Printing versus… Not Printing?

After I posted about my Fan Shelf Brackets I shared it on Facebook, and got the following comment from a friend:

I’ve done that with blocks of wood. I’m not sure the 3D printer adds any value over that.

I didn’t try to add value by using my method (3D printing) over another method (cutting blocks of wood) but I wanted to explain my approach, so I did. you can read my response below:

Great comment! So here’s the deal… Sometimes printing is easier for these things, at least for me. I would need blocks of wood, and I would also need to cut the wood. Now, those things should not be too difficult, but they can be. I have a miter saw in the garage, and to use it I need to open the garage door and move my car back partway into the alley, then use the saw, then move my car back. The miter saw is okay for cutting small pieces of wood, but I don’t always feel comfortable doing that. (I don’t have a real table saw, so that’s not an option for me.)

Once I make the needed cuts I probably have to glue and clamp things, or nail/screw them together. Again, not a huge pain, but it is work. Also, I do need to have wood on hand. (Who am I kidding, I always have scrap around!)

With the printed version, I printed a small test part quickly to see if it would fit, then I printed the larger versions overnight, confident they would fit right based on my test. Since the groove is 6mm wide I would either need to cut a groove that width or stack multiple cuts/pieces and glue them together to get what I needed.

There’s always multiple ways to do things, and honestly, with two 3D printers on hand and plenty of filament, this was the easiest way for me to make this thing.

I’ve been 3D printing things for over a decade now. Have I printed things that might seem silly to print? Sure, and I’m one of those people who mostly does practical printing, not fun decorative things. I once print a shim because it was the easiest way for me to get exactly what I needed. As long as I have a 3D printer I am going to use it for all sorts of things that other people might not. If you’ve got metalworking or woodworking tools and raw materials and feel comfortable and skilled working with those, you might choose to do so. For me personally, modeling and printing a thing makes good sense, and luckily, I still enjoy it.

Note: I think it’s important to pull conversations like this out of the walled garden that is Facebook, so I may do this more often if valuable insight (!?!) warrants it.


A Little Bolt Cutter

I’ve mentioned this before, but I tend to get all my metric hardware from Bolt Depot. I’ve got a good collection of bolts, mainly 3mm, 2.5mm, and 2mm, that I use for electronics projects. I tend to get a bunch of different lengths and go for higher quantities on the more common sizes I use. This means I often don’t have a ton of really short bolts. 10mm or 12mm in length, I’ve got… 4mm to 6mm, not so much.

So last year while planning for a project that needed less than 40 really short 2mm bolts I thought about placing an order for more hardware, but realized that getting what I needed (which I probably wouldn’t use for anything else) was quite expensive when shipping was factored into the cost, so instead I got a bolt cutter!

I grabbed this TEKTON 8 Inch Bolt Cutter and it’s been super handy for making shorter bolts out of the 20mm bolts I rarely use. The description says “Cuts bolts, chain, threaded rod, and heavy gauge wire up to 3/16 in. diameter”. Conversion maths says that 3/16″ equals 4.7625mm. I’ve only used this to cut bolts 3mm or smaller in diameter and honestly even the 3mm is a little tough. But 2mm/2.5mm is just right.

Right now the 8″ cutter is $13 and the 12″ cutter is $32. I’d suggest getting the 12″ if you are okay spending that much and want to cut bolts larger than 3mm in diameter, but for the smaller stuff these 8″ cutter works well. If I’m screwing the bolt into a 3D printed part I don’t even bother fixing up the threads, as they just need to bite into the plastic. If you’re attaching a nut you’ll want to thread one one or more nuts up to the head of the bolt before you cut so you can unscrew them and clean up the threads a bit. (I’m pretty sure I learned that trick from Frankie Flood.)


Kroger Private Selection Salsa

What started out as one of my Critique this label posts on Facebook turned into a full review of this salsa. Some of the comments from others included “Tomatoes are listed 4 times.”, “It’s staunchy design.”, “Pretty generic. Too many fonts…”, and “Tomatillo salsa should not have tomatoes in it.” So here’s my take…

First I’ll start off by saying I bought this because it was on sale for $1.99 USD. I like a good medium salsa, and the “Smoky, Tangy” flavor sounded good. It’s definitely got a smoky flavor to it, though I would call this a “hot” salsa instead of a “medium”. I can handle hot stuff just fine but I really think they should label this hot instead of medium. If they do have a “hot” I don’t think I want it.

My main complaint about this salsa is the amount of liquid content. This is not a “thick and chunky” it’s the opposite, a “loose and watery” or something, though putting that on the label would probably affect sales. I decided to run the salsa through a strainer to get some idea of the amount of liquid in it. See the photo below.

Wow! I got about 5 ounces of liquid, which accounts for more than 25% of the contents of the jar. So even though this salsa was $1.99 USD I really only got a jar that was about 70% full of salsa after the excess liquid removal process. (I also wonder if most of the hotness was in the liquid, because it did not seem as hot after I de-liquified it.)

In conclusion, it’s an okay salsa. Will I buy it again? Probably not. Though the low price was appealing, once I finish the three jars I have (?!?) I’ll probably move on to another brand.


Fan Noise Synth

On a recent trip abroad the wife and I ended up taking an overnight trip for two days & nights and needed to drown out some of the noise at the place we were staying. At home we use the Sleepy Noise Machine which actually plays an audio file of a fan running to create some white noise. We don’t travel with the machine though, so my first thought was to use my iPad to play one of those 10 hour long YouTube videos of a fan running…

Problem 1. The hotel said “Free WiFi” which, you know, there was, but it was not actually connected to the Internet. Whoops. Problem 2. I could have tethered my iPad to my phone for Internet access but since we were traveling abroad the slow data rate and roaming data make that a bad idea. So…

I fired up AudioKit Synth One, screwed around with customizing a square wave, set it to hold the note, and pressed a few keys to get a (satisfying?) imitation fan noise, which you can hear in the video below.

I think I’ll probably just load some suitable audio files onto the iPad before the next trip abroad just to be safe, but I was pleased I came up with a solution when needed.

(When playing the video below you might think “That sounds nothing like a fan!” and, it sort of doesn’t, but trust me, in a hotel room where you want to drown out the noise from the next room… it’s close enough!)


MIDI Controller 4 Button LC

I was contacted by someone who really liked the Four Button MIDI Box I had built but was hoping for a less expensive version, so I built one. The Four Button MIDI Box had some specific design requirements regarding size and power, which made it more expensive, but this version (dubbed “LC” for “Low Cost”) does not have such constraints, uses a different source of power, and different components.

This one actually gets power via Micro USB, so any old cheap phone charger should work just fine. Also, while this specific one only does MIDI out via the 5 Pin DIN port, it is capable of doing MIDI out via USB as well. In fact, it can send different data out of the DIN port and the USB port if desired, which is kind of cool.

I usually start these kinds of projects doing some simple sketches to get an idea of size & scale of things. Once the customer and I agree on things I do a 3D model of the enclosure so it can be 3D printed.

It usually take between two and three prints to get it perfect. Sometimes I just do partial prints of certain parts (like the holes for the jacks) to make sure it’s all good. This time I did the math wrong so I did three prints to get things perfect. (I also printed a spare right away in case it was needed.)

I’m pretty happy about how this one turned out. Leaving a bit more room for wiring inside the enclosure really helps. I also used silicone wiring which is more flexible and easy to shove into place. In fact, I may build another one right away and add it to the shop in case someone else wants one.