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Printrbot

Printrbot

You’ve heard me say that 3D Printing is the Future, and I’ve talked about the MakerBot, RepRap, and other 3D printers, but fairly recently, a new project called “Printrbot” launched, and more specifically, they launched on Kickstarter, where their goal was to raise $25,000 and when the campaign ended they raised $830,827. (3,323% funded!)

You could say there’s a lot of interest in 3D printing…

And 3D printing moves fast! I received a MakerGear RepRap Prusa Mendel about a month and a half ago, and I’m still building it.

When I say “I’m still building it” I should clarify that I only get at most a few hours each week. I’ve been told you can assemble the entire thing in a weekend if you skip meals and sleep. :)

But supposedly the Printrbot can be assembled in an afternoon. And it’s smaller, and lighter, and cheaper. All good things. I’ve heard a few questions as to the speed, print quality, etc. of the Printrbot, but I’m fairly confident it’s well designed and will be comparable to the other 3D printers in it’s price class (even though it’s probably the cheapest right now.)

At Milwaukee Makerspace we’ve got a member with a MakerBot Cupcake, I’m building a Prusa Mendel, and I’ve heard that one member backed the Printrbot project and should have one of those when they’re available.

Oh, I should also mention that a goal of the Printrbot is “a printer in every home (and school)” so right there, I’m a fan… and a backer.

If you’ve ever thought 3D printing was too expensive, keep an eye on the Printrbot project, and see what they can do to change your mind.

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Simplfying STL Files with MeshLab

Cow (Sketchup)

So back when I first used the MakerBot at Milwaukee Makerspace, my daughter asked me to make her a cow. (The kid likes cows!) Since my 3D modeling skills were not up to the task (and still aren’t, at least not for a cow) I found a cow in the Google 3D Warehouse and brought it into Sketchup.

It looked fine, so I exported it as an STL file and did a print. A very small print. It looked OK (but not great) and since it was small there wasn’t really much detail.

Since then I’ve looked at other files in the Google 3D Warehouse, but since most of stuff there is for screen display and not 3D printing, things tend to be very complex, at least in the well done models. More complex than might be needed for a 3D print, at least from the Makerbot.

I’m still pretty new at this 3D modeling stuff, but simplifying the model seems to be what we want. In the 2D world I’ve been doing the same sort of thing for 20 years, but in 3D? It’s new ground.

Enter MeshLab!

From the MeshLab web site: “MeshLab is an open source, portable, and extensible system for the processing and editing of unstructured 3D triangular meshes. The system is aimed to help the processing of the typical not-so-small unstructured models arising in 3D scanning, providing a set of tools for editing, cleaning, healing, inspecting, rendering and converting this kind of meshes.”

I’m mainly interested in using it to reduce the complexity of 3D models.

Cow Original (MeshLab)

Here is the STL file I created from the original cow in Sketchup, as seen in MeshLab.

Cow Reduced (MeshLab)

Here is the same file after reducing the complexity using the Quadratic Edge Collapse Decimation filter. I still feel like it’s a bit of black magic figuring out exactly what numbers to use, and what checkboxes to check, but this is what I used for this one:

MeshLab Settings

I’m fairly pleased with the results (though I haven’t tried to print it yet) but now that I’ve got a (loose) handle on mesh reduction, I’ll dig into the tutorials on YouTube from MrPMeshLabTutorials, including this one on Decimation.

(Of course I still wish MeshLab had an Undo function.)

Oh, and if you really want to 3D print a cow, this recently added to Thingiverse cow is probably the one you want. :)

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Key Kitty Klone

Key Kitty

Recently I came across a link that someone shared for this story about the “Key Kitty” which is a cute little kitty shaped keychain that is also a weapon. With all the debate about weapons on Thingiverse, I thought I’d try an experiment.

So here’s what I did… using nothing more than the two photos above, I decided to try to clone the design, and create my own with a 3D printer.

Key Kitty Template

I took the photo of the pink Key Kitty above and created a greyscale version of it, and then imported it into Inkscape. I then traced around it to create a SVG file that approximated the outline. Now, the Key Kitty is a pretty simple object, it’s basically a two dimensional object with some height to it, so the process was fairly easy.

Key Kitty Test

At this point I printed out the SVG file at actual size to see how it would fit on my fingers. It didn’t have to exactly match the original, but it did have to fit right.

OpenSCAD Kitty

Once I tested the paper prototype and decided it was the correct size, I exported the design to a DXF file and imported it into OpenSCAD and extruded it.

Key Kitty STL

Finally, here’s the STL file of our Key Kitty Klone, ready to be printed. It will just fit on the platform of the MakerBot Cupcake. (And because someone asked, no… I had no plan to make it into an LED flashlight as well. I was just interested in copying the basic shape.)

So wait, where is the actual print? Well, the night I tried printing it was the night of many woes, and I had two failed attempts at printing it, and with a two hour print time estimate, I ended up not leaving the makerspace with a real printed object. I’m also not 100% sure I should share the files. I mean, there’s the whole issue of the legality of cloning products, and I’m not really sure I want to be a test case on this one.

But I figured I couldn’t end this post without a bit more research. I found references to keykittytv.com, but there’s no web site, and it looks like the domain expired back in August 2011. I did find this great Key Kitty video from 2010 though. There’s also a Facebook page and Twitter account, both of which have had no updates for 10 months. For all I know, the company behind this product went bankrupt and closed up shop. Of course this just brings up more questions about cloning it. In the end though, I could just make some changes and call it the Key Bat or Key Bunny, or whatever… all it needs are some eye-holes for your fingers, and some pointed ears.

So here’s my question to you… What do you think about the cloning of existing products?

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Woes in Plastic

Lens Gear

Bleargh!!! Sorry, had to get that out…

I seemed to be able to do nothing right last night at Milwaukee Makerspace. I joked that the only thing I was able to make was a mess. Besides hot-gluing my own thumb (though not my ass) and having many MakerBot failures, I was able to print two things, though even those two didn’t turn out that great. I’m getting a bit frustrated with the MakerBot Cupcake, and the mysteries of Skeinforge aren’t helping.

I’m waiting for MakerGear to ship my RepRap Prusa Mendel, which of course will require assembly, and configuration, and ten other weird things, but hopefully at the end I’ll have better prints than the Cupcake. Don’t get me wrong, the Cupcake is fun, but it’s also frustrating.

So I printed the 70mm lens gear, even though I really need one that’s about 85mm, just because I’ll be using a follow focus next week, and I want to see if this works. The gear teeth look good, even if the print itself did not turn out great.

Bottle Opener

I also tried this bottle opener, and again, while it is OK, it’s definitely not great. It looks pretty sloppy. The weird bits in the centr are the Milwaukee Makerspace logo, which was way too small to even attempt to print. It also filled in some of the hole areas a bit, which I had to remove the plastic from. That may be due to me editing the STL in Sketchup and creating a new STL with my own edits. I don’t know…

I think I need to take a break from printing things for a bit, and work on some other things. Printing takes a long time, and if it’s the only thing I do at the space, I feel like I’m neglecting other projects. (I did work on my Nutellastruder a bit, of course that led to the hot-gluing of my thumb!)

KinectToStl

Oh, we did play around with KinectToStl a bit. Again, the results were not super-impressive, but it was fun to experiment with it. I didn’t bother to read the instructions, so there may be some good times on making it work better, but that will be something to try another day.

Update: The bottle opener broke while trying to open a bottle. #fail

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3D Modeling Update

3D Model

In the last month I’ve made some progress in my 3D modeling education, so I thought I’d provide an update. (Besides my last post, I got some good feedback on Google+) Oh, and just a reminder, my interest in 3D modeling all has to do with creating objects I can produce with a 3D printer like the MakerBot or the RepRap.

So what am I using (or not using) now? Here’s the list:

Google Sketchup
I’ve made some good progress with Sketchup. A few tutorials (and a lot of playing around) has me creating actual 3D models. You’ll want the STL Importer and STL Exporter to deal with STL files. Sketchup is nice, and I’m sure I’ll end up using it more as time goes on, but it’s not the end of my 3D quest.

Blender
Urgh… I’ve made no progress with Blender. Haven’t even tried. I may just wait until we do a Blender class at Milwaukee Makerspace.

123D
Still no Mac OS X version.

3DTin and Tinkercad
I talked about 3DTin last time. I haven’t used it since, but it still seems like a great way for kids to get into 3D modeling. As for Tinkercad, it seems like a more advanced version of 3DTin. Make: Live covered Tinkercad in Episode 17 if you want to check it out.

Inkscape
Say what!? Inkscape is a 2D drawing application. I’m still using it. I’ll often open vector files (SVG) and export them to DXF files and then extrude those to 3D files. Here’s a great Inkscape to OpenSCAD dxf tutorial that explains it all.

OpenSCAD
I’m still just barely using OpenSCAD, mainly in conjunction with Inkscape as mentioned above. I need to dig in a bit deeper, as time allows.

So what else is there? Well, I found Pleasant3D, which isn’t exactly modeling software, but it’s what ReplicatorG might look like if it were a full-on Mac OS X application. I’ve found it useful on a few occasions.

The other one worth mentioning is MeshLab, which may have some uses when it comes to converting or transforming files. I haven’t created anything with it yet, but it sure looks impressive.

So that’s my 3D modeling software update… Anything new to report from your desktop?