Urban composting

If this kids gets it, shouldn’t we? Every time I throw egg shells or vegetable scraps in the garbage I know I’m throwing away good calories. I want to convert those calories into something good. Perhaps tomatoes or herbs or hot chili peppers!

Challenge: I live in an apartment.

I started to research into composting on balconies and such. I’m figuring that it will have a smell so I don’t want to do an indoor system.

So that narrows it down to a balcony or an outdoor window hangar.

Challenge: In the winter it is extremely cold.

I suspect that it will freeze during the winter and then start composting in the spring. I bet it will compost well after thawing because the freezing might break up the plant cells a bit.

A friend of a friend of a friend who is studying urban agriculture and food systems says that if it is about 4 feet x 4 feet x 4 feet, it may generate enough energy to keep going in the winter. Two problems there. That’s huge! Plus I don’t think I generate enough material to fuel such a system.

I considered using a heater but here’s an excerpt from Answers.com:

60 watt bulb consumes 60 watt•hours in one hour, or 60 Wh x 24 hr/day = 1440 Wh per day. That is the same as 1.44 kilowatt•hours (kWh). If 1 kWh costs you 25 cents, then leaving a 60 watt
light bulb switched on for 24 hours straight would cost you 1.44 kWh x 25¢/kWh = 36 cents.

That comes out to about $10 per month. I’m not sure about the calculation or if that’s a good price for electricity but I think it the composer uses electricity it will cannibalize the benefits.

I also considered grabbing heat from a balcony window. I went on a balcony and put my hand against the glass. I couldn’t feel much heat. This might have to be tried to see if it keeps the temperature in a good range. If it works it will be increasing insulation from part of the window and will be reusing the lost heat. Pretty cool idea so we’ll see if I can make that one come forward.

Apparently there are two types of compost methods. One is aerobic and the other is using worms (Vermi-composting). The vermi one is using worms to do the work. Because I’m hedging towards a system that will run in a seasonal fashion, it may eliminate the vermi-composting method. We’ll see if I can find a heat source.

So my initial impression is that my solution will be an aerobic compost system that will sit on a balcony. I think I should have two or three going so I can use one to feed the other. During the summers I may try a worm one outdoors for kicks.

I’m reading that you can use an aerated plastic bucket. You add some soil, leaves or paper to the bottom, then sprinkle waste on it. When it piles up a bit, more soil/leaves/paper. You stir it once in a while. After it is ready, it is soil. You can use the soil to grow stuff or reuse some of it to to make the layers for more composting.

I’m not going to use paper because its not for eating and is likely full of chemicals, inks and bad stuff.

Challenge: Can the compost system be automated?

A friend told me that ideas for automation may be found here: http://www.sun-mar.com/tech_drum.html

Suggestions for an aerobic composter are:

A friend of a friend uses ‘bokashi’ and  suggests “It can definitely work in smaller zones, though its nicer when you have a bit of garden somewhere to dig the bokashi bucket into after 2-4 weeks.   (apparently in high rises in Japan, for lack of gardens, people bury the fermented waste into houseplant pots).  Also, don’t be mislead by the notes about ‘no smell’… there is a smell, though less offensive than traditional compost…  more pickled than rotten… Also note, you don’t have to make your own bokashi mix, you can buy it from places like Richie’s Feed and Lee Valley (though its marketed as compost accelerator).

Here are some links about bokashi composting:

Suggestions for a worm based composter are:

Cathy’s Crawly composters (people say this doesn’t smell).

Question: I wonder why meat and oil can’t be composted.

So I guess I need to get some plastic pails and some starting soil!

I’ll report back!

First batch of Kitchen Scrap.

Dec 14: Okay, I’ve got my first pile of scrap. I don’t have the compost system yet but I have a pail so I will add holes. This evening I will go look for some sort of soil to put in the bottom of my composter.

Yummy onions!

Jan 4, 2011 Up to a couple of gallons

I’ve now got quite a bit. I’m keeping it frozen outside. I’m figuring come the thaw this spring it will compost quickly and then I’ll use it to grow some vegetables and stuff.

I figure it doesn’t have to be aerated yet since its so cold outside.

I’m tempted to try and keep it inside for a bit to see if it will smell. As it stands now it smells good because I put some great fruit in it. 🙂

Ladies’ travelling turns (Salsa, cha cha etc…)

Here are the left and right ladies’ travelling turns. The way I did it here was to do a right travelling turn and then a left travelling turn right after. This would permit more practice repetition for a beginner with less dizziness.

A common error is to not have each step on the same line. The traveling turns are used to exchange position with the man so you need to step in a straight line. Many beginners try to twist their legs around to get more turn but that just sends her off heading.

If it’s too much, just do a Dile Que No in between instead of doing them continuously.

I’m doing this with the “ladies count”.

This just shows the footwork. There are other important elements such as “preparation” that are difficult to see here. There is also spotting which is to do head motion in bursts rather than span the room as you turn. Arms are also used to help with the turn but conservatively.

This is the footwork needed for a lot of steps such as Coca Cola. I’ll find some better examples but here are a couple of traveling turns.

If you live in Ottawa and you want to learn salsa, you can get lessons all around town. I highly recommend Oscar de Leon. Check out this site: Ottawa Salsa Lessons

My affair with cardboard

The model airplane project has really brought me closer to cardboard. For a start, my supplies come in cardboard boxes (for the most part). Here is a 2′ and 3′ order of balsa. Actually the large square box might be propellers, I can’t remember. 🙂

Much of this cardboard gets used for internal use. Here’s a box being used as a tote for local delivery in Ottawa. This box is surplus from when I moved a while back but you get the idea.

I also make a lot of things out of cardboard. For example, here is a glue holder.

Here’s a model airplane tote I made. I used it for carrying a model planes like a brief case.

I also get boxes from Grace Ottawa on Wednesday evening. That’s recycle night for the downtown Ottawa area (Bank street). This cardboard is cut and folded into boxes for mail order shipping.

Ottawa Robotics

I joined the Ottawa Robotics group to learn more about robotics, automation, computer control and such. They’re a friendly group that meets about once per month at Algonquin College. We usually go for a brew at Chances-R or Darcy’s pub. This is a great way to meet other robot heads and not only get lots of help from new friends but to cheer on other projects.

Here’s a video to get a feel for the meetup. You can see a cool model helicopter, some mini-sumo robots. People usually bring in a robot project to show off and talk about.

Here are a few pictures from the last meetup. We were offered a tour of some of the CNC robotics at the college.

CNC Laser Cutter construction

I decided to make a CNC laser cutter with some material handling capabilities for my model plane project.

Water Cooling

I have some surgical tubing for the water jacket (the CO2 laser tube is water cooled). It seems to brown the water and I don’t like that since it might accumulate some material in the water jacket. I realize I can clean the jacket with hydrochloric acid but I figure it’s a better idea to not have any material going through the system.

The laser itself has some nice white colored tubing on it to connect the various water jackets. I’m curious if anybody knows what it is so I can replace my surgical tubing with it.

Some of my friends are saying it’s silicon surgical tubing or fuel line from a motorcycle shop. I will check that out the next time I’m at the bike shop.

CNC Software

I went with EMC2 which runs under Linux. It is very easy to use. You need to download an ISO file from LinuxCNC.org then burn a CD from the ISO. Boot from the CD and presto! You have a CNC controller running off the CD without affecting the host computer. I elected to install the Ubuntu Linux software with the EMC2 right onto the computer so that I could boot from the hard disk. This allowed me to run updates and such. It upgraded everything to the latest. This is a Ubuntu 8.04 LTS. I think they are working on getting the next one going which is Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. I will upgrade when I become aware that it is ready and it is stable enough.

My lab does not have any network cables running from my server room. So I installed a Wireless Bridge. I made if from an WRT54G v8 (Linksys router) by installing DD-WRT open source software onto it. I then configured it as a wireless bridge and had it join my network which has a higher end router (also running DD-WRT). Now I have 4 eithernet jacks to plug stuff into to have internet access in my lap. I can remotely access the lab computer across the network (this includes remote desktop and ssh).

EMC2 is pretty easy to configure and run. It didn’t take too much fiddling to get it programmed with all the parameters of my gantry system.

CNC Steppers, Controllers and Power

I initially started to build circuits to control stepper motors. I discovered that you can buy components that are not too expensive. I got a xylotec 4-Axis kit. It comes with 4 large steppers with double shafts, the 4 channel controller and a 24V power supply. The EMC2 software had this outfit listed so it was easy to get up and running. All I really had to do was tin all the wire ends and screw all the wires together. Apparently with this outfit, if you wire something wrong it fries. So I was extra careful. I’m very pleased with this system. It is very powerful and is quiet.


I made a gantry out of 1″ aluminum angle. I used the contraptor methodology of drilling holes and using nuts and bolts. I designed my own sliding elements to use ball bearings. I used yoyo bearings. I used XL timing belts and pulleys which don’t seem to have any back lash.

Also, I went through all the belts sizes and prices to find that 88″ belts were relatively inexpensive. I made a spreadsheet to compare every belt size to it’s price so I knew if I should buy belt by the foot or to a specific size. I eventually went with 88″ belts and decided to just pull the slack out. You can see how I did this in the pictures. You can also see the gantry detail and the Y-Axis truck detail. It runs pretty fast and smooth.

Increase your social activity and your productivity: Ottawa Modlab (Hackerspace)

Since I undertook the project of making a CNC laser cutter, I expanded my social activities to include Ottawa Modlab. Ottawa Modlab is an open house hosted in the ArtEngine.ca lab. It’s every second Wednesday.

It’s been a great opportunity to meet lots of wonderful and interesting people. It’s been a very enriching experience so far.

My productivity has been much higher because it is inspiring to see other peoples’ projects and participate in the open forum discussing everyones’ challenges. Also, meeting more people with common interests helps with everything from sourcing to problem solving. It triggered my interest in doing many more projects including more artistic things as well and that makes me happier and I am more effective.

I think if you are interested in making things or art you should find your nearest hackerspace! They almost all have an open house night.

Here’s some video from a couple visits to Ottawa ModLab so you can get the feel for the activity. As you can see I have corrupted them with paper airplanes (not to mention Squirrel model airplanes that I’ve handed out to many people).

Dreaming about a Hat Cam

I’ve been working on a model airplane project and I want to make nice videos of the planes flying. The challenge is that I can’t seem to fly it and take video at the same time easily. The obvious is to get your friends to take the shots right?

In this video I’m explaining “Press the button… Now we’re filming…. Now press it again… now we’re not filming…”. I think I went over it about 10 times.

It’s really hard to get people to take video. In the video above, the first guy I tried could not understand how to operate the video camera despite explaining it over and over to him. Mind you were each had a plastic cup full of rum.

So anyways, now I’m wondering what sort of video quality I’d get in terms of shakiness and staying on subject.

I’ve also looked at making a camera stabilizer but that seems to need a camera operator so I’m still left with the guerrilla recruitment of people to take video.

Here’s another fine example. In this example, I asked the lady to try and get the whole bike and myself into the picture. Not only did she fail to do that, she managed to give me mouse ears.

Some Camera Footage
Update (Dec 14)

Here’s a cool video with one idea. It’s interesting to see if a head mounted camera is steady enough.

CNC wire bending machine

In order to make landing gear from .020 music wire for a model airplane project I have started a project to automate it.

I started to make a CNC wire bending machine. From the pictures you can see the pinch rollers that drive the wire through the system. You can see how they open up to load the wire.

The bending system is currently configured to bend in one plane using two servos. At the time, the bending head can’t make bends that are as close together as I need.

At this time I am planning to use an arduino to control the bending. The machine will be small and portable. Because of the arduino, it will not need to be tethered to a computer like a typical CNC machine.

Mantis CNC router build

Toronto hack lab are interested in building this CNC router. I managed to come up with 5 people in Ottawa Artengine and OttawaRobotics so we will be making 10 of these!

Apparently the Mantis can be made for less than 100 bucks not including the controllers and steppers and such. I think this is a great project because it can do all sorts of cool stuff like cutting PCB circuit boards, cutting plastics and wood. What a great platform for learning about CAD, CAM, CNC and such. Not to mention going to town cutting things.

For steppers and control I have a 30V 5A power supply I picked up on the cheap on ebay (used). Also, I managed to find some nice Nema 23 stepper motors from an Ottawa Robotics member. The same member also sold me three controllers. The wiring came from the generosity of Guy of Ottawa Robotics. This configuration might be overkill for the project but I was already building a CNC mill so I have this stuff on hand. (The 4-axis controller you see in the background of the stepper detail is the controller for my CNC laser cutter).


I’m thinking of extending one of the axis of the machine. That might be interesting for cutting larger wood and platic parts.

Here is the BOM for one supplier McMaster-Carr according to Leigh who is championing this project:

1 Machine:   $170.74
2 Machines: $221.17 [$110.59 ea]
3 Machines: $271.60 [$90.53 ea]
4 Machines: $322.03 [$80.51 ea]
5 Machines: $372.46 [$74.49 ea]

The incremental cost per machine is $50.43, for any number from 2-5

Here is a breakdown of the BOM For the shared, and unshared portions

Unshared parts:
Part#        Description                            Qty    Price      Ext
60355K503    R4 .25" ID .625" OD bearing              2     4.71     9.42
2868T17      .625x.75x1" bronze bushing               1     0.93     0.93
9414T6       .25" shaft collar                        1     0.58     0.58
6061K108     .375x10" precision rod                   4     4.86    19.44
6061K422     .375x7" precision rod                    2     4.17     8.34
2868T72      .375x.5x.625" 863 bronze bushings       12     0.56     6.72
98935A817    3/8-12 lead screw 36" 2G                 1     5.00     5.00

Shared Parts: [for up to 5 units]
Part#        Description                                 Qty    Price      Ext
5234K72      Nylon/silicone tubing - 1ft                   1     1.01     1.01
94639A189    .09x.25x.3125" spacer [100pcs]            1/100     7.99     7.99
1817T13      5/8 O.D.-1/4 I.D. Delrin AF tubing - 1ft      1    14.60    14.60
90283A112    4-40x.625" flat pan head screws [100pcs]  8/100     1.56     1.56
92949A199    8-32x1" screws allen button head [100pcs] 7/100     8.05     8.05
90975A012    8-32 tee nuts [100pcs]                    7/100     6.74     6.74
90126A512    8-32 washer [100pcs]                      7/100     1.29     1.29
90252A104    #6x.75" plywood screw phillips [100pcs]  17/100     6.66     6.66
25345A42     ACME 3/8-12 Tap                               1    72.41    72.41

Whups… I forgot, there is an error in my BOM. The R4 bearing is incorrect. The bearings are supposed to be shielded. The proper part should be: 60355K43 [replaces 60355K503] They are only slightly more at $5.10 ea from the 4.71 ea in the BOM.

Tom Burns (Dec 6) of Ottawa found a nice independent build log at http://trackhacker.com/archives/430

There is a much better BOM: bom-9

Tom Burns (Dec 8th) sent this link: http://crevicereamer.com/Page_2.html

Project Update: I think the Mantis project isn’t really attractive enough for people to get over the time it takes to make it. The Toronto group didn’t actually do the bulk order for parts that they talked about. The Ottawa group isn’t really hot on it either.  I decided to just do this on my own but not follow the Mantis plans. Instead, I’ll go to a slightly larger cutting area and a few other improvements. I’ve already ordered a pair of Nema 17, 3-axes systems with motors. They came without power supplies but I’ve already bought a supply for one of them. I’m still shopping for the second supply. I’m now working on some ideas for the linear bearings. I ordered 150 bearings from VXB to try some of the ideas I use on my laser cutter. I have a telephone meeting with a linear bearing sales person on Wednesday. They have some plastic bearings. I will consider that. I think I’ll publish the plans and have pinged around for a name for the project. Any ideas? Feb 6, 2011

How to make a plastic propeller

I’ve started to think about how to make plastic propellers for rubber band airplanes. This would allow me to have a custom propeller for the Squirrel model airplane project as well as other projects. The current offerings are actually pretty good. I’d like to go for something a little lighter. Perhaps 2-2.5g. The current offerings are between 5 and 6″ so I’d like to make something around 6 or 6.25 inches.

There are three parts. The propeller itself, a shaft and the nose-piece which allows you to easily mount the propeller at the front of a stick plane.

I found this interesting molding machine.

If the the mold could make 10 propellers at a time, I bet this could be made to be computer controlled.

Of course, construction of the hub might be a different process.

Another idea is to use a reprap or a makerbot-cupcake machine. As is, they are much too slow.

I’ve been talking with Micheal Grant and we’ve been talking about a custom plastic extruder in order to lay the plastic out (rather than molding it). If the extruder had a large nozzle (perhaps even slot shaped), it would be faster and perhaps could be done in one layer. Perhaps an A-axis would allow the prop to be poured out without running the plastic. I’m assuming with a larger nozzle that the plastic will take longer to set. Heres a picture of a possible A-Axis that Michael sent me.

The female mold incorporates a hub. I think this sort of thing could be poured directly. This might simplify manufacturing drastically as well as provide a quality part. It’s easy to imagine adding the shaft to the hub area of the mold during pouring. The propeller would not overrun but it would simplify the construction process.

A lot of people make propellers by hand out of a pop bottle. Here are a few examples: Plastic Propellers. There is a good example over at http://www.sciencetoymaker.org/plane/propeller.htm as well (Can you recognize the plane in that article? It’s a Squirrel.  Also, the example he posted from India is an interesting plane). Also if you look around the Squirrel Plane site there are a few more examples of people making propellers.

There may be a way of making the blade in multiple parts. Perhaps the hub can be made using one process and then blade paddles can be made using another process.

Food for thought.

There is a contest hosted by Make Magazine: http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Bring-Out-Your-Best-Innovative-DIY-Creation-for-the-MAKE-Green-Project-Contest-1365514.htm

Canadian National Robot Games News Flash

I just heard from Aaron who is an Ottawa Robotics member and is attending the conference in Toronto. Buttercup (his mini-sumo robot) was undefeated today!

It makes me happy to know that someone from my community is making an impression in another locale!

Here is Buttercup vs. Blaster Shark:

Electric Rooster, Kinetic Sculpture

I made a kinetic sculpture called “Electric Rooster”. I installed it at Atomic Rooster Pub in September. It sold and has apparently changed hands one more time since then.

The idea is that you have to crank a generator to make the rooster dance/run etc. In the original design, I was going to have a generator and a battery. You use the generator to charge the battery and then connect the battery to the rooster. Or just crank the rooster directly with the generator. This would add an educational payload about electricity storage and usage. I decided that was too complicated and just went with the generator.

I fastened the generator with two wires each of which has a break and is twisted together. This makes it fidgety and makes people aware that it takes two wires to transmit electrical power. Also if someone drops the generator they pull apart. The timing belt on the generator is unreliable and the crank system is also fidgety. I really liked that aspect of it and wanted to see how people would deal with it.

The result was quite interesting. Some people were able to understand the “maintenance” of the generator. Others would do things like remove and hide the generator and pretend nothing’s happening if they couldn’t cope with it. It gave rise to lots of interesting interactions with staff and observers.

I had initially wanted for the use of the generator to travel by word of mouth. I’d show a few people and then they would share that with others and I could observe the viral nature of it. The art directory added a label saying to “wind me up” so rather than being a viral meme, it was being engaged by lots of careless people with an attitude of entitlement (“if it’s in the public, you have to make it robust enough for clumsy people”). I let that ride for a while but eventually removed the sign so that the meme (including information about how it works) could take over instead.

The motion of the parts is as follows. Head and Tail bobbing, wing spinning, left leg a compound pendulum and right leg is a simple pendulum.

The mechanics are a collection of pulleys that I made from balsa. I rough cut some circles of two sizes. One size slightly larger than the other. I took all the larger disks and drilled a hole through the middle. I put a bolt and some washers through the hole and then tightened down with a nut. I mounted the bolt into my drill chuck. I turned it against sand paper to bring the disks down to a reasonable circle. I repeated for the smaller circles. I then sandwiched a smaller disk between two larger to make a pulley and glued them together. I added brass bushings to the center. I mounted the pulleys on an acrylic plastic block by drilling and taping holes and then using bolts to secure the pulleys. I added a tape drive motor and a rubber band. All the little bolts and fasteners and such are from broken down laser printers.

Next I made various bearings and levers to mount the moving parts. I added pushrod and other linkages.

That fat thing in the picture above is my arm. 🙂

I made the generator out of a DC motor from a printer. This is the motor that moves the paper through the printer. I attached a timing belt by mounting the whole thing to a chunk of acrylic. I made a crank by taking a piece of plastic and tying it like a pen tied to the counter at the bank (this is my favorite part).

I found a dresser on the side of the road and the press board underneath the drawers was in perfect order and was such a nice brown. I made the rooster’s body out of that. The moving parts are made from heavy grade balsa sheet with paper and ink glued on.

Here’s what it looks like installed. It’s pretty clear that it causes people around it to have a good time. 🙂 Also note the coper tubing rooster to the right if it! It’s an awesome sculpture!

Ottawa Mini Maker Faire and Electric Fields Festival

I had the pleasure of attending the Ottawa Maker Faire. What an amazing event!!! Thanks to Emily and Ryan and the crowd at artengine, the event is now the talk of the town!

To give you a feel for the festival, take a look at this amazing video by Megan Turnbull a maker I met there.

Here are a few clips I took myself.

Make Faire is an amazing grass roots DIY culture. It has become an important facilitator of inspiration and innovation in the community.

I attended New York World Maker Faire which was probably the largest Maker Faire ever. I theorized that the amazing experience was because of the scale of the event (aside from a collection of other aspects). Well, right or wrong, the Ottawa faire was amazing despite being a smaller event. Here are some clips from the New York event.

CAD and CAM Software

Okay, time to look at options for CAD (Computer Aided Design) and CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) systems for operation of my various CNC projects.

Here are the prospects:

Google Sketchup

Seems to be a Windows and Mac CAD program. I was able to run this on a Linux Ubuntu using WINE as follows.

-Moved the file to /home/darcy/.wine/drive_c (I’m not sure if this was necessary)
-Right click the file. Change the properties so that it’s executable.
-Rich click the file. Open with Wine.

Sketchup was unable to initialize OpenGL! Please make sure you installed the correct drivers for your graphics card. Error: ChoosePixelFormat failed

After it installed, I ran the program by going to Wine in the menu/Wine programs. I got the error “Sketchup was unable to initialize OpenGL! Please make sure you installed the correct drivers for your graphics card. Error: ChoosePixelFormat failed”

I needed the following registry change:

Open  wine menu, open  C drive (/home/user/.Wine)
Open  Windows Folder
Find Regedit.exe and run it with Wine
Navigate to: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Google\SketchUp6\GLConf ig\Display
There are three entries – Look at the bottom one, name ‘HW_OK”
Double click it and change the data from a 0 to a 1
Run Sketchup

2D Cutting: PhlatScripts plug-in can make g-code for simple work. You can download the plug-in at http://www.phlatforum.com. You can install it by unzipping it into the Sketchup folder found in the “Program Files” folder. It seems to work in Linux under WINE as well.

3D Cutting: I’ve been using MeshCAM from (http://www.grzsoftware.com) which I am quite happy with. It probably work for 2D Cutting too. You need to export the Sketchup file to an STL file using a plug-in such as STL Exporter.

Paul Mumbi has a RepRap and has been using an open source STL Exporter Sketchup plugin (once added to the plugin directory, it shows up in the Sketchup tools menu. From there he uses Skeinforge STL to g-code converter. This should work for additive as well as subtractive work. I have not been able to get the Skeinforge to run yet. I sent a note to Paul to see if he can tell me what he did.

Michal Zalewski mentioned FreeMill from MecSoft as a CAM solution. This looks very nice. After installing it, I noticed that it can import files of type (.vmp .sla/.stl .3dm .wrl .raw .vmp .sla/.stl .3dm .wrl .raw). So theoretically this is a good solution for 3d cutting. So it can work with Sketchup using the STL Exporter. I have tried it. It seems to work. You need to open it as administrator for it to work (right click, open as admin). I was able to get through making one part. There are a few problems to work out.

There is also the Phlat 3D at their site.

G-code viewing: There is a Sketchup plugin for viewing the g-code (GPlot1.2).  Simple place these files in the plugin directory. It will appear in the plugin menu and will show the last g-code you generated.

I’ve also been using NCPlot to preview any g-code files. The evaluation period expired and I’ve not had a chance to evaluate it so I’ll discontinue the use of this and look for something else.


Guy of OttawaRoboics and ArtEngine showed me this. It seems great for simple objects and generates g-code. It seems to work great. The catch is that it’s a Windows only program. The evaluation will eventually expire but the software is reasonably priced. I’ve used it a bit. It look okay for simple stuff. It’s a little slow going on the data entry and is not really friendly.


http://www.grzsoftware.com. Michal Zalewski brought this to my attention. It is affordable software with a free trial of one month. More info here: http://www.grzsoftware.com/gettingstarted/

I have been talking to Robert Grzesek of MeshCAM and he is very helpful. This has been working out very well.


For converting between formats.



Tom Burns also suggested this for 2D. Turns out I’m already using this for my model airplaneproject. I like Inkscape so it will be interesting to see how easy it is to use it to create artwork with my CNC machines.


Micheal Grant of OttawaRobotics and ModLab has been talking this up and has acquired some evaluation licenses for our community. Apparently this is the all-and-end-all of of CAD. Micheal is going to lead a workshop on how to use this and I will attend this. He says many of the concepts are transferable to other software. He has given a walkthrough of the software for the community as well. Challenge: Once the evaluation expires, the software is profoundly expensive.


CAD/CNC: http://www.heeks.net/ (http://code.google.com/p/heekscnc/) (http://code.google.com/p/heekscad/) This was suggested of Andrew Plum of ModLab/ArtEngine. I checked my ubuntu repositories and there’s nothing there. I went to the heeks site and found a link to Ubuntu packages but the link doesn’t work. I sent a note to Dan Heeks asking about it. We’ll see what comes forward.

Dan got back to me quickly and mention they’re not up too much on Linux yet. We’ll see what happens on this one.

He said that you need to compile it in linux on your own. I’ll look at that if nothing else works well.


I took a stroll through my ubuntu program repository and found this. Will take a look at it.

I loaded it it up. Got some lovely error messages. The Chinese error was a nice touch as well. The program came up. I clicked help and got an error. Hmmmm, might be a lot of work to figure out.


Tom Burns of ORE suggested this. I found it in my ubuntu repository and am installing it.

Loads up like a charm. Looks very sexy. I need to spend time figuring this one out.


Tom suggested this for circuit board design.

Rhino 3d

http://www.rhino3d.com/ was suggested to my by Michal Zalewski who wrote this amazing article: http://lcamtuf.coredump.cx/guerrilla_cnc1.shtml

Alibre CAD

Also recommended by Michal Zalewski. He said it’s less expensive than Rhino.

Some interesting points I’ve heard:

“… in general, there are substantial differences between general 3D modeling programs and CAD tools, so I wouldn’t be getting my hopes up when it comes to conveniently using Blender or Sketchup”. —Michal Zalewski

“Solidworks and SolidEdge get my vote. These 2 really are miles beyond anything else in 3d CAD. You can use AutoCAD, etc. fairly effectively for 2d stuff assuming you don’t want to moch up your assemblies (or don’t want to do that easily?).

That said you absolutely need to have someone show you the basics with Solidworks. Learning it on your own is very painful (I learned this way but it took substantially longer to learn then people I’ve taught since then).

Cool things in solidworks (these should all be in solidedge as well):
2d and 3d parametric design and driving dimensions. Believe it or not having designs that scale nicely are not built into the majority of CAD software outside Solidworks, SolidEdge and Inventor (I struggled hard with AutoCAD on this before switching to Solidworks).
assemblies allow you to visualize your finished product better. You can also test clearances using this. On my deltabot I assemble every part to it’s connecting parts before printing so that I can check it’s range of motion, etc… very handy.
Parametric assemblies and blocks allow you to scale features across multiple parts without having to edit each individually.
Really it’s about automation. Things you can spend hours on in other CAD software are done automatically in Solidworks and that’s why I use it, because it allows you to generalize a design and then edit the parameters you actually care about until it’s perfect.” — Rob

I would second the tag. AutoCad has always been very
aggressively focused on a 2D “electronic drafting table” paradigm,
which is workable in the construction/architectural industry, but
really kind of broken in a lot fundamental ways. There were
prototypes done in the 60s at MIT and other places that remain more
progressive than autoCAD.

Solidwork is a neat package, but, as Rob said, kind of heavy-duty to
learn on your own. In my opinion, a nice in-between package is Rhino
— it’s a surface, rather than a solid modeler, and not really
parametric in any strong way, but, as I always describe it: “it’s like
autoCAD, but in 3D and without the suck.”

Very gentle learning curve, powerful suite of commands, very intuitive
and user-friendly.

I’ve worked with autoCAD everyday for years, and it still feels like a
struggle. Every now and then I open Rhino and can just breathe a sigh
of relief. — Liav