posts tagged with the keyword ‘3dprinting’


Phoenix Connector Mount

Years ago my grandfather had shop in the basement, and he made things. He made doll furniture, and (wooden) snow shoes, and household items, and of course, lots of sawdust. My dad also had a work shop, and made many of the same things, and also made full-size furniture for our house. They both invested in tools over the years to make things.

I don’t think anyone ever said to them “You’ve got all these tools, and this great work shop, and you make doll furniture!?”

If you’re a Maker (and they both were) sometimes the joy is in the making… in the process… but it can also be the joy that comes from giving a gift to someone that you made yourself.

Phoenix Connector Mount

I like making things as well. Sometimes I just use my hands and some tools and whatever raw materials are on hand, but I also really like designing things using software that can then be fabricated by machines. I don’t consider this any less “making”, by the way.

I think I enjoy designing useful things in the same way I used to enjoy writing code. There was a problem to be solved, and if I could do it, or help do it, I would… and if solving a problem once for yourself can solve it for others in the future, even better. Most people agree that it doesn’t make sense to solve a problem that’s already been solved.

Phoenix Connector Mount

During a recent project someone needed to mount this Phoenix Connector to something, and a piece of Aluminum was found, and a square(ish) hole was made, and some holes were drilled, and there was probably some filing involved, but in the end, it worked, and that’s fine.

In my mind though, this was a problem that could be solved by designing and fabricating a part. Now, if this was a one-off, it might not matter as much, but if we build another one of these things, or use these connectors again, why spend time cutting and drilling and filing a piece of metal when we’ve got a 3D Printer in the shop?

Phoenix Connector Mount

To me, the promise of digital fabrication isn’t always about doing it the fastest, or the cheapest, but it’s about precision and repeatability. If Bob down in the shop can crank out a mount in 10 minutes, and it’s good enough, that’s great. But if Ted, and Laura, and Tim can take a file that I designed, and spit one out with a 3D Printer on a whim, and it’s the same every single time, that’s valuable. The knowledge and skill needed to create something is shared and distributed. Long after Bob and Ted and Laura and Tim leave the shop, someone could still make the thing, multiple time, precisely, because the problem was solved long ago.

I’m not dismissing hands-on making skills, or in any way suggesting digital fabrication is always a better choice, but in some cases, I think that if applied properly it can make things… better.

You can find Phoenix Connector Mount on Thingiverse and Youmagine.


Laser Pointer Switch

I modeled a laser pointer switch which you can use with your cheap laser pointer to turn it on and do stupid things like throw it in the air while doing long exposure photography. (Actually, that’s not a bad idea! Or is it?)

Laser Pointer Switch

OK, these are really part of the Laser Maze we’ll be running at Maker Faire Milwaukee this year. The last thing I did for Laser Maze was the mounts, but Vishal is still doing most of the hard work on this project. (Thanks, Vishal!)

Laser Pointer Switch

If you want one, you can grab it from Thingiverse or Youmagine. And remember kids, laser are dangerous, don’t just go pointing those things around!

Laser Pointer Switch



Typically when I model 3D object with OpenSCAD I tend to create things that are simple and functional, but I had to create a piece that had some extra decoration to it, and wow did it slow OpenSCAD to a crawl!

I know about the special variable $fn, but I didn’t know about $fa and $fs, so I’ll have to start using those as well to see if they can speed things up. (I usually use $fn to go between “low res” and “high res” when it comes to rendering.)

OpenSCAD probably isn’t the easiest modeling software to use (unless you like writing code) but I like the fact that it’s open source, gets updated fairly often, is parametric, has lots of great info on using it, and there are a ton of free libraries for doing interesting things.

I was using Rhino quite a bit earlier this year, and while the Mac OS X version is now ready, it’s $300 for a limited time, and $500 after that, and is somewhat crippled compared to the Windows version. It can do some amazing things, so I’m still contemplating a license for it… Or I may find something else (open source, perhaps?) that fits the bill.

(I’ll probably be post more about 3D software in the near future.. Stay Tuned!)



Over at the museum we do these monthly maker nights called MakeShift where we do demos and hands-on, DIY activities in BAMspace, which is our in-museum makerspace. These are adult-only events… that we happen to hold in a children’s museum, at night, with alcohol.

Back in March we did a Nerf Night, and we did things like make our own darts, modified Nerf guns (to make them more powerful) and then had a Nerf War. People seemed to like it, so we decided not to skip doing a MakeShift in July, and instead punted and went with another Nerf War, and this time we just focused on running around like maniacs and shooting each other. It was a blast! (And yes, we will definitely do it again!)

I wasn’t sure everyone would want to play with Nerf guns the entire time, so I 3D printed a few piece so we could play air hockey on one of our exhibits. Word Headquarters features these long skinny tables with jets of air that move tiles, and it seemed like all that was missing were a few paddles and pucks.


I grabbed a puck from Thingiverse and printed it scaled down just a bit. It moved great on the side that was printed on the glass, but the other side was not smooth enough, so I did a bit of sanding to help things out.


I then printed some paddles from Thingiverse to knock the puck around with. Again, they were scaled down to match the size of the table.

Air Hockey

Here’s the pieces. I made a set for each of the two air tables in the exhibit. Below you can see a few visitors taking a break from shooting each other to play a game of air hockey. I’ve left the parts in BAMspace in case you’re ever at the museum and feel like a quick game of air hockey.

Air Hockey

Oh, and if you want to see a ton more photos of the Nerf War action, check out John McGeen’s blog post MakeShift: Nerf Night II.


Button Guard

While plenty of people tend to print baubles and trinkets with 3D printers, I tend to focus on solving problems by designing and printing usable things. A few weeks ago I designed these Lenovo IdeaCentre Power Brick Mounts and this week I created some button guards.

Button Guard

I was working on an audio player at the museum and Kathy mentioned that it was too easy to lean back and hit your head on a button which would either restart your book, or start another book, so I made this simple guard to put on the buttons before screwing them into place. Luckily we had filament that matched the color of the enclosure, so it looks pretty good.

Button Guard

If you’re using any of these buttons and need a guard, check out Thingiverse or Youmagine. The OpenSCAD code is fairly simple, so it should be possible to modify it for other buttons if needed.

« Older Entries |

buy the button:

Buy The Button

top recent artists: