Visiting researchers

SHHM recently played host to a group of researchers from France, interested in what the cities of tomorrow will look like. Lots of interesting discussion about the rise of hackspaces and FabLabs, and the inexorable spread and improvement of tools that make the design, prototyping, and manufacture of widgets easier for everyone. Interim conclusion: the cities of the future will look much the same, but also very different. So that’s that sorted.

Once again the Sheffield hardware hackers and Makers attended the Maker Day 2014, but only this time it was hosted in The Yorkshire arts space just opposite of Access Space.

We had our own stall set up with:
- 3D Printers
- A Raspberry Pi
- A fair few Arduino’s
- Our High Altitude Balloon Project
and lots lots more…

There where three 3D Printers on display. There was the Mendel 90 and Pursa Mendel witch belong to the group and a Pursa Huxly witch belonged to a group member. The Mendel 90 witch was on display at the event was built at an event called “Festival Of The Mined”, this is where a group received funding to build several 3D Printers. At the end of the event the “Golden Spanner” award was presented. Teams where judged on how well they worked as a team, the quality and neatness of the build and the final print quality.

There was also a Raspberry Pi set up with scratch running on it, it was open for people to come along and and have a play. There was lots to talk about to the public about, it attracted a wide audience.

One thing that we did accomplish was getting together 4 Arduino kits. This then means that we can now let people have a play and learn using these kits. An one person who we must say Thank You to is Darran from “We Do 3D Printing” – We Do 3D Printing Store, who sorted us out with some of the kit.


As a group we want to put together some Arduino projects together with the intention of introducing people in to programming the Arduino. One of our members put together a template using Fritzing, an open source program witch lets you creat functioning circuit diagrams for Arduinos and other circuits. The template created displayed below.


With the discussion of the groups High Altitude Balloon project, we had our prototype gondola hanging from a baloney in exhibition hall. There was the sound of telemetry data that could be heard from the other side on the exhibition hall.


Overall it was a very successful weekend. We want to thank everybody who came along to the event on the day, as well as the organises of Maker Day Sheffield and the staff at Yorkshire Arts Space. Not forgetting everybody who came along to help us set up :-).

You can follow the Sheffield Makers on Twitter @shhmakers, or take a look at our Google Groups Forum.



FabLab Leuven’s main maker space

Whilst visiting Leuven on other business recently I put the time aside to visit FabLab Leuven. The FabLab is embedded at KU Leuven but promotes free open access to both students and the wider local community.  As Sheffield Hardware Hackers and Makers aspire to joining or founding a full time FabLab it was a good opportunity to find out how it is done and how others have succeeded with similar challenges. Marc and Thomas run the fab lab with Jose, they were quick to point out that initial funding and finding space was only a small part of the problem. Sustainability is something that has killed several FabLab startups that had shown initial signs of doing very well.

I would like to thank Marc and Thomas of FabLab Leuven for putting the time aside to show me around, make me feel welcome and share their experience and enthusiasm for their FabLab. I can definitely recommend visiting them if in the local if only just to see how well they are doing, it is inspirational. It would be even better though to do a spot of making and hacking whilst sharing with like minded folk.

FabLab Leuven Logo Tiles

First in through the door I was struck by their own floor tiles with the FabLabLeuven Logo superimposed on the FabLab Movements Logo.  The FabLab is open to all including students and drop in public users. Access and usage of machinery is free but materials are either self supplied or can be bought at the FabLab. Fab lab supplied materials are purchased in as being suitable for the machinery that it will be used with. This should make it easier to get reasonable results without needing to know in advance what materials are suitable.

The main room is a large open flexible space with tables as work spaces that are shared by those visiting the Lab. Essential services like electricity and networking drop down from a roof distribution grid. This removes tripping hazards and leaves the work tables free to be moved around as needed. The managing staff have dedicated desks in this main room so are an active part of this making community.

Laser Cutters and small CNC

To the front of the building leading off the main room is a well organized area with a number of laser cutters and small CNC machines. I asked Thomas about keeping the optics aligned and cleaned. He showed me how the laser cutters were built such that the optics were not readily accessible from the cutting compartment which both shields them from combustion products and twiddling fingers. The lasers are plumbed up to a common air extract. It was noticeable how the air was good even in a small room stood next to 5 working laser cutters.  All the machinery in this room had dedicated PC’s to drive them with the correct CAM software to make the most of their capabilities. Taking all of these elements together it was clear that Thomas and Marc had been doing this for some time and had worked ways around the issues that crop up from time to time.

The demo makings table.
The demo makings table.

Towards the rear of the room there was a display of a selection of projects made at the fablab. Thomas explained that over the last year alone there had been literally thousands of projects coming through the FabLab from both Student and Public makers. I wondered how they had managed this. Thomas was quick to explain that being embedded within the university meant that they were able to offer voluntary staff positions to students. The students after a suitable training period are able if they so wish to open the fablab at weekends and in some cases 24 hours a day. These extended hours are usually to cope with the high demand that course hand-in’s and assessed student projects generate as dead lines approach. The same volunteer staff also provide support to members of the public coming into the FabLab.  Moving back through the main room there are a number of 3D printers ranging from a Makerbot through to a large Dimension printer. To the left hand side as we pass through Thomas draws my attention to their area dedicated to electronics work.

Workshop and CNC router
Workshop and CNC router


Out across the corridor there is the workshop where all the nosier and dust/waste creating activities are carried out. One end is partitioned off and this is where a full sheet CNC router lives. It has a vacuum bed and sawdust collection. We had a look at furniture items being in various stages of being prototyped and built. The services again drop down from the ceiling leaving the workspace more flexible. A dust and waste vacuum extract is also plumbed in across the ceiling with drop tubes to remove the dust from  band-saws, drills sanders and the like. Again a well equipped space light and airy with a lot of thought put into keeping it serviceable. Thomas and I both agreed keeping the Lab zoned to minimise disruption from noisy machines as well as dust etc is a good design feature.

Marc the FabLab manger joined us and we went outside for coffee. I complimented them on their FabLab. Marc was quick to explain that it had not happened over night they had gone through 3 main expansion phases as well as the usual raft of tweaks and improvements that go into running such a place on a day by day basis. I asked about sustainability Marc and Thomas explained that they thought embedding FabLabs within a larger organisation such as KU Leuven was good symbiosis and ensured a degree of sustainability that other FabLabs may struggle to achieve,  The university gained extra maker-space enabling more assessed projects as a component of their courses. Sharing of resources between university departments and the local community on a non partisan basis. Volunteer students enabled and supported their peers as well as members of the public. Marc acknowledged with a smile that having KU Leuven’s name on application for EU and Regional initiatives probably did not do them any harm either. All in all a win, win for everyone.

All in all an inspirational visit it gave me plenty to think about as I rode back into town on the Bicycle I had rented for the day from the train station. In summary then, a vibrant, happening and above all successful FabLab catering for Students and Public on a first come first served basis. Open all year round and often into extended hours courtesy of student volunteer staffers. FabLab Leuven has a wide range of capabilities and sufficient active machine, flexible manufacturing machinery and supportive staff to meet the needs of most projects, from newbie through to accomplished maker..

Wish I could say I was’nt jealous……. Time to drown my sorrows with some Belgian beer.

As you may already know, the Sheffield Hardware Hackers and Makers group are participating in a High Altitude Balloon launch. We have been busy at the “Hack Shack” making preparations for a kite test flight. Witch is why it has been quite around hear.

All the different parts that group members have created are being bundled up in to a small polystyrene box and are taking flight via a kite. However there are still some parts witch need to be sorted. A half build day and half field day has been proposed. The theory is that we will spend half a day at Access Space adding the final hardware components to the prototype, then the plan is to drive down to Graves Park with radios, laptops, 3G Dongle ext… and conduct some proper field testing.

This is going to help us take another step forwards in getting to launch our proper balloon. We have also put together a video to show everybody what stage we are up to. This included a look at the hardware and payload camera test.

On top of this if there are any radio amateurs or shot wave listeners in that area that are interested in receiving or decoding RTTY data, we will write a post with the radio details.

Feel free to leave any comments with us.


So… With preparation for our High Altitude Balloon launch well underway, we thought that we would let the community know what we where up to on this challenge.

The bits that we are working on at the minuet include:

- The telemetry hardware (the radio transmitter sending GPS data ect)
- Selecting a suitably sized gondola (the payload box)
- Constructing a parachute
- Experimenting with different methods of reviving the telemetry data

The telemetry transmitter module is now in the stage where it is being made more permanent. It has been soldered on to some strip board with a whole host of components, including a GPS and pressure sensor.

We have been able to acquire some various shaped polystyrene boxes for gondolas. We just need to decide witch one will be the most suitable to carry our payload.

We have also been very lucky to have a group member construct us a parachute for helping the payload get back down to the ground in one pice.

The Sheffield Hardware Hackers and Makers now has an official logo, with thanks to John. Over the weekend he created us a fantastically, well thought out and prestigious logo. We can now put a name to our face and start to show who we are.


I think that we can all agree that a large laser cut version of the logo is on the TO DO…. and maby even with some key rings… :)

Thanks John!

Don’t forget! There is an Open Lab Planned for Saturday the 15th in the Refab Lab at Access Space.



This time, at the Sheffield Hardware Hackers and Makers build day, we had everything from Arduino to 3D Printers (obviously :-) ) and everything in between.

But first, we where reunited with our Pursa Mendel. One of the group members had taken it away to get it up and running. We can’t thank him enough for doing so! When we first started building the Mendel we always kept in mind the idea as using it as a educational tool as it was being built. But we just needed that final big push to get it running.

Below is the machine in a state almost ready to print. The X, Y and Z end stops – micro switches, needed to be re aligned because they had been knocked out of line during transit.

We where able to get the X and Y end stops re alined, but we would haft to sort the rest out on the next build evening.

- More to follow…


The Mendel 90 fixing

Within the build day we where able to get hold of some micro drill bits and other things and stuff…
After successfully removing an amount of burnt plastic from the extruder. We did this by heating up the extruder up to temperature and digging out the burnt plastic.

The first image shows the “things and stuff” bought and the second one shows the print quality after the extruder has been un blocked (how it should look).



Arduino Robots

We also had a group member bring in an Arduino robot an AAR-04. It was programmed from the Arduino IDLE. There are two motors that drive the device back and forwards and a ball bearing at the front that keeps it in line. There are also some sensors at the front of the board, just by the ball bearing, these allow the robot to stop before it hit a surface.

You can take a look at the video below of the robot working…

On december the 14th we had our monthly build day at Access Space. We had a large array of 3D printers and electronic projects
being worked on, some of the things that went on throughout the day include...
- 3D Printing parts to improve the hack space
- Laser Cutting
- Tinkering with electronics

3D Printing parts to improve the hack space

We have been hosting our meet-ups at Access Space for around 9 months now. From the start Access Space has very kindly given us a space in there Refab Lab for us to store and use our 3D Printers. We where asked to put forward suggestions for in ways witch we
could improve the hack space. We discussed with Access Space about making it an easier space to work in. We decided to create and print some coat hooks. We drew up some 3D coat hooks in Open SCAD, a free open source 3D CAD programme.

3D Printed coat hook being drawn up in Open SCAD

Once the object had been Compiled and Rendered it was exported as a STL file, it could then be sliced and printed. altogether we
printed four of the coat hooks, in total we had three printers on the Job. Including the small foldable, portable printer that
has been made by one of the group members (we will try any get picture).

3D coat hook being printed

This above is this is the finished product. The coat hooks where mounted on to a pice of wood witch was screwed on to a shelving

Laser Cutting

One of the 3D printers that was brought along to the build day was a SUMPOD Delta, this printers X,Y and Z axis sit on three
threaded rods. Some pieces where designed using Ink Scape (a 2D open source CAD programme) and laser cut. The pieces where to
mount the stepper motors on to the printer.

SUMPOD Delta 3D Printer

Among all of this we also had some people with Arduino's creating projects, including light synthesisers.  

We would also like to thank Access Space for providing us with a work space and access to tools and machinery in there Refab Lab.
The next meet up will be held at Access Space on the on January the 27th.

You can keep in contact with us by following us on Twitter @SHHMakers or on our forum at:!forum/sheffield-hardware-hackers