The thin wall

No, not the Ultravox song, the test of 3D printer resolution.

mecha_3A little background: a few days back I made a small robot pendent for my wife. She liked it, but immediately asked “what about a mech?”. I really am no good at modeling mech — I’ve tried, and just, no — so I went to Thingiverse and found a really cool MadCat mech model that I could turn into a pendent.

Since I wanted to push the resolution of the Form 1, I added a few extras like rockets in the shoulder rocket launchers and gun barrels in the arms. I also added the post and loop to make it a pendent.

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Steps to Stones, or, Generating Nature

One of the things we love about living in the Pacific Northwest is the abundance of rocks and stones unlike any we have seen elsewhere. I know it sounds strange, but the variation of color, texture, pattern, and shape always provides inspiration and enjoyment. We have collected a fair number from beaches, fields, streams, rivers, and our own land as we dig holes for plantings.

Our front living room is being decorated in a “natural history library” style, with our bookcases, our antique prints of bats, frogs, sea creatures, and of course a collection of rocks placed nicely in an old printer’s letterpress tray and hanging on the wall.

Seven generationsLooking at the rocks recently, I thought that it would be interesting to create my own stones using a generative approach to their design — morphing from rock shape to perfect cube shape — that I could 3D print and put with the real rocks. Having recently done a fair number of designs utilizing Blender’s various deformation tools, I knew this was not going to be a difficult project to model.

Rocks in blender

Seven generations in Blender

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What I’ve Been 3D Printing – Winter into Spring 2013 Edition

The six-hour winter

Winter came. And six hours later it was gone. Whew!

Winter has not stopped me from 3D printing quite a few new things. What I haven’t had time for, thanks to the craziness of day job, is finishing any of my big projects, or writing up stories around my smaller pieces. So, I’ve decided to just post some pictures and quick blurbs on what I have been able to accomplish, to serve as a snapshot in time and maybe some inspiration to someone looking for new things to try.

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Back to where we began

After getting settled in our rental home in Redmond, it was nice to be able to get my Thing-o-Matic out of it’s Pelican case and set up to print some fun things. But as I started to get things rolling, something just wasn’t right. Perhaps it was the software update I did to the latest ReplicatorG; perhaps something physically shook loose in transit. I had a pressing need to use my 3D printer, but couldn’t. What to do?

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All boxed up, ready for launch

Rocket designed by Brooks Protzmann, printed on loaner Replicator.

Today was packing day. The packers called at 8am and said they were downstairs; we had not gotten the pre-pack call from the central office to warn us of their arrival time. Springing to action, we labelled some last minute areas as “pack” / “don’t pack”, herded cats, and made breakfast using up as much of the frozen breakfast items as possible. By 2pm the packers were walking out the door, leaving a trail of full boxes in their wake.

Thus marks the end of my 3D printing, and blogging, for a few weeks; next week is driving 2300 miles with a wife and four cats, and the delivery of all of our stuff is sometime the week after.

In the past several weeks of downtime:

  • I’ve been able to evaluate options in 3D modeling software with an eye towards 3D printing (Bonzai 3D is quite good, Cheetah 3D is a “no”);
  • design and 3D print a few versions of objects I needed to help gel some of my thoughts related to my new job;
  • work out that making hexagonal tubes that lock together while keeping constant thickness to all walls is near impossible with a 3D printer;
  • and make some minor repairs to my Thing-o-Matic.

Once I’m back up and running, I have a few concepts I’m going to 3D printing and writing about, and talk about options for my next 3D printer ;-)

Bonzai 3D as replacement for SketchUp?

[ UPDATED 5/18/2012 - See Below ]

After the announcement of Google selling SketchUp to Trimble, there was talk (here, and here for starters) about what to do if SketchUp goes away (or at least the free version). I mentioned on one of the threads that I was going to look at Bonzai 3D (B3D) when I had a chance, and well, I’ve had a chance! I couldn’t find any first-hand use reports of B3D for making things for a Makerbot (or other at-home 3D printer) so I’d take a crack at putting something out there.

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Blinded by the light (but not for long)

When you start work at frog, you are given your choice of computer type, desk type, and a selection of useful desk items, including a nice IKEA TERTIAL desk lamp with a nice, bright, CFL bulb. These lamps are great at illuminating your desk, but they also can cause pain to any coworker who happens to be on the wrong side of the shade.

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A tool for the people

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I just wanted to express something that makes me happy. I was going to tweet this, but I couldn’t get all the right words into 140 characters.

I’ve talked to a lot of people about 3D printing, across all ages and across all genders, and I get nothing but excitement about the possibilities.

What’s important is that it isn’t just the “yeah, yeah, people are excited about 3D printing” part, but rather that this is one of the few instances where a tool that you use to make something at home doesn’t have a gender-specific stereotype attached to it. What other tool can both the man of the house and the woman of the house fight over to make something on?

Sadly, one doesn’t get the same response across the board with, say, talking about a circular saw, or conversely, waxing poetic about a sewing machine; there are pre-conceived notions about who can/should use what tools in the world today.

What I like about MakerBot, as opposed to some other DIY 3D printer companies out there, is that they seem to get this. You see Bre showing off the latest Makerbot with giant geared hearts, fantasy play sets, blue rabbits, red robots, and brightly-colored remote control vehicles. Go to other companies’ sites and you’ll see lots of gears and boring parts to make more printers. They seem to be very short-sighted in what they see the use of their printers as being, or who their users are.

The community handles it very well. Take a trip over to Thingiverse. Yes you’ll see gears and parts to make more printers, but you’ll also see jewelry, robots, swans, sunglasses, and so many other things that are appealing to young and old, boys, girls, and even animals! This is what makes 3D printing so exciting to so many; anyone and everyone can make whatever they can imagine. Imagination knows no age, class, or gender bounds.

Personally, I hope it stays this way.

Still pushing the limits of size and resolution

As I mentioned in my first attempt at creating a very small headphone shirt clip, I wanted to revisit the design and make some adjustments based on what I had learned. I got a chance over this holiday weekend to do just that — take some more measurements, make some new designs, and print some more clips.

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