Fab Lab Diaries – Week 1

So this week has been pretty crazy in my personal life let alone getting a fab lab up and running! I have dealt with the suicide of a friend, my grandma going to the hospital, other family drama, and then getting things ready for the open house that was on Thursday was just draining. I needed Thursday though. I needed to see the people and the kids be inspired by what we’re doing. It has been so hard losing my friend Ryan Kowalko but education was important to him. It took him 9 years to get his bachelor’s in Information Systems at GVSU but he did it. In his honor I set up an education fund for his daughter Emma (2 years old), if you can donate and feel obliged to.  I just want her to know how much her friends and family cared about her and her dad. I don’t want her to go through the same struggle he did…. Anyways… enough sadness.

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This week at the fab lab we’ve been busy filling the empty space with equipment. I was able to get 6 of the lower-end 3D printers up and going and then had to figure out something to print for an open house handout. I came upon a “Flex-i-rex” on Thingiverse and was able to print 12 at a time on the print beds. I ended up with like 400 of these things for the event. The people that grabbed one, LOVED it. It moves a little and people couldn’t believe it was 3D printed!

We have the Richard and Ann Kraft digital fabrication lab starting to come together. This will be the more professional grade 3D printers and CAD stations.  The computers will all have SolidWorks and have the capability to run other 3D software as well. The printers that are in this room are:

  • 1x Stratasys Fortus 450
  • 2x Stratasys Uprint SE 3D
  • 1x Stratasys Dimension Elite
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Left to Right: 2x Uprints, 1x Dimension Elite, 1x Fortus

I can’t wait to get these bad boys up and running…. especially that Fortus! That thing is a beauty at $225k… it better be! I kept watching videos on YouTube of that machine to know what I’m in for. In order to get that up and running we have to verify an installation checklist and then they will send someone out to get it up and running. I may have to go to Stratasys training HQ in Minnesota as well… in the middle of winter. Woo.

I also started to play with the 3D scanner and had a cool demo set up for the open house.  I’ve used scanners before but none like this one. The Artec scanner is able to map textures onto the 3D model. We could use this scanner to scan a child’s arm to help develop a custom prosthetic for them. The possibilities are endless and who knows what someone will come to the lab with that they have use for the 3D scanner.

Tuesday the laser engraver/etcher will be installed and I will be trained on it with our lead community volunteer Forbes Gilcrest. He has a lot of experience with lasers in industry and has volunteered to help the fab lab. I will be working with him to communicate with people in the community that have interest in being a part of the fab lab, as volunteers, teachers, users or a combination of all 3. He will also sort of a be a number 2 on the equipment so I have to get up to speed and then get him up to speed.

The open house on Thursday was a huge success! I don’t think they anticipated that many people from the community coming! The building was full of the people who donated money to the college (some of their names are on the buildings/rooms) and even more of the general public! There was standing room only for the entire night! They were supposed to have guided tours but the speakers went on too long so people ended up wandering on their own. Eventually when a tour guide showed up I was like “haven’t I already been giving people tours!?” I loved how much interest there was around what we’re doing there. I can’t wait to be up and running.

Video of the donor wall unveiling.

I keep hearing people say “we’re glad they went with you, you’re the person for the job.” I hope I don’t fall flat on my face!

Goals for next week:

  1. Start to use the epilog laser
  2. Website and social media pages
  3. Learn the 3D scanning software
  4. Start to assemble the Roland vinyl machine
  5. Don’t burn down fab lab

Random fab lab pics from the week:

If you’d like to be apart of the fab lab as a member, technical expert, teacher, a general volunteer or just to stay in the loop.

Send me an email: christopher.kaminsky@muskegoncc.edu

GVSU Engineering Design Conference 2017

Each year in August my alma mater, Grand Valley State University, holds a design conference at the Kennedy Hall of Engineering. It is a time where alumni from the university, current students, family and friends of students and just the general community can come check out the student’s projects. They consist of a mix of class projects and senior projects. The senior project section of study occurs the last 2 semesters of the program. The 1st semester is really to plan out the project by meeting with experts and  the customers and prototype some simple concepts. The 2nd semester is really build and debug and hopefully get sign off. Some are luckier with the last one than others! It was not uncommon to have a senior project take an extra month or two…. or 5….. although I hope 5 is rare, it has happened to people I know!
My senior project was to design and build a thermoforming machine to make gauges for the company that go in service vehicles, RVs, boats, ATVS, and pretty much anything but cars and trucks. Our project started out being form and punch with a budget of $25k. In the last few weeks of the 1st semester we realized that both were out of the $25k budget! Our sponsor saw what we proposed and reduced our requirements to just the forming machine. This in itself was difficult come to find out because trying to form an acceptable part took us to the last day in September before our sponsor gave us sign off. Making the equipment move and form was “easy” compared to trying to diagnose why are parts were slightly always out of spec.
Enough about me! These are the projects that I had the most time to talk with the teams and learn from them. It is by no means a “top dog” list. Full list here:
1) Adient – Robotic Inspection
Team: Adam DeBoer, Jesse Hendriksma, Ethan Ruffing, Joseph Russell, Gunnar Savalox
This project featured 2 Fanuc robotic arms that are used in combination with a vision system to inspect the MIG welds on car seat-frames for weld defects, things such as burn through and missing welds. This process was previously done manually by people and it can help them with through-put.
2) Cascade Engineering – Valet Trash Cart
Team: Jacob Miller, Matthew Smeenk, Travis Stillson, Kyle VanderStelt, Benjamin VanderWall, Brian Westerhof
The Cascade team had the task of taking a company’s product/service and improving it. The company was having complaints about the previous version of the cart and in some cases even lost contracts based on that! The cart is used to transport residential trash bags from places like apartments, condos, and retirement communities in Florida. The previous cart was loud, heavy, leaked and was not very ergonomic. They also increased the carrying capacity of the cart by integrating a system similar to how you would grab plastic bags from a grocery store checkout! This team had to put themselves in the shoes of those using the old cart and “trash” the old design!
3) City of Grand Haven – Musical Fountain
Team: Brett Burton, Alexandria Graff, Luke Hubbard, Brett Johnson, Jordan Tatchin
The musical fountain in Grand Haven has always been an icon of West Michigan. this project team was tasked with developing and implementing new features for the aging fountain infrastructure. The water patterns haven’t changed much since the creation of the fountain. The current nozzles shoot water straight up at various heights with very little sweeping actions. One cool feature that I saw was the addition of a double helix sweep (you can see this in the video below).
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4) CWC (A Textron Company) – Mold Vacuum Flow Improvement
Team: Christian Bialek, Joseph Carroll, Ashley Garrett, Thaddeus Tjapkes
This project wasn’t the “flashiest” project but it stood out to me with regard to my interests. They were asked to reduce the number of scrapped parts due to inclusions of loose sand during the casting process. Walking by someone would have seen their videos and been like “oh cool, they made a vacuum.” What they did was take a complicated issue, run simulations using software called Star CCM to verify that the problems being experienced were actually what was going on. To verify the simulations they checked various locations inside the vacuum hood with flow meters and compared these numbers to what the simulations said should be the flow rate. From here they designed a streamlined hood and had MUCH better air flow!
The left shows the CFD of the old vacuum hood and the right image shows the re-designed.
5) GVSU Formula Racing Team – Formula SAE (a freakin’ race car)
Team: Abby Merritt, Gerrett Pelowski, Daniel Penninga, Andrew Stafford, Trevor Thomas, Joel Wessely
So if there was an award for luckiest students, it would go to these ones! Their project was to design and manufacture a Formula SAE race car! It had to fit within the guidelines of the SAE rules while also being a substantial improvement to the previous year’s car. The students were to use simulations to design a better frame and suspension while reducing the size of the car (lower vehicle weight). The students were able to re-use many of the previous car such as drivetrain, and engine components.
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