Four, no, 44 months.. part 19 of ?

August 30th, 2014

Here is more of what happened about a year and a half ago..

Cara’s Birthday

Cara’s birthday was upon us.. (This was March of 2013 so she was turning 6). I had just given Alicia the 3D-printed abacus that she’d wanted for her doll, so I had to print something for Cara..

I give you, Cara Castle. I designed it in OpenSCAD. First I tried printing it on the RepRap that I’d made for the Museum of Science. I printed it with new plastic that I’d never tried yet, which was more opaque than any of the plastic I’d printed with on my RepRap.





(That’s actually supposed to be text on the top, but I’d shrunken my initial design to print on my RepRap, so the text didn’t come out):






I told her I was already printing a larger one for her at work too, on the Makerbot Replicator that we’d previously brought home (but was now back at work). With a much lower layer height and a smaller nozzle, it came out much, much better:







RepRap Class, Day 2

Cara and Alicia enjoyed their first RepRap Class with Daddy (me) two weeks earlier, so they wanted to do it again.

First they both played around with Google Sketchup. Here is Alicia’s first Sketchup shape ever:


…and here is Cara’s first Sketchup shape ever:


Then we moved onto OpenSCAD. We’d already played with OpenSCAD in our first RepRap class (both for Alicia’s abacus and for some other shapes), so they were eager to play with it more now. One simple thing they designed (but didn’t print) was this cool looking shape:


Right around then it became clear to me what we needed to make. It was pure in its simplicity, but would cement their desire to print and use it. We made a simple bowl to hold M&Ms.

(When I was a little kid, my grandfather had some ceremic dish that he kept lying around the house, and one day when I opened it it was filled with M&Ms. Every time I went back to his house I opened it, looking for M&Ms, thinking it was almost magic. It took me years to figure out that he’d bought M&Ms and filled it with them. So I was happy to make a container for M&Ms, especially one that was so mathematically simple that the kids totally understood it and wanted to print it, even if it didn’t have a lid).

We designed this:


They both enthusiastically declared that we needed to print that. We did.





Here it is filled with M&Ms that I got on Valentine’s day, and the girls enjoying using it.







RepRap Printing Memory Game

One more thing from that RepRap class.. Have you ever heard the game where a bunch of people are hanging around, and someone says “I’M going on a trip to Florida, and I’m packing my….. Atari 2600!” and then the next person has to say “I’M going on a trip to Florida, and I’m packing my Atari 2600 and my Bikini!”, with each next person reciting the entire list from memory and then adding another word starting with the next letter from the alphabet?

Well Alicia came up with a variant of that, that the three of us played while the RepRap was printing. I give you, the RepRap game.

If I had a RepRap, that actually prints, I’d make…

(and here’s an earlier video of my turn mid-game that I’d uploaded to youtube before we’d finished the game, but I figured Alicia’s video deserved to be first in this post):

Rods for Ribs!

At this point I’d convinced many people at work to build RepRaps of their own. Next up was Neil Mager. Everyone knew I had a chop saw and a grinder and that I was used to cutting steel rods for RepRaps, so Neil suggested another trade: I cut and grind his rods, and he’d smoke me a rack of ribs. 🙂

Here were his rods, wrapped up and ready for delivery:


…and here was my reward, a few months later:




Nerf Dart Quadcopter Challenge at work

I don’t want to spend too much time on this one but I might as well throw it in just for the pictures..

Here’s a Facebook post that I made on March 29, 2013:

Ok this was really cool. About a month ago my boss pulls me and a bunch of others into his office and informs us that we’re going on a special project (not classified, but might as well be – can’t tell anyone, until today). Division 3 at work held a contest – groups could put together a proposal to be a team to compete in it. We were told to create a team and enter.

The competition involved flying quadcopters and shooting at them with USB Nerf dart shooters that can aim and have built-in video cameras. The toughest part of the competition involved one team flying their quadcopter off of a desk, through hoops, and back to the desk five times in a row, while the other team’s autonomous shooter fired missiles at the quadcopter trying to hit it.

Not only did our team have to write code with OpenCV to identify the quadcopter in air, aim for it, and shoot at it, but we had to deal with shooters that could barely reach 10 feet, so I tried 3D printing a whole bunch of missiles (despite almost 100 printed variants, we eventually went with darts made from straws and toy plastic bubble goop). I didn’t have time to perfect the 3D printed missiles, because I had to spend time on our other objective.

Our secret objective.

Our division leader wanted us to enter the contest so that in addition to participating in the actual competition, we could have another private objective: a cyber attack on the other team’s quadcopter.

We spent weeks practicing dozens of scenarios and what-if safety nets, like what if the other team switches quadcopters, or switches iPhones (these were Parrot AR.Drones controlled by iPhones), or wipes out the firmware on the copter.

First we locked the copters down so we could ensure we’d always have remote access to them. There was a “pairing” feature on the iPhone app that, if enabled, would lock just that phone to that copter. We determined how that worked. We found the pairing script on the copter and modified it such that if someone tried to pair it would appear to them that they had done so, but in fact the MAC addresses of OUR iPhone and laptops were all still allowed. We didn’t need to do this (if the other team didn’t pair we’d still be fine), but this was one of several safety nets we put in place.

Next we experimented with taking over a flying copter. Telnetting in and doing a reboot did cause it to drop out of the air (which we tested very close to the ground over pillows) but that wasn’t good enough for what we wanted. Eventually we perfected a script that made iptables calls to allow us and only us, and lock out everyone else (including the iPhone that had been flying the copter). The original iPhone then sees a message on-screen saying that it lost control, which we weren’t able to avoid (but that didn’t matter).

At this point we’d experimented with having our own iPhone connect, but the flight software seemed to always land the copter first, and we were worried that someone would reach over to the grounded copter and try to pick it up before we got off the ground again.

So then we looked into what we had to do to issue our own flight commands autonomously (via computer, with no human interaction).

In the end we had a script (that I was the lucky one to trigger) that locked out the original iPhone, raised the copter up a bit, caused it to sit in front of our shooter so we could shoot at it without problem, then it spun left fast for a few rotations, spun right, and then stayed hovering.. (previous versions landed at this point).

Then on our ATTACK iPhone (whose MAC address we specifically allowed in), our pilot started the flight app, landing the copter, quickly taking off after that, and he flew it around the room for a victory lap.

People were NOT happy. They got over it soon after the competition resumed and the round was repeated. (My group leader got up and announced to the room that we had just conducted a cyber attack on the competition).

Our division leader eventually (before the competition) went to the division leader for the competition and filled them in, but not the heads of the competition. Everything we did we had permission for, but they had pesky rules like don’t break the law (no murder) so we abided by them.

By the end of the day i shook hands with just about everyone that I remembered seeing be upset, and they all felt much better about it.

I haven’t been able to talk with anyone about this until today. It was fun. Now back to my other, far less stressful deadlines. 🙂

In that post I hadn’t included any pictures, since we ended up not using any of the plastic nerf missiles I’d designed. But I did want to post the picture somewhere, so here they are.. (These were printed on the Makerbot Replicator at work):









A Few More Pics..

Last few pictures.. First, I got a scale from Laurie for something (can’t remember what for – maybe for the quadcopter?) and I found this picture of it weighing Tony Buser’s head. It’s about 100 grams.


And finally, as a preview for the next post, after cutting Neil’s rods, I decided to cut and grind rods for my second RepRap, since I’d soon be permantly giving the Museum of Science the RepRap I made for them. I decided to start my second RepRap before the handoff.






Trying so hard to catch up (as always). That brings us up to April 27th, 2013. Today is August 30th, 2014. Must post faster.

Again, I’m going to exhibit at Makerfaire NY 2014 this September, for my third time. Buy your tickets now and come see me! If I can drag two RepRaps down in a car from the north end of Massachusetts to Queens, New York, you can drag yourself down there.. it’s a great time!

mf_newyork_seemethere_125x125 mf14ny_badge

The Abacus – Four, no, 44 months.. part 18 of ?

August 3rd, 2014

The thing about my RepRap hobby (which might apply to all hobbies?) is I’ll sometimes go months without thinking about my RepRap at all, then I’ll use it for a month or two solid. As a result I’ll still be far behind on my blog, and the backlog starts to feel like work (which causes a feedback loop where the backlog discourages me from blogging, which causes more of a backlog, etc). So let’s try to get some of this covered and catch up a bit..

Last I blogged we were caught up to March of 2013 (whereas today is August of 2014). The Museum of Science’s RepRap was printing well. Let’s go from there.

At work I borrowed a Makerbot Replicator (#8640) for a work related project, and I was allowed to take it home (and use it for non-work related uses). On a Friday evening, I drove in to work with Cara to pick it up so I could take it home for the weekend.


We’d been using it at work and had created our own el-cheapo heated chamber for it with some cardboard boxes and some pieces of paper. Here’s what it looked like from behind:


I started printing any parts I thought I’d need out of ABS (since I didn’t want to clog my own nozzle by switching over from PLA to ABS if I didn’t have to). Here I printed a bunch of pulleys (there’s one failed one on the right):


Meanwhile, on the RepRap I’d printed and assembled for the Museum of Science, I started printing a set of RepRap parts for Joe Werther (he heard I was giving them a RepRap and asked if his parts could be printed from THAT RepRap, which I thought was a cool idea.. plus it would get the Museum of Science off the hook for one of the two RepRaps that this RepRap needed to print, since all RepRaps should print at least two other RepRaps for other people).

Here are a bunch of belt clamps:



In the last post I posted a picture of a happy Cara that also showed the power cord cable that I’d tried using as an alternate filament spool:


Once I had the clamps printed for a filament holder, I moved that yellow spool up onto it (until I could put a real spool on later).


Three posts before that earlier picture of Cara with the spool, I’d shown the bad results of trying to transfer brittle PLA from one spool to another via unwinding.. It had multiple breaks in it:


This was that same spool. So as I printed things, I’d have pieces of plastic falling out from time to time (with increasing frequency towards the end of the spool).



Occasionally I’d run out of a strand and have to pause a print long enough to switch to a long piece of filament. I really wanted to use as much of that plastic as I could. 🙂

Here’s a sadly truncated only-twenty-second-long video showing that:

I printed more parts. I’d seen a new adjustable Y-motor-mount that had a built in y-tensioner, and I wanted to try that.

I printed two out of PLA on the MoS RepRap, and then tried printing one out of ABS on the Makerbot, which I was going to use for a Mendel I was printing for use at work. Unfortunately the ABS one curled up because the homemade heated chamber isn’t that good.. ..but the PLA ones were fine.




Here’s a picture of a PLA/ABS y-motor-mount sandwich:



..and here are two of them side-by-side:


Here’s the next plate of parts I printed (I checked – it isn’t one of the standard 4 plates, I had arranged the parts I needed in OpenSCAD):


At the same time, on the Makerbot I printed an X-end piece out of ABS for the RepRap I was making for work. This came out pretty well.




3D Printing Class – March 10, 2013

My mother-in-law Barbara is always doing “sewing” class for my kids and their friends, and I wanted to be able to teach my kids about RepRap and 3D printing too (not just watching it print, but learning how to design parts of their own, learn OpenSCAD, and print things themselves). Alicia and Cara decided to join, and on March 10th 2013 we had our first 3D Printing class.

We did some standard stuff (cubes with spheres subtracted from them, a bunch of boxes of different colors combined with a large sphere (which we later printed as a multi-color print on the Makerbot, and in yellow it looked like an old disposable Kodak camera)), but the main thing we designed that day was Alicia’s Abacus.

For a long time Alicia had been asking for a 3D-printed abacus for her doll. We figured out what size we wanted it to be, found some nails about that size, measured them, and designed and printed this abacus.




I just now uploaded it to thingiverse, one year and five months after we designed and printed it.

After that, it was more printing to get Joe Werther’s RepRap printed, more printing to get the RepRap I was printing for use at work printed, and cleaning up of the wiring of the Museum of Science’s RepRap so I could give it to them for good.


Note I was now printing one piece at a time because I was estimating how long a stretch of filament I needed to print each part. In this next picture you can see two small coils of contiguous plastic on the keyboard that I’d rescued from the broken spool, that I used in later prints:


Here are two boxes being filled with parts (Joe’s parts on the left, and the parts for use at work on the right):


(Joe, if you’re reading this, consider this post a nudge to remind you to assemble your RepRap! 🙂 )

Once I was done printing parts for Joe and for use at work, I cleaned up the wiring on the Museum of Science’s RepRap. I mounted the RAMPS board in a Sliding lid RAMPS 1.4 box that I printed on the Makerbot (due to its height), and mounted that on this mounting board. (come to think of it I may have modified that mounting board to accommodate the extra nuts and washers on the top rods.. note to self: look that up and upload it).


I put black hose around the zip-tied wiring on the rods:




…and here’s the final cleaned-up version, pretty enough for final delivery to the Museum of Science (although that wouldn’t happen for another month and a half):


Here are three other pictures that I want to throw in at this point. First was this piece of paper – notes from Alicia while I was redoing the wiring on the RepRap destined for the Museum of Science:


The second picture was my grinder, which I believe I had just finally set up at this point for the first time:


(I now use that grinder every time I cut any rods for any reason.. I can’t believe I got along without it before.. way better than filing down the edges to wear off the sharp parts)..

And the third picture was what Jimmy Astle gave me in exchange for using the above grinder (and my chop saw) to cut rods for him for his first RepRap. A 6-pack of home-brew beer:


Ok that seems like a good breaking point to end this post.

By the way, I’m going to exhibit at Makerfaire NY 2014 this September, for my third time! (Although, tragically, this blog is so far behind that I haven’t even covered Makerfaire NY 2013 yet! I’ll do that soon.. I hope to be fully caught up before Makerfaire this year.. ha!). Buy your tickets now and come see me! If I can drag two RepRaps down in a car from the north end of Massachusetts to Queens, New York, you can drag yourself down there.. it’s a great time!

mf_newyork_seemethere_125x125 mf14ny_badge

Don’t make carriages out of PLA – Four, no, 39 months.. part 17 of ?

March 18th, 2014

Last post, I had us caught up to January 23rd 2013. Let’s keep going. Today is March 18th, 2014. Just over a year behind.

So I was working on the child RepRap that MY RepRap had built, so I could give it to the Museum of Science. During the last post I’d done its first print and the traditional minimug toast. Now I had to get the endstops working.

This was my first Prusa Mendel (IT2) build, so I didn’t know how the endstops would go on (in the original Sells Mendel the optical endstop mounts were all integrated into the build, but on the Prusa Mendel you have a lot of “flexibility”). I decided that I still wanted to use opto-endstops (vs mechanical ones), but that made it more difficult to figure out where the endstop flags should go (and I don’t like the idea of using glue for anything).

For the Z axis, I wanted to design a small opto-flag holder for Z (adapted from the endstop holder for Z). I set up the opto-endstop in a helping hands aligator clip to help measure what the piece should look like, and put the original z-endstop-holder (that I was adapting) on the X axis:


I measured it, designed what I wanted, and printed it on the Museum of Science’s RepRap (it printed its first enhancement part).


Here was the resulting part:







..and here is the new piece on the x-axis where the old original piece I adapted from had been:



This next video was horribly truncated (probably because my phone ran out of space or battery life) and I usually wouldn’t include it, but it feels a bit historic so I’ll include it for the 24 seconds that it lasts for:

I had more work to do on the opto-flag holder (more on that later), but first I wanted to make a proper filament spool holder. I tried printing 4 of these new-style rod holders (I’d later realize I needed two of these and two of the old style), but then I ran into the new problem that my prints were slanting on X and Y (not individual skips, but full slants for every layer):


I guess I tried printing something else hoping the problem would go away, because the next picture I have is of that effect getting far far worse:



It was at this point that I started to suspect that my X-carriage had just melted…

Yup.. Your x-carriage should NOT do this:



Here was that gear attempt that had failed because the nozzle was lifting up and back left:



What’s the lesson to be learned here? Don’t make carriages or extruders out of PLA.

Here are some more pictures of the melted carriage:






I printed a carriage out of ABS on a Makerbot Replicator that I’d borrowed for something else. I wasn’t about to muck with mixing ABS and PLA in a nozzle of my own RepRap (or the Museum of Science’s RepRap) at this point:


I also printed out an idler:


…two extruder parts with bottoms designed for the Budaschnozzle, two spare Open-X carriages for me:




…and the both gears for the extruder:


Since I was printing ABS extruder and carriage parts, I decided to print some for my brother as well (whose RepRap parts were printed by my printer), since I now knew the PLA carriage I’d given him would melt. 🙂


Here is what I mailed him:



Around this time my brother had mailed me a picture of the frame he’d built from the parts I’d given him:


Jon, if you’re reading this, here’s more motivation for you to finish up and get your printer printing! 😀

Ok back to the Z opto endstop.. At first I mounted the opto endstop board on a standard holder printed out of PLA, which you can see in the upper right-hand corner of this picture:


I really wanted that to be adjustable though. I found this “Really High accuracy adjustable Z Endstop for Prusa” piece, printed it, and attached the opto-endstop board to it, and mounted it on the RepRap:


(Actually I mirrored the arm part, since I wanted to mount this on the right side of the machine instead of the left. The mirrored arm piece is now on thingiverse here).

Back to my Z-opto-flag holder, here it is with the tin cut and with tape on it:


…and here it is installed and ready to swing down in place:


…and here is the first homing of the Z axis with these parts:

I just uploaded it to thingiverse finally, while writing this post. 🙂

So then I mounted the Budaschnozzle in the new ABS X-carriage. It got stuck at first, and after I managed to remove it I filed the edges of the inside of the circle a bit so it was more easily removable.



Then I assembled the new ABS extruder:


Then I realized what I was going to do for an X endflag.. I don’t know if it was by design or chance, but when you’re using a Budaschnozzle mount on the Prusa IT2 x-carriage I was using, a piece of tin right between the plastic part of the Budaschnozzle mount and the extruder is at exactly the right height for an opto endstop board mounted on a standard Prusa IT2 endstop holder.

I modeled them with paper then cut them out of tin after (I say “them” because not only did I put the X endflag beneath the left of the extruder, but I put another shim of metal beneath the right of the extruder so it was evenly balanced).





Cara was downstairs and help me attach the new X-carriage to the LM8UU bearings:



..and here she is describing it (again, a truncated video – sorry for missing her saying goodbye):

Cara is a really good RepRap helper.


Here she is, telling us what the RepRap is doing.

The four new-style clamps turned out great, although as I said before we only needed two of them.



Then we started two of the old-style clamps for the top (I put two long bolts through diagonal holes, pointing up, and use those as guides to hold the threaded rod that goes inside the spool).




and my favorite picture of the whole post:


Well that catches us up to March 8th 2013, leaving me still just barely over a year behind. Clearly I need a combination of blogging more often and to stop using my RepRap. 🙂

See you in the next post.