Electronic 101 Class

March 23rd, 2009 by Paul Sobczak

Twin Cities Maker in collaboration with Studio Bricolage is offering a basic electronics course.

Dates: April 7, 9, and 14

Location: Studio Bricolage aka Leonardo’s Basement 4301 Nicollet Avenue in South Minneapolis.

RSVP: Please email Studio Bricolage or call 612-824-4394 if you are planning to attend
so we have materials on hand for everyone.

Each session will be less than 2 hours in length, with one hour of blah blah blah so we can actually get some playing done. There’s no charge for the class, but there is an optional $15 materials fee for some small goodies packs I’m assembling.

Please, please, PLEASE pre-register if you are interested in getting the goodies pack. Some wire and breadboards were purchased and we don’t want anyone to feel left out.

It is also STRONGLY suggested that you bring a simple multimeter. Doesn’t have to be much- just amps, volts and ohms. Multimeters of that sort can be had for $20 or less, and if you’re planning on doing much with electronics, a meter is pretty much essential.

Day 1- basic concepts: what is a volt, an amp, an ohm, a watt, and (briefly) a farad? How do they relate? What is AC current versus DC current? What is a resistor? What is a capacitor? What is a diode? What is an LED? The hands-on will cover reading resistor values, constructing a desired value of resistance from parallel and series resistors, creating a voltage divider, powering an LED, using a potentiometer, and, briefly, RC time constants.

Day 2- powering circuits: DC sources (wall warts and batteries), power connectors, reverse-polarity protection with diodes, voltage regulation ICs, transformers, fuses and dimmer switches. The hands-on will cover putting a voltage regulation IC into play, setting the voltage on a common adjustable voltage regulation IC (to provide power other than 5V), using a 7660 IC to easily generate a low-current negative voltage rail for biasing op-amps and analog circuits.

Day 3- basic uses transistors (MOSFET and BJT, N and P type, and the differences between the two), op-amp basics (the rules of virtual open and virtual short), the importance of power supply bypassing in integrated circuit usage, and a laundry list of my favorite integrated circuits (this is something that was never really presented to me, so until I started figuring this out on my own, I spent a lot of time and effort devising crazy methods to do things that could be done with a fairly simple off-the-shelf component). The hands-on will cover using a PMOSFET to provide a better means of protecting your circuit from reverse battery insertion, using PWM to dim an LED (demonstrated using my Magic Square Wave Generator IC), and demonstrations of using transistors to switch power loads highlighting the benefits and drawbacks of BJTs and FETs for certain applications.

More information is available via the Studio Bricolage site here.

FouLab Montreal

March 14th, 2009 by Paul Sobczak

FouLab is a hackerspace in Montreal located at Located at Suite 302, 183 Chemin Bates. I tried to visit but nobody was home when I tried, so I only have photos of the outside, but the door leading to their space is worth sharing.

The front of the building

The front of the building

Knock Knock

FouLab Headquarters

Warranty Void if Seal Broken

Warranty Void if Seal Broken

I thought this label was great, but I bet the inside is better, too bad nobody was there and that I was passing through town so quickly. FouLab can be found over here http://foulab.org/ click on the english link in the top right if you aren’t fluent in French.

Tech Shop Visit

March 5th, 2009 by Paul Sobczak

Tech Shop Menlo Park, is one of the first maker shops to give large scale access to lots of different machinery to its members. At 15,200 sq feet it houses a all sorts of possibilities, below is the floor plan.

Image via www.TechShop.ws

Image via www.TechShop.ws

I traveled there in at the end of January, 2009. Upon walking in I was greeted at the front desk and shown a quick tour around the facility.

Tech Shop front desk

Tech Shop front desk

On the other side of the front desk there are different things you can buy, like stickers for the printer, resistors and diodes, nozzles for the sand blaster, and other various things that come in handy for people who like to make things. They call it the Maker Shed/Retail Store.

Maker Shed

Maker Shed and Retail Store

On to the good stuff: I met up with Don who was teaching a class on powder coating and observed what was going on. The way things are organized at tech shop follows that people take a Safety and Basic Usage (SBU) class before they can operate most of the machinery. This is what I was observing and this SBU was about sandblasting metal and powder coating.

Here is one of the sand blasters.

Here is one of the sand blasters.

All of the imperfections on the pieces of metal are blasted off to leave a smooth finish that the paint can adhere to evenly.

The powder coating gun

The powder coating gun

Above you see a bar that the pieces of metal are hanging from, this bar is part of a circuit that enables the powder, which is loaded in the yellow gun to electrically stick to the metal. The whole system uses something like 7000 volts to get the job done. Once the metal pieces were coated with powder they cooked in an oven for about 10 minutes. The final outcome, I didn’t take a picture of, but if you have ever seen any John Deer tractors, that is what powder coating finish looks like. Powder coating is widely used, even the power supply for the powder gun was power coated but as Don noted, it was done poorly and suffered from an affect called orange peeling, where the finish has a texture similar to that of an orange peel instead of a smooth finish.

Exploring further:

Plactic Vacum Forming room

Plastic Vacuum Forming room

Wood Working shop

Wood Working shop

Laser cutting room

Laser Cutting Room

Hand tool room

Hand Tool Room

CNC room

CNC Room

Welding and Plasma Cutting Room

Welding and Plasma Cutting Room

Blank Area

Large Project Bay Area

Metal Working Room

Machine Shop

Common Area

Main Workshop Area

The Main Workshop Area above was taken over by the boy scouts when I was there. They were having their regional car races. On the left there is member storage space, and in the way back there is a lounge area with coffee and yes, Tech Shop has their very own popcorn machine, I should have taken a picture.

There are a few other rooms that I didn’t take pictures of but you can get the idea of what all is in the Tech Shop from the floor plan at the top of the post.

The good news is Tech Shop is expanding around the country. There are already facilities going up on Portland, OR, and Raleigh, NC, with plans as of now for ones in Austin, TX, San Francisco, CA, Sunnyvale, CA, Marin, CA, Sacramento, CA, Los Angeles, CA, San Diego, CA, Seattle, WA, and Orlando, FL.

For more information on Tech Shop their website is http://techshop.ws/

Also Check out these two videos:

First Official Meeting March 11th

March 1st, 2009 by Paul Sobczak

We will have the first “official” meeting for our maker shop on the 11th of March, come by and say hello.  We will be discussing what direction we would like to take the group and how to organize things.

Location: Common Roots Cafe
2558 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55405

Time: 7:00pm

RSVP: We would like to know how many people to expect so please RSVP over here.

picture above from flickr by noise is life