Protolab

a Shared workshop for creation and innovation

Drones, MiniQuads, and FPV

Who has heard of Drones? Everyone. How about FPV or racing drones though? This is not new, but drone racing is beginning to take it's first steps out of the backyard/underground racing scene toward real organization and even potentially live broadcast. 

Earlier this summer the US Drone Nationals took place at the California State Fair. This was an un-precedented event that appears to have gone extremely well! Here is a video that will give you a bit of background into what it took to put it on, and why it was a success.

Pretty cool hey? Wouldn't it be great if some of this was going on in Canada as well? Well, next weekend, August 21-23 FatShark (the company that makes the video goggles) is sponsoring "FatShark Frenzy" aka the Canadian Drone Nationals!!! The race will be happening up in Collingwood Ontario, with tons of vendors, BBQ, drone building workshops, a beginner race category, and a freestyle competition. 

I'll be there all weekend, racing in the beginner class as well as the Minis and micros class (under 250mm motor to motor). It's a really good spectator sport, because you can literally ride along with the pilots by monitoring their camera feed. It's a free event for spectators, so if you've been considering getting into flying quadcopters, this would be a good opportunity to come check out what's available, and meet lots of different pilots.

Maker Festival

WOW, I can't believe it's already been 2 weeks since Maker Festival! What an awesome event it was, with over 10k visitors! We had a great time running a table on the second floor, and meeting TONS of new people. Even Mayor John Tory stopped by and said a few words in support of the maker community in general and it's importance in teaching people to innovate and try new things. My only complaint was not having enough time to get away from our own table to talk to all the other makers out there about their own awesome and inspiring projects. 

Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers for making such a great event possible! And thanks to the Toronto Reference Library for hosting the event.

Laser Announcement

I'm super excited to announce that we have a massive laser cutter coming NEXT WEEK!! It's scheduled to arrive toward the end of the week, so I'm hoping to have it up and running by the 14th of March or so. 

Stock pic of the laser I picked, from Rabbit Laser USA's website.

Stock pic of the laser I picked, from Rabbit Laser USA's website.

After many hours researching, and pouring over forum posts and other parts of the internet to evaluate the many different laser options; I settled on a 1200mm x 900mm laser with pass through doors, and an 80 watt laser tube, from the nice folks at Rabbit Laser USA. I arrived at their website after seeing their name come up repeatedly in a lot of the laser and CNC forums on the internet - always well reviewed and recommended. The staff have, so far, been helpful answering questions over the phone and email. 

We have all kinds of ideas for cool laser projects that we can't wait to try. What would you do with access to a laser cutter? Check out these pins on pinterest for some inspiration.

A long overdue update:

Okay, so it's been WAY too long since the last time I updated this. Things have been very very busy over the last 8 weeks getting Protolab ready to open. But finally, it's almost there.

We've painted a little over half of the building since moving in. Adam and Dash (from the toronto maker community) re-wired just about everything in the building, on top of running a few 220 lines to the shop upstairs to run the bigger tools.

The big 4x8 CNC is almost finished; the frame is built and square, and everything seems to move very smoothly. I've just got the control box and motor drivers to finish wiring up, and I'm still waiting on a liquid cooling system for the spindle to arrive off ebay. So it should be up soon...Hopefully.

The protolab main workshop is coming along nicely. It's still a little disorganized, but once we have another workbench or two built up; everything should have a proper home in the shop.

The protolab main workshop is coming along nicely. It's still a little disorganized, but once we have another workbench or two built up; everything should have a proper home in the shop.

The little Zenbot CNC has been moved in and is up and running. Right now I'm in the process of building a new computer to drive it. The old one is, well, old. It's crashed on me a couple of times during cuts, and occasionally it misses steps due to the processor being overloaded.

Components of the new computer for the 16x24 Zenbot CNC. 

Components of the new computer for the 16x24 Zenbot CNC. 

4x8 CNC Build Part 1

This weekend marked the official beginning of our CNC build. Before we can get to the machine itself, it needs a sturdy base to rest on. I did a little research, and after reviewing some build logs online, and the plans for the CNC, we settled on 49x120 inches by 32 inches tall. 

Even without knowing the precise final dimensions, I've been designing the general construction of this table frame in my head for a few days. Mentally building something before actually building it is a critical making technique. Mostly because it's free. You can iterate, and plan, and try different things all in your head or with a napkin and pen. Going through this process will save you TONS of time come build day. It'll also help you create a more mature finished product than you would have if you'd just hacked something together without any planning at all. And like anything else, it gets easier the more you do it.

Armed with a solid mental plan, and the final dimensions of the project; I headed off to pick up the lumber. I probably should have brought a bigger vehicle, but I made it work.

A bunch of 10 foot lumber hanging out the back of our Civic. 

A bunch of 10 foot lumber hanging out the back of our Civic. 

Back at Protolab, we started by cutting the 8 foot 6x6" posts down into 6 32" legs. Each cut took 3 passes on our 12" mitre saw, rotating 90 degrees after each pass; I could have done it in 2, but it was easier to keep the cuts aligned with three. 

Then we assembled the first 10 foot long side. Pro Tip: When you buy a 10 foot length of lumber, don't assume it's exactly 10 feet (120 inches) long, it's probably a bit longer. I forgot to measure the 2x8's (because I had no plans to cut them) before we built the first side. Luckily we hadn't gotten too far along before realizing, so it was relatively painless to take the legs off and trim the 2 2x8's down to 10 feet.

After getting the 2 sides together, we quickly confirmed 49" wide would work with the plans, and made some measurements. Once we'd cut some 2x4's and a couple of 2x8's down to size, it was easy enough attaching the two sides. Clamps are your friend :)

The two sides attached. Starting to look like a table.

The two sides attached. Starting to look like a table.

Now this next part turned out to be my favourite moment of this build. Before we braced the middle of the table, we wanted to make sure it was square. When I measured it, it was already perfectly square! I couldn't believe it. 

I attribute that little success to 2 simple things: Careful measurements and cuts (measure twice, cut once); and the use of clamps to make sure everything is tight before screwing it down. Because of this, the table couldn't help but be a rectangle once it was put together. It was about 1/2 an inch wider in the middle, but perfectly square. 

Time to move on to bracing the middle, and closing that 1/2 inch gap.

The finished table is very very sturdy. There are still a couple of small things to do before I can really call it complete though. It could use a lower perimiter of 2x4's close to the floor, to help keep the legs plumb over time, as well as to serve as the foundation for a storage shelf under the machine. We also need to add some kind of adjustable foot to the bottom of each leg, as our floors have drains and are graded just about everywhere. 

 

More updates soon.

First Printrbot up and running!

This afternoon I finished building one of the Printrbots. I wanted to get one up and running right away so we can get to printing some fixtures and gadgets for around the space. We didn't do a build log on this one, but here are a few pics from along the way:

It was not a difficult kit to put together by any means. One just needs some free desk space and a couple of hours; it even comes with all the tools you need to build it. 

Here's a super quick clip to prove it works ;)

A video posted by @protolabto on

Mid week update:

The first half of this week has been busy; mostly assembling the tools that we picked up on Saturday, and finalizing the order for our laser cutter (more on that in a later post). The last thing we need to do before we start building shop furniture is get an electrician in to run some 240v lines up from the basement. Once that's done, the dust collector and table saw will be up and running; paving the way for us to build out the work tables and workbenches needed around the shop. 

The wood shop area, slowly taking shape. We really need to add some workbenches.

The wood shop area, slowly taking shape. We really need to add some workbenches.

Our biggest carpentry priority is getting a base built up for the 4x8 cnc to sit on. I'm planning on making a lot of our furniture around the makerspace out of plywood cut on the CNC. UPS delivered the last packages of parts yesterday to build the actual machine (15 total boxes, we have our work cut out for us), so it's time to get moving on the base.

All 15 boxes of CNC parts have now arrived from cncrouterparts.com, and are awaiting assembly.

All 15 boxes of CNC parts have now arrived from cncrouterparts.com, and are awaiting assembly.

Our 3 Printrbots were also delivered yesterday. All three are kits that have to be assembled. One of them is the heated build plate model, allowing it to print ABS, TPE, and other materials that need a heated bed to ensure that they stick. I'll probably get one of them built up later today, as we've started to accumulate a list of things we need printed out for the space. It's all so exciting!!

More boxes of parts :) These ones contain the atoms to build 3 3d printers. Keep an eye out for an upcoming build video of these going together.

More boxes of parts :) These ones contain the atoms to build 3 3d printers. Keep an eye out for an upcoming build video of these going together.

Moving in our table saw, and other shop tools

Yesterday we went to Busy Bee tools to pick up our table saw, dust collector, planer, jointer, and some other things. It turned out to be a little more adventure than we had anticipated; but what doesn't. 

It began when we decided to bring a minivan instead of a truck… Just couldn't get a rental in time. 

loading.jpg

Once we had everything crammed into the back of the Caravan (everything but the 6" jointer, which we had to come back for), we took off across town to Protolab. We had to go to the Missisauga location because it was the only one that had everything in stock. 

The table saw didn't fit with the packaging on, but it went in easily enough once we took it off. 

 

Back at Protolab, trying to get the saw out was another story...

We had managed to get it half way out, but it was clear by now that we were not going to be lifting it straight out onto our loading dock (as we had naively planned). Ultimately, we started to run out of time and put the saw back in the van, while we drove back across the city to pick up the jointer we left behind on the first trip. On the drive over we discussed possible strategies for getting the hulking 500lb saw out of the back of the van, and up the 18 inches or so to the edge of the dock.

On the way back to Protolab for the second time, we stopped off at home depot and picked up a couple of 10 foot 2x4's.  I fed the 2x4's into the skid and we dragged and tilted it out of the back of the van, and then backed the van up until we propped the long ends inside the dock.

At this point the three of us slid the saw up the 2x4's to the edge of the dock, now totally suspended on them. We now had the task of holding up the end of the 2x4's that were in the back of the van; much like a wheelbarrow, while the van drove out of the way. Thanks to the leverage of the 2x4's this was surprisingly manageable.

The last step was to tip the saw up and into the shop, which went fairly smoothly. Unfortunately there are no pictures of the last steps, as we were all busy moving the saw.