Posts Tagged ‘3d printing’

MakerBot: Part Of The Designer’s Tool Belt

I’ve shared the video before of Toronto agency Teehan+Lax making its first thing on a MakerBot. Now they have a new video focused on a smart milk carton that alerts you when you’re running low on milk, and they prototyped it on a MakerBot.1


On one hand, having a MakerBot gives you the power to create things for yourself, and Thingiverse is filled with thousands of examples. But then you have people who use it to create things for others, especially the first-through-tenth versions of a new thing. Teehan+Lax is not just making pretty things, but also real world products, with The Replicator. Sweet!

I would say, “this is going to become a trend,” but it already has. I just saw this post from twitter: the Swedish design group People People now have a Replicator, too.

We are finally up and running with our Makerbot Replicator! It will be a great tool for us making prototypes in the various stages of the design process.


Look how they’ve marked their Left and Right extruders. Let’s hope People People will be showing us some sweet Dualstrusion sometime soon! Speaking of, I’d love to know what colors design agencies use the most when they’re MakerBotting.


  1. hat tip Shapeways Blog []
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Finding The Right 3D Modeling Tool For Your MakerBot; Bonzai 3D Pros And Cons

On his blog my plastic future, Gregg Wygonik lays out why Bonzai 3D (B3D) is a good tool for modeling for your MakerBot, and maybe better than SketchUp Pro. Gregg says he wanted to find an alternative, in case SketchUp goes through some changes after Trimble takes it over from Google.

Sketch Up Pro and B3D run about the same in terms of price (just under $500 for both). However, he says his files from SketchUp occasionally have some problems when you try to slice them in ReplicatorG. No such problems in B3D:

Half the time I would have to rework parts I made in SketchUp that had holes or other simple design bits due to errors with slicing in RepG; no such issue with the many things I threw at it from B3D. Interestingly B3D has the ability to “diagnose” various potential problems when you export a STL file, but even with it reporting issues with a few of my objects, I had no problems with slicing/printing.

Here’s Gregg’s Pro/Con list for Bonzai 3D.

Things I liked:

  • ability to draw lines and primitives as walls (think: no need to draw an extruded hexagon followed by another one a little smaller and push/pull to remove the middle, just draw an extruded hexagon with a set wall size and done!);
  • some pretty sweet additions to regular booleans (slicing, object and surface splitting);
  • NURBS with some really cool blending tools, in a much more approachable interface than Blender;
  • 4-up “old school” view (top, left, right, perspective all at once);
  • helix creation (screw tops!!);
  • rounded or faceted edges with myriad settings;
  • right-click on any tool and set a keyboard shortcut;
  • and my new favorite: thicken, which takes any non-solid and turns it into a solid of a specified width

Things I didn’t like:

  • some features require the setting of custom workplanes while some don’t and you don’t know until it throws an error dialog (workplanes are all new to me, but I like overall);
  • inconsistent workplane handling (“lock workplane” sometimes doesn’t lock, and you have to use “save custom workplane”);
  • adding dimensions to a part is hit-or-miss whether or not it will measure between the points you click or the entire edge you’re touching, while “measure distance” works perfect but doesn’t leave the dimensions on screen;
  • too much reliance on hovering to open up tool groups and additional options (small gripe)

More here.

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MakerBot Your Hobby: More Ideas For Your Aquarium

Shane Graber has another fantastic post on using a MakerBot for your aquarium hobby. In case you missed it, check out his last post about making various elements necessary for coral fragging. It’s so useful, and a great example of how a person can discover a new application for a MakerBot.

This latest article from Shane is helpful especially because of the cost comparison he provides. While you could buy a brine shrimp hatchery for “anywhere from $10 to $15,” you could easily make one using his design files and a MakerBot for around $2. If you need to make multiple hatcheries, that’s over 80% savings that could really add up.

The file is on Thingiverse here and the assembly is a breeze.

Brine Shrimp Hatchery by sgraber. Download, Make, Use.


Another use for a MakerBot Shane has found is making your own sponge filters. The process for making this on your own is just as simple.

This sponge filter requires three components:

  1. 3D printed base
  2. A 8 inch length of 3/8 inch rigid airline tubing
  3. Two zip ties
  4. Porous sponge salvaged from an old powerhead or purchased from your local fish store

Download the model from Thingiverse and print it. Obtain the additional parts listed above and assemble it by pushing the rigid 3/8 inch airline tubing into the 3D printed base, wrap the sponge around the central tube, and then zip tie it into place. Now simply hook up your airline and air pump and you are done. Use it as you would any other sponge filter in your larval tanks.

Sponge Filter for aquarium by sgraber

What hobby do you use your MakerBot for? Tell me.


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A Vending Machine For 3D Dreams

Virginia Tech has a vending machine in their College of Engineering that spits out dreams. This is my favorite thing for the day. Check out the VT DREAMS Lab to track more of their research. The group says they

are driven by a vision of the future wherein the layered fabrication techniques of today’s “rapid prototyping” technologies are of a maturity to be considered as viable platforms for the manufacture of end-use artifacts.

That reminds me of a conversation we were having on the blog last week about what makes a product “real”.



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NYTimes: Project Laundry List Looking For A Better Clothespin

The tail end of this fun little history of the clothespin in the New York Times Magazine sounds like a MakerBot call to action, from an organization that thinks people should wash their clothes in cold water and use clotheslines to dry them. Read the article for the history of the invention, but here’s what I want to call your attention to:


Glen Berkowitz is the executive director of Project Laundry List, a nonprofit organization that advocates washing clothes in cold water and hanging them out to dry. Here, he shares his thoughts on the clothespin:

What role does the clothespin play in Project Laundry List? Looking backward, the clothespin is a relatively easy way to dry your clothes without having to lay them on the ground or drape them over something. Looking forward, the clothespin is a phenomenal interest of ours because we’re in the process of setting up a brand-new national design competition.

What kind of design competition? The clothespin hasn’t changed for over 150 years. Is there a better clothespin just waiting out there by some young or creative mind? By the end of this year, we will formally launch this. We’re excited to see what we find.

This one’s for us, Makers! I’ve started to think about clothespins without springs that come in a variety of sizes depending on the job. But take note of this last point, too:

Do you recommend the wooden or the plastic variety? If the wooden clothespin was still made in the United States, we would recommend it, but what’s made in America now are plastic clothespins. One is less economical and the other is less sustainable. It evens out.

There are several arguments one could make about why making your own clothespins in ABS on your MakerBot reduces material waste. But to drive the point home, maybe we should be thinking about PLA pins. There are a few awesome clothespins on Thingiverse already, like the one below from PolygonPusher. Let’s build off of these and think about a new design that can be MakerBotted.

Clothespin by PolygonPusher


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More ReconstructMe Magic

There’s a new post up at 3DPrinting@UMW, the blog about the MakerBotting adventures of a couple faculty members at University of Mary Washington in Virginia. I hope Tim won’t mind me nabbing his picture; this result from a Kinect scan is just too good.


The post says he sat in a spinning chair and turned slowly while the Kinect grabbed the image, and then used Christoph Heindl’s program ReconstructMe to turn the scan into a 3D mesh. The bust you see above was made on a TOM. Nice. It’s good enough for me to read the expression on Tim’s face, and I would bet he ruffled his shirt a bit to show how well the combination of Kinect, ReconstructMe, and a Thing-O-Matic could capture reality. Tim also gives fair credit to the pretty fantastic instructional video from our Tony Buser on how to clean up a model.

Also, I love this closing thought:

In many ways it feels like the advances being made in this field are so incredibly fast moving that it’s hard to keep up. The great thing is it feels closer to magic than reality, and how often do you get to say that about the work you do in higher education?

“Magic” seems to be a bit of a theme on this blog.

3D printing is one of the truly revolutionary things you can witness. I’m reminded of Arthur C. Clarke’s third law “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” While showing the devices to undergraduate art students in a sculpture class those words rang truer than ever as their eyes lit up in wonderment. The power to create objects in a virtual space, print them, and hold them in the physical is unbelievable.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes out of this group when they get their Replicator in the fall. Make on, UMW!


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Instructables Roundup: Toys, Cameras, Circuit Boards is a fountain of good stuff for the DIYer. Here are a few recent favorites:

Rubber band-powered car toy

This 18-step Instructable from Thingiverse user mrigsby is really straightforward and you get a fun toy to play with at the end! What impressed me here is that this project was Mike’s first experience with 3D modeling software. He used Tinkercad to design the car, and seems to think it was pretty easy.

To make a wheel, you just drag a cylinder onto the workspace.  Set the diameter and the thickness and you’re almost done.  Drag a hole onto the workspace, adjust the diameter and place it in the center of the wheel.  Group the hole and the wheel.  That’s it.

He made this on The Replicator, and shares his tricks, too. For example, to make these pieces with a raft underneath, Mike says he has had the most luck setting the build plate temperature to 115° C, rather than 100° C.

You can find all the files for the Rubber Band Powered Car on Thingiverse!


Tilt-Shift Lens Adapter

Here’s another Instructables/Thingiverse gem, made especially for the photo geek. A tilt-shift lens is “used to create a miniature effect or a very shallow depth of field in your photography,” and if you shoot from a high angle pointing down, the accessory “creates the illusion of looking down at a miniature model.”

What I liked about this project in particular is the cost savings here. Joe Murphy, author of the Instructable, says the professional version is pretty pricey; “we’re talking $1000- 3000.” So I decided to just make one for myself and see how much it costs in ABS.

Answer: at 7 grams, the part costs $0.30. And it took 19 minutes, from digital to tangible. So there ya go.



3D-Printed Circuit Boards

Just as a blog post at noted a lack of experiments with 3D-printed circuit boards, an Instructable showed up from CarryTheWhat, an Open Source Hardware group with a presence on Etsy and Thingiverse.

In this step-by-step, you get careful instructions on making the circuit board itself from files available on Thingiverse. There is a library of files for all the different components and advice on arranging them successfully. The example in the Instructable will output a simple circuit to get an LED to blink.

This is admittedly not complex stuff, but it is remarkable to see a DIY circuit project that involves no soldering or etching. All of these parts have been “thoroughly tested on the MakerBot Replicator, with ABS plastic,” according to the Thingiverse page.


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What Are You Making For Mother’s Day?!

Today is the day when the residents of 78 countries engage in one big gasp: “Mother’s Day is two days away!” I bet you could hear this from space.

Here’s how a Maker solves this. Go to Thingiverse.

There are a number of things to download and make that your mom would love. Flowers, sculptures, jewelry, things to hold jewelry, phone accessories, organizers, aquarium structures, things for the home.

Did you take a nice trip with your mom? Thingiverse probably has a miniature of one of the buildings or monuments you saw. Or maybe you just want to customize a picture frame for that shot of the kids.

If you have a MakerBot, you can make your mom anything you can think of. Here are a few ideas to get you going. Whatever you make, be sure to tag it Mother’s Day to help fellow citizens of the Thingiverse.










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MakerBot & Miniatures: 123D Catch

I’m taking a short break from the blog series this week, but I didn’t want to leave you hanging.  I’ve put together a short screencast on how I use the creation tools in 123D Catch, specifically reference points and reference distances, to create scans that print in my desired scale.  This tip is great for anyone who wants tight control over print size, whether you’re working in scale or not.

YouTube Preview Image

A Quick Note: I’m running Autodesk 123D Catch on my mac through VMware Fusion.  Autodesk just released a web version, which is great for mac users, but it lacks some of the advanced features like creation tools.  So to use this tip, you need to use the desktop application on Windows.

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Action Chess By Cymon: It Works!

World, you need to be following the developments of Joe, who is now a fully fledged MakerBotter.

Joe, or Cymon on Thingiverse, was the winner of the Tinkercad Chess Set Design competition, for which we awarded him The Replicator.  And now he’s on the way toward making his famed Action Chess set!


As you can see, the sweet thing about this chess set is that the pieces are designed to assemble into this chess giant. Now that Joe has had a chance to test his design, he’s reporting success! The pieces do in fact assemble, but he says there’s a bit of calibration and fine tuning left.

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