Foundations of Amateur Radio #193:
February 15, 2019
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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
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
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
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
I'm Onno VK6FLAB
TL;DR This is the transcript of the weekly
"Foundations of Amateur Radio" podcast.
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