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Archive for July, 2008

Not so long ago I was playing around with Mecanno in the hope of building a pretty efficient trebuchet. Now I know from reading various books that theres quite a science to these weapons and it wasn’t until I started constructing one that I realised just how difficult these things are to build from scratch. Theres various videos on Youtube of people showing off their creations (including a couple of 10 year old kids) but for some reason I found it rather hard.

I did a bit of scouting around and found a nice piece of software which runs on both Mac and PC which basically helps you out with the maths behind the weapon and enables you to make changes and run them through a simulator. Its all very helpful stuff. The Mactreb software can be found here and although it appears to be a basic site, it is actually quite informative.

Definitions
I haven’t attempted to build a new improved version just yet, I’ll save that for a rainy day.

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Click here to see rare footage of some early Guild of Legendary Engineer action.

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Optimik

About 6 months ago members of the Guild were asked to help a company minimise the amount of wastage when cutting out components. We set about looking at various packages that claim to to the job but the best solution we managed to come up with was a free cutting optimisation package going by the name of Optimik. This package, although free is far from limiting as it offers a wide range of nice, useful features including the utilisation of offcuts from previous orders.

The aim of the OPTIMIK is to shorten the time needed for designing of the cut-off blueprints by maximum, in comparison with the “handmade” designs while keeping concurrent increase in productivity. By the production of these blueprints the program arranges the rectangle plates into the minimum number of plates of material. It shows you the amount of the left-overs in form of utilizable cut-offs and therefore it saves your time and money.

I did however find it difficult to get to grips with at first as the help documentation is rather lacking but a couple of hours playing around soon sorts you out. I would definitely bare this one in mind when you next embark on a project which involves you cutting many components from a single sheet.

You can download it here.

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Workshoppery

A pan around my workshop:

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No Furbies were harmed in the making of this post as a cheap imitation Furby was used instead. Circuit bending is basically taking something electrical that makes sound and rewire it to allow you to warp the sound coming out. It is something that anyone can do but the more you practice the better and cleverer your creations will get. I am just a beginner and have been wanting to give this a bash for a while now. This frightening Furby wannabe was just crying out to be dismantled so what better way to start the learning process.

The first thing I did was to strip the little chap of all his fur. I love the fact that he has a real “one is not amused” look about him when hes just in his birthday suit.

Then once you have drilled down to the circuitry, take a piece of wire and start connecting random points on the board until you get some reaction from the Furby. It took me about 10 minutes to pick out the points I needed to concentrate on and by the end of it had managed to work out the two points that when connected with my piece of wire sped all his movements up and distorted his speech in a comical manner.

One would then solder in a switch to allow you to turn this functionality on and off when you’ve re-assembled the Furby but I nearly cooked the circuits causing some components to smoke so I left it.

Instead though, I disconnected his speaker and installed a couple of my own. One at the front and one hooked up to his small microphone which helps the Furby respond to human voice.

Next I connected up the speakers to a headphone jack and put him back together. Now he no longer moans in the annoying way that hes hungry all the time, instead you just hook him up to your mp3 player and he now responds to what ever music is playing.

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I often peruse the shelves of the local second hand should for old applications or games that people no longer want and so donate them. Sure the majority are out of date or are rather rubbish but once in a while I stumble on a real find.

I have recently moved house and on packing up my belongings discovered an old game I bought from a charity shop last year for a pound titled Lego Loco. Although its knocking on a bit, its still really playable and fun to nip into every now and again. It allows you to build a Lego world based round a rail network on your desktop and bring it to life. You can even interact with your town’s residents and commuters and even pop into the post office to make your own Lego Postcard before putting it into the mailbag and wait for your train to scoot on by to pick it up.

Hill Valley 1885

But whats really nice about this game is that you can hook up to the internet and build a tunnel to the outside world. You can then write your post card, get the train to collect it on its round and send it out into the great unknown. It will then arrive in a random world on someone elses desktop and delivery it to their post office. Likewise, opening a tunnel to the net allows other locos to pay you a mail visit too.

Admittedly its only fun for a while as its really aimed at kids initially but for the engineers who are young at heart, its a welcome 30 minute distraction.

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As the Guild is spread of many miles, we need to be able to keep in touch. As our pneumatic messaging system is still at the planning stage, thoughts turn to a more modern form of communication.

Everyone pretty much owns a mobile phone and everyone pretty much has old mobile phones lying around the house. I for one am one of these people, and being a great believer in recycling decided to breath new life into one of my phones by giving it a lick of paint. I used acrylic to paint whole design but then finished it off with a coat of clear varnish to help protect it and give it a rather old weather feel to it in the process. Its being used by fellow Guild members but is suffering a little from wear.

Engineer\'s Phone

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