Evolution of a Blog

This blog has evolved as I have as a maker. It starts at the beginning of my journey where I began to re-tread my tires in the useful lore of micro electronics and the open-source software that can drive them. While building solutions around micro-electronics are still an occasional topic my more recent focus has been on the 3D Printing side of making.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mods for my New Wanhao Duplicator 7 (D7) 3D Printer

I have some good resin coming for my new printer early this week and have been struggling a little with the sample that came with the unit.  Not to mind, however, as I have used the time to make the printer a little more tuned to me.

The last and best thing that I designed was a base that raises the printer giving the fan more air flow while providing a place to mount the RPi that hosts NanoDLP.

The RPi is housed in a really nice design also available on Thingiverse.

I did some other designs as well:

Spatula based on the one that comes with the printer.
Device to help me level the build plate.
Handles 'cause mine did not have one and the damn thing is slippery.
Feet to raise the printer for better airflow.

All of my designs are licensed under the Creative Commons - Attribution - Non-Commercial license.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Eeeh Gads. Another 3D Printer!

I have been thinking about getting an resin based printer for a while but have not pulled the trigger for a number of reasons.  First, I really do not need one!  Second, I have seen the post processing work needed to remove the support structures that are required for this kind of printer and am not keen on them.  Third, I am space constrained in the man cave.  Fourth, they cost a lot of money for something that I really dont need!

As with all things in the technology space the prices, particularly at the low end, are coming down.   There are FDM 3D Printers now available for just a couple hundred dollars.  Entry level but fully capable of doing good prints.  This trend is also impacting resin based printers though until recently the lowest price point has been around a thousand dollars.

Enter the Wanhao Duplicator 7 which is aimed at the bottom price point in the market at 400 dollars.  The printer is extremely capable for that price point though.  The build volume is decent (120, 68, 200), the speed is decent (15mm-35 mm per hour), and the resolution is more than decent given that it can do layers of 35 microns and an x-y resolution of around 500 dots per inch.

And it is cute!  Its small size makes it perfect for the man cave.  I think the printer is a great demonstration of how the Chinese can take a product and develop a low cost version.  The electronics are based on a RAMPS board which is the same thing that drove the 3D Printer that I build two and a half years ago.  They are cheap as dirt and everyone knows what they are and what to do with them.  The motor is the same as a zillion other 3D printers.  The power supply is a standard brick.  The LCD display is repurposed from what had been designed for a tablet.  i'm not sure what the video interface is but I would bet that it was repurposed from a laptop or something of the kind.  It is eloquent in its simplicity.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

3D Printing and Scale Modeling - Recap of Selected Designs

This post is a "work in progress" summary of my favorite of the models that I have done over the past year or two.  Most of these models are available for download on Thingiverse and many have been discussed elsewhere on this blog or have an Instructable available.

One more note!  These are largely bespoke models crafted in Sketchup using its Pro features for solid modeling.  Those features don't make it the best 3D modeling tool out there but they help a lot ... and since I am an old dog that has been using Sketchup for a long time ... anyway ... the models are in Sketchup!

My Model
The Prototype
Curved Railroad Bridge and a Steel Pier
Retaining Wall

Concrete Railroad Bridge Pier
Ship - Cheated a little here as my prototype is a model from the Wrightsville Port N-Scale Layout!

Plate and Girder Railroad Bridge - Bridge No. 1276, Sideling Hill Creek Crossing
Bridge Fenders
Bascule Bridge


Bailey Bridge [Thingiverse] [Blog] [Instructable]

Friday, March 10, 2017

Overnight 3D Printing - A Facebook Poll

I posted the following poll on Facebook and thought the responses interesting enough to summarize here.

Here is a summary of the results:

A strong majority of folks print overnight without concern. Another pretty large group prints overnight but with some concern. There are a fair number of folks that do not print overnight but the survey questions are flawed in that these folks could have reasons other than fire concern.

Some other observations. There are a number of people that have added fire detection and suppression with a variety of solutions mentioned from off the shelf, to external service provided, to self crafted. Finally there were even folks that admitted to having their spouse or boss tell them to pound sand on the printing all night thing. My other survey question asked if people had experienced a fire. A very large majority had not though a handful did. The fires described were all minor. Probably a bad survey question as someone that had a bad fire may not be doing the whole 3D Printing any longer! Finally, from comments on both polls, it seems like the concern is the highest with the cheap home built printers and diminishes as you go up market.

Cost and Appearance of Different 3D Print Resolutions

I had done a post some time ago comparing resolutions but thought that I would do another one using a model from a customer order.

600 micron nozzle with 300 micron layer height.  Time to print (each): 00:49.  Cost (for ten): 31.74
400 micron nozzle with 200 micron layer height.  Time to print (each): 01:10.  Cost (for ten): 41.17
400 micron nozzle with 150 micron layer height.  Time to print (each): 01:32.  Cost (for ten): 49.86
400 micron nozzle with 100 micron layer height.  Time to print (each): 03:07.  Cost (for ten): 62.90 

Looking at the costs by time it would appear that my costing for the 100 micron layer print might need some adjustment (up)!

Time (Minutes)CostCost per Minute

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Printing Metal!

Well not exactly.  Printing metal infused plastic is more accurate.  There are a number of filaments out there that contain tiny particles of real metal.  I have a spool of Colorfabb Copperfill but the workflow to make it look like metal is either to have a rock tumbler to polish the stuff or to do it by hand.  The latter is not a lot of fun so I focused on the former.

You can buy a rock polisher on Amazon but they run 40-50 quid and have a pretty small drum for parts.  I have all kinds of motors and electronics, and a 3D Printer, so I decided to design and build one.

Above is the assembled and operating tumbler polisher.
I printed the files you see with an 800 micron nozzle and a layer height of 400 microns. Any resolution will likely work.   Note that inside the drum there are five printed pieces that assemble to form a mixer.  It should be inserted into the drum such that it scoops up the little brass bits as the drum rotates. I glued mine into the drum.

The above image shows a close up of the base with the electronics and stepper motor.

The above video from adafruit walks you through the polishing process.

Above are the before and after pictures of some parts done in Colorfabb Copperfill and then polished for seven or so hours.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Terraforming Mars and 3D Hubs - Part 4 - Finished

 I'm declaring this project to be done.  Bit of a diversion started by a customer order that intrigues me.  He gets his set of 3D Printed Tiles for the board game Terraforming Mars and I decide that I want a set as well.  No, I have never played the game though I do now have one on order, but I sure am ready!

The first image shows the custom hex fitting case that I designed for this project with more details shown by the next two images.
The case has room for 25 greenery tiles, 15 city tiles, 9 ocean tiles, and 11 special tiles though I have only printed and painted 24 greenery tiles and 12 city tiles.

I'm not going to say anything more about painting as the last of the models above were pretty straightforward in terms of the painting of them.

In hindsight I am not sure that my specialty filaments were REALLY necessary!  I really like the look, and feel, of the desert tiles but the difference is not as profound as I would have expected!

Now, in a month or so, I hope to actually have the game!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Terraforming Mars and 3D Hubs - Part 3 - Some Painting

 I am, by no means, and experienced model painter though I do enjoy the concentration that it requires and the results that can be achieved.  This article covers painting of two of the speciality filaments that I talked about previously, a clear one for the ocean tiles, and one with a matt surface for the desert-like terrain of Mars. One tile, printed in normal PLA will also be painted for comparison to the matt material tiles.  In the first image the matt tiles are the four in the rear.

The first tiles to get painted were the ocean tiles.  I did the back using matt varnish and a rust colored pigment.  The primary colour is a mix of 2 parts transparent blue and 1 part transparent green.  The white is supposed to represent foam at the top of two wave crests that are part of the tile that I designed as an extension to Frank's collection.  My attempts to get a maximally clear print led me to have a lot more visible 3D Printing artifacts so I think that regular PLA would have been fine, if not better, for this use case.

The next set of tiles are the ones printed from a High Performance PLA with a matt finish.  I wanted to have depth to these tiles so I pulled out my collection of pigments and did a quick color chart.  I picked three of them, in addition to basic Rust, to add some a darker red, a burnt red, and a yellow.  First I painted on the basic Rust colour using a mix of varnish and pigment.  Then I added tiny dabs of the other three colors using a nearly dry brush.  I finished with a very dry brush of black and then added some black to the sides of cracks to look like shadows.  Painting was done of the structures in the meantime.

The last tile to get painted was printed in PLA and then painted in exactly the same manner as above.  I think it looks as good as the one printed from the much more expensive filament!  Oh well.

At this point I have the above tiles that I consider completed (including the other eight ocean tiles).    I have also largely finished thirteen of the twenty two green tiles that I intend to have.  I am now working to complete the remainder of the green tiles and have started to prime the city tiles.  I am still struggling with the volcano tile and have the capital city tile printed but not painted.  Finally, I have the Industrial and Exclusion areas finished as I had done them when I first started experimenting.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Terraforming Mars and 3D Hubs - Part 2 - Materials

I am always looking for an excuse to experiment with different filaments and this project is providing just that chance. The first image shows four different types of tiles done in three different types of filament (green and off white are the same type just different colors).
These two are both Proto Pasta Matte Fiber HTPLA.  They describe it as "A Fiber Composite optimized for finish, performance, and compatibility for architecture, sculpture, industrial and product design, and engineering 3D prints.".  It prints as easily as PLA but has the same textured surface as the Colorfabb carbon fiber filament (which I really like).  I added both the green and the off-white to my inventory in hopes that I might be able to do some architectural work that required the green (and besides it made sense for this project).  The off white is probably the better choice as it can be colored post printing.

The green tiles will get printed with the green stuff (obviously)!  The off-white will be used for the tiles that are predominantly surface terrain as I expect the look and feel to be able to take advantage of the filament characteristics.

The challenge will be the mining tile that has both structure and terrain.
The ocean tiles are a complete experiment in that I want to try and take advantage of some clear filament that I have had for a while.  This is T-Glase Clear and it should be about as clear as a 3D Print can be given extrusion lines will always be an issue.

Finally, the tiles that are primarily architectural will be done in a "standard" filament.  I am using some PET as I have been liking it lately from a printer perspective and wanted to see how it takes to being painted.  In the future I would probably be more likely to just us PLA.