Evolution of a Blog

This blog has evolved as I have as a maker. It starts at the beginning of my journey where I began to re-tread my tires in the useful lore of micro electronics and the open-source software that can drive them. While building solutions around micro-electronics are still an occasional topic my more recent focus has been on the 3D Printing side of making.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Overnight 3D Printing - A Facebook Poll

I posted the following poll on Facebook and thought the responses interesting enough to summarize here.

Here is a summary of the results:

A strong majority of folks print overnight without concern. Another pretty large group prints overnight but with some concern. There are a fair number of folks that do not print overnight but the survey questions are flawed in that these folks could have reasons other than fire concern.

Some other observations. There are a number of people that have added fire detection and suppression with a variety of solutions mentioned from off the shelf, to external service provided, to self crafted. Finally there were even folks that admitted to having their spouse or boss tell them to pound sand on the printing all night thing. My other survey question asked if people had experienced a fire. A very large majority had not though a handful did. The fires described were all minor. Probably a bad survey question as someone that had a bad fire may not be doing the whole 3D Printing any longer! Finally, from comments on both polls, it seems like the concern is the highest with the cheap home built printers and diminishes as you go up market.

Cost and Appearance of Different 3D Print Resolutions

I had done a post some time ago comparing resolutions but thought that I would do another one using a model from a customer order.

600 micron nozzle with 300 micron layer height.  Time to print (each): 00:49.  Cost (for ten): 31.74
400 micron nozzle with 200 micron layer height.  Time to print (each): 01:10.  Cost (for ten): 41.17
400 micron nozzle with 150 micron layer height.  Time to print (each): 01:32.  Cost (for ten): 49.86
400 micron nozzle with 100 micron layer height.  Time to print (each): 03:07.  Cost (for ten): 62.90 

Looking at the costs by time it would appear that my costing for the 100 micron layer print might need some adjustment (up)!

Time (Minutes)CostCost per Minute

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Printing Metal!

Well not exactly.  Printing metal infused plastic is more accurate.  There are a number of filaments out there that contain tiny particles of real metal.  I have a spool of Colorfabb Copperfill but the workflow to make it look like metal is either to have a rock tumbler to polish the stuff or to do it by hand.  The latter is not a lot of fun so I focused on the former.

You can buy a rock polisher on Amazon but they run 40-50 quid and have a pretty small drum for parts.  I have all kinds of motors and electronics, and a 3D Printer, so I decided to design and build one.

Above is the assembled and operating tumbler polisher.
I printed the files you see with an 800 micron nozzle and a layer height of 400 microns. Any resolution will likely work.   Note that inside the drum there are five printed pieces that assemble to form a mixer.  It should be inserted into the drum such that it scoops up the little brass bits as the drum rotates. I glued mine into the drum.

The above image shows a close up of the base with the electronics and stepper motor.

The above video from adafruit walks you through the polishing process.

Above are the before and after pictures of some parts done in Colorfabb Copperfill and then polished for seven or so hours.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Terraforming Mars and 3D Hubs - Part 4 - Finished

 I'm declaring this project to be done.  Bit of a diversion started by a customer order that intrigues me.  He gets his set of 3D Printed Tiles for the board game Terraforming Mars and I decide that I want a set as well.  No, I have never played the game though I do now have one on order, but I sure am ready!

The first image shows the custom hex fitting case that I designed for this project with more details shown by the next two images.
The case has room for 25 greenery tiles, 15 city tiles, 9 ocean tiles, and 11 special tiles though I have only printed and painted 24 greenery tiles and 12 city tiles.

I'm not going to say anything more about painting as the last of the models above were pretty straightforward in terms of the painting of them.

In hindsight I am not sure that my specialty filaments were REALLY necessary!  I really like the look, and feel, of the desert tiles but the difference is not as profound as I would have expected!

Now, in a month or so, I hope to actually have the game!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Terraforming Mars and 3D Hubs - Part 3 - Some Painting

 I am, by no means, and experienced model painter though I do enjoy the concentration that it requires and the results that can be achieved.  This article covers painting of two of the speciality filaments that I talked about previously, a clear one for the ocean tiles, and one with a matt surface for the desert-like terrain of Mars. One tile, printed in normal PLA will also be painted for comparison to the matt material tiles.  In the first image the matt tiles are the four in the rear.

The first tiles to get painted were the ocean tiles.  I did the back using matt varnish and a rust colored pigment.  The primary colour is a mix of 2 parts transparent blue and 1 part transparent green.  The white is supposed to represent foam at the top of two wave crests that are part of the tile that I designed as an extension to Frank's collection.  My attempts to get a maximally clear print led me to have a lot more visible 3D Printing artifacts so I think that regular PLA would have been fine, if not better, for this use case.

The next set of tiles are the ones printed from a High Performance PLA with a matt finish.  I wanted to have depth to these tiles so I pulled out my collection of pigments and did a quick color chart.  I picked three of them, in addition to basic Rust, to add some a darker red, a burnt red, and a yellow.  First I painted on the basic Rust colour using a mix of varnish and pigment.  Then I added tiny dabs of the other three colors using a nearly dry brush.  I finished with a very dry brush of black and then added some black to the sides of cracks to look like shadows.  Painting was done of the structures in the meantime.

The last tile to get painted was printed in PLA and then painted in exactly the same manner as above.  I think it looks as good as the one printed from the much more expensive filament!  Oh well.

At this point I have the above tiles that I consider completed (including the other eight ocean tiles).    I have also largely finished thirteen of the twenty two green tiles that I intend to have.  I am now working to complete the remainder of the green tiles and have started to prime the city tiles.  I am still struggling with the volcano tile and have the capital city tile printed but not painted.  Finally, I have the Industrial and Exclusion areas finished as I had done them when I first started experimenting.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Terraforming Mars and 3D Hubs - Part 2 - Materials

I am always looking for an excuse to experiment with different filaments and this project is providing just that chance. The first image shows four different types of tiles done in three different types of filament (green and off white are the same type just different colors).
These two are both Proto Pasta Matte Fiber HTPLA.  They describe it as "A Fiber Composite optimized for finish, performance, and compatibility for architecture, sculpture, industrial and product design, and engineering 3D prints.".  It prints as easily as PLA but has the same textured surface as the Colorfabb carbon fiber filament (which I really like).  I added both the green and the off-white to my inventory in hopes that I might be able to do some architectural work that required the green (and besides it made sense for this project).  The off white is probably the better choice as it can be colored post printing.

The green tiles will get printed with the green stuff (obviously)!  The off-white will be used for the tiles that are predominantly surface terrain as I expect the look and feel to be able to take advantage of the filament characteristics.

The challenge will be the mining tile that has both structure and terrain.
The ocean tiles are a complete experiment in that I want to try and take advantage of some clear filament that I have had for a while.  This is T-Glase Clear and it should be about as clear as a 3D Print can be given extrusion lines will always be an issue.

Finally, the tiles that are primarily architectural will be done in a "standard" filament.  I am using some PET as I have been liking it lately from a printer perspective and wanted to see how it takes to being painted.  In the future I would probably be more likely to just us PLA.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Terraforming Mars and 3D Hubs

The next several articles talk about the convergence of 3D Printing and a traditional board game.

Almost two years ago I made my printers available on a service called 3D Hubs.  I did not do this to make money (in fact I donate at least 50% to the MS Society and the other 50% is used for expanding my collection of exotic filament).  What I did it for was the experience of working with other people's designs and subject matter.  It is this latter aspect that I now write.

The first job that I did is what got me interested in the intersection of 3D Printing and the world of models (tanks!).  A lot of the blog to this point has been dedicated to that topic.   My latest job was to print some tiles for the board game Terraforming Mars.  The tiles that I printed for the customer are shown by image #1.  They were designed by Frank Straus and made available here on boardgamegeek (signup is required).  They are a really nice piece of work.

Just as with the tanks order this one hits a spot for me in that I like science fiction and terraforming makes for an interesting story, and in this case, game.  There is also an overlap with the whole modeling topic.  So I am going a little bit over the top.  Not exactly unusual!

The first thing that I did was to design a new piece to replace one of the tiles that were part of Franks Collection.  I suspect that I could print the original if I spent some time tweaking my printer but I thought a more easily printed version might be a good idea.  There are two versions with the one on the left being more of a challenge to print.

Somewhere along the line I had found the instructions for the game and decided that I liked the concept well enough to buy one.  There in lies the rub.  They are not for sale anywhere except on the used market and then only for a LOT of money.  The game is being re-released next month so I will be getting a copy.  This is probably a good thing as I have started printing a set of tiles for myself.

There are two things that I am going to be playing with.  The first is the choice of filament for the tiles.  This might be a case where some of my inventory of filament gets some exploration.  The second is the chance to paint the tiles.  I have done a little bit of painting of tanks and do enjoy it.  It is distracting!  Here is a sample that I did while trying to convince myself whether or not to get a copy of the game.

Selection of filaments will be the next article.