Rediscovering 3d CAD because of 3D Printers


This past week (maybe 2) I’ve been utterly obsessed with 3D printer stuff. It has gotten me excited about 3D drafting and CAD all over again. Simply because you can create a 3 dimensional object on a computer in a matter of minutes or hours and render it to look completely realistic, but now because of 3d printers you can actually make those objects (if you so wished)! Awesome!

Yesterday and Today I’ve been playing around with Solidworks again. My ancient 2007 version of solidworks. lol. But it works non-the-less. Although i’d love to try out Autodesk 123d Design (which is free). But, why oh why are there still no good CAD programs that run nativity on Linux. Especially if you have a Mac version. If it runs on Mac it can easily be ported to Linux. Why do you think the Arduinos and the rep-raps, and open-source, and so many other great things have taken over the world by storm? Yes it’s because they are great products, but also because they are cross-platform! Okay, End-Of-Rant.


But Seriously, i actually really like designing something in CAD if it’s something i’m excited about. Today i ventured into the realm of something relatively simple, test tube racks. But sadly there are not currently very good designs for test tube racks available. Which actually surprised me. The three best places I look for pre-made CAD files are at 3dContentCentral, which is the oldest site of this kind that i ever encountered. It is mostly for people who use solidworks, but the great thing about the site is that it has a tool that can convert to and from many different CAD formats, including solidworks formats, IGES, STEP, STL, etc. The second is GrabCad. GrabCad is a new community also aimed at engineers sharing CAD models freely. It dosen’t have the nice file converter that 3dContentCentral has, but it has a vibrant community that provides feedback, help, and will check out your designs. Someone on GrabCad actually helped render the nice  looking wood rendering of my 1950s style test tube rack. How nice! Thank You! And the third is the famous MakerBot Thingiverse. Thingiverse is less focused on CAD formats and instead is focused on creative designs optimized for 3D printing. At minimum an STL file will be available for anyone to download and print on any 3d printer they have access to. I currently dont own my own 3d printer, but am currently using the Lulzbot mini that currently resides at my local library. How’s that for public access?!!


So these are the three test tube racks i modeled today in Solidworks. Not super amazing i suppose, but i’m proud of them. My favorite is the nice wooden 1950s style test tube rack. I partly chose to start with that one because i have one that looks just like that looks like it was made by a monkey in china. It seriously is not as nice as my virtual one and not anywhere near as fancy looking either. But also because it is the standard test tube rack featured in the banned 1960s DIY chemistry book: The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments. It was just begging to be brought into the modern world.

I then ventured into modeling a simple test tube rack because there were none available that i liked. I may make a smaller version of this one for 3d printers that have small print beds. Perhaps one with only 4 test tubes.

The last one i modeled after a nice round plastic test tube rack I’ve seen on the internet. I don’t have one, but I’ve been meaning to buy one. But i wanted to model one in Solidworks and create one that fit on a Lulzbot mini 6″ X 6″ print area that other people could print out too. So i made one of appropriate size and then made it able to split in two to be printed easily. I really like how the design came out. I hope to be able to test it out by printing my own sometime.

1950s Style Test Tube Rack:


Economy Style Test Tube Rack:


Round Mini Test Tube Rack:


2nd batch of 3d printed parts!





Today I tried printed out more 3d printed plastic from the library Lulzbot mini. I printed 3 more 90 degree corner brackets for my old 1″ extruded aluminum 80/20 brand t-slot that I originally bought to make a rep-rap 3d printer and/or CNC mill. I never finished it I might add. Perhaps I will pick that project up again. It would certainly fit my trend this year of finishing old abandoned projects (like my xyzzy motor controller).

I also printed two spacers from my solidworks files for my homemade taffy machine. (They came out great). And I tried my hand at making a copy of my own house key. They key didn’t print the best, and in addition did not fit in the doorknob for some unknown reason. :(

The biggest accomplishment today was printing plastic copies of the 80/20 t-slot linear bearings. I still prefer the aluminum ones, but my low cost ABS plastic ones are much affordable and should work fine anyway! The ABS is actually some what slippery and does work by itself despite it not being great.

The plastic with Teflon (actually HDPE) tabs screwed on works just as nicely as the aluminum ones do. I think I will print more (and bigger ones) in the near future. These should help greatly in turning this into a giant 3d printer!

First 3d printed parts!



I printed my first 3d printed parts on Saturday. I used a publicly available Lulzbot mini. The gears turned out great. The software was extremely easy to use. Just click and print, quite literally. The open source Cura software was just beautiful. The lulzbot mini has consistently been critics top 3d printer for being the easiest to set up and use. And I can see why.

Continuing Progress on the XYZZY Motor Controller


I think i’ve finished the design for the XYZZY Motor Controller, which for me is a big statement. I embarrassingly probably even said it before too. But anyway both the top board and the bottom board are done in Eagle Cad and i think i’m satisfied. The top board relatively stayed the same since it’s design was fairly sound. All that was needed was a few safety diodes for the mosfets, some led’s, and some minor resistors which were not critical. The bottom board was another story however.

It required a complete redesign except for the basic underlying parts. Many of the items i had on the board were just potential “goodies” that were extraneous and non-critical, so i removed them. Not only did it help remove extra unrouted wires, it helped clear up some much needed room. In the end i ended up with some extra room that i turned into a tiny proto board area that i’m quite pleased with. Along the way i fixed a few errors on the schematic and routed things nicer than they were before. I think all that it needs now is to order up some PCB’s and do some more testing and programming.

The only things i would like to change are the screw terminals. The ones that are on the schematic now are much too small for a large amp motor. The problem is i can’t seem to find an Eagle Cad footprint for one. I may have to end up creating my own part in eagle cad eventually. If you know of one please let me know in the comments below! I’m looking for something like these: photo1, photo2, photo3.

The XYZZY Motor Controller is a modular open source hardware mosfet speed controller h-bridge. It has been designed to be able to handle high current motors with the parallel mosfet design. It has been designed to be hackable and DIY accessible (hence the all through hole design). It has been designed for flexibility. Since it has been created with the hope in mind of a built-in arduino brain it can be easily programmed for many things. I’ve routed one PWM capable I/O port to function as a PWM directional input (modeled after the IFI Victor 884 servo input design). But one feature i’m happy to include is an easily accessible I2C port. This port gives the motor controller many potential abilities. One idea is to use the I2C port to expand it’s capabilities (such as a current sensor), or i think it would be cool to use I2C to daisy-chain several motor controllers together to help save wiring and to provide real-time feedback to a master microprocessor or computer. Another cool “feature” is that possible boards could be fixed with half the parts. If for example the mosfets died for some reason, but the bottom components were fine (or vice versa) you could use the good parts with other good parts. Since my old top board is basically the same i plan to test it with a new bottom board sometime in the near future. I expect it to work fine.

The schematics are somewhat rough. I’ve tried to clean them up as best i can. But don’t expect them to be pretty. The reason one schematic has floating wires going nowhere on one side is that at one point these were part of one schematic. To create the two board system with the pluggable pin headers i had to split them into “two projects” at one point in time.

bottom_sch_v1.0 top_sch_v1.0

If you would like a copy of the current Eagle Cad files please let me know. This is an Open Source Hardware Design. I would love to see these in the wild or even improved versions of it. Perhaps someone with surface mount experience can create one with smaller parts. More prototype testing to come soon, i hope! :)

Update (9-15-15): I’ve updated it again only slightly. I’ve changed the resistors to have bigger pads using the adafruit eagle cad library parts, and instead of screw terminals i’ve decided to use spade connectors or quick disconnects. These make it less cumbersome to disconnect motors and power and no loosing of screws, but also saves space (which was more critical). I couldn’t find a library that had a spade connector already, i had to make it myself. It actually wasn’t too hard.

top_board_v1.0 bottom_board_v1.0

Updating and perfecting the XYZZY Motor Controller


I’m working on finishing and perfecting an old project of mine (by a few years). The XYZZY Motor Controller (H-bridge). The old design was only somewhat functional. Enough to prove proof of concept (barely), but i want a sleek, finished version that people can actually use. So i’m working on perfecting this prototype design. I’ve just updated several things on the top board, and i think it’s done. The biggest issue was a pretty major design flaw which was that i forgot to add the safety diodes for motor kickback. In simple terms that meant that when the motor stopped turning or i switched it from forward to backward the electrical energy would destroy the Mosfets! …oh.. noo… Yup.

Not to worry, they are there now. I will be wiring them in manually to some of my old prototype boards to test soon. This design is progressed enough to update it to V1.0 instead of Rx.x number. Although the top board is finished, the bottom board needs quite a bit of work and possibly major redesigning. from the looks of my old design for the bottom board it looks like one feature i wanted to implement was an I2C bus. That would make it cool to connect them together and then to a microprocessor to monitor them in real-time. The only sensors to monitor at this point was the inclusion of a crude temp sensor and monitoring the RPM of the fan. Although i was hoping to build an arduino chip built in. When i eventually purchase new PCB’s i think this revision is finally deserving for the color red! Although purple or black would look pretty sick too. Any comments are welcome.

This is an Open Source Hardware Design.

DSCF7247 DSCF7248


Pea Breeding Resources

Pea Breeding is actually really awesome. Especially when you can get really neat colors to recombine into new combinations. Punnet Squares to predict the genetics of pea breeding is also very helpful and fun too. This page contains a multitude of information on pea genetics.

(This page was originally hosted on my test website, but since i am hosting it myself on my own computer it is not exactly a reliable place, and hence i have copied all of the relevant information here to my blog as a permanent place to find it.)

Details of Mendel’s Pea Breeding

Here is a copy of Mendel’s original paper, for those who are interested.

biologyThe Results of Mendel's crosses for seven characters in pea plants

The following pea breeding illustrations were obtained from the Eighth Edition of Biology by Neil A. Campbell. I’ve scanned the relevant illustrations about pea breeding. If you would like to view the genetics section in PDF form instead, then here you go: You can read the whole genetics chapter in a virtual pdf online.

crossing pea plantsF1 Hybrid Pea Plants

Pea Alleles, Locuspeas F2 generation

random combination of the gametes results in the 3:1 ration that Mendel observed in the F2 generationMendel Pea TestcrossMendel Independent Assortment


Rebsie Fairholm's Red-Podded Pea
Rebsie Fairholm’s Red-Podded Pea

If your still interested in pea breeding, then you might be interested in Rebsie Fairholm’s breeding projects involving peas. Not only is she breeding a very neat yellow sugar snap pea called Luna Trick, but she is also breeding an awesome red-podded pea as well! She not only shares photos and info about her crosses on her blog, but she has also provided 2 excellent tutorials for crossing peas with photos! Many of us amateur plant breeders are attempting and making progress on recreating Rebsie’s red-podded pea success here.

Trying to figure out the gentics for this rare red-podded pea is facinationg! Here are my attemopts to figure it all out with punnett squares below.

Parent Generation (P)
F1 generation if purple-pod parent is homozygous for the purple gene

F1 yp yp
purple pea
purple pea
purple pea
purple pea
F1 generation if purple-pod parent is heterozygous for the purple gene
F1 yp yp
purple pea
purple pea
Gp Gypp
green pea
green pea

But as it turns out, Rebsie’s results actually had mostly green pods. And upon doing some research about the genes responsible for the purple-podded trait, we actually find that there may instead be 3 genes needed for the anthocyanins to be present. One gene commonly called “A” is a master swich gene and is epistatic to the other genes coding for anthocyanins. The other two genes are also both required for the pod to have purple-pod’s. If this is correct than that means the punnit squares i completed above are no where close to being accurate. Here is the F1 hypothesis again, and this one as far as i know is correct this time. I have used the letter “A” to represent the on/off gene, along with “P” and “U” to represent the two purple-pod genes. I have left out the yellow podded gene because all offspring will be hetozygous for a base pod color of yellow/green.

Here is the corrected F1 generation hypothesis using the three genes for purple anthocyanin colors. We are ignoring the gene for green/yellow pods for the moment since all offspring in the F1 generation are heterozygous for dominant green and recessive yellow.


That gives us a ratio of 28 Purple : 36 Green.

So I guess Rebsie was right; in the F1 generation mostly green pods appear.

Here is the F2 Generation Hypothesis using the rule of independent assortment. Now this table is not entirely correct, but represents the “average” offspring collected from the purple-podded plants in the F1 generation. I say the average because in the best case scenario you can get purple-podded plants that be homozygous for ALL of the purple genes. On the other hand, the worst case scenario is that the purple-podded plants in the F1 will be heterozygous for ALL of the purple genes. In most cases though i think that the average purple-podded plant in the F1 will have two homozygous genes and the third gene will be heterozygous. In that case you would only need to worry about two sets of genes in the F2, nameley 1 set for anthocyanin and 1 set for yellow pods underneath.
Which in this “average” scenario results in the typical 9:3:3:1 Phenotypic Ratio.
And in this case the red-podded peas are the recombinant offspring that we are loking for.
If we take that a little furthur, that means that if you plant 50 F2 generation seeds, you should get a ratio of about 43 non-red pods : 7 red-pods.

Inheritance Of The Colors Of Pea Flowers

Mendelian Inheritance Of The Colour OF The Flower In The Culinary Pea

Pea flowers (the edible kind) come in three major colors. They can come in the “wild” form which is a Bicolour Purple, White, or Salmon Pink (pink-and-white). I first encountered this information on Rebsie’s blog, and after doing some research of my own, i found one refrence to the same imformation in a very old book from 1912 (Breeding and the Mendelian discovery by A.D. Darbishire). The purple form is dominant and is a trait mostly common in field peas. The pink form is recessive to the the purple, but is dominant to the white. The white form is recessive to all color, and is commonly associated with modern peas that have been selected for high sugar content. It’s a bit amusing the way the book talks about the purple form in relation to the other two. Apparently if you breed the pink with the white you will get purple in the F1 generation because the pink has the gene that expresses color, but the white is actually hiding the gene for purple flowers. In the book this is talked about as an ancestral trait, a throwback, and the theory of reversion.

In Darwins book, The Origin of Species, Darwin himself encounters something similar with his breeding of pigeons. Darwin bred a pure white pigeon with another white pigeon (with black tail feathers), and was very surprised because in the next generation he got a blue pigeon (which has the same coloring as the wild rock pigeon). But Darwin didn’t know about genetics, so he could only conclude that it was a ancestral throwback phenomenon. We now know that the white one with black stripes had the gene for color (black) and the pure white pidgeon was actually a blue pidgeon but did not have any active color genes. To my knowlwdge the only variety of pea known to have pink flowers is the one called ‘Salmon-flowered’.

Salmon-flowered, pink, pink-and-white pea flower Bicolour Purple pea flower white pea flower