Beta Kits Shipping, PCB issues, and a Corn Hole Board: The Mar 15th Update

Happy Wednesday everyone!

As always it’s been another massive week for us. Doing these weekly updates really brings home for me how much happens every single week.

We tried a new update format last week and the feedback ranged from “ambivalent” to “strongly opposed” so we’re going back to the single update for everyone this week. :-) Before we go back to one update we want to remind you that Maslow is designed to be a machine for everyone. No special tools or technical skills needed. Learning to operate a CNC takes some time, but it shouldn’t be hard. If you are confused or think some part of building or using Maslow is too hard, let us know. Your feedback about what is confusing, difficult or unclear is critical to making the machine better and making it easier for everyone.

It’s Hannah’s week for the update, but Bar is writing this one because Hannah is in charge of shipping.

Beta Kits On The Way To You!

This week feels especially huge because in addition to all of the normal events of the week, the assembled Arduino Shields arrived and beta kits are shipping. As of the drafting of this update, all of the international beta tester kits have been sent out, and the rest are following as quickly as we can tape up the boxes and print the shipping labels. We chose to start with our international backers because we figured the little head start could help make up for your longer shipping times (at least a little bit).

We are still waiting on a few sizes of shaft coupler and the motor wires for the z-axis so they are going to ship a few days after the kits. As we promised, shipping is free on all the z-axis that can’t ship with a kit.

The Arduino Shields, which were the last part we were waiting for, arrived yesterday morning with a missing diode on each board in addition to the missing connection issue we described in our Feb 8th update. We’re not sure why the diode was missing, but we will talk to the factory and find out. We rushed them pretty hard to get us the boards, so likely the issue is the result of haste. Fortunately, we had enough spare diodes on hand to replace the missing one by hand. We also added a small wire to each to bridge the missing connection. We stayed late into the night to get them all prepped and ready to send out first thing this morning. As a reminder, all of our beta testers will receive the updated Arduino shield when we ship kits to everyone in addition to any other parts we change .

Arduino Shields missing one diode

Arduino Shields missing one diode

Arduino Shield with missing doide replaced and connecting wire

Arduino Shield with missing doide replaced and connecting wire

How To Put Maslow Together:

When you get your kit, you are going to need instructions for how to put it together. We’re missing a lot of important documentation and instructions right now, so bear with us while we create it as quickly as possible. You can find the assembly guide here: http://www.maslowcnc.com/assemblyguide . We’re hoping to have it finished by the time the kit arrives on your doorstep.

We've gotten a couple questions about how to build the frame of the machine this week so we wanted to clear up how it works. One of the main goals of the Maslow project is to make a CNC router which is affordable, simple to use, and which can be built by anyone who is interested in building things. To keep the cost of shipping down, Maslow has to ship in a small box and get bigger when it arrives. To keep it accessible we couldn’t count on the person assembling the machine to have special skills or access to special tools. The solution is that Maslow relies on the one tool we know you have which is Maslow itself. Maslow has to build itself. 3D printers have been self replicating for years, we took it one step further and made Maslow build itself from scratch (with some help from you).

It’s actually pretty simple (and you know how we love simple). You attach the motors to the corners of a sheet of plywood. Attach the chains to the handles of your router and you have a primitive version of Maslow, capable of cutting the parts needed to build the rest of the machine. Step by step instructions to follow in the next few days.

How Maslow Builds Itself

How Maslow Builds Itself

Project Of The Week:

This week we had a few days of sunshine and Hannah took that as inspiration to build a set of corn hole boards shaped like Oregon (the state we live in). Corn hole is a game which involves trying to toss bean bag through a hole in a board. It is typically played outside in the sun while drinking beer. There is a long tradition of making clever customized corn hole boards. Hannah took her inspiration from a very common bumper sticker here which shows the outline of the state of Oregon with a heart.

The bumper sticker inspiration

The bumper sticker inspiration

The project was a challenge because it was the largest single piece we have cut yet. The coat rack was much taller, but these boards were both tall and wide using almost a full sheet of plywood for two. Other than the notable issue described below in the “What Went Wrong” section they cut well.

Corn hole board cutting smoothly after fix described in "What Went Wrong" section

Corn hole board cutting smoothly after fix described in "What Went Wrong" section

Hannah hasn't had a chance finish the boards yet in the rush to get the kits shipped, but we can’t wait for summer so we can play!

Cut out but not yet painted corn hole boards

Cut out but not yet painted corn hole boards

What Went Wrong This Week:

This week we encountered a really interesting bug while cutting the corn hole boards. It took the better part of a day to figure out what was happening because it was so strange and seemed impossible. When cutting the first board, we noticed that with each pass, the router seemed to lose track of it’s position and jump by about ¼ inch as if the chain slipped forward one link. I initially wrote off the idea of the chain slipping because that’s not how chain works and investigated a software problem. Eventually when I couldn't find anything in the software I watched each part of the machine very carefully until I saw what was happening was that in fact the chain WAS slipping.

The multiple paths taken by the router are visible on the left cutout. This was mostly done while trying to track down the issue.

The multiple paths taken by the router are visible on the left cutout. This was mostly done while trying to track down the issue.

A part of the Oregon coast called Coos bay had just the right shape to cause the chain to rock back and forth in just the right way for it to move forward one link. You can see the chain slipping in action in the video below.

Adding a second set of chain rollers seems to solve the problem, but we will keep an eye on it.

Testing adding a second roller to improve chain feeding

Testing adding a second roller to improve chain feeding

Have a great week everyone!

-Bar and Hannah