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3D “Drawing” Pens

3D Drawing Pens

There’s a number of so-called “3D Printing Pens” on the market now, or coming soon, though in reality I think they should be called “3D Drawing Pens”. I mean, you don’t have a “2D Printing Pen” do you? Pens are for drawing, they are not printers that print.

I know a lot of people are excited about these things, thinking it’s the cheapest way to get into 3D Printing (if they work) because you’ve probably seed some amazing photos of things people are creating with these things…

Well, here’s my thought on these pens:

If you’re terrible at drawing in two dimensions, you’re probably going to be terrible at drawing in three dimensions.

Yeah, if you’re a skilled artist who knows how to work a pen, you might make some awesome things. That’s how art works, but don’t expect to pick one of these up and create a masterpiece the first time.

That said, I do think these “3D Drawing Pens” are interesting, and I look forward to see where they go, and I await an open hardware version.

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Mold Making

I’ve been digging into OpenSCAD lately and managed to come across this Flickr photo with the most minimal of explanation of how to do a reverse object in OpenSCAD, but it was all I needed…

Space Invader SVG

I started with the SVG file of the classic Space Invader character, sized to the width and height I wanted, and then exported it from Inkscape as a DXF file.

Space Invader STL

Once we’ve got the DXF we can pull that into OpenSCAD and extrude it into a 2.5 dimensional object. (It might be 3 dimensional, but I’m not going to argue 2.5D versus 3D right now.)


linear_extrude(height = 10, center = false) import("spaceinvader.dxf");

After we compile the code we can then export our object as an STL file. We can then pull that STL file into OpenSCAD again for the next step…

Space Invader STL (reversed)


difference() {
	translate([40,42,2.5]){
		cube([90,70,14.5], center=true);
	}
	# import("spaceinvader.stl", center=true);
}

You’ll need to tweak those numbers of course, and as for the # at the start of the import line, that’s to show us the object even when we can’t see it, as it were… sort of. It’s an OpenSCAD trick I learned from Mark Finn at BarCampMilwaukee.

So now that we’ve got the object dropped into a block (at the proper height) we can then export it as an STL file, which could be cut on a CNC machine, or 3D printed.

Space Invader G-code

I’ve not yet attempted to 3D print this, and I’ve had not much luck in printing things that are water-tight. I might try getting some silicone to coat the piece which would make it water-tight, and food-safe.

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MKE3DP – 3D Printer Fans Unite!

MKE3DP

As you may know, I finished my RepRap recently. But here’s the thing, you never really finish a RepRap. It’s a beast in need of endless tweaking. So yeah, it’s a never-ending project (if you want it to be) and I’m okay with that. I mean, once you get to the point that it works, you can start using it to upgrade itself. How many tools can do that!?

Of course you can actually make useful things, functional things, or just pretty things. There’s a lot a 3D Printer can do. I’ve only been at it for less than a year and I’ve still got a lot to learn.

So anyway, yeah, I’m really enjoying this 3D Printing stuff… so I figured, why not share it with others? So join us for the first Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup! We’ll be meeting on Sunday, July 1st, 2012 at 1:00pm. We won’t be at our space because we’ve partnered with our friends at UWM for this one! Show up at UWM’s Kenilworth Square East Building, 3rd Floor; Room 368 on 1925 E. Kenilworth Place.

If you’ve got a 3D Printer, bring it, or just show up and learn about them. If things go well and there’s interest, maybe we’ll turn it into a regularly scheduled meeting.

(More info? It’s also on the Milwaukee Makerspace site and you can RSVP on Facebook if you want to see who else will be there.)

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Leap Motion

Say goodbye to your mouse and keyboard.

The Leap Motion looks interesting. OK, it looks awesome. Sort of… I mean, I’m all for “new” interfaces for computers, but the whole “say goodbye to your mouse and keyboard” bit? I don’t buy it, and I don’t want to buy it. More accurate than a mouse? Again, I’m not convinced. And as for the “more natural” part of it, while it’s true I’ve been using my hands and fingers my entire life, I’ve been using a keyboard for more than 30 years, and a mouse for over 20 years, and at this point, it’s pretty damn natural. Nothing feels “unnatural” to me about using a keyboard and mouse. If something better comes along, I’d be happy to try it. The iPad does a really good job of using a touch interface, and for specific tasks, it’s wonderful, and much better than a keyboard and mouse, though I feel a lot of that has to do with how and where I use an iPad.

In the air

I’m not really sure how signing your name or writing in thin air is natural or better/easier that the alternatives. Sure, it looks like it could be fun, and I do see the possibilities for new things, but I made the joke(?) yesterday that what we really need is a method of using computers that requires us to keep our arms in the air for 10 hours a day. I know we should all use standing desks and be on the move, but I also really like sitting at a desk, supporting my arms, and using a keyboard and mouse. For the great majority of what I do with a computer, it works well.

Alright, with my complaining out of the way, I’ll heap on the praise now. I love this thing. The Leap Motion opens up some possibilities. We’ve played with 3D scanning using the Kinect and while it sort of works, it could be better. Hell, if the Leap Motion can do at least as good as the Kinect at 1/3rd the price, I’m sold. (Also, it’s not a Microsoft product, so it earns points there as well!) I can also see using the Leap Motion with Processing as a great physical computing device. Yeah, I’m excited. $70? That’s cheaper than some Logictech mice!

So while I’m not ready to ditch my keyboard and mouse yet, I can see some great possibilities in the Leap Motion. I’m not exactly ready to (pre-)order one yet, as it’s sort of vaporware at this point, and they don’t expect to ship until December 2012 or January 2013. That’s 7 to 8 months out, without any dates slipping. (Dev kits may be out in 1 to 3 months, so there’s a chance we may get a better idea of what it can really do at that point.) The pre-order thing makes it feel like a really long Kickstarter campaign, so I’m taking a “wait and see” approach on this. Things move fast, and who knows, within 6 months a competitor may come along with something better. Still, it’s damn interesting.

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Convert all the files!

Convert all the files!
Thanks Tom!

It seemed like a simple enough request… While at Milwaukee Makerspace we were discussing creating snowflakes on the Laser Cutter, and I mentioned that there should be some existing art on OpenClipArt.org, but it was down that night, so I jumped over to Thingiverse and found this snowflake.

As a bit of background, I’ve been pretty damn good at file conversions in the past. Audio, video, markup, raster images, anything 2D has been pretty simple. I mean, I’ve been using Photoshop since version 1.0.7. I know how to deal with that stuff… but 3D? It’s a whole new nightmare world!

Snowflake

The file was an STL, which is meant for 3D printing, but we needed more of a 2D vector file. I know how to load a DXF file into the Laser Cutter, so I figured I’m import this STL into Google Sketchup (via a plugin) and then export as a DXF (via another plugin) and that would be it.

Well, that didn’t work. (Oh, and by “didn’t work” I mean I was unable to open the DXF file in Inkscape. At this point I was still waiting to use the Laser Cutter so I didn’t get to try importing it on that machine. I figured that as long as I was waiting, I’d try to get a format I knew would work.) On to the next idea.

I exported the STL from Google Sketchup as a DAE file, and was able to open that in MeshLab. Once again I tried a DXF export, but that one wouldn’t open in Inkscape either. Argh!

Snowflake

So I made a radical decision… Since I could view the file in MeshLab, I just did a screen shot so I could get a nice, clean 2D version of it.

Snowflake

Of course if I had known I was going to do this, I probably could have just done it in Google Sketchup by altering the view… Still, the MeshLab method seemed solid.

Snowflake

I then took the screen shot and opened it in Photoshop, did a little editing, and converted it to black and white. (I considered creating paths, and exporting them, but at this point I wanted to go with what I knew (or thought) would work, and that meant getting a clean PNG file into Inkscape to convert it from a raster to a vector file via trace bitmap.

Snowflake

So finally, I had my SVG file! A vector file I could open in Inkscape and export as a clean DXF file that I was reasonable sure would open and work on the Laser Cutter…

Snowflake

Oh wait, at some point along the way I had created an OpenSCAD file, to test the other DXF files. They wouldn’t render due to some weirdness, but the new one I exported from Inkscape did. This made me feel a little more secure that this file would work.

So how did it turn out? I don’t know!

The Laser Cutter was in use making ornaments, and I couldn’t stay late enough to get a chance to use it.

And just to be clear… while there were many steps in the process above, the whole thing took about 20 minutes from the first file export to getting what seemed to be a good DXF file.

I’ve converted a lot of files in my time, but doing so for these CNC machine is proving to be a new challenge.

Of course half the fun is seeing if it will work, you know, on the machine… which I hope to test at some point. :)