Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Cube Tour Should be in DC Tomorrow

As you will see as you follow this blog, I do not simply pass through press releases or piggy back on the work of others to fill content on my blogs.  There is two much practical stuff to talk about when it comes to 3D printing.

So, I haven't really talked much about the Cube Odyssey Tour.  I assumed that if you were following this blog that you have also been following the Cubify blog.

But, today, I AM going to talk about both the tour AND the Cubify blog.   I think Adam and the other members of the team have done an absolutely marvelous job of keeping us up to date and allowing us to travel with them without the aches and pains of a marathon car trip.

Here are just a few of the images they've posted.

At Artists for Humanity, Boston

And, of course, matching Cube & Shoes....

Adam & Cube in Chicago

The pictures of enthusiastic children were a favorite... This one is from Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Cube Fans

It seems that at every stop, as people came to see, some for the first time, what a 3D printer can do, there was nothing but excitement and enthusiasm.  But, it's not just the machine.  It is the team and their commitment to spread the word that something different has come to town and it has a LOT to offer all of us.

I've already met Adam.  And, I'm looking forward to seeing him again.  I came away from my visit to the 3D Systems headquarters admiring his creativity and understanding of what we need as Cube owners and Cubify users.   Hopefully, I will get to meet the other team members tomorrow when they arrive in DC.  And, I'm really looking forward to it. 

I plan to take some pictures of my own and will be asking some questions about the Cube interface that I think you will find interesting.  Expect a new post tomorrow evening.  :)

3D Printing and Photography

Few things are as useful and versatile as today's small small point & shoot cameras.

While my primary camera is a full-frame SLR, I often find myself reaching for the small Canon 110 HS point & shoot.  However, there are two things about this camera that drive me crazy.  One is that it cannot shoot in RAW, making processing more difficult.  The other is the tiny flash that gives everything that deer-in-the-headlights look.

A tiny flash is always a harsher flash.  So, one of the ways to try to minimize that harshness is to make the flash appear to be bigger.  And, a 3D printer is great for creating a reflector that is custom fit to most cameras.  Here is an image of my current project... making a reflector for the Canon 110 HS.

It's not quite where I want it to be in terms of full effectiveness.  But, it's getting there.  I still need to experiment with the shape and size of the reflector.  But, I am already seeing results that tell me I'm on the right track.

And, the good thing about having your own 3D printer is that you can keep coming back to the drawing board until the item you are attempting to design is doing exactly as it was intended to do.

It takes about an hour to print this particular design.

No, the above image wasn't taken with the 5D Mark II, it was taken with another camera I have laying around here.  Hmmm.... one project seems to lead to another!!!  LOL!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Cube and School Projects

As a former teacher, I know the stress that parents face when it comes to their children's school projects.  Just last weekend I was in a Michael's and a stressed mother was combing the store trying to find materials to make a 3D tiger.

I wanted to explain that this was a perfect job for a 3D printer; but, I don't think that would have been much help to this poor woman and her equally stressed child since the deadline loomed far earlier than the Cube would arrive to bail them out.  So, I settled on talking about how we made our own paper mache using flour paste as a child. 

But, when my own granddaughter informed me that she needed some things that represented Oregon, we cast the paper mache idea aside as too messy and went straight to the RapMan instead.  What we came up with was something to honor the Oregon Trail.  It is a box in the shape of Oregon that has an image of a covered wagon being pulled by Oxen.

Now, I'm not a fan of adults doing the work for children.  But, in this project the child is asked to pull together items representing Oregon.  So, my being involved in designing the box wasn't outside the expectations for the project.  The point of the project was to THINK about Oregon.  And, coming up with the theme of the box fit that requirement to a tee.

Oregon Box

I hope to get a better image tomorrow.  The above image was taken with the camera at hand and it leaves a lot to be desired.  But, you get the point.  We can do cool and useful things with a 3D printer that help every member of the family.  Ultimately, this box will be uploaded to Cubify so that if you have a child that needs to come up with something related to Oregon it will be ready for you.

While this was printed using the RapMan, it definitely fits the bed of the Cube.  The top and bottom are printed at the same time. 

Oregon Box Layout

Together they just fit the Cube's 140mm x 140mm print area.  By laying the items out like this we minimize the need for support materials.

Once again, if you have a similar need that others might also enjoy, please feel free to send a request.  I want to create items that useful to our community and even for those that do not have a 3D printer; but, who could order the item through Cubify.

Here is another similar project that I created to demonstrate to the Hagley Museum, in Wilmington, DE. how history can come alive with a 3D printer.  I came across this image on their web site...

Hagley Museum Archive Photo

Using this image as an underlay in my 3D program, Moment of Inspiration, I was able to create a rough approximation of a "Gun Boat" style anthracite cart.   (Don't let the orientation confuse you.  It's often helpful to rotate an image while designing.)

Image used as Underlay during 3D design

The result was this rough sample of what can be done with a 3D printer as part of an educational activity.  Here is the 3D design without the underlay.  Because the original image was shot at an angle, it was difficult to get the actual length right. So, this version is probably not accurate when it comes to precise dimensions.  However, it does convey the concept and could be updated if and when more information is available.

As designed in Moment of Inspiration - No Overlay

From an educational standpoint, I found that using the photo as a basis for creating a 3D design actually heightened my awareness of the entire image's content.  If I were a better artist, I would love to have included the men in my print.  Imagine riding one of these things in and out of a mine each day!

Here is the final print.  I doubt if many coal carts were in Lime Green; but, you get the point.  LOL!

3D Print of a "Gun Boat" Coal Cart

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cube Printing - Tools you May Find Useful

I'm writing this without a clear understanding of how differently the Cube handles the "Raft" and support materials from the way the RapMan 3.2 handles them.  I'm assuming that while there may be some differences, those differences will not be so huge as to negate the value of the suggestions in this post.

One of the first things you learn in 3D printing is that while the printer ADDS material to create an object, it is up to YOU to SUBTRACT material to see the object as it was designed.  That is because the 3D printer must sometimes add material to support elements of the design.

In a single extrusion system, like the upcoming Cube, tools are required for that job.  This first set of tools is dedicated to removing raft and support materials.

At least in most 3D printers, the raft material can sometimes be stubborn to remove from the print bed.  I have found that the large Liquitex Free-Style palette knife (bottom item), found in art and craft stores if excellent for removing the raft while being as gentle on the print bed.   The primary benefit over other raft removal tools is that it can be rocked back and forth to work itself along.

The smaller version (second from bottom) is also useful.  And, this may be enough for the Cube.

For removing the raft and support materials from large flat areas on objects, the Husky paint scraper is an excellent tool.  It's not needed often.  But, there are times when it comes in really handy.

The top item is some wet & dry fine grit (100-120) sandpaper glued to a paint stirring stick.  This is used to keep all the other tools sharp and to smooth out imperfections.

There are other tools helpful for removing support and raft materials in this next group.

Among the most useful tools is a good set of needle-nose pliers, preferably with a bent nose.  A small set of pliers is probably better than a large set and the sharper the tapper of the nose, the better.

But, above all, the most useful tool is a small flathead screwdriver.  There is usually a small gap between the object and the support materials.  A small screwdriver lodged in that gap is very helpful to lossen support material.

This funny looking deburring tool is usually used for plumbing to remove burrs from cut pipe.  It can be purchased for under $10 at home improvement stores in the plumbing department.  It does exactly what its name implies... it deburs the edges of the object where the raft was attached and smooths out the edges.  Very helpful.

But, tools for removing support aren't the only tools that make life easier.  I don't know if we will have to manually set gap between the extrusion head and the print bed.  On the Cube that may be set automatically.  But, if it isn't then this next tool is going to be very, very helpful.

It's usually used to set the gap in spark plugs or valves in automobiles.  But, I have found it to be invaluable in setting the gap between the RapMan's extrusion head and the print bed.

Finally, the is this tool.  It has little to do with the Cube itself.  But, I doubt is I could be as productive with my design software without it.  It's a digital caliper from Harbor Freight that can cost as little as under $10.00.  It is able to measure both outside and inside distances.  I probably use this tool at some point in every design, if only to visualize sizes.

All of these tools can make your Cube experience a bit easier and more productive.  And, the good news is that they are easily found locally or on the web.  I can't imagine not having them with my RapMan.  And, for the most part, I expect to need them with the new Cube when it arrives.

Which is VERY soon!

Utilizing ALL the Cube's Printing Space

When we design our objects, it's easiest to orient them horizontally or vertically.

But, sometimes we want to print an item that would not fit into the Cube's build space with the original orientation.

There are two solutions.  The first is to scale the object to be small enough to fit.  The second option is to re-orient the printed piece so that it remains the same size; but, still fits into the build space of the Cube.

Let's take the "ANNA" pencil box from the previous post as an example.

I have marked the Cube's build area using a box that is 140mm x 140mm.  (Those of you in the United States may not believe this; but, it is far easier and more precise to work in metric when designing for a 3D printer.  It is easy to find any conversation using a wide variety of web tools that are freely available.)  As you can see, the box, at 168mm wide does not fit the build area.

While we could simply scale the box to make it smaller.  But, to reduce the size of the box would also reduce it's usefulness. 

The answer, in this case, is to simply rotate the box.

The same 168mm wide box now completely fits into the build area of the Cube.  The 3D printer could not care less about the angle of orientation.  The only difference that might be seen in the finished product is in the normal pattern and direction of the print lines common to all 3D prints.  But, that has no practical effect on the part being printed.

While the part can be oriented in the software that converts the original STL file into a Cube file, it is probably easiest to perform the rotation in the original software package.  I have not seen the conversion software for the Cube as yet.  But, I assume that it is much like Axon that comes with the RapMan 3.2 printer.  Axon lets you know if the part will fit into the available build space and lets you easily scale to correct the problem.   But, rotation isn't one of Axon's strong points.  So, we'll have to see how that is implemented in the Cube version.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Personalization - Giving Plastic Value

I'm off in a few minutes to see my granddaughters and to take some birthday presents to a wonderful girl who is their friend.

On the spur of the moment, I decided to create a unique and special pencil box for her using my 3D printer.  One of the raps about the items that can be made in a 3D printer is that plastic has so little intrinsic monetary value.  But, that does not mean that an item made from plastic cannot have real value to the recipient.

And, the way to do that is to make that something a unique, one-of-a-kind item, that no one else has.  The best way to do that is to personalize it.  So, here is a personalized pencil box made just for Anna.

To me, personalization is one of the most important aspects of owning a 3D printer.  Now I an off to deliver it to her!  :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

May 25 is the Cube Ship Date!

I've been an early adopter of many, many cool products for more than a quarter of a century.

But, I don't know that I have EVER anticipated the arrival of ANY product like I am anticipating receiving the new Cube 3D Printer.

Perhaps that is because I already own a 3D printer and know how it can enhance a life.  Or, perhaps it's because I've actually seen it in action and know what a great design it is.  Or, perhaps it's because I will be able to pick it up and carry it anywhere because it is beautifully compact and rugged.

I could continue that last paragraph for a lot more sentences.  Because there are many, many reasons why I love 3D printing and am particularly looking forward to the Cube 3D printer specifically.

I recently told my wife that of all the technologies I've embraced since the 1960's, 3D printing has to be the most personally rewarding.  Having a 3D printer, along with a wonderfully easy 3D package, Moments of Inspiration, has been a real joy.  There is nothing quite being able to turn abstract ideas into concrete, physical reality.  Not only does it satisfy the creative instinct in us that have existed for years; but, I can tell you, personally, that it exponentially spawns completely new ideas.

I've spent the last few years researching the plasticity of the brain.  Science has learned that we can GROW our brains.  Learning and creativity, literally, ADDS molecular structure to our brains.

If you are a parent or grandparent that wants to encourage creativity in the lives of your children and grandchildren, then I highly recommend that you take a serious look at the Cube 3D printer.  It's not just fun.  It's not just artistic.  3D modeling and printing is more than the sum of its parts when it comes to expanding the mind and growing the brain.

I don't expect my head to explode from an out of control expanding brain.  But, I do expect my creative ability to grow even more with the addition of the Cube.  And, I expect my grand children's creativity to also take a positive leap as they come up with new ways to use 3D printing for school projects and their lives in general.

So, as you can imagine, hearing that a date has been set for the Cube to be shipped was more than a little bit exciting for me.  And, after I receive it and have been able to test the designs on the Cube, itself, expect a flood of posts showing you some of the things I've enjoyed making and testing with my RapMan 3.2 3D printer.

I can hardly wait!