posts tagged with the keyword ‘design’



I recently had to design a simple cabinet to serve as a stand for a mill/lathe. I thought about pulling out some rulers and triangles (yes, I used to actually do drafting with pencils and paper) but instead I decided to try using OpenSCAD.


I used specific colors in my design, of course when you actually render a thing in OpenSCAD the color goes away, but you can export the different views just fine without rendering. Here are the various view of the thing. Oh, since OpenSCAD is a “unit-less” thing which mostly outputs in millimeters (at least for STL files) I just assumed the units were inches.


I used the OpenSCAD “scale” feature to scale up the thing by 25.4 times in each direction, which means my 1 millimeter became 1 inch.


But in a real drawing you plan to hand to someone you need dimensions for things. While there’s been some experimentation in adding them, there just doesn’t seem to be an easy way to show dimensions of things in OpenSCAD. I resorted to printing out paper and marking it up… with a pencil.


I probably need to learn how to use FreeCAD for this sort of thing. I’m sure I can easily add dimensions with it. One of the really interesting things about FreeCAD is that it has an OpenSCAD Module. You can import a CSG file which you’ve exported from OpenSCAD, and you can just open .scad files as well.

Much more to explore here… stay tuned!


Adjustable Rectangular Mount v1

I finally got around to creating a parametric version of the 3D printed mount I’ve been using for the past few years. Typically I’d just open a previously designed thing in OpenSCAD, make some adjustments, and export an STL to print. Eventually I realized that I should just create a bunch of variables so I can easily just make minor adjustments each time and not have to do a bunch of find & replace operations.

The result is Adjustable Rectangular Mount v1 which you can find on Thingiverse and Youmagine.

It’s a work in progress, and it still needs some tweaking, but I figured it was worth releasing to the world. (Hey, make it better if you can!) It doesn’t work for all sizes and configurations, but for most of my needs, it’s good enough.

Adjustable Rectangular Mount v1

I should probably do more research on how to improve things by reading through other OpenSCAD code, but as mentioned, you’ve gotta start somewhere. I’ll probably be using this one quite a bit in the future, and I’ll update it as I can.

This mount specifically expects that you can use screws (or bolts) to mount it to a surface you can screw into or drill through. I also often add some double-sided foam tape to the inside of the mount and stick it directly to the object being mounted.


Borrowing a bit from our friends at Bolt Depot, their chart showing US Machine Screw Diameters is helpful, but often I’m designing with Metric units (or a unit-less system that outputs in millimeters) and I need to convert Imperial units to mm. (I tend to do a lot of work using OpenSCAD and Inkscape for 3D printing.)

The chart below allows me to specify screws and bolts and then design holes that will work. For instance, I used a lot of #4 screws, and the chart tells me I need a hole diameter of approximately 2.794mm. Handy!

Size Thread Diameter
Decimal Nearest Fractional Metric
#0 0.06″ 1/16″ 1.524mm
#1 0.07″ 5/64″ 1.778mm
#2 0.08″ 3/32″ 2.032mm
#3 0.09″ 7/64″ 2.286mm
#4 0.11″ 7/64″ 2.794mm
#5 0.12″ 1/8″ 3.048mm
#6 0.13″ 9/64″ 3.302mm
#8 0.16″ 5/32″ 4.046mm
#10 0.19″ 3/16″ 4.826mm
#12 0.21″ 7/32″ 5.334mm
#14 0.24″ 1/4″ 6.096mm

See Also: Millimeters, Inches, Fraction, Decimals


USB Mount

I designed a small part to hold a panel mount USB cable. I started with the Phoenix Connector Mount I briefly mentioned before, and did some quick modifications to make it work with the USB cable.

USB Mount

I designed this thing in OpenSCAD though I did borrow a few elements from another recent model so that I could use 5/8″ #4 screws. The bottom where the screws go in is set to a height that allows the screws to go in just under 1/4″ which is enough to hold, but not enough to go through the material they’ll be screwed into. This is one of the things I love about making custom mounts and brackets, you can configure them to match the hardware you have available.

USB Mount

With many of the things that need (semi) precise placement of things, it takes two to three revisions to get it right. I actually used the second revision because I was in a hurry, but I’ve modified the file so version 3 will be just right next time. (I had the panel mount screw holes just a little too close together. Things flex enough that it works, but it could be better, and will be… next time.)

USB Mount

The first version actually warped quite a bit in printing. It’s a problem we seem to have occasionally with the old MakerBot. It’s always the front left corner of the print. I find that by shifting the print on the bed to the right just a bit often fixes the problem (at least for small prints.)

USB Mount

You can find this design on YouMagine and Thingiverse.



“LaserCut LetterPress” (for lack of a better name) is a project I worked on in 2014/2015 which was an idea to create a full letterpress set using a laser cutter capable of cutting 3mm Baltic Birch plywood. The idea was that the files would be released that allowed anyone with access to a laser cutter (even lower-powered cutters with small beds) to create the set.

I know there are many ways to create things, but at the time I wanted to limit production to one method, and one particularly fast method, vector cutting with a laser cutter. (Note: If you’re fascinated by the production of wood type, check out Moore Wood Type.)

I mentioned some of the process in a post titled Measure Twice, Laser Onceā€¦ but never wrote up the whole thing, so here we go.

LaserCut LetterPress Example Print

The typeface I chose was OpenDyslexic, which was inspired by a friend who is Dyslexic. I also thought it would be interesting to use a typeface that was new, and didn’t exist in the time that wooden type was widely used.

Art Letters

I did the design in Inkscape, creating the letter and the pieces that fit under the letter so it could slide into a tray.

Letter and Tray

Wood is such a wonderful material, except when it isn’t. Tolerances caused a number of issues, but I kept going forward, and didn’t worry too much about having things fit together perfectly. (I won’t say this was my downfall, but I spent a lot of time fighting it.)

Art Letters Tray

Here’s the design for the small tray. Ultimately I wanted a larger tray that had multiple lines so you could do an entire poster. That of course would have required an entire alphabet, and multiples of most letters, and punctuation, and… letterpress is hard.

Oh, somewhere along the way I also started to write code that would generate all the characters needed by outputting the needed SVG files. In theory it was totally doable, but in practice it served as a distraction that I eventually ignored.

Art Letters

With the plan to turn this into a kit that one would assemble, I thought about how one would determine what pieces would go together, and thought that etching the letter onto each piece would be a good idea. (I didn’t get to this step due to being stuck in the prototyping phase.)


Here’s the letter “A” sliding into the small tray I made. Tolerances were good with the first batch of letters, but with subsequent pieces not so much.


You can see a bit of the height difference with this batch of letters…

Height Comparison

…and you can really see it with these. Yes, this is all 3mm wood. Again, as mentioned with the previous post, there can be quite a difference when the layers add up.


I did manage to create enough letters for one of the Arts + Tech Nights at UWM.


And oddly enough, I was able to arrange the letters into “TEACH ART”, which I ended up doing six months after I abandoned this project.

LaserCut LetterPress Example Print

Here’s a few test prints I did. They worked fine, which made me think I may have overthought how “perfect” it had to be. In the process of talking to printmakers (who were very interested in the project) they got me thinking about type height, which is useful for a press (and I considered using these letters on a press) but in the end I think I should have stuck with my “hacker ethic” and just made it work with the minimal amount of success.

I don’t consider this a “failed” project because I learned a lot in the process (and got to meet & work with some awesome people) but I’d love to see someone else run with this idea… or maybe it’s something I’ll pick up again in one form or another.

Remember kids, Keep on Making!

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