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Foundations of Amateur Radio #193:

from Onno VK6FLAB on February 15, 2019
Website: http://vk6flab.com/
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Modern Tools for a Modern Hobby

The hobby we call amateur radio is enormous. One amateur called it a thousand hobbies in one and that just about sums it up for me. Being bored inside this hobby is not an option, because there is just so much to do and see.

Yesterday I found a completely unrelated aspect to our hobby, call it the one thousand and first hobby associated with amateur radio. A friend came over and handed me the separation kit mount for my Yaesu FT-857D, it's the bit of plastic that you clip to the back of the head of the radio, so you can mount it somewhere separate from the main body of the radio.

I have one of those already, purchased from a local supplier, at the time, 8 years ago, it cost me $80, these days it's included with the radio. For my station I needed a second mount and I really didn't want to spend that much money on three cables and some plastic, so I went hunting for alternatives. One of my friends is doing some 3D printing R&D for his job and has access to a printer to do some rapid prototyping and I wondered if that might be an option.

Turns out that I'm late to the party, people have been designing and printing bits for their radios for years.

A quick hunt through the popular 3D printing libraries showed about 500 different designs for Yaesu, Elecraft, Baofeng, ICOM and Kenwood, though I should point out that Kenwood also makes food processors and other bits that seem popular in the 3D printing world, so 500 is likely a little high, but respectable nonetheless.

I looked at 8 different libraries and found that Thingiverse is by far the most popular for bits with radio brands we know and love. It occurred to me that right here is thr perfect example of how amateur radio is a hobby that just grows and grows.

If you're looking for radio mounts, stands, buttons, microphone clips, belt clips, mount adaptors, holders, cradles, plug covers, brackets, earpiece retainers, logos, callsign stands, cogs, gears, handles, caps, pins, latches, cases, tuning knobs, CW key brackets, stacking brackets, antenna adaptors, feet, desk stands, shoulder strap holders, battery compartments, you're good to go.

I should mention that you don't even need to invest in a 3D printer at this point, you can hand the design to a printing service and get your print shipped to you in the mail.

If you cannot find what you're looking for, you can fire up a 3D CAD program and get designing to make something precisely to your own specifications and based on the current tools available, you can even see what it's going to look like by the time it's rendered in the plastic and colour of your choice.

I've only mentioned radio bits, but there's nothing stopping you from printing ladder line separators, dipole centres, antenna brackets, tuner cases, project cases for your home-brew contraption, knobs and dials, buttons and connectors and other missing parts or hard to find pieces.

If you're using standard components like a Raspberry Pi or Arduino, you'll find cases ready to go for those as well, so the more you look, the more you'll find.

The point of all this is that amateur radio is a hobby that goes far beyond someone sitting behind a radio listening to beeps, pops and crackles. Manufacturing and amateur radio go hand-in-hand and have done since the very beginning, but there's no rule that says that you have to keep using traditional tools to build what you're imagining.

The sky is the limit, and based on the efforts of CAMRAS, the CA Muller Radio Astronomy Station, PI9CAM based at the Dwingeloo Radio Telescope in the Netherlands, who captured a photo of the far side of the moon using a camera linked to an amateur radio transceiver on board of the Chinese Longjiang-2 satellite, even that limit is being explored.

I'm Onno VK6FLAB

TL;DR This is the transcript of the weekly "Foundations of Amateur Radio" podcast.

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