Archive for the 'Tools' Category

1000 mW Laser Engraver

A while back I bought an Neje DK-8-KZ 1W laser engraver. It was on sale, and I was curious about it. At only 1W (1000 mW) I knew I wasn’t going to be cutting anything except paper with it, but I was looking for another way to create engraved labeling on plastic enclosures. Well, it can do that, with some limitations, and it works pretty well on wood, but my biggest aggravation has been just getting it to actually put the engraving where I want it to go, and also deal with the automatic scaling it employs.

Continue reading ‘1000 mW Laser Engraver’

Chinese CNC Tools

Maybe I’m spoiled, or just out of sync with things, but when I worked with professional CNC equipment (I worked on the control systems and servo amplifiers for big things like vertical mills, jig bores and huge lathes) the software was usually custom made for a particular machine type. If not, then it was some type of high-reliability real-time operating system or maybe a real-time OS for a minicomputer, like a PDP-11 or the IBM Series I machines.

But at the price some of the Chinese CNC tools are going for these days it would be nuts to expect them to come with custom control software. Instead, a lot of them come with Windows-based software, and some of that is of dubious heritage. As someone who likes to open the hood on things the poke around inside, Windows is a problem for me. I prefer to use Linux instead, but when the shiny new CNC tool that just arrived only comes with Windows software, then it’s time to start looking for alternative software. Continue reading ‘Chinese CNC Tools’

Cool new tool

In my book “Practical Electronics: Components and Techniques” I describe how to use a standard bench vise or an X-Y cross-slide vise and a rotary tool (aka Dremel tool) to make precise cuts in various types of materials. Well, I know I’m not the first person to come up with something like this, but I recently came across a tool from China that does the same job as a vise, and does it a bit more elegantly for certain applications. This is it, mounted on the side of a small metal desk in my shop:


The clamp head swivels using a ball joint, and it can be removed and stored when you don’t need it. I can imagine that it would be useful for a number of applications besides electronics. Jewellery makers and other crafty people might find it handy. If you are working with a tubular work piece like brass or a PVC pipe you could mount the work in the clamp to keep it steady.

It’s not a cure-all, as it does have a problem squeezing some rotary tools into the clamp ring. It comes with nylon inserts that will help hold the tool and compensate for the tool size, and the clamp bolt could be longer. I can’t fit one of my rotary tools into this clamp, but as you can see it does just fine with a smaller tool. The pictures on the Amazon page show another example.

You can find the tool at Amazon. It sells for about $23.

New book, Practical Electronics: Components and Techniques

My most recent book, Practical Electronics: Components and Techniques, is now in print and available. It was a lot of work, but it was fun to write, and I like the way it turned out. It is formatted in a double-column layout, which was something relatively new for O’Reilly, and there were some kinks to work out between finishing the writing and illustrations, and getting it ready to go to press. But it made it. Not only that, it has already gone into its second printing.

You can check it out on O’Reilly’s web site, or any major on-line book seller. I keep a list of my books and other publications here on this blog.

I’m now working on my next book, which is a technical reference for Arduino boards, shields, and sensors. Hopefully it will be done and available around the end of this summer.