Friday, July 25, 2014

Road Trippin with the 3Drv crew....

The last year has been epic and I am finally starting to feel like the San Francisco bay area is where I belong...

Between building crazy inventions for Google to the small inventors that cover this area, its the perfect place for me to not worry about my looks, what I drive and all the other bs and focus on my work, inventing, teaching and staying happy.

I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a stopping point on a road tour traveling across the USA finding the top invators using 3D software to make reality happen. I felt extra cool knowing that they were making a stop at my shop after they made a shop at NASA Ames....

TJ McCue,his wife and Son have been traveling the USA in a sweet Jayco Rv all custom decaled up with cool logos and stuff and all kinds of crazy tools inside like Faro scanners to document the trip in words and 3d images.
The main reason they stopped at my shop was to talk about how I make stuff and the process of turning my brain loose on crazy wild concept projects.
As some of you have met me and some just notice from reading the blog... I love to talk and especially talk about my passion which is metal working and designing, so what better person to describe my passion for metal working to then an acclaimed tech writer from Forbes Magazine who is in my shop and all ears about what and how I make it happen !
To add to the cool part of them stopping by, I use almost every product that they were sponsored by...
From working with Autodesk Fusion and Inventor
Scanning and reverse engineering with Faro 3d scanning tools and arms
3D printing all the time on Stratasys at Autodesk Pier 9
to the hopped up Nividia 760 computer graphics card to run Autodesk Inventor
They have a pretty good line up of sponsors to really make it happen in the 3d and prototype world
The day showed up on May 2nd for the RV to pull in to the MLS skunkworks shop....
But guess what...
You can't find the skunkworks shop...
Its a secret so they got lost and that's just the way we like it.
After about 5 minutes on the phone about how to get here they finally arrived.
I was having fun talking with TJ's 11 year old son about stuff that I build and the coolest part is he is documenting the trip as well and you can check it out here Mini 3Drv tour
That's Josh and myself with some of the MLS concept bikes

TJ documented with photos, video and writing as we toured my shop. I don't really want to tell you much about it because I think he does a good job telling about it so just check this out.

here is the link to the article TJ wrote -
           A stop at the MLS workshop with the 3Drv crew

cool clip about sheet metal

clip about some of the machines in the shop

It was neat to see that the RV was near my home town of New Ulm,MN when the article was published about my shop in Oakland,CA ... destiny
 Enjoy the article
thanks again to all the people that made this trip happen its
Awesome to see how amazing the USA and its people are !!!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

if you think your in control... your going to slow....

Over the last weeks my life has been shifting in to 5 gear... or maybe I was already in 5th gear and now for some reason I am just noticing it?

Between bouncing off the walls working on projects for Google X, Oakley, Make magazine, getting ready to go to Italy for Red Bull and one of the main things happening to me -  MOVING TO A NEW SHOP IN BERKELEY !!!!

I will have more info about all this madness when I take a breath of air in less then a month.... I mean as an example of my life lately - its like 4 am right now and I am waiting for the CNC to finish cutting so I can take a quick nap while it runs the next parts, this is becoming more normal the more I do prototyping work, I feel like I haven't slept in years because theres too much stuff to do.

Peace and quite at 4am... well maybe... the streets of Oakland always have some odd activity going on 24/7, you hear some noises that kinda resemble a animal but it is clearly a human making those noises, I think you can figure out the rest.

One of the cool projects I forgot about that I did last month because I kicked it out so fast was these trophies for Red Bull Ride N' Style a bicycle race event they were putting on in San Francisco, the call came in to make something quick, cheap and cool looking so I fired up the computer and put my brain in to Sheet metal mode, by the time I finished that call I had a concept modeled up and emailed to Clayton at Red Bull.

Some times I get in to Autodesk Inventor and go crazy with the sheet metal...
Don't ask how my brain lays stuff out or anything like that....
I had Ryan over at cut it up about an hour later after I had modeled it and it was on to bending up this puzzle
I love sheet metal, did I say that?

That next day... 
I decided to cut up one of the Velocity prototype rims Matt had sent me long time ago because really it was my only 700c rim laying around... I may regret that later 

First place with some San Francisco Action happening in the back and a mini chain in the front

Custom bent sheet metal Hub!
My mad skills with the 24k gold spray pain has hit an all time High - insert joke here

Check out that cross profile for the tech nerds !

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bringing the Monkeys to Uncle Toms...

If your not following Toms YouTube channel.... Do it now...

Tom Lipton's Ox Tool YouTube Channel

You will be come a better machinist, fabricator or engineer attending Uncle Tom's YouTube University classes !

His tips and trips are gold !

How do I know Tom Lipton?

I started working for a company a few years ago that was developed and started by Tom and another guy Bob Switek in the San Francisco bay area.

 The company was really started in the early 1990s after Bob the mechanical engineer teamed up with Tom to develop an R&D machinery company for various industries with most of it being in the vegetable industry.

Some of the wild machinery was patented as well, like a machine that cut broccoli, really a first of its kind in the broccoli production world, some of these machines still run and are being built today.

 The two teamed up and built a really neat prototype company called California Vegetable Machinery, CVM for short, later the name just became CVM as more of the R&D work went toward Clorox and the tech world, the vegetable part would take a back seat.

The company is still around today and doing very well, with a very skilled team. Tom happed to be offered a job by the USA Gov. R&D Labs located in Berkeley and decided to leave CMV, that's about when I got hired in 2010 or so, just missed working with Tom by a few months. ( I was at CVM for a bit over 2 years and learned so much, vital to what I do and how I do work today)

But it was pretty fresh scar that Tom had quit when I started at CVM, so I needed to meet this Tom guy, so I tracked him down and we have been buddies since then. Its cool, not a lot of really precision mined fabricators out there willing to bounce ideas off with the experience.

Tom makes visits to my shop all the time but every so often its good to pay him a visit and so the Monkeys ( Gabe and Austin ) from my shop and I happed to call him and see if he was up for some tool trading.

it was also cool to show them Toms shop and see what projects hes up too, heres the video below

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Hollywood Days....

I found some of my old flash drives the other day and was getting a good reminder of the good old days when I was working for CVM / Clorox R&D building all kinds of crazy laboratory prototypes.

Kinda funny to see these old videos... well it makes it easy to remember where you came from and the fact that I still stand in front of a press brake all the time means I still got a strong love for it...

Bending sheet metal is my love.... Welding it together is my love and making shiny parts is my love....

Monkey Like Shiny was born from that love...

Enjoy some blast from the past...


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rockin Chairs !!!!!

People always wonder what I do to make money to stay alive because everyone thinks all I do is build crazy projects for myself all day.... Then I explain I don't really make any money and am poor because I am addicted to what I do and spend all the money on cutters and more material to build more stuff...

Then they understand and offer to foot the bill for dinner...

End of story....

But when it comes down to what gets me that little bits of money to move to the next personal project here is a good example of concept to reality and working with designers and engineers to make it happen.

I teamed up with Lukas of Shibuleru Designs out of San Francisco about a new type of outdoor chair he had designed. He had the design and drawings pretty much fully locked down but it was on to me to do a lot of the little tweaks in the prototype and to do all the parts to allow it to be broken down to fit in a box and lay flat.

Just a really cool example of putting the cherry on top working with the designer/engineer to make a product just a little bit more rad but not straying from the original design plus it kept me alive and building another month....

Turned out super rad and glad to be part of the building....

Bent up the first set of parts without the arm rests.
If Gabe is going to take my job then hes gotta to learn...
Plus I like taking photos..
Hes welding in the connector pieces
On to the K&T mill to put the holes in for the arm rest bars...
This is the first prototype so its all learning for everyone at this point...
Lukas showed up once we had the first prototype welded up with the prototype cloth.
Its kinda fun when you get to this point in the concept to see all the things come together...
Its always a guess if you got the number right and the feel correct....
This time... we were soooo close but some adjustments to the geometry would prove the perfect fix.

I started the next group of adjusted geometry chairs that would also break down for shipping to Italy
Lukas finished up all the arm rest design and then I realized he only wanted them on the inside of the frame ( as you can see in the photo they are on both sides of the arm rest) so I had to cut off the one side of the laser cut sheet metal arm rest... no worries, small details...

The bolt together design is really neat...
It is a total of 5 steel pieces per chair and the fabric, then shipping all flat in a box designed for bicycle frames makes it really easy for everyone.
This is a close up of my welding, root pass with steel rod and Bronze over for the big radius.
I put a long bolt in it to show the hardware location all hidden under.

Love the black!

Close up of the bolted together pieces..
can't even tell...
Also a close up of the aluminum pieces SeaPort Laser Service cut and Metalco Anodized in a flash for us. Looks great.

The yellow was really neat!
Took me a bit to really like the color but I was sold with the fabric on it.

Quick drawing of how the seats work with the fabric.
heres the link again


Thursday, May 8, 2014

CAM Mania... The 10 hour rush job....

When the phone rings most of the time for rush work there is normally a time line to get the work done like 2+ days or so... Like normal it was Anthony from HSMworks on the phone with the request to design and build a quick trophy to give away at the event the next day for the launch party of Autodesk Inventor HSM 3D ( the intergrated CAD/CAM for designing and then machining parts in the same program).... I just laughed and said " you got to be serious Anthony, you can't call me the day before, your crazy!"

So like normal I said let me give it a shot and lets see what I can kick out by tomorrow....

I really owe HSMworks, Autodesk and NextGen and all the kids tied in a bunch of favors, really when I look back, meeting this crew has truly changed the shape of my business, skills and built a good amount of my reputation in the concept world because of the ability to kick out crazy 3D machined masterpieces in hours not days or weeks, I can't even imagine what I would be doing, who I would know, and where I would be had I not run in to Anthony while filming a TV show in LA, oh yea, plus I stilled owed Anthony like 50 bucks from Autodesk University in Las Vegas when I ran out of money and needed to eat, so I kinda owed him some favors....

With the clock ticking and less then 20 hours to complete.... I started to round up materials at the same time as my brain was trying to process what I was actually going to build.

Here goes nothing....

This was laying on the floor in my shop...
3x6x12 block of aluminum

I did a quick model of the idea in Inventor and did all the tool paths for it

Roughing with a 3ft 3/4 endmill

Making "Roaster Tail chips"

Time for the 1/2 3ft ball endmill and a lot of surfacing

When making a trophy for a contest that involves toolpaths and the idea of machining you know "EVERYONE IS LOOKING AT THE MACHINING"

The flip to side 2... I tried to only have to use 2 tools
My design really could have been done with a 1/2 endmill but I figured to rough it with the 3/4 to save a ton of time.

I used a 4-5-6 block as my stop for side 2

Almost done then on to the other parts.
I like to do all the 3D contouring then make one final pass around the part with a trace to make sure all the faces look perfect.

Because I had no time to make anything special or time to send anything to anodizing and with the event less then 8 hours away, I searched my shop for anything that was black anodized. The only thing I found was... A test piece for Red Bull Rampage trophies, another HSMworks project a few months back around August.  
Before I cut out the circle on the backside I engraved the Autodesk logo, I knew that I could keep moving all over the part until I got the logo just right. Once I got the logo just right, I cut it out roughly on the K&T horz. mill and then turned it perfectly round on the lathe.
As you can see the sun is coming up and the event was at 2pm so my time was ticking.
I put the logo in with a .001 press fit and did some locking nicks with a small chisel to really lock it in without any visible hardware or glue.  I also put on the little feet that I had laying around from an only Exploratorium project.

I needed some blue Acrylic, then I looked up on the wall and seen a left over piece from the Americas Cup Red Bull's Youth Cup trophy I had used HSMworks on as well about 8 months ago.
Ghetto machinist style I put a 2x4 wood board in the vise on the CNC and made a quick 3D sketch of the cut out it needed to fit, screwed down the oddly shaped piece to the board and cut it out. Quick and dirty

This photo is at about 10:30am... Completely smoked... but it was done..
Truly the software and my drive are the only reasons this thing can get done in that amount of time.
Its a advanced piece of machining you can throw a calipers on and measure if you don't believe me, with a turnaround of less then 15 hours from start to finish...

I arrived at the contest...
3 people that had held the fastest time at Autodesk University in Vegas for doing Cam Mania, a timed contest to see who could cnc program on HSM the fastest. All 3 of these guys happened not to be machinist or even have any background in machining, they all were Autodesk users in someway but not really on the manufacturing side of things. Think that made the story way better!

Then I jumped in on the photo and photo bombed it...
Because I don't care....


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Instructables ..... HOW TO.... Do WHAT?

About a month ago I was selected to be a sponsored monkey for Instructables, the online " How To - Show and Tell " website where people can add their own How Tos  on to a large data base of crazy projects for others to enjoy and build from.

If you havn't went to the website, I encourage you to take a look ...

The program I am getting involved with is called the AIR program or Artist in Residence .... Which because I am not a Artist, I have changed the name to MIR, way more space age sounding and stands for Machinist in Residence.

So either way I am taking my MIR timeslot in the amazing shop to write some really cool How Tos and also just classic Tips and Trick for the shop.

Here is one of my Instructables I have make so far, take a look around the site and see all the other cool things people are building. Just do a random search for something and see what turns up, some really good food stuff on there and always really neat contests going on.

How to bend thin tubing - this is one of my first Instructables that really has taken off, I really watched the search hits on the MLS blog and seen what people were always coming to my blog to check out so I figured I would write an Instructable on it and it happened to make the home page as a featured article.

Some days I feel more like a photographer and writer then a fabricator...
Gabe gets to have all the fun these days....

Expect some really cool projects coming up from me... I am building them now.... So warm up the welding torch I will be posting them little by little so add me to your Instructable follow list!

And if you think you got what it takes to make it to the next level of building and want instructables to help you fund building the madness... Check out the page here to apply for the MIR ( AIR ) program and maybe you can come join me and the rest of the monkeys building away in a mind blowing shop in San Francisco.

Instructables AIR details


Monday, April 14, 2014

MLS in the news

A few months ago I teamed up with Bill working on that custom prosthetic leg and Autodesk was pretty stoked about us using new software they have out so they did a write up on the project. Check it out.

Autodesk - In the fold - Newsletter


This talks about the new Autodesk Fusion I am using - pretty rad.... Plus if your not making money using it and want it for personal projects... IT FREE !!!!

Autodesk Fusion 360 download

On the right hand side you can see its free for Hobbyist  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Nickel and diming....

This project has been nickeling and diming me for years on my time but now I figured I should just hammer down and build it because I have the tools to do it...

When I started this concept a few years ago with my brother, I knew I could finish it quickly and it would turn out like the Gravity bike and everyone would get stoked but the more I ran with the concept and split off with my brother the more I realized I was becoming a machinist for stuff but I was still missing the CNC part to really make my parts stand out...

I can machine anything by hand to a point but it often requires special attention on things like finish work because its not a perfect smooth finish but cnc offers you a showcase of the machining effort you have put in to it, its why people love aircraft parts and crazy cnc bicycle and motorcycle parts. Theres something about leaving the raw machine marks all over it and not polishing it to a glass like finish that sometime once anodized looks like plastic...

The more I left it sit on the frame table the more it would bug me looking at it but my customers come first and its not to say that I am short on work, what you see on my blog is about 20% of the projects I can show without getting sued or thrown in jail, so it took the back burner... maybe not even the back burner, maybe almost refrigerator with a cover over it...

The day came where after some sweet wheelin and dealin I scored the CNC Bridgeport Boss 10 and did the retro fit to a brand new drive and PLC ready to take on the most complex jobs, then came the teaming up with Autodesk's new company called HSMworks which links to Solidworks and Inventor for CAM ( see the old blog posts for more details) and with those 2 things the door finally opened on making crazy parts a reality... No paying for machining that I can't afford... I would do it myself and let it run all night on crazy parts.
   This is the project my brother and I came up with to build and I have been running with it since it was sketched... Lots still to come but day by day this thing is coming together....

So come along with my machining adventure in the next weeks to see this beast come to life...

Machining aluminum softjaws to hold a expanding mandrel
plus it makes a perfect origin 0,0 right away after cutting 
I wouldn't call them softjaws really because it would still hurt if you got them thrown at you, but in the machining world anything made of Aluminum is called SOFT... ha, whatever....

These are the hub blanks Liem made on the Lathe using HSMworks Lathe Cam software
As you can see the one side of the hub was done but the other side needed to be hollowed out, plus I wanted disc rotor mounts and because the Haas Lathe we did the work on didn't have live tooling we were stuck doing it this way.
This is the expanding mandrel in my hand

Perfect fit ready for the hub.

Here we go... clearing it out with a pocketing cutting feature.
I didn't use a big end mill because I didn't want a lot of cutting pressure to cause it to possible spin or move on the mandrel...
Don't call me a pussy

switched over to a long 12mm ball end mill with relief to do this deep cut
Looks great but it was ringing like crazy so I put this wrist band I got from Autodesk University on it to reduce the chatter, perfect!
VIP status...

check that out!!!
With the mounts for the floating rotor!
On to the next parts

Dropouts on this bike are a wild one too, if you scroll up to the 3d model of the bike you will see the crazy machined dropouts so here we go... making chips.
cutting away..

I really like the look of ball endmilling the radius in to things and also the radius on these parts varies so theres no way I could use a normal tool

At the end I did a webbing and the part was held in by a few pieces and then I cut it out with a aviation shear... easy and fast and then I made another side in a mirrored image.

Thinking time... Sometimes its easier to draw and look at a part then using crazy modeling software.
I feel that a lot of newer engineers don't understand how important this is... you don't always need to sit and stare at the computer to make parts, go out in the shop and smell the oil.

Surplus Lockheed 6-4 Titanium
Blocks of it ready to become a king pin steering set up for the cable steering front end.
I really freestyled this part, I hope it works...

Roughing Titanium is a learning experience
If you don't machine it a lot it can be very costly if you mess up...
Called up Tom at Ox Tool to make sure I had everything right, hes rattled off the numbers on the phone by memory....
.375 depth of cut - 8 ipm at about 900 RPM with a .120 step over with a 4+ flute endmill 
He knew it... maybe he has done it before....

Side one getting some ball endmilling
and some clean up in the bearing pockets, you will see in the next weeks how this part works. 
it worked out pretty good, have to debur it and do some finish work on it but I think it will work to get the bike on the ground as a roller, just think this could have been some crazy part at Lockheed... but they were going to scrap it so I put some life back in it by making a mini F22 Raptor style steering link part... Kind of like Lockheed Skunkworks around here...
I got so excited about aerospace stuff I had to make a cart....
Built this beast in a few hours out of the junk laying in the off cut pile next to the saw
MLS Aerospace division just got a fresh new cart, off to powdercoating.