Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Merry Christmas to all New and Previous Cube Owners!

I'm hoping that our ranks increase dramatically on December 25.


We're happy to have you join us and look forward to hearing from you.  That also goes for those times when things don't seem to be going so well.  Working through issues is how we learn the most about our tools and our craft.

Cube Owners

This blog exists to serve all Cube owners... from those that bought the 1st Gen Cube to the newest of the new.

The good news for all 2nd Gen Cube owners is that the printer and software continue to be improved by firmware and software updates.  Each of my 2nd Gen Cubes is a much better printer today than it was when it was first delivered thanks to 3D System's commitment to continually improve the Cube.

Expect continued additions and improvements in the coming year.

Users have also helped to identify those things we can do to make our printing experience more reliable and precise.  For instance, in the coming weeks I will upload a new Cube Print Table Leveling Tool that dramatically helps check that your Cube's print bed is perfectly level and makes the job of bringing it back into level a whole lot easier.

Sense Owners

My excitement about the Sense 3D Scanner remains unabated.  Let me know if you found a Sense under the tree this year.  The combination of the Sense Scanner and Cubify Sculpt is extremely powerful.  For me, the Sense is primarily going to be about saving memories in a whole new way by creating various types of 3D portraits and sculptures.

As I write this, two Cubes are printing frames for some cameo-style portraits that were created with the Sense and Sculpt.  They will be part of a unique gift to friends and family.

As soon as I have thoroughly tested it, I will be uploading a frame that mates a Sense 3D Scanner to a MIMO 7" USB touchscreen monitor.  It makes the task of scanning a LOT easier.  I'll post a video that demonstrates it.

The Coming Year

I've worked for the Justice Department, the military and NIH.  RICO cases, secret aircraft and health systems demand high security.  But, to be honest, I have not found any organization that is able to keep a secret about new products as well as 3D Systems.  I had NO idea the Cube, 2nd Gen Cube or Sense was coming before the public announcement.  So, I have no idea what is in store for us this coming year.

All I know is to expect something good.  And, that CES, in January, is a good time to pay attention.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Experiments with Painting Cube PLA Prints

Now that I have the new Sense 3D Scanner, the amazing potential of this great tool has stormed my brain with hundreds of new applications for 3D printing.

The Sense color capabilities can't be realized with the Cube printer; but, that does NOT mean that we cannot begin to think COLOR with our prints.  And, this most likely means paint and dyes.

So, I've been experimenting with using modeler's paint to see how it behaves with my PLA prints.  The first test seems to be success.  I only use the term 'seems' because I don't yet know how well the lacquer that I am using will hold up over time.  For now it looks great and helps to mask the natural layers of 3D prints.

Experiment 1:  Metallic Over White

Here's a quick look at my first experiment.

For this object, I used multiple coats of Testor's No. 28141, Sterling Silver Metallic 3D followed by several clear coats.  The results, in person, are much more impressive than captured by this photograph.

Future Goals

The Sense/Sculpt combination dramatically opened up new possibilities for using the Cube 3D printer in the category of Crafting.  While scans of faces and heads is a natural, there are many, many ways to present those scans beyond the simple bust above.  Making cameo style ornaments is another.  Here, for instance is my first attempt to create a cameo style portrait.

Sense Scanned Cameo Portrait Style 3D Print
While a simple single color works, it should be a lot more impressive with some color that accentuates the cameo motif.  Options might be experimenting with various antiquing and patina techniques.  But, the primary goal will be to minimize layering artifacting.  So, paying close attention to experimenting with modeler's filling and priming materials. 

I'm also very interested in learning to use an airgun for shading and stenciling.  So, if we have any experts in this area I REALLY want to hear from you!

I'm really looking forward to these experiments and look forward to seeing what YOU are doing in this area.  You contributions will be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Excellent Review of the Sense 3D Scanner

Engadget has posted an excellent and bery thorough review of the Sense 3D Scanner from 3D Systems. 

Brian Heater covers all the bases with a great writing style.

3D Systems Sense review: a 3D scanner for the masses (almost)

I really appreciate the thoroughness of the review.   But, in reading through the replies to the review, it is obvious that many people don't know how to put price/performance into the proper perspective.  This isn't isn't a +10K device!  It's a low cost consumer device that works well for its intended applications.

Many also have trouble realizing that one needs to learn their tools before making a definitive value judgement.  Perhaps I had an easier time of it because of my experience with using 2D photo to 3D applications in which some of the same skills are required.  But, even so, I can already sense... no pun intended... that like any new technology, there is more for me to learn if I am to get the most out of the Sense 3D scanner.  And, I'm willing to put in the time and effort to learn it.

Perhaps if I intended to use the Sense scanner for creating highly textured objects for game play, I might not be as excited as I am about it.  But, I'm not.  I intend to create and print, on a Cube 3D printer, unique gifts of lasting value of people and for the people that care about them.  And, that is priceless.

Just ask the cadets we've scanned so far.  :)

Cube Print Table Tool - Checks and Helps Level the Cube Print Table

I have spent much of my free time in the last three or four months trying to come up with a tool that would help Cube owners check the level status of their print table and make the leveling process a lot easier and more accurate.  There have been a lot of ideas and failed attempts along the way.

But, the effort has finally born fruit in the form of a tool that Cube owners can print from an STL file on the Cubify Store site.  I will be putting up the files as soon as I have a video completed that demonstrates how to assemble it and use it.

It works by hanging a bracket off of the print head cover.  The bracket positions a pivoting pointer near the center of the print jet.  The pivoting point rides along the print table and indicates the relative difference from the print jet at the four corners of the leveling process.

Cube Leveling Tool - Split view

Here is a split view of the componenets of the system...

Cube Leveling Tool - Split View

The silver component is the primary bracket that attaches to the print head cover.  The cyan component is the pivoting pointer that actually shows the relative offset of all the four corners of the print table.  And, the magenta component in the above image is the clip that securely holds the primary bracket in place.

Cube Leveling Tool - 3D View

Cube Leveling Tool - 3D View

The best way to see how the components work together is by seeing them in this 3D view from Moment of Inspiration.  As can be seen, there are raised rails inside the primary bracket that fit into the first and last slots of the print head cover.  This precisely aligns the tool so that the bracket has no play as the tools is being used.  To lock the bracket securely into place, a clip, shown in magenta is slide down over the head cover and bracket and is seated by ears on the bracket to make sure that it is in the proper, most secure place.  A a rail on the clip locks it into place in one of the slots on the head cover.

The bracket includes a shaft for mounting the pivoting pointer and also includes a pointed extension with which to gauge the movement of the pivoting pointer. 

Cube Leveling Tool -Front view

The pointed extension is best seen in the front view.  It is purposely designed a bit long to accommodate differences in how the pivot pointer might be attached.  Simply clip off the end for a flush match.  When starting the leveling process, the top of the pivot pointer is lined up with the top of the extension by raising and lowering the print table giving us a basleine of comparison for the other 3 corners.

Cube Leveling Tool - 3D View

Cube Leveling Tool - Left view

The STL files include two different pivot pointers.  One is mounted directly using a 4mm bolt.  The other permits the use of 3x4x10mm or 4x4x10mm bearings for much smoother action.  The bearings are inexpensive fishing reel bearing that can be purchased on the internet.  The source I use is VBX Bearing and I buy 10 at a time for under $20.     While either 3mm or 4mm inside diameter will work, it is easier to find the 4mm nuts, bolts and washer in local hardware stores.  This image portrays the bold-only version.

Cube Leveling Tool - Left View

You will notice in the above image that the sliding portion of the pivot tool has a peculiar shape. There are two special features of this shape.  The first is that it is elongated so that it will not fold under as it is moved forward across the print table.  The second is that the elongated portion is lightly raised so that it will not interfere with the actual measurement when the movement stops.

NOTE:  Multiple coats of fingernail polish applied to the bottom contact of the pivot tool go a long way to making the movement silky smooth.  I have found that Sally Hanson Triple Shine Top Coat, that can be found at Target, works very, very well.

You will notice that there is about a 5 to one ratio between the bolt hole to the pivot point contact and the bolt hole to the end of the pivot point.  It is this difference that makes it so easy to level the print table more accurately.  Each .25mm difference translates to about 1.25mm swing at the end of the pointer.  And. 1.25mm is a LOT easier to see than .25mm.

A Note About the Price

I try to keep most of the things I have uploaded to the Cubify Store at the minimum allowable cost.  But, this time I will list the tool at $10.  The price reflects the extension hours of design and testing that went into the design along with the realization that it is going to be an enormous time saver for Cube owners.  Moreover, I want to be able to design other useful things to make life easier for Cube and Sense owners.  Having the funds to do so is very helpful. 

I also want to be able to design a version that is specifically designed for printing on the SLA printers and I expect revisions to be a bit on the expensive side.    So, I hope you understand why the cost is being set higher than my normal price goals..

Quick & Dirty Demo Video

I plan to create a much better video that not only covers the information in this one; but, how to go through the entire leveling process using the tool.  I not only use it to level the print bed.  I sue it to check the level of the print bed after carrying it around, etc.  As a result, I am getting much better adhesion. 

Sorry for the poor sound.  I shot this in the outside studio just using the camera's microphone and the sound of the printer cut the autolevel back.


Be sure that you start the leveling process and then lower the table BEFORE attaching the tool.

As soon as I have uploaded the STL files and/or created the new video I will update the status. 

Vicious Turkeys, LBJ and 3D Scans of Cadets - Thanksgivings to Remember

Perennial holidays have a way of creating and recalling memories of those same holidays from the past.

That is especially true for THIS Thanskgiving,

Thanksgiving 1948 and the Surly Turkeys

My first Thanksgiving memory is one that makes eating turkey particularly satisfying.  My relish at the thought of eating turkey began at the age of 4.  We lived in what was then a rural area and one of the ways the local Burke volunteer fire department raised funds was to sponsor a turkey shoot.  My father happened to win two turkeys at that event.

These weren't frozen turkeys.  These were live turkeys.  And, not the domestic variety either.  They were surly wild turkeys common in the surrounding woods.  What set them apart of your average surly wild turkey was their size.  These things were HUGE Toms!

Unbeknown to me, he decided to house the turkeys in the outhouse over night.  Early the next morning, I had to go and as soon as I opened the door I got a rude shock.  The turkeys bolted for the door of the outhouse strait at me!  I slammed the door shut, only to trap one in the door by the neck with his head doing everything possible to destroy me.

Eventually,  my father heard my screams and came to my rescue.  But, by then I no longer needed to go.  To this day, I remember the sweet feelings of revenge when that bird showed up at the table on a platter!  And, it stays with me each and every Thanksgiving when a bird is set before me.

I think that must show that I might have a bit of a tendency to hold a grudge.

Thanksgiving 1963 and LBJ

I was working in Giant Food #14, a very small grocery store in 1963 when the assassination of John Kennedy was announced.  The store was in the upscale neighborhood of Spring Valley in Washington, DC., the home of Lyndon B. Johnson.  In those days vice-presidents remained in their personal homes.  Mostly we dealt with the cook for the Johnsons.  But, sometimes LBJ, himself, would stop in. If memory serves me correctly, he mostly came in to pick up some cigars.

That was a chaotic time for the Johnson family and it wasn't clear, until the last minute, where they would eat their Thanksgiving dinner.  They finally decided to eat Thanksgiving in their personal home, perhaps in deference to Jackie Kennedy.  But, no one had thought to purchase anything for the meal!  The gave our store an emergency call.

Dick Cunningham was the manager of Store #14.  The minute he learned the situation, he sprung into action.   Since he commuted by bus and had a car, he enlisted me into quickly gathering up anything and everything that might be remotely considered a part of a Thanksgiving meal.  Being one of the oldest and smallest stores in the Giant Food chain, we didn't have a turkey fitting for a president.  So, Charlie McCort, the manager of a nearby store came to the rescue with a suitably large bird.  And, we raced over to the new president's personal home.

On arrival, the thing that strikes me now is that I don't recall seeing a single security guard.  But, what struck me then was the ENORMOUS number of empty liquor bottles discarded in a number of what I thought were fairly large oil drums!  I don't know if it was LBJ, himself.; but, SOMEBODY was putting away a LOT of booze around that place!!

Perhaps because this is the 50th year since that event, it is the first time I've written about it. In the past, I always attributed the need for our help simply to the chaos around that horrific event.  But, as I wrote this, it dawned on me, for the first time, that it was probably as much as an act of kindness to Jackie Kennedy and her children, giving them a little more time and space.  I don't know; but, it would be interesting to know.

Thanksgiving 1966 and Mammouth Cave

The Vietnam War was in full swing.  I joined the Army Reserve and was called for active duty training at Fort Knox Kentucky in September of 1966.  So, I found myself, for the first time, away from from family as Thanksgiving rolled around.  I decided to visit Mammoth Cave.  It was there, as I stared at my turkey and dressing dinner, that it truly struck me that Thanksgiving is not just about the turkey and the food.  It truly was about family.

I don't think I have ever felt more lonely than on that day.

Thanksgiving 2013 and Cadets

This Thanksgiving I am thankful that I was able to not only create NEW Thanksgiving memories for myself'; but, for the cadets that I teach and their families.  That is because the Sense 3D scanner arrived just before the Cadets headed home for the holidays.  While we were only able to scan a few before they left, every one of them knows that someone they love is going to get a very special gift this year... a 3D printed bust of the cadet.  We'll finish the scanning when they get back and print their busts before they graduate in December.

I wish you could have been there to see the reactions of the cadets when they saw the scanner in action.  More than one said they knew EXACTLY who would be getting their 3D print.  Yes, we focus on core STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts using 3D printing in the class.  But, there is more than enough time to spend a little bit of it to deal with building relationships, too.  Building relationships is just as much a key for their success as any subject matter.

Thus, this Thanksgiving is going to be cemented in my memory for the rest of my life as one I will be forever thankful.
Thank you Sense, Sculpt and Cube teams!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Glue to use in an emergency...

The longer I work with the 2nd Gen Cube, the more I learn about glue application for the most effectiveness.  But, I often wonder what we would or could do should we run out of Cube Stick at a critical printing moment.

Recently, a 3D printer owner contacted me and in their email they mentioned using Elmers Disappearing Purple School Glue Stick with his printer... which also has a glass bed.  So, I decided to see how well it might work.

Some observations...

First, it works.  

It goes on purple and as it dries it disappears.  In 8 runs there was one failure that I'm sure had to do with low humidity.  It is FAR more sensitive to dry air than the Cube Stick.   You can tell this by how fast it disappears.

Second, it's probably more expensive 

While it would be great in a pinch,  I'm not sure that it's the least expensive or most effective option. It seems to require a good bit more glue to remain active for the full length of time required to start a print job.  This might not be the case in a high humidity area; but, in my area it's definitely a factor.

Third, it washes off easily and cleanly

I must be easily amused because I got a kick out of the fact that if the Elmers is used and then the print table is run under a faucet, it turns purple again!  This makes it easy to see that all of it has been removed from the print table.

Fourth, parts can still be hard to remove

While there is a different feel to sliding a palette knife under a part, the basic function of removing a part remains unchanged.  If the glue has worked well, and there is no warping, some parts can be tough to remove. 

My conclusion is that I am happy to have the option of using a second source of glue.  But, there is no compelling reason, other than local availability, to making Elmer's glue stick the primary glue to use with the Cube.  Still, it's good to know that we have an option in an emergency.

New Update to Cubify Sculpt

There is an update to Cubify Sculpt that includes new "Mashup" capabilities and a direct interface to the Sense 3D Scanner.

With so much happening at one time, I'm a little behind checking out all the changes. But, there are two things I need to point out immediately.  First, the icons have been completely changed to a solid grey.  I was concerned that something was wrong since normally a solid grey indicates "disabled".  I'm not sure I'm crazy about this change.  But, I will follow up to find out why this was altered. 

But, for now, just remember that this is the intended interface.  So, nothing is wrong when you open it up.

The other thing to point out is that some very nice new functionality has been added.  The top section of the icon menu is called "Construct" and the icon to the right at the top brings us to an entirely new "Mashup" functionality that allows us to bring in not only the existing basic shapes; but, new shapes like an egg and torus.   I have not, as yet, figured out the "Magnetize" function.  But, will ask as soon as I can.

As soon as I feel that I'm up to speed on the new version of Sculpt, I will create a new overview video.  And, in particular, I want to explore the Sculpt/Sense interface.  It looks VERY cool.

IMPORT Changes

In addition to STL, OBJ, PLY and CLY file types, we can now import CLC (?) and ZPR (Z Corporation ZPrint CAD format) file types.

It will be interesting to find out where these new file types take us.

More later.