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.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Ultimaker 2 Cooling Hack

When I first got my Ultimaker I struggled to print ABS.  This is a little ironic as I had printed nothing but ABS on my previous printer, a Wanhao Duplicator 4S, as I struggled to print PLA on it!  

I have since been able to get past my issues of build plate adhesion and warping and print ABS quite successfully for many things.  I now have an enclosure for the printer and have decided that Klapton tape is my printing surface of choice.  I still struggle with fine details and in particular when printing at high resolution (<100 microns).

Speaking of fine detail at high resolution...I have similar issues with PLA but only when printing the final layers. 

This first picture shows two tanks with the top printed in PLA and the bottom in ABS.  They are 1:100 scale models and are about 2.5 inches long so there is quite a bit of detail there.  It is not a completely fair comparison, however, since the PLA print was done with a 250 micron nozzle and the ABS print with a 400 micron nozzle.  The PLA print is 60 micron resolution and the ABS print is 80 or 100.  

Ok, not a great apples to apples test but what is clear on both prints is the problem that I am trying to solve.  On the lower, ABS, print you can see the poor quality on the small dots on the engine compartment, on the periscopes forward of the turret hole, and on the top of the fuel tank.  The lines are not as sharp either (corners you would expect to be better on the PLA due to the nozzle).

On the top print, the PLA one, the issue is the top of the fuel tank and the periscopes at the bow of the vehicle.  In both cases they are somewhat smudged.

My solution to the PLA problem has been to either print multiple parts or to print a "sacrificial" part or two that accomplish the same thing.  I have already slowed down the print using the S3D feature that allows one to adjust speed for layers below some number of seconds.  I use 15 seconds as the threshold and 20% as the factor.

I have not had a good solution for ABS but I know from my Wanhoa Duplicator 4S that cooling is the key.  On that printer I had installed a highly directed ducted fan and it made a huge difference.  So enter the below hack:

This is not the first of these experiments that I have tried in the cooling space.  My first attempt, which had limited success, was a piece of plastic that clipped onto the print head assembly and focused the cooling flow onto the area below the nozzle.  I talk about it elsewhere but it was not the cat's meow.

Below is a test print done in PLA that shows the same g-code printed on a printer with standard cooling and the other with my directed fan.  It is obvious which is which.  

My first test with ABS shows a significant improvement as well but as I do not have an apples to apples comparison that will have to wait.

I would be interested in knowing what people think of this idea.  I would also like to hear any feedback into whether my printer is going to explode from running with the Olson block exposed!  I am doing a two hour long print in PLA as we speak and will then try an even longer one later.  I have heard from gr5 on the Ultimaker User Forum that I am not at risk of exploding my printer.  He indicates that the cowling around the block is there to protect my fingers.  Cool!

A couple of final notes.  The image is of the exhaust adapters for a "normal" Ultimaker kind of cooling flow from the fans.  This was my second to last thing to do for this assembly...the last thing will be to work in some mechanism that latches these exhaust adapters to the mount!

And finally...this model was printed in ABS on a Wanhao Duplicator 4S, a Makerbot Clone, with an active, and directed, fan.   The detail is remarkable.   I want to be able to do this on my Ultimaker (in ABS)!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

From Idea to 3D Printed Model

Continuing the theme of looking at the intersection of traditional modeling and the world of 3D Design and Printing with a look at how I take an idea and turn it into a printed model.  Otherwise known as death by PowerPoint in seven minutes!

If you are working on a large project doing a table or a diorama and want some 3D Printing help please reach out as I am available.  All proceeds from printing to charity including any donation that you might think appropriate for a custom design.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Current Inventory of 15mm / 1:100 Scale Models (/Bling)

Here is the current comprehensive list of the various models that I have created in the 15mm, or 1:100, scale used by Flames of War.  All of these models are in the public domain at Thingiverse under a license that says you can have them but you can not sell them and you need to give me credit for them if credit is due.  Many of them are also available for sale on eBay though I have implemented a fairly high minimum purchase as small prints and shipments are labour intensive in disproportion to the return.

My interest at this point is in working with folks that are doing a high-end table or diorama.    The better your work (and photography) the more interested I will be...and the more interested I am the more flexible I can be on pricing.  I can also modify any of the below items to your specifications and, within reason and subject to my abilities, I can also create new items for your project.

All proceeds (as in 100%) of any fees for prints, or in recognition of a custom design, will go to the MS Society.  Note that payment through eBay means that the MS Society will be automatically paid from proceeds (and eBay does not charge their overhead).

Purchase Bling on eBay

To place an order please download this spreadsheet, select the quantities of items you want, and then copy the highlighted area and paste it into a message to me on eBay or Facebook along with any special requests.   I will confirm the price at which point you can pay by selecting the appropriate value of "custom build items" from my eBay listing (units of 10, 5, 1 GBP).

Field HQ



Ammo crates



Utility poles

Dragons teeth


Road Signs

Belgian gates

Field Kitchen

Picket Fence

Horizontal Fence

Vertical Fence

Stone Wall - Rework Needed

Horizontal Fence Extras

Stone Wall Extras - Rework needed


Pontoon Bridge

Basic Wagon

Field Wagon



Lumber - Customize

Laundry (x3)

Stone n Steel Fence

Order Entry Spreadsheet --> Purchase Bling on eBay

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ultimaker 2 and PLA versus ABS

I guess I do have a complaint about my Ultimaker 2.  I love them to death right up until I decide to print ABS again.  It took me a while to even get good print adhesion but I have that working but now it is all about details.  The following images illustrate my frustration.

 Note the details on the top of the engine compartment.   Not to mention the separation of the outlines from the infill.  Should be able to tune that out though have tried twice already!

Same details are sharp on PLA.  There is a minor issue on the top of the fuel tank that I think I can get rid of with a sacrificial object on the build platform.

ABS on a Wanhao Duplicator 4S
I simply can not get the fine details from a ABS print that I can from PLA on the Ultimaker.  I know that ABS is capable...just not on the Ultimaker?  I feel like I am missing something but I have tried everything that I know how to do and still have not succeeded.

In my mind it is all about cooling.  I had a custom cooling fan on the Wanhao that directed a tiny but powerful airflow onto the part that was being extruded right under the nozzle.  I need this for the Ultimaker but have not found one out there in the wild.  I may actually have to design one.

You might ask why it is important to print ABS?  Namely that I find it to be a lot easier to clean an ABS print of the support material from the printing process!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Yet Another Look at Resolution

Printer did not want to play nice for this demo, at least at first. Only printed the tops of vehicles to save time. Resolutions are, from left to right, 150, 100, 80, 60, and 40 microns. Print times from 30 minutes to an hour and sixteen. Note on printing at very high resolution...I found that you need to use high infill and a lot of solid layers on top to avoid holes.  I know that I could probably due some tuning on bridging to alleviate this but the multiple layers also help the finish appearance.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

3D Print Technologies - Three Technologies

There are three major 3D Printing technologies that comprise the bulk of the current market for small desktop/deskside printers.  They are Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).  Later there may be some pictures of three tanks printed using these three technologies but first a little more introduction.

FDM is the technology that most people will have seen and/or heard about as it is used in most printers that people are buying for personal use.  Plastic filament in either 1.75, 2.85, or 3mm diameters are fed into a heated nozzle that extrudes the plastic in a thin line.  The layer of plastic extruded can be a variety of thicknesses but the range of .1mm to .2mm, or 100 microns to 200 microns, is the most common. The printer builds a solid object one layer at a time with either the build platform, usually surfaced with a piece of glass, falling or the extruder assembly with the nozzle rising.   Much more here!

SLA uses a laser focused on a liquid resin causing it to harden with a similar result as described above as the model is built one layer at a time...but generally on a platform that is rising from a vat of the resin!  The light is projected onto the bottom of the vat, the build platform starts the print touching the bottom of the vat, and with each layer the build platform is raised.   The Form 1, a very popular SLA printer, is an example for this printing technology.  Much more here! 

Added after the fact:  There are a lot of inexpensive printers coming to the market that do resin based printing but use either a projector (DLP) or an LCD (DUP) to harden the plastic.  More on the Wanhao D7 DUP printer later in this blog.

SLS has been around long enough for patents to start to expire leading to printers of its ilk starting to come down in price and hence be seen more often.  It uses a laser to sinter a powder, a layer at a time (there is a theme here), into a 3D object.  Sintering, btw, is heating and compressing something but not melting it.  In this process a powdered material is delivered layer by layer to the build platform where a laser does the sintering.  The build platform lowers as each layer is sintered. Much more here!

FDM and SLA both share a common characteristic in that the object being printed will have rely on what are called support structures to print elements of the model that would otherwise be "printed on air".  More about this later.  SLS does not need support structures because the powder from each layer remains and provides that support.  It can print crazy geometries and the part comes off the printer clean.    I have never seen an SLS printer in person but it sounds kinda messy even if the part is clean.  Maybe not as messy as an SLA printer with its resin but messy.   Still if the price comes down I may have to have one!

There is one other printer technology worth mentioning and that is multi jet.  Shapeways offers this as their Frosted Detail Plastic which is one of their more expensive offerings.  It prints at a layer thickness of less than 20 microns and does so with one jet spraying a wax support material and another the actual plastic for the model.  I have not done a print using this technology due to the cost but the pictures that I have seen are impressive.   All the advantages of the SLS printer but with the look of an SLA print but at even better detail.   Yours for $20000!

The 3D printing space is rapidly evolving with new printers and printing technology hitting the market all the time.  This article was probably out of date before I pressed save!

Next...some tanks!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Intersection of 3D Printing and Modeling - Another Diorama

While not at all a finished project the diorama shown below does illustrate the birth of another heavily 3D Printed diorama (here is my first one).  I keep getting distracted by other projects but I will ultimately finish this thing.  In case you are wondering about the shape...it fits a stack of shelves that I printed for my man cave.

Below are the first couple of prints.  On the bottom is the foundation for the diorama with a footprint for a ruined building, a sidewalk of concrete slabs, and a cobble stone street with some shell holes.  At the top are the ruined building, a model who's files I purchased downloaded and printed, and to the right are some initial pieces of bling to decorate the project.

Here I have painted the street and started to landscape the are outside the ruined building.  It is hard to tell from this print but I have another print that has added a layer of ground in the area at the top left of the diorama.  In hind-sight there were a number of things that should have been designed into the initial print above, or out of in the case of much of the time that I put into sidewalk that I then covered!

Most of the heavy duty landscaping is now done.  Note that I am very much a beginning modeler so please humor me in my attempts on this project.  Like the two colors of earth with the darker being older and the lighter being newer...?

In the below two shots we see a traditional model from Battlefront integrated into the diorama.  We can also see, particularly in the shot that looks into the ruined building, some of the bling that I have designed for Flames of War gamers.  The tank is a high resolution print of a model done by M_Bergman and available on Thingiverse along with all of my bling.

Not quite the end by any means but getting close.  My vision is to replace the Panther with a Tiger II and to have figures populating the model.

Some Pictures of Bling

This post is actually just a placeholder for some pictures of various FoW Bling!
Basic Wagon 
Upgraded Field Wagon