Quick Hack of a VS200 Food Sealer

Here’s a quick hack I did a while ago to my VS200 food sealer.

I bought this some years ago to use for sealing up meats and such after a trip to a club store. It was cheap, but it had one problem: To seal, it went through a pre-programmed routine. This was pull a vacuum until a vacuum switch trips, continue pulling vacuum for about 30 seconds, and then seal for about 9 seconds. This meant that if the bag was small and evacuated quickly, or, more importantly, if I just wanted to make a new bag up, I had to go through the entire cycle. Waste of time, especially if I have to seal 30 or so bags or make up a bunch of new bags. More expensive units have seal-only functions, but I didn’t want to spend the money for that when I bought mine.

So, I flipped it over, removed the Phillips screws, destroyed the sunk security screw, and gained access to the innards. Behold, a PIC microcontroller, power supply, vacuum switch, and associated electronics goodies.
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Hacking The MakerBot

So I’m printing out stuff for the z axis rider you can find at Thingiverse. Problem is, some of the pieces are so big that the print head on my MakerBot Cupcake will hit the bolt heads on the heated build platform. What to do, what to do…..

Aha! Make a gigantic build base out of some stock aluminum plate I have. Benefits of this include:

  • A completely flat base that is much better than the aluminum foil tape they give you
  • A huge heat sink that can handle temperature variations
  • Countersunk screws to expand the printing area.

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Do Engineers Do Engineering Anymore?

I have two personally designed, qualitative indicators that I use to judge the health of the economy: the fast food service quality indicator (FFSQI) and the recruiter inapplicability indicator (RII).

The FFSQI is basically my experience getting fast food. When the economy is good or improving, the quality indicator drops. One wonders how some of the people providing the service manage to get, much less keep, their jobs. The worse the general experience at fast food places, the better the economy is because they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of available labor.

The RII comes from calls/emails that I get from recruiters. It’s not just the number but also the nature of the jobs. If a recruiter calls me with a position for which I am in no way qualified (or only minimally qualified), the indicator goes up. The higher this indicator, the better the economy because recruiters are having a hard time finding candidates.

This indicator, however, has recently made me wonder if engineers actually do any engineering anymore. By “engineering”, I mean applying mathematics and physical laws to solve problems or generate new products or processes. Note that under this definition, software engineering is not quite engineering. My apologies to any such engineers, but I’m focusing on “traditional” engineering.

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Who is this guy?

So I went to the Steelers-Eagles preseason game last night with my dad. During a TV commercial timeout right before half time, they showed this guy on the big screen:

He was getting ready to do a half time report.

Almost everyone in the stadium started clapping. Except the young woman next to me. She asked me, “Do you know who that is?”

I almost chuckled at first, as if she was trying to be funny. She wasn’t. I said, “Are you serious?” She was. I looked at my dad; we both looked at her; the guy in front of her turned around and looked at her.

“It’s Terry Bradshaw,” I said.

“Oh,” she replied and paused. “Who is he?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Are you kidding me?” I asked. She wasn’t. “Am I on Candid Camera?” I asked around. “I’m waiting for Allen Funt to come out here.” She kept waiting for an answer.

“He led the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories in the 70s,” I explained.

I later apologized to her and told her I didn’t mean to offend her. I explained that if I happened to go to a Penguins game and people cheered for some old guy, I’d probably wonder who it was. I’m not a hockey fan.

But I know who Mario is.

It’s complicated

My latest Arduino project, a remote controlled rocket launcher. Had to run jumpers via the top route (red) as I didn’t want to do two sided. Ugly, but effective if you remember to include holes/routes for jury-rigged vias. I think it’s laid out properly. We’ll find out soon enough.

Here’s the breadboard version I used to verify my circuit.