Archive for October 1st, 2010

MakerBot Teacher Giveaway Announced!

We’re very excited to announce the 10 teachers who will receive a MakerBot!

  • Deborah Schenberger from the University of Portland, in Oregon USA
  • Nicholas Cady from Centaurus High in Colorado USA
  • Bryan Ross from Reeths-Puffer High School in Michigan USA
  • Walter Janssens from KdG – Depart. Industrial Sciences and Technology in Belgium
  • Craig Nielsen from Ballard High School in Washington USA
  • Steven Janssen from the University of Sydney Australia
  • Noah King from Pratt in New York USA
  • Federico Garrido from University of Buenos Aires Argentina
  • Beth Kolko from the University of Washington, in Washington USA
  • Carlton Grizzle of the Alameda Community Learning Center in California USA

These teachers will have a MakerBot 3D printer in their classroom are instantly one of the most innovative teachers in the world. We hope these teachers will inspire others to empower young people to make things! As we mentioned in the original blogpost, we expect these teachers to join the MakerBot Educators Google Group and document their experiences with the MakerBot so that other teachers can be inspired. We’ll be checking in on these teachers during the year and we hope to report back and let the public know what it’s like to have a MakerBot in class!

Thank you to everyone who applied, there were over 100 applicants and it was very hard to decide who to give it to because there were so many quality submissions!

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Bronze casting with the crew of QC-Colab

From design, to plastic, to bronze!

From design, to plastic, to bronze!

David Hinkle and QC-Colab, a brand new hackerspace in Davenport Iowa, celebrated their grand opening with a spectacular bronze casting of their newly designed coin using a DIY blast furnace.

MakerBlock: David, could you tell me some more about what you guys are up to, how you’re using your MakerBot, and something about your processes?

David Hinkle: I’m glad to hear you’re interested in our work at the QC-Colab (  It’s been a blast.  We are a newly formed hackerspace in the Quad Cities, a large community straddling the Mississippi river between Iowa and Illinois.   Our grand opening was the 19th and we wanted to have some flashy demonstrations for the local populace.   Our first purchase as a hackerspace was the cupcake CNC with heated build platform.   The guys told me that it was becoming traditional for a hackerspace to do a coin design on the cupcake to represent their space.   I thought, what could be more fun than taking the idea one step further and casting the coin in bronze?

When the MakerBot arrived we had our first group build.   It took us 2 days to assemble the bot and about a week to get everything tuned well enough to make us happy.   I used our logo to do a basic coin design that I felt would print and cast well.

Basic casting in bronze and aluminum is cheap, fun, and very showy.   I knew it would make a great demonstration for our grand opening.   We only had a week to go, and there was no time to purchase a commercial furnace and have it shipped to us, so I decided to go the DIY route.   A furnace is nothing special.   You need a fuel source to burn, enough oxygen to burn it fast,  and some insulation to keep the heat inside.

The furnace you see pictures is our second furnace.   It’s a very practical design that operates off compressed liquid propane.   The liquid propane is fed through a “weed burner” I bought at home depot in the welding section.   The limiting factor inside a chamber like this is oxygen, so the furnace works much better if you provide some forced air.   I’m using a small industrial blower for this, but it’s really overkill.    Many people us a hair dryer.    As you can see from the photo, it’s a trash can w/ a hole in the side that’s been lined with refactory cement.   Refactory cement provides the insulation.  It is a mixture of portland cement, sand, perlite and fire clay.    We bought the portland cement, sand and perlite from Lowes.   The fire clay was harder to find, but any place that does brick or clay chimneys should have some in stock.   We got ours at a local stone yard.

Our first furnace, the one we actually demo’ed at the grand opening, ran off of charcoal using the same blower.  No liquid propane required.   This furnace produced a giant column of flame and sparks that makes for a very happy crowd, but isn’t as convenient to use.   It takes a while to get the charcoal going, and you have to continue adding it as the process goes on.   Also, the giant column of flames requires open sky to operate.

These furnaces will melt aluminum very easily.   Bronze has a much hotter melting temperature, so it’s somewhat harder….  But our second furnace goes from cold to melting bronze in 7 minutes… So, not that hard.   Iron, is of course, the gold standard.   We haven’t tried melting any of that.   As a matter of fact, the crucible (container for molten metal) in our first furnace was steel.   That was fun because it was a very bright, red hot when we pulled it from the furnace in front of the crowd.   Our current crucible is ceramic.

We pour this molten metal into a sand mold that we’ve created using the blank from the maker bot.

You can find some step by step instructions here:

As you can see, all you really need is some green sand, some wooden frames and a little parting dust.   Green sand is a fine grade silica sand mixed with a clay binder such as bentonite.   You can make your own by grinding up cheap kitty litter and mixing it with fine grade sand but it’s cheap, and we ordered ours on the internet.

All in all, the whole thing can be done for $200-$300 depending on how much you buy and how much you build out of scrap you have laying around.

It’s quite an amazing idea to be able to download a part from and cast it in bronze.   The first object we did was that fish, I intend to photograph it and upload it to the thingiverse page it came from soon.  Sandcasting works great for a wide variety of parts, and for more complex builds, a person can move up to lost wax casting.  Small furnaces like this in combination with the makerbot are perfect for casting in gold and silver.

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Glowing Fast

"Time is the fire in which we burn" - Delmore Schwartz

"Time is the fire in which we burn" - Delmore Schwartz

The future, according to William Gibson, has arrived – it’s just not evenly distributed yet1  That’s why you, gentle reader, may already have a MakerBot Cupcake CNC while your envious neighbor does not.  So, it’s going to be a few years before you’re able to knock on your neighbor’s door and ask to borrow a cup of ABS.

27% of MakerBot’s entire stock of glow-in-the-dark ABS sold in the first 24 hours after it was put in the store.  I don’t know this for a fact, but I strongly suspect that this plastic is not going to be a regular item in the store.  If you think there’s any way for you to use glowing ABS in the next year, you should definitely pull the trigger now and justify it later.2

  1. Photo courtesy of Leoo []
  2. Besides, the day before Halloween I’m going to knock on your door and say, “Hey man, do you have any spare glow-in-the-dark ABS?  I’m fresh out and I’m halfway through this print when I totally realized I forgot to buy the glow ABS I needed to finish this Jack-O’-Lantern for the kids at the children”s hospital who were all really excited about seeing some toys made by an open source robot, because if there’s one thing sick kids like it’s open source robots – not like those closed source robots we see every Christmas, so in a way you’d really be helping fight commercialism and expand the minds of youngsters who are going to be the ones who continue to develop our open source robots with their new ideas and build our open source robots with their tiny fingers, fingers, by the way, that are really useful for finding all those fiddly bits that you drop, but they shouldn’t be playing with the bits that heat up or use dangerous amounts of electricity, because that’s just not safe for kids, what kind of a monster are you wanting to put kids to work building robots???  So… Can I borrow some glow-in-the-dark ABS, or what?  I’ll only need a pound or so.  I promise to buy you another roll as soon as they’re back in stock.” []
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Interview with Kyle McDonald, creator of ThreePhase

Kyle McDonald, structured light scanning researcher and Taylor Goodman, creator of the Makerbot 3D Scanner v1.0 Kit

Kyle McDonald, structured light scanning researcher and Taylor Goodman, creator of the Makerbot 3D Scanner v1.0 Kit

Taylor Goodman recently interviewed Kyle McDonald, the creator of ThreePhase1 ThreePhase is an open source 3D scanning program which creates a point cloud using a method of scanning involving a projector and camera, a system termed “structured light.”

Taylor Goodman (TG): What inspired you to write the three phase decoder? What did you want yourself or others to use it for?

Kyle McDonald (KM): Last year I heard about a choreographer who was using the DAVID line laser scanner with some Lego motors for creating 3D stop motion animations. Every scan took about one minute, so it was a painstaking process. The idea of 3D stop motion had me interested, but one minute per frame seemed way too long!
Iwrote the three phase decoder because I wanted to make something that would allow more people to experiment with 3D stop motion using resources already available to them.

TG: How did you write it, i.e. how and where did you learn everything about structured light 3D scanning? How long did it take?

KM: When I started I didn’t have a laser, so I thought I’d use a projector instead. This helped me realize that the fastest scanning technique would record information about every pixel simultaneously rather than one line per frame. I created a scanner based on binary subdivision, which takes around 8-10 frames, one or two orders of magnitude faster than laser scanning.
I thought that was the best you could do, but then I discovered “structured light”: an umbrella term for the kind of projector-camera 3D scanning system I was working with. I learned that people had been doing this for decades, and they even had some techniques for using fewer frames to 3D scan motion in real time (like three phase scanning).

While the initial subdivision scanner took a few days from idea to demo, the three phase scanner took a few weeks. It wouldn’t have happened without some code by Alex Evans from Media Molecule (ported to Processing by Florian Jennett), and some great research papers from Song Zhang at Iowa State University (who worked on the technology for Radiohead’s “House of Cards” music video).

After that initial development, it’s been over a year of brainstorming with people, reading papers, and completely rewriting the code multiple times. And there’s still a lot of work to do.

TG: Why did you make it open source, completely free to anyone interested?

KM: I think we need as many people as possible doing what they love. Open source is one way to get people the tools they need when they wouldn’t otherwise have access.

I’d also like to help overcome the novelty associated with new technologies. More people using 3D scanning means more diverse perspectives on what can be done with the technology.

TG: Any further/deeper applications for ThreePhase?

KM: One advantage of a 3D printer is that you can resize while you replicate. I’d love to see some very large things scanned and made very small, or vice versa.

There is a also malleability to 3D scanned data that isn’t available in the physical world. It’d be nice to have some objects that are combinations of averages of multiple items. Maybe a Katamari ball made from real household objects?

TG: What is the future of structured light 3D scanning? What do you wish to see happen next with it?

KM: While the three phase technique comes primarily from academic papers and is relatively unencumbered by patents, I have an idea for a completely open source scanning technique that would allow a more flexible trade off between accuracy and speed. It could be adapted to high resolution still scans or lower resolution motion scans.

TG: Can ThreePhase be improved?  Why and how?

KM: The Processing three phase decoder is meant more as a demo, and lacks a lot of features for automated decoding. There is a more robust version built with with Open Frameworks where the majority of my work is focused.

But for both apps I’d really like to get some people involved who have a stronger mathematics and computer vision background. The decoding process is currently very naive and doesn’t account for the various parameters inherent to the projector and camera.

TG: Did you ever imagine this would be a project worked on at Makerbot or another 3D printing company?

KM: I’m regularly surprised by the ways this work is used. So, in a way, this makes perfect sense.

TG: What is your next big project?

KM: I’ve been looking into projection mapping, or using a projector to augment a scene. This is another technique that is currently thriving on its novelty, so I’m working on a toolkit that makes it easier to scan and projection map arbitrary scenes and objects. There’s also a specific interactive environment I’d like to create with this technique that plays with our understanding of light sources.

For updates, see my website or follow me @kcimc

  1. The list of projects on Kyle’s site is truly amazing, you should really check it out. []
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