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Prusa MINI+ 3D Printer

This is not really a review of the Prusa MINI+ 3D Printer. There are plenty of full reviews out there. What this is though is a post about my own experience with the Prusa MINI+, at least the first week with it.

First, some background. I am not new to 3D printing. My first post about 3D printing was in 2011. (See them all!) I got my first RepRap working in 2012, and helped start the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup the same year. I was using printers at Milwaukee Makerspace, UWM, and other places around town (including at work) and in 2017 I replaced my ageing RepRap with a Monoprice Maker Select Plus. So I went about five years between printers, which is fitting, because it’s five years later and I just got another printer. (I’m not counting the Creality machine I gave to my daughter or the Maker Select v2 I just gave away to someone I know.) So yeah, I get 3D printing. ;)

So while the Maker Select Plus served me well (after a few upgrades) I wanted something a bit better in the quality department. Years ago I spec’d a Prusa i3 at work to replace an ageing (and often broken) MakerBot and I loved that machine. I basically told everyone I knew to get a Prusa if they could. (They got a whole bunch of them at Milwaukee Makerspace.) The experience was top notch for someone coming from the old RepRap/Pronterface world. Alas, I left that job and left the Prusa behind.

Print quality from the Maker Select Plus was pretty good, but I’m hoping for much better quality from the MINI. One important thing to note is that while the MINI has a smaller bed, it can probably print more reliably across the entire bed. I’ve found that cheap printer with large beds don’t always excel at using the entire bed. Part of this is probably leveling. While I’ve been a gruff old veteran who says “Argh! All ya need is a sheet of paper and some patience to level things!” the probing and leveling system of the Prusa is great. (Yes, I know I could add it to the MSP, and upgrade the firmware to support it and… at this point I really just need to print.

In 2021 I started having to print more quality items that were for sale, and sometimes it was difficult to keep up and get good quality prints. I started eyeing the Prusa MINI again. I finally decided to grab one (after selling some other equipment I didn’t need) and it arrived in less than four weeks, which sounds like a long time but I was expecting 6+ weeks. So that’s a win.

As for the actual experience, here we go. Assembling it was a bit of a pain. I’ve put together two Ender 3 printers and it was very simple. The MINI assembly (while not many steps) kind of sucks. Maybe because I expect a certain level of Prusa experience. Luckily you should only have to do it once. (To be clear, I got the assembled model, so it was just bolting the two halves together, plugging in and routing all the wires, and that was it. Still a painful experience.) Remember how I said “you should only have to do it once”? Well…

After assembly the setup and calibration was great. Excellent experience! The machine walks you through the process very smoothly. I then did a test print found on the included USB drive and it looked good. (I used some Hatchbox filament, not the included Prusament.) So yeah, cool! From opening the box to getting a first print was a little over an hour in my freezing cold basement. I called it a night.

The next night I went down with a file I sliced with PrusaSlicer (which is a really nice piece of software) and get ready to print it but… ERROR! It showed an error on the screen. You can then look up the error code online or scan the QR code with your mobile. Seems the hotend thermistor was having issues. I checked on it, including opening up the enclosure to check the wiring, thinking maybe I didn’t secure things. Again, the wiring is a pain. Ugh. Painful. But at least I was getting used to it. So here’s the deal… It was cold in my basement, and this printer is so smart (ha!) it thought the thermistor had failed because, well… if the reading is that low, something is wrong. The only thing wrong was that I have a basement in Wisconsin. I ended up pointing a space heater at the printer until the thermistor read warm enough to pass the check. (It was honestly just a few degrees, but still.)

Okay, that was the second night. Not great, but a little annoying. I get why they do it, but hey, it’s winter in Wisconsin. I know how cold my basement is. And yes, the cold may affect the print quality. I know that.

Right so time to print! I put in the included USB drive and… nothing. It doesn’t see the thumb drive. Oh hell, now what!? I go upstairs to my computer, insert the drive, and… it’s corrupted itself. Damn. My old printer used SD cards and they always worked. Is this going to be a normal occurrence? I hope not! I reformat the drive, then copy files to it again, and I print. All good. (Note: The drive had been fine since then, as is the other one I use for printing.)

A bit of a rough start, but overall I am really pleased with the machine itself, the experience of using it (apart from the few hiccups at the beginning) and that printing plate is awesome. I was at first worried about the “bubbles” that appeared on the surface, because the (cheap) plates I’ve used with the MSP wear out, but I’ve been told these will last… and they sort of “self heal” after a bit of time. Sweet.

Now of course the real test is when things go wrong. With the Prusa i3 I used at work, it was amazing, but once we had to tear down the extruder to deal with a nasty clog and that was a nightmare. So time will tell as far as how things go when things go wrong. Right now I can pull apart the extruder to remove a clog on my MSP or an Ender 3 in less than ten minutes. For the MINI, well… I don’t know yet. Maybe it won’t clog. (Ha! Just kidding! It will. It’s a 3D printer after all.)

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Scripting Illustrator

I never thought I would write Javascript for Adobe Illustrator but here we are. A script to rename artboards sequentially.

You can grab the script Rename Artboards.jsx from gist.github.com because it’s simply one file and I didn’t feel like making an official repository for it.

Why? I found that at work I was renaming artboards in Illustrator so they’d have sequential file names/numbers when exporting them as separate PNG images. I got sick of doing it manually and found a solution. Since Illustrator is from Adobe I doubted (at first) that it would be easily scriptable, but hey… it is! Well, with Javascript. Meh. Anyway, it was easy enough to find some sample code that was close enough to what I needed.

I started by looking for a solution. This was my first result: How (to) batch rename artboards in Adobe illustrator?

I assumed Illustrator would have some sort of floating script palette, but no… So then I found: How to keep Illustrator Scripts handy?

That page points to Script Panel 2 and Adobe CC Scripts Panel. I’ve tried them both. I think I prefer the second, but both seem to work fine.

This seems pretty handy, so the next time I need to automate some task in Illustrator I’ll have to dig in and see if it can be solved with a script.

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Pocket Operator Album

Hey, I’m recording another album. You may know I recorded three albums as part of the RPM Challenge back between 2008 and 2011, and before that I did other recording, playing, performing, and touring. So this isn’t totally new…

What is new is that I am recording all the “songs” using only Pocket Operators. Those tiny little synths that make bleeps and bloops. I started acquiring a collection of them in the summer of 2021 and at this point I’ve got four of them, and I use three or four in song. Also, all of these songs are short! Nearly all of them are under one minute in length.

I should point out that I am far from the first person to produce a Pocket Operator album. Others have done it, though that really wasn’t the inspiration for this. Basically, someone asked for it! Splorp is (partly) to blame. Yeah, seriously.

Anyway, head on over to peteprodoehl.bandcamp.com/album/po-sounds and grab it if you want it. It’s a “name your price” thing, so it can be free. If you pay for it I’ll probably just use the money to buy more Pocket Operators. Oh, I also plan to keep going, so more songs will be added over time.

Oh, if you prefer these songs with some (uhhh) visuals, you can check out the YouTube Playlist which has some older material not included on the album. (The album versions pull the audio from the video and just do a quick cleanup to make sure the levels are good, but otherwise there is no editing.)

Too lazy to click those links? Just use the player below. If you want to use these songs for anything let me know. There’s a 99% chance I’d be cool with it. If you want me to record something else for you, get in touch with me and we can discuss it.

(Note: This is not a physical album and I’m sure it will not be one in the future. The photo at the top is just a silly graphic I made.)

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S3 Game Controller

Here’s another custom controller that was requested by someone. They were interested in the S1 Rotary Controller but wanted three knobs, and wanted potentiometers instead of encoders. No problem!

I should note that I rushed this one out the door and totally forgot to take a photo of it. I’ve included some renders and sketches below to take the place of photos.

The main edit to the S1 was to widen the device to accommodate three knobs instead of one. The sketch above was used determine the spacing and then this file was used to laser cut the acrylic top surface.

Here’s a photo of the device in use that I got from the customer. It’s attached to his larger game controller with some 3M double sided tape and it controls the X,Y,Z axes for the flight simulation game IL-2 Sturmovik.

I may build another one just so I can get more photos. In the meanwhile, enjoy the renders below.

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Four Button MIDI Box

A musician got in touch with me about building a custom MIDI controller. This one works in conjunction with a Roland TM-2 Trigger Module. The way the TM-2 works is that it has two physical trigger buttons, but you can use two more by pressing a “shift” button so you get a total of four buttons. He said this worked fine for recording, but was not great for a live setup, so wanted a device with four physical buttons to press. He was looking for something about 2″ by 4″ in size.

I asked if he wanted all four buttons in a row, or two rows of two buttons, and we went with the latter. He also wanted buttons closer to 20mm rather than 30mm in diameter so that meant standard arcade style buttons would not work. I found some nice (metal) push buttons thar were solid so we went with those.

Here’s the 2D sketch I provided to the client. These sketches also help me determine the dimensions of the final unit. I basically create these sketches at actual size so I can determine spacing of all of the components. I also use the sketches to get approval from the client.

Like the Handheld 5 Button MIDI Controller we decided to go with a 3D printed enclosure rather than track down an existing metal or plastic enclosure that was the required dimensions.

The one difference from the 2D sketch is that the power LED got moved to the opposite corner just to allow more spacing between components. Speaking of spacing, I do wish I had made this enclosure just a wee bit larger, as stuffing all of the components and wires in was a bit tricky.

Somehow I managed to not take a photo of the power plugged in, but it goes into the smaller socket to the right of the MIDI jack. The LED turns on when power is plugged in.

This was another fun project and I learned a few things in the process. Hopefully the group using this (who makes music described as a “euphoric collision of post-punk, trance, and deconstructed opera”) finds this controller to be useful in their live shows.