PiWars development

So not much blogging from Team Ipswich Makerspace this year, been so busy, but things have been happening. Once again Keith is designing TractorBot (possibly being renamed this year) in Fusion360. Keith has had trouble with files becoming corrupt in previous years, but with experience things are so far going well. The model is even parametric, believe it or not the two images below are the same model, just with a couple or parameters edited to change the primary dimensions.

Short and high
Short and high
Large and flat
Large and flat

We started off using micro metal gear motors, so this is what we thought it would look like, once again using the trusty 7.2v NiCad batteries.

Potential layout(1)

And the first hardware was born.

And little while later we had movement. It’s always good when you see a robot move for the first time.

TractorBot 2017 from Keith Ellis on Vimeo.

Jobs List for Our New Home

A big list of things to talk about and prioritise but I propose a working party next saturday (11th) to make a start. If you want to get involved but can’t make this Saturday have a chat with one of the committee members to let them know. Chances are we’ll be doing stuff on Thursday evenings too as long as it’s not intrusive. Also mention anything you think we’ve forgotten.



  • Main table and chairs – we need to decide what we want the place to look like, but having a big cluster of tables has worked well in the past. I’d quite like to make tables similar to the ones we used in the church hall as buying them is damned expensive. 18mm ply works well or something like scaffold planks are quite ethnic too. Having tables we can move/stack would be extremely useful for hiring out the space purposes. Chairs are available cheaply from the Foxhall recycling centre and I may have a bunch of stacking chairs we could use.
  • Electronics workbenches – up to four stations with a good set of basic tools like a psu, soldering iron, monitor etc setup along the wall between the heaters so people can just rock up and get to work. Not exactly a quiet area, but definitely a work area.
  • Tim make sticky labels for our property
  • Tim make sticky labels for other people’s property saying (On loan)
  • Lighting (I know it’s not furniture), it’s a bit poor at the moment. We can double up on the lights we already have (somehow). If we go down the cluster of tables route we can put in a row of decent lights over it. We should also replace the current bulbs with LEDs for energy efficiency.

Tools and Equipment

  • Sort through and organize all our stuff
  • Laser cutter
  • Small tools
  • Dangerous Prototypes power things
  • Consumables


  • Fridge (Jon has one to donate)
  • Microwave
  • Toaster
  • Kettle
  • Recycling bins


  • A letter box
  • Coat of paint
  • Fix dripping tap
  • Tidy/repair/clean the loo (filler etc)
  • Lay an easier to clean floor in the loo, vinyl or similar
  • Fix the heat loss
  • Tidy/repair the kitchen
  • Sockets in the kitchen
  • Fix sliding doors to storeroom
  • Staircase non-slip paint
  • Install dexion shelving in storeroom
  • Solve condensation problem in the storeroom
  • A membership system
  • Unwire the tables and replace with floor boxes
  • Replace TalkTalk router with DrayTek router from church bungalow
  • Some form of wired networking to the tables and workbenches
  • Shelving system for member storage boxes
  • Purchase cleaning supplies and set up cleaning rota
  • Create leaving checklist to ensure space is secure and nothing is left on.
  • Install makerspace sign

Ipswich Makerspace 2017 Fund Raising

For several weeks we have been in negotiation with the owner of 11 Dove Street to acquire the lease and finally have a place to call home. Barring accidents we will be signing the lease this week.

What does this mean for the Makerspace?

Having our own space gives us the chance to develop the Makerspace in ways we’ve not been able to before. We can look at getting more tools and equipment, offer more activities and reach out to more makers. And of course we want to make all that equipment accessible and convenient so you don’t waste half the session getting set-up.

To make Dove Street the exciting and above all useful space we all want is going to take money. There’s the up front cost to acquire the lease, some for things like insurance and security, practical items such as tables and chairs and then for the additional tools and equipment.

A new membership package

We’ll be rolling out a new membership package over the next few weeks, but to give you a flavour of what’s coming:

  • You will be able to book time on the 3D printers and other machinery
  • Borrow the 3D printers to work on at home
  • Book bench space by the meeting or the month
  • Pay for meetings by standing order at a reduced rate
  • Have your own storage crate to leave your gear at the space


We have decided to offer everyone a chance to fund the Makerspace by purchasing “Founder’s Bonds”. We have such confidence and enthusiasm for this venture that the committee members have already pledged £6000 with a further £2000 under discussion. Each bond costs £100 and the funds will be placed in a special account and allocated to projects by the Makerspace Committee. We want people to look on the Makerspace as a long term venture and so the minimum term of the bonds will be three years. After that time bond holders will be able to apply to have their bond repaid and the Makerspace will make reasonable endeavours to do so subject to common sense and the availability of funds. As a benefit, bond holders will be entitled to a 3% discount off their annual membership fee for every £100 bond they hold for as long as they hold it.

The lease deposit, legal fees and fixtures and fittings will cost us up to £4900. We will also need some working capital to cover any shortfall in the running costs until the we can expand our membership.

What is to become of the rest of the funds?

Firstly, we want to secure the building, particularly the front door which is currently the weakest spot. In the long term we also want to install an entry system to allow members to come and go 24/7. We will need to replace the furniture as it belongs to the current lease holder, but we will be keeping the kitchen. The next step is where it gets exciting. As many of you know I’m very keen to get a laser cutter and, funds allowing, I will push to get one as soon as is practical. Jon Leach has offered to lend us his CNC machine, Dan Sloane has lent us his Rigol scope, add that to our 3 x 3D printers and you have a fantastic resource for makers. The space could also benefit from a wide range of smaller tools such as crimping tools, assorted screwdrivers, power supplies and many more. We already have a stock of resistors and capacitors, JST sockets, assorted wire etc. but it would be very useful to also stock things like nuts, bolts, screws and washers, stand-offs. There’s truly nothing worse than making good progress on a project only to have to stop because you’re missing some tiny piece of hardware.

The regular Thursday evening makerspace meetings will continue as usual and we will also try out a range of alternative events to see what works best. If you have an idea you’d like to help get off the ground or a project you’d like to see happen then please talk to a member of the committee.

We want to get our funding in place as quickly as possible to be able move forward and so we need all applications for Founder’s Bonds to be received by midnight on Friday 17th February. Always remember that this is your makerspace and your help can make it really fly.

If you’d like to contribute by purchasing Founder’s Bonds then please contact me Steve Chalkley via Facebook, or at info@ipswichmakerspace.com

PiWars 2017, let the fun begin

So once more Tim Richardson @Geeky_Tim and Mike Horne @recantha are running PiWars, this time though rather than the usual December date it is being run over two days in April, the weekend of the first and second of April.

Ipswich Makerspace have entered the last two events and we have found them thoroughly exciting and exhausting. Our blog from last years event can be found here

Having enjoyed the previous events so much, we duly submitted our entry for the 2017 event. During the application I did not really “sell” ourselves, it had not been necessary in previous years, but when I heard the event was very much over subscribed, I think over 140 entries were recieved and only 76 were accepted, I got very nervous and was worried we would not be able to compete. But fortunately and with much relief on 30th September I received an email from Mike saying our entry had been accepted, we had a place :-D.

So who are the Ipswich Makerspace team?

Currently the team is made up by Phil, Jon, Keith and Steve. Our profiles can be found here in last years blog:

What is the plan

Line sensor PCB mounted to chassis
Line sensor PCB mounted to chassis

So the rules have changed this year, particularly with regard to size. So last years bot will be too large. That means a rebuild, that is not necessarily a bad thing, since whilst the 3D model look very nice the actual bot was not all that aesthetically pleasing, mostly due to all the wires on show.

TractorBot 2015
TractorBot 2015

So this year we are going to try harder and make the robot look nicer.

Let the fun begin

Location Location Location

Our current venue is 11 Dove Street, Ipswich. Parking is free after 6pm weekdays and £3 all day at the weekend in the Suffolk New College car park which is on Rope Walk only a few metres from the venue. Rope Walk has a barrier part way along which prevents access to the car park from Grimwade Street but does allow access to Dove Street for loading and unloading. Use St Helen’s Street and Milner Street to get to the end of Rope Walk that does access the car park. There are two car parks, you want the second one but whichever one you choose, please check the regulations just to be sure.

Dove Street directions

AutoDesk Fusion 360 walkthrough

The fourth Thursday of the month is approaching, that can only mean one thing. It’s talk night.

On Thursday 23rd June Keith will be giving us a broad overview of 3D modelling in AutoDesk Fusion 360. This is a powerful, easy to use modelling environment free to Makers for Windows and MacOS. It can produce very nice 3D renders as well as easily outputting files for 3D printing or laser cutting, with advanced CAM features and also allows movement studies and stress analysis to be carried out. Keith will outline the general workflow which he has come to know well whilst designing last years Pi Wars entry along, with a live demonstration and quick overview of the move advanced features.

See the event page for more information