posts tagged with the keyword ‘design’


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!



We had a quick side project in our “Machines that Make” class which involved designing a piece of jewelry in Rhino. The piece was to be 3 dimensional, and entered into the “Rapid Jewelry 3D Printing Design Competition” put on by the Design Museum Foundation.

I’ve never really designed or made any jewelry before, but Frankie suggested I look at cosplay and wearable things for inspiration. Since I seem to have an (unhealthy?) obsession with hammers lately, I went right in that direction.


The hammer, like so many tools we use, is an extension of the human body, allowing us to do thing we couldn’t do with our bare hands. I wanted to celebrate the hammer as a tool and an object, and what better way than by wearing it on your finger?

Of course this hammer becomes somewhat non-functional, at least as a hammer. You can still move your fingers around to simulate the movement, but don’t expect to pound any nails with it. (There’s also a joke here about fingernails, but I’m still working on it.)

Paper Prototypes

Paper Prototypes

I did a quick sketch and then went to work doing some paper prototypes. The prototype fits well as a “mid ring” (a new term I learned) or as a pinky ring. The actual 3D modeled one should fit on my index finger.

Paper Prototypes

Imagine if you will, a whole bunch of these on one hand. Too many hammers to handle? I think not!

STL File

I learned a few new techniques in Rhino, which should come in handy. I really wish I had more time to dig into it this semester, especially the command line features. Here’s what the plain old STL file looks like. We’ve seen this view a million times before, but I also did some renderings using Keyshot which look rather nice… Check them out below!






Obviously the 3D printed pieces won’t exactly look like this, but it was great to experiment with different materials and lighting in the rendering software. (Of course now I’m tempted to look at the open source 3D rendering applications out there!)



Graduate reviews are done, and I got feedback from faculty on my current work. I was a great opportunity to gain insight into how others view the work I do. Typically these sort of things help reveal ideas that you don’t think about while making the work, or bring up new questions in regards to why you make specific choices.

One of the interesting takeaways from today was when a few of my pieces were called “sketches”. If you think about a sketch, it’s defined as “a rough or unfinished drawing or painting, often made to assist in making a more finished picture.” Many of the pieces I created are experiments, or explorations of ideas. They’re often not highly crafted pieces. I appreciate craft and people who are skilled at creating beautiful objects, but I often think I don’t have it in me to do that sort of thing.

I thought more about sketches, and the fact that in the Processing and Arduino worlds, the programs are called “sketches”. As I understand it, this was done specifically to appeal to artists and creative people who didn’t have a background in computers. Tell an artist they are going to write a computer program, and that’s a frightening proposition, but tell the same artist they are going to create a sketch and that’s an achievable goal.

I sketch with physical things…

That’s today’s revelation. Many of the things I make are real-world sketches. The physical manifestation of an idea. Often there’s an immediacy to the creating of the thing, but not always. I tend to work in two ways. The first is a reactionary mode, where I have an idea and act on it immediately. I start building without too much thought, and see what the process and the piece reveal. The second method involves thinking, designing, and prototyping as an iterative process. The pieces created from the second method are often more polished, but both methods produce valid work, and the reaction to each kind of work may be equal (meaning, people don’t always gravitate to the work that had more initial thought or took more time.)

Oh, I also want to drop the other definition of sketch here, “a short humorous play or performance, consisting typically of one scene in a comedy program.” This also relates to some of my work, but I’m going to leave that exploration to a future post.


DCRL Coat Hook

I’ve printed a coat hook before, but this time I’m doing it for school. This is the DCRL Coat Hook for the class “Digital Craft: Machines that Make” in the Digital Fabrication + Design area at UWM, taught by Frankie Flood.

The assignment was to create a 3D model of a coat hook using Rhino, and then print it. I’ve been using OpenSCAD for years, and before that I used Sketchup, so Rhino is still fairly new to me. I used it a bit last semester, but mostly just to explore it and for 2D laser cutting.

Rhino v1

My first attempt was mainly about getting comfortable in Rhino. I’m so used to the way I work in OpenSCAD, and even the way I work in Inkscape, that I found Rhino a little lacking in certain things. I’ve gotten more used to it since I started, but I still see room for improvements to how it works. Version 1 was all about unions and differences and fillets. It worked, but I wasn’t entirely happy with how rectilinear the form was.

Rhino v2

Version 2 was a bit more curvy, and while I was starting to like it more, the non-symmetrical parts bothered me. I did print out version 1 and 2 for our first class discussion, and I noticed that many students went out there with their designs, while mine tend to be very functional and utilitarian. I also have a good grasp of what is possible (and not possible) using hobby-level FDM/FFF. I don’t know if this helped or hindered my design, as I tend to think about the process I’m using at the time. (Sometimes, but I’ll get into that later.)

Vector outline

Eventually I ended up drawing version 3 in Inkscape, as I knew what I wanted it to look like, and it was an easy path to get exactly what I wanted, design-wise. I exported the file as a PDF, which imports nicely into Rhino, to get my 3D object. I also tend to look at replicating and/or extending existing workflows I already have.


I typically find the desired size of objects by drawing them on paper. Here’s some of my early sketches (on the left) and the later ones (on the right) that I did before modeling in software.

DCRL Coat Hook v3

Once I had my vector PDF imported into Rhino I was able to extrude it to the desired height. Rhino lets you type in the height numerically while creating the object, but not after you’ve created it. It’s a bit frustrating, but I’ll get used to it. I then added the screw hole and a counter-sink hole. (I later realized I didn’t properly angle the counter-sink hole, which would have been easy to do. Perhaps for the next revision!)

I also thought about how this design could be used in other digital fabrication techniques. For instance, since the form is essentially an extruded 2D form, it would be easy to create a version using a CNC router or mill. After the profile is cut you could rotate it 90 degrees to get the screw hole, or just use a drill press. You could also cut a piece of pink foam, using a CNC machine, or by hand using a hot wire cutter, or any cutting tools, and cast it in metal (again a simple drilling operation would be needed to add the screw hole.)

If you’d like your own copy of this coat hook, you can grab it from Thingiverse or download from Youmagine.

Here’s a few photos of the final printed piece. There’s a few more photos in the DCRL album on Flickr as well.

DCRL Coat Hook

DCRL Coat Hook

DCRL Coat Hook

DCRL Coat Hook

DCRL Coat Hook

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