Many of the NVIDIA Jetson Development Kits need external antennas for their WiFi/Bluetooth cards. Many after market enclosure manufacturers offer mounting points for external antennas. However there are times you might need to have an alternate solution.
Here’s how to make your own antenna mount. We make a model from a mechanical drawing, and then use that to 3D print the part. Bits to Atoms, as it were. Looky here:
The antenna mount bracket captures two RP-SMA antenna jacks on one side of an L-shaped bracket. The other side of the L-bracket offers mounting points for the bracket. In the video, we are using these antennas: https://amzn.to/3lCGRWq
The files discussed in the video are in the JetsonHacks repository on Github: https://github.com/jetsonhacks/antenna-mount
Of course, the files are also available on the RACECAR/J Github account: https://github.com/RacecarJ/antenna-mount
You can either clone one of the repositories or grab the files that you want via a web browser interface.
Each file is a little bit different. The wider mounts take into account the antenna spacing for 2.4GHz, which is useful for Bluetooth reception. The MIT RACECAR version has a different mount spacing to better fit with the top platform.
Note: It is easier to first attach the WiFi card to the IPEX MHF4 connectors before attaching the RP-SMA jack to the bracket. I believe that the technical term for the connection to the WiFi card is ‘fiddly’.
The video is is walk through of the modeling and 3D printing process. It is a better explanation than I can write here. Instead, let’s talk about what we’ll call ‘personal manufacturing’.
We can think about making parts from several perspectives. From the perspective of personal manufacturing, when talking about Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) there are two categories, additive manufacturing and subtractive manufacturing.
Additive, you add material. Subtractive, you subtract material. We usually think about additive manufacturing as 3D printing. Subtractive manufacturing is typically CNC machining and laser cutting. There are of course a much wider range of processes, such as molding and stamping, but we’ll talk about desktop manufacturing here.
An industry standard of for controlling these machines is a language called gcode. It’s not intuitive that you control additive manufacturing machines in the same way that you control subtractive machines. However, the tasks are much the same; tell a manufacturing machine where to position a spindle or extruder or laser cutting head in 3-space and control the head.
gcode the Language of Machine Romance
While there are many ways to create gcode, including hacking it straight into the machine by hand, most people use some type of Computer Aided Design (CAD) application to first design their parts. Back in the 1980’s Autodesk was the first company to offer a CAD program on personal computers that was widely adopted. Still going strong, Autodesk offers a wide variety of CAD programs for different levels of users, from beginners to beyond pro.
There are a large number of other CAD program publishers of course, and everyone has their favorite. If you’re just getting started, you should survey what meets your needs. The investment in learning these tools is usually steep. Choose wisely.
Some of the CAD programs can also directly generate gcode and allow visualization and adjustment of tool paths. There are also separate CAM applications which handle this chore, usually tied to a specific type of machine.
Between 10-15 years ago, there was an avalanche of publicity around 3D printers for the home. The ‘promise’ was that everyone would have a 3D printer in their home. Anyone would be able to design and make their own 3D parts. Very much Neal Stephenson’s ‘The Diamond Age’.
As with the introduction of most technology, ‘Today’ really means a decade or so before something is useable by people who are not technicians. Surprisingly, it turns out that you need the skills of a designer, a mechanical engineer, a materials engineer and manufacturing engineer to design and print a part of much complexity.
With that said, 3D printing (along with relatively inexpensive subtractive methods) have led a revolution as to what is actually possible for ordinary people with less than corporate budgets. For people willing to make the investment both in time and money, a whole world of ‘atom instantiation’ is now possible. A staggering number of different materials lead to almost unlimited possibilities for realization of imaginative designs.
Also, a cottage industry has grown up around both designing ‘personal’ parts and 3D printing them. Many designs are available on sharing sites such as Thingiverse, where people can find either parts that meet their needs or can be modified to suite them.
What About Us?
For many people, the investment to understand some of the simpler concepts and to be able to make basic parts in this manner is well worth it. Think about it as adding to your talent stack. Simple projects like the one we did above get you started. To be able to create parts for your own project is immensely satisfying, and give you an understanding (and appreciation) for what it takes to build even some of the simplest things you see around you in everyday life.