Jan 30, 2015

A Pencil holder for the School Locker

My biggest 3D Printing project so far - a 100mm tall pencil holder which can be hung on the inside of a school locker (or stood up on a desk). This was an idea my 8th grade son had - something he needed - so I took on this not-so-challenging challenge. This post tells a bit more about how it was made.

I wanted to avoid making it a simple hollowed out half cylinder (flat side to hang on the locker or wall), so I designed it from scratch. First, I drew the bottom shape - a rectangle, basically, 30mm deep and 70mm wide, with clipped front corners to give it a bit of design.

Then I extruded that as a solid - 100 mm high - and then used the "Shell" command in Autodesk 123D Design - which hollows out any shape. I'm finding that feature to be most useful - you select the face of the object you want to "shell" and then adjust the width of the remaining walls. I made the walls 3mm thick.

Then I adjusted the back to be 4mm (by "pull"ing the back face) so that I would have additional area for an indent in the back to hold magnetic strips. That indent is 1mm deep. and about 30mm wide x 50mm high. It is also beveled at the top to avoid any overhangs which might not print nicely. I also put a diamond shaped hole at the back in case this cup needed to hang on a nail or hook (I think of everything, 12% of the time).

The shape was still too boring. So I began making a grid of shapes that I would "subtract" from the face and sides, to make it more like a mesh. I took a simple small square, turned it 45 degrees to make it look like a diamond, then duplicated it a bunch of times. I positioned all the squared equal distance from each other and lined them up to be on the same plane. I then sunk them into the face of the cup so they were sticking out the front and through the back of that front wall - the "Subtract"ed them (that is a command in 123D which is by far the most useful thing in my projects so far). That left the diamond pattern you see on the front face. I then repeated a similar, but slightly different set of diamonds for the bevels and the side walls of the cup.

The print was by far the longest so far - 8 hours and 38 minutes. I took a risk and let this print overnight - and by the morning, there it stood. My pencil cup (well, my son's pencil cup). Something that I could have bought at Staples for a few bucks. But then, it wouldn't have been mine (well, my son's), and I wouldn't have learned a darn thing. That said, Staples has nothing to worry about ;)

Project Details

Printer:  LulzBot TAZ4
Model:  Pencil Cup
Modeling App:  Autodesk 123D
Slicing App:  Slic3r
Filament:  LulzBot PLA 3mm Green
Print Time:  8 Hrs. 38 Min.


Jan 29, 2015

More Product Icons - Google Sheets

Once I created the Google Docs Logo model, it seemed it would simple to move on to the sibling product logos for Google Sheets, Forms and Slides. In fact, anyone who knows me is shocked that I didn't do Sheets first (since that's where my history with Google products all started...) but, honestly, when I started modeling and printing, I only had blue PLA filament - so I had to wait for green before doing Sheets ;)

I used the Docs logo model as the starting point. That folded corner part is the same - and the dimensions are the same - so I just closed up the holes in that model and started there. It turned out the Docs logo was the simplest by far.

The challenge with Sheets is the "floating" cells - the parts of the graphic version which have no connection to the solid parts. I eventually just decided to invert the graphics - making the spreadsheet cells the holes through the solid and by raising the outline of the columns/rows of the spreadsheet stick up above the surface of the logo to give the cells more relevance.

I printed 3 sizes of this model - Large (200%, which is still only 40mm tall), Medium (150%, 30mm tall) and Small (100%, 20mm tall). The small ones are perfect to make earrings (who would wear those, you ask? Someone on the Google Sheets team, or my daughter, that's who!). The medium sized are perfect for a keychain, and the large as a backpack charm or zipper pull.

3 sizes printed - 100%, 150%, 200%

Project Details

Printer:  Lulzbot TAZ4
3D Model:  Google Sheets Product Icon
Filament:  Lulzbot 3mm PLA Green
Print Time: 100%:13min,  150%:27min,  200%: 45 min.

Jan 28, 2015

MkrClub.com gets a 3D Printed Sign

Trying all kids of 3D modeling and 3D printing in my early days with the Lulzbot TAZ4, I figured I should try printing some simple 3D text. I decided to create a desk sign for MkrClub.com as my example. This was extremely simple using Autodesk 123D Design. Using the text tool, picking a font and then sizing it, was almost the same as using Google Docs or any app which has text entry and formatting. Then a simple "extrude" command, and Bam - I was done and ready for STL export into Slic3r app.

The photo of the finished print with a bit of focus effect, and including the screen shot of the original model made this whole project worthwhile - as it became the title image to some of the MkrClub.com online presence!

Project Details

Printer:  LulzBot TAZ4
3D Model:  MkrClub Text Sign
Filament:  Gizmo Dorks PLA 3mm Blue
Time to Print:  85 Minutes

Jan 27, 2015

3D Printing a Custom Fit Tub Drain Stopper

A broken drain stopper in our tub was a perfect opportunity to 3D Model and 3D Print something useful - yes, a new Drain Stopper. It was also the perfect time to use my new digital caliper to measure the drain hole that I was going to try to fit. This, unlike my previous print, was going to be a useful end product if it worked.

The basic model was going to be easy - just a cylinder to fit the drain hole attached to a larger cylinder on the top to hold it in place. But, since this was going to be an attempt to be water tight, I had to come up with a scheme for adding some sort of gasket.

To hold a gasket I made a small cut all the way around in the bottom cylinder about halfway up - just deep enough to hold a gasket - and then added another cut around the circumference right at the top where it met the top larger cylinder (mimicking the original drain stop, which had a rubber gasket at the top).

The result was actually quite good! For a gasket, I first tried to use a rubber band, then one of those "rainbow loom" rubber bands (don't mock me). Those didn't work too well - so I resorted to using this new silicone Maker stuff called Sugru. Finally a real reason to use this awesome stuff... And it was about 98% effectiveness. The water in the tub held with only a very slow leak which was almost impossible to notice for the first couple of hours.

Some Print Project Details

Printer: LulzBot TAZ 4
Filament: Gizmo Dorks PLA, Blue, 2.80mm (measured, although labelled as 3mm of course)
Model:  Tub Stopper on Thingiverse.com
Time to print:  86 Minutes

Jan 26, 2015

Google Docs Icon 3D modeled and Printed

I really don't know why - but I wanted to model and print a Google Docs Icon - you know, that blue paper looking thing, with the folded corner and the simple lines on it. OK - I know why. Because I LOVE Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc!
I actually wanted to do the Google Sheets Icon, as my best friends know, since spreadsheets is where the whole Docs thing started, and it's my favorite product of all time. But, I only had Blue PLA filament at the time, so I started with Docs - practicality over passion.

The model was quite simple to make - and I was pretty happy with how the "folded corner" came out. I posted the model on Thingiverse.com so others could use it (but please do not use it for commercial purposes).
If you use this model and print it - please, do it in blue and let me know- I'm @jrochelle on Twitter.

I'd love to see some other Google Docs fans walking around with this hanging from their backpack or key chain... or come up with another great application of this model!

Some Print Details

Filament:  Gizmo Dorks PLA, Blue, 2.80mm (measured, although labelled as 3mm of course)
Model:  Google Docs Icon on Thingiverse
Time to print:  36 Minutes

Jan 24, 2015

3D Printing Custom Made TNT Block

The Minecraft (tm) theme seemed like a good one to start with when looking for fun things to print.

The short story

I created a model of a TNT block which my printer could handle (see longer story below to see why) - printed it - and posted it on Thingiverse as "TNT Block". It has 84 downloads in 10 days - so not too bad.

The longer story

I first found a TNT block on Thingiverse created by someone else and it looked really cool.
FAILED print - stopped part way.
Notice the strands which fell.
I tried to print that one - but there were problems. As you understand how a Fused Deposit Modeling (FDM) printer works - like mine and most of those you see today in the retail space - you can see why "overhangs" might not work too well. Each layer needs something under it to support it. You can have angles, but not 90 degree overhangs.
The TNT labels on the side of this model I found were definitely not friendly to my printer - and as soon as the TNT labels on the 4 sides started to print, the problem was clear - the extrusion was falling off the sides rather than sticking to the model, because there was nothing under it to hold it up.

So - in my model - I created a subtle slant to every overhand - so it still stuck out the side, but with enough of a gradual slant to support the material as it was extruded.
Summary - it takes some time to create a model which will print on an FDM printer and some problem solving during the modeling process to get the results you want.

Jan 22, 2015

Scaling down a model for (much) faster 3D Printing

Those Minecraft (tm) tools I printed were really a big hit (with the kids) but they were quite big - The shovel came out at about 96mm (3.75 inches) - so you can imagine the charms were a bit too big for a keychain - about double the size and volume of a normal house key. I call them BackPack charms for that reason. The other problem was, they took a dogs age (whatever that means) to print. Those original set of 4 tools (all in one model) took almost 4 hours!

But what if I scaled them down in size? Would half the size take half the print time? I decided to experiment. I scaled down the tools to 3 different sizes to see what the effect was on size, print time and appearance. I used the Slic3r app to do the scaling - meaning I used the same source .STL model that came out of Autodesk 123D and scaled it 3 different times to generate 3 new .gcode files for my printer.
I printed at 100% (the original print), 50%, 35% and 25%.


This was simple and accurate. The dimensions of the scaled down model were exactly scaled to the target ratio. For example - The original shovel was 96mm long, the 50% scaled was 48mm long. The 35% shovel was 34mm, the 25% was 24mm. Perfect. That said - visually, those scaled down versions looked unexpectedly smaller than their ratio due to the uniform scaling of all 3 dimensions - there was just less heft/volume overall - but they were accurate when measured. The 25% printed versions were miniscule

Print Time

This was not obvious, but the results were very encouraging. The reduction in size for a model scaled to 50% is much less than half the time - in fact, the 50% scaled print took 15% of the time. Rather than 238 minutes, it took just 36 minutes! This finding would impact my early prints of almost everything from this point forward. My next quest will be to come up with a semi-accurate estimation formula of print time. I'm sure that's achievable.
UPDATE (2/2/2015):  This might be a good place to use the "Square-Cube Law" - which states (among other thigs) that "...new volume is proportional to the cube of the multiplier." - which applies to the print time too, perhaps, since the cube of 0.5 is 0.0625 (one eighth) - so 238 minutes, at 50% size predicts a print time of 14+ minutes (actual time was 36 minutes, so this still needs some work).


times are in minutes

The 3D model of these tools can be found on Thingiverse.com. I did not create the original model, I just enhanced it to have keychain holes in all the handles.

(yes, Minecraft is now probably a trademark of Microsoft, inc.)

Jan 18, 2015

3D Printing Minecraft (tm) Tools as BackPack Charms

I found a fun model on Thingiverse.com that included 4 separate objects in one file - four Minecraft (tm) tools. The only problem I had was that, once printed, they couldn't be attached to anything. So, given that Thingiverse.com encourages "remixing" models, I pulled this one into Autodesk 123D Deisigner and punched keychain holes into the handles of the Sword, Shovel, Axe and Pickaxe.

I re-uploaded that remixed model on thingiverse - so now you can use the Diamond Minecraft Tools - Remix with Keychain Holes too :)

The original model was great - but I really wanted those keychain holes.... and it worked out.
These printed rather nicely - measuring around 4 - 4.5" (100cm) each with some nice thickness. Attached to a backpack of a 6th grader, they're impressive.

The print was a bit long - over 4 hours, which inspired another project - to attempt to print at smaller sizes just to see the impact (look for that in a later post.

Some Print Details:

Filament:  JET PLA Orange 2.75mm (actual)
Model:  Diamond Minecraft Tools Remix
Time to Print:  3 hrs 57 min.

Jan 17, 2015

3D Printing a customized iPhone6 case

Talking to many educators who run Maker spaces with 3D Printers, it seemed phone cases were the most popular prints for middle schoolers. I figured my 6th grader, who just got his first phone would be pleased to have a custom case - and I was looking to start dabbling into 3D modeling.

I got the basic iPhone6 Case shell model from Thingiverse.com and then used Autodesk 123D Designer to customize it by stamping out my son's initials into the back. Doing this was rather simple - by using the "Combine" / "Subtract" feature of 123D Designer - using the case as the target model, and extruded text letters as the source (the "stamp").

See what I did wrong in the picture? I stamped the letters from the INSIDE of the case, making them appear backwards from the outside of the case. Lesson learned from failure!

The print took 1 hour 23 minutes, as you can see from the final screen on my LulzBot TAZ4.
The walls of the case looked rather thin, but the case did fit his iPhone for the most part.
However, there was some play in the length - where the iPhone moved up and down within the case by approximately 1-2 mm - it was noticeable. The second problem came about on day 3 or so - when my son dropped his phone in a rather un-eventful way (no threat to breaking the phone itself) and the case broke. One of the sides cracked off. My next attempt, I might see if I can re-inforce the model by filling in the small gaps where the sides curve along the case walls and connect to the back.

Some Print Details:

Filament:  JET PLA, Orange, 2.75mm (measured, although labelled as 3mm of course)
Model:  iPhone6 Basic case
Time to Print:  83 minutes

Jan 15, 2015

3D Printing something practical - Pegboard Hook

It didn't take very long after starting into 3D Printing that I wanted to create something practical - something I could use. I had moved my printer down to a basement workshop where, behind it, hangs a pegboard full of tools.
It was the perfect opportunity to print something not only practical, but small (aka quick to print).

A Pegboard Hook!

I signed up for Thingiverse - a site I couldn't wait to have reason to join - and quickly found a few options for pegboard hooks.

The Pegboard Hook I picked was super simple and printed fast (8 minutes).

Some Print Details:

Filament:  JET PLA, Orange, 2.75mm (measured, although labelled as 3mm of course)
Model:  Pegboard Hook from Thingiverse.com
Time to print:  8 Minutes


Jan 14, 2015

First Print on the LulzBot TAZ4

This is the Octopus THEY printed before shipping
The Octopus, of course, for those of you who are familiar with the LulzBot, was our first print on the TAZ4. The printer comes with a pre-printed Octopus which was printed as a test on this specific printer. A great idea, so that the buyer can see that the printer should be, in theory, working fine.

I figured - just like most other TAZ4 buyers that I've seen - that printing the Octopus myself would be a good start.

Bed-leveling proved to be a bit tedious, but not hard at all. My only issue was that the PLA would not adhere to the heated bed in the first few tests of a flat pattern which reaches all 4 corners of the bed. It seemed from what I found online, that squishing the first layer more against the bed would do the trick for PLA - and it did.

Some info about this print:

Filament:  JET PLA, Orange, 2.75mm (measured, although labelled as 3mm of course)
Model:  Octopus, small
Time to print: (not tracked, sadly)

Some of the first attempts didn't stick to the bed

Jan 13, 2015

Unboxing and Building the LulzBot TAZ4

The feeling I had when I was 13 and bought my first video game system (Atari 2600, thank you Nolan Bushnell) struck me again when I bought my first 3D printer. Excitement. Amazement, Anticipation!

Here's a quick time-lapse video of the un-boxing and building of the LulzBot TAZ4 - my first 3D-Printer - from January 12, 2015. The video is about 1:23 minutes, but the actual process took around 45 minutes - moving slowly and carefully... could have probably done it in 20-30 if it wasn't my first time.

Jan 12, 2015

Making Things: Welcome to MkrClub!

LulzBot TAZ4
There's nothing more exciting to me than making things.
I love practically anything which includes the creation of something new - from a simple doodle to a piece of furniture. From a new guitar chord progression to a cool mobile app on my phone. I simply and passionately love creativity.
The Maker movement clearly shows I'm just one person in a huge community of people who are much more creative and much more skilled than me. And, while the Maker movement more recently seems to focus on projects which include technology, that's just a sign of the times - because technical capabilities exponentially increase the realm of what's possible to make in your own home over a weekend. I also love (love!) technology - which basically doubles my interest in creative projects.
My latest passion started when I got my first 3D-Printer (link: time lapse video of unboxing, just for fun). I need a better acronym than OMG to describe how I feel every time I create a model and print it. I'm like a kid watching soft ice cream get pumped out of the machine to fill my cone for the very first time. Yet - I can easily see the day coming where it is no longer amazing, and we take it for granted (3D-printing, no soft ice cream machines). Just like home computing and home printing matured, so too will 3D-printing (we'll know it has happened when we just call it "printing"). But for now - it's simply amazing, and fun, and empowering.
Previously, I discovered Arduino and simple electronics projects - and I feel that the 3D-printing just adds another element of power to that hobby. A huge element.
I created this blog as a way to track my projects and progress in 3D-printing and in maker projects in general. I expect to have others guest-post and to point to other people's projects from here.