Showing posts with label 3D Printer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 3D Printer. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

M3D PRO Now on Kickstarter!!!

When 3D Systems ceased production of the Cube series of printers, I began to explore alternatives.

That's when I became acquainted with M3D and the low-cost Micro 3D printer.   At YouthQuest Foundation, we have been experimenting with two of the Micro printers in our 3D ThinkLink lab and I have purchased one for my granddaughters.  It is destined to have an important role in our work with at-risk young people.  In fact, the YouthQuest Foundation's Board of Directors just approved a fund-raising campaign to purchase M3D Micro 3D printers as the anchor of a new peer mentoring program for our cadets.  So, we plan to purchase many more.

More importantly, as I studied the company behind the Micro, it was apparent that they were much more than simply a 3D printer manufacturing company.  At its heart it is an innovation company.  In fact, I was so impressed that I began the IdeaRoom3D blog to feature the M3D line of products.

Several weeks ago, I received an email from M3D that invited me to take part in a video they were creating.  Naturally, I jumped at the chance to meet the team at M3D and I am ALWAYS ready to talk about the wonderful benefits of 3D printing.

Today, I received an email that announced the opening of M3D's KickStarter campaign for the new sensor-rich M3D Pro!  Following the link, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the video in which I participated is on the Kickstarter page.  (I'm the old guy in the red shirt.)  :)

But, that is NOT why I am urging you to visit M3D's Kickstarter page.

Normally these days, I would avoid a KickStarter campaign for a new 3D printer like the plague.  So many in the recent past have ended badly.  But, this one is different.  Having been experimenting with the M3D Micro for a while now, I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this new development.  I have gotten to know this company and I've used their products which gives me the utmost confidence to pledge my support.

Remember that I said that M3D is more than simply a 3D printer manufacturer and at its heart M3D is an innovation company?  That is MORE than evident when one examines the M3D Pro.

I could waste your time by trying to write about all the many features I find appealing about this new, unique 3D printer.  But, the M3D KickStarter page does a much better job than I could in presenting all the wonderful new innovations it represents.

I missed out on their first KickStarter campaign for the Micro; but, we're not missing out on this one!  Count us in for a pledge!!!

Here is the Link to the M3D Kickstarter Page.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cubify Sculpt Tutorial #3: The Beauty of Emboss Area and Texture Maps

I mentioned Emboss Area and Text Maps in a previous post.  I expect to explore these two features in many more tutorials.  They are SO powerful and make adding ornamentation SO easy that it truly makes designing in Sculpt child's play!

When I first heard that the president of 3D Systems was committed to the democratization of 3D printing and design, it was difficult to know if it was a sales slogan or a fundamental core value.  With the introduction of Cubify Sculpt, I now know that it is definitely a fundamental core value and a true commitment.  Cubify Sculpt has the potential to bring 3D design to just about every age group and just about every level of technical competence.

As an educator that taught from 1st grade to high school students, I always hoped that someone would create a product that could be used at the elementary level as well as the higher grades.  While younger students might not be able to create great works of 3D art with Cubify Sculpt, I am convinced that the feature set WILL allow them to successful create nice objects to be printed on a 3D printer.

Cubify Sculpt has the potential to be a major tool for school projects in STEM, Art, Geography and other disciplines.  In this video we show how a simple 2D STENCIL and TOPOGRAPHIC MAP are easily turned into Texture Maps to create reasonably complex 3D features. 

As you can see, a simple paint program can be used to create a tool to be used with EMBOSS AREA to complement any shape.  The fact that Texture Maps WRAP make them particularly powerful.

Cubify Sculpt has exceeded my expectations in a HUGE way.

Cubify Sculpt Tutorial #2 - Setup and Potter's Wheel Simulation

I'm simply amazed that I have been able to actually complete some demonstration projects so quickly in Cubify Sculpt.  I can assure you that this would not have been possible in any of the other sculpting applications I've tried to learn in the past.

One of the first upgrade features that I asked for when I first opened Cubify Sculpt was the ability to manipulate the clay in the fashion of a Potter's Wheel.  Well, it turns out that we can do just that using some hot keys or, I hope, by using a Spaceball type of device.  I've been told that the SpaceNavigator device can be used to spin objects with one hand as the other is used to sculpt.  But, we don't have to wait until a SpaceNavigator arrives to test the concept.

It turns out that the ARROW KEYS can be used to spin the object a specified number of degrees and by holding down the ARROW KEY we can do so continuously.

Here is a video that shows the concept!

The image used for the video preview is the SpaceNavigator.  I have ordered one and should have it by next week.  I was under $100 and I am looking forward to seeing how well it works!

The combination of being able to start with an STL, like the chalice, which is VERY easy to create in a CAD program; but, slow to create in a sculpting application and the having the ability to quickly add features while spinning the piece is a VERY powerful capability.  The ARROWS and other Hot-Keys are good things to explore.

I love it!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cubify Sculpt - Emboss/Texture Maps: A Power Tool Combination

One of the problems I've had with previous sculpting tools I've tried is just how long it takes to make something useful in an educational setting.  If all we had were Push/Pull style tools, that would be true of Cubify Sculpt.  But, it's worth taking a look at the EMBOSS AREA tool and particularly the CUSTOM (with TEXTURE MAPS) option.

In fact, a good number are included with the Cubify Sculpt install, in the PATTERNS directory under the directory where Cubify Sculpt is installed.

Any black & white bitmap image having various levels of gray can be used with the Emboss Area tool.  The lighter the area, the higher the embossing action.  White areas will emboss the highest and black will not be raised at all.  The shades in between will be raised higher as the color moves to white and lower as the color moves toward black.


My main reason for exploring this feature so early is that a number of people have asked me about using the Cube / 3D Printing in an elementary school setting where the time allotted to teaching a 3D creation is limited.  At first, I was skeptical that Cubify Sculpt would meet that requirement,

But, the more I have explored the concepts of "TEMPLATES" (pre-designed basic shapes to be modified) and "Texture Maps" (pre-designed embossing stamps), the more I'm convinced that Sculpt would allow teachers to integrate 3D printing in just about any classroom.


From my high school days, one of my most consistent hobbies has been protozoology.  Some people watch birds, I watch protozoa.  In the late 1970's I taught Junior High Science and so it was natural for me to begin the exploration into how EMBOSS AREA could be used to provide a jumpstart for a student to design their own protozoa models.  For a future article, I will create a tutorial showing how the Texture Map was created and used.  But, for now here are images that show the Texture Map on the left and the final model on the right.

Amoeba Texture Map (Bitmap)

The above image was created in a 3D paint program.  Any, paint program can be used.  The important thing is that lighter areas will result in higher embossing and the black areas will not emboss at all.

Here is the above picture side-by-side with the resulting 3D object.

3D Amoeba Created From Texture Map

Here is another view that demonstrates the embossing a bit better. 

Amoeba Model at an Angle

The bumps in the surface were added after the emboss created the basic shape.  The embossing was done on the surface of a cube and then the cube was cut away using the REMOVE CLAY WITH BOX tool.  While the Texture Map was used like a stamp on the surface of the cube, there was still plenty of design modifications, such as lumps, bumps and indentations to the surface that the student could add.  Older students could have even created the Texture Map itself.  In fact, the Texture Map could even be created using a microscope image of a real creature!  Just convert the color image to black & white.

Finished Amoeba

The beauty in the fact that we can use gray scale images to create 3D features is that the images can be created in a variety of ways, including mathematically   Again, this isn't great art.  But, it DOES demonstrate the usefulness of Cubify Sculpt in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) program. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Care and Feeding of the Cube 3D Printer (Video)

I've been wanting to create some better videos about the Cube 3D printer, itself.  This is the first attempt in that direction.

I have received a number of emails from users that have described this or that issue they've had with their Cube printer.  Some have had clogged heads and others have asked about the using the CubeStick glue to best effect.  This video covers the following topics...

Setting the Head Gap

Nothing will clog a 3D printer faster than when the print jet is hitting the print bed.  Yet, we need a very small gap to ensure that the first layer of filament is properly laid down on the print bed.  A TWO STEP process for setting the gap is demonstrated along with the paper I've found that works the best for me.

Applying CubeStick

One of the most challenging thing for me, when going to the new 2nd Generation Cube from the 1st Generation Cube was the different behaviors of the two different glues.  The first generation Cube used a heat activated glue and, frankly, was a LOT easier to use both before, during and after the print job.

I found that I was having a LOT of trouble getting parts to stick immediately after I'd cleaned the print bed.  And, I didn't realize that by trying to solve the problem by applying thicker coats of glue only resulted in transferring glue to the little rubber cap over the print jet... essentially gluing the flowing filament to the cap and not the bed.

Finding the proper gap helped.  But, finding a more reliable system for applying the CubeStick was the real solution.

A Tip When Changing Cartridges

For a long time, I created some problems for myself because I did not understand the correct timing for pulling on the filament when removing it to change cartridges.  When the Cube team explained the steps of the process that the Cube takes when removing filament, I came up with a visual clue for myself that allowed me to more easily go with the flow when removing filament.  The result is no more instances of broken filament inside the print jet!

The Correct Way to Insert the Cartridge

While teaching a 3D printing class at Freestate Challenge Academy, we had two different instances where the little metal contacts in the cartridge slot were broken as the student loaded cartridges.  From this experience, we learned two things.  (1) The correct process for inserting the cartridge and (2) how to solder in replacement contacts.  We will show the latter later.  But, for now, this video demonstrates the SAFE way to insert new cartridges to avoid the potential for breaking the contacts.

The Video...

This is the first of the videos that I hope to bring you regarding the Cube 3D Printer, itself.  As will be clear, I do not write a script.  So, you will hear some obvious errors... such as when I talk about lowering the head when I really mean the bed.  But, I'm trusting that the information is useful enough that you will forgive my slips here and there.  I have to do these videos and tutorials in the limited time that I have to do them.  So, perfection is NOT an option.  :)

I have made the difficult decision to use the YouTube "Monetize" option to help offset the costs of the investment required to bring a higher quality of videos to you.  I know that it's annoying. But, hopefully you will find some of the products and services advertised useful enough to click on at least some the ads.

That investment, by the way, included a new Panasonic HC-X920 video camera and new LED 100WA-56 / LED 200WA-56 lights.  I mention this because these products have only recently been introduced and some of my fellow members of the DPReview forums have expressed an interest in seeing how well they perform. 

If you have the bandwidth, try viewing the video in HD 1080p, to see why I feel that investment was well worth it.  I love this combination!

Well... with that said... here is my first 2nd Generation Cube video!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hagley Invention Convention - Visitor's Perspective

What keeps you pumped up for three full days and hours on end at an event is the people you meet.  And, Hagley's Invention Convention was a prime example of this.  I had a wonderful time.  But, I was working the table.  How was it for the visitor that came by the Cube table to learn about 3D printing and see the new Next-Gen Cube.

The following photos give us a bit of a hint.  They were taken by Joe Pulcinella, a parent and professional photographer.  Now, he didn't lug along his massive Canon SLR and professional lights to Hagley.  After all, this was to be a fun father-child outing. But, when I saw him taking pictures with his smaller camera, and saw the quality, I asked him if he would mind letting me put them up on this blog so that you could see what he saw.  He was kind enough to send some to share with you.

Next-Gen Cube - Hagley Invention Convention (Joe Pulcinella)

The Cubify team kept the prototype Next-Gen Cubes running non-stop, printing in both ABS and PLA.  The printing table mount will be a bit different in the production machines that ship this month.  This is the "pink" version of the new Cube. 

A Favorite - The Owl  (Joe Pulcinella)

My eldest granddaughter had the same reaction when she saw the owl.  She wanted one.  What made this particular owl so special was the new resolution of the Next-Gen Cube.  The detail is stunning.  Behind the owl is Keith Ozar, of the Cubify Team.  Remember that name, you are going to see it a lot.  More about that later.  :)

Sisters Studying the Cube's Print  (Joe Pulcinella)

It was fun to watch how the children and parents took great care to learn how the Cube created the objects.  First. they took the time to watch the printing process and ask questions.  But, most also wanted to pick up the printed pieces and explore them in depth.  This was the "Blue" version of the Next-Gen Cube.

Studying the Cube's Print Up Close (Joe Pulcinella) 's

I've been printing with a 3D printer for a while now.  But, even I had to pick up the Rhino and experience for myself how smoothly it was printed with the Next-Gen Cube.  And, I also have to marvel that this was printed without requiring either raft or supports!  Be sure to click on the image to see it at full size.

Intense Focus on the Cube Printing   (Joe Pulcinella)

Seeing people intently trying to drink in exactly how the Next-Gen Cube worked its magic was a lot of fun.  But, seeing the quality of the printed output was equally fun.  The large rook, alligator and planter were all created on the Next-Gen Cube.  Again, click on an image to see those teeth in the jaws of that croc and be amazed that they were not only very sharp... But, printed without any support at all!

(I still have to find the site to download the Alligator and Rhino.  When I do, I will update this blog entry with the links.)

Thank you Joe.  I enjoyed meeting you and our discussions about what a wonderful job the Cubes were doing.  I really appreciate the pictures and I'm sure the readers are equally appreciative.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

1st Generation Cube in Light of 2nd Generation Cube

Christmas is less than a month ago.  And, perhaps. you purchased or received a 1st Generation Cube only to learn that the 2nd Generation Cube ("Next-Gen Cube") has been announced.  I suppose that one might feel justified in wondering if you made the right decision to be a very early adopter.

I just spent 2 days with the new Next-Gen Cube at Hagley with members of the Cubify team.  It's a marvelous printer.  And, the response was wonderful!

2nd Generation Cube - Hagley Invention Convention

Yes, it's a bit faster.  Yes, it prints in PLA and ABS.  Yes, it's accuracy is approved.   But, did it make me regret the fact that I own the 1st Generation Cube?  No.  Not at all.

Here's why...

The minute I saw the Next-Gen Cube and saw the crowd's reaction and heard their comments, I know that 3D printing is probably becoming a common, mainstream item a LOT faster than even I would have guessed one year ago.  And, this means something very special to 1st Generation Cube owners.

You most likely have the ONLY consumer 3D printer that will ever be released that has the unique advantages of a heated bed.  Not, only that; but, by having a printer that is easily identifiable as THE 3D printer that started it all, when it comes to consumer 3D printers, you are instantly in a very special class of people that was smart enough and had enough foresight to be among the first to recognize the value of 3D printing in the home or personal office.  You have THE 1st Edition.  And, 1st Editions have a special place in the sun.

Personal 3D printing is going to be an enormous game changer.  I'm not sure it will be as significant as the Gutenberg's printing press.  But, that's at least a possibility.  And, you and I have the functional equivalent of a 1st Edition printed on that famous press.  Everybody else that is going to jump on the bandwagon will own the 2nd Edition or the 3rd Edition.

Perhaps an even better analogy is Edison's first phonograph that used cylinder's vs his later phonograph that used a flat record.  I can imagine the chagrin of the buyer that had just purchased the cylinder phonograph only to read that the flat record player had been released!  Yet, I'm sure you can agree that owning THE first photograph invented is a LOT cooler than owning the second or third version!  In the end, who had the most valuable model?  :)

Some day, being astute enough to have owned THE 3D printer that started it all is going to make a difference in a job interview, a college scholarship or perhaps even directly financially from a collector.  It is going to be something you can look back on talk about with a special sense of pride and satisfaction.

While I love the advances of the new Next-Gen Cube.  I see nothing that makes me regret having a 1st Generation Cube.  It only makes me proud that I had the vision to be among the first and that my granddaughters knew what it was to experience 3D printing well before their classmates.

The 1st Generation Cube is more than just a 3D printer.  It is that rare technological seed that grows a massive  movement.  Cherish it.  There will never be another quite like it.

Gee, we were smart to want one!!   :)

In the next post, I will introduce you to the newest member of the Cube family.  It is a beautiful child! And, it now comes in various colors.  My granddaughters insist I get a pink one!  And, of course, I'm told "It's a need, not a want."

They're getting a lot more clever at manipulating PopPop as they get older!   LOL!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

CubeX a finalist in Best of Show

Some congratulations are in order for 3D Systems.  The new CubeX, the big sibling to the Cube, has been nominated as a finalist for the Best of CES Peoples Voice awards.


You can read about it on the Cubify blog and there is a link for you to vote for your own favorite among the finalists. The voting is only active for this evening, so take a look at it early.

Here is a link to the CES page announcing all the finalists.  The CubeX is the only 3D printer in the finalist list.  And, it beat out some heavy competition, going up against the new Makerbot Replicator 2X.

Frankly, I LOVE the aesthetics of this new printer, just as I loved the Cube's aesthetics.  But, as beautiful as they are, they would not earn my respect without more than matching their looks with solid performance to match.   And, since the Cube has NOT disappointed me in that regard, I expect the CubeX to be just as impressive.

I've decided, for clarity, to keep the focus of this blog dedicated to the Cube and the consumer centered aspects of  The CubeX, clearly is a light industrial 3D printer and I'll be focusing on that category of 3D printers on my companion blog,

But, I will point you to a wonderful collection of images of the CubeX and it's output from   There is one piece that seems to have warping issues and there are some minor issues with the globe.  But, the other results are simply spectacular!  The Cathedral blows me away.  Remember, just as were the Cubes shown last year at CES, these CubeX machines are probably development models so I wouldn't read much into the little glitches.  This printer is going to be AWESOME!

And, the judges at CES seem to agree!  Congratulations Cubify Team!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Invent Intro #04 - Circles (Extrusion Boss & Cut)

Extrusion is one of the most used commands in any CAD program.  And, Cubify Invent is no exception.  It is THE primary way that we turn a 2D sketch into a 3D object. 

There are two types of EXTRUDE that can be used in Cubify Invent.  They are EXTRUDE (Boss) and EXTRUDE (Cut).


Essentially, EXTRUDE (Boss) ADDS layers of material in the shape of the 2D sketch to form a 3D object with features defined by the 2D sketch.  I don't think that it's a stretch to call EXTRUDE (Boss) the most used 2D to 3D option.

Using EXTRUDE (Boss), a 2D circle becomes a 3D Cylinder having height as well as a circumference.  A 2D square becomes a 3D box or cube when EXTRUDE (Boss) is applied.


EXTRUDE (Cut) doesn't ADD material.  It REMOVES material, if any exists.  This is most often used to create cut-outs and holes in already existing 3D objects.  While not used as often as its boss counterpart, it is still an often used option and may well be second of all the 3D options in frequency of use.

Using the selected 2D sketch, it acts as a cutting die, removing the exact shape of the original 2D sketch from whatever 3D object is crosses.  It can cut partially through an object or all the way through as the user determines.

Here is a video that demonstrates these powerful Cubify Invent commands at work creating a useful part that has bolt holes and a ledge that is counter-sunk into the part using EXTRUDE (Cut).

For those exploring Moment of Inspiration, here is how a similar part might be created using only EXTRUDE (boss) with MOI's Boolean Union and Difference Tools.  It's interesting how different applications accomplish the same task by going down two different paths. 

In a follow-up tutorial, we explore all the 2D and 3D BOOLEAN FUNCTIONS available in Moment of Inspiration.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cubify Invent - Tutorial #12: Sweep Boss & Cut

We do a little bit differently in this tutorial.  We include a brief demonstration of how Moment of Inspiration (MOI) handles the SWEEP command before looking at Cubify Invent's SWEEP.   The difference is that MOI allows us to use TWO paths or RAILS along which to SWEEP our primary shape.  As of right now, Cubify Invent only permits us to use a single path or rail. 

But, as we shall see, while that presents some challenges, Invent's SWEEP still allows us to do amazing things.


I like the term that Moment of Inspiration's developers use when describing the path on which the primary sketch rides.  They call it a RAIL.  And, that is a great analogy.  SWEEP is just like a train traveling on a RAIL, following every curve and nuance of the rail as it moves from one point to another.

SWEEP starts with a sketch.  That sketch can be simple or complex.  But, in Cubify Invent, it must be a CLOSED drawing.  We demonstrate with a circle and a curved wall as out primary objects.  Think of SWEEP as an EXTRUSION that follows a path determined by an OPEN rail.

The Rail is a second SKETCH that is NOT an enclosed path.  This RAIL or PATH is used to guide an extrusion of the closed, primary sketch.  The SWEEP follows the basic rules or behavior of the EXTRUSION tool... except that it is rarely straight.  A sketch of two Circles, therefore, can become a curved pipe and that of a single circle becomes a curved, solid rod.

We don't have time to get into all the specifics of relating the RAIL to the CLOSED SKETCH in this tutorial.  We just cover the basics.  But, some very, very complex curves can be created under the SWEEP umbrella.  So, expect more explorations to follow.


Here is the video.  At just over 16 minutes, It's much longer than I usually prefer.  But, the subject matter is so rich that I hope it justifies the extra time spent viewing it.

The raw power of SWEEP to create more organic features makes it well worthwhile to explore in greater depth.  Plus, it's always surprising and fun to see a finished sweep for the first time.  So, rest assured that there is more to come regarding this wonderful tool!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cubify Invent - Tutorial #10: Bolt with Helix Cut

Before attempting to learn how to create a bolt using the Helix Cut tool, I scoured the Internet to see what it takes in other bigger name CAD packages.  I also scoured the Internet for information about bolts and thread specifications.  So,  others unwittingly helped me as I tacked learning Cubify Invent's techniques for creating a bolt using actual specifications.

What I learned is that designing a bolt in Cubify Invent is actually EASIER than in many well-know CAD packages.  That's probably because they have a legacy interface.  I was surprised how easy it was to not only cut threads; but, to do so with precision.

Of course, the drawing is going to be a lot more precise than any extrusion printer can currently deliver.  But, that's OK.  3D technology that is expensive today will, one day, be affordable to home users.  So, all that precision will NOT go to waste.

Creating the bolt took place in steps.

STEP #1:  Create the Bolt Shaft

The first step in creating a bolt is to precisely create a blank shaft at the OUTSIDE specification for the bolt size you want.  In this case, the OUTSIDE of the threads would be .427".  Since we wanted a bolt having 1" length for the threads, we created a cylinder that was 1.276", allowing for the head depth.

Step #1: Bolt Shaft Extrusion

STEP #2:  Create the Bolt Head

The bolt that I measured as the model for the tutorial had a head that was .609" across and was .276" deep.  The MAKE DIMENSION option makes getting the sizing precise very easy.

Step #2: Bolt head Extrusion

STEP #3:  Chamfer the tip

Chamfering is the process of cutting an angle along an edge,  By, putting an angled edge on a bolt, it makes it easier to start.  In this case, we picked a random measurement of .075".

Step #3: Chamfering the Bolt Tip

STEP #4: Use REVOLVE CUT to shape the head.

This was actually the toughest process to design and implement.  The process involves designing a cutting tool that trims the top and bottom of the head as it is REVOLVED around the head.  The depth of this cutting tool had to be great enough to clear the pointed edges.  The great thing about Invent is that you can EDIT the cutter after you try it, so that corrections can be made with automatic updates to the result.  Nice!

Step #4: Forming the Head with Revolve Cut

STEP # 5:  Create the Thread Cutting Tool  Shape and Reference Line

Thread specifications include DEPTH and PITCH.  The depth is controlled by the size and shape of the tool used to cut the threads.  In this case we used a triangle that was .040" deep.  This number came from one of the many specification sheets that can be found on the Internet.

At the same time, we created the reference line around which the Helix will revolve. Creating a Helix, either BOSS or CUT, always involves a shape and a reference line.  The distance between the reference line and the cutting object determines the circumference of the Helix sweep.

Step #5: Create Thread Cutting Triangle & Reference line

STEP #6:  Cut the Threads using HELIX CUT.

Cutting the threads turns out to be extremely easy.  When Helix Cut is selected, a dialog asked for a number of parameters.  In this tutorial, all we needed to enter was the length of the Helix (1") and the PITCH of the cut.  The bolt modeled had a pitch of .060".

Step #6: Use Helix Cut to create the Threads

 STEP #7:  Finished Bolt.

Here is a picture of the finished result.

Finished Bolt


I hope this tutorial video shows that using HELIX CUT is relatively easy if we remember we need and object AND a reference line.  It was actually quite interesting to see how much easier this process was in Cubify Invent as compared to some other, more famous, CAD programs.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cubify Invent - Tutorial #5: Just Plane Fun With Planes

OK.  That is NOT a misspelled word.   I couldn't resist.  That play on words was just T-O-O-O good to pass up!

So, we are going to use planes to create a plane.  And, I think you will be quite surprised at how simple it is!

In the video I do something a little bit different.  I begin by using a different plane than my usual starting point.  That is because a REVOLVE ends up creating the very same object no matter which plane I used for the sketch.  So, by avoiding using the XY plane, it made it easier to see the features that we use to create the swept wing.

Also, I left in an aborted attempt at creating the tip of the wing.  It was the result of FAILING to click "OK" when creating the new plane.  

As I mention in the video, we have heard, over and over, the phrase, "Failure is NOT an option."  But, that is anything but true when it comes to learning a new software application.  Failures are not only common; but, an important and  necessary part of the learning process.  If one is afraid of failure, then learning is next to impossible. Thomas Edison is famous for embracing the positive aspects of failure when asked about his thousands of aborted attempts to find a material that could be used in his light bulb. 

Cubify Invent is not the first product, 3D and otherwise, for which I have created tutorials on the web.  And, every single tutorial was preceded by one or more failed attempts.  In fact, every Cubify Invent tutorial, so far, has been the result of multiple recording attempts aborted for any number of reasons.  Recovery from failure is what is important.

Perhaps I learned this from my high school participation in drama.  There was always someone missing a line that caused the other actors to ad-lib to bring us back on script.  And, that was reinforced in the years spent creating training, documentary and news videos where take after take is the norm.

Be patient with yourself as you try to learn Cubify Invent.  It is as if inertia must be overcome where things roll slowly at first and then rapidly pick up speed.  The trick is embracing the failures as the one sure path to successfully becoming a Cubify Invent expert.  :)

Now for the fun.  I hope you enjoy seeing what can be done with a few simple sketches on multiple planes.

Pretty cool, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shaping the Filament Tip for Loading

It is relatively important to shape the tip of the filament correctly before loading in any 3D printer.  The filament for the Cube is no exception.  Mike asked how I do this.  So, I thought I would mention several ways one can shape the tip correctly.

Since I'd had a 3D printer before the Cube, I'd already found ways to shape the end of filament using several different tools.

Flush Cutters

A micro flush cutter is a small cutting tool with cutting surface that is flat on one side.  This makes for a very clean cut.  Rio, a supplier of jewelry tools and supplies sells many varieties.

Micro Flush Cutter

Right out of college, my daughter set up a well equipped jewelry studio in our home.  It's still here.  As it became clear that shaping the tip of filament was important, I had a lot of tool choices close at hand.  Flush cutters will work.  But, it takes several cuts at different angles.

Nail Emery Board

The least expensive option is a simple emery board normally used to shape nails.

Emery Board

ABS filament is relatively soft and shapes very well.   For under $2.00 you usually can buy a set of boards with several different grits.

Dremel Sanding Wheel

Few tools are as versatile as a Dremel rotary tool.  This is my tool of choice in shaping the end of the filament before loading into either of my 3D printers.

Dremel Rotary Tool with Grinding Stone

The grinding stone attachment makes short work of shaping ABS plastic.. But, a light touch is a must.  Otherwise, it will melt the plastic.  Light touches as you go around the tip tip on all sides does the job very, very well.  Sanding wheels would also work well.

Obviously, these aren't the only ways to get the job done.  But, they represent 3 different approaches that I know work.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Tool to Clear Clogged PrintJets

Scour the hobbyists and consumer 3D printer sites and blogs and you will see that sooner or later most, if not all, 3D extrusion printers will clog for one reason or another.  It comes with the territory.

As more and more 3D printer manufacturers use pre-built hot ends, it becomes less effective to tear a hot end apart to clear the clog.  The Cube falls into this category... as does the much more expensive ($17,000-$22,000) HP 3D printer.  HP has even published a Support Document that deals with how to clear a clog in their printer.

While it rarely happens, when a Cube's tip becomes clogged, a user has two choices.  They can either send the unit back for repair.  Or, they can clear the clog themselves.  Cube time is so precious to me that I have opted for the latter.  And, I want to explain to everyone how I do it.

But, before doing so, we have to say that if you try what I am about to describe that you do so at your own risk.  To clear the Printjet tip, it has to be heated and it can cause a nasty burn if we aren't careful.  Of course, no child should be allowed to do this.  It requires good small muscle control and a steady eye.


The most critical item you will need is piano wire that is under .5mm in diameter.  I use .38mm piano wire (0.015") that can be found in any hobby store.  This wire is inserted into the tip of the hot end to clear it.


While it is not required to have handles, they certainly make it easier.  And, since we have a 3D printer, we can make the type of our choice.  In my case, I printed two different types.  Since I've not had a clog recently, it's not been possible to test either of them.  But, I am certain that both will work well.


The first style is short and the wire is mounted in the center of the handle.  There is a shaft for the wire's exit and a small hole into which the bent end of the wire is inserted.

Short Handle for Piano Wire
Taking some time to discuss the design characteristics is useful not only for this project; but, others.  As always, the first design goal, other than basic usefulness, is NO SUPPORTS.  The objects print FACE DOWN as in the bottom right quadrant of the image.  There are holes in both halves.  And, some posts are printed separately.  These posts will be inserted into the holes to line up the halves.

The reason why the posts are not attached before printing is that it would have required supports for at least one half.  The above arrangement, with external posts, allows us to print without supports and still provide a way to ensure perfect alignment of the halves.

Notice that the holes appear to be considerable larger than the diameter of the posts.  At print time this difference goes away and the posts and holes are very closely sized.  Remember, holes get smaller and posts get larger as we discussed in a previous article.

In like manner, the shaft and hole for the piano wire must be a lot larger than the piano wire's diameter.  Otherwise, the hole will close up.  Here is an image of the completed small wire handle.  A piece of paper is included in the image to help show the wire.

Finished Piano Wire in Short Handle


In the small handle, the wire exits the handle in the middle of the handle.  The large handle is designed to be asymmetric so that we can reach in from the side.  It may or may not be easier.  We'll see if and when we have a clog.

Long Handle for Piano Wire
Aside from the length, the only big change in this design is that the hole for the wire's exit goes through one of the halves and near one end of the handle.  A stabilizing channel is wedged between the two halves.  The posts and alignment holes are the same.

Here is the completed long handle.

Finished Piano Wire in Long Handle


If I get a clog, I will used the "Install Cartridge" option to heat the Printjet hot end.  When I hear the extruder running in reverse to back out the filament, I insert the wire into the tip and hot end and gently press upwards until the wire moves freely up into the print tip about 1/4" to 1/2".  This should push the errant filament out of the bottom tube.  Or, at least that has been my experience in the two times I've used piano wire in the past.


Normally, I would put the designs up on the Cubify Store.  But, liability issues outweigh helpfulness in this particular case.  It's not only possible to burn yourself.  It's also possible to ruin your Cube unless you are careful.  So, I post this article simply to tell you how I deal with the issue and let you decide if you do or do not want to go the same route.  Hopefully, NONE of us will need it.  But, I want to be prepared, just in case.  I don't want to lose a single day of work with my Cube!


There are two things that I have found will CAUSE a clog.  
  •  The first is to pull the filament out too aggressively when changing cartridges.  You do NOT want to break off a piece inside the head.  So, be patient and let the machine do the work of reversing the filament.
  • The second is not rounding the tip of the new filament before loading.
Here is a simple image that shows filament tips trimmed in three different ways. 

Three ways to trim the end of the filament

The cut on the blue filament is too straight.  The edges can bump onto the lip of the bottom tube just below the extrusion wheels.

The cyan filament is cut so that the long tip bends outward.  Filament has a natural curve and the tip of the filament cut like this ends up either hanging on the lip of the bottom tube or guiding itself outside the tube altogether.

The best way to trim the end of the filament is to trim it in multiple directions so that the pointed tip is roughly at the center of the filament.  Also, make sure that the filament is as straight as possible.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Another User Review

DEELIP.COM has posted an excellent step-by-step article about their "Opening Experience" and a follow-up article about printing a shark that was downloaded from

Opening the Cube Package

The images are especially good at showing not only the contents that come with the Cube.  But, the LCD screen used to control it.  It's a MUST READ if you are interested in the Cube or afraid 3D printing is too complicated.  Here is a sample image from the article...

Test the Limits of the Cube - Printing the Shark

The first article was followed up by a second covering the printing of a hammerhead shark that was downloaded from  What is impressive about this test is the both the orientation and thinness of the fins.  Again, a MUST READ.


I have no idea if Deelip Menezes owns the company in India that is responsible for the programming and designing the Cubify site or simply works for them.  But, that relationship is stated right up front along with their complete lack of experience actually using a 3D printer.

And, it is success of printing in the face of Deelip's lack of experience with a 3D printer that is going to be indicative, I think, of all first time users.  The other common experience, for those of us with children or grandchildren, is enjoying how excited they are at being able to print their own objects.

Deelip captures this very nicely in a third article called The Joy of Creation.

I love Deelip's writing style and will provide a permanent link to their blog.

Nice job!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cubify Client Software - Introduction & Tutorial

My primary business for the past 30+ years has been as a software designer.  I've designed video games, children's activities, the first professional desktop video application for the PC and business applications.  So, I'm pretty hard to please when it comes to control structures in software applications.

Both the art and the work flow of the Cubify Client pass the test.  It's nearly perfect for it's intended audience and intended application.  They've done a nice job.

The Cubify Client, which can be downloaded from the Cubify web site, converts an STL file into code that the Cube 3D printer uses to print a 3D object.  There is a work flow that makes this job complete and the Cubify Client presents this work flow in an extremely clean and easy to use manner.

So, let's see what that work flow looks like.

As you can see, it's pretty hard to get lost with this software.  The one improvement I'd like to see is a feature that alerts us that the object we just imported is too large and offers to automatically fix it.  It's easy to see if the X or Y axis is too wide.  But, not so easy to see if the Z (Vertical Height) axis is out of bounds.  But, that is easily checked manually using the Object Information button.

Nice job!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Second "Included Print File" Printed - Shoe

Here is the completed Macedonia Shoe that was printed in Delaware over the weekend,  The top view does an excellent job of showing how smoothly the Cube prints contours.

Macedonia Shoe Printed on Cube - Top

From the side, we see how it deals with large areas and holes.

Macedonia Shoe Printed on Cube -Side

Notice that there was no raft and no support required to print this very complex object.  There was not sign of warping and the only hint of anything but SMOOTH can be seen in one tiny flaw best seen in this view.

Full side view

This little extra extrusion material was easily flicked off.  In a design this demanding, this kind of performance is astounding to me.

But, there is something else that should be mentioned.  To simply print out the included free creations as novelties would be a big mistake.  They are excellent opportunities for learning.  Freedom of Creation is a company having designers that are masters at designing for 3D printing.  It is highly informative to check on the progress of the print in an object created by them.  It will reveal some helpful hints at how to design so that rafts and support are not needed.

Opposite side view

In this shoe, there are some interesting INTERNAL features at the part where the ball of the foot would be and also where the top connects to the back end of the shoe.  It's worth studying these.

Internal Support designed into Shoe #1
The pad in the sole of the shoe (above) seems to be one of the keys to the lack of a need for support.  But, the most interesting thing for me was the upper internal support design.

Cantilevered Support Structure
Kudos to Freedom of Design for coming up with these innovative solutions to reducing the need for external support structures.  And, kudos for the Cube in being able to pull it off.

Click on any of these images to see a 21mpx image that is more than capable of revealing every flaw.  NOTHING stands out as even worthy of notice over 99.9% of the print. 

To See all of the images of the finished show go to..

The Cube Print Longwood Gardens Field Trip Slide  Show

I continue to be impressed.  Very impressed.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Fume Question Settled for Me

Some legitimate question has been raised about ABS fumes and the Cube.

This is not a definitive answer.  But, it's the one that counts for me.

I did not mention a thing about smell or irritation to my family as I set up the Cube in my daughter's home.  I wanted to see what my family would say without any influence from me.

The Cube printed for well over 8 hours and not one of my family mentioned anything at all about any smell or fumes.

After we left for home, I directly asked my wife if she noticed any smell.  And, her answer was, "No."

I can't speak for everyone.  But, I do know that my wife and daughter have what I would consider very sensitive senses of smell.   If there was even a HINT of something obnoxious they would have noticed it.

It passed the test that counts for me.  And, while I know that is a completely subjective observation, it's the only measure that I can offer.

I hopes this helps those that might be concerned.  :)

The Cube Travels Well

A lot of thought was put into the design of the box in which the Cube arrives.  My advice is to NOT throw it away.  It makes for a great travel case for your Cube.  I know because my Cube went on a visit to see my granddaughters yesterday.

How many times do you hear somebody praise a BOX?  Not many.  But, the Cube box is designed to travel well and the Cube is one of those products that you'll want others to see and experience.

Putting the Cube back in the box to prepare for travel was a piece of cake!

If you have children or grandchildren in that 9-12 range you know how eager they are to be able to do things for themselves.  Taking the Cube out of the box and setting it up was no exception. With very few prompts from me, they had it up and running in no time.  They even figured out, on their own, that they had to remove the little screw in the cartridge that keeps the filament locked in place while traveling.

Having now had the experience of following the loading directions, I knew it would make it easier for them to cut off the filament about 6 inches above the printjet when packing it up.  That made it very easy for them to follow the Cube's on-screen directions.  Nothing baffled them in the process of setting it up.

They then chose to print the Macedonian shoe...

Macedonian Shoe - Early in the Process of Printing
Now, the shoes are among the largest objects of the creations that come free with the Cube.  The time estimate showed 6 hours and 33 minutes to print and it actually took longer.  It's amazingly intricate and, even more amazing, was set up to print without raft or supports.

3D printing, by it's very nature DOES take time.  But, that doesn't mean you have to sit around waiting for it to finish.  You get it started and go off to do other things for that period of time.  In our case we decided to go to one of our favorite places, Longwood Gardens.

So, while Henry the Cube... yes the girls decided to name it... did its thing, we did ours.

However, there is one thing that needs to be mentioned that happened before leaving for Longwood.  My youngest watched the Cube build the shoe and, with a huge smile, said...
"I feel so proud... even though I didn't do anything"
THAT is a pretty significant statement about the emotional aspects inherent in 3D printing in the home.  Watching the Cube print is an inherently SATISFYING experience.  And, even though she only selected the item and pushed the LCD to get it started, she felt a deep sense of being part of the process.  I feel this every time I start a piece, whether it is one of mine or was designed by somebody else.  And she felt it too.

I had one Rook that I'd printed on the Cube and several others that I got from the 3D Systems people before the Cube shipped.  I thought it would be nice to take them on an outing while the Cube did its thing.  So, off we went!

Here Red Rook and White Rook survey the topiary garden for the first time.

Red Rook and White Rook overlooking the Topiary

 Liking what they saw,  they sped off to play among the topiary.

Frolicking among the Topiary
They even joined my granddaughter's for a game of hide and seek!

Green Rook enjoying Hide and Seek

While most of the rooks played hide and seek, Blue bracelet contemplated how the Cube might be able to create a sundial of their own.  Red rook, having worn itself out, joined bracelet.

Blue Bracelet planning a Cube Sundial
But, Yellow Nano, being made of VERY tough stuff, preferred to hang around with the tough guys at the topiary garden entrance.  None of that "sissy" stuff for her!  If only stone lions had Nanos!  What a pair!

Moving inside the massive conservatory, after all that exercise, Red Rook demanded to be carried as they contemplated the beauty of these magnificent indoor gardens and fountains.

Red Rook taking in the Conservatory Fountains
But, while they found the indoor fountains fascinating, all of the Cube prints agreed that the most spectacular of the many fountains to be found at Longwood were those that could be seen from the Conservatory's patio. 

Cube Prints taking in the front lawn fountains
But, like any field trip with a bunch of eager kids, this one, too, almost had a tragedy.  While you can see it in the above picture, it's better shown below.  Why do Cube pieces ignore the warnings about not going too near the edge???  A gust of wind and off went Green Rook!

Fortunately, I had a monopod and was able to rescue him.  And, I THOUGHT he'd learned his lesson.  But, I was wrong.  There was a Wine & Jazz festival going on.  Some rooks just CANNOT hold their alcohol!

There's always one... sigh...
A little food in his stomach at the Italian Gardens helped and we had no more trouble with Green Rook the rest f the trip.  He does love cookies!

Great cookies, great fountains, great friends... Life is good!

I had a wonderful time combining three things that I greatly enjoy... Longwood Gardens, photography and 3D prints.  There are many more photos on my Flickr site. You'll see dragons, tree houses, fields of light and the full beuty of the Italian garden.  To experience a slide show of the full Cube print field trip go to...

The Cube Print Longwood Gardens Field Trip Slide  Show

In the meantime, let's get back home to see how things progressed with the Cube!!!

By the time we arrived back to the house, 6 hours had passed.  The Cube was still printing.  But, the girls and I could see that it was doing a phenomenal job!  We were amazed and pleased by what we saw.

The detail of the Macedonian shoe is impressive
 This was the first time I'd printed out a large object on the Cube.  They still need to work on getting the estimated build time just right.  But, that is a minor issue when one sees the quality of the print with such an intricate pattern without raft or support.

We ended up having to leave for home before the print was complete.  But, my daughter reports that it is finished and beautiful.  I'm going back to retrieve the Cube this evening.  Yes, I KNOW it's a 180 mile round trip.  But, if you think I'm going without my Cube for even a few days, you'd better think again!  LOL!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Can the Scope be Helpful in Other Ways?

I know that some of you are saying, "Come on Tom.  Things can't be as rosy as you've shown so far!"

And, you are right.  They can't.

The Cube, like any other 3D printer is laying down a series of layers of melted plastic that must adhere to the previous previous layer of plastic that may or may not be positioned directly under it.  Moreover,  that cooling layer is sandwiched between a hotter layer above it and a cooler layer below it.  There can be hundreds of such layers.  I've not seen ANY 3D printer that lays down layers that are perfect at all wall thickness or angles 100% of the time.

ABS is tough, has a feel to it that is a LOT more pleasing than PLA and just plain looks nicer.  But, it has a tendency to warp.  I've already mentioned that I would prefer to use ABS plastic in my other 3D printer.  But, I can't.  Without a heated bed, it warps so badly that I just can't use it.

I love the fact that the Cube has a heated bed.  But, that does not mean that in some circumstances a little warping might not occur.  When that happens, we will see a line that is different in the sides of our printed objects.

One of the reasons I designed my torture test with differing wall thickness and shapes is to see how the Cube/ABS combination performs under completely different circumstances in the same print run.  And, to learn from what I find to design things that avoid potential issues.

A finding is not "Good" or "Bad".  It's "What".

And, the "What" that shows up in my torture test is that wall thickness makes a difference.  That's not surprising to me.  But, if you are a new 3D printer owner, it might be a BIG surprise to you.  Let's take the "surprise" out of it by seeing what it is up close.

I have to apologize for this picture.  All I have here right now is an old Sony Bloggie with absolutely no control over the exposure.  Here is the part that has a wall thickness of 1mm, the thickest of the objects in the torture test.  (I'll replace this picture later with a clearer one)

Part with 1mm walls

As you can see, there is a layer that is not absolutely perfect.  And, that imperfection extends around the part from the sphere to the extruded triangle.  That is what warping looks like.  None of the thinner pieces showed this characteristic.

There is something else that is not so easy to see in this particular photo.  But, CAN be seen under the microscope.  This is the wall of the box from the top.  Notice that it is not solid.

Top of 1mm box

This is a behavior that I have seen over and over in my first 3D printer and in countless images in 3D discussion forums.  Certain thicknesses are more difficult for 3D printers than others.  The trick to avoid this is to know what thickness are optimal and which are not.  Obviously this has repercussions to the overall integrity of the object.

We know we can avoid this by designing our wall at .5mm or .75mm.  We can probably also avoid this by making our wall 1.25mm.  Remember, I said our findings aren't "Good" or "Bad".  They are "What" and the "What" in this case let's me know that I probably am better off avoiding 1mm walls in square boxes.

So, how might this have affected the overal piece?  The clue is to the bottom left and out of focus.  That is a single piece of filament that broke ranks and missed the corner.  And, it's right at the layer that shows evidence of warping.

Seen from the microscope's perspective, it's plain that this errant strand, probably allowed by the hollow wall, started the warping snowball.

Corner of warped layer

This is the picture of the corner and layer where that filament took a shortcut.  As I said, wall thickness DOES seem to make a difference.

But, here is something else that is interesting.  NONE of the prints of the twisted star show any signs of weakness or warping.  The wall is just a little thicker than 1mm.  And, a close look reveals another interesting bit of information that we can use to our advantage.  Not only wall thickness; but, wall orientation seems to make a difference.

Here we see the same wall in two different orientations.  Notice that the bottom orientation shows a different inner characteristic than that of the top orientation.  One seems more solid than the other.  I find that fascinating.

What this seems to suggest that if we have a part that seems prone to warping, etc.  We might just want to try it at a different orientation on the print bed.  I don't know for sure that this will cure the problem.  But, it certainly suggests that rotating the part in the software that we use to convert STLs to Cube files might help.

 In my case, it prompts me to go back into my 3D software and design an STL having several copies of this part with 1mm walls oriented in different ways to see if a different behaviour emerges.

This is a printer/plastic behavior.  Not  a printer/plastic problem.  It's a DESIGN problem.  

I consider that it's my job to use up filament chasing down design problems so that you don't have to!  :)