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MakerLink Notes

Discussion in 'General Talk' started by Jonathon Duerig, Nov 8, 2016.

  1. Jonathon Duerig

    Jonathon Duerig Veteran
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    I got my order of maker link and I've been tinkering with it. A few notes:

    The set screws need a 2.5mm hex key. I will be buying a ball-end screwdriver because the set screw on 90-degree hidden brackets are close enough to the perpendicular beam that it is hard to screw them in with a simple hex key.

    You always need to use pairs. Looking at the photos, I thought that maybe I could get away with single links for cases where I didn't need it to be that sturdy. But that doesn't work at all. You end up with a super-flimsy joint that vibrates and has no strength in at least one direction.

    Pre-loading is even more important for maker link. Add set screws before inserting. Adding them after is a nightmare. Especially in 90 degree hidden links, but really on all of them.

    The connections are not quite as solid as equivalent plates. But they are stronger than corner brackets.

    It is much faster to build with them after they are pre-loaded.

    It is easy to take them apart and re-assemble them. Loosen the set screws on one side and it slides off. It takes a bit of effort to overcome the tension. To re-assemble, pinch the pair of links together and slide the V-slot onto them. Then re-tighten.

    Using thumb screws for quick assembly/disassembly instead of set screws works well. The thumb screws should be 8mm in length. Alas, my giant supply of thumb screws has grips that are too large to do this. You need smaller knurled knobs instead of larger wing screw types.

    For extra stiffness, you can use them in combination with plates. Remove the set screws, use a plate on the outside of the connection, and use normal screws to attach. I think that a makerlink connector with a plastic plate might be stronger than an aluminum plate with separate T-nuts.

    A lot of interesting shapes are possible. Regular triangles/squares/hexagons/octagons are just the beginning. Imagine a square with a corner chopped off one side. Or a square with a diamond-shaped extension on one corner. That kind of thing.

    As other people explore what is possible with these new parts, please post your discoveries here.

    -Jonathon Duerig
     
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  2. Mark Carew

    Mark Carew OpenBuilds Team
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    Thanks for the nice review and tips for using Makerlinks @Jonathon Duerig. We are finding lots of ideas for them here at OpenBuilds HQ and can't wait to what cool creations the community comes up with. :thumbsup:
     
  3. dddman

    dddman Master
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    It would be cool to have one with an adjustable angle too :)
     
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  4. Jonathon Duerig

    Jonathon Duerig Veteran
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    I'm not sure how adjustable angles would work for them MakerLink. But I think there is the possibility of adjustable-angle connector plates.

    BTW, @dddman, here is a quick tip for adjustable angles when doing crossbeams and such. Get some three-hole strip plates. Ignore the center hole and preload two strip plates with a single T-Nut on each end. Put one end of each strip plate onto a beam and tighten. Now you have a cross beam that can be slid onto any pair of other beams. This can work well as a diagonal cross-beam on a table or anything else that needs a brace. With just one attachment point on each end, any angle can be had. And you can even loosen and change the angle of the strip plates to make attachment easier.

    For me personally, I could use a whole bunch that are 100, 40, or 50 degrees. But I have a feeling that the minimum lot sizes for cast T-nut brackets like this are beyond my means right now. :)

    -D
     
  5. dddman

    dddman Master
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    The red and black part would be independant, linked together with a M5 screw and nut to lock the position, the other green holes would be the makerlink set screws :)
     

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  6. Jonathon Duerig

    Jonathon Duerig Veteran
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    @dddman That is a cool idea. The biggest difficulty is that it won't be very stiff. There is only a single screw holding the two beams at the given angle. Even with two, the screws holding the beams at that angle will be aligned on their axis of rotation so it will function as an unusually stiff hinge.

    I think the answer would be to take your idea and add a plate to act as a cross beam a bit further out. The cross beam could have slots or it could simply change its angle to suit whatever angle the two main beams would require. This would secure the cross beams to each other at two different points, adding a lot of stiffness to your design.

    -Jonathon Duerig
     
  7. Jonathon Duerig

    Jonathon Duerig Veteran
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    A few more usage notes:

    - One nice thing about makerlink is that it has natural stops for the beams. A normal plate or corner bracket has no natural stop and so you have to align it with a convenient edge or try to align them with each other.

    - But the stops do not guarantee squareness. The stops are reasonably square-ish. But you still need to use a square or some other method to make sure you don't end up with a wobble.

    - The screws slip before the brackets bend when the force is in the plane of the screws. You can tighten them down quite a lot, though. Especially with pairs of brackets it is still pretty rigid.

    - If you have a pair of makerlink on a corner, you can still slip T-Nuts between them. This is not obvious without testing it, but it means that each bracket only blocks off the slot end where it is actually attached. The other slots are all still free.

    - If you have a panels that you want to use to enclose a makerlink structure, it can get pretty frustrating pretty quickly. If the panel and the structure are even slightly off, it is very hard to adjust. Because the panel will naturally cover the set screw holes you need to get at to adjust the frame.

    - The way I found around this was to add screw holes to the panel spaced to allow me to attach where the makerlink connectors are. Then I use M5 x 8mm (for 3mm panels) to screw the makerlink in instead of the set screws. This makes everything much sturdier (a single makerlink can be used for a corner instead of a pair), and you can just assemble and align things onto the panels themselves rather than attaching them later.

    - I also made myself a bunch of small plastic corner plates to cover the makerlinks. They can act as good-looking end caps and replacing the set screws with simple M5 x 8mm screws worked very well. A makerlink with a plastic plate/gusset seems about as sturdy as a single pair of makerlink on a corner.

    -D
     
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  8. Jonathon Duerig

    Jonathon Duerig Veteran
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    Every packet of 10 makerlink comes with an extra set screw. This is very handy as the set screws are hard to grip and have a tendency to roll. I have already lost a couple. But I now have a number of extra set screws lying around because I'm not *that* clumsy.

    So I have found two nice uses for extra set screws.

    - On my CNC router, I had left several captive T-Nuts in the rails so that I could attach clamps or other items later if needed. But they make a terrible rattling when the machine vibrates. So last night I used some extra set screws and fixed each one in place. Now the machine is significantly quieter, especially when just jogging.

    - I love double T-nuts. But the disadvantage is that there is no variant of them that is spring-loaded to stay in place. So every time I am building with them, they can easily move around or slip out if I tilt the construction the wrong way. With the extra set screws, I can pin them in place easily without any protrusion. Later on, I can use a normal screw to attach something and then remove the set screw. Or leave the set screw in if I want a permanent thumb screw spot somewhere in the T-slot.

    So the set screws are turning out to be handier than I thought and not just for attaching makerlink. I might have to pick up a few packs of just set screws to always have a supply.

    -D
     
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  9. Jonathon Duerig

    Jonathon Duerig Veteran
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    I am not sure how useful this configuration is, but it is possible to make a Y junction. Unfortunately most of the other crazy combinations of two different kinds of links don't work out.

    Slightly more useful, you could make a repeating truss with a series of 20x40 v-slot and 135 plus 180 makerlink. So a v-slot bridge is possible. :)
     

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