Last week, I drove a car full of Interlocutors down to Lima, NY to visit Smidgens, Inc., our friendly local laser manufactory. I wanted to get some parts cut out of half-inch plywood for the Mantis 9.1 CNC mill we’re building. Although the parts are designed to be easily cut by hand, I really wanted an excuse to see some big-ass lasers and to make the acquaintance of those in charge of said equipment. So off we went. Keep scrolling for pictures and some commentary.
Gary – the co-owner of Smidgens, along with his wife Rita – gave us quite an extensive tour, and answered all of our pesky questions while we gawked at the machinery. Above, you can see one of their lasers cutting crane parts out of quarter-inch steel. I was pretty surprised how quiet the whole operation was, given the amount of cutting going on. Most of the noise was from the ventilation systems that were constantly huffing smoke out to the great outdoors.
Sorry for the butt-shot, but here’s an overall view of the main space. There’s one more marking laser in another room off to the right, and the metal-cutting laser is to your left. They also have a bit of storage in the corner for commonly used materials.
They had three lasers like the above, and these mostly do wood and acrylic cutting and etching. I failed to shoot the 8-ish foot long laser tube, the massive power supply, and the ridiculously beefy stepper (servo?) motors driving the XY tables. So sorry. It really made the nerds go all giggity.
Bread. Dried, lasered, lacquered. It’s a miracle! Rita does some fun stuff with the lasers that I’m sure their engineers hadn’t anticipated.
This machine was solely for cutting thin materials or marking things at an insane speed. Instead of moving the entire workpiece or optics in an XY fashion, it has two mirrors that remain stationary and just twiddle the beam to and fro. The design you see above took about ten or fifteen seconds to cut.
And here are the parts! Time for assembly… soon enough we’ll be milling circuit boards in-house at Interlock. Thanks again, Gary, for cutting our parts and taking the time to show us your lasers!
from Berticus on January 10th, 20111 Comment
Join us this Friday, November 12th at 8pm for another stimulating night of lightning talks at Interlock! Lightning talks are five minute(-ish) presentations on whatever topic you’re passionate about, and we try to get through fifteen or twenty of them in a night. The event is free and open to the public, and anybody is welcome to present. We’ll have some food and beverage on hand to stimulate digestion and discussion.
If you’re going to present, and need to get slides situated, please show up a little early and/or mail your slides to email@example.com sometime before the event. We encourage a wide variety of topics… not just tech-oriented subjects. Previous talks have been about lockpicking, homebrewing, bookbinding, artificial intelligence, basic electronics, laser cutting, and on and on. Teach us something new!
Here is our Googley Maps page where you can get directions to the space. Once you get into the parking lot of the Hungerford building, you’ll want to look for Door #1 and head down into the basement to find us.
Also, if you are on the Facebooks, please do RSVP to our event on said site, so we can calculate pizza ingestion and seating requirements. See you this Friday!
from Berticus on November 8th, 20100 Comments
Two long weeks ago, we finally scrounged the equipment and ingredients necessary to iterate Hack Pittsburgh’s Open Mate recipe. Personally, I hadn’t heard of this odd Club Mate beverage until I saw the recipe, but — being a homebrewer — I couldn’t help but to order a case (for comparison purposes only, of course) and hunt down some yerba maté and caffeine powder of my own.
With said ingredients in hand, we put three gallons of water on the hot plate during one of our Tuesday open nights (come visit!), and proceeded to spend three hours hovering around the kitchen area, waiting for it to get anywhere near boiling. The tea was brewed, sugared, cooled, and kegged with the following specifications:
- 3 gallons of water
- 3oz yerba mate tea
- 2c sugar
- juice of 0.5 lemons
- 0.5t citric acid
- bring water to just under a boil
- add tea to water (I put the tea in a big homebrewing grain bag, effectively creating a huge teabag)
- steep for six minutes
- remove tea
- add sugar, lemon juice, citric acid
- cool, pour into a keg, carbonate at 20psi
You’ll notice we skipped the caffeine this time. Personally, I’m more concerned with flavor than (added) stimulants, so I never bothered tracking down a scale sensitive enough to measure out one or two grams of powder. Feel free to add that in when you’re adding the sugar (check out Hack Pittsburgh’s recipe for the correct measurements and warnings).
We finally got to do some beta tasting this past Thursday, and all testers agreed that it was yummy and pretty faithful to the original product. I have since sat down for a more in-depth side-by-side comparison (not double-blinded, mind you), and I feel our recipe — although quite tasty — has come up a bit short compared to the real deal. The sweetness is spot on, but there is a complexity and depth to the tea flavor that is missing in our beverage. So I think we’ll try some things differently next time:
- adding lemon was a mistake: I was hoping to avoid uncommon ingredients like citric acid, but alas, you should go out and get some (cream of tartar was a pretty popular substitute in old-timey ginger beer recipes)
- more citric acid: fizzy tea is pretty dull without a bit of acid zing. We should probably at least double it next time, but further experimentation is in order
- increase the tea input: I’m hoping part of the depth-of-flavor difference is merely a matter of strength
- caramelize some of the sugar first: Club Mate has added coloring. Hopefully caramelizing some of the sugar will make Open Mate less pale, and also improve flavor.
Any other ideas? I can’t wait to work through our first three gallons, so we can start brewing the next version. Bottoms up!
from Berticus on April 17th, 20107 Comments
It’s true. We’re starting up a hackerspace in Rochester, New York. Please check out our Meetup page if you’re already convinced you need to join us.
For everybody else, the about page is a good place to get up to speed with what’s going on. In summary: we’re creating a space in which we plan to make cool stuff, teach, learn, and race robots. We’ve already found a suitably grungy spot to inhabit:
which should be cleaned out and fixed up (by the landlords, thankfully) by early January. In the meantime we’re having some really productive meetings every Tuesday night, and would love to see more potential members show up to give their input.
If you can’t make the meetings, there are many options for getting in touch with us. I recommend our IRC channel, but you’ll find more social-networky stuff on the contact page.
from Berticus on December 2nd, 20090 Comments