Hi everyone I hope you all had a nice time over the holiday period!
Santa Claus was really kind to me this year (probably because I’d been super good all year long!) and brought me several blog worthy items. Leaving aside the toy drone I nearly chewed my son’s face off with (protip: amateur drone pilots should start off outdoors) I got an Ardunio based Weather Station and a CTC 3D printer which (once I have enough mastery of this unwieldy beast) I’m going to be using for rapid prototypes, building enclosures for electronics projects and printing out awesome stuff I find on Thingiverse.
So starting off with the Weather Station below we can see the various components I have collected. The unit is comprised of an Arduino RedBoard, a SparkFun Weather Shield, a Sparkfun Electric Imp Shield and an Electric Imp. In the background you can see a Rain Meter, Anemometer and Wind Direction Gauge. You can just hook up the Weather Shield and get going but I wanted Wind Speed / Directon and Rainfall so I had a look at the SparkFun website which sells a bunch of those additional meters attached to a suitable bracket. They retail for $76 (plus shipping) whereas I discovered that the Maplin UK website sells replacement meters for a weather station and that I was able to get all three for £17.47 which seemed like a better idea considering they’re (from what I can tell) exactly the same as the ones on Sparkfun. The first steps of the project are complete as I have soldered on the header pins to the RedBoard and the two RJ11 ports for the external meters. The Sparkfun Weather Shield takes care of barometric pressure, relative humidity, luminosity and temperature on-board and could also feature GPS timing but for my application I’m not going to install that capability just yet.
For connectivity I’m using the Electric Imp (which I hadn’t had any experience of before this project and I have to say, I’m extremely impressed with) to hook into my home WiFi and report the data to the Weather Underground service which I ultimately hope to configure my iPad to display.
I need to work on the code and see what I can get this thing to report, it should be fairly straight forward enough but I’m currently stuck trying to figure out how to combine the signal from the Anemometer and Wind Direction meters as they seem to feed into the same pins of the RJ11 ports… I’ll have to have a better look at the datasheet… As usual…
I’ve wanted to build a weather station for a very long time, probably since I was at High School some 19 years ago now and got involved with the electronics club. Now that I’m older and have a family and considering my son is starting to become interested in computing (read: he’s nearly 7 and heavily into Minecraft) I thought it would be nice to include him in this project so he can see some relationship between physical/mechanical action and the software based representation of that. I find that children respond to things they can see (i.e. an Anemometer spinning causing a digital meter to increase) better than trying to get them interested in some mundane aspect of coding that will never inspire them. I hope to get this project moving along again soon and I’ll report back here with our progress.
So the second item I wanted to talk about was my 3D Printer. I got a Makerbot Replicator clone made by CTC which for what it cost (under £300!) I’m very satisfied with.
My only previous experience was with an actual Makerbot Replicator at the office but I only ever really got to watch it output small test items so this whole experience has been a steep learning curve (it still is!) but I’m starting to get the hang of it and I’m able to print out some nice items. Out of the box you get about a third of a spool of PLA (I love the smell of polylactic acid in the morning!) which I’ve been using to dial in my understanding of balancing build area temperature with extruder temperature with ambient room temperature with the alignment of Venus and Jupiter and… you get the idea.
It seems to be all about getting a spool of filament and printing out a few tests of the same object until you have learned what combination best works. There’s a lot of ‘What settings for XYZ should I use’ questions asked of Google which I doubt will be fruitful as it depends on the model you’re printing, the quality of the filament and probably several other things I’m overlooking. A big problem seems to be that people can’t get their prints to stick to the build area and they try everything from hairspray to a glue stick whereas my printer has never had a problem getting anything to stick to the bed. Maybe I’m just lucky but I always like to crawl before I walk and I’ve spent my time fiddling with minor settings for basic models rather than attempting some monumental build which fails at 78% for whatever reason and you have to start again after much muted cursing. I joined a forum for this model printer and since it’s a clone of a Makerbot it’s pretty well catered for when it comes to printable upgrades.
I’m using my MacBook Pro to generate the .x3g files onto an SD card and then printing them out from the printer front panel interface rather than directly from software over USB.
Once I learn more about the whole 3D printing ‘thing’ I’ll be able to add more but for now here’s some pictures of stuff I’ve printed:
It’s far too early for me to speak with any real authority over the CTC 3D printer but so far I have found it to be a good quality unit (once you tighten up all the nuts that have gone slack during shipping) which will produce impressive prints and smell a bit like popcorn while it’s doing it. I am still learning how to get the best results and it’s not always easy and quite often frustrating but oh boy am I glad I joined the 3D printing revolution at last!