Walnut Box

This box was made by podcast episode guest Ben Brandt.

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Dream In 3D – Think In 2D

3D CAD modeling has come so far in such a short time. I remember when got my first taste of 3D modeling back in 1998. It was pretty clunky back then and took a lot of time, but it was so cool it was worth all the effort!  In 2000-2002 the usability became a bit better. Fast forward to 2007 and there was a turning point of usability. Not that long ago you had an Engineer do all the design and thinking. The Drafter did all the 3D modeling and created the detailed drawings. The modern Engineer now has be an expert in both domains. We now have these great tools to liberate all of these designs from our overactive imaginations instantly. However, like all technology it usually progresses so fast it makes us forget where things came from and how we used to do things. Let’s slow it down for a minute and talk about how mechanical designs are communicated.
Like it or not we are two dimensional creatures with an amazing three dimensional imagination. If you step back and ignore all of the hype about 3d PDF’s, Multi Axis Machining, compound curve generators, etc., we still only have two hands, two eyes and a flat piece of paper, or a two dimensional computer monitor to work with. It is just much easier for us to sketch our detailed ideas in two dimensions. The skill comes in rotating that mental 3D model in your head and describing the geometric requirements that make your idea work. The goal is to do this so someone else can easily understand it. You can have all the ideas in the world, but if you can’t articulate them in detail you won’t get very far.

Talk to your Shop! (Words of wisdom for the Engineer)

As an Engineer, I am fortunate enough to have exposure to machine tools on a near-constant basis, as well as manufacturing processes and inspection procedures. You can learn a lot from books and reference materials, but there is no replacement for hands-on experience and trying something for yourself. It’s the difference between knowledge and experience. A good engineer must have a solid understanding of specs, standards, measuring, and the overall manufacturing process, but it is not enough to know each individually — they are all intertwined. To make the jump from knowledge to understanding, engineers need to “talk to the shop.” I remember being a young engineering student with my head stuffed full of basic machining knowledge. At the time, I thought it would be easy to design precision parts on paper. I quickly realized that I couldn’t just make things up as I went along — I had to actually assign tolerances to these parts! Someone else was supposed to actually make the parts.

 FIRST Robotics Mentors

So I originally started wring this email in to one of the podcastformakers.com because I was really impressed with the content and message they were creating. At the end I thought this would be a good time to remind everyone why we are FIRST robotics mentors. I did my best to summarize my FIRST robotics experiences in the email below. I could go on for days with stories but you’ll just have to hear those in person. Feel free to share this email with anyone involved with FIRST.  

I Really Want to Become a Full-time Maker

I have a strong family background in mechanical engineering/manufacturing (father, brother, grandfather, cousin, uncle…), and grew up making models and small electronics projects. I did OK academically in high school, but my favourite subject was what at the time they called ‘design and technology’ (a very basic introduction to making things with wood, plastics and electronics). At sixteen I took a two year vocational electronics course, which I enjoyed and did pretty well in. I also did night classes in things like industrial automation with PLCs, AutoCAD, and got my amateur radio license. I had a summer job repairing circuit boards at a world-famous maker of professional mixing desks. At this point I probably could have dropped straight into an electronics design job (if I could have persuaded anyone to hire me without a degree), figured out what I didn’t know as I went along, and been reasonably successful at it.

A Maker Is…

A friend of mine that became aware of the Podcast recently asked what I think a “maker” is. I took a moment and gave it not much thought. My gut reaction to the question was: A maker is someone who works with their hands. But maybe that sparse definition isn’t enough. Ingenuity has to be included in the definition. When I was growing up, my dad worked as an automotive mechanic. He had always been involved in car repair and car racing since he was growing up.