posts tagged with the keyword ‘make’


Jay Silver

I’ve seen a lot of people share this post from Jay Silver titled The Maker Movement is Not About 3D Printers, which bothered me, because the Maker Movement can definitely be about 3D Printers, or Robots, or microcontrollers, or laser cutters. It can also be about sewing, and growing your own food, and building furniture, and hundreds of other things.

Why was this titled “The Maker Movement is Not About 3D Printers” instead of “The Maker Movement Is about Freedom”? Oddly enough, the second level heading is The Maker Movement Is about Freedom.

3D Printers provide freedom. They provide to individuals with a few hundred dollars the ability to design things, and make those things into real-world objects in an afternoon, at home, without having to deal with service bureaus or companies who might put restrictions on what your want to create. You can also order a bunch of parts on the Internet, get them delivered to your house, and build a robot. Was that possible 20 years ago? (At a reasonable cost, anyway?)

Maybe the jab about 3D Printers and robots was just there to create controversy, I don’t know… but it seems weird to single them out. I’ve had my ups and downs with 3D Printers, and yes, they do fail, and sometimes suck, but so do computers, and other tools, and people. Nothing is perfect… and maybe that’s a big part of the Maker Movement, recognizing that the world isn’t perfect, but realizing you can change it.



After all of my experiments with recycling various HDPE scraps, I finally got around to milling a piece on the Shapeoko at BAMspace.

Milling on the Shapeoko

The piece I used was close to 0.5″ thick. I added a thin piece of MDF beneath the piece so I wouldn’t chew up our nice looking hold-down surface…


The milling took quite a while. The first attempt with a different piece did not work out well, partly due to too high of feed rate, and partly due to a piece getting stuck after being cut out. (I can see the appeal of a vacuum table!)

GRBL Controller

We use GRBL Controller on one of my old Linux laptops to control the Shapeoko.


Did I mention the milling took a long time? It was about 14 passes at 0.04″ per pass to cut through. I used a 1/8″ bit.


The end results were nice. A little rough, but some sanding and a few hits with a blow touch should clean things up just fine.



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!)


RepRap Prusa i3

We’re making good progress on our RepRap Prusa i3 in our Machines that Make class at UWM.

We cut the Lexan frames on the large CNC router after we wrote the G-code in RhinoCam. There was an engraving, and then one inside cut, one outside cut, and some center drill spots we marked before drilling the holes on the drill press and then tapping them for 3mm screws.

We also cut all the threaded and smooth rods on the horizontal bandsaw and then cleaned them all up on the belt sander. I learned a few new tricks for cutting threaded rod as well.

I’m a bit tempted to rebuild my Prusa i2 as a (laser-cut) Prusa i3, or maybe just build a second printer. I’d like to have a 1.75mm machine at some point instead of just 3mm so I can experiment with more filaments.

I’ve also been working on a few new machine design ideas, one will be a drawing machine, and another is a platform for building CNC machines that trade in precision for low-cost. More on those in future posts.


Prusa i3 Parts

I’ve got a box full of Prusa i3 Rework parts! Well, not the full box, but we’re working on it. When I say “we” I mean myself and my team. This is all for a class titled “Digital Fabrication and Craft: Machines that Make”, which Frankie mentioned recently.

The class so far has been a blast! We’ve talked about the RepRap movement, and open source hardware and software used for 3D printing, and we’ve even designed a coat hook (yes, a nod to Adrian Bowyer.)

For the first assignment we are build Prusa i3 RepRaps, hence all the parts. We have a few MakerBots in the DCRL and the other students have been frantically printing parts. Meanwhile, I’ve printed most of my team’s parts on my RepRap Prusa i2. I sort of like the idea of my i2 making an i3. I may print enough parts to build out a frame and then transfer my i2 electronics and extruder over to it. Or I may just build another 3D printer instead.)

We’ve talked a lot about machines that make, and a little bit about MIT and what they’ve done. If you’ve seen the Othermill, you may or may not know it originated from an MIT project called MTM Snap.

And there’s more! For the second assignment each student needs to design and build a machine that can make things, and then we need to make things. Yes, we are rapid-prototyping rapid-prototyping machines. It’s a class made for makers, for sure.

One thing I’ve come to realize over the years is that you can design and build a thing, and you can design a product, and you can manufacture a product, and there are always compromises in process, materials, complexity, cost, quality, and fifty other things. A recommended reading in this area is Confessions of a Hardware Startup. Here’s an excerpt:

Our obstacle was that Jonathan had never intended MTM Snap for production. It was a design challenge experiment: to see if he could build a machine without screws. This is a great feature if you’re trying to save money as a graduate student, but from a manufacturing standpoint it had two major disadvantages.

Go read the whole thing if you’re interested in this. Since I’ve also been designing kits that are meant to be assembled and disassembled multiple times, I’ve seen similar (but different) challenges arise. But honestly, this all fits under the heading of “design” to me, because I still think design is about solving problems.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the machine I’ll build. I probably won’t build a drawing machine right now (more on that later) but there’s a reason I’ve been researching the Othermill and been hankering to use a Shapeoko. It’s all coming together!

(See also: How To Make Something That Makes (almost) Anything.)

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