Star Wars Stormtrooper Snowflakes

Merry Christmas and my the force by with you!

Forrest moon of Endor or my Christmas tree these ornaments are right at home
Forrest moon of Endor or my Christmas tree these ornaments are right at home

In preparation for the holidays I printed some Star Wars Storm-trooper Snowflake ornaments.

Printing two at a time in white PLA
Printing two at a time in white PLA

You can find the model I used for this project here.

Storm Trooper Snowflake Ornaments in the office.
Storm Trooper Snowflake Ornaments in the office.

I printed them 2 at a time in white PLA. 2 for the office and 2 for our tree at home. It was a nice easy print and a fun and festive addition. Wow, typing that sentence I was apparently channeling some Martha Stewart. ūüėČ

Storm Trooper Snowflake Ornaments on the tree
Storm Trooper Snowflake Ornaments on the tree

Happy Holidays and I look forward to even more maker projects in the new year.

Take care,
-Bill
@TinWhiskerzBlog

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Adafruit Feather BLE + NeoPixel Lamp

Like any red blooded engineer I like nice designs, shiny objects and blinking lights. One of the projects that burrowed its way into my subconscious and helped push me over the edge into buying a 3D printer earlier this year was the¬†Adafruit Feather BLE + NeoPixel lamp with 3D printed Voronoi Shade that plays some animations by the Ruiz Brothers over at Adafruit. It’s a great addition to any office desk or maker workbench. After playing with the sample code which simply played a short animation when you pressed a button in the app I decided to augment the code to continuously play animations and add a few more to the mix.

Feather BLE light paired with iOS app
Feather BLE light paired with iOS app

You can view detailed step/by step instructions on printing this lamp  here on the Adafruit Learning System.  What follows in this post is a description of what changes/modifications I made to the build and additional functionality I added into the software running on the Bluefruit Feather.

Check out this video showing what I did with the software for this project here:

Software Revision Highlights:

  • Currently selected animation will loop continuously without interruption (Original sample plays 1 animation and stops until another button is pressed)
  • Cleaned up animation library/methods, fixed some issues with Adafruit sample code and finished off some incomplete methods
  • Added additional animations to the up, down, left and right buttons in the Adafruit Bluetooth application

You can find the source code for the demo used in the video here on GitHub.

3D Print complete, not gather up the required electronics
3D Print complete, now gather up the required electronics

Notes on Building This Project: 
I printed the base out of ABS filament and the Voronoi shade from light blue translucent PLA filament. I chose not to glue the shade onto the top ring of the base as I like to be able to show off the electronics. I friction fit the clear disk into the bottom of the lampshade so it stays securely as one piece. I also omitted the battery as I only plan to run the lamp in an office setting wherein I have access to plenty of USB ports.

Solder and assemble the light
Solder and assemble the light

BIG NOTE: As this caused me some headaches and wasted time. In the Adafruit Learning System write-up for this lamp, make sure to follow the Fritzing circuit diagram here and NOT from the step by step photograph here. The photograph shows one of the blue wires going into ‘BAT’ and not the expected ‘3V’. You should be powering the NeoPixels off the 3V pin. ¬†

Flash the firmware and test the rig before final assembly of the case.
Flash the firmware and test the rig before final assembly of the case.

Once I finished all the soldering I fit the board, wires and ring into the bottom half of the base and flashed the firmware onto the device and made sure it lit up and worked as expected.

Lid screwed in place to help secure the NeoPixel ring
Lid screwed in place to help secure the NeoPixel ring

Next up I screwed on the top half of the base and started working on the animations I wanted to use and assigned them to various buttons in the Adafruit ‘Bluefruit’ application.

Running animations
Running animations

Last up was testing the completed lamp. It lights up a dark room more that I expected which is nice and is clearly visible in a well lit room. Some of the animations in the above video are far better in person as the DSLR tends to blend a lot of the mixed colors into shades of white — you’ll have to see it in person by building your own.

Red alert, incoming message
Red alert, incoming message

With the above lamp completed you can also tie it into the IfThisThenThat (IFTTT.com) ecosystem via Adafruit IO.¬†¬†IFTTT allows Internet of Things (IoT) devices to react to a surprisingly large amount of interesting stimuli — if you get a certain type of email, if your phone shows up on your home wifi network, if an IoT sensor gets a certain reading your device and react to that message and carry out your desired task — its an incredible system and will be the focus of my next post, stay tuned.

-Bill
@TinWhiskerzBlog

P.S. If you build your own variant of this project, please leave a comment and share your thoughts and modifications.

Don’t filet your thumb….

Note to self, don’t filet your thumb. A couple of weeks ago I was cleaning up a 3D print with an X-acto knife. It was one of the more intricate pieces of a 6 speed automatic transmission. As a professionally trained woodworker and long time maker I’ve spent 20+ years around very large, sharp and potentially dangerous tools.

Cleaning up a large print....
Cleaning up a large print….

I got home from work at a decent time for a rare change and was cleaning up a print as I waited for my wife to get home from work. In trying to free up a printed in place joint I had a brand new X-acto knife blade shatter. I was holding the gear in my left hand and the knife in my right and pulled off an impressive feat — I was able to deeply lacerate my right hand thumb!

Getting into the details with an X-acto knife
Getting into the details with an X-acto knife

It didn’t hurt at first and I thought it was just a light cut, but wow it was bleeding. It was not until I rinsed it in the sink that I realized how big and how deep the cut was — my thumb was filleted open and I could see veins etc — the worst cut I ever gave myself. ¬†I washed and packed it down as I frantically paced waiting for my wife to get home and as I used one hand to get my 2 year old son and 7 month old son ready ¬†for a trip to the emergency room. It was not how I wanted to spend my Friday night. The result was 12 stitches in the skin and 3 more in the muscle to put my thumb back together. This ended my hand modeling career. ūüė¶

12 stitches on the outside and 3 more in the muscle.
12 stitches on the outside and 3 more in the muscle.

Why are you telling me about your self mangling adventure? 

I’ve never had great timing.¬†About 2 days after the above incident I got an email from the folks at NoCry who manufacture “Cut Resistant Protective Work Gloves with Rubber Grip Dots” and they offered me some gloves to try out. I wish they found me a week earlier, but given my recent set of stitches, I definitely wanted to try them out.

Testing with the same model X-acto and fresh blade from the same box as the one that shattered and slashed my thumb
Testing with the same model X-acto and fresh blade from the same box as the one that shattered and slashed my thumb

The first thing that I thought about when I envisioned a cut resistant glove was the heavy chainmail style carving glove like what Lee Valley sells here. I’ve looked at them in the past, but at $89/glove the price was prohibitive.

I checked out the NoCry gloves website here http://www.cutresistantgloves.org/ and read up on how they work. The fabric in these gloves is woven from a mixture of stainless steel, polyethylene, glass fiber and spandex.

Little gun shy at first but pressing quite hard and attempting to cut....
Little gun shy at first but pressing quite hard and attempting to cut….

The gloves are designed to take at least 5 cuts in the same exact area ¬† with a reasonable solid amount of pressure before you’d be able to cut through them.

Long cut with a freshly sharpened Leatherman Surge
Long cut with a freshly sharpened Leatherman Surge

I tried cutting the gloves with the same x-acto knife that cut up my thumb, along with a freshly sharpened Leatherman Surge, a classic Swiss Army knife and a few other sharp instruments I had at my maker workbench.

You can see the lines left from earlier attempts to cut into the glove.
You can see the lines left from earlier attempts to cut into the glove.

I was impressed with how well the gloves fared. On some of the harder tests (pressing hard and trying to slice through the fabric) you can see some lines where I made inroads into the fabric after a couple of repeated cuts, but it definitely would have helped protect my thumb if I had them when that X-Acto blade snapped on me.

To see the sort of slicing I attempted in action you can watch this YouTube video from the company here.

Having said that, do note that they are not impenetrable — meaning something sharp and pointed like an skinny awl or a puncture from say the tip of an X-Acto knife pressing straight in on the point could likely get through some of the knitting, but the far more dangerous slicing laceration is well protected. ¬†The palm side of the glove also has a nice tight array of silicon dots that help you keep a grip on whatever you are holding. The dots worked well even when I sliced through a few to see if they’d fall off.

The textured buttons really aid the grip.
The textured buttons really aid the grip.

I’m 6′-1.5″ inches tall and have large hands. Based on their sizing chart I got a size Large and found the gloves to be the perfect size. For me gloves usually are too short in the fingers or too tight or way too big. They seemed to stretch well and are machine washable.

At $15.99/pair on Amazon as of the time of this post they quite reasonably priced and a worthwhile investment/insurance policy for your hands. ¬†If you’d like to try them out you can find them on Amazon here.

After my thumb incident and since writing this post I’ve used these gloves regularly as I clean up 3D prints and I’ve continued to be happy with them. ¬†If you get a pair and try them out, please leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of them.

Take care,
-Bill
@TheRainford

P.S. I do not work for the NoCry company nor was I paid for the above post beyond noting that  they did provide me with gloves to test.

Crate it up…

I’ve wanted to try using wood filament for quite a while, but the price for it was generally more than I was willing to pay for it.

Wood Crates -- Printed in PLA with wood fiber in it.
Wood Crates — Printed in PLA with wood fiber in it.

My friend Adam told me about a company calls SainSmart on Amazon that has good quality filaments at a reasonable price. I ordered a few colors of PLA including a roll of their Dark Wood 3mm PLA filament which you can find here.

Printing a few crates at a time
Printing a few crates at a time

The filament worked out great and has a nice woody look.  It even makes a bit of a wood/sawdust smell as it prints. (Probably terrible for your lungs so make sure to work in a well ventilated area with any 3D printer).

These crates became a bit of an addiction. I printed 1, then another, then another, then a series of 3 of them. ¬†It’s a well detailed little model and even has the wood slats modeled on the interior bottom (though from a woodworking perspective a real wood crate would not have that brace on the inside bottom, but I’ll let that slide ūüėČ )

These crates work great for background props and SD card storage.
These crates work great for background props and SD card storage.

They print well with no supports at all, but had a very tiny bit of warping at the corners. By printing a brim I felt the warping was sufficiently negated. I used Gorilla brand CA glue to adhere that little square to the underside of the lid (keeps the lid from sliding off the top of the crate).

I figure these crates will make nice background props when photographing other toys or prints and for the more practical minded maker they also work well as a nice SD card holder that can accommodate full size SD cards. They stand nicely inside the crate with the lid in place.

Take care,
-Bill
@TinWhiskerzBlog

 

Hey, look at the camera…

Taking family pictures can be a real challenge. I have a 2 year old son and a 7 month old son. Getting either of them to even attempt to look at the camera usually takes a lot of cajoling and taking a ton of shots, most of which will never get used.

EyeOnCam mounted in my DSLR
EyeOnCam mounted in my DSLR

Then I learned about the “EyeOnCam Monster Clamp” which was invented by my woodworking friend Joshua Farnsworth who is also a proud parent. ¬†This ingenuous little device clamps onto a DSLR hot shoe (for a flash) as shown below or can be mounted from underneath via the threaded insert used to secure a camera to a tripod.

EyeOnCam mounted in my DSLR (Side View)
EyeOnCam mounted in my DSLR (Side View)

With the clamp attached to your camera you can mount your smart phone or similar device with a screen. You then play a funny or entertaining video that your kids enjoy and like magic you suddenly have their attention.

The photos in this post were from the very first time I tried using this clamp and I was amazed I didn’t have to say a word.

Bradley smiling at the camera
Bradley smiling at the camera

My son Bradley was busy reading a book with my Mom and the moment he heard the video for “What does the fox say?” come on he was making excellent eye contact with the camera.

EyeOnCam Monster Clamp
EyeOnCam Monster Clamp

The clamp is designed to look like a little monster and held my iPhone 6 in an OtterBox without any issues.

This setup also worked well with my 7 month old son who loves to watch videos of himself or his big brother.

Henry looking at the camera
Henry looking at the camera

With this timesaving device I was able to get some very cute pictures without having to take nearly as many shots as I normally have to take in order to capture a cute expression.

Henry being cute
Henry being cute

If you’d like to help support this small business and improve your photo quality and decrease your frustration in getting kids or even adults to look at the camera you’ll want to add this device to your kit.
You can find the EyeOnCam “Monster Clamp” on Amazon here¬†or directly from EyeOnCam.com here.

Take care,
-Bill
@TinWhiskerzBlog

Halloween Prints

With Halloween fast approaching I figured it was time to add some 3D printed decorations to the office.

Below are some of my pics for fun Halloween themed prints. I tried to pick some models that demonstrate varied printing techniques.

Fun Halloween 3D Prints
Fun Halloween 3D Prints

#1 The Ghost Emoji 

Emoji Ghost in glow in the dark PLA
Emoji Ghost in glow in the dark PLA

This model is a quick print and can easily be adhered to a smooth surface with some double sided tape.

Emoji Ghosts in glow in the dark PLA
Emoji Ghosts in glow in the dark PLA

Printed in ‘Glow in the Dark’ Green PLA from eSun you can find the model for it on Thingiverse here.

#2 Trick or Treat Sign

Trick or Treat sign
Trick or Treat sign

Printed in lime green PLA from MatterHackers at 125% to have better/cleaner details compared to the same details on the original model listing which can be found on Thingiverse here.

#3 Glow In The Dark Haunted Graveyard

Glow in the dark graveyard scene
Glow in the dark graveyard scene

This fun little diorama took a little more work to create but was interesting to put together. The green terrain was printed in green nGen filament. The gravestones are dark gray nGen. The ghosts and glass are ‘Glow in the Dark’ Green PLA.

Glow in the dark graveyard scene. One for my office and one for my wife's office.
Glow in the dark graveyard scene. One for my office and one for my wife’s office.

I used some short lengths of 22 gauge solid core wire with black insulation to affix the ghosts and give some ability to change their angles etc via bending. I also used CA glue to attach the stones to the base and to lock the wire into the holes in the stones and the holes in the ghosts.

Ghosts glowing brightly after being charged up by a handheld black light.
Ghosts glowing brightly after being charged up by a handheld black light.

You can download the model for this 3D scene from Thingiverse here.

#4 Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters Logo
Ghostbusters Logo

This print was a great way to experiment with 2 color prints. I set Cura to pause at a given height, swapped the red nGen filament out for some white nGen filament and resumed the print. Now I have one logo for the old movies and one for the new release.

You can find this model on Thingiverse here.

#5 Makies Jack-O-Lantern

I printed a remix of the Makies Jack-O-Lantern that allowed me to have a different color peduncle and snap off lid. The body of the pumpkin was printed in nGen orange and the peduncle is in nGen green.

Jack-O-Lanterns
Jack-O-Lanterns

You can find the model for this project on Thingiverse here.

If you print any of the above models make sure to post them on Thingiverse and/or in the comments section below. Also let us know if you have some other Halloween themed models that would be fun to print and experiment with.

Happy Halloween!

-Bill
@TinWhiskerzBlog

Robot Army

 

Apparently I’ve been building a robot army. Some models really do seem to get stuck in your head or on your printer bed. These tiny Maker Faire Robots are models I use to print samples of various filament colors. Like so many other models lately it was not good enough to make one for my maker bench, I needed to make one each of the robot with his arms up and one with his arms down. But that still wasn’t enough, I also wanted a set for the office at work. I wound up printing 4 robots, two of each style each time I got a new spool of nGen filament. 32 robots later and 1 of the larger articulated versions I thought it was time to take some photos of the brigade.

I recently picked up a dedicated macro lens and had some fun playing with depth of focus in the above shots.

If you’d like to print some for yourself you can find the models here:
Small Maker Faire Robots

Large Print In Place Articulated Maker Fair Robot
Take care,
-Bill
@TinWhiskerzBlog

 

My Favorite Print Removal Tool

Removing a print from the bed of your 3D printer can sometimes be a harrowing experience. You wait for hours for the print to complete, maybe even dealing with a few failed attempts and then go on to break or mangle your print trying to get it off the printer bed.

My Lulzbot TAZ6 came with a nice little kit of tools but the print removal tool was basically a clam knife with a thick handle like a steak knife. I tried using that tool to remove my first print and it made the only gash I have in my PEI print bed. I then went on to buy a dedicated print removal spatula for about $8 on amazon. It was incrementally better — looks like a long frosting knife and was a little bit flexible, but was still thicker than I wanted and took some work to get a print off the bed. After looking at that tool I thought about some real nice palette knives I have in my woodworking tool kit that are flexible and machined down to the point that they are almost sharp.

Woodworking Palette Knife
Woodworking Palette Knife

I dashed out to the shop and grabbed one — the shape I least liked and least used for my woodworking was by far the best I’ve ever used for 3D print removals. (See photo above) That sharp corner and VERY thin edge is great for getting up under a print and quickly removing it.

Popping off another print.
Popping off another print.

Since I switched to using this tool with my printer I have not lost a single print due to issues getting if off of the bed. The knife tapers down to¬†0.008″ (twice the thickness of a human hair) at its thinnest and is about 1/16″ near the tang. This profile with a point off to one side (far right in photo below), along with the ability to easily flex the knife allows the user to easily pop printed items off of the bed. All I do is get the corner under the print and make a quick sweeping motion and the print comes right off the plate.

Palette Knife Kit From Lee Valley
Palette Knife Kit From Lee Valley

If you’d like to get a set of these useful palette knives you can find them at Lee Valley here. The set only costs $11.50 USD and should last a very long time. I also use them a lot for applying wood glue to my woodworking projects.

If you give them a try or have your own tips for consistently getting a print off the printer bed, please leave a note in the comments section below.

Take care,
-Bill
@TinWhiskerzBlog

Who you gonna call?

I grew up during the first wave of Ghostbusters movies and loved the franchise ever since. I had all the toys as a kid. Back then it was a lot harder to make your own custom toys. My first few weeks with my own 3D printer has been the usual stage of ‘print everything I can’ — trying to get as many things off of my long Thingiverse ‘Like’ list as I can.

Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn’t have to produce anything! You’ve never been out of college! You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve *worked* in the private sector. They expect *results*. — Ray Stanz (Ghostbusters 1984)

The week the new Ghostbusters movie came out in July, I printed out a version of the new Ecto-1 hood ornament in nGen silver metallic filament. It made a great hood ornament for the truck as we went to go see the movie at the drive-in.

 

This week with some red and white filament in hand I printed out the classic Ghostbusters logo — one for my maker workbench at home and one for my office at work. It’s not bad enough to print 1 of everything, lately I seem to be printing lots of stuff in duplicate.

“[as a ghost leaves on the subway] I guess he’s going to Queens – he’s going to be the third scariest thing on that train.” — Patty Tolan (Ghostbusters 2016)

If you want to print either of these models for yourself I posted my settings and tips up on Thingiverse here (for Ecto-1 Hood ornament) and here (for Ghostbusters Logo)

Take care,
-Bill
@TinWhiskerzBlog
@TheRainford

PacMan

Some models on Thingiverse can become addicting to print.¬† I found the PacMan ghosts to be that sort of model. I made one…..

Original Cast of PacMan
Original Cast of PacMan

And one turned into 4…

Original Colors
Original Colors

And 4 into 8 etc etc. The bright colors make a nice addition to the desk and are fun to setup in different configurations.

Extended set of colors
Extended set of colors

I also made a set for my friend Ken who has his own video game museum.

Colorful Ghosts
Colorful Ghosts

“Waka, waka, waka, waka…” — PacMan

Full set of ghosts
Full set of ghosts

The colorful prints are all made from nGen filament.

20 ghosts + PacMan
20 ghosts + PacMan

The gray looking ghosts are printed in Village Plastics glow in the dark blue.

Following PacMan
Following PacMan. Glow in the dark blue PLA ghosts

The glow works well when they are charged up, but the LED lights I have don’t seem ¬†to throw out the right amount of light. I had to put them in a sunny spot or under a traditional incandescent bulb.

PacMan's worst nightmare
PacMan’s worst nightmare

You can find the models for the above prints here:

Pac Guy
http://www.thingiverse.com/make:245627

PacMan Ghost:
http://www.thingiverse.com/make:245624

Take care,
-Bill
@TinWhiskerzBlog
@TheRainford

 

Electronics, Maker Projects, 3D Printing, Social Learning