Tactile Collider

Here is a guest post by Dr Rob Appleby from the University of Manchester and the team at Tactile Collider. You can find out more about them and there amazing outreach program at the following links:









BHiveLabs have, over the last year, forged a partnership with the national project Tactile Collider (funded by STFC) to make new tactile objects to explain the science and engineering of the Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs boson to blind and partially sighted audiences. This audience has very little chance to learn about this exciting science, in part due to the visual nature of the materials.

The goal of Tactile Collider was to fix this!

Early one we realized we needed a variety of new materials to teach the science, to work to different kinds of sight loss and to reinforce concepts in several different ways. For the tactile objects we wanted to make 3D printing was the perfect solution and we were lucky to know Simon at BHiveLabs to offer expert advice and solutions. We also had a need to print many objects for large classes, so the expertise in casting from 3D printed moulds possessed BHiveLabs would be crucial.

Tactile Collider is built around four stations, covering four areas of science. One of these stations is the magnet station, where students learn how we control and manipulate beams in the Large Hadron Collider using strong electromagnets.  This is the station we made materials for with BHiveLabs (The other stations are particle, magnets and Higgs but that is a whole other story). One concept we wanted to communicate is the idea of a bar magnet and how we use magnets with a north pole and a south pole (a dipole magnet) to deflect particle beams. We designed a tactile bar magnet, with outward dimples for a north pole and inward dimples for a south pole, and a dipole  magnet with the same convention. Simon organized a special design workshop for the Tactile Collider team, which was essential and very useful.

We printed these items with Simon’s help and advice and they came out beautifully!  Tactile Collider then organized a test event at Daresbury Laboratory, with two visually impaired guests using the printed objects. The test event was very successful, thanks in part to the input of BHiveLabs!

Now we had a nice bar magnet model, we needed to make many copies. This is where the expertise possessed by BHiveLabs in casting from moulds. Simon taught us how to produce moulds from the first magnet prints and then helped us hold casting workshops, where we produced many copies of the magnet and other models. This process was made easy by Simon, who guided us through every step of the way and gave us confidence to cast independently. Simon designed and made bespoke moulds for us to use and also designed the support structures for these moulds. We even learned how to use dyes to give the colours we wanted! The result was a set of models in sufficient number and quality for Tactile Collider.

The technology of 3D printing has allowed us to realise our ambitions of creating bespoke objects for teaching physics in new ways. However, without the support and expertise of BHiveLabs we would not have been able to produce so many well-made objects to properly deliver our work in a classroom setting.

This has been so successful we are continuing to come up with new ideas and designs and hope to continue our partnership in the future!

Printer to Chocolate

There have been a few reasons to celebrate lately around BHiveLabs of late, first of all Matthew and his wife have recently had their second child, and secondly a friend got married. To help celebrate, and to try and expand my skill set a little bit I thought I would try and make some chocolates to give out as gifts.

Read more

Friends in Leeds

A friend of mine is setting up a screen printing co-operative with some other artists in Leeds. The new space is opening on the 14th of October, and we thought that in order to help them out we would send them a sign.

They also have an indiegogo campaign to help with setting up the space https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-us-launch-leeds-print-workshop#/ , if you are interested or feeling generous pop across to have a look.

Mini Robot Army

Matthew's son recently had a bithday party, so Matthew wanted to put something a little different in the party bags and at the same time see how well he has got to grips with OpenSCAD. In doing so he has come up with a fun little robot (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1695590) that prints complete in a single piece with moving arms and legs, as well as a logo on the front that can be changed in the file. As an extra bonus he also made the feet compatible with lego (one of Matthew and his son's favourite toys).Read more

Enclosure - Version 2 - part 2, Assembly

Continuing on from part one where we discussed the parts that make up the enclosure, in this part we will discuss the assembly of these parts into a functioning enclosure, and detail the how well it functions, as well as discus where the enclosure can be improved upon. Lets start with some pictures of the assembled enclosure

Read more

Enclosure - Version 2 - part 1, Parts

As you saw, version 1 of the enclosure was a very quick method to get the ambient temperature around the print up. this helped to stop parts from cracking, but did nothing to combat the noise or fumes. So we took it upon ourselves to make a proper enclosure, and if possible measure any improvements that are achieved.Read more

Enclosing the Taz 5 - motivation

Enclosures for 3D printers are not exactly a new concept and for good reason, there are many advantages you get from having an enclosed build area. These advantages come in two overlapping categories; improved print quality and improved conditions for people.Read more

ULN2003 Stepper Motor Drivers using Arduino

We got our hands on a few small cheap stepper motors from technobots. Because these stepper motors are geared, they have quite a remarkable number of steps per revolution (2048 full steps, or 4096 microsteps) and come with a small driver board already. These drivers are a small single chip darlington array, and you simply make the 4 input pins high in order to pass current through each coil. This means that unlike more expensive stepper motor drivers you have to manage the coils in the stepper motor yourself, thankfully this is rather straight forward to do this for the Arduino.
Read more