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.

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.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

On the Topic of Home Automation

I got an Amazon Alexa for Christmas this year.  Alexa on her own is pretty cool though there is still a lot of room for her to learn new things.  She and I struggle a little at times but I think a lot of our problem is the limited speed of our Internet connection.  Alexa is cloud based so she really needs that connection.  Given that she is largely cloud based there are improvements happening all the time which is kind of cool.

Alexa can be extended by adding little Echo units.  We now have one in the kitchen, in my office, and in the bedroom.  The Echo is an extension of the base Alexa unit and can not run without it.  So anyway, our primary use of these things is to play music or to listen to the radio.  You can say "Alexa play Adelle" or "Alexa play Radio One" and she does just that.  We are prime customers so we have access to Prime music but you can also upload your own music and play from you library.

One of the other cool things that we do with Alexa is to ask her to put things on the shopping list.  We can do this from practically any room in the house and when I go to do our online shopping I have the list at my finger tips.  We also do the usual of asking her about the weather, the current time (and for other locations), and for definitions of words and the like.  Looking up stuff on the Internet is an area that she needs to learn.  Siri can usually come up with a page based on a question to look something up.  It would be nice if Alexa could do this and then read the page.

One of the reasons that I got the Amazon device was its market penetration seems to be the best and it is still growing.  This means that Alexa will be a prime target for integration with other devices and with home automation solutions in particular.  That is the hope anyway!

What we have done is added a Smart Things home automation controller and integrated it with Alexa.  We have also gotten a lighting controller and have it integrated with Smart Things but that is for later talking about.

Here are the things that we have setup for Alexa and the Smart Things Controller:

  • Control of the following lights: 
    • Office Desk Light
    • Lounge Floor Standing Light
    • Lounge Ceiling and Wall Sconce Lights
    • Storage Area Light
    • Patio Light
    • House Sign Light
    • Bedroom Nightstand Light
  • Control of the following outlets
    • 3D Printer One
    • 3D Printer Two
  • Integrated with the following sensors
    • Office smoke
    • 3D Printer Temperature 
    • Storage area movement
    • Lounge movement
    • Patio movement
    • Patio light level
So the things that we can do, or have setup to do automatically, are:
  • Ask Alexa to Turn things on and off (Can be done via a phone app)
  • Turn on the lights in the lounge when motion is detected between midnight and dawn
  • Turn on the light in the storage area when motion is detected
  • Turn on the light in the patio when motion is detected (and it is dark)
  • Turn on the light on the house sign at dusk and then off at 8pm
  • Turn off a 3D Printer when it either gets hot or starts to smoke!
I also have the Harmony Hub that allows Alexa to control the TV but that is not working as dependably as I had hoped.  This may be as a result of our slow Internet connection so I am giving it a wait until we have our network upgraded later in the spring.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ship Project - Partial Print and Assembly

Based on the things that needed to change it was clear that we would need to do another test build (and pant) of the model.  Below are two photos showing some progress in between another full reprint and the last one.

Sometimes the answer is to only print part!

Ship Project - Assembly

Photo #1
Here is a photo of the assembled model.  It is largely painted though not completely and it has not been weathered.   There are a lot of learnings coming out of this build that I will apply to the model files and then I will print and paint a final version.  In the meantime, I will practice some weathering techniques on this version.

In the remainder of this post I will detail the changes that need to be made for what I expect will be the final version of the model!
Photo #2

Planned changes for a final version of the model (in no particular order):

  • Hatches and other details should have inset outlines that will accept a pin line of black paint (#3)
  • Railings should look the same (#2)
  • Ladder should fit in cutout (#3)
  • Support pillars for bridge need to be shorter and the whole configuration needs to be rethought for assembly (#4)
  • Structures such as the life raft, forward hatch, and anchor capstans should be printed as stand alone items for ease of painting (#2, #5)
  • Hole in the crane boom is on the wrong side (#6)
  • Photo #3
  • Layering on hull is accentuated by weathering (even at 80 microns). Suggest final print at a low 60 microns, varnish, and then sand.

General observations:

  • All parts should be printed at 60 micron resolution and at very slow speed to hide ridging
  • Parts with flat surfaces should be rotated by 45 degrees so filament lines look more natural (#3)

Photo #4

Photo #5
Photo #6
Photo #7

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ship Project - Second Full Print for Painting

Below is a picture of the entire ship kit with some of the painting started...

...and a closeup of the hull and cargo hatches.  I am learning a lot about the level of detail and how to best handle the design.  More on that later.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Ship Project - Second Full Print for Painting and Assembly

Have put the electronics and software on hold to finish the actual model.  Here are the parts from the second full print.

These pictures show the before and after of the underside of the hull.  I have designed some custom support material into the model that needs to be pulled out as shown here.

Designing your own supports allows you to provide the minimum necessary and should be more efficient in terms of time and plastic than what will result from the slicer doing it for you.