Free + 3D Printer = awesome!

For a test project at work, we’ve been working out a quick and easy way to attach a pico projector to a tripod, along with a small piece of foam-core to project onto, keeping both adjustable. We had worked out a set of wooden slats that would form a slide rule of sorts, allowing us to slide the foam-core back and forth but keeping the projector stationary, and a 3D printed piece that would wrap around the wood to keep the sliding part stay in the channel.

I went to Lowe’s to get some wooden 1×2’s to make our holder, and my first thought was to go to the large saw where they cut material. Quite often they will toss small pieces that are waste pieces after cuts behind the saw. These pieces of word are normally free. Well, I’ve never paid for a piece of this scrap, but I suppose they may charge in some places. Regardless, I was disappointed that they didn’t have much scrap. But, what they did have, were pieces of wood that were exactly the shape I was going to make with 1×2’s! I asked the gentleman running the saw where I could find those, and he informed me they were the pieces of wood that hold together the large pallets of lumber, and that they didn’t actually carry them. I explained what I was going to make with the 1×2’s and he said “well, you can just have one of these. I’ll cut it too if that’s too long.” Yes, please!

Having fulfilled a portion of the pico-projector slide rule holder, I went over to the sheet metal to get a piece to slide in the channel. Here I was disappointed because the channel was fractionally too narrow for the pre-cut metal pieces. I’d have to chisel out a small bit all the way down. Bummer.

And then it struck me (as it normally does in times of inspiration): if instead of 3D printing a simple wrap, I could add the odd-sized “bump” that would slide in the channel, thus removing the need for another piece of wood or metal.

I got out of there with a pre-made wooden base, cut to size, and without spending a dime! Rock!

At home I fired up SketchUp and got to work. I measured the wooden piece with my trusty calipers, rounded some figures due to variances in the wood (I don’t need to be 100% accurate at this point; besides, I may sand and finish the wood if we want to re-use this piece later), and laid out some objects. I realized that I could adjust the piece to also incorporate a part that would hold the foam-core board upright, allowing for several screw holes for attaching. This gave me the idea of changing the piece at the other end to also wrap around and have the same channel bump, making both ends adjustable. Best part: the pieces look like Recognizers from Tron.

I went out to our studio tonight and did a print of the foam-core end piece only, just to make sure my measurements were correct and that it worked as expected. Success! Everything was spot-on! I did encounter an issue where one of the lower edges didn’t stay put on the heated bed platform and got a little wonky. Nothing a pair of snips could set right.




Tomorrow I’ll head back out and print the pico projector end, then another trip to Lowe’s to get some screws and wing-nuts for assembly.

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