C-Lab is expanding!

We have decided that space is the next frontier.  We just didn't have enough of it anymore, which is one reason we've resisted putting pictures of our current office up on the web.  It's messy beyond belief, with a 12+ machine network (lots of kvms to support 4 stations), electronics fab, chemistry/electroplating and benchrest reloading all in one 400 sq foot office building.  Yes, there are a couple of other buildings for storage and infrastructure support, but not nearly enough.  Doug, the owner, therefore decided to give up some of the front yard of the current office to a new building.  To get this done quickly and economically, we decided to go with a building from Classic Manor Builders catalog, available at Home Depot stores.  They build on your site, to your specifications, more or less -- you do the foundation, permits and so on.  In our case, they did a fine job, and did it pretty quickly despite rainy weather and other obstacles, using our solar power to run their tools.  We selected a "New Dawning" two story 1024 sq foot model from their catalog, as this was about the best square feet per dollar they had, coming in at about $16/sq ft, unfinished.  It'll be more like $20/sq ft once we are done.  We will be moving all but the software lab out of the current spaces and into this building, which will also a new machine shop and some  new photolithographic toys for selective electroplating, metal etching, and some new physics apparatus.  Although slow to download, pictures are worth lots of words, so here are a few of the building in progress.  Our solar panels will soon be moved to the top of this building, which was sited to aim the upper roof in  the ideal fashion for this use.  There, they will get about 2 more hours a day of sun, as morning and afternoon tree shadows will be less than now.

Michael putting on the shingles
Here one of the builders is putting on the last few shingles.  We've since added some more windows, found at a dumpster, of course, it's just amazing what people will toss out.
He's using a nail gun run by our 2Hp compressor to do it.  As you can see, we'll have to add skirting to the basement area, which will get the contents of the energy shed and and air
compressor put into it.  That will get them protected from the weather better, and should cut down the noise we hear as well.
Ground floor, with flooring and some drywall
Here is some of the ground floor, after laying tile and some of the drywalling.  The machines in this picture are from Harbor Freight (buyer beware, I touched these in the store before buying them) and the toolbox is a Clarke from Tractor Supply.  I've been finding the Clarke stuff to be a very good value, well made where it counts.  I got a floor standing drill press from them that has no play whatever in the quill and a rotary table, for under $150.  Good stuff.  The cool reflection on the wall is from a piece of space blanket scrap on the floor.  For an example of the variable quality at Harbor Freight, the grinder and buffer are on the $19 stands, which are far superior in all ways to the $59 ones at the same place.  Go figure -- but go to the store before you buy.  If the "3/4 Hp" 8" grinder really is, I'll eat it without salt -- it may draw that much current, and must change most of that into internal heat, but the grinder buffer (same rating) really does have the shaft power.  Their Foredom "copycat" tool is pretty good also, at a fraction of the price of the real thing.  Unlike the basic Dremel, or the air powered version (Home Depot) the tool has nice torque even at low speeds.

Here's the other end of the ground floor, pre drywall.  We found it hard to find aluminum backed fiberglass locally, and found the cheapest IR reflector/vapor barrier to be "Space Blankets" available at Wal Mart in sporting goods for a couple bucks each.  Not in this picture or above are the milling machine (Harbor Freight) and metal bandsaw (Clarke), it's a big room!  A lathe is soon to come, it sometimes takes awhile for things to get here from China.  Although not shown, the doors are large enough to accept my friend's hot rods and suchlike, for advanced puttering.  Welding (gas, stick, mig at present) will be done under the front porch awning, to be installed soon.

Here's one end of the upper floor, as of 9/23/04.  Not shown is the internet satellite uplink and firewall already installed.  Doug put in the skylight so as to be able to get on to the roof without climbing 30 foot wobbly ladders while carrying solar panels.  This room will get the electroplating/photolith/chemistry/physics stuff, and a small electronics fab.  We'll probably put in another skylight, since this one provides nice light and better ventilation than a big fan in the window.

More to come!  At some point this will be "done" and we will put up pictures of that, instead, after moving all the cool stuff in, like the chemistry set shown below, which is currently in a little cubby in the main office that used to be a closet.
Pure Nitric acid manufacture
Yes, that is 100% fuming nitric acid in the lower flask, about 100 ml worth, just before using it to make PETN, an interesting high explosive I am using for explosive microwelding  -- imagine putting things together with explosives, rather than taking them apart!  Thanks to my friends at FBI and other agencies for making this possible and permissable.  You can't buy this acid, it is too unstable to ship even after defuming it with urea, air and heat.  That's why you can only buy 70% from the supply houses.  One makes this stuff (Carefully!!!) and uses it right away, usually chilled well below room temperature.  Although this is a vacuum distillation process, we have the dryer hose pulling 500 cfm to the outdoors just in case some fumes should escape.  This is very wicked stuff.  The nitrile gloves shown, and safety glasses aren't enough to protect you from it.  The resulting high explosives are far safer to deal with, they are just flammable, and usually poisonous.  Most of them need to be hit pretty hard before they'll go bang.  We are using components from our high energy phyics toybox to eliminate the need for dangerous/toxic primary explosives like mercury fulminate and lead azide for big shots, although the latter may wind up being used alone for microwelding in the future.  Too bad we couldn't just use a chip slapper for the microwelding, as the things we want to microweld couldn't stand the EMP this generates.

More to come!