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Old 08-12-2012, 04:16 PM #1
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Default How do I make things?

Sorry for the vague title. I'm extremely interested in how to... make things. I know basic soldering and electrical work, enough to make a laser from all the basic parts. But what I don't understand is how to make something completely new, using homemade parts.

The people who make hosts use expensive machining equipment I assume, but what about people like the guy at laser-gadgets.com? I've seen him post here I believe, and I am amazed at what he can make. I'm just curious as to what steps I would have to go to learn how to build things a quarter as cool as that.

Take for instance the laser-glove. How on earth can you build that as a hobbyist? Did he just manage to find a few parts that worked for certain purposes and manage to fit them together? i.e Some glove contraption, a 2x AA case, and hook a 445nm to it?

Or did he manufacture each part (barring of course the laser, etc) for the sole purpose of this build? How would you get custom plastic parts without outsourcing or buying a 3d printer?


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Old 08-12-2012, 04:27 PM #2
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Default Re: How do I make things?

Imagination! Well... that and time, and patience, and money, and experimenting, and research, and all those other things you've gotta put time and energy into to make something happen.

So start off small and make something, and then make more stuff, and keep doing it. You don't need to make the most amazing and fresh thing around. Just make stuff and learn from it. I've seen some pretty "ghetto" laser builds with laser spirographs or homemade stuff built out of junk taken out of random machines. Look at this dude's air raid siren made from a hot tub blower and a motor from a ball launcher.

When you're to the point that you need better tools, buy some better tools, but until then, just use what you have around.
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Old 08-12-2012, 06:06 PM #3
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Default Re: How do I make things?

Anyone remember this classic? Its actually rather inspiring if you think about it.

The Mustard Build!!
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Old 08-12-2012, 10:26 PM #4
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Default Re: How do I make things?

Yeah. What BB said.
You start off doing what you are comfortable with. Use the tools you have and try to do something challenging.
A dremel tool with a bunch of assorted tips/bits will help you do an unbelievable number of things. Add that flex-shaft and you suddenly have an amazing number of small space or weird angle abilities.
A local plastics shop or supplier can provide an incredible variety of inexpensive (relatively) materials to shape/cut/grind/etch/join/weld/melt and then there are the basic containers and shapes that you can use to do your bidding. (Why do you think so many builds are in former flashlight cases or hosts ?)
For lasers wood isn't usually used but the skills from working with that medium are easily transferrable to plastics.
I'm new to working with metal myself. But having a relative that deals with aluminum products and the suppliers has given me access to a lot of free material to play with and experiment. I also have better exposure to some of the raw materials and the stock types of tubing/bars stock/etc. so I can start thinking about how my thoughts/ideas/plans might be better suited to aluminum based products.
SO "YES. You do find some parts that manage to fit together." Or more likely you find parts that almost fit together the way you want and you modify or manipulate them to fit just the way you want it to.
It boils down to being a bit of an "Artist" - where you allow yourself to free associate or randomly think of an idea that seems fun to you. Then you start to apply the "Engineer" - the methodical planning on just how to actually make the item you are thinking about. And lastly you become the "Labourer" - the person that performs the work and fits it all together.
Of course, in reality, you flip back and forth between the roles all the time throughout the process usually ending up with something different than what you started out doing as unforseen issues arise and on-the-fly changes have to be implemented but the trick is to keep an open mind on it all and see where the project takes you while trying to accomplish your original idea.
You will always be able to take stock of anything and everything you create and recognize the effort involved in completing it.
The more you do the better you get. Like anything else.
And while the idea of getting more and better tools might seem like a goal to strive for, sometimes it can be more rewarding to do something that seems impossible for what you have and what you can do. (It's not the tools but what you can do with them that matters.) I have many a past projects that people spend hours trying to figure out just how what they are seeing was done. Even better when a so called "professional" would stand there and say that it shouldn't be possible !

So sit back, relax, experiment and play with whatever you have available.
It can be a lot of fun !
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Old 08-13-2012, 01:45 AM #5
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Default Re: How do I make things?

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Originally Posted by ShortyInCanada View Post
You start off doing what you are comfortable with.
So sit back, relax, experiment and play with whatever you have available.
It can be a lot of fun !
Thanks a lot! You inspired me to just try to make random things with stuff I have lying around!

I took apart an old toy I had, called Finger Beatz. removed all of the fingers except one, took apart the insides, stuck in my own circuit board with some really basic wiring, took out the buttons and put LEDs in the holes where they were. Its not much, but when I make a fist with it on, the lights light up.

One tiny step closer to making something slightly close to this.

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Old 08-13-2012, 02:25 AM #6
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Default Re: How do I make things?

Not sure how old you are, but majoring in electrical engineering or mechanical engineering can go along ways towards helping you increase your building capacity =D .
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Old 08-13-2012, 02:29 AM #7
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Default Re: How do I make things?

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Not sure how old you are, but majoring in electrical engineering or mechanical engineering can go along ways towards helping you increase your building capacity =D .
I'm now a sophomore, majoring in IT. I would love to major in so many things though, unfortunately I can only choose one for now.
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Old 08-13-2012, 04:04 AM #8
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Default Re: How do I make things?

Ooooooh.
An "IT" guy.
One of the faceless all-powerful overseers of the ever increasing electronic domain.
One that must deal with the senseless masses and their "problems".
Too young to know about the 1d10t errors I would suppose though ?
I won't say any more lest I tip my hat to others about my experiences.

You feel good about your little project though, don't ya ?
That's the all important first steps to a long journey into painful expenditures. Mwaaa haaa haaa haaa...
(Now why did I write that ?)
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Old 08-13-2012, 06:13 AM #9
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Default Re: How do I make things?

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Thanks a lot! You inspired me to just try to make random things with stuff I have lying around!
Try grabbing an Arduino board and learn to program too. Then you can at least control things in code. It's easy to make stuff blink and move, and all sorts of stuff when you can program it.

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Not sure how old you are, but majoring in electrical engineering or mechanical engineering can go along ways towards helping you increase your building capacity =D .
I dunno... most of the practical stuff can be learned without majoring in those, and what you need to get going are usually in the low-level courses anyway. I found I only truly learned stuff when I started tinkering away and using it on my own projects, not in the classroom.
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Old 08-13-2012, 12:15 PM #10
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Default Re: How do I make things?

Quote:
I dunno... most of the practical stuff can be learned without majoring in those, and what you need to get going are usually in the low-level courses anyway. I found I only truly learned stuff when I started tinkering away and using it on my own projects, not in the classroom.
Very sad.... but very true. Some of the best hobbyists in electronics, for example, are non majors. Commonly it comes down how much you apply yourself outside of class. In addition, your job can have a big factor in it as well. My internship taught me quite a bit. However, majoring in EE or ME is a nice start to get your foot in the door and learn the basics....along with a whooolleee bunch of other fluff you will never use.
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Old 08-13-2012, 02:25 PM #11
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Default Re: How do I make things?

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Try grabbing an Arduino board and learn to program too. Then you can at least control things in code. It's easy to make stuff blink and move, and all sorts of stuff when you can program it.
I already have one! I played around with it a lot last year, but never fully understood what I could do with it. It seemed I had very limited options with only 8 pins or however many I had.

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Old 08-14-2012, 04:07 AM #12
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Default Re: How do I make things?

It's not the number of pins you have, but how you use them.

Anyway, if you want to "multiply" digital pins you can use a shift register. PWM "pins" can be added with LED drivers like the TLC5940, etc. Usually it isn't a function of pins in what you can do though.
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Old 08-14-2012, 04:56 AM #13
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Default Re: How do I make things?

Arduino(s) are lame. MSP430 launchpad = way cooler =D

Yea, pins are not really a limitation. Use shift registers to expand digital outputs, use muxes to expand digital inputs, use analog Muxes to expand analog inputs. Then really nice features of embedded micros are hardware based peripherals for communication protocols such as SPI, I2C, UART, USB, and Ethernet. Then also another nice feature of a MCU is having enough ram to implement an embedded OS or RTOS. Also preferably not BGA...
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