Build, then rebuild
Any good idea really begins life as an okay idea. No matter how brilliant the idea, it’s not fully formed, so it’s imperfect. It’s that imperfect nature that makes it seem perfect. You don’t have to look close at the details. It’s what comes later, the taking a blob of an idea and shaping it into something physical, something real, that the idea goes from being okay to being great. Any realized idea in my opinion is a great idea, because you put the work into making it exist and that alone is worth something.
Yesterday (here) I wrote about how I was taking a set of ideas I had and turning them into something real. I like to live under the idea that if you can dream it, you can build it. Anything you could imagine, if you can imagine it, there’s a way to make it. You may not have the tools, the skills, the equipment, or even the knowledge to bring it into the world, but that doesn’t preclude it from existing. I’m looking at you flying cars, although to be fair with how people drive flying cars would probably be a disaster of epic proportions.
Seriously, even the most impossible idea could be made possible if you had the right equipment. Think about it, time travel, hoverboards, teleportation, sure some of these things are harder than others, I mean you can travel in time if you can somehow find negative mass, but what I’m saying is that if you had everything you needed to make them, you could do it and I think that’s a beautiful thing. There’s a bit of magic there that I think we, as (mostly) adults tend to overlook.
Maybe that’s why I like making things so much, it really does feel like magic some days. There’s also a bit of a puzzle in there too. Which is half the fun to solve. You have to get things aligned properly and they all need to fit together and work correctly. Even when I’m writing a bit of code, you have to make sure every step works as expected as you’re writing it. I wouldn’t exactly call it a game, or even fun (although it can be), but there is something satisfying seeing something like that work when you’re finished.
Today I started building out the newest lab equipment I’ve decided to make. I’ve pitched the idea to hospital-PI and he’s onboard with it, funded by his blessing of course until we get a grant for the work. But there’s been a lot of hurry up and wait on that end as the equipment we needed took time to arrive and after I got some of the parts, we discovered that we got the wrong thing (my poor fancy cables…).
But as of yesterday we had all the equipment and I’ve been hard at work making it happen.
It’s been a struggle of a day. Which is why this post is coming so very late. I’ve never had to do such fine solder work and the equipment I have isn’t, shall we say conducive, to making the equipment building easier. I don’t think I can get better equipment and after looking into it I highly suspect that they do not make anything better (using the soldering iron we have that is), so I’m stuck with what I’ve got, but I’m making it work. It’s still a struggle though.
Mostly I need to keep wires from touching that really want to touch. I’m soldering wires on a through hole on a PCB and of course when you apply heat to solder, the plastic surrounding the wire tends to melt so you end up with exposed wire. I have to solder a high number of wires in a very tiny space. So tiny in fact that I ran into a problem right away as I got started.
Wire has what’s called a gauge, but that’s just a fancy way to designate thickness. I didn’t anticipate this, but my already high gauge wire (higher is thinner, confusing I know) was too thick to fit into the hole on the PCB. Oops, chalk that up to things you don’t think about when you’re designing. Luckily I had some slightly higher gauged wire, 28 instead of 26, which just barely fits. The unfortunate part is that it’s stranded wire and not solid. Stranded wire is great because it’s super flexible, but it’s a bunch of very tiny wires making up a very tiny wire, so as I try to feed it through the hole, wires tend to not want to go through.
I’ve mostly managed it fine, which is the only good news I have on that front. The holes are sitting maybe 2 mm apart, I doubt it’s 3mm and there are a lot of them. So far things are going somewhat smoothly. The issue now is that the wires are exposed slightly and I’m worried they will touch if I’m not careful, so I’m planning on coating them with some liquid electrical tape when it’s all finished. It’s not a perfect solution and it will make the whole thing look ugly, but no one but me will know about it so I’m just not going to think about how ugly it will look and just be happy it works (assuming it works… please work).
Of course this is the first time I’m doing this so there’s a learning curve. I had several things I wish I could’ve changed if I had another chance to do it (I may have to make several of this particular part, so there may be other times). I could in theory scrap it and make another one, but I want to see this one to the end to see what else I can learn from it. Besides if it works well, then it was a success.
I’ve already had to take it all apart and try to build it again. Originally I (stupidly, I don’t know what I was thinking) tried to reuse one of the wires I had removed, soldered a small portion of the old wire to the end of my new fancy cable and use it that way. I quickly scrapped that to use a smaller gauge version despite not being quite as good as the original wire, I think it’s a much better solution. Plus keeping it simple means I’m less likely to run into problems.
Currently the bare minimum of construction for next week is one (ideally two) of the parts I’m currently working on, three of a different part, and possibly one of a third part. I know, cryptic, but that’s the best I can do for now. I’ve gotten a little over half of the first part soldered, so it’s slow going. I’m hoping to get this first part made tomorrow. If I can get it 100% finished, then I’ll be in a good position to start making the other parts.
I have it organized by level of difficulty, with the stuff I’m working on now being the hardest thing(s) I will have to make. So if I can get this done somewhat quickly, the rest of it should go fast. Of course, that’s the plan and as we’ve seen *waves vaguely at my entire blog,* that isn’t always the case. I’m hoping to update tomorrow and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be good news. We’ll have to see though.