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Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Paper Shredder: Removing Stuck Plastics Sheets

Note to self: Never put thin plastics wrappers through paper shredder.

Just now in the evening, I was at home. Thinking of clearing up some stuff that have been left lying around the house, I picked up a pile of flyers and promotional booklets that managed to find their way into our weekly mail.

Two of those booklets came wrapped up in clear wrappers with a piece of sticker with our names and address printed on it. Not wanting people to find out our address and our names, I removed those plastics wrappers and fed one of the pieces to the paper shredder. Since the shredder claimed it could even shred credit cards, I expected it to be able to work on thin plastics wrappers.

To my horror the plastics wrapper became entangled in the shredding mechanism! The motor ground to a halt and refused to advance any more.  After a few more attempts at stopping and starting the motor a few more times without getting the film out, I stopped the motor and peered into the mechanism from below.

Being able to stretch and wrap itself around, the strips of plastics clung to the mechanism. I think this happened due to the fact that unlike regular pieces of paper, and credit cards, the plastics film is stretchable, even though it may be thinner. The motors heated up after my repeated attempts to get the gears to turn after they were stuck. That did not help the situation when it further softened the plastics and make them stretch and wrap around the gears even more.
The plastics sheet that caused all the trouble! 

The clear plastics film wrapped itself around the shredding gears inside in clumps of mashed up strands. 

I spent the next hour trying to sort out this mess, untangling the stretched plastics strands wrapping itself around the shredding gears. Here's what to do if you ever find yourself in the same situation. 

Note: The following steps helped me resolve my problem. Here's the brand and model of my paper shredder. Brand: GBC, model: Alpha Confetti Cut. If you are unsure it will work for your model and make, please consult the service and support for  your respective product. 

The following steps also involve using a pair of scissors to cut and pry the plastics free from the shredding mechanism. Please do not cut yourself on the scissor blades. Also, do not apply force with the blades on the mechanism. This may dislodge them from their current alignment. It may also bend or dent them. All this may affect the proper functioning of your shredder after you've remove the offending plastics wrapper.

1) First, engage the  reverse gear to make the motor go in the opposite direction, to let the machine attempt to spew out the plastics wrapper in the reverse direction. (if your machine does not have the reverse button, find some way to make the motors advance even if in the forward direction a bit, so it exposes more of the mess that is stuck inside the unreachable areas of the gears)

2) Take a pair of scissors, open up and insert a single blade in from the loading end (on the top for me). Aim for the mess of tangled plastics and try and cut them loose with the sharp end of the blade. 
Using the blade to cut lose bits that are stuck and tightly stretched. I also usde the blade to fish out loose ends so I can pull on them to see if they could be removed. 

3) Turn the motor to expose the mechanism from the bottom. Use your fingers to try to pull on the tangled mess. (Caution: Beware of sharp protruding edges). Pull at different areas where the plastics go into the gears. In doing so, we are testing which parts of the gears are gripping harder on the plastics wrapper. Depending on how your mechanism was designed to shred, you will realise bits of your wrapper come off easily. For me, the middle part grips the plastic the tightest. There is no way to pull the plastics out for even an extra inch. The sides (for my machine) did not exert any pull on the plastics so it gave me a lot of freedom to remove bits of the plastics that stick out from there. 

4) For the bits that are stuck in the centre of the gears, they are stuck and cannot be moved. However there will be areas where you see the plastics material being stretched and pulled and strained. Again, use the single blade from our scissors to disentangle as them and cut them loose as much as possible, leaving no lose ends to feed back into the gears. As we are cutting them loose we can again pull on those loose ends to test the grip on the gears on those strips to see if any of the bits we cut have become loose in the process.  
Using the blade of the scissors to cut lose exposed bits that are tightly stuck and stretched

5) Now put the motor portion back upright, fixed properly in its proper position, and try to advance the motors again (try and engage the reverse gear if its avaiable to you). If you want to advance forward and the motor does not run, it may be that it is not detecting any paper to shred. so you may want to feed smaller pieces of paper for it to detect and thus trigger the motors to attempt to advance. 

Keep repeating these steps and you will gradually find that even after you've removed lots of bits of plastics from the mechanism after 1 round, more bits of plastics will appear and come around to the exposed parts of the gears next time you advance (or reverse) the mechanism and take a look again. 
More plastics being exposed after advancing the motor
Keep repeating these steps and you will find that while the motor was stuck in the beginning, it will now advance better. Soon you will find that when you advance the motor, there will be no more plastics bits churned out. That would mean that you have successfully removed all the stuck bits.

For my case, there are still a few very short bits of plastics wrapper I could not remove. They are still sticking out from one or two corners, but it is not impeding the shredder from functioning normally, so I am leaving them there. :)

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Passion and Interest

Sean and I were talking about passion, interest and tenacity. He says a CG artist (or vfx artist) are one of those jobs that especially need tenacity to stay long in the industry.

Many jobs only requires you to work hard during the working hours, and you will have gained the required experience to move up and excel in your career. Not for CG. Many times we need to keep practising our craft. Especially when working in a huge pipeline, you may not always necessarily be doing the full spectrum of work you would like yourself to be doing. In many instances we are just doing a very small part, or something else entirely.

To keep ourselves relevant in the specialisation, in the capacity we want our career to move towards, we need to keep "sharpening our blades", and keep doing the things we eventually want to be doing. That is quite a tedious and joyless work if we have no passion, or if we do not have enough determination to do it till we actually get to where we want to go.

This definitely requires perseverance and tenacity.

"Interest makes you work till 8pm", says Sean in these exact words, "but fire makes you work till 4am in the morning."

Incidentally I was working on a piece of music till 5am last night. ;)

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Make Magazine Website

Dominic Drane my co-worker introduced me to this website. This is the home to the magazine with the same name: Make:.

This is a very geeky magazine talking about creating your own gadgets. This can be as simple as inventions made from every-day parts found at home, to very elaborate and high-tech robotics made from programmable micro-controllers connected to a myriad of sensors.

There are different sections like the magazine sections with articles, blogs, videos, podcasts, a forum, a community projects (see the next section), and their very own store called the Maker Shed.

At the Maker Shed, they sell everything from micro controllers, craft supplies, construction kits, robotics parts, wearables, to of course, books and magazines.

This is an excellent section where the magazine hosts a huge library of user-initiated projects, documenting, instructing, updating, refining, and sharing what they've learnt from their own personal projects. It is truly putting people's brains together, and making things better. There are projects that make things that has no apparent use at this point, and there are projects that create ingenious things that simplifies our daily activities.

All in all, this website is really a paradise for inventors wannabe, product designers, creative tech geeks, people who love hands-on crafts, and those who want be inspired by the creativity of the modern human race!

This website is definitely worth checking out!