Makerspace Projects

Jeff Powell
5 min readApr 29, 2023

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Another week gone and of course the weekend is full of all the usual stuff, but you didn’t come here for that. Actually, I’m not all that sure what you’re here for, but I’ll do my best.

The first thing that I finally got accomplished is this:

“What is that?” you ask. Well…

In the lower right is our red Trotec laser cutter, and in the middle on the left is a blue Epilog laser cutter. Both of these devices use CO₂ lasers to cut and engrave materials of various kinds — paper, cardboard, wood, plastic, cloth, etc. The process results in fumes that need to be exhausted. I’ve mentioned the need to rework the ventilation before, and it’s finally done.

At the top of that photo is an old, stainless steel vent hood that was probably already in the room when it became the Makerspace. A four inch duct goes through the hood, and a fan up on the roof draws air and fumes through that duct. The two cutters were connected to that duct via a tee and about six meters of flexible vent hose. Also, a booster pump was installed inline on the output of the Trotec cutter.

But that connection was really not optimal. All that flexible hose added back pressure to the lines, and it was way too long, as well as being full of tight turns.

In the photo above you can see the booster pump mounted to the wall on the right side of the image, above the Trotec cutter. The tee is below it, just out of sight. The pump is connected with rigid material and gentle turns to the duct coming out of the vent hood. And most of the lines running from the tee to the cutters are also rigid. Short runs of flex hose are used at each end to connect the cutter to the ducting.

The end result is much better airflow out of the cutters which should keep things cooler, improve cut quality and perhaps even lengthen the life of the lenses that focus the lasers. Smoke that gets burned onto those lenses is a problem. A lens that gets damaged that way has to be replaced, and it’s not cheap.

I also finished up a project that Philip started:

Last week he removed two sinks and faucets that were just taking up space and keeping us from using that part of the old lab benches.

He cut a couple of inserts to fill the openings on our CNC machines, and attached plywood to the bottom of the opening as well, but then other things took over his life. This week I made the needed spacers and dropped the inserts into place. They’re nice and level, so what were useless sinks are now places we can put equipment.

Note the hole in the table behind the sink cutout. That’s where the faucet used to be. It’s filled with plywood in the photo, but after that it got covered with black resin. There are quite a few holes in these benches, many for Bunsen burner gas feeds. Most of them have been capped off with things that stick up, making the table space less useful. The faucet holes and two other oddities are the first test of my resin pouring skills. Sadly I failed to take photos of that process, but I will have some next week.

The other thing about reworking these benches is this:

Each bench has a trough sink down the center, as seen above. They are currently filled with outlet strips and electrical cords, and covered with plywood. But like the hole plugs, the plywood sticks up above the surface, and gets in the way of everything. In the photo above I have removed the plywood cover from the near end of the sink to take measurements. I plan to modify the covers so they sit flush with the table top, like the sink cutouts.

Here’s a closer view:

These benches and trough sinks are poured in place epoxy. They are rock hard, and positively ancient. Working with them is a real challenge. Over the summer I plan to redo all those covers and fill all of the holes. (You can see four hole plugs above.) Assuming I can pull it off, the tables will be much more useful.

When not doing stuff like that, I have been evaluating new software that we hope to use to drive the laser cutters, and trying to get various vendors to talk to us about issues we’ve encountered. There have also been a few users of the space: instructors 3D printing parts for things they need, a student with a large number of sewing projects, and so on. Even without classes in session the days are not boring.

In short, it’s a lab management job and the lab needs some TLC. Plus, by doing this stuff I buy Philip — the person actually in charge — time to work on presentations, handle research related work and meetings, and even finish up his grading. He’d really rather be doing the physical stuff — that’s why he removed the sinks — but he’s the boss, so he’s supposed to be stuck with the important work.

In non-work news, this week has seen the assembly of the latest Blueridge Bulletin, the monthly email the community association sends out. It’s in the hands of my proofreaders at the moment, and should go out either late on Sunday night or early on Monday morning.

Anne and I also went to the Langara College Fine Arts Grad Show. It was fun to get out and see a bunch of very happy students and their work. It was also nice to catch up with a few instructors as well.

And finally, I also spent some time revising the word list I used for the Oort Cloud art piece. It’s come a long way, but when plugged into a word cloud generator it didn’t do what I wanted. The word list is now so long these generators don’t actually do what I want. They trim off the words that appear less often rather than simply include those rarer words in tiny font, so the resulting image is not what I’m after.

I think the way around the problem is to manually create the word cloud myself. I know how to do that, and I have plans, but that will take more time than I currently have. So just know that the new and improved Oort Cloud is coming. Some day.

I think that is everything from the last week. I have to get going on all of my other tasks. Cheers!

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Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.