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Key Kitty Klone

Key Kitty

Recently I came across a link that someone shared for this story about the “Key Kitty” which is a cute little kitty shaped keychain that is also a weapon. With all the debate about weapons on Thingiverse, I thought I’d try an experiment.

So here’s what I did… using nothing more than the two photos above, I decided to try to clone the design, and create my own with a 3D printer.

Key Kitty Template

I took the photo of the pink Key Kitty above and created a greyscale version of it, and then imported it into Inkscape. I then traced around it to create a SVG file that approximated the outline. Now, the Key Kitty is a pretty simple object, it’s basically a two dimensional object with some height to it, so the process was fairly easy.

Key Kitty Test

At this point I printed out the SVG file at actual size to see how it would fit on my fingers. It didn’t have to exactly match the original, but it did have to fit right.

OpenSCAD Kitty

Once I tested the paper prototype and decided it was the correct size, I exported the design to a DXF file and imported it into OpenSCAD and extruded it.

Key Kitty STL

Finally, here’s the STL file of our Key Kitty Klone, ready to be printed. It will just fit on the platform of the MakerBot Cupcake. (And because someone asked, no… I had no plan to make it into an LED flashlight as well. I was just interested in copying the basic shape.)

So wait, where is the actual print? Well, the night I tried printing it was the night of many woes, and I had two failed attempts at printing it, and with a two hour print time estimate, I ended up not leaving the makerspace with a real printed object. I’m also not 100% sure I should share the files. I mean, there’s the whole issue of the legality of cloning products, and I’m not really sure I want to be a test case on this one.

But I figured I couldn’t end this post without a bit more research. I found references to keykittytv.com, but there’s no web site, and it looks like the domain expired back in August 2011. I did find this great Key Kitty video from 2010 though. There’s also a Facebook page and Twitter account, both of which have had no updates for 10 months. For all I know, the company behind this product went bankrupt and closed up shop. Of course this just brings up more questions about cloning it. In the end though, I could just make some changes and call it the Key Bat or Key Bunny, or whatever… all it needs are some eye-holes for your fingers, and some pointed ears.

So here’s my question to you… What do you think about the cloning of existing products?

Print your own! Grab the files from Printables.com

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Woes in Plastic

Lens Gear

Bleargh!!! Sorry, had to get that out…

I seemed to be able to do nothing right last night at Milwaukee Makerspace. I joked that the only thing I was able to make was a mess. Besides hot-gluing my own thumb (though not my ass) and having many MakerBot failures, I was able to print two things, though even those two didn’t turn out that great. I’m getting a bit frustrated with the MakerBot Cupcake, and the mysteries of Skeinforge aren’t helping.

I’m waiting for MakerGear to ship my RepRap Prusa Mendel, which of course will require assembly, and configuration, and ten other weird things, but hopefully at the end I’ll have better prints than the Cupcake. Don’t get me wrong, the Cupcake is fun, but it’s also frustrating.

So I printed the 70mm lens gear, even though I really need one that’s about 85mm, just because I’ll be using a follow focus next week, and I want to see if this works. The gear teeth look good, even if the print itself did not turn out great.

Bottle Opener

I also tried this bottle opener, and again, while it is OK, it’s definitely not great. It looks pretty sloppy. The weird bits in the centr are the Milwaukee Makerspace logo, which was way too small to even attempt to print. It also filled in some of the hole areas a bit, which I had to remove the plastic from. That may be due to me editing the STL in Sketchup and creating a new STL with my own edits. I don’t know…

I think I need to take a break from printing things for a bit, and work on some other things. Printing takes a long time, and if it’s the only thing I do at the space, I feel like I’m neglecting other projects. (I did work on my Nutellastruder a bit, of course that led to the hot-gluing of my thumb!)

KinectToStl

Oh, we did play around with KinectToStl a bit. Again, the results were not super-impressive, but it was fun to experiment with it. I didn’t bother to read the instructions, so there may be some good times on making it work better, but that will be something to try another day.

Update: The bottle opener broke while trying to open a bottle. #fail

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3D Modeling Update

3D Model

In the last month I’ve made some progress in my 3D modeling education, so I thought I’d provide an update. (Besides my last post, I got some good feedback on Google+) Oh, and just a reminder, my interest in 3D modeling all has to do with creating objects I can produce with a 3D printer like the MakerBot or the RepRap.

So what am I using (or not using) now? Here’s the list:

Google Sketchup
I’ve made some good progress with Sketchup. A few tutorials (and a lot of playing around) has me creating actual 3D models. You’ll want the STL Importer and STL Exporter to deal with STL files. Sketchup is nice, and I’m sure I’ll end up using it more as time goes on, but it’s not the end of my 3D quest.

Blender
Urgh… I’ve made no progress with Blender. Haven’t even tried. I may just wait until we do a Blender class at Milwaukee Makerspace.

123D
Still no Mac OS X version.

3DTin and Tinkercad
I talked about 3DTin last time. I haven’t used it since, but it still seems like a great way for kids to get into 3D modeling. As for Tinkercad, it seems like a more advanced version of 3DTin. Make: Live covered Tinkercad in Episode 17 if you want to check it out.

Inkscape
Say what!? Inkscape is a 2D drawing application. I’m still using it. I’ll often open vector files (SVG) and export them to DXF files and then extrude those to 3D files. Here’s a great Inkscape to OpenSCAD dxf tutorial that explains it all.

OpenSCAD
I’m still just barely using OpenSCAD, mainly in conjunction with Inkscape as mentioned above. I need to dig in a bit deeper, as time allows.

So what else is there? Well, I found Pleasant3D, which isn’t exactly modeling software, but it’s what ReplicatorG might look like if it were a full-on Mac OS X application. I’ve found it useful on a few occasions.

The other one worth mentioning is MeshLab, which may have some uses when it comes to converting or transforming files. I haven’t created anything with it yet, but it sure looks impressive.

So that’s my 3D modeling software update… Anything new to report from your desktop?

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Printing Violations?

Pac-Man Cookies

You may have seen that I recently printed some Pac-Man cookie cutters using the MakerBot at Milwaukee Makerspace.

This seems like a harmless enough activity, right? I wanted some cookie cutters that my daughter could use to make cookies, so I made them. Typically when I make things, I don’t think to myself “Gosh, what laws am I breaking?” because typically I think of making as a creative endeavor that isn’t harmful to anyone.

But here’s where it gets murky…

If I really wanted Pac-Man cookie cutters, I could have bought them, from more than one place even, and those all come with something mine don’t. This little bit of text that says “Officially licensed Pac-Man cookie cutters.

Oh crap.

My cookie cutters are not “officially licensed” in any way. I certainly didn’t plan on selling them, as they were just for my own use. (That said, I have mentioned printing a few extras to give to people, free of charge, but would that cause issues as well?) Is the fact that I printed my own versus buying “officially licensed” cookie cutters the wrong thing to do? Did the company that licenses the official cutters lose a sale, or multiple sales if I give some away?

In my defense, I’ll say that I would not have bought Pac-Man cookie cutters. Partly because I’m not that fanatic, partly because I can’t see paying $15.99 for less than a dollar worth of plastic, and partly because I’m a maker. I mean, I could have bent up some metal to make them, or used some other creative methods.

So what does the future hold when we can easily (and cheaply!) print out things like this? Well, if you doubted 3D printing was disruptive, doubt it no more…

Let’s look at the Glif. Last November the guys behind the Glif launched a Kickstarter project to fund their idea. Here’s what they said:

So why do we need YOUR help? Simply put, manufacturing is expensive. We want to use a process called ‘injection molding’ to create the Glif at a level of quality we deem acceptable, but unfortunately this requires a hefty set up cost. By pledging at least twenty dollars, you will be essentially pre-ordering a Glif, and helping turn our little project into a reality.

See that bit that says “manufacturing is expensive“? Well, it is! But guess what? Making things can be cheap. I don’t want to discount the amount of work that went into designing the Glif. I love design. Design is important. Designers should be rewarded for their work. So the Glif guys wanted to raise $10,000 to bring their product to market, and they ended up raising $137,417. Wowzers!

But if you really want an iPhone holder like The Glif, you can always make your own, out of whatever materials you have handy, like wood, or maybe… plastic!

Hey, check this out, it’s the iPhone 4 Combo Tripod and Stand. See the comments on that page about “cloning” as well. Interesting stuff.

So what does the future hold for this type of thing? When we all have 3D printers, and it’s cheaper and easier to print something at home than it is to drive to the store (takes time, wastes gas) to buy one, or order one online to have shipped to your home (takes time, wastes gas.)

Maybe things should go the way the music industry went. Pirating music was a much larger problem years ago, until Apple (and then Amazon, and others) made it easier (and cheaper?) to get the real thing legitimately. What if the guys behind the Glif had a business model where you could buy their product in the traditional ways (in a store, order online) but you could also download the files needed to print one, for say, a nominal fee between $0.99 and $5.00?

Would people support this model? I think some people definitely would. And who is the winner here? The company still makes money, and the consumer saves money. Somewhere in there we also hope that less energy (money) is expended in using this method. Sure, there would still be clones and copies, but you’d assume (like we do for music, movies, etc.) that most people are honest, and want to support the work of others.

So is this idea crazy, or is it the future?

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3D Printing is the Future

3D Printers

As you may know, I’ve been playing around with a MakerBot recently, and at first I wasn’t sure if it was just me, or if 3D printing was really starting to catch on… but now, I think it’s safe to say it’s catching on, and I’m pretty confident in saying 3D Printing is the Future.

I really don’t give out these predictions very often… Sure, I was an early adopter of things like blogging and podcasting, but this whole 3D printing thing is a “disruptive technology” that stands to change the world.

So with that, I’ll give a brief primer on some of the technology.

3D printing has been around for quite some time, but it’s always been very expensive, and a 3D printer was never a thing you’d have in your home. Of course, in the olden days you’d never imagine you’d have a printer in your home. Printing was something you paid a printer to do. It was complicated, and messy, and expensive. I bought my first ink-jet printer around 1999 and it was probably over $200. In 2007 I got a new one, and it was $110, and it even has a built-in scanner. Nowadays no one thinks that printing on paper with ink in their own home is anything special, so how long will it be before we think the same thing about 3D printing.

It’s fair to say that Adrian Bowyer, creator of the RepRap project, is one smart dude, not just for coming up with a 3D printer that can print itself, but for his ideas of how this technology could change the world. It’s also been said that the RepRap is “the invention that will bring down global capitalism, start a second industrial revolution and save the environment…” You know, in a good way.

Now, the 3D printing revolution is happening in a different manner than the “cheap desktop printer” revolution happened. For one thing, you can assemble all the parts for a 3D printer right now, thanks to the RepRap project and it’ll be cheaper (and some say “better”) than the affordable 3D printers you can buy today.

Yes, there are affordable 3D printers you can buy today!

MakerBot
The folks at MakerBot are sort of the granddaddies of the 3D printer arena. Their “Cupcake” came out a few years ago, and their newer model, the “Thing-O-Matic” is their current offering. They’ve got the most well known brand right now, and if you doubt 3D printing will be big, they just took a $10 million investment.

MakerGear
I hear nothing but good things about MakerGear and the quality of their products and support. Well, I do hear one negative… products are always out of stock! Besides that, I think MakerGear has some good offerings. Besides their own model, the “Mosaic” you can get full-kit for a Prusa Mendel RepRap. (You know, if it’s in stock.)

Ultimaker
New to the game is the Ultimaker, which looks impressive! Watching the videos, it looks like it trumps the MakerBot in many areas. If MakerBot is the established brand, I’m glad to see some competition coming in and forcing them to up their game. :)

BotMill
There’s also BotMill, which seems to offer two models, both based on the RepRap Mendel. (I don’t know much more about BotMill.)

The Others
There’s also the Buildatron and the Solidoodle, of which I know little about, and just today I came across the Origo (not available yet) which aims to be the first “reliable easy to use 3D printer for ten year olds.” That “reliable easy to use” part is the nut that everyone is still trying to crack.

Besides those commercial offerings is the real granddaddy of this whole thing, the RepRap. If you think of the MakerBot as Windows, and maybe the Ultimaker as Mac OS X, then RepRap is Linux. It’s DIY. You can build it yourself. You’ll spend a lot of time tweaking it. It’ll be cheaper, but you’ll have to figure out your own support. Sort of… Nearly all of the commercial units are based (somewhat) on the technology from the RepRap project, so if you want a name brand, and support, and a company behind it, buy a commercial unit. If you’re a hacker, or a maker, or cheap, build a RepRap.

I’ve got a lot more posts about 3D printing, and the RepRap specifically, so stay tuned!