Monday, April 16, 2018

I'm not dead! Updates and teasers.

Radio breaking squelch Is this thing on? Oh good!
It's been a LONG time since the last update and that's my fault, apologies for the delays in posts but oh the things that have happened since the last one have been AWESOME.

New generation precision suntracker, printed variant
To start off, I have passed a year at the new job and it has been a whole freaking year of awesome times, some frustration with part of the program and then elation when finally it all worked together as intended. Developing a new high precision solar tracker from the ground up has been a massive challenge due to difficulties with getting the most critical part, the imaging Multi Object Tracking sensor that is also found in modern Wiimotes, working from just a datasheet and my admittedly terrible coding skills. Getting the driver working correctly really allowed the power and incredible value of a logic analyzer for debugging a system. On the plus side, once that was working the rest was not too much harder and I have obtained permission from PXI to open source my library once that is working so anyone can unlock the power of this wonderful sensor. Another happening here was my first field campaign with my system, destination Arizona State University to do final debugging and training of the team that will be taking it to the Amazon rain forest.

Rocket friends
Aside from that, I recently had Joe Barnard of Barnard Propulsion Systems over for rocket shenanigans! It was nice to catch up in person after two years, give him the grand tour of the workshop and CAD station, then go on to muck about with some rocketry shenanigans including static testing of the infamous Estes E motors that are so prone to CATO(but didn't this time) and building really bad rockets.

CNC suntracker(on tripod) in Arizona doing comparisons with an AERONET photometer

Later in February I took my new precision suntracker design from a 3D print and had it machined in aluminum. That in of itself was an adventure in learning how to prepare and document something for a machine shop in addition to design for manufacture and tolerances.
Deployment CNC tracker (now in the Amazon rainforest)
Tuning in the tracker in the warm Arizona sun
And then to boot, I bought a small CNC for making my own rapid prototype PCBs same day in-house for far faster turnaround and idea testing. I got spoiled on the Othermill we have in the development lab at work so I decided I'd get in on that too. In addition to milling PCBs, I can cut fins and laser etch parts with additional attachments.
3018 CNC mill for PCBs and lasering
Then a group of friends and I decided to make the informal rocketry, science and general tinkering bants chat team into a proper team and thus The Flame Trench was formed. We've got a broad range of skills on the team and there are some really cool projects around rocketry and the bleeding edge of development coming very soon.

Signal generator
More test equipment has been purchased in the form of a 60Mhz arbitrary waveform function generator from FeelTech. As I'm starting to do more with image sensors I have a need for a variable clock source and at just over a hundred dollars, this was a good starter purchase.

Shiny new hardware 
 On the topic of test equipment, the crew over at IKALOGIC sent over both their Ikascope and a SQ50 scanaquad logic analyzer for me to test out. Coming soon is a review of them versus my Rigol oscilloscope and Saleae logic analyzer. It should be interesting to see how it fares going toe to toe with the competition.

Source Image
Replication with my own build
SPIKE clone
I also finally printed out and painted the SPIKE F2M2 airframe replica and attempted to replicate the original shot that I derived the build from to moderate success. Next up is a few tweaks and some other work before shifting this into the completed projects area. Do not ask for the CAD files or STLs because I am not distributing these either.

Looking towards the back of the room

Manufacturing corner

Reorganized workbench and tinkering area
And lastly, the lab space has been refitted with several upgrades. I had a new 20A dedicated circuit run down to power the more hungry equipment like the hot air station, 3D printer and soldering irons. Another addition was three additional double T8 LED overhead lights to further brighten the space. All that extra light would have been wasted if the yawning chasms of exposed rafters in the unfinised basement ate all the reflected light, I decided to install wall and ceiling panels that are later painted white to be more reflective.

For those wondering about the status of the rocket stabilization system, I've shot a new channel trailer and there are hints about it hidden around the images in this post.