Arduino Starter Kit

I recently added a stepper motor to my rotary table based on an article I had seen in Model Engineers Workshop. Everything worked OK but I realised I that I knew very little about the Arduino micro-controller used to power the project. As I can see other uses for stepper motors in the workshop I thought I had better find out a bit about programming the Arduino. To that end I bought a kit from Amazon to play with.

The kit I found was by Elegoo who seem to specialise in this sort of kit and parts for the Arduino and Raspberry Pi. They have some interesting looking car kits for another day. The kit is made in China and manages to get a lot into a a small box. Once you have taken a few bits out it is difficult to get it all back in! I borrowed some images from Elegoo’s website as their pictures are better than mine, I sure they won’t mind. Click On Image For Larger View

The kit contains an Arduino Uno R3 together with a host of things to plug into it. My particular interest was to find out a bit more about stepper motor control and the kit includes a small stepper motor and driver. It also has a DC motor and a servo to experiment with. There is a CD in the kit that contains the manual, 122 pages in pdf format, which has the lesson notes for 24 lessons. The CD also has the sketches (programs) that go with the lessons. The lessons and sketches are available in a number of languages. I have only just started but the lessons seem to be quite well written and the translation is good so no struggling with “Sino-English”. It may be worth printing out the pdf file as you may need to read that at the same time as inputting program data.

The first part of the manual gives an inventory of the kit contents with pictures so that you can check everything is there. The first lesson explains how to set up the Arduino IDE (Integrated Development Environment) there is a copy of this on the CD but it is not up to date so safer to download from the Arduino site for the latest version. The pdf manual also contains information about driver installation with help if you run into trouble. The lessons start nice and simply with flashing the on-board LED and each lesson introduces a new bit of hardware to experiment with. The manual has plenty of diagrams and clear explanations. The programming examples are clear which is good because I know nothing about C++ which is the Arduino programming language. There is a bit of a glitch at lesson 8 where it refers to an earlier lesson that isn’t there. Also the breadboard power supply is introduced without explanation. Having flipped through the manual, code examples become less as things progress, relying instead on the code supplied with the sketches. The code in the sketches supplied is commented but not overly so.

I think the kit will provide a good introduction to the Arduino particularly the link between computer and machine. I wasn’t aware before I got the kit just how many things can be computer controlled. All I have to do now is set to and work my way through the lessons. Whether I remember anything is another matter but I am quite looking forward to playing. I think I will still need a book on c++ though. Oh I did notice that the name is a bit of a play on words eLEGOo but I am sure that was unintentional (possibly). I note that since I purchased my kit (a week ago) the price has gone up quite a bit.

Samsung C430W Printer

I don’t print all that much but it would be nice to have a printer that worked when you need it. Due to lack of use the ink cartridges always seemed to be clogged up when I needed to print something. This resulting in a lengthy cartridge cleaning cycle that never worked properly and wasted ink. A new set of cartridges cost almost as much as the printer so I thought it was time for a change. I reasoned that a laser printer wouldn’t ‘dry up’ if not used, as the toner is already a dry powder. Laser printers tend to be a bit bigger than inkjets but a bit of research came up with the Samsung C430W Xpress, a small footprint colour laser printer.

Samsung C430W Xpress
Samsung C430W Xpress

The printer was ordered on ‘Black Friday’, more by luck than planning, but was priced at £85.00 rather than the usual £129.00. It was also at the same time subject to a Samsung promotion of an extra set of toner cartridges to be claimed later. Also had an extra years warranty courtesy of John Lewis. Despite the best efforts of the courier the printer turned up eventually, the outer packaging was a bit battered but the box seemed to have staved off most of the results of being ‘in transit’ for 10 days!

Unpacking was straightforward and there was plenty of styrafoam to protect the printer in it’s box. The printer was basically ready to go once all tape holding covers and trays in place had been removed. Even the toner cartridges were in place and ready to run without any preparation. First thoughts are that the plastic case seems a bit flimsy, everything bends and creaks when pressed. The paper tray seems very light duty, time will tell whether it is up to the job. The printer is quite heavy though so there must be a reasonable amount of metalwork holding it together somewhere under the flexi-covers.

Big disappointment was that the paper tray sticks out the front when loaded with paper. This is not made clear in any of the sales blurb or even the specification. There are no pictures anywhere with the tray sticking out at the front, I think this is a bit remiss of Samsung not to mention this as it adds 90mm to the depth. The footprint with the tray in shipping mode is 380mm wide, 310mm deep, 210mm high. The depth in normal use mode is 400mm. The paper tray expands the first time you pull it out and clips into it’s new larger footprint. If you remove the paper, the tray does not shrink back to it’s original size without a bit of effort to find the clicky somwhat flimsy locking tab. If you only want to use A5 paper, it will work with the tray concertina’d in, which restores the advertised footprint.

Once over that annoyance (I decided I could live with the ‘new’ footprint) I installed the drivers and set the printer up. There is a CD with the drivers but my PC doesn’t have a CD/DVD drive, fortunately the drivers are also downloadable from the Samsung support site. Not quite sure what happened with the driver installation but I seemed to end up with three printers. That was probably a combination of me not reading the instructions carefully, Windows 10 and the downloaded drivers. However I gave it a quick test on the usb cable which seemed to work OK and then deleted the printers in device manager and used the usb cable to set up for a wireless network setup. Everything now works fine with just the wireless network connection and just one printer showing in ‘Devices and Printers’. I can even print from my phone and tablet though I am not quite sure why I would want to.

The text print quality is good and the printer makes a nice job of my Geomagic Design drawings. The photo quality is OK but not up to my old inkjet standard, I didn’t really expect anything different. It might perform better with a better quality paper, I believe you can get special photo paper for laser printers. The printer is quite quick once it is printing although there is a delay before it gets going. I haven’t timed it but I am happy with it. The network connection seems solid (at the moment) and there appears little difference in timing whether connected with a usb cable or over the wifi. The controls on the printer panel are just the on/off button, a WPS button, a stop button and an ECO button. I haven’t explored the so called eco mode but it’s main claim at savings seems to be the ability to print two or more pages on one sheet. The graphic in the properties display proudly claims that you can save 50% toner by printing two pages on one sheet! Probably, but it will be half the size, I have enough trouble reading full size print, thankyou…

The printer seems to be reasonable value for money, especially if you can find it on offer somewhere. Print quality is good but don’t get it for your photos. Casing and paper tray seem a bit flimsy but there is plenty of weight inside. My only other criticism was the labels stuck all over the front, I really don’t need all the store display advertising permanently stuck to the front! At least make the labels easy peel, I had to spent 15 minutes with a bottle of foul smelling label remover to get everything off. A full set of toner cartridges will cost more than I paid for the printer. The colour cartridges are rated for 1000 pages and the black for 1500. I am hoping that with the spare set of cartridges from Samsung’s offer I shouldn’t need to buy any more before the printer wears out.

Midlands MEX 2016

Went to the Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition on Thursday. An uneventual and speedy journey meant I arrived just before 10:00 and the car park was already filling up. A quick cup of something that vaguely resembled coffee in the mezzanine restaurant and I was ready with the camera. It was quite busy and not always easy to get good photographs and the ropes around some of the stands kept getting in the way. (Click On An Image For A Larger View)

Triple Expansion Engine O.B. Bolton Design
Triple Expansion Engine

This would be my choice for a prize, a marine triple expansion engine to an O.B. Bolton design in 1/12 scale, owner is Brian Newbound. I think this is based on the casting set from Brunell Models. The construction series was in Model Engineer from August 1985. A very good looking engine but I don′t know who built this one.

Two 7¼” locomotives caught my eye. The first is a ⅓ full size model of Phillips and Rangeley Railroad No. 3. (George M Goodwin) This is a 2-6-0 tender engine built for the lumber trade. The original, 2 foot gauge engine, was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1891 works number 11706. This model has been professionally built by Cromar White for Bob Whitfield in 7¼” gauge. The engine is huge and will probably soon be seen on the Echills Wood Railway in Kingsbury Water Park.

A bit smaller but none the less impressive is this model of Charles an 0-4-0 saddle tank quarry locomotive, part of the City of Oxford Society of Model Engineers display. The original was built by the Hunslet Engine Company Ltd of Leeds in 1882, with a works number of 283. for the 1′ 10¾” gauge Penrhyn Railway to carry slate from the Bethesda quarry.

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Brooklands MEX 2016

The Model Engineer Exhibition moved to Brooklands Museum in Surrey this year after a short break. Set inside part of the old Brooklands motor racing circuit, the Museum celebrates the motor racing and aviation history of the area. Brooklands Circuit was the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit, built by local landowner Hugh Locke King in 1906. The circuit is 2¾ miles long with steeply banked curves and an extra ½ mile start / finish straight in front of the clubhouse. Much of the original concrete circuit remains but you wouldn′t want to race on it now, the surface is very rough and I doubt it was exactly smooth when it was new. (Click On An Image For A Larger View)

Part of the Old Brooklands Circuit
1. Part of the Old Brooklands Circuit

With both the museum exhibits and the exhibition there was plenty to see. The competition and loan models together with the club stands were based in the museum whilst the trade stands were in a large marquee. On-site catering was good and there was plenty of seating both in the restaurant and close to the models. There was also plenty of outside seating available once it stopped raining and dried out.

The traders area was well supported but some of the “usual” suppliers were noticeable by their absence. A view inside the marquee (2) showing Chester Tools stand, quite a bit smaller display than I have seen before. With the increase in on-line sales and increasing costs of attending a show I think this will become the norm for future exhibitions. I had a quick look round but my wallet stayed resolutely in my pocket. Off to the model displays which were based in and around the clubhouse (3), built around 1907 it houses the members billiards room, the clerk of the course office, and you could find similar buildings on most horse racing courses of the period.

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Bristol MEX 2016

Braved Saturday′s somewhat inclement weather to drive the 110 miles to visit the Bristol Model Engineering & Model Making Exhibition. The exhibition, as in previous years, takes over most of the available space at the Thornbury Leisure Centre. Slightly different layout this year as the Centre was using one of the smaller rooms but plenty of models for visitors to enjoy and enough traders to supply all those engineering necessities and lighten your wallet. By my reckoning about 40 trade stands, 50 club stands and some 40 private exhibitors helped fill the display stands.

Bristol Society of Model and Experimental Engineers - Locomotive Display
1. Bristol Society Stand – GWR Rules

GWR Swindon works celebrates it′s 175th year and the BSMEE stand acknowledges this with a fine display of GWR locos. The Society also promoted a theme of “model making” for the show and this is reflected in the change of name for the event, which the observant will have noticed, I didn′t until I read the exhibition guide! Some of the GWR locos on display (1), two Saints nearest the camera 2908 and 2915 with 2286 a 0-6-0 Collet design tender loco on the left. Click On Photos For A Larger Image.

At the opposite end to the Saints are; (2) Frilsham Manor 7816 and Bradley Manor 7802. A general view of the BSMEE stand (3) and a view from the balcony (4) which shows how quiet it was, I think the weather and the Olympics conspired to keep potential visitors at home, apparently Friday was a lot busier. As last year I have selected just a few of the hundreds of exhibits on display.

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Budapest Railway History Museum

I recently spent an interesting few hours visiting the Magyar Vasúttörténeti Park. This is a large open air railway museum in Budapest, a bit away from the usual tourist hotspots but still quite easy to reach with a short walk from bus or tram stop. There is a direct railway link at weekends running from Nyugati Station. Opened in 2000 the museum covers some 7 hectares (17 acres) on the site of the former MÁV (Hungarian State Railways) Budapest North Depot. There are more than 50 locomotives in various states of preservation along with a huge selection of rolling stock. Some of the exhibits run at weekends and holidays and you can even get to drive one although I think you have to book in advance for this. Not everything is open every day and a weekend visit seems to be the best choice but it is popular locally and quite busy.

Loco 1026
Freight Locomotive 1026 – built 1882

The locomotives are without doubt the main attraction and for any European Railway Enthusiast a day will likely not be enough time! First up is MÁV 1026 (pictured above) a class 341 (341,012) freight locomotive build by Wöhlert Berlin in 1882, the information given for the loco shows the wheel arrangement as C-n2. This had me a bit confused until a quick web search revealed that this is the European UIC class and apparently means it is an 0-6-0, 2 cylinder loco using saturated steam. 1026 spent a good deal of it’s working life (1959 to 1985) in a sugar factory in Sárvár. Like many locomotives the number and class has changed several times through it’s lifetime.

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