You may have notice that there wasn’t a Maslow newsletter last month because we decided that rather than spam you when we don’t have much new to say, we’ll wait until we have enough new information to write an interesting newsletter.
A collaborative newsletter experiment!
One of the reasons that it felt like there was less news last month is that Hannah and I are no longer the driving forces behind many of the amazing things being done by the Maslow community. There are now multiple groups offering Maslow kits for sale, working on alternatives to Ground Control, and improving the calibration process.
In order to give more groups a voice in the newsletter we are trying an experiment where the newsletter will be posted first as a wiki page in the forums allowing anyone to edit it and contribute. Hopefully through this process we can create a newsletter which better includes all of the groups working on Maslow.
MAKE Magazine is writing an article about Maslow!
One of the things I was working on last month (but couldn’t talk about) was helping MAKE magazine write an article about the Maslow community. MAKE magazine has a huge reach in the maker community. You may know them as the orchestrators of Maker Faire, from their excellent blog about the maker community, or from their online store selling maker related goods.
As someone who has been reading their blog and attending Makerfaire for as long as I can remember, it is a huge honor to be included in their magazine.
The article is intended to be an introduction to Maslow for people who have never heard of us so it might not have a lot of new information that you haven’t seen before, but if MAKE magazine is available in a supermarket near you check it out! And get ready for some new members of the Maslow community who will hopefully read about us .
Maslow Create - A collaborative CAD/CAM program designed for the Maslow Community
I’ve been pretty cryptic about what I’ve been working on, and it’s still not ready to share, but it has a name now and here’s a little more information.
I am working to build a CAD/CAM program built around the idea of sharing designs which will replace the Community Garden.
While we have seen some amazing collaborations happen in the forums, it can be difficult to work together on a CAD design. Sending files back and forth just doesn’t work that well. Posting a .svg or .dxf file makes it possible to share a design, but doesn’t let you adapt the design to accommodate your plywood thickness and you have to do the whole CAM process from scratch which takes time. To make all of this possible, Maslow Create is a CAD program with no drawing. Instead a project is defined logically creating a file which can be shared and edited like a piece of open source software.
Here is a very early preview of what that looks like:
The goal of Maslow Create is to build an online CAD/CAM program which allows you to share a design easily by sending a link, and let the person who opens the link enter a few key bits of information (the thickness of their plywood, the size of router bit they want to cut with…etc) and then download a gcode file which is ready to cut. Maslow Create will also make it possible for multiple people to edit a project simultaneously allowing us to create collaborative designs, or build off the work of someone else who designed something similar. Even individual features like the design of a table leg can be imported from one design into another to reduce duplicated work.
Maslow Kits Being Sold
Each of the groups currently selling Maslow machine kits seems to be doing an excellent job. New people are getting their Maslow machines put together every day, and it feels amazing to see that happening without having worry about packing the boxes. Not having to worry feels amazing, and has given me the freedom to work on the parts of the project I feel most inspired about.
As a reminder, you can see everything currently available for sale from the Maslow Community in the Community Garden Marketplace, and just a reminder that none of the people selling kits are paying me (or anyone else) for the right to do so. Maslow is a completely open project and anyone is free to take the design and improve or sell it.
And finally, as always, the update is a chance to show off all of the amazing projects that have been posted by the community.
Andy_Fencer knocked it out of the park with his first cut which was this beautiful shop sign:
Simon_Makes who has been a consistent source of excellent projects is currently working on a Maslow cut guitar. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he will do a YouTube video about the process.
Jametk made a very nice stool for his shop:
MGSR made some brilliant karate kick phone stands for his grand kids who reportedly love them:
UNUS_TRESQUATRO took on an ambitious project and I think the results speak for themselves. This coffee table will have a glass top.
MeticulousMaynard who also produces excellent projects regularly built a mail organizer. He says that he went from having the idea to having a finished product in a single day which is quite impressive!
Jetstar made a very cool target for his kids. I imagine growing up in a household with a Maslow is exciting
Speaking of Maslow projects for kits, LouisP made this incredible scooter:
Insane66 used his Maslow to build a wheelchair access ramp for his boy scout troupe which is exactly the kind of thing we always dreamed Maslow would be used for:
ClintLoggins made a beautiful light bulb pendant:
Gersus made this thoughtful and well done plaque for his wife:
Jdeboer1999 Made a stylized American flag cutout which I think came out wonderfully:
Keith used his Maslow to cut some UHMWPE pads to go under his Maslow’s sled and inspired the next generation in the process:
johnboiles helped out a friend to make lids for pottery bento boxes:
And then he went on to help his wife’s friend who is starting a protein bar business by making a knife guide for her to more quickly cut her bars. What a stand up guy!
Jeebiss installed the sign he made and it looks fantastic!
TheMeryYeoman also helped out a buddy who was doing a coffee shop build out with a beautiful clock and signage:
Travis_McCleery made this stunning light:
If you are like me, you have spent a lot of time walking back and forth between your computer running ground control and your Maslow. You might even have picked up your wireless mouse and dragged it across the backboard in order to click a button from 10 feet away as you try to set the sprockets to 12 o’clock. After the umpteenth time doing so, I thought about how nice it would be to be able to use my cell phone to remote control ground control. Why can’t we push a button in a phone app to advance the sprocket one degree? So I embarked on adding web-based control functionality to ground control. It worked, but it was little kludgey and for some unknown reason could cause Kivy display issues.
Then Hurricane Michael happened. Out of abundance of caution, I took my family to my mom’s house in Jacksonville and my wife watched the Weather Channel non-stop. There’s only so much Jim Cantore one man can take, so I setup my laptop in my mom’s dining room started to work on the Kivy display problem. @johnboiles had suggested a particular python web framework called “flask” and so I looked at using that and in the process of doing so, I ended creating a basic webserver using it along with websockets. Then it came to me that instead of trying to figure out why the Kivy-based display would get corrupted, why not just build a web-based version of ground control without Kivy. And with that, the idea of webcontrol was born. A few months later, we’re there.
Being web-based, webcontrol has a number of advantages over the Kivy-based ground control.
Multiple, simultaneous displays
You can have one display running in a browser on a laptop and a second running on your phone and a third on a tablet. The only limit is the power of your computer running webcontrol to manage the clients.
Responsive user interfaces
Ever try to use a website that’s designed for a desktop browser on your phone? It’s not very user-friendly. By using a web interface, different user interfaces can be served for different devices.
Headless operation on Raspberry Pi
Webcontrol was developed on a Raspberry Pi and I never hooked a monitor, keyboard or mouse to it. Everything can be managed through basic SSH operation and even that isn’t needed if you use @johnboiles prebuilt SD card image.
3D capable display
Webcontrol was designed to mimic the operation and layout of ground control, though there are differences and not everything that ground control does has been incorporated into webcontrol. The calibration routine does not use the “guided” calibration process, rather, it provides a “quick configure” page to establish initial parameters, a set sprockets page to align the sprockets and extend the chain, and a triangular calibration page to perform the calibration cuts, measurements, and optimization. Also not present in webcontrol is the simulator as I wasn’t sure it really was worth the time investment.
However, there’s many features that have been added to webcontrol that ground control does not have.
Webcontrol is distributed using a prebuilt docker image (think virtual machine) that contain all software needed to run it. I’ve developed a web-based management program called WebMCP which gives you the ability to start, stop and update webcontrol with a push of a button. And since the docker image contains all the software, it also contains the latest controller firmware that’s compatible with webcontrol. No need to run Arduino IDE or download files from github.
Graphical display of gcode information
Webcontrol displays the target gcode move location on the screen using a black crosshair and shows the current gcode line number and command.
Graphical display of home position
Ever wonder where Home is set? Webcontrol displays the home location on the screen using a green crosshair and shows the Home coordinates.
Improved gcode index operation
The buttons that allow you to move through the gcode to particular location now analyzes the gcodes and sends additional commands to ensure that the controller is in the correct state prior to starting a cut. This includes moving to a safe height, setting units, turning on/off spindle, etc.
If you have a calibration pattern and camera, you can use optical calibration to improve the accuracy of your Maslow.
Camera display support
Have a USB camera lying around? If you attach it to your Raspberry Pi, you can feed its video to your web clients.
As of this writing, the focus is on the use of a Raspberry Pi as the computer that interfaces to the Maslow controller. If there is demand, we’ll work on developing dockers for other computer systems (Windows, Linux, MacOs, etc.).
Webcontrol is in open-beta. It is all open source and people are free to fork it as they desire. You can download all the files from Github and run webcontrol from any system with Python installed, but some features like the firmware updates will be lost since they are compiled as part of the docker build process.