Printing Violations (Part II)

Cookie Cutters

Back when I wrote my Printing Violations? post I brought up the issue of licensing, and while I am a believer of open culture and sharing, I’m still torn on the topic of artists who take the creative work of others (even if the “others” are huge corporations) and use it to make money.

When I saw the post Maker Mom Builds Cookie-Cutter Empire With 3-D Printers my first thought was about the rights and licensing issues. (I was then pleasantly surprised to see the comments addressing the issue right away.)

Cookie Cutters

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Athey is not an artist, she’s a really good artist, and has some impressive and very well executed designs. This is important, I think. I mean, anyone can download an image of a video game character or a Dalek and quickly make it into something, but her work is well beyond that. Still, is it right for her to be using things others have created to make money? Her web site at says:

Now I’ve somehow turned what started as a hobby into a full-time job!

I spend a lot of time thinking of myself as a terrible artist, and I’ve made plenty of badly drawn robots, but I’d feel much better about myself selling a badly drawn robot that is my own creation than a well drawn robot that someone else created. (I’m going with the belief that Athey has not properly licensed the characters she is using.)

Of course there’s the issue of licensing… It’s no secret that I use a lot of art from to make things. The license of all art on OpenClipArt is Public Domain Dedication which states:

You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.

So yeah, I’ve not sold anything I’ve made yet using art from OpenClipArt, but at least I’d feel fine doing it. And yeah, I have friends who make good money making things based on successful movies, games, books, etc. Maybe this is just the world we live in now, where everyone is a maker and selling of things, and it’s all just a big mash-up anyway.

I guess I’d break things into a few categories:

A.) Using things others have created to make things for yourself.

B.) Using things others have created to make things to give to family/friends as gifts.

C:) Using things others have created and creating design files that others can use.

D:) Using things others have created to create and sell things.

I’m all for A. and B., and I think C. is pretty much OK. (Think of the many items on Thingiverse) As for D., that’s the one I’m still not sure about, and that’s the one Athey and Warpzone Prints falls under. What do you think?

(I should probably do a post in the future that talks a bit more about my own usage of others work in my own art, as I’m not completely free of that behavior myself.)


3D Printer “Accessories”

3D Printing Accessories

So you’ve got a 3D Printer on your Xmas list, or somehow you’ve convinced your company that they need to get one before the end of 2012 because it’s a tool you’ll definitely need in 2013. (And yeah, it probably is!)

So the big question is… what else do you need?

You may not need any of these things, but these are the things I’ve found useful to have around during the past year of 3D printing. Now, keep in mind, I make a lot of functional parts. Some people just make pretty things, and the amount of extra stuff you need for “pretty” things versus “functional” things may vary. (And yes, I focused mainly on tools/items you need for prints, not the actual printer.)

Drill, Drill Bits, Drill Press
I often make parts with holes, or need to make holes in parts. Sometimes you’ll print a part with a hole that needs something inserted into it, either a bolt, or a rod, or a dowel, or screw, or something else round. Running a drill bit through the hole can help smooth things out and get the hole the right size. Sometimes you don’t even need a drill, but just the bit with a pair of pliers, or a vise-grip, or even a vise. Running the bit back and forth (without it turning) can clean up those edges in a hole.

On occasion I need to make the holes after I print something. In this case the drill press often comes in very handy. Sometimes you don’t know you need the holes, or you want more precise (or smaller) holes than you can get from printing. There’s no shame in drilling holes in a piece you printed. It’s just another tool in the process of making.

There’s also reamers and tappers, but I don’t use those, don’t have those, and won’t get into those.

Files, Sandpaper, X-ACTO Knives (and blades!)
Sometimes part just don’t fit right, or sometimes it’s better to make something a little too large and take of the extra. A set of files (flat and rounded) can do the job. The round ones can also come in handy like the drill bits mentioned above. Sandpaper also has its uses, though any of the abrasive tools will leave the surface looking a bit ugly. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder of course, and if it’s a part you don’t see, it probably doesn’t matter. As for the X-ACTO knife (and blades) they can be used to cut away edges, excess plastic, support material, etc. A good knife always comes in useful. I’ve also used a pair of diagonal cutters on occasion. A bit less precise than an X-ACTO knife, but sometimes it’s the right tool.

Acetone and/or Glue
Sometimes you just gotta stick one part to another part. I’ve heard people mention JB Weld, or Super Glue, but for sticking one piece of ABS plastic to another, I just use acetone. It’s messy, stinky, and tricky to work with, but it does a heck of a job. (For PLA I supposed I’d go with Super Glue, YMMV.)

Rubber Bands, Zip Ties, Tape
The rubber bands are often used in conjunction with the acetone, to hold parts together until dry. There are of course other uses for rubber bands. As for zip ties, if you built a Prusa, you’ve already got a bunch of them! Sometimes they’re the right tool for holding things together… and sometimes it’s tape. I prefer gaff tape myself, but masking tape can come in pretty handy.

What Else!?
I’m sure there’s plenty of other bits and pieces and tools and whatnot that I’ve forgotten (a Dremel tool perhaps?) but I figured this was a good list to get started.


RepRap Report #2

End Stop

Somehow I can’t believe it’s been four months since my last RepRap update! I’ve got a lot to report…

In July I took the RepRaster 5000 to 3D Printing Camp in Madison, and that didn’t work out too well. The first problem was that I couldn’t get the bed up to temperature (and yeah, I print with ABS.) I didn’t notice the ceiling fan directly above me. I moved. I also managed to knock the Z end stop out of place, which made the extruder crash into the bed. No real damage from it, but I decided I needed a new end stop solution. The new one is way more solid. No easy way to bump it out of alignment.

I also took the RepRap to the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup. Once again something went goofy, but I did get it working fairly quickly after the first fail. (Just a few weeks ago I took the RepRap to BarCampMilwaukee7 and had no issues at all. Success!)


At some point I got sick of all those damn wires coming from the ATX power supply, so in the process of making them shorter, I hosed something up good and ended up with a power supply that supplied no power. I finally got a smaller (and more powerful!) power supply. I’m not 100% happy about the mains not being totally covered up, so I should make a case for it at some point. It works very well though… much better than the ATX supply did.


My great spool experiment was a bit of a failure. I mean, at least I don’t use soup cans, and while I still think my idea was good (or at least looked good) trying to wind a coil of filament onto a spool is damn near impossible. Just ask my daughter, who had to hold back from laughing when the power drill kept slapping me in the head with filament. I’ll probably move to one of those adjustable filament holders you can easily get a coil onto. At home I end up just hanging the filament from the ceiling, so that works fine.

QU-BD Extruder

I ended up getting an extruder from the QU-BD Kickstarter campaign, and I haven’t bothered to assemble it yet. My original plan was to donate it to the DIY 3D printer we were going to build at Milwaukee Makerspace. Since we ended up getting a Replicator, we didn’t build a printer. It’s a 1.75mm extruder, and since I use 3mm now, I may end up switching to 1.75mm in the future, so it could come in handy.


My best RepRap hack was getting my MacBook out of the picture and making good use of my old Eee PC 701. This was the first netbook ever released, way back in 2007. I’ve struggled with how to make it do something useful, and now it does. I’ve connected an old LCD display I got for free to it, and it sits on the shelf near my workbench. It does one thing… control the RepRap. It’s plenty powerful for that. I do all my modeling and slicing on my MacBook, so the Eee PC just runs Pronterface. And for traveling I can just bring the Eee PC and it doesn’t take up much room.

Mr. Pumpkintatohead

Hey look, it’s Mr. Pumpkintatohead! Nothing amazing, but I’m getting better at using OpenSCAD. I managed to design all the parts (minus the knobs) for my Laser Kaleidoscope in OpenSCAD (no, they are not parametric, but hopefully I’ll get better as time goes by.) I also managed to complete a home repair thanks to OpenSCAD and the RepRap. Hooray!

I’ve still got some challenges. Now that it’s getting colder out, and I’m printing bigger objects, I’ve got some warping issues. As winter comes, this may be my biggest problem. Besides that, things have been working really well. One thing I’ve found is that I’m not happy with my z height. It’s just 75mm, and I’d like to see a bit more. Oh, I also switched from Sprinter to Marlin, so I may be able to get a few more millimeters of height by just updating the firmware. (I was a little conservative at first.) I can probably gain a few more millimeters with a new piece of plywood under the bed. There’s always something to tweak with a RepRap…

I think the biggest change from June to October is that I am now confident enough that I can hit ‘print’ and leave the basement and I’ll come back to a successful print. I used to just stare at the bed as the skirt went down, and that first layer went down… in part because I was fascinated, but also in part because I always assumed something would go wrong. Things tend to go right almost every time now… it’s almost like having 3D printer at home is a normal everyday thing. :)

(You can see some photos of my prints over on Flickr. I’m way behind in taking photos of my prints, but there’s a few interesting ones in there.)


3D Printing Camp ReCap

3D Printing Camp Wisconsin

It all happened pretty fast… I think it was the beginning of May when Bob Waldron floated the idea of a BarCamp-like event focused on 3D printing past me, and of course I couldn’t ignore it. I helped set up the web site and did some promotion and sponsor-wrangling, because I figured if he was throwing such an event, I wanted to see it happen so I could go to it. :)

3D Printing Camp

Getting sponsors took a lot of time, but in the end (and I mean very end!) we got what we needed, and were able to cover most of what we wanted for the event. People got fed, Sector67 got a few bucks for use of their space all day, and nothing went wrong… well, almost nothing.

If you attended 3D Printing Camp you owe a big round of applause to Bob Waldron, but you couldn’t give him one on Saturday because he was not there! Despite all the comforts of our modern world, if your plane gets delayed, and you get stuck, you miss things… and Bob missed the event. (Don’t worry, this will just ensure he does it again next year.)


So what did we do? Well, we printed. A lot. And we also had a few sessions related to 3D printing, modeling, security, repairing things, and we just generally got to meet everyone else who is into 3D printing. Remember back when you were the only person you know (not counting online) who was really into something, and if you got to hang out with others who were into the same thing, how awesome that was? Well, yeah, that was it. I think we had about 20 printers, and saw over 60 people come through the door throughout the day. Not a bad turnout at all.


For me one of the highlight was learning more about Sketchup. Kemper Smith led an amazing sessions showing tips & tricks for 3D modeling and I took plenty of notes.

And then there was Tony Warren, who showed up with a partially done RepRap and got it printing by the end of the day. I can certainly attest to the fact that having an unfinished printer is something no on wants, so getting it running is pretty awesome.


The event was pretty laid back, and plenty of people just spent most of the day (and evening!) printing, which is cool. There could have been more sessions, but when you’ve got all those printers in a room, you want to talk about them, and trade tips, and melt some plastic. It’s all good.

As for the RepRaster 5000, it started a little shaky because I could not get my bed up to temperature, then I noticed a ceiling fan above me! I moved and all was well, for a while. I printed a few things, and then I did a print that failed, then the next one failed, and then it was time to just give up. I had managed to knock things out of alignment earlier and I think things just went pear-shaped from there. Too much printing I guess. Once I got home I got everything back to normal, leveled the bed, and it’s back to normal. (It’s always a RepRap adventure somewhere…)


RepRap Report


Here’s a RepRap update, which I plan to do every now and then to track the progress of the RepRaster 5000. (Yeah, that’s the name of it. At least until I come up with a better one.)

The RepRaster 5000 has been fully operational for about a month now, and I have managed to make a few things in that time. Most of my prints have come out okay… not great, but okay.


I’m using Slic3r and a pre-compiled version of Pronterface on Mac OS X 10.6.8. I’ve had one or two STL files that had some issues with Slic3r, but besides that it’s been a fairly solid setup. I’m still using Sketchup for some 3D modeling, and OpenSCAD continues to confuse me.


My first prints were on a sheet of glass taped down to my heated PCB. They turned out pretty bad. Because of the way the PCB was attached to the platform I couldn’t clip the glass tightly into place. Oh, the PCB was also mounted flat(ish) to the wooden platform. I ended up raising up the PCB above the wooden platform, thinking it would help it heat up faster (it seems to) and I’d also then be able to clip the glass to the PCB. This is way better. Easier to work with, for sure.

So now I’ve got the PCB above the wood (spaced with a few nuts and washers) and the glass attached to the PCB with bulldog (AKA “binder”) clips. My first prints on plain glass were hit and miss, and the ratio was not improving. I tried ABS slurry (which is acetone with some filament dissolved in it) but that was messy and still didn’t seem to work that well. I ended up putting Kapton tape on the glass, and then just using nail polish remover to clean the Kapton well before printing. (I’d prefer to use the nail polish remover over the acetone if possible, since it’s less smelly.) Finally, I was getting really good adhesion! (I’m doing two skirt loops 6mm from the print.)

Leveling Nut

The one thing that really helped printing (so far) was leveling the bed, which was completely impossible at first. With just the nuts, there was no way in heck I was going to get things level. Then I found the Parametric Thumbwheel, printed four of them, and at last… a level bed! Again, one of the great things about a RepRap is that it can (often) print its own upgrades. I’ve got my eye on a few other items that might make things better/easier/faster.

I’m at a point now where I feel like I can print things, and while they aren’t the best quality yet, that will change in the future, with more and more tweaking. I’m looking forward to sharing tips & tricks at the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup happening July 1st, 2012, and 3D Printing Camp on July 21st, 2012. If you’re at all interested in this stuff, either event (or both!) would be a great introduction.