My last mold making experiment was a good experiment, and if I learned one thing, it’s that the mold should be flexible to allow for the removal of the piece you are casting without destroying the mold or the casting. (Duh!) Instead of ABS I decided to print a mold using flexible filament. Now, to print flexible filament I had to do a small modification to my extruder lever to allow the insertion of a piece of PTFE tubing so that the filament wouldn’t bend over before it fed into the feed gear. Once I did that, I was printing flexible filament (very slowly.)

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I decided to start with something less complex, and used a 2.5D object instead of a 3D object. I had an illustration of a hammer, which seemed to be a simple shape, with no weird inside parts or sharp corners. I started by opening the vector file in Inkscape.

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Once I had the file open I used Inkscape’s dynamic offset feature to extend the shape into a larger piece so I’d have “walls” for my mold.

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I did a Boolean difference between the original and the scaled part to get the wall piece, with the wall pieces being approximately 4mm wide.

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I also created a bottom plate that the wall piece would attach to. I did not make it fit with pins or any other alignment method, I just ended up using tape to hold the pieces together.

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Here are the modeled pieces. The wall piece was easy enough to flex around, but seemed strong enough to hold up for the casting.

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And here are the printed pieces. The flexible filament did not print as well as PLA does, and there were some rough parts on the top of the walls, but it wasn’t going to matter for these purposes.

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I put the two pieces together and applied some masking tape to hold them. Since I was going to use plaster I knew that it didn’t have to be too water-tight to hold the plaster in place.

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I then filled the vessel with the plaster. (Yeah, I have a big bag of plaster on hand for weird reasons, so I occasionally use it, though eventually I want to use concrete for these experiments.)

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After letting the plaster dry for a few days I removed the tape and then pulled off the bottom…

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…and then was able to flex the wall piece enough to get the plaster out of the mold, so that worked pretty well. Again, this was not a complex shape, which really helped as I just had to push the piece straight down through the mold.

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And here’s my (tiny) plaster hammer. I like how it turned out. The edges are not perfect, but then, what is, Right?

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I ended up making two of them, and with one I found that it was fairly easy to shape the edges using tools, so my 2.5D hammer (sort of) became a 3D hammer.

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Yes, I know it’s July, but it’s time for the May update because summer is so busy that’s just how it works.

In May I went to the Madison Mini Maker Faire and we ran out Design & Build Derby (formerly known as “Nerdy Derby”) and kids and adults had fun. It was not as busy as previous years, which was good, because the number of volunteers was down, but as always, Adrian from Milwaukee Makerspace did an amazing job! If you missed it, check it out at Maker Faire Milwaukee.

Right after Madison it was time for Maker Faire Bay Area. I was able to join the Power Racing Series gang and assist with running the races. I think I can now say that straw bales may be worse than tires. The straw is very irritating. The race was fun, and I got to see a good amount of the Faire (but not everything, I mean, there’s a lot to see!) I also got to attend the Bring a Hack event, and if you don’t already know that Drew is awesome, you should know that now.

Also in May, I went to an event that shared the findings from the State of Urban Manufacturing Report. It was interesting how it relates to the “Maker Economy” and individuals and small businesses making and selling products.

I also went to the Meet the Meetups and it was interesting but difficult due to the crowded venue. I still got to see some old friends and talk to a few people about the Milwaukee tech scene, so that was good. Hopefully it can be a bit more spacious next time. We offered to do another Meet the Meetups at Maker Faire Milwaukee, but I don’t think there is enough interest in it…

I also did a tour of Milwaukee Blacksmith with BLK SHP Milwaukee. Ken is a great speaker as well as a great blacksmith, and it was cool to see what he’s built over the years for his family and the community. If you haven’t checked them out yet, add it to your list.

Besides all that I worked on a lot of components for a new museum exhibit, 3D printed a lot of parts for a giant sculpture, and a few other things, but we’ll cover that in future posts… As always, if you want to see a glimpse of things I’m working on, check out Instagram.

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Milwaukee Makerspace has a weekly meeting every Tuesday at 7pm. We go over upcoming events, new stuff happening at the space, and we show off projects and welcome guests. And there’s one more thing we do… we recognize awesomeness.

In an effort to make members aware of the fact that nothing happens at the space without a member doing it, we typically have a segment of the meeting where any member (or guest) can stand up and publicly thank another member for doing something awesome, or being awesome. Sometimes this might happen if a member sees another member take out the trash, or empty a vacuum cleaner, or it might happen if someone takes the time to help someone with their project, or to train them on a piece of equipment.

Milwaukee Makerspace has no employees, and no staff, and everyone who is a member is expected to volunteer in some way. Seven of the members volunteer to be on the Board of Directors. and they pay the same dues everyone else does, and besides helping to run the space, they help when and where they can. Some members serve as Area Champions, and are in charge of a specific area of the space, and get to make the rules there, and also get a budget and yet others don’t want any official responsibility, but are more than willing to pitch in when cleaning is needed on Space Improvement Day.

It’s common to hear someone stand up at a meeting and say “I want to thank Harvey for emptying all the trash cans today.” or “Thanks to Tom for getting us [insert name of tool he got on auction for super-cheap]!” And after a few meetings you start to see who the people are that are regular contributors to the space, and you come to value those people.

Members are always free to call out others on the mailing list when they are excellent, but there is something special about being recognized at a meeting, in person. Typically there’s some applause for the person being recogznied, and hopefully it makes them feel good about their contributions.

In the end, it’s one more way we’ve tried to help build a community of makers, and not just be a building full of tools and weird stuff.

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BuzzBuzz is a device that makes noise and light using electricity (somewhere around 40,000 volts, approximately.) There are five “high voltage generators” connected to buttons that when pressed cause them to create a spark with a loud “ZAP!” and then continue to make noise (and light) while the button is held down.

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BuzzBuzz was heavily inspired by something Mario the Maker created. I had one of the high-voltage generators for a while and was planning to do something with it. I had an idea for a project and had started on it, but once I saw this thing I altered my plans.

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The size of BuzzBuzz was somewhat dictated by the size of materials I had on hand, or could easily get at no cost. The top piece of clear acrylic is from a bulk buy at Midland Plastics where many of the members of Milwaukee Makerspace shop for scrap pieces. Since I had that piece of clear acrylic, it pretty much determined the size of the top of the enclosure.

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For the walls of the enclosure I grabbed some 16mm thick plywood from the scrap bins at Milwaukee Makerspace. There’s a local tool & die company that donates these pieces to us. They are long and skinny and always have these weird laser cut marking on them, because they use them for calibrating their lasers. I wanted to see if I could cut through the 16mm plywood with the 130 watt laser cutter I have access to. Indeed, it could! At 4mm per second, which is probably the slowest we should cut at. The cuts were not the greatest, but it was more a matter of “Hmmm, will this even work!?” than anything else.

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You’ll also notice the hexagonal holes on the sides. Those are “sound holes” since my first assembly demonstrated that the box fully closed up was too quiet, so I decided to add holes that the sound could spill out of. It also adds a nice look, and if you associate the “Buzz” in the name with bees, and notice the holes are hexagonal, well, it all fits.

I mounted the AA batteries on the outside so that you can easily see the power source (it’s interesting that 40,000 volts AC can be produced by just 4.5 volts DC) and so that I can easily change batteries without opening the thing. There are two battery packs because one tended to drain too quickly. I may add an AC adapter in the future so that I can convert AC to DC to AC.

(One more fun fact: The battery holders were one of the most problematic parts of this project. I wasted more time trying to get these cheap battery holders to work. The spacing and springs kept making it so the batteries did not make good contact. I started with a 5-pack of battery holders and trashed two of them just trying to modify them to work. Luckily I got two of them working well enough.)

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I designed and 3D printed the parts that hold down the high-voltage generators and also allow for bolts to be inserted to carry the electricity. (The design of these parts was inspired by the structures that hold overhead power lines.) The bolts can be screwed in or out to adjust the gap, which gives different results for the zap. I started with the narrowest gap and then did the widest gap, and then calculated the three distances in-between. (For the widest gap, you don’t want to go too wide, because if it can’t properly spark, it’ll burn out the unit.)

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As you may know, I design 3D objects with OpenSCAD. Once I had my object completed, I did a projection to get what it would look like from a top view. This is the 3D version of that.

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I then render it into a 2D version I can export as an SVG file. This allowed me to easily do the layout needed for the laser cut parts.

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Here’s a top view. The reddish parts will be cut from the top clear acrylic panel and hold the buttons as well as an old SparkFun key switch I had in my parts bin. The grey pieces are for the bottom part of the enclosure which hold the high-voltage generators and the mounts. I ended up printing a full-scale paper version and using it as a template to mark the holes that needed to be drilled. It did not have to be prefect, so close enough was fine.

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For the construction, there are some screws on the bottom to hold the bottom pieces to the two side pieces, and then the front and rear panels can slide into place and get held in by just one screw on each side. This is not the most elegant, but I realized somewhere along the build process that I did not have a good way to complete assembly or take it apart. This is what I came up with, and it worked well.

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I used two contrasting stains, for a light and dark look, which I think matched the burned laser cut edges, and allowed for making the inside of the enclosure dark so the zappers could light up the inside.

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If you’re wondering why there are two rows of buttons, I really liked the symmetry, but I also wanted something I could use when displaying at a table, so that if you’re behind the table talking to someone, you can demo it and press the buttons on your side, and they can try it with the buttons on their side. (In the museum exhibits business we try to make things that are not single used components, so that more than one person can engage with a thing at a time.)

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While this was a bit of a rush to get done by Bay View Gallery Night, and like most projects, there are things I maybe would have done differently (or at least in a different order) I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I also brought it to Milwaukee Makerspace to show off and got a lot of positive feedback.

Here’s a video showing operation of the BuzzBuzz. It was difficult to capture on file (well, solid state memory) exactly what it looks like, so this is an approximation. You’ll probably want to see it in person to appreciate the full power of this battlestation device.

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We the Builders is a project that uses crowdsourced 3D printing to assemble large sculptures. For the most recent build, they decided to celebrate the contributions and diverse identities of women and non-binary makers by scaling up a sculpture of Rosie the Riveter to monument-size and printing her in a spectrum of skintones. The sculpture will be over six feet tall and made up of 2,625 parts.

I posted about this on the Milwaukee Makerspace Facebook page and asked for people interested in helping, and a woman named Gwen was interested. Seems her grandmother was an actual “Rosie” back in the day. We met up at Milwaukee Makerspace and tried to print a piece for her, and because 3D printing is full of failure, did not succeed.

So I printed it at home. And then I printed more for me, and more for her, and in total I think we did 10 parts. Sadly had to hit the road for BAMF so I didn’t get to print more, but it looks like (as of writing this) there are less than 250 pieces and we’ve still got five days.

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When Gwen showed up to pick up the pieces (she offered to ship them) she was wearing an awesome Rosie shirt depicting the sculpture, so I asked her to get a photo of it with the pieces, and she did!

Sadly I will not be making it to NOMCON to assist with assembly, but I look forward to seeing the final piece, and hear about what happens next with the Nation of Makers. (I will be at BAMF though, so I hope to see other #WeTheBuilders people there!)

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