posts tagged with the keyword ‘design’


Three Motor Holders

While I usually describe 3D printing to people with something like “you can make beautiful things that are art, or functional things like parts” I’ve been printing a lot of parts lately (thought I still print pretty things!)

The parts I’m printing are of my design, for things I am building, and they often have to fit existing real-world objects. The process usually involves measure thing with calipers to get dimensions, and then designing things in 3D software. (I’m leaning more towards OpenSCAD latley, as opposed to Sketchup.)

If you’re just downloading and printing objects from Thingverse, they’ll (hopefully) work on the first try, but if you’re doing everything on your own, it may take a few tries.

I wanted to print a small motor mount for this DC motor that Adafruit sells. So I got out the calipers and went to work.

Motor in the second holder

For the first attempt (see top photo) I completely screwed up by using the inside dimensions (where the motor should fit) as the outside dimensions. Stupid mistake! On my second attempt I got it right, and the motor fit almost perfectly.

Motor in third holder

On the third iteration I made minor adjustments to the outer walls, and I also added an “air hole” on the top. The motor has two slots in the body which I assume draw air into it to prevent overheating. (You can see I know very little about motor design right now.)

Motor and holder

Back in June when the guys from MakerBot stopped by Milwaukee Makerspace, I talked to Skimbal, and asked how many revisions he went through when designing things, and he said about two or three. I was impressed by this because last year I tried designing a real-word replacement part and I think I made about ten versions of it. Of course part of this was my lack of 3D skills, and part of it may have been issues with the old CupCake I was using.

Motor in the holder

So I’m pretty happy with the fact that I can get a good version of a part in just a few tries now. (Though I should admit that I’m not happy with the slots for the screws, and may end up tweaking things a bit more, which is pretty darn easy in OpenSCAD.)

When I was talking to someone about 3D printers this summer, they didn’t see the point of having one at home when there were so many companies that allowed you to upload a design and would print it and ship it to you. Here’s where a home 3D printer shines; I can measure a part, get a prototype printed, test it, and print another version all in a single afternoon. Now that’s rapid prototyping!

And a mirror holder!

Oh yeah, I also printed a mirror holder. It took just two revisions to get one that worked well.


Laser-cut wood

I was at Milwaukee Makerspace, using the laser cutter (that I adore so much) and another maker asked me some questions, and then offered their thoughts. This was nothing new, and it’s a welcomed thing. Often you’ll get suggestions or ideas for future projects (or the one you’re currently working on.)

The maker was looking at what I was doing (making a laser-cut spool) and said he would probably use a band saw to cut the wood, and find a large dowel to put in the middle. That’s definitely one way to do it.

He guessed about how much time I spent on my method, and if you count the file-diddling his estimate was probably low, and I’m fine with that.


But hey, it’s all about perspective, right? I’m comfortable with software, and I like learning and designing things, so I don’t mind picking up new skills in solid-modeling and file conversions. These are skills I’d like to improve, as I plan to use them again and again. If I was just picking up a piece of wood and going at it with a saw… that’s not very enjoyable to me. I’m also not very good at it.


So instead of just finding a piece of wood and making it work with a saw, I prefer the process I took. I found something close enough to what I wanted, modified it to be exactly what I wanted (and along the way got help from another maker (Gary) and learned more about OpenSCAD) and after some tweaks I should have a repeatable process that will allow me to make as many spools as I want with relative ease. Since I’ll be sharing my files, it also means that others can make the exact same thing. To me this is powerful stuff, and while dumb power tools have their place, the smart tools (design software + CNC machines) offer so much more.

I’m also contributing to a community of makers who share their work, make derivatives, suggestions, and mashups of their work, and allow anyone else to do the same. I’m into that stuff, so yeah, that’s my perspective.


It’s a known problem that I take on too many projects, and that tends to make some of them drag out longer than they should… has it really been more than a month since I started this one?

Yes it has. In my UI Mockup/Diagram Apps post, I was working on a control panel for the CNC Router we have at the Milwaukee Makerspace.

First Attempt

The image above was my first attempt to hack something together. I wanted to do a layout with paper to get a good idea of the physical size of things. As you may notice, the buttons are big, and make the whole thing fairly large. Larger than I wanted. So through a few posts I connected with a fellow maker in Madison who offered me some smaller buttons…

Control Panel

Once I had the smaller buttons, I sat down with some paper and the calipers, and started measuring things, and making the new layout. These were, like the previous attempt, just some rough sketches on paper. Once my paper sketches were done, I moved on to Inkscape, and made the digital version of my control panel.

Paper Mockups

I then went back to paper, by printing out my files, to get a feel for the size and spacing of everything. I didn’t go as far as mocking up an actual 3D model, though it would have been easy with some foamcore or matte board, but it’s one more step to take if needed.

Cut Panel

And as long as I was at the makerspace for some laser-related shenanigans, I figured I’d cut a test of the control panel using acrylic. (I’d like the final done in wood, but I had some scrap clear acrylic on hand, and it’s easier/faster to cut than wood.)

As is often the case, I screwed up one bit of the file, and the lower-left cut is too large. The two holes on the right are waiting for buttons I don’t have yet. Right, make that: buttons I didn’t have yet. More buttons showed up, but they are slightly smaller, so I’ll meed to re-size things again before the next cut. Back to the old drawing application, as they say.

And hey, I better finish this project soon, because there’s talk of adding a 4th and 5th axis to the router! I don’t really mind though, because so far I’ve really enjoyed the process, and I’ve learned a lot along the way, so even if this thing is outdated by the time I finish it, I’ll just start on an upgrade. :)



Co. Design is a great site for people who love good design. Some of the stuff they cover would be called “high design” which is sort of like, well, stuff that may be really cool, but also really expensive, and chances are, you probably don’t need it.

This Jasper Morrison Alarm Clock is a clock that looks cool, and probably even has some cool features, and the article suggests that using an iPhone for your alarm clock is silly. I disagree.

I’ve got a pretty nice alarm clock, an old Sony Dream Machine from the mid-1990s, with dual alarms, a nice, big display, and a radio built in. The problem is, it’s on my wife’s side of the bed, and I get up earlier than she does. If I use it as an alarm clock, it will wake her up (not good) and it also requires me to either lean way over her to turn it off (not good) or get out of bed to turn it off (also not good.)

So I actually do have a clock on my side of the bed, but it’s a simple X10 controller and it tells me what time it is. As for an alarm, the iPhone is the best solution for me so far. I don’t use any 3rd party alarm app, as the built-in alarm works fine. I set the volume all the way down at night, and put the phone in silent mode. The phone vibrating is just enough to wake me up and not wake up the wife. The iPhone alarm is also easy to set, and I get up at different times depending on the day of the week, so that’s all preset. Since I also plug my iPhone in to charge it each night, it’s a win-win situation. Any notification apps I use tend to have the concept of “quiet time” and I almost never get messages/interruptions in the middle of the night. It works quite well for me, and I’m typically not the sort of person who uses my phone for everything, as I’ve still got a GPS I prefer to use, as well as an iPod I prefer to use.

I’m interested in what other people do… Do you have an alarm clock, or has your phone taken over that task?


Laser-Cut Cardboard House

I took the family to Discovery World over the weekend and we checked out the Design It! Lab where we built laser-cut cardboard houses. (Well, the kids and I built houses, Dr. Dana made a snowflake ring.)

I was a little disappointed there wasn’t as much “designing” and “making” as I thought there would be. We were handed a piece of laser-cut cardboard (with no instructions) and were tasked with putting it together by folding it along the score lines, and inserting tabs. I was hoping for a bit more… I wanted to use a laser-cutter, or at least see one in operation. It sounded like if you sign up for classes, you get to do a bit more hands-on things like that. Maybe the kids and I are just so used to making things that this seemed fairly simple to us. For first-time makers, maybe this is a good starting point.

On the bright side, I did drop the names of some people I know who work there, and the Design It! Lab guy brought out the Makerbot for me to see. It’s not quite up and running yet, but should be soon.

(If you’re interested, I’ve written up a review of our Discovery World experience over at Yelp.)

« Older Entries |

buy the button:

Buy The Button

recently at:

top recent artists: