Friday, March 28, 2008

Harness Machine Update

While we were working on the harness machine we found that the darn machine was acting up on the lengths. Obviously we have to have consistent lengths on a machine that cuts wire. otherwise it won't fit in the car. I'd been pulling my hair out trying to figure out where the problem was, and eventually I found it!
Yesterday we got the length variance down to about +- 5mm on the new harness machine. This is excellent because we HAVE to have reliable lengths.
This means that the machine should be ready for Show and Tell next week when the BigWigs come down from Canada to tour the plant.
Hope nothing catches fire between now and then!

Assistant Update

My new assistant is excellent! He's learning real quick. He doesn't know much about programming, but he seems excited to learn.

The real tough question is what am I going to call him. His name is Jorge, but obviously I can't call him that.

I've been toying with the following possibilities:


It seems like the list is endless...
Man this is tough!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New Assistant

Last week I was talking to my supervisor and I mentioned that I probably wouldn't be staying the rest of my life in Guaymas, and that we would probably like to get somebody taking over my projects.
So they hired me an intern who supposedly just graduated from computer science/engineering. I thought it was going to be awesome to have a programmer who i could teach electronics to and who could teach me how to program better.
the kid knew less than me about programming. In fact, he couldn't even answer the most basic programming questions, things that I learned in my introductory programming classes from UA. He didn't know what a case select was, a progress bar, a ternary operation, or even how to parse a string. These are things you learn in programming 101. and he was supposed to be a programmer.
needless to say, that show was cancelled before the first commercial break.
So I spent 3 days training this kid, and all that's flushed down the toilet now.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008

MC Animator

This video is about the makingthings microcontroller. It's a pretty cool little device.
I wrote this program to take advantage of all its inputs and outputs.

If you decide to run this program, make sure you have the controller connected up through ethernet, and that you get ethernet response over mcHelper.


the program and source are available at

The microcontroller costs about $110 and is AWESOME. I've been using it in a lot of my projects, and it's great! Don' t know how I ever survived without it.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Visual Express + MController = Pure Awesome

Since I moved to Mexico, I've started doing a lot of programming. Mostly for custom machines of my own design.
My new bestest friend is the microsoft Visual Studio Express Edition package. It's a group of free programs that will allow you to write your own software. FREE! Also any programs you make are your own, no royalties or licensing fees. Pretty suite...

This is a screenshot of the design interface for my Harness Machine they even let you burn your own CD. FREE!

*Crescent Wrench Not Included

You can either download Visual Basic .Net, which is great for just learning, or you can get C++ or C#. Most of the programs I write are in C#. This started because for my interfaces, I use the makingthings microcontroller
More on this later

this allows you to plug in a microcontroller into your computer and have it move stuff around. The "MC" make controller, has libraries that work in C#, so this means you can talk to it from your own programs. Anyway, I've really come a long way in my programming skills since i started using the Express Editions. If you've ever thought about learning how to make a basic windows program, you should download a copy and play around with it, it's actually quite fun! Did I mention FREE?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


So for those of you who don't know, I work in Guaymas, Sonora. Which means I speak a lot of Spanish at work.
Here's some photos of my office:

The desk is kind of a mess, but at least there's tools.

Here's all my stuff that I get to play with

That spray bottle has WD-40 in it, keeps my drill bits sharper longer. Black&Decker 14.4V drill with quick change chuck, (and a compass and a stock and a thing which tells time) was a b-day present from Vicki. My Fave. You can't see my all time favorite tool which is my Dremel. It's carefully stowed in my tool box where no un-sterilized hand may touch. I use that baby almost every day. It's about the most useful tool evar. Yes i said "EVAR!"

There's also a couple of cans of flat-black spray paint. Dad taught me that a little flat black can make a piece of crap look like solid gold (black gold, that is).

And it's TRUE!. Even my crappiest, blobbiest, ugliest, most un-even welding jobs are no match for a little buffer action and a heavy treatment of flat black. Thank you, Dad. Those are the kind of lessons that every son should be so lucky to receive.

You may notice a lot of my projects use liberal amounts of flat black.... There's a reason for that.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Optical Tester

So at St. Clair, we build wire harnesses for cars, RVs, trucks, etc. and some of our harnesses have fuse boxes on them.Our operators add the fuses/flashers/breakers etc into the fuse boxes, and until recently, we only had a visual check system. That means that another operator would look over it and see if everything was present and in the right place.
Well as you can imagine, we had lots of errors, because visual check systems just don't work out. If the quality checker has a few too many drinks before work, or gets bored, or whatever, you start getting errors, which come back and bite us in a big way.

We needed a cheap check system for our fuse systems, so the old wheels started turning...
I set up basically a big, light controlled cavity on a build desk that the operators can stick the fuse assemblies into when they've been assembled.

A hole

There's a webcam mounted at the bottom of the hole that takes pictures of the fuse boxes

I used my dremel to rout out some acrylic masks to put over the fusebox so that the operators would be more inclined to put all the pieces in the right spot, then i painted them flat black.

I'm thinking about switching to the lucrative profession of hand-modeling
PS. I love my dremel

Before harness/fuses

Fuses in place

I mounted a high-resolution webcam at the bottom of the cavity that will take a photo of the fuse assembly. This photo will be compared to an original photo of a fuse assembly that is correcly assembled. So this means computer time.
I wrote a program in that will pull up the most current image from the camera, based on the harness number, and it will compare it to what it should look like. And then spit out an image of where the errors are in pink.


You can also zoom... WOW it's like You're in the future.

then it will either FAIL the harness with a screen saying where the error is, or it will PASS the harness and print out a beautiful little adhesive sticker like the one below, which tells the part number, date, image number, and stuff.
This ticket goes on a branch of the harness when it leaves the station.
The ticket makes it so that when our customer calls and complains because the fuses are screwed up, we can look at the photo saved on our PC and tell if it's true or not
So yes, i know the system looks pretty ug. But it only cost about $2k, including the PC. And I did it all by myself, so that counts for something right. Plus it works. Being ugly doesn't matter much when it works. Maybe version 2.0 will be more attractive.