Building a Better Colour Changer – Part 3 – Revising the design

Well, it’s been a while, but it’s well past time we had another look at the continuing saga of Circuit design and Colour Changers.

The good news is I haven’t been idle and now we’re up to like prototype 5.  The bad news is there’s still a bit to go before it’s reliable and repeatable enough that we can sell them.

Close though, I think we’re on the last but final!

So, as to delays……

One of the big problems with trying to capture a design process from start to finish is you end up with a hell of a lot of footage.

Turns out, editing hours of footage in to a watchable 5 to 10 minute video is something I suck at.  Inevitably when I promised myself I’d do it I sat down and promptly continued the design process again.

Which of course meant I now had even more footage.  Anyone who does the maths can see the problem with this.  So many hours of terrible, boring footage.

So here’s a peak at version……3….. I think.  Click on through for some of the videos I did actually did manage to finish!

I’m much better at Renders than Photos.

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Building a Better Colour Changer – Interlude – The KRC-1000E

Just as a little break from your regular program, I thought I’d talk about the $600 commercial alternative to our prototype.

The KRC-1000E is the rather catchy name for this unit, and my searching on the internet seems to suggest that it was most commonly purchased with the Brother KH-970.  This makes sense because from what I could find you can’t really program the unit as such.  There is simply a cable that plugs in to the KH-970.

Probably a good thing we didn’t spend any money on one for our KH-950i then.  It almost certainly would have been wasted money.

So, lets have a little look at what design decisions were made by a Japanese engineer in the 80’s vs an Aussie hacker in 2017.

So that’s what they look like! Thanks random internet search!

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Custom orders and another Brother machine

Hi Mum! Just a quick blog post from me today. I’ve been super busy with anniversaries, custom orders and working with the new one pixel per knit knitting…

Yay laptop cover! Turns out Naked Discovery is an educational facility and nothing to do with actual nakedness.
More blankets! See the difference between the old (pixelated) algorithm and the new offset algorithm. Four times the resolution and the new blanket pattern is bigger than my knitting machine’s memory!

I’d just like to give a shout out to a local tshirt printing shop called Das T-Shirt Automat. They’re a small corner store which prints your designs onto nice quality tshirts. John and I just had our 2nd wedding anniversary, the theme being cotton. While this should have been the PERFECT opportunity to knit John a cotton jumper, I wasn’t able to finish it before I caught the flu and all good intentions went out the window. Das T-Shirt Automat to the rescue! I designed a couple of uniquely John cotton tshirts and they turned the print around in a couple of days. To my surprise, they also have a Brother brand machine which does all their printing!

A Brother from another era!

I thought that was super cool and worth a shout out.

The tshirt designs you ask? Well, they obviously had to be space themed and about us (kinda). Needless to say they’re a little obscure. I blame the high fever 🙂

That’s all from me for now. We’re headed to the Geelong Scarf Festival opening night at The National Wool Museum tomorrow so very excited about that. Hundreds of space themed knits! I don’t know how I’ll cope.

Building a better Colour Changer – Part 2 – Firing the Lasers

Previously on “I’m cheating on my Colour Changer with a half made prototype”………

My first post on this topic was devoted to the Digital Side of designing a part.  It had lots of images, a fairly waffly bit in the middle where I admitted I hadn’t remembered to take images or notes and ultimately stopped before I put the rubber to the road.  What a cop out.

In this second part, there is still a bit of digital talk while I go through how I get my digital design from farm to table, but there’s going to be a hell of a lot of table too.  There may also be mixed metaphors.

I should also warn you, this is a bit of a long one.  On reflection, it should have probably been two posts.

This post contains 5 chapters (or steps, as it were):
In Step 1, I go in to a bit of detail on the digital steps I use to get to physical.
In Step 2, I put all the pieces together.
In Step 3, I give the project some smarts.
In Step 4, I attach it to the machine.
In Step 5, I cover some of the “corrections” I had to make.

As modern makers we’re really only presented with two approaches when turning our digital ideas into a physical reality,  Additive manufacturing and Subtractive manufacturing.  This project would suit either, I could have 3d printed these parts, CNC milled them or Laser cut them out of stock.  All are tools I have available fairly readily at the Connected Community Hackerspace here in Melbourne.

I guess I like the idea of vaporising plastic though, because friken laser beams is where I went without even a thought.

Hypothetically I could put lasers on this…..Stretch Goal?

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Stargazing ABC and the Geelong Scarf Festival 2017

Our beautiful Milky Way (CC0 Public Domain, free for commercial use, no attribution required)

Sometimes (often) I’m backward in coming forward. It’s a failing. I’m working on it. 🙂

You would think that for someone who’s done three coloured knits before with success, using one knit per pixel is just a stretch goal. Not real critical. However, my recent work in Algorithms of Multi-Coloured Knitting had a lot of motivation behind it. There was a thing I really wanted to make. So much so, it had me twisting my brain in knots trying to figure out a way to make it a reality.

Some weeks ago John and I were watching Stargazing Live on ABC, mere days after I cracked the three colour algorithm. Go check it out on iView if you’re at all interested in the night sky and what average Australians can tell you about what’s up there. A lot of passionate people are taking amazing photos with off the shelf cameras, not to mention what the professionals are up to at Siding Spring Observatory.

“She looks cold”, said John pointing to a visibly shivering Kumi Taguchi interviewing the Space Gandalf.
“Her scarf is ineffectual”, I replied, having been watching the scarf parade on screen as much as delighting in the astronomy.
“You could make her a scarf”
“There’s a particular scarf I want to make, but it can’t be done.”
“What’s stopping you?”
“Well… I’ve improved the resolution issue with the new algorithm but I still don’t think I have enough pixels. I want to knit the Milky Way.”
“You’d better figure it out soon, looks like there’s another scarf festival on this year and the theme is Galaxies.”
“Wow… you’re KIDDING me?!”

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Building a better Colour Changer – Part 1 – Designing hardware

“Can we make an automatic colour changer?  And can we do it cheaper than $500.”

I think Sarah posed this to me as a bit of a challenge, coupled with a desire not to spend $500+ on a yet another add-on for her knitting machine.

Like a lot of things, I think the answer is “Maybe…”  I mean, I’m fairly confident, but as this is an ongoing project I’m still a little unsure.  Still, the render looks good, so that’s something!

Seriously, I’ve seen Kickstarter projects that don’t look this slick.

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Cloud bad. Pi good.

This particular project isn’t unique in any way.  It’s almost more of a rant.

Originally, we didn’t really want a camera to check in our kid but that changed fairly quickly when we discovered he was fairly likely to scream happily while playing with his soft toys.  Climbing a flight of stairs to interrupt a happy baby really wasn’t working for us.

In a brief moment of time-poorness and low energy I ordered a Belkin NetCam HD off the internet.  I’ve used the Belkin WeMo kit before and figured it would Just Work(TM), I wouldn’t have to load an extra app on my phone and I generally wouldn’t have to think about it all that much.

And that was my mistake.  Cue the rant.

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Algorithms of Multi-Coloured Knitting

I’ve already posted about hacking a knitting machine to accept multi-colour patterns. Today I’d like to expand on that with some work I’ve done recently to improve the multi-colour algorithm.

When I knit in multi-colour I use a method called Double Jacquard. This involves the Brother KM-950i, ribber KR-850 and colour changer KC-900.

Different coloured yarns are held in the colour changer on the left. Moving the carriage right with one coloured yarn will simultaneously knit the yarn into the front (knitting machine bed up top) and back (ribber bed down the bottom) to create double-layered knitting.

The result is a multi-coloured pattern on the front and a simple pattern called Birds Eye to tie all the loose yarn together on the back.

Knitted pattern on the front, knitted birds eye on the back and purls in the middle. I also sell these personalized baby blankets on Etsy.

But we can do better than this.

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Hacking the Brother KM-950i to Knit Multi-Colour Patterns

I’ve previously discussed hacking the Brother KM-950i. The major limitation to this work was the hack only supported two-colour patterns. That’s like having a black and white printer when what I really wanted was a colour printer!

Two-colour patterns are quite simple. Each knit is represented in binary (0 or 1) for the two colours.

Output of a two colour pattern

So how could this possibly support multi-colour? It wasn’t until 2015 (2 years after my initial fork of the Brother KM-930e hack) when I had my first epiphany and a year later in 2016 when I actually knitted a multi-coloured thing. This upgrade to the original two-colour hack has been several years in the making!

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Hacking the Brother KM-950i

“Hack a knitting machine!” They said.
“It’ll be fun!” They said.

Well, I did get there eventually. But it was a battle just to get two-colour hacked knitting working (not of Mordor proportions, but still very big). I’d like to give you a quick introduction of the code and methods I used. I’ll be posting about upgrading to the multi-colour hack (ie, more than two colours) in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Back in 2013 when I lived in London I tinkered around with a Brother KM-950i knitting machine at the London Hackspace. Thanks to the awesome work by Adafruit there was a python hack available for the Brother KM-930e so I thought I could just dive in and make my own hacked knitting.

Cue proverbial rabbit hole.

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