Archive for the ‘Projects’Category

Lock Picking and SEM

spoolpinBack in October, Pumping Station: One hosted an event called Locktoberfest, an annual event run by the Chicago chapter of TOOOL (The Open Organisation Of Lockpickers.) It features, well, lockpicking, beer, and brats. (The beer is necessary to relax one’s hands. Really. I mean it.) A number of nationally known people came out to Chicago for this, including Deviant Ollam and Babak Javadi.

Lock picking involves manipulating small components. Small metal components, which are conductive, and would image well in a scanning electron microscope. And it just so happens that we’re probably the only hackerspace with a working SEM.

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12 2013

Knitting Machine Workshop

Threading the tension masts

Threading the tension masts

Carl, Nathan, and David

Carl, Nathan, and David

Tension Swatching

Tension Swatching

Sheila on the chunky machine

Sheila on the chunky machine

Two Brother knitting machines: the chunky 230, the standard 930

Two Brother knitting machines: the chunky 230, the standard 930


Patrick can't resist..

Patrick can’t resist.


Because why wouldn't you carry a knitting machine on a bicycle when it's 20 degrees outside?

Because why wouldn’t you carry a knitting machine on a bicycle when it’s 20 degrees outside?


12 2013

3D Printing Cage Match: 7pm Dec 12 at Beauty Bar

3DPCM LogoWe’re throwing a 3D Printing Cage Match Party at 7PM at Chicago’s Beauty Bar.

See factory teams, local businesses, and hobbyists compete to print a medieval weapon as fast as possible, and then fire marshmallows at their slower competitors!

Our own DJ Adam Dzak will be spinning, Jim Burke will provide commentary, and PS:One’s Lulzbot AO-101 and Makerbot Replicator will both be competing as well.

Want to attend? RSVP (free) here.

Want to compete? Register (free) here.

More information at the 3D Printer Cage Match Homepage.

Please note that this event will serve as the CNC Build Club meeting on the same evening.


12 2013

Silicon ReSEMblance

Every year, the UIUC chapter of ACM has an student-run conference called Reflections|Projections . One (rather excellent) speaker at the 2013 conference was the well-spoken (and wickedly-smart) Todd Fernandez , who spoke about the state of the semiconductor integrated circuit industry. As a nice bonus for those brave souls who asked, or answered, a question during his talk, he was giving out junked silicon wafers. Not being much of a brave soul myself, but realizing that the wafer would make for an awesome sample in our now-functioning Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), I answered a question about Moore’s Law and scored a wafer.


Here’s a picture of a similar wafer we had on hand (Not the one we put in the SEM. We shattered that one.)

Saving you a trip to Wikipedia: the wafers are slices of an impressively large and pure single crystal of silicon (known as a boule) on which semiconductor devices (such as transistors) are fabricated. These devices are usually incredibly tiny and incredibly numerous.

What happens after that is that the SEM rasters a beam of electrons across the surface of the wafer sample and, in this particular case, utilizes its ability to detect secondary electrons kicked off the wafer by the beam. Because the surface is the important part and because the SEM’s resolution is so amazing, before we mounted the sample, we had to sterilize it in an acetone bath suspended in the space’s ultrasonic cleaner.


Now the cool part. Because, if you look at the picture below, you can easily see leads on the wafer that are 4 microns in width (and resolve gaps between the leads that are 2 microns wide). For reference’s sake, the diameter of a human hair is given as 100 microns on average. And that is awesome.


Many thanks to the exceptional Ryan Pierce, who helped me with this every step of the way.


-Jerry Lebedowych


11 2013

The Mill Arrived Today! Yippee!


Thanks to the effort and generosity of a committed group of PS:1 members and project donors, we now have a Bridgeport milling machine. Special thanks go to Zlotan for keeping up the project momentum. Thanks to Tucker for setting the goals and doing a bunch of research and leg work.  And a big thank-you to Bart Dring for hooking us up with a sweet deal on a great machine and arranging the move.


There will be more to say and more to report as we integrate the mill into our shop. Stay tuned for further announcements.


11 2013

CNC Build Club – 4 Axis Milling



(picture from CNCCookbook blog)

This week we are going to play with the rotary axis on the little CNC mill.  We are going to assemble it and calibrate it.  We will use a demo of DeskProto to run a job on it.  We will of course start with the CNC Ninja Squirrel, then try some other projects.  It you have something cool to try, bring a file in STL format and a round piece of material to mill it out of.



Join us Thursday Nov, 14th at 7:00pm.



11 2013

A 3D Printed Pinhole Camera

It started simply. On October 3rd, I tabbed over to XChat and saw a highlight waiting for me:

<NegativeK> loans:

Clicking the link took me to a Thingiverse page for a pinhole camera.

<loans> NegativeK: why am I not printing that right now

<NegativeK> Print that camera, loans, and I’ll share some dev kit and chemistry

So it started. Over the next week or so I spent some amount of time in front of the Lulzbot, coaxing the camera into existence. The prints all went fairly well, with no catastrophic issues. I had to print a body, a filmholder carrier, tripod mounts and shutter parts, and a ‘lens’ tube. I’d estimate it was less than 10 hours of printing, all told. I assembled the camera using with ABS slurry and fasteners, only needing to do a little bit of touch-up here and there to get everything fitted. I tested for light-tightness in a dark room with an LED flashlight. I made a pinhole out of some aluminum cut from a soda can. I took a stab at the ‘dimple and sand’ technique, though I think it’s something that will take some practice.

PINH5AD and shutter parts

The body/lens combo, shutter parts and tripod mount.

Shutter assembly

The completed shutter assembly.

Now I had a mostly-finished camera. The last ingredient was to be some adhesive-backed velvet, which would act as the gasket material. Someone (Everett), however, couldn’t wait. So on Sunday the 13th, we loaded up some film holders and cobbled something together in true hackerspace fashion.

2013-10-13 15.46.09 2013-10-13 15.46.06 2013-10-13 15.45.47

Don’t judge me. Then we carried the mess out into the alley, because we wanted to minimize exposure time. We set up to take a picture of our rollup door, because what else is out there?

2013-10-13 16.00.42

Metering was accomplished with a DSLR and a piece of scratch paper. This camera’s ‘lens’ is f/225 and the film was ISO400. We calculated a 12 second exposure time. We double checked everything, pulled the dark slide out, prepared a timer on a cell phone. Then we hit go and opened the shutter. Twelve long seconds went by, I was sure I was ruining the photo by shaking the camera  with the hand that was operating the shutter. Then the phone beeped, the shutter closed, and we were done.

Not being the sort to waste time, we quickly moved into the processing phase. I haven’t developed film since a high school photography class, but Everett was ready to go. It went down at the shop sink (In the newly cleared hot metals area), and soon enough we had our exposure. The negative looked good. Surprisingly good. Scanned with a DSLR, we had our photo:


It isn’t perfect, but it’s a result. It’s even a reasonably well-exposed result, considering. The camera will benefit from a more precisely manufactured pinhole.

Our next goal is to try some exposures on positive paper, which is a process that gives you a print directly. The downside (maybe not?) is that it will be an hours-long exposure. We’ll see how it turns out.

 Until next time, hackers. -Derek


10 2013

Raising the BAR

New Bar Front ViewIt all began with a dream: a cerebral lubrication station worthy of our fine hackerspace, serving as focal point to transform the lounge from a seldom used area into PS:One’s central communal nexus. From there, a collaborative project was born. PS:One member Greg Daneau built the first incarnation of our bar. He built the bar top from an unfinished door, an open frame supported it, and it had a foot rail made of pipe. The result was impressive, even if it was but a small shadow of the glory that the bar ultimately became. Thus began an asynchronous collaborative project, with hacker inspiring hacker to hack the bar to higher pinnacles of zymurgical greatness. And it arguably served as an “altar” for the budding Beer Church.

Kegerator InteriorSeeing the bar in all its inebriating glory inspired member Ryan Pierce to build a draft system and kegerator from a donated refrigerator. It can hold up to six 5-gallon Cornelius kegs (used frequently by homebrewers) or a single 15.5-gallon beer keg. A fan forces cold air through an insulated hose carrying the beverage lines to the draft tower. The draft tower itself was built from PVC pipe, fittings, and drain flanges. An insulated return hose carries the air back to the refrigerator. This air loop keeps the beverage lines and taps cold, which reduces the tendency of beer to foam in the line. Jeremy used our TIG welder to weld a drain pipe to a stainless steel drip tray, directing any spills into a bucket.

The existence of the bar and draft system steered the focus of Beer Church towards kegging. Cornelius kegs can hold finished beer and can be used for natural carbonation (caused by additional secondary fermentation from priming sugar) or forced carbonation supplied directly from a CO2 tank.

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09 2013

SEM, EDX and fun with liquid nitrogen

Our scanning electron microscope came with an Oxford Isis EDX detector that we were told was non-functional. After a little poking around, I discovered that the replacement power supply which supposedly didn’t work was shipped from London, where the default power is 240V. After changing the voltage, the computer suddenly recognized the electronics, and it passed all the self tests. That looked like a good sign, so the next step was to acquire liquid nitrogen, which is needed to cool the detector.

Fortunately, one of our members owns NFC, a company that, among other things, sells liquid nitrogen. He loaned us a dewar of LN2 so we could test it out. After transporting it back to the space, I asked Everett to watch from a safe distance and let me know if anything was spilling while I filled the dewar attached to the SEM. He took some video of the process. The plastic funnel I used was cracking as I was pouring, which in hindsight wasn’t that great of an idea, so maybe we need to find another solution here….

YouTube Preview Image

The detector took over an hour to cool down, but ultimately it worked beautifully! I kicked up the energy of the electron beam to 20 keV which excited the atoms in the sample to give off characteristic X-rays. The EDX unit measured the energy spectrum of the X-rays given off, and was able to suggest possible elements that have those peaks, which I could then label. The next day Susan Young, the microscopist who used this SEM when it was at its former home, came to the space to give me some advice on the EDX and the sputter coater.

At center is an aluminum sample stub, with a square of copper tape and a strip of carbon tape. The SEM is imaging an area showing all three surfaces.

At center is an aluminum sample stub, with a square of copper tape and a strip of carbon tape. The SEM is imaging an area showing all three surfaces.

After calibrating the detector on a copper target, I then tried imaging a sample that consists of an aluminum sample stub, copper foil, and carbon tape, that has some of each of these exposed. I’ve labeled three peaks for copper, one for aluminum, one for carbon, and one for oxygen. The peak at 0 is just an artifact of the detector. Here is a movie of the X-ray peaks building as the detector collects data:

YouTube Preview Image

Here is the complete spectrum:


The EDX detector has the ability to determine not just what is in a sample, but where it occurs in the sample. I did this by defining energy windows, above. One for carbon, one for one of the copper peaks, and one for aluminum. Each time the EDX detects an X-ray whose energy falls within one of the bands, the EDX sends a pulse on one of several channels to the SEM. The SEM operates in X-ray mapping mode and, because it knows the beam’s position when the pulse is received, it makes a dot on a color coded map showing where that element occurs. This map is an overlay on the secondary electron image of the sample.


The aluminum peak is colored cyan, which dominates the upper left part of the sample. Magenta corresponds to the copper peak, which appears primarily on the lower left. Orange represents carbon. The detector didn’t detect that much of the carbon peak (seeing as it’s the smallest of the three), but orange dots are clearly visible on the right hand side. The surface in the middle is the edge of the copper tape, but it is almost vertical relative to the electron beam, so it doesn’t seem to be giving off many X-rays.

All in all, this is seriously cool technology.


07 2013

NERP Tonight: QT and Steppers

NERP Tonight: QT and Steppers


Tonight at NERP, we’ll have a show and tell about the PS:1 entry in the Element14 hackerspace challenge.(–the-2013-hackerspace-challenge/)We’ll highlight use of the QT framework and gui tools on the Beagle Bone Black to run the stepper motors on the pick and place machine. There are always challenges in getting a new platform up. One challenge has been resolving version problems with the QT3 to QT4 transition on ARM. We’ll find out how that’s going. Also we’ll also have a tour of the system’s Z- and θ- axes mechanism and find out what the test results were on using some very small stepper motors to drive the head. As a bit of improvisational comedy, some of the tests will be done live during NERP! Yow!

NERP is not exclusively raspberry pi, the small computer interest group at Pumping Station:One in Chicago.


Find NERP and Pumping Station:One

NERP meets at 7pm 7-15-13 at Pumping Station:One, 3519 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago.
Doors open at 6:30pm. NERP is free and open to the public.
Ed Bennett ed @ kinetics and electronics com


Tags: electronics, embedded, NERP, Open Source, raspberry pi, hackerspace, Beagle Bone, Element14




07 2013