HPC Laser Ltd - Laser Cutter/Engraver
Having thoroughly researched laser cutters, particularly after years of using them with secondary school students, I decided
to purchase one from HPC Laser Ltd. I chose the water cooled LS3060 which has a working area of just over A3. I have to
say this is the most amazing ‘tool’ I’ve ever purchased. The fact I can draw a design using CAD software and then get it cut
out to 0.01mm accuracy speaks for itself! It really reinforces the premise that imagination is the only limit - imagine
something, draw it and then get it perfectly made.
Techsoft - Laser Engraving Laminate
Techsoft provide really good quality laser engraving laminate sheets that provide fabulous engravings with very little
smoke or distortion. I tried other cheaper options, but these produced loads of noxious fumes which smelt horrible, and
could apparently corrode parts of the laser cutter. They are still cheaper than many other suppliers - I’ve done cost per mm
comparisons. The evenings fly by.
Standard Colour Laser Engraving Laminate, 400 x 280mm.
Black on White Order Code: TAL3-SCOL
Techsoft - 2D Design CAD Software
Having taught GCSE and A level Design & Technology for many years, I am very familiar with 2D Design software - most
UK schools use it to teach CAD and to control their CAM equipment. It does have limitations, but compared to the cost of
other industry standard CAD software, it is extremely good value. Version 3 is currently in development with the promise
of many new features.
Involute Spur Gear Builder - Online Gear CAD
As Techsoft’s 2D Design doesn’t currently provide a gear design tool, I have tried several online offerings. Many don’t
work very well, but the Involute Spur Gear Builder site is fabulous. It very quickly allows you to design gears by entering a
variety of variables and provides CAD drawings in DXF format which most CAD software recognises. Unlike several
other online gear designers I have tried, there are no gaps between segments in the output file, so very little subsequent
processing is required. A brilliant resource. Check out the License and Credits to appreciate those who have contributed to
making it so effective.
Technobots Online - Miniature Ball Bearings
I’ve found Technobots Online to be the cheapest supplier of miniature ball bearings and they deliver really quickly (at least
in the UK). Their 3D printer bearing sets provide really good value for money.
RS - Official Arduinos
Good old Radio Spares (as was). I found RS to be the cheapest supplier of official Arduino Uno’s and Micro’s (guaranteed
to work with all interfaces and the IDE) in the UK. I also order all my cable and other discreet components from them.
They are very reliable and deliver the next day at no extra cost if you have an account.
I also purchase the plug in power supplies from RS which run all of my steampunk machines. They have comprehensive
output protection and don’t whine or sizzle as do some plug in 5 volt power supplies. RS Pro Plug In Power Supply 5V dc,
1.2A Level V 1 Output, USB Type A Switched Mode Power Supply
MiniInTheBox - Arduino Stepper Motor and Interface
A great source for really low cost electronic components, especially the defacto 28BYJ-48 Arduino stepper motor that
comes with the convenient ULN2003 interface circuit. This stepper motor is useful as it is really geared down and can
therefore drive quite heavy loads without requiring too much current. The down side is that the drive shaft has a few
degrees of free movement - a small price to pay for such a small but powerful stepper motor that runs off 5 volts. Delivery
from China takes a while, but if you are ordering a few, the wait is well worthwhile.
5V 4-Phase 5-Wire Stepper-Motor Driver-Board Uln2003 For Arduino
WoodShopDirect - Plywood cut to size
When developing the Prognosticator III, I made the base from a piece of plywood accurately cut to size by Woodshop
Direct. I then cut and glued on Ogee side panels. Starting with a piece of plywood that had been cut to the right size, rather
than having to struggle to cut down a huge sheet of plywood, made life much easier. This worked well, as working from the
back meant I have clear access to attach and solder on the Arduino and the myriad of other components.
For the following Chronological Engine, Climatic Revelator and Gregorian Scribulator, I tried to simplify things by using
manufactured pine shelving. I could quickly cut out each plaque, routing the edges to give them the necessary twiddly bits,
and then staining everything before mounting the components. Unfortunately, I subsequently found this cheaper
manufactured board suffers badly from shrinkage and expansion. Whilst it is made from narrow bits of pine glued together
with the grain alternating in different directions to prevent overall warping, changes in humidity really effects it size. Not
important when they are used as a shelf, but significant when gears are mounted at precise distances.
When designing the Chronograph, I realised that plywood, with its alternating grain would provide the required stability,
could be laser cut and engraved, several layers stuck together would provide the twiddly details so beloved by Victorians
and having several layers allowed keyhole mounts to be built into the design. It worked well and I am currently using
Woodshop Direct’s WBP 3.3mm thick plywood. Getting the sheets cut to the size of the laser cutter saves loads of time
through ease of delivery, storage and use.
ThePlasticShop - Cut to size Acrylic (Perspex) sheet
Many thicknesses of extruded acrylic sheet which they can cut to size. Lots of price comparisons have indicated they are
one of the cheapest sources of cut to size Acrylic (Perspex) in the UK.
Creative Cables - Amazing mains cable in a variety of metallic colours
Wanting to avoid having horrible plastic wires connecting the Steampunk machines to a power supply, research revealed
there are a plethora of amazing braided cables available. The ‘Round Glittering Electric Cable covered by Rayon solid
colour fabric RL22 Copper’ gives the appearance of a braided compressed air or steam pipe. Definitely a great way to
connect steampunk machines. Creative Cables offer a wide range of such cables.
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage - Victorian
The most brilliant graphic novel on how Charles Babbage invented the first computers in the Victorian age and how Ada
Lovelace, the daughter of the poet Byron and a mathematical genius, worked with him, realised the power of computing,
wrote the first computer program and unsuccessfully tried to support his work - if only he’d listened to her! They were
pioneers beyond their time and the story is unbelievable.
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage even includes an illustrated explanation of how Babbage’s Analytical
Engine worked. This is such a well researched, informative and entertaining description of their exploits I cannot
recommend it highly enough. The author Sydney Padua brings their story alive.
Thanks to Charles Babbages’ refusal to respond to Ada Lovelace’s suggestions, his computers were never built until the
Science Museum in London constructed part of his Difference Engine No 1 in 1991. It worked perfectly. Their exploits
surely represent the definition of steampunk - no electricity and the world’s first working programmable computer driven
by steam engines!
Pimoroni Ltd - Arduino Input and Output Devices
Pimoroni apparently stands for pirate, monkey, robot, ninja! A great name and a company who sell loads of good quality
Arduino Shields (sensor and output interfaces) in the UK. I’ve used them loads and they deliver really quickly.
Adafruit - Designing, manufacturing and selling brilliant Arduino input and
Adafruit are an American company who design and manufacture many of the high quality Arduino (and other PIC) input
and output devices on the market. Check out their website to see a plethora of amazing Arduino interfaces and much more.
I’m so pleased they are named after Ada.
Ada Lovelace Documentary
A brilliant BBC documentary on the life of Ada Lovelace. Discover how hard her mother worked to turn her away from her
husband Byron’s poetry and decadent lifestyle in favour of mathematics. Find out how she worked with Charles Babbage
to realise the potential of his new computers, despite his recalcitrance to develop them beyond calculating logarithms and
trigonometrical functions. Discover how she unsuccessfully came up with a formula to ensure gambling on horses would
increase her inheritance sufficiently to fund Babbage’s inventions. An unbelievable story.
I couldn’t see any obvious links between educational software and steampunk machines… So here’s some! (I thank you).
Whilst teaching secondary Design & Technology I wrote several computer applications which helped me and other
teachers to make teaching and learning a little more effective and rewarding. I recently received some requests for the
Lesson Timer software, so have added the links below so that you can download and try the software. It was a long time
ago, but I think these trial versions work for 30 days and then need a software key. Let me know how you get on and if you
need a key. Clicking the relevant image will allow you to download a .zip file containing the software. Once unzipped,
double click the .msi file inside to start installation. Obviously it can be un-installed if you don’t want it.
Please be aware I didn’t purchase expensive publishing security certificates for the software, and as Windows has become
evermore security conscious, it will actively try to put you off installing the software! Thank you for your interest.
Lesson Timer 3
Lesson Timer 3 is a fully customisable lesson activity timer. It provides all the normal lesson
timer functions; timing up & down and setting start times, but also offers novel features such as
different titles, colours, sizes, fonts, zero sound effects, wysiwyg saving/loading, being able to
add class specific notes and even the ability to include the timers in PowerPoint presentations.
What’s really novel is it can use a microphone attached to the computer to monitor the sound
level in your classroom. Whenever the level exceeds a volume chosen by you and the students,
it continues adding to the time the class could be held in detention. Accrued time can also be
‘earned’ back through quiet working. Not necessary in every lesson, but very useful in some.
The Big Picture
The Big Picture instantly enlarges any copied image to fill your classroom screen (or a computer
monitor - I still use it at home). During class discussions I wanted some way of illustrating the
current topic with images from the Internet. As you know, they come in all sorts of shapes and
sizes that appear too small for everyone to see. The Big Picture instantly enlarges any copied
image (using CTRL C or a menu command) to fill the screen. Double clicking The Big Picture
window moves it to the back of the screen so you can search for a new image.
You can even review, re-show, create a slide show and save the found images for later use.