that time these applications have grown exponentially.  I have sadly outgrown them, and for a while was worried about where I could go.

Good hosting isn’t cheap and it’s worth every penny.  I looked at AWS, but that would have cost me a small fortune for the amount of bandwidth I use.  Some VPS providers would have been good, but I don’t have the time to manage every part of my server.

I’m very lucky to have a good friend who owns the hosting company vNucelus, and has graciously offered me space on his servers.  Everything was migrated today and it all seems to be running super smoothly!

I’m glad to be able to post again, and I hope you are excited to read again.

Thanks for sticking with me!

-Shea Silverman