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Make Your Own Non-Transitive Dice at Home

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I recently discovered a YouTube channel called “Numberphile” where a documentary filmmaker Brady Haran does a series of short interviews and clips with different mathematicians and physicists about numbers.  Since my short description simply does not do this series justice – please take a few minutes and watch this recent video of theirs about how Richard Feyman defeated every government safe in Los Alamos.

Many of the videos in this series feature James Grime, a mathematician who recently invented a new kind of non-transitive dice as well as several games you can play with them.  That is, several games you can play with them and always win.  Non-transitive dice are designed in such a way that the first die will always tend to beat the second, the second will always tend to beat the third, and the third will always tend to beat the first.  Efron dice designed by American statistician Brad Efron and feature the same “circular pattern of victory” – but with four dice.  Grime dice by Numberphile star Professor James Grime feature five dice which have a similar “circular pattern of victory” with additional interesting properties.

Encouraged by Professor Grime’s infectious enthusiasm, I designed three sets of printable non-transitive dice (three non-transitive dice, four Efron dice, and five Grime dice) which you can print on your MakerBot at home – either as dice where you color in the pips or which you can print with dualstrusion.

By the way, my favorite part from any of these videos is where Professor Grime talks about how he thought up these dice in his mind, and now they occupy a real physical place in the world since he had them created.  This video includes a refrain any Thingiverse citizen is familiar with…  “I made a thing!”

(Also, please don’t use these dice for evil.  Remember that with great power, comes great responsibility.)

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New Favorite MakerBottable Home Upgrade – Switch Locks

Light Switch Lock by Yllonnoce

Light Switch Lock by Yllonnoce

I’ve got three switches in my home that pretty much need to be in the “on” position 99% of the time. The consequences of having one of these switches flipped “off” ranges from minor annoyance to zombie apocalypse. One switch goes to our front porch light, one that my laptop is usually plugged into, and the last goes to our wireless router. For a while now I had wanted to create a little cover for the light switch – basically a hollow rectangular tube that would fit over the switch and prevent someone from accidentally flipping it. While I liked the idea, I never got around to actually making it.

And then a few days ago I saw Light Switch Lock by Thingiverse citizen Yllonnoce.  The design is so simple and elegant that I knew I would be printing it immediately.  It permits temporary uses of the switch, all the while discouraging accidental usage.

As a result of someone flipping a switch I have literally lost hours of work when my laptop battery ran out of power.  Once, as a result of a laptop losing power the hard drive never started up again.  So, from now on, this is literally going to be the very first thing I install into any home I live in.  At less than 3 grams, each one would probably cost about $0.12 in plastic that will absolutely save me hours of annoyance, frustration, work, and potentially even hundreds of dollars.

A simple light switch lock like this could even be used to discouraging the accidental use of a garbage disposal, power tool, or some other appliance.  Since these switch locks work upside down, it could even save money by discouraging the accidental flipping of attic or outdoor light switches.  Not bad for a $0.12 investment.

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OpenSCAD Design Tips: How to Make a Customizable Thing

You can customize this awesome cube right now!

You can customize this awesome cube right now!

Chances are you’ve been following along with the newest developments over on Thingiverse and have seen people uploading “Customizable” versions of their OpenSCAD designs.  ((For the latest information on how to make a customizable thing using the Customizer you’re going to want to check out the documentation for this Thingiverse app.  Since you have to authorize the App to be able to use it, there’s no way at the moment for me to provide a direct link to the documentation.))

If you’d like to give the Thingiverse Customizer a shot but aren’t sure where to begin, this tutorial is for you.  Before you get bogged down in the details, just know that I’ve created a “Customizer template” you can use as a starting point for creating your own customizable Thing.  I would suggest first playing with the settings in this template to see how Customizer changes the object.  Then, when you’ve gotten the hang of it, read through this tutorial on how to make a Customizable OpenSCAD file.  Finally, download and check out the template itself in your favorite text editor or OpenSCAD.  Add your own designs and see how you can make your own customizable Things!

  • Design!
    • Create your OpenSCAD thing just as you normally would.
  • Create Options
    • In order to give Thingiverse users the option to customize your designs through the Customizer App, you’ll need to create options for them.  There are three kinds of user-definable options you can include in  your OpenSCAD file: text boxes, drop down boxes, and numerical sliders.  I’ll discuss each in turn.
      1. Text Box
        1. Simple Text Box.  To add a text box, all you need to do is create a variable.  Like so:
          1. text_box = 10;
        2. Text Boxes with Explanation.  Options are very nice and well, but without an explanation they may be hard for a user to interpret.  Here’s how you would create a similar text box with an explanation:
          1. // This is the explanation text
          2. another_text_box = 10;
      2. Drop Down Box
        1. Drop Down Box of Numbers.  A drop down box can be included by simply including a “//” to comment out the space after a variable and list options like so:
          1. // This creates a drop down box of numbered options
          2. number_drop_down_box = 1; // [0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10]
        2. Drop Down Box of Text.  A drop down box can also include text as possible choices, like this:
          1. // This creates a drop down box of text options
          2. text_drop_down_box = “yes”; // [yes,no,maybe]
        3. Labeled Drop Down Box.  Sometimes it is useful to show the user text labels, but have a numerical value for each text label.  You can do so in this manner:
          1. // This creates a drop down box of text options with numerical values
          2. labeled_drop_down_box = 5; // [1:small, 5:medium, 10:large, 50:supersized]
      3. Numerical Slider
        1.  Once you’ve mastered the text box and the drop down box, the text slider is almost trivial.
          1. // This creates a slider with a minimum and maximum
          2. numerical_slider = 1; // [0:10]
      4. Notes
        1. Not every single variable you reference inside the Customizer start/end section will be included as an option.  If any of your variables use any mathematical operators or other variables in its value, it will not appear as an option.  This can be useful for including “hidden” options within the customizable section – by just multiplying a given variable by 1.1  For example, the following will not appear as an option:
          1. // This option will not appear
          2. hidden_option = 100*1;
        2. Neither will this:
          1. // This option will also not appear
          2. // another_hidden_option = 101;
  • Optional Libraries
  • Upload to Thingiverse
    • Once you’ve finished your OpenSCAD file, you just need to share it on Thingiverse.
    • Once it has been uploaded, just tag your Thing with the word “customizer”, publish your Thing, and you’re done!
  • Limitations
    • Right now there are a few limitations for Customizer.  They are:
      • Your Thingiverse entry can only include on OpenSCAD file.
      • Your OpenSCAD file can’t import any external OpenSCAD code, STL’s, or DXF files.
      • Your OpenSCAD code can only be compiled to a single STL file.

The MakerBot team is continually improving the Customizer, so check back with the documentation frequently so you can find out about the newest features!

  1. Such as:  “this_will_not_appear = 30* 1;” []
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How do you find out the volume inside an STL?

A Beaker is useful for determining volume

A Beaker is useful for determining volume

A few days ago I started designing a new case for my new Polargraph drawing robot brain.   ((Joe Penniston via Compfight))  My goal was to design a simple to design, simple to assemble, and sturdy box-like case.  ((One of the reasons I am interested in a box-like case is to make sure it is easy to mount on a wall or inside a larger project box.))  However, I was stumped when it came to figuring out whether my new design conserved plastic better than the other Polargraph case design from Sandy Noble on Thingiverse.  After experimenting a little, these are the two easiest ways I found to figure out the volume within an STL file.  ((While particularly simple, I suppose if you had a really large beaker and a certain volume of water, you could print your STL file, submerge it, and compare the results.  However, this seems impractical for a lot of reasons.))

  1. AdMesh
    1. Tony Buser was kind enough to suggest an application I had never heard of before – AdMesh.  AdMesh is a free command-line tool created by AMartin1 which can provide all kinds of information about an STL file.  After fiddling around with the program a little bit, I found this command gave me the best results:
      • admesh –normal-directions –tolerance=0.01 –exact %1 >> stl-stats.txt
    2. While AdMesh worked pretty well overall, it had problems with some STL files and was unable to provide statistics.
  2. NetFabb
    1. Alternatively, NetFabb also provides some ways to find out the volume inside an STL file.
      The little button circled in red

      The little button circled in red

      1. NetFabb’s cloud-based STL repair service provides information about the repaired file including surface area, triangles, and volume.  Just submit your STL file for repair (even if it doesn’t really need it) and get back a link to your fixed file along with the relevant statistics.
      2. NetFabb’s “NetFabb Studio Basic” is a free downloadwhich also provides detailed statistics about STL files and basic mesh fixing tools.  Here’s how you do it:
        1. After you open NetFabb, “Control-O” will give you the option of selecting an STL file.
        2. Keep adding as many STL files as you would like.  It won’t matter that they are all overlapped.
        3. Click the third icon from the left, a little cube frame with a circled “i” on it.
        4. A window will pop up providing information, including volume, for each of the STL’s you have imported.
      3. I found the Studio Basic version of NetFabb’s offerings to be more useful.  The statistics seemed to be more consistent than the values from the cloud service and Studio Basic also allows you to import numerous files at once so you can compare the numbers “side by side.”

Do you have a suggestion on how better to figure out the volume in an STL?  If so, let us know in the comments!

  1. Sorry!  I couldn’t find your full name! []
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Living on the Cutting Edge with Dualstrusion

Hopefully by now you’ve heard about MakerBot’s newest 3D printer, the Replicator 2X.  While 3D printing opens up a new world of possibilities, being able to print with a second plastic extruder at the same time takes it to another level entirely.  There are a lot of things that become possible with a dual extruding 3D printer that are simply not feasible by any other means.

  • Colors
    • The most obvious, and by far the simplest, use of dual extruders is to enable two color printing.  Although a single-color object could be painted, there are times when painting a particular object would require a great deal skill or be very time consuming.  While printing a plastic sushi set for my daughter I used dualstrusion to add black plastic “soy sauce” to white plastic dishes.  Sometimes, painting an object might even be impossible.  Imagine an object such as a bottle, vase, or an egg where you want to have an image or design inside.  While it might be impossible to paint inside such an object, the interior image could be printed inside the object as it is being created.
  • Dissolvable Support
    • Dual extruders allow for printing with a dissolvable support material like PVA.  Being able to print with a water soluable material means your robot could print entire mechanical devices complete with moving pieces.  PVA is still very experimental and fussy as an extruded material and at the extreme forefront of dual material printing.
  • Varying Densities
    • With two extruders it would be possible to create an entirely solid plastic object with a customizable density.  This could be used to make trick dice, a balancing toy, a toy that can’t be knocked down, a toy that can’t be stood up, or maybe a boat that is difficult to sink.
  • Mechanical Properties
    • Different extruded materials, such as ABS and PLA plastics, tend to have different physical and mechanical properties.  ABS tends to be more flexible and PLA tends to be more rigid.  A 3D printer with dualstrusion can combine the two plastics into a single object that is both flexible and rigid.
  • Simultaneous Dual Printing
    • One of the more exciting developments with dual extruder printing was a recent contribution by Thingiverse user thorstadg.  Thorstadg created a method for operating both extruders simultaneously – allowing the printer to print two objects, one with each extruder, at the same time.
  • Variable Resolution
    • Two extruders means you have two nozzles at your disposal.  However, there is no particular reason for both extruders to have the same size nozzle aperture.  With one very fine nozzle aperture and one relatively large nozzle aperture, a single object could be printed with quick printing coarse features and very high resolution features that take more time.
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Favorite Tools for Finishing

Favorite Tools - files, pliers, and putty knife

Favorite Tools – files, pliers, and putty knife

While at the local hardware store over the weekend I picked up a cheap set of files on impulse.  These have quickly been incorporated into my 3D printing toolbox.

  • For years I’ve been using sandpaper and a precision screwdriver set to sand and “file” away plastic.  However, I found the above set consisting of a flat metal file, triangular file, and circular file for less than $7.  Since this particular set was originally designed for sharpening metal saw blades, they make quick and easy work of plastic.  If you haven’t picked up a set like this yet, I’d highly recommend it.
  • The needle nose pliers are useful for cutting filament, handling hot plastic, clamping/fitting/or forcing small parts, and sometimes for scraping excess plastic.
  • The putty knife is useful for scraping excess small pieces of plastic off a printed object, but mainly for separating printed objects from the print bed.
  • Not pictured, I also use a variety of sandpaper.  While the metal files have been proving more versatile and durable than the sandpaper, the finer grades of sandpaper are indispensable for that really polished look.

What do you use to help a printed object look its best?

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Saving Christmas, one headband at a time

Broken headband, fixed headband

Broken headband, fixed headband

Days before Christmas my daughter brought me her favorite headband.  With teary eyes and a quavering voice she explained that something had rolled over headband, cracking it.  The green ribbon had unraveled and the broken plastic interior had a clean break and was clearly beyond repair.  After helping her dry her eyes I told her I would see what I could do.

After about five minutes of measuring the broken pieces and some quick and dirty OpenSCAD design, I had a file ready for my Replicator1  I had my daughter sit with me as I unwrapped the ribbon from the broken plastic insert and re-wrapped it around the new printed headband insert.  I ended up having to twist and destroy one of the larger pieces of the original plastic insert to get it completely out of the tightly wrapped ribbon.

Besides learning with her about how her headband was manufactured and what could be done to repair it, we discovered how easy it would be to create an entirely new headband using another plastic insert and some ribbon.  I think my favorite part of the process came when I told her that I would have to destroy the remaining part of the original insert in order to “remake” the headband.  While a simple clean crack was enough to evoke tears, she didn’t flinch at the prospect of watching her headband further deteriorate so we could create a new one.

  1. Due to the size of the headband and its low footprint, I had to use several “mouse ears” to keep it adhered to the build platform while printing.  If you’re not designing your parts with these handy little additions, you may want to give this a shot. []
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Crayon Maker and Sharpener by CodeCreations

Pouring custom crayons into printed molds!

Pouring custom crayons into printed molds!

I’ve wanted to make a MakerBotted crayon mold for about as long as I’ve owned a 3D printer.  Now this is a reality thanks to Thingiverse citizen CodeCreations.  CodeCreations1 has shared his STL’s, OpenSCAD source code, and detailed directions for making crayon molds.

CodeCreations’ method involves using a printed container into which plaster of Paris is poured.  When the plastic is removed, it leaves a plaster mold with triangular crayon “troughs.”  Then it’s a matter of melting crayons, pouring the wax into the mold, and waiting for them to cool.

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  1. Who has one of the awesomest profile picture evar! []
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OpenSCAD Design Tips

Voltron, victorious

Voltron, victorious

As you may know, I’ve mentioned wanting to print a Voltron several times before.  I even tried to design one once.  Even after uploading a shoddy version, I kept on jabbering on about it.

Finally I’ve designed a printable Voltron of which I can be proud. It’s designed totally in OpenSCAD using just about every single OpenSCAD trick I know.  Additionally, I designed a hinge connector system that, I think, compliments Tony Buser’s Pin Connectors v2 system nicely. In fact, some of the connector pieces for this model are basically a Buser pin connector on one side and a hinge/joint connector on the other. The result is a snap-fit highly articulated/poseable model.

I wanted to share some of these design tricks with you over the next few posts.  Here’s a quick preview:

  • How to sketch an object with OpenSCAD
  • How to easily make regular solids – other than cubes and cylinders, like hexagons, pentagons, octagons, etc
  • How to easily make symmetrical solids
  • How to easily make irregular, but symmetrical solids

Stay tuned for these ideas!

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Jason Welsh’s Awesome Portable Folding Arduino Electronics Lab

The Folding Arduino Lab by jasonwelsh

The Folding Arduino Lab by jasonwelsh

Thingiverse user Jason Welsh just shared this awesome MakerBottable Folding Arduino Lab.  This printable case is essentially a mobile electronics lab that has two drawers for holding parts and can fold up for easy storage and transport.  I suspect like many others, my electronics projects can get pretty unruly.  It would be really great to have a small case that could hold all the parts for a project in one place.  Whether you want to hold an Arduino and some parts or an Arduino with a shield on top, this folding project box was clearly well-designed to suit your purposes.  What I particularly love about this Thing is that once you’ve finalized your designs, the folding case would make a fantastic ready-to-go instant permanent project box.

If you’ve got three minutes to spare, definitely check out Jason’s video showing off the versatility of this box.

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The Future of Pet Augmentation

Battle Cats

Battle Cats

Thanks to Thingiverse citizen AminimalStudio, Thingivese now has Battle Cats.

They still won’t do what you say, but they’ll accomplish it in half the time.

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Pocket-Dungeons by dutchmogul

Pocket-Dungeons by dutchmogul

Pocket-Dungeons by dutchmogul

If you haven’t checked out Thingiverse citizen dutchmogul’s Pocket-Dungeon playset, you need to stop what you’re doing and check them out on Thingiverse right now.  This totally modular set was designed in TinkerCAD, a free online and easy to use CAD website that allows you to share directly to Thingiverse.  What I like about this little set is that I could see myself having as much, or even more, fun putting together a dungeon layout as I would have playing the game itself.  Each of these intricate little pieces was printed on their MakerBot Replicator at 0.1mm layer height – which means you can really see all their little design details.  My personal favorites are the little creatures wearing cloaks.

And, if strategy games are more your thing, you might want to check out their Pocket-Tactics playset too!  For more photos, rules for each game, and information about dutchmogul’s sets you can also check out their blog at IllGottenGames.com.

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Error - could not find Thing 27257.
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A drawing robot brain shell! The PolargraphSD Case

A drawing robot brain shell!  The PolargraphSD Case

A drawing robot brain shell! The PolargraphSD Case

I have a confession to make.  I freaking LOVE Sandy Noble’s drawing robot project called Polargraph.  The Polargraph is a very simple to build, simple to operate, open source drawing robot that produces absolutely stunning results.  The entire robot is little more than (a) an Arduino (b) a motor shield or one of Sandy’s awesome Polargraph shields (c) some USB and power cables (d) two motors (e) some printed parts and (f) string, twine, wire, fishing line, or something similar you might have lying around the house.  You may even have many of these parts lying around your work area or hidden in an old printer right now.

Sandy has been constantly improving his Polargraph design, firmware, and software.  The latest iteration of his Polargraph kit includes a custom designed Polargraph Shield which includes a touch screen and operation from an SD card.  Even cooler, he’s using a 3D printed case for the drawing robot brain, featured above.  Having built a basic one myself, I was able to purchase all of the parts for about $100. 1

Importantly, my MakerBot has enabled me to customize the project and drastically reduce the cost.  Instead of beaded cord and sprockets, I designed and printed my own spools for using fishing line, motor mounts, Arduino mount, and gondola.  What would normally require specially machined parts or the use of a lasercutter, basically just cost me less than $1.00 in plastic. 2

Since the size of your drawing is basically limited only by the size of your canvas and the amount of string you have, the drawing possibilities quickly become staggering.  I was able to take a picture of R2D2, convert them into a single-line-drawing, and draw a three foot tall poster for my daughter.  Not only did she love the picture, she demanded it be put up in her room immediately. 3

If you’re looking for a very beginner friendly project that your kids will absolutely love, you should definitely try this one out. 4

  1. Had I been a little more patient and even slightly more competent, I could have built it for even less. []
  2. And my daughter got to choose the colors.  Which is why the fishing line spools are pink. []
  3. A few hours later I began to wonder why she had been so quiet.  It turned out she had spent the entire time coloring the poster in with her markers and crayons. []
  4. If you’re interested in such things, I’ve got about 50+ posts on my personal blog about my adventures in building and operating my DrawBot []
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Discworld Figurine by aesedepece

Discworld Figurine by aesedepece

Discworld Figurine by aesedepece

Thingiverse citizen aesedepece has uploaded this really sweet model of a turtle, four elephants, and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.  According to the physics of the fantasy Discworld, the entire world is a large flat disc, supported by four elephants who stand on a great giant turtle named A’Tuin as it travels through space.  Printed in three separate pieces and clearly very lovingly painted and assembled, this is a whimsical little model. 1

  1. I suppose if you included the MakerBot Mixtape module in this, you could play world music… []
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The future is CNC Homes

CNC Homes

CNC Homes

Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor from the University of Southern California and CEO of ContourCrafting, recently presented a TED talk about how giant CNC machines could 3D print homes quickly, cost-effectively, and efficiently.  One of the most amazing implications of such a CNC system – extruding the infrastructure for a home – is that much of the most dangerous work involved in construction could be completely eliminated.

Just as with printing smaller plastic objects on a 3D printer, once you start using a CNC machine like a MakerBot to create an object – the complexity of the infrastructure becomes almost irrelevant.  While it might be much more work for humans to construct a circular, curvy, or angular building – such complexities are reduced to a mere toolpath when handed off to a giant printer.

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Hat tip to Techpp.com for the link!

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Sometimes a fake is all you need

Secret agent man?

Secret agent man?

Yesterday I realized two potentially uses for a bad fake prop. 1 Since I have a MakerBot and easy access to TinkerCAD, I just went ahead and mocked it up.  To put together the four cylinders and cube together in the rough approximation of a bluetooth headset only took about 2 or 3 minutes.  So, here’s my realization – even a really quickly designed bluetooth headset actually serves some useful functions.

I talk out loud, with no one around, rather frequently.  I suppose people might consider this me talking to myself.  Whether this is an odd personality quirk or some mild form of mental illness, I do find it helpful to verbalize my thoughts when working through a problem.  However, people tend to give me funny looks and even interrupt my thoughts to check if I was talking to them when I do this.  Now all I have to do is use this bluetooth replica and voila! instant acceptance of my personality quirk/mental illness!2

Sometimes when I leave the office and walk to the nearby deli I am approached by people who want me to sign up for something or sign a petition.  With a bluetooth headset in and a meaningless line of chatter, I could easily walk right past them without having to inconvenience either one of us.

And, of course, at about $0.05 worth of plastic, this mock-up is considerably cheaper than the real thing.

Now, if you could do this with a fake bluetooth headset, just think what you could do with a fake earbud, an old spirally phone cord, and a black suit!

  1. Photo courtesy of kansasphoto []
  2. Amusing anecdote:  A few years ago I was staying at a hotel with a big lobby and a really really enormous lounge.  I checked out the lounge and saw there was a woman who was sitting on the ground in front of a coffee table surrounded by some of the pillows from the sofa behind her.  She had on sunglasses and a bluetooth headset and was talking non-stop as she flipped through magazines.  After going up to my hotel room and coming back several hours later – I saw her in the same exact place doing the same exact thing.  This time I realized she had a bedroll tucked under a number of those pillows.  I won’t ever know for sure – but now I think what I saw was a clever person using sunglasses, a bluetooth headset, and her extreme preoccupation with her conversation and magazine to create a complete psychological barrier all around her – preventing anyone from rousting her from her nest of pillows. []
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Can you MakerBot a slower Porsche?

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Artist Hannes Langeder built this Porsche using a plastic frame, covered in tape and gold foil, on top of a bicycle with four wheels.  If he can build a road-worthy Porsche with nothing more than plastic tubing and tape, what could you build with a MakerBot at your disposal? 1

  1. If this boggles your mind…  Just think what Tony Stark would have done with one in a cave. []
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What would you keep safe with a plastic lock?

Fully printable padlock by ttsalo

Fully printable padlock by ttsalo

I remember once when I was in elementary school a kid said he wanted a case for his most valuable baseball card made out of diamond.  His reasoning was that if diamond was the hardest toughest thing known to man, then it would keep his baseball card safe.  Of course, this invited the obvious criticism that the case would be worth much more than any card he would care to keep inside it.1

There’s no doubt Thingiverse citizen ttsalo’s fully printable padlock is an amazing feat and working experiment in design, materials, and function.  Besides it’s function as a way to learn or teach others about how a padlock works, a fully plastic padlock would also be really useful to keep some things locked.  You could keep the contents of a cabinet safe from small children or a shed safe from small animals.  It might be useful for very time-limited purposes as well – such as for clothes for use in a gym.  And, don’t forget, given that there are no parts to corrode or rust, it could be used underwater!

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  1. Setting aside the other issue of how the heck you would make such a case in the first place. []
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The Robot Has Landed!

Curiosity's Snaps Picture of Its Shadow

Curiosity’s Snaps Picture of Its Shadow

Yesterday at about 10:30pm PST the Mars Rover “Curiosity” landed safely on the surface of the planet Mars and transmitted the above, its first photograph, back to Earth. 1  Thanks to Thingiverse citizen ThePlanetMike we can all have our very own Mars Curiosity Rover as a little souvenir to remember the day.

And, if you’re feeling particularly nostalgic, don’t forget to print a little copy of Tony Buser’s snap-fit Mars Exploration Rover.

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Error - could not find Thing 10057.
  1. You’ll note I refrained from making jokes about what would happen if Curiosity saw its own shadow… []
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Some Assembly Required

Skylar Tibbits is an architect and MIT fellow who worked with molecular scientist Arthur Olson to create a huge spinning device that demonstrates how particles can be attracted to one another when they move and come into contact, usually resulting in the creation of larger and more complex structures.  This movie by Karen Eng shows the model, named the Self-Assembly Line, in motion.

What I particularly like about Skylar’s demonstration of the shaken-chain-link creation is it’s similarity to those tiny pill sized foam toys you see in the grocery store aisles. These are the cardboard-backed packages hanging off the sides of the grocery shelves which promise instant-dinosaurs or instant-sea-creatures. You drop one of those colored pills in warm water, the capsule dissolves, and you have a tiny foam dinosaur.1 With Skylar’s chain designs, one could “pre-program” a chain, hand it off to someone who would then shake it, and then the “pre-programmed” dinosaur2 shape would then emerge.3

How awesome would it be to pre-program little surprise toys that could be shaken into being? Interestingly, with some dissolveable PVA and a dual-extruder 3D printer, you could actually print the entire design as one solid piece, dunk it in water to remove the connections, and then hand it off to play with.

  1. Or sea creature []
  2. Or sea creature []
  3. Shake-a-saurus? []
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Be Safe This Fourth! Flames and ABS / PLA Don’t Mix!

With so many amazing resolution and reliability advancements in MakerBotting technology, it can be easy to forget that 3D printed objects don’t belong in every kind of application.

Please do not use ABS or PLA near any kind of heat source or flame including fireworks or even incense.  ABS will catch fire and keep burning with a thick black smoke. 1 2  PLA becomes very soft even at low-ish heat and can deform and melt, losing it’s stability and structural integrity. 3

So, this Fourth of July, please be safe and keep your awesome MakerBotted goodies away from flame or heat!

Remember, only you can prevent bunny fires.

That said, Tealids’ incense holder IS pretty awesome.  🙂

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  1. Which, of course, is never a good sign. []
  2. Plus, I have to think that smelly smoke would negate any good smells generated by incense… []
  3. That’s one of the reasons PLA is never used as a hot beverage or food container. []
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Ultima Ratio Regum: When Words Fail

When Words Fail

When Words Fail

There are days when diplomacy and tact are paramount.  Common ground and values are found and peace reigns.

When those measures fail, there is but one option:  Seej.1

Read the rest of this entry »

  1. Ultima Ratio Regum means “The last argument of kings” []
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We Have The Burrito Technology: Burritob0t

Rescuing the world from hunger, one burrito at a time

Rescuing the world from hunger, one burrito at a time

There is an actual robot designed and built to print burritos using MakerBot 3D printer technology.  Foodstuffs extruded by MakerBot frostrutders onto a tortilla warmed by a MakerBot heated built platform, a burrito could be assembled before your eyes by a robot, layer by delicious salty layer.  While a Burritob0t would almost certainly be slower than a seasoned1 Taco Bell employee, it would also have 1000% more DIY robotic goodness than anything available anywhere.2

Kidding aside, I’m assured by reliable sources this is not just a photo-mockup of what a burrito assembling robot would look like.  The creator Marko Manriquez has built a real robot capable of assembling parts of a burrito using some off-the-shelf open source parts and proven open source technology.

That’s one of the amazing things about open source hardware and software – you never know what someone will be able to create based on what you’ve contributed.  Who could have suspected three years ago the guts of a Cupcake CNC could have been put to use for an automated burrito making robot?

Hat tip to Hack-a-Day

  1. Pun intended []
  2. And, again, I’m sorry for helping propagate the whole TacoCopter thing. []
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Awesome Scale Armor by Krest

Scale Armor by Krest

Scale Armor by Krest

I was totally floored by this sweet shoulder scale armor by Krest.  It appears to use a leather cord woven through holes at the top and bottom to hold the scales together.  Krest’s 3D files include five variations on the scales so that they could experiment to get the best effect.  Frankly, I think the result is amazing.

Although Krest’s shoulder scale armor uses leather cords which can be adjusted for fit, I think it would be really interesting to use an elastic cord so that the armor could bend and flex.  While not nearly as authentic, it would also be interesting to use loops on the inside of each scale instead of holes which might allow for a seamless appearing exterior.

Scale Armor by Krest, the reverse

Scale Armor by Krest, the reverse

And, if you’ll forgive the pun, wouldn’t it be great to scale this model down for a smaller set of armor?

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Turtles All The Way Down by GuardToad

Turtles All The Way Down by GuardToad

Turtles All The Way Down by GuardToad

GuardToad’s whimsical and poignant “Turtles All The Way Down” by GuardToad invites contemplation contemplation of the cosmic and the microcosmic at the the same time.  Although it appears only the tray itself is MakerBottable, I think it’s not long before we see a fully printable version.

Frankly, I feel inspired to take this little chocolate gem and turn it into a companion piece – “Turtles All The Way Up” by stacking turtles on top of turtles.

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FULL SIZE printed Motorhome… 0.001% complete

Just a few more parts!

Just a few more parts!

When I saw marcsulf’s Drawer Rail Support for his motor home I couldn’t help think…  “Wow, he could replace… EVERYTHING.”

Admittedly, it probably isn’t a very good idea to take an entire motor home and replace it little by little with MakerBotted plastic pieces.  Then again, if it works for cupcakes, perhaps it would work for a motor home?

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Questions from Maker Faire: What can you MakerBot?

What do you mean anything?!

What do you mean anything?!

Another question from Maker Faire from a family was – “What materials can you build using a MakerBot?”  I told them there was no limit to what they could create with a MakerBot.  While the most obvious use was with plastic, a MakerBot can help you create nearly anything you want out of nearly any kind of material.

Want gold, silver, copper, bronze, or any other metal?  Use the lost-wax casting technique for an amazing result.  How about frosting, chocolate, jell-o, wax, or ice?  Need an ink stamp, wax stamp, embossing stamp, cookie cutter, or stencil?

What’s that?  You just have to MakerBot a vegetable?  Yeah, you can even do that too.

This is what it’s like to live in the future.

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Questions from Maker Faire: How many bricks?

Any brick?!

Any brick?!

This last weekend I had the good fortune to be able to help out with the MakerBot booth at the 2012 Maker Faire Bay Area in San Mateo1  So many people had so many interesting questions that I’d like to just can’t help sharing a few of them here on the blog.

One of my favorite series of questions came from two boys who were at the booth with their father.  After watching half a squirrel being printed out, they asked what material the MakerBot was using to make objects.  I explained that it was the same ABS that went into Legos.  All of a sudden the pairs of eyes that were watching the Replicator were now on me with laser focus.  They had to know if the robot could make Legos.  I told them that people had, indeed, shared designs for Lego compatible bricks on Thingiverse and they were no longer constrained to only have those bricks they could find in stores – they could have any brick they could design.  Now, that got their attention.

Their father, ever the savvy and wary consumer, wanted to know just how expensive it would be to make those bricks.  I responded with my own question – how many plastic building pieces could they buy for $50?  The father and both kids agreed that it wasn’t much – $50.00 might buy you a medium sized Lego set.  I reminded them that those boxes were also mostly empty – you buy a lot of air when you buy a box of Legos. 2  Hefting a spool of ABS plastic in their direction I told them that $50.00 would buy enough plastic to make more than two pounds of bricks – bricks of any size and shape they could imagine.  That definitely got the dad’s attention.

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  1. Near San Francisco []
  2. Don’t get me wrong.  I love Legos and own a LOT of them. []
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Keeping Safe and Sanitary – the MakerBot Way!

Cat Litter Trap by Triskite

Cat Litter Trap by Triskite

It’s a testament to the wonders of 3D design and MakerBotting that a 3D printer is just so dang useful.  You can use it to whip up a toy, broken latch, and now… keep kitty litter in it’s proper place.

It may seem like a small matter, but it’s never a good thing to see kitty litter outside of a kitty litter box.  Thingiverse citizen Triskite’s cat litter trap takes care of this problem with aplomb.  While many kitty litter boxes even include similar litter traps, not all of them do.  This is such a simple and useful modification to a litter box or home that no cat lover should do without it to keep the rest of their home free of pesky pet particles.

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Mecha Blocks – Mech Units for Minifigs

Minifig Mechs by wgss

Minifig Mechs by wgss

Thingiverse citizen wgss has been absolutely rocking a series of mini Mechs.  There’s so much to appreciate about these designs.  Not only are these scaled just right for legos, but each one of wgss’s four mechs is comprised of more than a dozen individual parts.  For Pete’s sake, he’s even modeled bullets separately.  While this means more gluing and assembly, having the parts separated out means everything can be printed without needing to use support structures and each piece could be printed with a different color plastic.

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