The Magic Whistle

Whistle #1

One of the first things I printed on the RepRaster 5000 was a whistle, you know, in case there was an emergency soccer game or something. To my amazement I took it off the bed and blew into it and it worked! I had just printed a fully functional whistle, and thusly declared The Future™ to be here.

Whistle #1 was a little rough. It worked, but it didn’t look very beautiful. (Well, beautiful by 3D printing with plastic filament standards.) After some tweaking and calibrating I printed Whistle #2 and it sounded just like Whistle #1 but looked a little better. An improvement!

Whistle #2

That brings us to Whistle #3. As any good RepRapper knows, you can’t just leave well enough alone, and if you’re happy with your slicing settings, you’re doing something wrong. With this in mind I set about changing all the numbers in Slic3r and then attempted to print another whistle.

When I popped Whistle #3 off the bed and blew into it… nothing. Well, not nothing, just the sound of air, minus the sweet whistling sound. I recently told my kids that failure is just a part of the learning process, so I wasn’t ready to quit.

I got a knife and made sure to cut out any stray filament from the bridging during printing. Still no go. I decided to rinse the whistle out thinking maybe there were bits of plastic inside. (Yeah, at this point I was just grasping.) Lo and behold, with the water inside my whistle totally worked! There’s a fine line between science and magic, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

Whistle #3

I’m no Whistlologist, but my first guess was that the volume of air inside the whistle was too much and preventing it from operating properly, perhaps due to the lower infill I used when printing. I ended up being totally wrong about this. It had nothing to do with the volume of air (duh!) but everything to do with where the air was going!

It seems that the crappy print actually left some gaps in the top of the object, which happened to be the left side of the whistle. By putting water inside it was temporarily filling the holes. I could get the same effect by just giving a slight squeeze on the left side of the whistle with my thumb to block the airflow. Zing! Magic whistle. (Magic is just science you don’t understand, right?)

I then hatched a plan to trick the kids by having them try to blow into it, and then telling them they were doing it wrong, and then showing them how it’s done. I wonder if they’d see me squeezing the side or not.

Now I’m left thinking I need to design a new whistle with intentional holes. Anyway, that’s the sort of crazy stuff I do. You’re welcome!


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.


MKE3DP – 3D Printer Fans Unite!


As you may know, I finished my RepRap recently. But here’s the thing, you never really finish a RepRap. It’s a beast in need of endless tweaking. So yeah, it’s a never-ending project (if you want it to be) and I’m okay with that. I mean, once you get to the point that it works, you can start using it to upgrade itself. How many tools can do that!?

Of course you can actually make useful things, functional things, or just pretty things. There’s a lot a 3D Printer can do. I’ve only been at it for less than a year and I’ve still got a lot to learn.

So anyway, yeah, I’m really enjoying this 3D Printing stuff… so I figured, why not share it with others? So join us for the first Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup! We’ll be meeting on Sunday, July 1st, 2012 at 1:00pm. We won’t be at our space because we’ve partnered with our friends at UWM for this one! Show up at UWM’s Kenilworth Square East Building, 3rd Floor; Room 368 on 1925 E. Kenilworth Place.

If you’ve got a 3D Printer, bring it, or just show up and learn about them. If things go well and there’s interest, maybe we’ll turn it into a regularly scheduled meeting.

(More info? It’s also on the Milwaukee Makerspace site and you can RSVP on Facebook if you want to see who else will be there.)


Hot Shoe Audio Mount

Since I’ve got the RepRap I can start on some projects I’ve been meaning to tackle, one of which is printing some camera accessories.

Hot Shoe Audio Mount

Thingiverse is full of weird combos of objects smashed together, such as the Lepus Colberus (The Colberabbit), but you can also combine individual objects in other ways.

I grabbed this 1/4-20 Thumb Screw and this Nikon DIY GPS Holder and combined them into a new thing.

Hot Shoe Audio Mount

The nice thing about the “Nikon DIY GPS Holder” I printed was that I can see it being a generic part I can modify in the future. I can easily import the STL file into Google Sketchup and built on top of it. (I did find this camera mount accessory, but the assembly was a little more complex than I wanted to deal with.) It did take a little bit of work with a file to get the part to fit the hot shoe on my Nikon, but that’s probably a good thing. I got it to fit just as snug as I wanted after minimal filing and sanding.

Hot Shoe Audio Mount

I’m still calling this one a prototype. I ended up drilling out the hole for the bolt, and I cut the head off the bolt to be able to make it all fit together. It works, but I can see some improvements for next time. (I’m also expecting better quality from the RepRap as I get better at calibrating and operating it.)

Hot Shoe Audio Mount

Here’s the mount on the hot shoe of my camera. I haven’t done a ton of video shooting with the Nikon D3200 yet, but I know that most DSLR microphones are not very good, and secondary audio is pretty standard, so by mounting the Zoom H2 on the camera I can get better audio, and I can also monitor the audio, which you can’t do with the Nikon D3200. (The Nikon D800 does allow you to monitor audio from the camera, but we still haven’t received ours.)

So besides two nuts and a bold, there’s probably 10 cents worth of plastic. I think this shows the power of 3D printing in making things you need. I wouldn’t have been able to make this out of wood or metal very easily, but a 3D printer and a hardware store made this a pretty trivial project.


RepRap (almost there!)

MakerGear Prusa Mendel RepRap (In Progress)

My project list has had RepRap 3D Printer on it for a long time… way too long. There are a few reasons for this. One reason is that I just don’t get large chunks of time to work on it. Working two jobs, having a family, and doing “other things” keep me pretty busy. Another reason is that I get involved in other projects. Most of the other projects are short-term, quick ones. Like the Arc-O-Matic, or another Drawbot, or some weird art, or small things that take maybe a day or two (or three) but not months.

But one of the other things that may have slowed me down in this project is… fear. With so many of my projects, they tend to be within my comfort zone, or just slightly outside of my comfort zone, but not way outside of my comfort zone. The RepRap has been (at times) outside of my comfort zone. I tend to like visual instructions. You know who excels at great visual instructions? Adafruit does, as does Evil Mad Scientist Labs. That’s why I love getting kits from them, and supporting them their work.

So this fear I mentioned… at some point I think I got too wrapped up in making sure I did everything right, but here’s the thing about a RepRap, even if it is a kit, you won’t do everything right. Nope, try as you might, you’re going to screw something up. Even if you’ve built other kits, and follow all the instructions, and use the mailing list, and blog posts, and IRC, and Google+… unless you’ve done it before, you will screw something up. (Hell, you might even screw things up if you’ve done it before.) But here’s the thing to remember: part of building a RepRap is learning, and that includes learning from mistakes. Building it up from a box full of parts does one thing, it ensures you can (probably) tear the whole damn thing apart and fix it. With all these new 3D Printers coming on the market that are fully assembled, that may not be the case. That’s one of the big questions I have. Let’s say you buy a 3D-A-Ma-Jig (yeah, I made that up) from 3D-A-Ma-Jig Incorporated, and it breaks… what do you do? What about repairs? What about warranties? Do you ship it back? Take it in… somewhere? This is part of the reason I went the RepRap route, so I would know every part of the machine.

So this past weekend I got a lot done. I probably put in close to 10 hours, and I learned a lot in that 10 hours. Sure, I read blog posts, Google+ comments, and lots of poorly explained “instructions” with no images, but hey, if things blow up, I can replace them. I’m saying goodbye to fear and forging on. I may earn my Magic Blue Smoke Badge, but dammit, that’s a badge of honor, not just among RepRap builders, but hackers and makers everywhere!

So what I’m really saying is, the RepRap is really close to being done.