Robot Building Competition (Hebocon)

Easter Monday (17th April 2017): Robot building challenge!

This is a repeat event from our extremely successful robot building challenge we ran in October. Entrants are welcome from all age groups and all experience levels. Come as a family, come as individuals, come from a neighbouring hackspace!

Newbury Hackspace will provide a selection of parts and components, feel free to bring your own toys, parts, bits and build a robot. Arrive after 10am, build your robot at the Hackspace or build it at home and bring it along. Entered robots will compete in a Hebocon (Crap Robot Competition) at 4pm.

Rules: Your robot must be crap. Advanced robots, e.g. those showing any degree of control will be penalised at the discretion of the judges! Search the Internet for #hebocon to get ideas.

Laser commissioning

We have a laser…sadly not attached to a shark…actually, not attached to anything much. It’s more a Laser kit without instructions!
Our Laser is a generous donation from the Reading Hackspace and appears to contain everything you might need to make it operational but it is going to take some work to understand the what, how, why, where and wtf.

A peek under the bonnet reveals all…our Ikea building skills are required

The unit itself appears to be a Rabbit HX3040 40W CO2 laser and contains the laser tube, High Voltage Power Supply Unit (PSU) required to fire the laser, a 24v/5v PSU required to power the servos and controllers and a couple of controller/driver boards. The main cutting area looks good with the X Y Servos and mirror arrangements all in place. Mechanically it looks good but there is much to do to test, understand and reintegrate all of the main components to turn this into a functioning laser cutter…a perfect Hackspace challenge.

Mama mia – just missing the meatballs

The starting point has been safety. Before we do anything, how do we ‘play’ with a laser to test and align it without anyone losing their sight or experiencing unexpected tattoo removal? Finding people with laser experience is critical.
We will need to build and integrate a cooling system for the laser itself and an extraction system to move air across the cutting area (to prevent fire) and to duct away any harmful fumes from cutting materials. We also need to consider safety and protecting the system so will look at interlocks to ensure that the laser won’t operate without the lid being closed, coolant flowing, extraction running, etc. Idiot proof is the description we’re looking for here.
With minimal information about the current system we’ve started tracing the wiring and drawing together manuals and data on all the components currently in the box (a work in progress).


One of the key tasks is going to be getting the control systems back up and running. Fortunately NADHack have some experience in this space with quite a few members who have already built CNC cutters and 3D printers and who understand the control systems and servo driver requirements to operate an X Y positional cutter. No pressure there then…

Prototyping board with Smoothie interpreter/controller

It’s going to be quite a project to get this beast back into working shape so the phrase of the day at NADHack is likely to be ‘divide et impera’

Written by M Sansom.

Let it snow!



It started out life as a cheap aluminium-framed Reebok-branded full suspension bike.  All mechanical components were removed (some quite forcefully!) and the brake mountings, shifter mounting etc were ground off. The pedal shaft was replaced with an arrangement of steel angle which was ground into the footpeg shape and welded using the Kempi MIG welder.  The footpegs are exceedingly strong!

Most of the work centred around the stanchions mounting the skis to the forks.  These stanchions were created from scrap aluminium around the space, CNC’d in his mill and welded up with the TIG.  Buried in each stanchion are a pair of bearings held in bearing carriers also milled from scrap aluminium.  The horizontal braces are cut from a scrap spreader bar from a boat. The stanchions are mounted to the skis on rubber cut, of course, from a mouse mat.

Tools used:
– MIG and TIG welders
– Lathe
– Angle grinder
– Bandsaw
– Chopsaw
– Pillar drill
– Various small tools (screw drivers, spanners, sockets, allen keys, sandpaper, etc)
– Taps (M6) and dies (M10) (including cutting the thread under power on the lathe, which is awesome)
– Vinyl cutter

The great thing is – everything you see there is recycled with the exception of:
– The bearings, these were new for obvious reasons;
– The metal shafts for the axles.  He did attempt to turn these down from scrap on the lathe but couldn’t get good enough results; and
– The paint (yet to master that).

The bike has now been used on snow!, Stuart took it on his family holiday to La Plagne in France – the bruises are fading and he’s already thinking about version 2!

Video of the bike in action coming soon!