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Posts from — May 2014

3D Models of Automation PCBs

I’ve been investigating affordable, automatic creation of 3D PCBs models; what I’ve found doesn’t match up well with my needs.

I would like an easier way to create accurate models of automation PCBs, such as break out boards, which mainly use through-hole connectors (think of something like my FP-SMC-1 PCB).  I want to use the model to verify my footprints, check that everything fits together mechanically (for example, fits into the DIN rail holder without any conflicts), and do an initial check that the board will be easy to use (enough space between connectors, etc).

I’m not interested in an approximate visualization; I want accurate an accurate model (preferably exportable in STEP format) created from manufacturer’s STEP or IGES models (which are typically available for connectors).

I took a quick glance at PCB Pool’s 3D visualization service, DesignSpark PCB, and KiCAD, and felt the reward wasn’t worth the effort of trying to get everything set up.  Later I plan on looking into this again, but for right now, I’m back to using Alibre Geomagic Design and having fun trying to get everything to mate.  (As far as I can tell, DesignSpark Mechanical does not support mating, and it doesn’t export STEP files, so GD is a better path for me).

May 31, 2014   No Comments

7 Years And 250 Posts

It’s been a slow journey, but I’ve blogged my way to 250 posts over 7 years.  I am trying to post more frequently, but it’s not easy.

I recently did a guest post on Panasonic PLCs for a blog which is always worth checking out, the Automation Primer.

I promise I’ll be getting back to my Robot Primer series soon; I’ve been learning a lot, having fun with the Denso WinCaps III simulator, and learning to do simple movies.

In the fall, I plan on doing multiple posts on two topics:

  1. Practical advice and tips on Panasonic PLCs
  2. Test drives and comparisons of ARM Cortex-M4 boards.

I’d like to be able to do some other automation and embedded posts (like PCB tools for automation professionals, some fun servo motor stuff, and maybe even some Arduino motion topics), but it will be challenging to find the time.


May 30, 2014   2 Comments

Recent Pens and Pencils

It’s been too long since I’ve discussed pens and pencils, so it’s time to highlight some recent acquisitions:

Uni Kuru Toga Roulette 0.5mm

Uniball Roulette

Uniball Roulette

My favorite mechanical pencil.  It’s gorgeous, affordable, and sharp.  I love the way it looks (especially the silver model) and the feel of the aluminum.  Its Kuru Toga mechanism rotates the lead every time you advance for sharper lines.  Considering all that, the price is reasonable; I only wish it was available in 0.3mm.

Pentel Energel Euro 0.35mm Needle Point

Energel NeedlePoint

Energel NeedlePoint

I’m not a big Pentel pen fan, but this one has won me over: sharp lines with an incredible smoothness.  I don’t like the normal medium point Energels you can buy at retail; they’re actually too smooth and go flying all over the place if you’re not extra careful.  But I like this model so much I’ve already ordered a second so I don’t run out.

Uni Signo RT 0.28mm Black

Signo RT1 0.28

Signo RT1 0.28

OK, it’s ugly, but on the other hand for a super fine pen (< 0.30mm) it’s pretty smooth, retractable (I believe it’s the only super-fine retractable pen), and cheap ($2.50 versus $3.00 or more).

Pilot FriXion Point 04 Blue-Black

FriXion Point 04

FriXion Point 04

The original Frixions are good for an erasable pen, but not great pens.  In my experience their lines are wide and blotchy, and they seem to get worse with age.  This model, however, has been writing smoothly with a much finer line – and I like the color.  On the other hand, at $3.75, it’s pretty expensive, and I’ll have to see how it writes as it ages.

Tactile Turn Mover

Dark Blue Mover

Dark Blue Mover

All the other machined Kickstarter pens have left me unmoved; a pen has to be really special for me to pay the typical asking price.

But when I saw the Mover, I really liked it: a beautiful retractable pen, available in gorgeous colors (I like the Blue, Teal, Green, and Sand colors), with a price that was within reason.  I’m very happy with my result: a dark blue Mover that’s perfectly built and can take many different gel refills (I’m not enamored of the 0.38mm G2 refill).  The grip is sweet, and the pen is well balanced.  If you appreciate hand crafted pens and have the budget, I enthusiastically recommend this pen.

May 29, 2014   No Comments