12 November 2012

Touching Two Continents

Hi all,

November started with my PhD viva - the defense of my previous few years of research.  The cross examination undertaken by experts in the field concealed threat detection was successful and pending correction of some typos, I gain the title of Doctor.

11 September 2012

Handed In


Long time, no post.  I've now finished and submitted my thesis.  It's difficult to describe the relief and the euphoria of that weight lifting from my shoulders!  I'm looking to the many tasks I've put on hold pending my submission, that I expect I'll be even busier than before, but at least I won't be writing.  Yes, I have to defend my work in cross examination, but I know my stuff and an that in comparison to writing up should be a doddle and hope to only get minor corrections.

I'll try and not repeat my extended break from posting - I could have posted what I've been researching, but it's sufficiently off topic from my adventures into 3D printing (or not) with the SumPod, as to be irrelevant.

I see Mr Sum, has been busy with some notable changes in the design.
Take care all.
SumPod Guinea Pig

16 February 2012


I received a surprise parcel on Saturday from Mr Sum, just one day after he sent it. The postal service obviously doesn't loose all of his parcels it seems, they must be losing their touch.  The parcel contained most of the missing parts for my SumPod and an incomplete hotend v2.  It would be so much easier to tell with a picklist what parts are missing - at least at Ikea you know what you're supposed to have and tell what's missing (and the customer service is a lot better too).

Over the weekend I built the supplied parts into my SumPod and loaded the SumPod Sprinter firmware.  After double checking connections, I excitedly powered up the SumPod to test the three axis of motion and experienced a sinking feeling, not the light-headed, vomit inducing miss-typed dd or clicking hard drive variety, thank goodness, just a 'frustrated this should work, here we go again' feeling in anticipation of the inevitable fault finding.  The stepper motors were 'spazzing' (a well known technical term) and would turn when a finger was prodded onto pins of the Pololu driver - a fault finding technique I recommend (after discharging any static) to indicate floating pins with a little capacitive coupling.  I was concerned the Pololu drivers had been damaged having missed the tell tale 'magic smoke' while reassembling the electronics and connecting it to the SumPod.  Had rousing them from an extended slumber damaged them?  Who knows, they had been in a box on a shelf since mid October...

25 January 2012

Hello World GLCD Version

I thought people may be interested in another hello world LCD demo, but instead of using a standard alphanumeric display, I'm using a snazzy graphical one.  The display is only black and white.  Control could consist of only a couple of pins and a port expander.

I fully intend to use this circuitry and software in my robotics and RFID projects, but wondered if rather than using a larger alphanumeric display with the new menu system, a graphical display might be more suitable.  I'm not sure how much info needs to be displayed so I'm open to ideas.  Ideas on a postcard please - okay use the comments section below instead.

My code is an adapted version of the sample code from the Arduino website.  Is a GLCD the next logical step for the SumPod?  Let me know what you think.

SumPod Guinea Pig is sleepy.

24 January 2012

A week on

Hi all,

My SumPod sits there in a box, glum and lifeless.  What is the cause of this malady, you enquire.  Is it the the economic downturn or the cold grey mornings?  No, guess again.  Maybe because yesterday was the most depressing day of the year?  Still no.  Okay last guess - did the promised parcel of missing SumPod parts arrive?  Unfortunately, no it didn't and that's not for a lack of chasing - what an unfortunate state of affairs.

So I am left pondering my options and remember ruefully when I created this blog, it was to share my experiences and document the build of my SumPod, not to talk about its inventor and supplier Richard Sum.

Suffice to say I'd like to have a working machine and start making things.  I'm confident this is going to happen one way or another.  This blog for a start would be a more colourful place with images of my 'creations' as I attempt to calibrate my SumPod. :)  But in the meantime I remain positive and as the saying goes 'every cloud has a silver lining' - the SumPod would make a lovely paper weight, just check out the paint job, that even a large piece of paper in a force ten gale could not escape. That and the helpful staff at the Office of Fair Trading.

17 January 2012

No Show

The parcel containing my missing SumPod parts and the new hotend Mk2 was supposed to arrive no later than Friday.  It has yet to arrive, which was unfortunate because I was looking forward to finishing my SumPod and using it during last weekend.

I have contacted Richard to find out when (a) the parcel was sent and (b) what class of post was used.  So far I know only that "it was sent like the others using royal mail."  I haven't blogged about this before, because I really hoped the parcel was simply delayed and would arrive on Saturday or Monday.  It didn't and nor, as of now, has it arrived today.

As an aside, since I last blogged my SumPod forum account (Fixer) has been disabled and my access to the SumPod website blocked.  I hope this is just coincidence.

Update 18 Jan 2012
My IP is no longer blocked.

11 January 2012

I'm back - part 2

I've been busy, work has been hectic, I haven't had time to post yahdah yahdah yaydah...
Quite a few things have happened including writing more of my electronics PhD thesis and successfully completing the advanced stream of the online Standford Introduction to Artificial Intelligence www.ai-class.com, with a very respectable score. :)

I haven't entirely finished my thesis yet, but I have more time on my hands now and that folks, means I'll be spending more time working on my SumPod.  I must admit at being more than a little bit envious of the progress of some notable others namely Eric over at  http://renaissance-engineer.net; Brixham Engineer (what is your name?) over at  http://www.3d-printer-kit.com and Electronica.  Stohn a recent addition to the community has been busy (is there a blog yet?), implementing a rotary switch to navigate menus and progress support for a SD card, giving the SumPod a valuable stand alone capability.  If this wasn't enough he has championed the adoption of the MARLIN RAMPS firmware.  For those interested I believe Richard is investigating putting together a kit for existing SumPod users to upgrade their systems - if it doesn't materialise then I will certainly be offering a kit at at cost price for early adopters. 

The original hot end for the SumPod has turned out to be a flawed design and the new Mk2 has been promised, since early December.  Despite the lack of print functionality progress has been made by others milling polystyrene and MDF.  I would if I could attempt the same, but my SumPod is still lacking some vital parts, for example the right hand side of the print platform.  So far I have received three left hand pieces, two in the original box and a third as a replacement, which I embarrassingly painted without checking it was the correct part.  I only realised the mistake during assembly of my SumPod.  This was all the more frustrating since I had given one of the duplicate parts to Richard to avoid this exact situation.

Over the last couple of month I've repeatedly asked for the missing parts, but I haven't been too fussed with their non-delivery, because I've been busy.  Now I have more time on my hands, I have been assured they should be delivered along with the Mk2 hotend, no later than this Friday.  The pick list is available for download from the SumPod website for early adopters whose kits were prepared before the list was created.  I will go through this after the parcel arrives.

It's not all bad, the parts I have assembled, fit snugly and assembly is straight forward, requiring much less effort than it took to paint it!  I particularly like the Z axis coupling, it fits beautifully and just works.  Overall the SumPod is sturdy and I believe it has a lot of potential and the scope to support a large number of accessories.

I've learnt in the last week there have been the odd problem with some of the pre-soldered RAMPS boards supplied by Richard.  I haven't been given the full details but my attempt to dig Richard out of a hole back in mid October by assembling some RAMPS boards at very short order (only half the number needed, but sold several months earlier and here), to meet his tight schedule. Although I was paid for this work [at a fraction of the going rate btw] it was frustrating to work to such tight deadlines and with missing parts (boards were soldered like my own RAMPS board) and then receive negative feedback months after when I thought all had been well!  I also improved the electronics kitting list while populating boards by identifying shortages. I wish now that I had labelled and initialled the boards as is my habit to differentiate my work. Examples of my work can be found here.