Using the Pin Router in the Wood Shop

One tool in the Burchard wood shop that I learned about recently is the pin router. It’s the large white machine to the left of the work tables. You can use this tool to copy a pattern that you laser cut or in my case, cut out on the CNC. I wanted to see if I could make more copies of the pieces I had for my street seat project.

To use the machine, you need your pattern screwed or double-stick-taped to one side of an MDF board. Then you set the pin router to the highest level and move the pattern around the pin, as the router bit cuts from below. This puts an outline of your piece in the bottom of the MDF board. Then you cut out a piece of whatever you want your final material to be and make sure it’s big enough to fill the outline that’s on the bottom of the board. You can do this on the bandsaw or table saw. Then you make several cuts on the pin router, starting from the lowest setting and moving it up a little every pass. You use the foot pedal to make the router bit rise and fall before every cut.

In the end my pieces turned out a little rough and I didn’t think they’d be good enough for my final project. I think the final quality depends on your technique and the sharpness of the router bit. Overall I think the pin router is a useful tool to copy templates into another material as long as you’re willing to do plenty of sanding in the end. It was a good experience learning about this machine that I see rarely used. Talk to Jon or Mark in the woodshop if you want to learn how to use it.

Using the CNC in the Build Lab

For my street seat project I decided to learn how to use the CNC in the Build Lab. The Build Lab is behind Cowgill in the basement of Bishop-Favrao hall. To sign up to use the CNC you just talk to one of the students that work there, tell them about your project, and then they can schedule a time for you to come in. If it’s a large project like mine, they’ll schedule the whole day for you. If it’s your first time using the CNC, make sure you talk to Daniel, he’s the only one that really knows how to use the machine, and he can probably come in during your scheduled time to teach you how to use it.

If you’re using full sheets of plywood like me, you can store them right outside the build shop on one of the sheet carts. Make sure you grab an orange name tag, fill it out, and tape it to your material. Before you come to the lab, make sure you have your file on a flash drive in the form of a .dxf and .pdf in case one of them doesn’t work with the machine. Include small tabs in your line work so that the material doesn’t come completely loose while cutting.

The first thing you need to do is load the .pdf into the program that sets up your toolpaths. It’s a long and tedious process to select all the paths and apply the correct toolpaths so I would recommend bringing a mouse so you don’t have to use the trackpad the whole time. Then you save the toolpath file onto your flash drive and then setup the machine to run. There is a CNC instructions word file on the CNC laptop that you can open and it will walk you through all the steps to turning on the machine and running your program. Make sure you are very precise when zeroing the bit to the corner of the material. If you have to stop halfway through because the shop is closing like me, then you’ll have to re-zero the machine the next time you come back because the machine loses its zero when it shuts down.

The whole process of troubleshooting and setting up the machine to be just right for my project took about 3 1/2 hours so I’ll let you know some of the problems I ran into in case you run into the same ones. The first problem I ran into was that we accidentally resized the linework file will orienting it in the toolpath program. So be careful when rotating your selections. The next problem really annoyed me; one of the tools that was named “0.25 in” was actually programmed to be recognized as .125 inches in diameter. So always double check that the diameter is set correctly. Another big problem that I kept running into at the start was that the CNC was cutting my paths on the inside of the line instead of the outside. It turned out that since the paths weren’t closed paths, what the program thought was the outside was actually the inside. All I had to do was change the toolpath to cut on the “inside” and it worked perfectly.

The troubleshooting process ruined a small section of my plywood but luckily I had plenty of duplicate parts so it wasn’t a problem. Also, a note about the time it takes to cut out a project. You can see in the picture above that my linework was pretty dense so the CNC had a lot of work to do. Half of the sheet took about 3 hours. As I’m writing this, the machine is still cutting my project so I don’t know the final time but it’s taken me two sessions and I won’t even have time to cut my second sheet. So if you have a large project, make sure you come in early and are ready to work until the shop closes.

I hope this post will be helpful to someone who wants to use the CNC in the coming years. Ask me if you have any more questions about using the CNC in the Build Lab.

The Time Coke Tried Out a Variable Price Vending Machine

Airline and train tickets change prices all the time. Food and drinks are more expensive at stadiums. Doesn’t it make sense that Coca Cola vending machines should be allowed to have variable prices too? In 1999, Coke floated the idea that they were looking to release a variable priced Coke machine that raised the price of a bottle of coke on a hot day. It’s supply and demand, only fair, right? Apparently not according to consumers.

Once it got out that Coke was planning this, thousands of people took to online chatrooms and newspapers to voice their displeasure at the idea. It seemed Coke had struck a nerve, was nothing sacred? I personally don’t like the idea of a variable price vending machine simply because I wouldn’t want to pay more but I don’t see anything ethically wrong with it. This event happened in 1999, and I’m wondering if Coca Cola has thought about doing something similar since. What do you think about Coke machines raising prices to meet a higher demand?

A Look at Soviet Industrial Design

I read a really interesting article titled The Overlooked Wonders of Soviet-Era Industrial Design which talked about a few examples of soviet product design. The article is based on a new book called Designed in the USSR: 1950 – 1989. The article talks about how many times, Soviet products were designed to emulate Western products as well as promote Soviet achievements, such as the Space Race.

Here is a vacuum cleaner meant to remind people of the success of Yuri Gagarin’s historic spaceflight. It does this by being sphere shaped and having a beige ring around it. If you want to see more, check out the article I linked above.

I searched for more examples of Soviet design elsewhere on the internet and found several interesting examples.

I also found a great website that has a collection of Soviet products and information about them from theĀ Moscow Design Museum. I think it’s really cool to see how Soviet products were similar and different from their Western counterparts. These websites are an interesting look into a period of design we don’t usually think about.

The Switch to Flat Logos

American Express recently changed its logo and it got my interested in how logo design has changed recently. The major changes in the American Express logo are a minor font change, noticeable in the ‘R’, and change in the kerning of some of the letters. Also the gradient was changed to a flat field. This change from a pseudo-3D graphic style to a flat style has been very common in the past few years. Here are a few more examples of this change.

The reason behind this is simple; flat logos look better on mobile devices. With more and more web traffic coming from mobile devices, it only makes sense for companies to make the switch. For more info about logo design in major companies check out this article.

How Does a 3D Printed Record Sound?

Pretty good for something that is 3D printed although it’s not necessarily something you’d want to play at a party. Instructables.com user amandaghassaei, or just Amanda, has successfully transferred songs to playable 3D printable records and even created a program to do it. The records are not high quality, but they are recognizable. She says that the records have a sampling rate of 11 kHz, which is a quarter of a typical mp3 file, and 5-6 bit resolution. Here’s what the records sound like:

The way a record works is pretty simple. A record spins at a constant speed and a needle travels through a spiral groove that has been cut or molded into the record’s surface. Based on the width and depth of the groove, the needle vibrates and creates an audio signal that is then amplified inside the record player. The only thing limiting 3D-printed records is the resolution of the print bed. At the time that Amanda made this project, 3D printers didn’t have a high enough resolution to make a record that sounds like a real vinyl record. But this project was made over five years ago, so I’m wondering what’s possible with today’s technology.

Check out the original instructable for an in-depth explanation of how this was done!

The Japanese Art of Dorodango and Polishing Poop

I saw Maddy’s post about polishing balls of aluminum foil and it reminded me of this episode of Mythbusters where they tested out if it was possible to polish poop. Before we talk about poop, let’s get into some background. Dorodango is a Japanese art where dirt and water are mixed, formed, and polished to create a shiny sphere. Sometimes different colors of earth are added to create a stunning effect. The finished result is beautiful and is a reflection of pure craftsmanship.

In 2008, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters set out to test the myth that “you can’t polish a turd.” During testing, Adam learned about Dorodango from an expert before creating his own shiny dirt ball. Jamie and Adam then went to the zoo to collect poop. To get a large sample size, the Mythbusters collected several different types of animal dung including ostrich and lion excrement. They then set to work forming and polishing for several days. Is it possible to polish a turd? Watch below to find out!

It is! Adam’s ostrich dung Dorodango sphere tested a gloss reading of 106 which is 36 units above the minimum of 70 for “high gloss.” Jamie’s lion poop pool ball tested even higher, at 183 gloss units! I think it’s awesome to learn about a breathtaking piece of art made from the most unlikely of materials. This shows that as designers, we can pick up new materials and processes from almost anywhere. What other common materials can be used in unlikely ways to create art?