101hero: Hello

The 101hero is a pylon 3D printer that had a campaign on both IndieGoGo and Kickstarter with early bird prices of US$ 49 and retail price of US$ 99 on 101hero.com.

First of all, the 101hero team’s goal was to create “The World’s Most Affordable 3D Printer” as they said and not the the printer you should start your 3D printing adventures with and this can be seen in a few places. Nevertheless, the printer is functional and the prints can turn out surprisingly nice if one is willing to spend enough time and don’t mind the hassle but if you’re new to 3D printing and you want a printer that works out-of-the-box, this one is not the best choice.

I backed the IndieGoGo run and have received the printer in January, 2017. I am new to 3D printing this is the first one I bought and the first one I ever printed with, In these posts I will share my experiences, tips I find useful and caveats.
The printer comes in two versions: the CV (Consumer Version) and DV (Developer Version). The only difference is that the DV has a USB port and can be connected to a computer while the CV can only print from SD card (which is not part of the package).


Assembling the 101hero is pretty straightforward but before getting started check all the components that should be in the box:

  • 3 pylon assembly – they are identical except for the length of the wires and labels, there should be an end-stop microswitch (to detect that the carriage reached the top of the pylon), two slide rods, a belt, a carriage (fixed to the belt, sliding on the two slide rods, fixed to effector rods) and a motor
  • 1 controller box
  • 1 SD card slot
  • 2 plates – one for the base and one for the top
  • 1 extruder assembly with effector – the “head”
  • 1 bunch of filament – the printer comes with black or white, I bought the green separately
  • 1 roll of painter’s tape – to help adhesion of the first layer printed
  • 1 glass plate
  • 3 paper clips – to fix the glass plate to the base
  • 6 pcs M3x10 machine screws (PH1 head) – for the carriage-straw/strand and straw/strand-extruder assembly
  • 18 pcs M4x12 self-tapping screws (PH1 head) – for pylon-base and pylon-top
  • 2 pcs M3x12 self-tapping screws (PH1 head) – for door fixing on extruder assembly (identical to the ones used for end-stops in early editions)

In early editions the end-stops are hitting against M3x12 self-tapping screws with PH1 heads, I have read that later they switched to Hex Socket (aka Allen) types.

Before assembling the printer I would like to tell you some basics and recommend to do further checks.

When the printer is powered it looks for a file called “101hero” on the SD card and starts to execute it (i.e. printing, moving, etc.). The file is a G-code file and has no extension, it is just “101hero” (when saving the file using Notepad on Windows to prevent it appending “.txt” change the “File type” drop-down to “All files (*.*)” or put the file name between quotes).

The button on the controller box simply resets the printer that causes it to re-initialize and looking for the file and execute it.

The pylons are identical except for the cable lengths and the labels that are on them, that is you can have them swapped and even replaced from a different package, they will work. One important note however – the end-stops are used to detect when the carriages reach the top of the pylon so the motor-end-stop pairs need to be kept consistent, if they are not then the controller will keep moving the carriage until you turn the power off.

A big warning: the power is not only sourced from the power connector but from USB as well – that is as long as your printer is connected over USB it will power the board – regardless of the power switch! Yeah, if you slide the switch to OFF the board will still be powered, although the printer will not operate properly due to the low current but you can damage the printer if you short something.

One more big warning: the controller has no flyback diodes to protect itself from inductive spikes. Simply put: only move the carriage slowly by hand because the motor generates current that will be fed back to the controller. If the current is too high (due to moving fast) it might damage your controller. Although I have not tested it yet, it might also be fed back over USB damaging your computer as well.

The printer has basically no customer support. As of March, 2017 the 101hero team is still busy shipping packages and really unresponsive to support questions, however there is a really active group on Facebook, the 101 Hero (Unofficial) and a forum at 101user.com.

Now it is time to start connecting things, meet me in part two.

Fun with Planets and a DSLR camera

I have a cheap fully manual Dörr Danubia f8/500mm lens that I bought back in 2012 for shooting the Venus transit. Since then I used it to take some Moon pictures also and when I am doing so I tend to use stars to find the correct focus – the smaller the star appears the better the focus.

In June I was out for shooting again. I mounted the lens, found some bright spot but despite all attempts I could not focus it into one point. I was wondering about what could I possibly do wrong until… no, that couldn’t be, could it? Could that spot not be a star at all?

A few pictures and corrections later I was astonished by the fact that I could capture a planet (other than our own, of course) with my DSLR and a cheap lens. Of course, the image quality was bad but, that spot was Saturn.

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These pictures were taken directly from the camera, they are only cropped and stitched into one file. A few days later I spotted Saturn again:

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And then I checked out Venus…

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… and then Jupiter.

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And I will not tell you what this is in the last picture:

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Actually it is not just the Sun but Venus as well from the Venus transit on 6th June 2012.

All images above were just cropped but not scaled, therefore the size of the bodies can be compared to each other.

And since then I have a new hobby… :)

 

Pillow fight day 2015, Budapest

On 4th April, 2015 the 7th International Pillow Fight Day was held all around the world. In Hungary the Budapest UP! has organized the event to the Heroes’ Square which was a huge success in my opinion.

I have visited earlier Pillow Fight Days and have shot a few photos there, but now I thought creating a video would be more fun.

When I am making a photo or video I like to in the middle of the crowd. Given this, my 8 mm fish-eye lens and a try at recording the videos at 50fps, this is the result:

When watching it in full-screen with the default HTML5 player the “720p50” option should come up. If that’s not the case try this link or try to download the original video and watch it with your dekstop/mobile player.

This was the first time I used Kdenlive for video editing and I immediately loved its straightforward interface and workflow, also its ease at rendering to file – it is a really powerful yet simple editor, I can only recommend it.

Personally I like the outcome and I think I will experiment further.

 

Creating a mobile Wi-Fi network

As a part of a somewhat larger project I have been thinking about creating a mobile Wi-Fi network that can be carried around (and later can be extended to a network of multiple routers).

As I already have a PowerBank (basically a rechargeable battery with USB ports to charge a phone on the go) it looked like the ideal solution to use this as a power source. But then after a few searches of USB powered or at least 5 volts powered Wi-Fi access-points that meet my requirements to create a secured WDS (more on this in a later post) seemed to be too high. I found a few of them but they either were ridiculously priced or were given bad reviews.

At this time I realized that I had a good old Linksys WRT54GL router laying around. As this is a fairly common model with a quite favorable hackability factor, I did a quick research and found that this might be the best device for me.

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The OpenWRT can be installed on this router and from software point of view it has all the features I want: WPA2 support, WDS (Wireless Distribution System – mesh, roughly), admin interface over HTTPS and is running Linux. Well, this last part was not strictly on the requirement list but hey, a device running Linux is always good to see (and opens up a lot of new opportunities).

On the hardware part I found out that the power adapter says it is supplying 12 volts and 0.5 amperes to the router. I found a few places where they told that just after the power jack there is a power regulator (a switching mode buck converter) that converts the voltage down to 3.3 volts. After taking apart I saw that this is indeed in place. Good thing about these buck converters that the input voltage range is usually wide, I found that it is about 3.7-16 volts, so it is more than suitable for my battery powered operation where the voltage drops over time when connected directly to the battery.

After finding out this wide range of input voltage I reconsidered my battery selection. Instead of using the PowerBank I decided to use a more universal solution – AA batteries. These can be found virtually anywhere and can be used for a lot more purposes when they are not used in this project. Also, hooking up 4 of them gives me 6 volts, but if I need more power then 8 of them is fine as well (giving 12 volts).

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Here I used 2700 mAh batteries, 4 of them gives about 13 Wh (watt-hour) power (1.2 volts x 2.700 ampere-hour x 4), 8 of them gives about 26 Wh. If the router is consuming the maximum the original power adapter can provide (6 watts) then I can use the router for 2 hours straight from 4 batteries. But I really doubt that even a peak consumption ever reaches 6 watts.

Unfortunately it seems that the barrel plug power connector is not too stable (or maybe just the one I bought was of poor quality), when moving the router around a little a momentary loss of power (and therefore a reboot) was fairly common. So… as the router was already taken apart, I have soldered a pair of wires to the main board for the power and found a hole on the bottom of the case where I could bring the cable out without having to drill it.

It turned out to be working perfectly in the end.

In my next post I will write about making another WRT54GL mobile and setting up a WDS (Wireless Distribution System) to extend the range of the mobile Wi-Fi network.

VoCore: A coin-sized Linux computer with Wi-Fi for USD 20

In early July I’ve found an Indiegogo project of a miniature Linux powered computer called VoCore.

It is a RaLink RT5350 (360 MHz MIPS24KEc) based board with 8 MB SPI Flash (although Vonger, the creator of the project upgraded to a 16 MB Flash for the Indiegogo batch just because he’s a nice guy) with two 10/100 Mbps Ethernet interfaces, one USB 2.0 interface, a bunch of serial interfaces (UART, I2C, I2S, PCM, JTAG) and over 20 GPIOs. All these broken out to standard 1.27 mm connectors while keeping the size at 25×25 mm!

There is a dock to provide some connectors: an Ethernet, a USB, a micro USB (for the power) and a micro SD card slot – this measues 25×25 mm as well, of course.

VoCore is running the OpenWRT firmware. It acts as an access point by default, running a network called “VoCore” (this is unfortunately an open network (i.e. no encryption set up) so changing security settings as soon as possible is recommended).

Vonger, the creator of the project is running a blog at vonger.cn, he was constantly updating it with the latest status of the VoCore development and production, both bad and good news. Thanks to this it seemed that we were witnessing all the little details, it felt like we (the backers) were parts of the whole process :)

The VoCore can be ordered from vocore.io/store. If you would like to have the VoCore main board only (with all the I/O breakouts but no connectors at all) it is USD 20, but if you’d like to have the Dock as well, plus a USB to TTL converter (note: this is missing from my pictures below!) to re-flash the firmware it is just USD 45.

I believe that the VoCore has a lot of potential thanks to its small size (25×25 mm) its low power consumption (0.6-1.2 Watts) its flexibility (20+ GPIOs and the whole bunch of connector break outs) and low cost.

I think this is a must have board for any geeks out there who have thought about hacking some hardware once in a while.

Oh, and one more thing: VoCore is open source, both software and hardware. All the schematics, circuits, firmware, 3D model for the shell/case, everything is available to download from the VoCore’s site.