ramblings of an electronic engineer.

Leave a comment

3D Printering: NASA Wrench

A few weeks ago my work bought an Ultimaker 2 3D printer for rapid prototyping mechanical hardware components. As you’d expect over said weeks of having this 3D printer we have been printing test models to get a more intuitive feel for which settings to use for certain parts and to see how well the printer performs with replicating the models.


So yesterday for a print test I decided to print a small racheting torque wrench (to test how the printer handles printing parts with moving mechanical components) designed by a company called Made in Space for the International Space Station (ISS). While this wasn’t the first object printed in space it was the first printed to meet the need of an astronaut whom would have otherwise had to wait until the next supply shuttle for his beloved wrench which could be months away.


The wrench took 4 hours to print with each accessory’s clocking in at 1 hour each using a speed of 50mm/s, 0.1mm layer height and 20% infill. The print itself turned out very well and functions perfectly even if it doesn’t have the smoothest operation.

Possibly the most impressive thing about building this wrench is the thought that has gone into the design of the internal ratcheting mechanism which is most evident halfway through the print.


Above you can see the gear around the socket as well as the lever (FYI I don’t know the proper technical names for these parts just making stuff up) which on the right has a small piece of plastic that touches the side wall and acts as a spring.

Also as you’d expect it does indeed perform to the torque rating of 3 in-lb etched onto the side of the wrench (even managed to get up to 10 in-lb without mechanical failure) however I find it curious that the rating is in in-lb (inch-pounds) and not the metric unit of N.m (newton meters) especially since NASA officially switched over to the metric system in January 2007. Perhaps Made in Space didn’t get the memo.

By far this is my favourite object that we have printed thus far and If you have access to a 3D printer and want to try it yourself you can find the part from NASA’s website here.

Leave a comment

Pi Day 2015

3/14/15 9:26AM 53.59secs

Yup it’s that time again International Pi day. A particularly special day this year since 2015 adds the 5th and 6th digits (and I suppose the next 7 also) to be included this year. Anyway I hope you enjoy today and give a moment to think about one of the most important and useful mathematical constants.

Also feel free to celebrate by eating lots of pie.


1 Comment

On pens and paper

This time last year I started to have had a fascination with pens, paper and analog tools. On one hand this is somewhat unexpected since I have pretty terrible handwriting and have been an early adopter of electronic note taking since high school where whenever I could I would write notes for any class on my laptop, I did!. On the other hand maybe it’s not so surprising since I have always enjoyed that tactile feel of books compared to an ereader for example. At any rate over the year using pens and paper to record events, thoughts, data and the like from the world around me has become a staple each day to day.



Where it all began

Unlike some of my interests I actually know exactly what started me down the path of this one, in a nutshell I blame Tested.com after watching this:

Two weeks prior to watching this video I was sitting in the Gold Coast Airport terminal waiting on a plane to New Zealand. This was my first time traveling overseas and I had recently received my Australian passport. I remember sitting at the airport terminal playing around with my passport and appreciating its form factor: compact, small and yet packed full of information. Going back to the video while watching it the field notes notebooks reminded my of the musing I had had about my passport prior and a few weeks onwards I had a pack of their standard kraft notebooks and a pack of their expedition notebooks (waterproof, tear resistant paper) in my hands. And so the start of my journey down the rabbit hole of pens and paper began.

I must say, like I suspected Field notes really nails the form factor for me. They are the perfect size to carry around in my front pocket and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. They also happen to make limited editions of their notebooks 4 times a year, one for each season. For each edition they try something new, different printing techniques, different paper & colors and rulings (dot grid is my favorite).


In search of colors


So then began my search to collect some of the previous field notes colors editions. Since many of the previous editions had long sold out this provided an interesting challenge. The first couple of previous editions weren’t too hard to pick up from retail stores which still had a bit of stock left. Eventually I stumbled onto the Field Nuts Facebook group which is a community of people who are fans of Field Notes notebook, pens, paper and analog tools is general. Its this group I attribute my growing interest in all things of the analog nature which eventually led to my adoption of the bullet journalling technique for daily note taking and my first fountain pen.


Inked up


Like many I started my journey into fountain pens with the pilot metropolitan (fine nib), a low cost beginner pen. The metropolitan was just a small taste of what fountain pens had to offer in the realm of writing. Of note I found the experience of writing with a fountain pen to be a lot smoother than that of an ordinary ballpoint pen. To me the mechanics of how a fountain pen operates endlessly fascinating and I quite enjoyed learning about the different properties of various inks, the effects of the nib and feed and different variations in fountain pen operation.

Since my starting fountain pen I have collected quite a few ranging from beginner, to mid range, to high end pens. As an engineer however the TWSBI Diamond 580 resonates the most with me (one one in all the pictures). Not only is it a fantastic writer (I have the EF nib in mine), and not withstanding the fact that it is a clear demonstrator model which means you can see all the parts of the pen and how it works! The TWSBI is able to be fully disassembled  and user serviceable. Yup it breaks down into 12 parts (I think thats right) which makes cleaning and maintenance of the pen very easy.



Thinking back through how exactly my interest in paper, fountain pens and the like has been a very interesting process. I find it curious how little ideas and thoughts can accumulate and grow to develop interest and passion of new things. I’m very happy that fountain pens and memo books have made it into my routine and have found that they have brought a bit more organisation to my life.