Wednesday, 19 July 2017

3D Printing Pen Tubes / "Shells"

I tried an idea I got from a souvenir a friend showed me, and designed a Pen tube or "shell" that is made to accept standard Bic pen refills.

Inspired by the iconic phrase "END OF LINE" in the original TRON, I think it turned out quite well.

This was printed on a Raise3D N2 using eSUN PLA+ filament.  Raise3D has an absolutely fantastic house-brand premium PLA which is too expensive to ship to Canada, and it's only available direct from Raise3D.  However, I've found eSUN PLA+ (I order from to be a close second.

I think it would turn out even better on a resin printer like the Form 2.

If you want to make your own, a Bic pen insert is a 3.95mm diameter shaft 9mm long (this is the short area directly behind the cone that is the tip -- it goes into the tube and is held by friction.)  The ink tube area behind is close to 110mm long.  Make some 3D text, put a cylinder through it to stick the letters together like a shish kebab, then make a void inside with the measurements above. It worked first time for me, hope you have the same luck!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Making a "Filament Out" Alarm for a 3D Printer

Mister Screamer V2.0
I came up with a new design for a filament alarm that let me continue large prints even if the filament spool runs out. I called it Mister Screamer and I showcased it on in an article called Let's Prototype! This Filament End Needs 80 Decibels.

I also refined the design further in a followup entitled Improving Mister Screamer; an 80 Decibel Filament Alarm where I solved some of the problems I discovered the first time around, and changed the operating principle. I used this project as a means of showcasing the iterative prototyping process.

The device works by hanging from the filament line like an ornament or pendant. When the filament runs out, the device falls to the tabletop where it begins shrieking loudly, alerting a nearby operator that it's time to change the filament spool. No modifications are needed to the filament or to the printer. There are some images below; for more details, visit the links to the original articles above.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Cat Not Impressed by Lightsaber Project

I made myself a Lightsaber project and took some video, the cat makes her opinion quite clear.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

How to Fail at Contracting Regardless of Skill

I recently wrote an article relating to consulting work, entitled Ways to Fail Regardless of Skill; part of a series of articles on Hackaday called Life on Contract. It's an article based on my belief that better quality learning can come from sharing failures framed as learning opportunities, rather than stories of success.

Click here to read Life on Contract: How to Fail Regardless of Skill

Thursday, 27 October 2016

How I Repair Broken 3D Printed Support Structures On The Fly (and Salvage Big Prints)

I do 3D printing, and sometimes I do large or complex 3D prints.  In these, there are sometimes large support structures as part of the print.  These are breakaway pieces that support parts of the model. They are intentionally fairly fragile - they are only as stiff and as thick as they need to be.  They are made to be strong enough to do the job, but also fragile enough to be easily broken away.

Unfortunately, sometimes they break accidentally during the printing process.  Maybe the print head pushed in the wrong spot - unwanted things can happen over 24 or 50+ hour print jobs.  It's bad news, because at worst it means the job is ruined.  All that time and plastic so far might be down the drain.

On the left is a support column.  It looks solid, but it's really just a very thin zigzag ribbon, and the taller it is, the easier it tends to be to snap.

I discovered a tool that is really useful to salvage some broken support pieces. On a longer print, all you really need to do is put some support and anchoring back where there is none.  If you provide some structure and stability, and the printer has enough printing left to do, then the support should slowly be able to pick up where it left off.  If you can anchor things, or at least provide some foundation without interfering with the new layers the head wants to lay down, then you can probably salvage the print.

At first I tried to use various glues - but they never really worked.  Either they are too hard to do a get-in-get-out application (because you need to dodge the print head), or they are too messy, or they are too hard to apply where you need, or they don't set quickly enough.

I eventually settled on a product called Bondic. It's a small dispenser of UV-curable resin.  The resin is a clear syrupy fluid that sets hard when it's hit by UV.  It hits all the bases for an emergency fix. 

Monday, 26 September 2016

3D Printed Laser Cutter Bed Clips

A short while ago I needed to laser cut a large number of 1/8" plywood panels.  Normally this would be no problem, but many of the panels were warped in various ways and would not lay completely flat.  This is a problem for laser cutting because it makes the cuts a little off, and sometimes the focus would be off enough to not quite cut through the material.

At the time I solved this by taping the edges of the panels down to the knife edge table, but that was really inconvenient so I came up with a solution for next time.  (A knife-edge table is a row of triangles - points up - that you lay a material onto when laser cutting it.)

I designed and 3D printed some clips that would snap down and grip a section of the table, and a little tab that would keep the edge of material held down tight.  It's specifically sized to work with 1/8" thick material, but they are low-profile and re-usable.

Printing on my Raise3D N2.
The top of the "V" has a tab to hold material down, the mouth of the "V" snaps over the table support.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Evaluating the Perf+ Prototyping Board (or How to Build a Laziness Defender)

The Perf+ is part perfboard, part busboard, part something else entirely.  I recently tested it out to see how it measured up and whether it had a place in my toolbox.  Short version, yes it does but it has some quirks.

I built a fun project I called the Laziness Defender to test it out.  Read my writeup on for the details.