“We’re still settling in,” said Columbus Idea Foundry director Alex Bandar while leading a tour of its new, much larger space just off East Fifth Avenue – but the process doesn’t seem to be curbing activity any.
Members were chatting and working on individual projects in what was previously the showroom for an electronics distribution company and is now a gallery. Former office spaces have been repurposed as cubbyholes for computer stations, 3D printing facilities and laser-cutting equipment. Even the kitchen will double as a screen-printing shop.
In the warehouse work area are studios for artists and small businesses like wooden toymaker Little Alouette. One space holds designs and parts for Dieselpunk rockets. Stations for welding, blacksmithing, metal casting and a massive ShopBot router help fill the rest of the space.
Altogether, the place suggests a vibe somewhere between Santa’s workshop and Doc Brown’s lab in “Back to the Future.” The curious can get a taste for themselves at the Idea Foundry’s open house party this Saturday.
Bandar, who writes software for the metal industry, started the Idea Foundry in part to have a physical connection to his work. The big-picture goal is to encourage experimentation, collaboration and a blending of artistic and engineering practices, and also to provide access to machinery and expertise that’s out of most individuals’ reach.
“We’ve helped make more than we’ve made ourselves,” Bandar said. “We act more as a catalyst.”
The open house will include a show of some of the foundry’s creations, including Bandar’s touch-screen music player in a replica of an Edison phonograph and a Chevy tailgate coffee table by member Allison Meade.
Interactive fabrication demos, food from local restaurants and raffle prizes are also on tap. And the event is an unofficial kick-off for a full suite of public classes starting in February, including metal fabrication and a jewelry workshop led by Diamond Cellar goldsmith Margaret Kennedy.
Making A Mechanical Iris
This post will use the building of a prototype of a Mechanical Iris to walk you through the steps involved in prepping data, material, etc. needed to use the laser cutter to make some parts for our nifty gadget.
Inspiration for this project came from Chris Schaie over on the ShopBot forum. Chris developed and shared a very cool mechanical iris he was incorporating into a Steampunk style door.
I’ll be incorporating the iris window in the door of my children’s playroom.
For background and some great discussion on the design and his build, the original thread can be found here:
The first step was downloading the DXF design file from the above thread and opening it in CorelDraw.
When you open a DXF in CorelDRAW you are presented with the following dialog box:
The DXF format is 3D and CorelDRAW is 2D so we need to tell it how to look at the object. Trial and error is the easiest way to determine the projection. I usually find that Top or Left is what I’m looking for.
We also need to indicate the scale of the illustration. I typically select English and then scale as needed once in CorelDRAW. Depending on the source of the DXF there may be a lot of extra detail or line segments that are not needed. More information on these settings can be found in the CorelDRAW documentation.
After the import we have the various shapes at actual size on an 8.5″ x 11″ page.
Since I want to get the maximum size out of my piece of material I first change the page size to the max size the cutter can accommodate 24″ x 12″ and zoom out to see all the parts.
I then group the elements of each part and move everything but the largest part off the page to give me more room to work. My personal preference is to also delete any duplicates, I’ll copy and paste as I nest the objects on the page.
First step of nesting is to orient the part to get the max size for my material(12″ high) and then scaling all of the parts by the same amount.
After scaling, begin to position the parts. I like to stay about 0.125″ from the edge just as a safety margin. Remember to duplicate the parts you eliminated earlier.
Since I have lots of extra room, and since plywood is an irregular, natural product and because I’ve been known to make mistakes… I like to add sever extra parts of pieces that look like I may need to tweak or modify. I also removed a few extra fastener holes on the hand crank and the area on the base plate where it goes.
If you haven’t done it by now – save your file in CDR format – just in case…
Now… we cut!
No, not yet…
First we need to determine what settings to use for the laser and do test cuts to get everything dialed in. To determine the machine settings I first check the reference table in the manual to get a good starting point. The table in the manual for a 60W laser lists Speed 20, Power 100 and frequency 500 for 0.25″ wood. This is a good starting point for a test. Remember that due to the glue used in manufacturing plywood it requires more energy than a solid board of the same thickness.
Also, unlike the ShopBot or other CNC tools, CorelDraw doesn’t have tool diameter(kerf) compensation. The laser cuts directly on the line. This means I need to take into account the kerf of the cut on my parts. If I use my calipers I can measure that 1″ circle I cut to determine speed/power/freq and see what size it ended up being .
The diameter was 0.992″, 8 thousands of an inch less that the size of the object in CorelDRAW. For those more comfortable with fractional inch measurements 0.008″ is just a hair more that 1/128″ or about 1/2 of a 1/64″ . Remember that since the laser cuts “on the line” 1/2 of the kerf (0.004″) is on the waste side of the line and 1/2 is on the part side of the line. Not huge by any means but depending on your project you will need to take this into consideration.
I’m not going to worry about my slightly smaller parts except for the fastener holes. Since this is a geared mechanical movement and the fasteners will be acting as axles for many parts I don’t want a lot of slop.
In the drawing, after scaling, the fastener holes are 0.122″ and the slots are 0.187″. Adding the 0.008″ kerf makes the holes 0.130″ and the slots 0.187″ wide. 0.13″ is perfect for a #5 machine screw – except that #5 is an odd ball size and I don’t want to spend more in hardware that the rest of the project combined. Checking my parts bins I have a bunch of #6 screws that I’d like to use. 0.15″ will give me a good fit on the #6 screws. Subtracting the kerf makes my measurement for the circles in CorelDRAW 0.142″ – so going slow and making sure I don’t miss any I select each circle in turn and resize it to my new size.
Now the slots in the gear – at 0.187″ that will give me 0.195″ with the kerf. I’d like to use a standard nylon bushing since this slot acts as a guide for the rotating ring gear. Lowes had 2 1″ x 3/16″ with a 0.177″ hole for $0.55. Sold!
I’d like the fit a hair closer – about 4 thousandths oversize. So working back to the size I need in CorelDRAW I end up offsetting the slots(to the inside) by 0.002″ for a final dimension of 0.183″. Due to rounding errors and CorelDRAW’s decimal point limitations the slots ended up being 0.003″ larger than the OD of the bushing. Close enough!
NOW WE CUT ! ! !
After cutting I found that some parts did not cut completely through. This is most likely due to irregularities in the plywood. The solution was to slow the speed to 15% and cut again. That left just a handful of small places where I needed an x-acto to trim from the back side to finish the cut.
Cut time at 15% Speed was just over 15 minutes.
So despite all the math and test cuts the holes for the fasteners were a bit undersized. The screws would go in with a screwdriver but were too small for any part that needed to spin freely. After thinking a minute I decided this was a good thing – the ‘fixed’ screws would be more stable and I could do some trial and error to find a good diameter for the free spinning parts.
Pulling out my calipers, a #6 screw and my drill index I made some test holes and determined that a #29 drill worked well. I drilled out the connector arms, drive gear, the 5 small gears and the
Next up was drilling the countersink for the ‘fixed’ screws. Most flat head fasteners have an included angle of 82° degrees but not all – 90° & 100° are also used. It doesn’t matter much for this project, just make sure the screws and countersink match. Back to the drill press with some scrap and a countersink for some trial and error to get my depth stop set. Start with a scrap piece with a tight clearance hole for the #6 screw. Adjust the table to an inch or so below the countersink and bring the bit down until it just touches the work and set the collar. Release the quill and adjust the collar depth to something that ‘feels’ about right. I started with 0.125″
Drill a test in the scrap and see how it fits. I fiddled with the depth stop until I had the screw head recessed about 1/32″.
Next I drilled all the holes that needed a countersink. Pay attention to which side of the part you are drilling! This is where I was glad I had an extra iris leaf – or two.
It’s easier to finish the pieces before you assemble. First step is sanding – looking back I should have sanded the 24″ x 12″ panel before cutting the parts – that would have just left the edges to clean up.
I’ve also seen several suggestions to finish the wood prior to cutting – this makes the scorch marks on the top and bottom surfaces easier to remove. This will depend on your what your finish is – some choices may not be laser friendly(paint?). Dark stain and clear coat appear to work well and will minimize the contrast with the cut edges – I’d go with water based finishes as they are less likely to give off nasty fumes when cut.
For my prototype I went with a simple wax finish.
Easy & quick to apply and reduces friction between the parts that slide against each other. An old toothbrush is helpful for working wax into the gear teeth.
Pretty straight forward(but I forgot to take pics) – using a manual screw driver I first threaded the screws into the ‘fixed’ locations – this included the base plate and the arm attach point on the iris leaves.
Starting with the base right side up I first add the bushings for the ring gear
Then the first layer of floating elements – the ring gear and the iris leaves.
Next add the inner iris support ring and the idler and drive gears. After a test run I found the idler gears to be more trouble than they’re worth and, like Chris, removed them.
Add the connector arms
Finally the acorn nuts.
After everything is assembled I give the drive gear a turn…
The last step on the Mark I prototype is to trim any screw that are too long and reassemble with a dot of thread locking glue to prevent things from rattling apart.
6mm baltic birch plywood 24″ x 12″
(26) 6-32 stainless steel machine screws of various lengths with acorn nuts
Epilog Mini 24 60W laser cutter
Vector Cutting with Air Assist
Settings: 100% Power, 20% Speed, 600 Hz pulse freq.
File prep time on the computer was about an hour.
Total machine time with test cuts and tweaks was another hour.
Assembly & Finishing – 3 hours – lots of sanding and waxing.
This build got me thinking about lots of different variations – currently I’m in the processing of adding a knob to the drive gear for easier manual operation. I’m also designing an alternate base plate to accept a micro-controller driven servo to the drive gear. Maybe a RFID key or a rotary encoder/LCD based combination lock.
3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing technology where a three dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of material. 3D printers are generally faster, more affordable and easier to use than other additive manufacturing technologies. The Columbus Idea Foundry has a MakerBot and a Mendel available for members!
The RepRap printer, called “Mendel” after the father of genetics, is the second, improved version of RepRap: small enough to fit on your desk, but with a print volume large enough for you to make big things. Check out their website and a whole slew of instructional videos.
If you told Alex Bandar two years ago that the community resource he created −where anyone with a good idea could see it through− would expand into a 10,000-square-foot space, he would never have believed you.
Bandar went to school in New York and earned a Bachelor of Science in materials science and engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He went on to earn a Master of Science degree and a doctorate (both in materials science and engineering) at the Institute for Metal Forming at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania with a specialization in metallurgy. At that point, there were only a few places he could go for work and he chose Columbus.
Bandar came here because he thought Columbus was a great place with a reasonable cost of living. While that proved to be true, he also discovered an amazing sense of independence among the people here. He started looking for a group of artistic people that he could join to have a place for his creative energy, which led him to the people at Milo Arts. It was there that he founded the Steampunk Lab, an educational resource used by Columbus high schools, Westerville high schools, COSI, The Ohio State University, the FIRST robotics group, the Central Ohio Robotics Group, and other groups with students or people interested in science, technology, engineering and math.
Bandar’s group of friends grew and he moved to the Millworks Art Community where he started the workshop and design center that would become the Columbus Idea Foundry.
That was in 2008. Bandar thought he would lead the center for a year and if it was successful, he would continue. His group quickly grew out of the 2,400-square-foot space and moved to its new space on Corrugated Way at the end of 2010.
One of the important aspects of the new space is its proximity to the Wonderland project. Bandar is planning on the Columbus Idea Foundry having a presence there and collaborating on projects and programming.
Adam Brouillette, Wonderland’s executive director, has the same vision.
“Through cooperative programming, a shared class schedule, community networking, and event collaboration, the two will work as a team to support each other,” Brouillette, says. “Columbus Idea Foundry provides a creative community and a set of resources that is generally not available through other sources. Their offerings, their partnerships, and their facilities are unique to Columbus. The ability for those without these opportunities now have them for an affordable price.”
In addition to its original mission, the Columbus Idea Foundry also fosters the growth of quite a few small businesses. One of the more widely known businesses housed there is Little Alouette. Little Alouette is a small, family-run woodworking business that creates “wood for wee ones.” Joe and Amy Sharp started the business out of their home and were searching for a new space to expand. They came across Bandar’s original Craigslist ad for the space at Millworks, called him up, and they hit it off from the moment they met.
Little Alouette moved with the Columbus Idea Foundry to the new space on Corrugated Way and the Sharps “love it,” Amy says.
“I think it is affordable and a nice incubator for small businesses using any kind of tools and space the Columbus Idea Foundry offers,” she adds.
In light of their recent national recognition by Martha Stewart’s Craft Fair, the Sharps are happy to have Bandar helping them grow their business.
“Alex has shown us over and over in his actions how much he supports local business and the arts,” Amy says. “He has helped us become the business we are today as he has introduced us to technology and efficiency models that allowed us to increase production at Little Alouette.”
Some of that new technology includes a cutter that will accept the irregularly shaped, locally sourced hardwoods they use for their teethers and toys, as well as a new engraving machine. The use of technology is going to help them compete with new companies that have started to do the same thing in the natural teething arena. All of Little Alouette’s products are still sanded by hand and are 100 percent hand finished.
Helping local small businesses like Little Alouette grow is very important to Bandar.
“I feel lucky that I can help serve businesses from two sides− from the ’top down’ by helping existing large companies become more competitive at my day job and from the ‘bottom up’ by empowering local small businesses and individuals get started in manufacturing or production at the Foundry,” he says.
He thinks small businesses are the driving force behind innovation and that investing in our local businesses will help the economy recover.
The Columbus Idea Foundry is a social entrepreneurship− a community organization that serves the community, but in this case, also is self-sustaining. The Columbus Idea Foundry is not a non-profit.
The current space’s studios are full. Some of the revenue streams include rent from the studios, memberships sold to others to use the equipment and learn, the educational aspects, and selling services to other businesses in the community. Otherwise, Bandar is funding the project himself.
Rivet is one of the small businesses that recently approached the Columbus Idea Foundry for help to bring a two-year idea to fruition. Owner Laura Kuenzli had the idea for a holiday display of gear- and cog- shaped snowflakes at Rivet but did not know how to execute it.
“These were two years in the making and I was so ecstatic to finally get the idea out of my head and see them come to life,” she says. ” I provided [Alex Bandar and Matt Bowman] with the design files and from those files they were able to use the Shopbot to construct and produce the finished product. They were very helpful with the design process and very understanding with ideal budgets.”
Soon, she hopes to have them help her create an outdoor sign for Rivet.
The Columbus Idea Foundry is supporting multiple businesses that are starting out in their shop, including:
•Sonarcana, a small business that designs electronics related to music, audio, and animatronics.
•Refab Studio, which specializes in design, fabrication, and refurbishment of interactive exhibits and kiosks.
•Local metal and glass artists David Murphy and Sharon McJannet.
•Local welding sculptor Mark Rosen.
•Local artist, photographer, sculptor, and furniture maker Allison Meade.
•Local artisan blacksmith and bladesmith Adlai Stein.
•Local metal caster Terry Griner, who designs and casts many different artistic and consumer products out of metal.
Some of the people renting studio space include Bandar, who designs steampunk artifacts, or modern functioning devices with an 1880s Victorian aesthetic; Tom Williams, one of the founding members of Glass Axis; Matt Bowman, who designs and sells exotic interactive audio devices, from sound boxes that produce different noises as people walk around them to pianos that automatically play chords and melodies depending on where people walk; David Kennedy, a local artist; Jeff Heater, another local designer; and Drew Smith and Matt Deane, two local contractors.
The Columbus Idea Foundry also hosts professional meetups, such as the 3D Printing and Prototyping design group run by Ethan Dicks. Once a month, he brings a dozen or so local inventors who bring their 3D printing machines (MakerBots and Mendels) and they design and fabricate novel products.
Brouillette provided a good summary of how the Columbus Idea Foundry is helping raise Columbus’ profile.
“This group is one of the reasons that Columbus has the potential to be a renaissance revival city,” he says. “The combination of science, arts, production, entrepreneurship and community involvement make them an ideal example of this emerging independent arts movement.”
Those who would like to be involved with this movement, have a business idea or product they would like to develop for fun or to sell, or just want a place to use the engineering knowledge they gained from college, but now lack the tools to create products, should contact or join the Columbus Idea Foundry.
The Columbus Idea Foundry is hosting an Open House to show off its new space on Jan. 22 from 6 to 10 p.m.
CIF member and resident welding instructor/metal sculptor, Allison Meade, shed blood and sweat creating our illuminated, articulated armillary sphere sign. This is modeled on our logo, and we’re absolutely delighted with how well it turned out. It has also been used as an interactive light for our putt-putt exhibit for the Artists’ Holes show in April of 2009.
One of the first projects built at the CIF was a talking bust of the actor Samuel Jackson, commissioned by the NBA Star, US Olympic MVP and Ohio State University graduate Michael Redd. Mr. Redd has a movie theater in his home, and wanted guests to pass a bust of Samuel Jackson inside a ticket booth as they entered the theater. As they passed him, he wanted him to say lines from his movies. Who wouldn’t?
A number of artists collaborated on this projcted: separate artists constructed the mannequin and the wooden “ticket booth”; the CIF built the electronics and programming that gave voice to the exhibit. As guests walked past the ticket booth, a sonar detector determined how close they were, and triggered an arduino embedded control board to play audio files stored on an open-source MP3 player. Additionally, curious guests could simply stand in front of the bust and press a small brass doorbell to cycle through his lines. Lots of fun, and we look forward to instrumenting our shop with similar interactive audio exhibits.
The Columbus Idea Foundry was commissioned by the 2009 Ohio Linux Fest to build the trophy for that year’s “Good Geek Award” recipient, Dr. Doug McIlroy. Dr. McIlroy wrote the “pipe” command ( | ) in Unix, and was instrumental in the development of the Linux operating system. Apparently he also has a collection of clocks, and likes the old-fashioned motif, so OLF asked us to build a “steampunk” timepiece.
Depicted is the result of a collaboration of CIF members David Kennedy, Margaret Kennedy, Alex Sutula, Alex Bandar, and Scott Hepner. It’s a functioning clock, with etched dials instead of hands, and a beautifully finished wooden enclosure. We’re looking forward to doing more work like this!