Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December Cleaning

Just a few random pictures and links from December so far. We’ve been absolutely hammered with orders in our Etsy shop (which is wonderful!) so I haven’t had any time for projects or much of anything else.
I did finally start playing around the with Attiny 45 and 85 chips, programming with an Arduino. More on this after the new year.
I had to diagnose a malfunctioning cassette player for Max’s teacher.
4 screws to remove the back.
A couple more to remove the circuit board and the culprit was found, a broken drive belt. I found a “close enough” replacement in my pile of miscellaneous drive belts and the player works.
Henry turned 9 on the 30th of November. We had a big party at the Wacky Bounce.
Some links:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Machinery’s Handbook 27 PDF CD Problems

So I tried to fire up my Machinery’s Handbook 27 PDF the other day and it kept giving me an error whenever I tried to view the encrypted/protected content. I assume it had something to do with the current upgrade of Adobe Reader X.

You must re-install permission to open this document.:

This was a new problem. I clicked “OK” and got this:
The buttons sent me to the Industrial Press website. So I did some googling and tried installing the latest FOPEN plugin from the Industrial Press resource webpage (you can’t use the FOPEN plugin from FileOpen, something I learned the last time I had problems with the Handbook). All the suggestions on the Industrial Press troubleshooting page concerned much earlier versions of Adobe Reader.
So I fired off an email to Industrial Press from their contact page form. I got no answer back. Then I dug through my last email I sent about issues with Adobe Reader 8 (in 2008) and tried “” which worked as I received a reply almost immediately:
Unfortunately, some changes in Adobe Reader X and Acrobat X are incompatable with Machinery's Handbook 27. That is the reason you are getting the message "FILEOPEN LOCK FAILURE(1)". You are likely to get this even if you have your Handbook authorized. The symptoms are most severe in Reader X. Problems in Acrobat X may not be as severe, although there will probably be some.

It is possible to get your 27th edition Handbook working in Reader X, however, it is likely that you will not be able to print, and you may have other issues as well such as occasional or frequent crashes of Reader X.

To get the Handbook to open in Reader X, open Reader, go to
Edit->Preferences and select the General category. At the bottom right of the Preferences dialog box, look for the Application Startup area and find the checkbox for "Enable Protected Mode at Startup" and uncheck it, then close Preferences and close Reader. Reopen Reader and try to open the Handbook. It should open this time. You also need to make sure that you have the plugin from the link below installed:

So I opened up Adobe Reader X and unchecked the “Enable Protected Mode at startup” box.

Notice the warning. Adobe has gone to great lengths to make Reader somewhat safer, the Protected mode is the latest attempt. So I guess I’m no longer as safe as I could be. Probably the best thing is to disable it only when reading Machinery’s Handbook.

MHCD2705 Yup, “Print” is greyed out. This is a pain as I often print out tables from the handbook for use when doing 3D modeling or making something in the shop. So I’ll have to take a screen capture or copy and paste in order to then print a part of the Handbook out for offline use.
I emailed Industrial Press back, asking a few questions:

Does the 28th edition work without these problems in Reader X?

What's the long term plan for handling the fact that Adobe Reader will be
updating over time? It seems that as Adobe updates Reader this problem could
occur with future versions of the CD rom and really reduce the life of the
product (compared to the print version which obviously has no such

And again received a quick reply:
The 28th Edition, and the upcoming 29th Edition do work with Adobe X. Unfortunately, we can't help when an update from Adobe causes these problems, but we'll always do our best to try to fix them. These problems also generally come to pass in aging versions of the Machinery's Handbook. At this point, we're about 8 years past the release of the 27th Edition, so unfortunately, that software is beginning to show its age.

So that’s the ultimate problem. Industrial Press considers the CD version of Machinery’s Handbook to be software, not a book. Books last almost forever, when physically taken care of. Software does not. I applaud their desire to continue to support the 27th edition as best they can. But I can’t help but feel that issues like this are a large part of why people pirate e-books. I should mention that I did receive this CD for free a while back from Industrial Press as way of thanks for using a blurb of mine. So I can’t really complain. Hopefully this will help someone else having this problem, at least.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Autodesk 123D Catch - Mini Review.

Autodesk released the Beta of their 123D Catch 3D scanning software. I figured I’d take it for a spin. It’s supposed to leverage the “power and speed of cloud computing” by taking a number of pictures shot around an object, uploading (to the cloud!) and processing into a 3D mesh.
I do want to say that this is profoundly cool software and any quibbles (of which there are a few) I have are dwarfed by the fact that it’s a free way to generate a 3D mesh using only a digital camera. That’s amazing and Autodesk should be proud. However…
My first complaint is that the only manual consists of four short youtube videos. This is all too common so it’s not only Autodesk’s fault. But seriously, you can’t get a couple of paragraphs and screen captures together? Of course I couldn’t be bothered doing the same, so you just get some random pictures as I go along. Their help forum is empty right now but I figure it will get going as people try the software.

This is the first test subject, a dusty ceramic chicken. The video was clear that a flash is not supposed to be used. This picture is actually brighter than the original as I deleted the darker original during a tantrum earlier…
A series of pictures, 30MB total, were uploaded.
After 15 minutes I was greeted with this notice.


I checked the pictures and they seemed much darker than what I had uploaded. So I bumped up the brightness and uploaded them again (15 more minutes). I think it would be good if the software had a preliminary check of the pictures to determine if they are below a threshold for brightness before uploading… I have 6Mbs DSL but my upload speed is only about .4Mbps. This is the #1 problem with cloud computing, at least on the consumer level, slow upload times.


Success! As you can see not only was the chicken captured, but parts of my desk…


But I wasn’t done. I had to select the chicken and upload it again to generate a “medium” mesh, but that only took 5 minutes.

Thankfully the software allows export in .DWG and .OBJ formats. They could have gone with something that required an Autodesk product but they didn’t. I chose .OBJ and opened the file in Rhino.

It’s a mesh!

Trimming the mesh shows a pretty low resolution scan. Notice the magenta edges – I used Rhino to show the “naked” edges. The mesh is pretty good and would require little work to make “watertight”.

Not content with the detail I made a new mesh, selecting the maximum resolution. This only took about 6 minutes to process. It certainly does look more like a chicken. I should note that the texture came through in Rhino as well.

The only problem is that it hides the low level of detail, or rather makes it seem more detailed than it is.

So I decided to try scanning a pistol grip. I had previously painted it flat white for an attempt at laser scanning. This is the level of brightness that I uploaded. I took the picture outside (It’s overcast) and I figured it would work…

After 30 minutes I was notified it had failed… Arghh..

Again the pictures seem much darker in the software.

So I bumped up the brightness and contrast in I also reduced the picture size so that upload would take less time.

Success after only 15 minutes…

Not a bad mesh.

The nice thing about having the texture is that it will make it easier to trim the mesh away. See what I mean about the texture making the mesh seem more detailed than it actually is? The checkering of the grip just didn’t come through in the mesh at all but seems to exist with the texture overlaid.

I’m sure as I play with the software I’ll learn (although I’d love to have some help from Autodesk in the form of more detailed instructions…) what it needs in the way of picture quality and brightness as well as how to capture the maximum detail. Whether it’s enough for high resolution scans of small objects remains to be seen.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Making A Third Hand Jig

This is a great lesson in why it is often easier and cheaper to buy something than make it. You can get a 3rd Hand Jig for under $7.00 which functions reasonably well and even has a magnifying glass. But as with many things that is too easy a route to take.

Some 3/8” steel chucked in the lathe.

Groove cut.

A Shaplane radius tool is used to turn a ball end. Setup takes a while but once done it’s easy to get relatively uniform results.

The finish is pretty good.

One down…

I needed 6 but I cut seven, just in case. Notice there’s a bit of variation in the turned down shanks. As you can see by the precision CAD drawing I’m not that worried about tolerances. The goal was to make a functional third hand tool as rapidly as possible.

Dressing the stem a bit.

Drilling a hold for a push fit on the shank of an alligator clip.

The alligator clip ends are a bit springy so they will stay put in the hole. Later I may make a better tweezer to replace them.

Setting up the vise so a hole is drilled on center. The ruler trick works well.


Three pieces with 1/4” holes.

Drilling for a #8 tapped hole.

Three pieces done.

Drilled and reamed a 5/8” piece of steel rod for the shank of one of the ball pieces.

Drilled for a #8 screw.

Another part done.

Drilling three pairs of steel plates. Two holes for the balls and one for the #8 screw (one piece clearance, the other tapped.)


Almost done, sort of.

Matched pairs screwed together.

Ends radiused for clearance and aesthetics.

Drilling some brass rod for a press fit on the heads of the #8 SHCS.



Knurled heads pressed on the screws. Note that I sanded and polished the parts.

All together. It mounts in one of my Panavise bases. Once tension was set on the screws it holds well in position and adjusts relatively easily. Whole thing took about 4 hours not including the time spent cleaning up the shop afterwards…