Category Archives: Projects

πoneer Falchion

Now that I’ve submitted it as my entry for the 2020 Zero Day competition, I feel like I can share what I’ve been working on lately.

This may end up being the first in a series of “Standard Runner’s Constructs,” and the instructions are written as such, in an in-universe style. The idea is that runners are trying to make sure their future teammates are properly equipped and educated. If you “can’t find good help anymore,” sometimes you’ve gotta train your own.

I present the 𝝅oneer Falchion, a pi zero w based micro cyberdeck (or microdeck).

Runner’s First Cyberblade, or a “Decker’s Sidearm”

The backside. Note the data-quillions, recessed power switch, and hinge.
Operating configuration.
Easy charging port.

I took inspiration in designing this from the Austro-Hungarian M1853 Pioneer’s Falchion. I had gotten the first inkling of an idea of a blade shape from the shape of the keyboard, and then went poking and asking around to find a blade with a somewhat similar shape. That’s what informed the shape of the hilt and the placement of the quillions in particular.

The features include a micro-USB charging port on the hilt end, two USB-A “data-quillions”, a touchscreen display, and a wireless keyboard that folds on a hinge along the back of the “blade” into the operating position under the display. The power switch is accessible through a hole on the backside of the device.

I designed and built it for the competition hosted here:

https://www.cyberdeck.cafe/post/deck-builders-competition

The gist of it is that we are holding a mini virtual maker faire, with a competition portion. The competition requires using a Raspberry Pi Zero (or Zero W for the wireless version) as the core of a cyberdeck that we designed in a limited amount of time, with a limited number and volume of 3D printed components, and including the required models and instructions as our entry.

The winner gets their design printed in resin and shipped to them.

As part of the competition I had to submit the 3D models and instructions, but I also have them hosted here:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4601417

https://github.com/Ralnarene/SRC000_Zero_Stack

https://github.com/Ralnarene/SRC001_Pioneer_Falchion

Feel free to make your own. I’d love to see photos!

“Medieval” Backpack Upgrade Finished

This past week I finished my updates to the backpack. I cleaned up the leather straps, replaced the corroded fittings, cut the straps to length, punched new holes, and attached the straps to the frame. Here are the results.

The replacement buckles look better than the originally planned buckles! I doubt you’d notice, but I had to remove and adjust that felt padding on the lower frame by narrowing the area covered by it. Otherwise the leather straps would have to wrap around the padding, which doesn’t provide as secure of a hold.

From this top view you can see the leather badges on the bag that I keep on top of the overall pack. I found the bag and those badges at DragonCon a few years back. The in-character explanation is that I’d carry the whole thing as I walked from town to town, and set it down in my room at an inn, taking my lighter bag around shopping in town.

At some point I still need to go through what I carry in and on the pack for events. Right now I’ve got it in a kind of “all-purpose” configuration, with a bota bag for water, a small bag for local shopping, and a wool blanket for warmth/shelter. I’d like to figure out 1) what I would want to carry if I decided to take this camping and 2) what I would want to carry if I were actually the character that this was designed for. What tools would I carry for my trade? What in-period essentials would I carry for survival? Would I have anything in there to deal with bandits or wild animals?

As someone pointed out to me recently, I apparently like to have a story behind the things I create.

Keytar Power Switch

I got fed up with the power cables sticking out of the side of the case, so I decided to make the power switch a more integral part of the build. Also, I didn’t like the gaping hole in the case.

There were two power switches, one for the deck itself, and one for powering the USB hub. I modified this one for the hub, deciding to route it fully inside the case, even though that means I have to briefly open the tray to turn on the hub.

I also made this cable up for the main power to the Pi.

As part of this design process there was a lot of tinkering and iterating.

And, I mean a LOT of tinkering. This is what I ended up with:

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I knew I liked the idea of a red safety cover for the switch, but those are designed to turn a regular flip switch off when they closed. I needed a way to have a cover a switch while the thing was still powered on. I found the switch that would fit through the hole of the safety cover (after a little… modification with the deburring tool), and figured out how to design the little bugger to hole the actual switch, the switch cover, allow for proper free movement of the switch to function, and attach the switch neatly and securely to the case. I’ll spare you the iterations, but it took a while, and I think I got it to look pretty good and hold well. I like that I have a red power button under a red safety cover now. It just feels… right.

Warp Core Table Lamp

I’ve been wanting to build one of these for years, since before I got my first 3D printer, but I had so many problems with my 3D printers on long prints that I never got around to it.

Well, I’m fixing that now!

For one thing, the models for this have been redone drastically, increasing quality and reducing the print time.

Here’s the original: Warp Core Table Lamp

And here’s a redone version: 1701-D Warp Core (HI-RESOLUTION)

It’s also been downsized slightly, which makes the large parts fit on my smaller 3D printer.

For another, I’ve been fixing my 3D printers, and have had all this monitored print time available recently, so I’ve had no excuse NOT to make it anymore. So, I’ve been spitting out the parts for this thing lately.

Those translucent sections were much larger and more complex in the original model, each made of 5 toroids. Also, many pieces were replaced with metal rods that I was able to order on Amazon, I just have to cut them down to the correct length.

So… yet another project ongoing! I’ve gotten the tools and hopefully all the parts I need, so when I have some more time (I’ve been kinda busy) I’ll be:

  1. Writing the arduino code for controlling it
  2. Testing the code on a breadboard
  3. Soldering an absurd number of connections
  4. Cutting a bunch of metal rods with a reciprocating saw
  5. Filing some metal bits to safer edges
  6. Assembling the lamp

Keytar Accents and Details

After finishing the keytar’s primer/color coat, I started prepping to do the details. As mentioned in a previous post, I was using Rub’n’Buff to give a bit of a metallic finish to the details.

Like with any good detail work (unless perhaps you have a LOT more skill and confidence than I do), I prepped the sections I was going to accent by taping around the parts I wanted to add color too. This helps keep the transition between colors sharper and cleaner. It used a lot of painter’s tape and prep time, but it was worth it. I also taped around the feet on the backside of the case to protect the areas around them when sanding. I… kinda forgot to tape over them before painting, and I needed to remove the paint so that the rubber feet would work properly.

It can take a while to tape around these to my satisfaction, as I’m trying to preserve a lot of detail in the process and not look sloppy. It took a lot of small bits of tape, and some work with an exacto blade. As an example of what I’m talking about, here’s how I had taped up the universal greeblie for painting. I had to be careful to tape around all those curves.

Once I finished taping the pieces up, and through a bit of trial and error, I was able to add something of a metallic finish that I had wanted. Here it is, before and after removing the tape (there may have been an extra application of Rub’N’Buff between photos). Note the amount of extra finish that was on the protective tape that didn’t end up on the surrounding black paint.

Finished with the accents, I started decorating with stickers. I had a bit of trouble with some of them, and I’m not entirely happy with the results but, eh, you live and learn. I know a bit more of what to expect the next time I do something similar. The vinyl sticker with my logo was the hardest one to put in.

The others took a bit of planning for placement, but weren’t so bad to apply, as each sticker was a single solid piece.

After applying all that, I had to apply some more paint. A few coats of glossy clear enamel to protect everything and seal it in, and a coat of matte clear paint to knock the gloss off. The results were alright, but I think if I were to redo this I would use a painted on clear lacquer, for a thicker, stronger coat. Some of the stickers don’t adhere as well as they should, and the spray painted clear coat doesn’t force it down like a lacquer might. I also noticed that with some hard objects it was easy to accidentally add marks to the surface of the paint, it’s something about the clear coats, but at this point I don’t want to worry with attempting a fix, and I’ll just call it “built-in weathering.”

Oh, before I forget, one of my lessons learned I would like to share.

DO NOT LET YOUR SPRAYPAINTED PLA PLASTIC PARTS DRY IN THE SUN. I started getting warping in one of my parts because I didn’t realize it was in direct sunlight, and I had to try an emergency repair with clamping while it was still flexible.

Here’s all the parts after stickering and painting. Oh, and I was painting a door opening tool at the same time as well.

It was around this point that I decided that I wanted to make sure I finished the USB hub add-on and a more integrated power switch before reassembling it, but that’s a topic for another post.

Let me know if you have any questions about the processes in these posts. I’m trying to write these over a month after the fact, and have been limiting some of the details in order to progress forward.

Sanctum Upgrades: Rotating Miniatures Display

I decided that I wanted to be able to display and easily access my collection of D&D miniatures. I came across a concept for reusing empty filament spools. Their version had faceplates, but for the moment I just want to at least get this thing functional. I stacked my empty spools, and connected them with some tacky material.

It’s convenient, showing off my minis for ease of access… but the back half is hard to see and reach. This is where the turntable comes in. I had tried one version where it was a plate sitting on a single skateboard bearing, but that was too brittle and the whole thing wobbled (the spools make it top-heavy). So, I switched to this design:

You can find the original turntable design on Thingiverse here:

Manual Turntable by printedprops

I didn’t need the top plate, seeing as the bottom spool provides a surface to rotate on, but the bottom plate does provide a much more stable base to rotate the entire tower on.

I may end up upgrading the tower to have the nice stonework facings here, but so far I don’t want to give up the printer runtime for it. It was the inspiration for this project, though.

At any rate, I now have a way of seeing what minis I have, instead of having to dig through plastic containers. Maybe post-quarantine I can use it for hosting some RPGs.

Sanctum Upgrades: Resurrecting the CoLiDo DIY, Part 2

I’ve continued to have major issues with the printer, so I’ve been reading even more, and stocking up on new parts and tools so I can perform more intensive maintenance and upgrades on the 3D printer.

One of the issues that I’ve had is that sometime mid-print the printer will appear to lose track of where the carriages are located, and also appear to not register the end-stops.

End-Stop Replacement:

I finally branched out into soldering, and got a soldering setup and heat gun.

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I’ve used this to replace all the end stops.  I cut the wires, and spliced new ones on, albeit clumsily.  There is an extra layer of heat shrink that I apparently thought was a good idea at the time, but I chose the wrong size.

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Build Plate Upgrade:

I decided to attach a metal build plate onto the printer, so that it would be smoother and more resilient than the standard plastic build plate.  I’m tired of having a plastic build plate that gets deeply scratched and deformed by a hot nozzle.  I think that having a metal bed will eliminate some of those issues, though it might cause more gear grinding issues if the printer loses it’s z-axis calibration again.

I had planned to do this by either 1) using binder clips to attach the plate or 2) use 3D printed mounts (along with some purchased screws, springs, and nuts).  I found that the binder clips that I bought were far too big for the printer, and also realized that I would need to make some gcode changes to account for their presence so that the nozzle wouldn’t run into them.   Even going with smaller clips would have had this issue.

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Photo of clips for illustrative purposes only

I also realized that the springs I had ordered were entirely too long (and possibly too stiff) to be used to mount the metal bed.  Maybe I’ll find a way to re-purpose these parts for another project later.

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So, I went with my default solution to problems.

Command strips.  I taped the plate to the plastic bed, and seems like it might work out alright.  I used the tape because with command strips, if it doesn’t work out you can easily remove them.  Down the line I’m wondering if I might need to replace them and add some sort of supports underneath the plate so it is even less likely to flex (it’s only supported in those 4 corners).

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Filament Spool Issues:

A separate issue I have is that loading and unloading filaments of different types was a pain.  The original spool holder that came with the printer requires disassembling and reassembling the holder around the spool every time I want to change filament.

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Also, from the angle the filament travels there is clearly a lot of friction over time.  The feed hole was originally round.

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I’m not sure whether this filament drag was contributing to some of the issues with the print head moving in unexpected ways, so I tried out adding an easier-to-use spool mount on top of the printer.

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The large parts are 3D printed, but it also uses 2 skateboard bearings.  I didn’t design this one, I found it on Thingiverse here:

Printrite horizontal spool holder

I figured that it would make loading and unloading filament much easier, and the different position plus the bearings would reduce any drag caused by the angles the filament had been travelling through.

Sadly, I’ve found that the spool will occasionally fall off the top of the printer when I try to use the new holder, and with a heavy spool that is too much of a risk of damage to the rest of the printer, so I’ve had to stop using it.  I may end up trying the version with the steps on it, in the hopes that the steps will keep the spools from falling.

I also designed and test printed a spool holder design of my own, but that ended up being it’s own separate set of issues.

Note:  This post is a case in point of why logging/blogging can be good for your hobbies.  You look at what you’ve done, what your problems were/are, and re-evaluate while you write.  I’m catching up on this a few weeks later, and I had forgotten that there was a stepped version of the spool holder that I can try.

To be continued…

Keytar Update 01/20/2020

Lately I’ve been trying to work on the software side of things a bit lately, while I have this thing assembled (I’m still debating whether to embrace the scuffed look of the casing paint job).

For one thing, I found out that my last SD card image was 6 months old!  I had some things I had figured out since then, but as I tried new things I kept messing up the card, so I took the time to implement everything that I KNEW worked onto one card, while testing out things on a different SD card.  That way I have a safe image of all the things that work, while the other spare cards were considered expendable, and I’d only bother testing new things on them.  Once I was satisfied that I had made sufficient progress, I used Win32DiskImager to copy the image of the good card as a new baseline.

New things implemented in the baseline:

Loading all the files that I had been transferring via USB into the image so I don’t have to reload them

Establishing a new cyberdeck logo as a wallpaper (courtesy of fellow decker BillieRuben on the cyberdeck discord)

Changed screen resolution on the primary display (when I was at MAGfest I couldn’t access the buttons on some menus, which drove me NUTS).

Updating password, because apparently I had left it unlocked.  D’oh!

Implementing SSH on the Pi and installing PuTTY on my laptop.  This change was one of the more important ones!  I’ve been attempting to tweak some of the graphical settings, but every time I get them wrong, the screen on the Pi becomes unusable.  When that happens, that had forced me to swap cards, and start all over again.  It also led to me possibly corrupting cards because of powering the Pi off incorrectly, and having to wipe and reimage the cards before I could use them again.  Now, with SSH implemented, I can remote into the Pi and access the command line perfectly well, allowing me at the very least to be able to power off the Pi correctly, but it has also allowed me to continue trying new things while the display settings were messed up.  This saves a LOT of time (it takes far too long constantly reformatting and reimaging these SD cards).

Working but not baselined:

I’ve been able to VNC to share the Pi screen to an old android phone of mine.  So far that works with RealVNC Viewer on the android phone.

Instructions for VNC on Raspberry Pi

Current trials:

I’m attempting to use VNC to share a side-by-side version of the raspberry pi display onto my android device so I can use it as a head-mounted display (HMD) to simulate a larger monitor to work from on-the-go.  I’m attempting to use a software called VR VNC.  So far I’ve been receiving an error message about incompatible VNC security, and haven’t managed to get it to work.

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Upcoming tests:

Once I get VR VNC (or some equivalent) to work, I want to change the network interface from being over WiFi (which requires both devices to be on a WiFi network together, not ideal on-the-go) to being through a wired connection over USB.  Someone appears to have written a guide here:  Android Device as Screen for rPi via USB & VNC.  End goal:  wired connection between the keytar and the android headset to simulate a large monitor on-the-go, making using the system much easier… and has added cyberpunk vibes.  If/when I get this to work, I’m gonna get an old-fashioned-looking curly cable for the connection.  It just feels more authentic.

I’d like to add an app for simple-ish pass-through of the camera into an augmented reality display on the headset.  If the lag isn’t too bad, I might be able to wear the headset and still be able to see where I’m going at cons, if I want to fully indulge the costume at times.

Things I’ll have to get back to:

Attempting to switch between HDMI output (for a TV or digital projector) and back to the built-in LCD.  I was attempting to use some code I found to switch automatically, but that kept failing and rendering the screen unusable, hence the need for the SSH above.  Then I remembered the original scripts onboard for switching by command and thought I should make sure that works first.  So far I can get it to switch to HDMI, but not successfully back.  At least, the screen is still covered with some other text when it switches back.  I’ve already fixed one issue, from where the screen kept coming back upside down, but I haven’t gotten back to a useable desktop using this method.  Thankfully the SSH works and allows me to keep poking at it.

Down the line:

Now that I’m trying to add a HMD to the setup, I think I need to make some modifications to the casing.  I think I may either remove the existing branding from the case, and/or add a thematically appropriate sticker to cover it up.  I also may need to manufacture and attach an appropriate connection for hanging it from my belt securely.  I’m not going to want to wear it on my head all the time.

 

Random Updates:

I may or may not post more on these topics later, but I thought I’d go ahead and put these out there.

I reorganized my workspace, mostly by adding a rolling cart to store things on (and still be able to move out of the way when I need that particular floorspace back).  My living room (including the top of my workbench) was getting rather cluttered with projects, materials, etc. and it was becoming unusable.  I’ve now tossed some stuff, and reorganized the rest onto the cart, reclaiming some needed square-footage off of the floor, workbench, and other shelves.  I now even have space to run my laptop out of the way of the bench itself for when I want to SSH into my cyberdeck at the bench.

WorkbenchUpdate.png

I thought the table lamp needed a lampshade, so I designed and printed one inspired by a Japanese style pagoda roof.  The green is a reference back to the Jade Pagoda from Whovian lore.  Right now 3 out of the 4 segments match.  I ran out of material when printing a later version of the design.  I still need to get some more green filament to finish this properly one of these days.  I’ve posted the files on Thingiverse here:

Pagoda Style Lampshade

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Christmas Presents: Light Staves

This year I decided I wanted to build something for at least part of the Christmas presents for a couple kids in my family.  They are active outdoors, so I figured I’d make them some custom walking sticks.  This… has been an adventure, and I’m not done yet.

And, yes, Gandalf was an inspiration for it, as well as some 3D printed light up “crystals” I saw online.

Premise:  if you print a “crystal” in translucent filament, and point a light into it, the crystal glows in a cool way.  I thought I’d create a 3d printed case for a flashlight to hold such a crystal, epoxy the flashlight into the case, attach it to a broom handle (cut to length), and put a little rubber foot on the bottom (to protect floors).

proof of concept.jpg

Note: This crystal is not my design, I made a new one for the staff.

After talking with some people about flashlights to use, I settled on an old favorite, the mini-maglite.  It’s been updated since when I got one as a kid, to now use an LED and be over 300 lumens.  The simpler shape also allows me to slide bits on, epoxy them, and use the threaded connections of the flashlight’s parts to hold everything together while allowing it to be disassembled for swapping batteries and possibly changing light filters.

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An upgraded classic.

Other concepts I had considered were shake lights and a flashlight that had a recharging port on the side.  The idea being that in either case you wouldn’t have to be able to open it up to change batteries, but one was unavailable and the other was… 1000 lumens.  A bit much for kids.  Also, on a trail when you want a light source, you want to be able to change your batteries and not rely on having a plug handy or having to shake the staff a bunch (though it would be amusing to watch).

I attempted it first with the 1000 lumen light (I had ordered one for myself) as  practice, and it just got weird as I went on.  I experimented with leaving accessible holes for the button and the charging port on the opposite side.  I added some greeblies for fun, and a shroud on the basis that you wouldn’t want to blind yourself (or hopefully your scout leaders) with it while walking.

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Various iterations, not all in order.

When the maglites arrived, I started over from scratch, using what I had learned from my earlier experiments.  New crystal, new models, new everything.  As I went on, it felt more and more like making a custom lightsaber.

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A few intermediate models

So far I’ve built 1 prototype (for testing fit, getting the parents’ opinions).  The greeblies on this version were simpler, and serve more than one purpose.  Yes, they look kinda cool… but every point where you see greeblies is a spot where you need grip when unscrewing parts for changing lenses, batteries, or turning the flashlight on or off.

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Casing on the workbench.  Each segment can rotate separately.

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Visualization, until I figure out how to screw the thing on

I think it’s looking pretty good.  I still have to figure out the threaded interface to the broom handle that serves as the shaft.  I also plan to print some cross-sectional models to check fit better (you can only see so much from the full model), then running a few of these off, painting them, epoxying the plastic bits to the flashlight, and modifying the length of the handles.

Whew, I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.

Project Update 11/6/19: The Scratchening

The Scratchening:

This last weekend I was attempting to “improve” my keytar case paint job.  There were some blobs of paint from how I had painted the first couple coats.  I thought I was following the advice of some other people (particularly the Cyberdeck discord, yes, it’s a thing).

Apparently I failed.

I sanded the case and parts, and put another coat of paint on… and now there are visible scratches.  I’ll have to sand it again… much more carefully, and then repaint.  I’m not sure how well it will show up in the photos.

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These are apparently not what was meant by “use coarse, medium, and fine sandpaper”.

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I’m still annoyed at myself, and per further elaborated advice, I’m going to re-sand the thing again with a series of finer grains of sandpaper on a proper sanding block.  “When you think you’re done, keep sanding.”

 

In other news:

Over the weekend I had to clean/lube/recalibrate my printer.  I had been noticing some layer shifts in some prints, and this was the easiest possibility for me to address.

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Seems to have worked, as my prints since then have been good so far.  I needed something to test a long print time on something with verticality to make it obvious if these shifts occurred again.  I decided to look for an appropriate Benchy, and someone had my back!

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Benchy-209 on Thingiverse

Optimus Prime!  As a no assembly required print!  I was in the mood for printing a robot, and thought to look him up.  He transforms!

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Optimus Prime on Thingiverse