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DIY tech projects... still a thing?

11 July 2018

At present I'm scoping several tech projects for featuring in my YouTube channels and I'm hoping that the spirit of tech-DIY is still alive and well.

If not, these videos will likely be poorly received.

When I was a young lad (obligatory reference to dinosaurs roaming the planet), just about my every waking hour was spent working on some kind of tech project. Whether it was a new (higher-powered) radio transmitter, a new pre-amp for my huge (807 valves) stereo, or just an attempt to couple a feeble model aircraft engine to my bicycle, I was always making something out of very little.

This drive to "do it myself" and come up with things that nobody else had was relentless and accounted for many a very late night and poor performance at school the next day.

However, it was incredibly motivating and perhaps the only reason that I managed to perform reasonably well at an academic level.

Well things have changed.

Now I'm old enough to collect the pension and my energy levels are not what they once were... but I'm still very keen on building things based around technology.

Experience is (so they say) the best teacher and what better way to gain new knowledge and skills than by making stuff?

These days, thanks to SBCs, 3D printers, low-cost Chinese tools (sometimes called "one-time use" tools) and the free availability of almost everything you could want to know by way of the Net, "making stuff" has never been simpler.

Now I already have several projects designed and I'm ready to start the actual development and "build" aspects but I'm also looking for ideas as to what would make a good DIY tech-based project for my viewers.

The projects shortlisted so far are related to the RC models and drone fields but since I also have a channel (started years ago but not really used so far) which is specifically oriented to DIY tech and engineering stuff -- I'd like some ideas.

Just what sort of thing would you like to build, if you had the time and knowledge?

It can include electronics, software, machining, composites, chemistry and all the other fields that go to make up modern "technology" and hopefully, would have some practical application.

Projects must also obey the laws of physics (especially those of thermodynamics) so no perpetual motion machines, cold fusion reactors or time machines I'm afraid.

One idea I'm throwing around at the moment is a 3d printer -- that prints in metal.

No, I'm not talking about the conventional sintered 3D metal printing, where a metallic composite is built up using traditional 3D printing techniques and then heated just hot enough that the tiny metal particles fuse together into a solid. My solution is far more Heath-Robinson and involves the use of a computer-controlled 3-axis table (X/Y/Z) and a setup similar to a MIG welder -- where a wire feed and electrical current are used to build up the object being printed in a manner very similar to existing plastic-based 3D printers.

There are a raft of issues to be solved with such a setup at a DIY level and the resulting prints would be *awful* in terms of aesthetics... but they could be a very practical solution to some problems where function is far more important than form.

Even when a more aesthetic result was required, such a 3D metal-printer could be used to create a basic "rough" that could then be milled, turned or ground to a suitable finish and accuracy. Think of this machine as much as a dynamic casting facility as it would be a 3D printer.

The whole thing could be knocked up for under a grand by using cheap Chinese MIG welder parts in conjunction with off-the-shelf steppers, leadscrews and other components.

A worthwhile project perhaps?

I'm sure readers will have many other ideas -- which is why I've written today's column. Fire away... I'm listening!

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