Friday, September 9, 2016

Help make this Blog More Newbie Friendly

The sole reason why I blog is because I have a passion for creativity and I believe that 3D printers have stoked the fires of creative thinking in me like no other technology or tool.  And, I want to share that experience with young and old alike.  In fact, I'm going on 73 but love sharing 3D printing with the young at-risk students that YouthQuest Foundation serves.  3D Printing has the affect of unleashing creativity at ANY age.

But, my years of experience can work against my goals for blogging by allowing me to forget or skip over my own struggles when first trying to use a 3D design application and print on a 3D printer.

This is where I need you.

I need you to ask questions and point out where my explanations fall short of giving you truly useful information.  I need to know where you want to go with 3D printing and what examples you would like to see to help you better understand how 3D printing my be helpful to you.

You can do this by posting comments or sending me an email found in my profile.

The 3D Application Quandary

There are many free 3D applications available to either download or use online.  Personally, I have never found these applications to be as easy, quick or capable as Moment of Inspiration (MOI).  That is why we use Moment of Inspiration in our classes with at-risk elementary and high school children.

Currently,  MOI costs $295 for non-students and $88 for educators and students.  While my experience tells me that's a great deal, I know that for someone just beginning to explore 3D printing, that can appear to be a bit hard on the budget when free applications are available.

So, I am going to explore one of the free applications to see if I can find one that is suitable to get you started;  When I create a tutorial or demonstration, I will try to use both the free application and MOI to accomplish the same thing.  That way you can get a realistic idea about the relative capabilities of the software.  It may be that the free application will be easy enough and capable enough.  I don't know because it was years ago when I first looked at the free offerings.  The free offerings may have improved dramatically in the intervening years.  I need to take another look.

One of the benefits of this approach is that at least on some level, I will also be a newbie.  And, so my struggles will be much the same as your own.  And, I hope that, too, will be helpful.

The 3D Printer Quandary

I would rather you have ANY 3D printer than not have one.  But, right now, having had years of experience with many different makes and models, this blog will be focused on 3D printers made by M3D.  There is a reason for that.  My interests are 3D printing in the home and 3D printing in education.  I am not interested in fiddling around with a 3D printer.  I'm interested in using it.

I have chosen to use M3D's 3D printers because they are designed to minimize the need for tweaking, etc.  In this regard, the upcoming Pro promises to be astoundingly easy to use.  But, 3D printers aren't microwave ovens.  Since we can use a variety of materials and conceive of a variety of designs, there is always going to be some need to understand the limitations and demands of this tool.

This sometimes will mean addressing topics that may be beyond the understanding of many readers at that point in their experience.  And, when that happens, I want you to let me know so that we can go back and re-communicate the information in a way that is more useful to you.

I cannot emphasize how valuable this feedback will be.  One of my favorite students was a young woman named Vela.  She would raise her hand and say, "Mr Meeks.  I have a situation."  That, of course, meant, "Mr. Meeks, what in the WORLD are you talking about?  You have completely lost me!!!"

Not only was her willingness to let me know she was lost helpful to her.  But, it was helpful to me and every other person in the class.  I cannot thank her enough for how she shaped the curriculum that has helped so many other at-risk cadets and young people.  And, it is the first story that I tell to each new class.  It brings to mind a phrase I learned in college 50 years ago from an educator that I greatly admire.
"Where there is no learning, there has been no teaching."
                                               Dr. Wesley R. Willis.
And, that is also true of blogs.  :)



Thursday, September 8, 2016

M3D Live Streaming Event on KickStarter

Today, September 8, 2016 at 8:00PM, M3D will be testing Kickstarter's new Live Stream capabilities to communicate directly with people interested in hearing about their new Pro 3D printer.

I don't exactly know how the streaming, which is in beta, works; but, there is a sign-up for participating on M3D's KickStarter Page.

It's an excellent opportunity to ask questions of the M3D team.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Series: Colorizing 3D Prints #13 - Non-Smear Coating That Glues PLA!

This is a huge deal for me.  I have looked for years for an effective glue for PLA.  Up to this point, clear fingernail polish was about the best I could find.

Ironically, I wasn't actually looking for a glue for PLA when I came across one that works.  I was looking for a clear coat for prints that have been colorized using alcohol marker ink.  And, I suspected that I would find it in the form of a glue.  I was right.

The great news is that it can be found in grocery store, hardware stores and places like Target or Walmart.  It's called Loctite GO2 All-Purpose Glue.

Loctite GO2 Glue

But, the added benefit was that Loctite GO2 also bonds PLA.  Here are my 3 test samples.

Loctite GO2 As Clear Coat & Glue
The samples are (1) a 'swatch' of Tough 3D Ink that has been painted with both Spectrum Noir and Sharpie alcohol ink using the eBrush airbrush, (2) Tough 3D Ink glued to Premium PLA and (3) 2 pieces of standard PLA.  In each case the glue worked as I had hoped.

Sample 1: Loctite GO2 does not smear alcohol ink and is flexible

The Tough PLA color did not run and the material remains as flexible as it was before coating.  I applied the glue by pouring it onto the item and smoothing with an artists brush.  The brush was cleaned with alcohol after the application.  What can't be conveyed by an image is the interesting feel of the coating after it's dry.  It has a rubberized feel to it that provides some non-slip 'grip' that is interesting.

The glue dried crystal clear.  So, it does make for a great top coat to protect the alcohol inks.

Sample 3: Loctite GO2 joined different materials.

The simulated wax seal is M3D's Tough 3D Ink and the simulated coin is M3D's Premium PLA.  The bond does take a while to set (30 minutes) and was fully cured in 24 hours.  I was able to accelerate that by putting all the test pieces in a food dehydrator for a few hours.

Sample 3: Loctite GO2 joined two PLA pieces.

This is really a big find for me.  None of the normal cements designed for plastic models ever worked all that well when used with PLA.  So, in the past, I usually turned to clear fingernail polish.  It worked; but, never seemed to be a great solution.  The cool thing about Loctite GO2 is that the glue, itself, is flexible after it cures.  So, while the bond is tight, there is some capability for give at the point of connection.

The bond can be broken if too stressed, so if you are planning to build a large 3D printed PLA bridge, I'd make sure the glue was liberally applied.  While not a completely perfect solution, it works better than anything else I have tried.

If you have a glue that works with PLA, I'd love to hear about it. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Food Dehydrator - The Go To Filament, Paint & Glue Drying System

Anyone that prints with PLA and Tough 3D Ink needs to understand that moisture in the ambient air tries to degrade and destroy these filaments. That's why filament is shipped in sealed bags with dry packs.  Once we open the bags, the filament begins acting like a sponge soaking up the moisture in the air,  That;s why I do not like buying large reels of filament.  In fact, the filament reels chosen by M3D are a perfect size in my area, which is the moisture laden mid-Atlantic.

A few months ago I went on a quest to attack this issue.  I came up with storage bins in which I can put drying agents along with the filament.  But, the most significant discovery was that an ordinary food dehydrator can be used to draw the moisture out of our filaments.

After trying several, the one that I finally settled on as my favorite is the Presto Digital Dehydrator that can be purchased through Kohl's, Walmart and any number of similar stores.

Presto Digital Food Dehydrator
I prefer the digital version because I can more precisely set the temperature and running time.

But, now I have found an additional way to use this product with my 3D prints... for drying paint and curing glue!

While I spray aerosol paints outside and let them dry a bit before bringing them into the house, it is nice to be able to select a nice even temperature for the bulk of the curing time.  Most aerosol paint directions say the paint will dry to touch within an hour and be fully cured in 24 hours.  Using the food dehydrator ensures that will be the case no mater how moist the ambient air.

But, another application that has become important for is curing glue.  As I have been testing clear coat candidates for the alcohol markers, it is clear glue that seems to offer the most promise.  In fact, Loctite GO2 All-Purpose glue does not seem to smear alcohol marker colors and, as an added benefit seems to perform as an effective glue with Tough 3D Ink.  The jury is still out on standard PLA.

And, that jury is the food dehydrator.  I joined two pieces of PLA with Loctite GO2 and am letting it cure for at least 24 hours.  That should give it the proper time and proper environment to work its best.  I also have a 'swatch' of alcohol marker painted ABS-R running through the same drying cycle.  So, in 24 hours we should have some results to report.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Series: Colorizing 3D Prints #12 - Colorizing with Chalkboard Paint

Before talking about a project that was a LOT of fun, I have to tell you where I got the idea.

Cathy Parlitsis of Stamps and Scrapbooks is a person that creates wonderful mixed media and paper crafting tutorials and videos.  Her site and YouTube channel are well worth exploring.

I came across this video, where Cathy re-purposed some candy canes and blackboard ornaments to create some very cool food identifiers for a pot-luck dinner.


Working on the principle that no cool idea should go unappropriated, the idea came to me that a great 3D printed craft project that would involve colorizing 3D prints might be a personalized mini-chalkboard.

My first attempt involved creating and printing all the elements... chalkboard area and personalized hanging frame in a single printed object.   But, of course, since I am masking challenged, that turned out to be more trouble than expected with the chalkboard paint finding its way into unwanted areas.

3D Printed Chalkboard - First Draft
I was able to clean it up a bit; but, clearly there had to be a better way to do this project.  Plus, after proving that the chalkboard paint would work on a PLA surface, I really wanted to make the design to be more personal for the person for whom it was intended.

So, the design was broken into two pieces.  The first piece, the chalkboard, was beveled to fit into the back of the second piece, the frame, which was expanded to make room for a name..

Inlay Trick #1 - Bevel Inlay Edges

While the chalkboard piece is inserted from the back, it is still essentially an inlay.  Inlay is another way to put two different color prints together.  The inlaid piece must fit into the host piece and there are some tricks to making it work more easily.  The 3rd Gen Cube on which this project was printed has some differences in the size of borders and holes from the specified design when printed.  We can make allowances for that; but, by beveling the inside and outside matching edges we know that the piece will fit even if our compensation estimates are off.  If the edges are straight and we miscalculate by even .1mm, we might have to reprint the object. The beveled edge gives us a little margin for error.

Beveled Edges Widen the Margin of Error in Fit
Inlay Trick #2 - Resize (Expand) the inlay object when using it to cut the inlay channel or hole.

The trick in making sure the insert fits correctly is to use the inlay object to define the hole or channel into which it will be inserted.  But, first, we resized the chalkboard by 1mm in the X and W directions.    We do this because, typically, holes get slightly smaller and pegs (inserted objects) get slightly larger when 3D printed.  Resizing the chalkboard ensures that the design of the hole will be 1mm bigger all around.  But, when printed the opening of the hole will actually be a bit smaller.

After the hole is cut, we return the chalkboard to its original size for printing.  I added 1mm to both the height and the width.

Then we print each object separately.  With an independent chalkboard, colorizing it with chalkboard paint is easy and requires no mask.

For now, the frame remains uncolored.  But, should we desire to add some color, it would be a lot easier than with a single design.

Once the paint dries, the pieces are taped or glued together.  Since we may want to colorize the frames, for now it is taped.  But, because, this was printed in PLA, clear fingernail polish would be the glue of choice when we turn to that option.  Here is the result.

Mini-Chalkboard Colorized with Chalkboard Paint
It's easy and fun.  Of course, I had to make two, with two granddaughters.

One single style black board and 2 new style chalkboards
The new two-piece style is better in every way.  There is no danger of paint slipping under the masking as can be seen in the top sample.  Names are added to the Master Design just before the object is saved for printing, allowing each one to be personalized with a unique name.

It can be hung using a suction cop attachment on a window or a small stand could be printed to hold it on a desk.  In any case, I know they are going to be surprised and pleased the next time we see them!

Thank you Cathy!!  I loved your original idea and it turned out to translate very well to 3D printing!

Friday, September 2, 2016

I love using the M3D Micro!

I've said it before.  It's slow.  In fact, it's quite slow.

So why am I so pleased with it and now use it way more than the two MUCH faster 3rd Gen Cube 3D printers I have just a few feet me?

I can explain in one single word.... NOISE.  Or, rather, the LACK of noise.

No matter what 3D printer I use, I have to continue to work developing materials for my classes.  The noise I used to tolerate from the larger, faster printers seems almost unbearable to me now that I've heard the Micro.

And, while I cannot confirm it, I have been told that the M3D Pro is going to be even MORE quiet.

Over the past few weeks, day and night, the Micro has been churning out test parts that I'm sending to a team of  expert colorists to see what they think about using a 3D printer for crafting.  I've printed Tough 3D Ink, ABS-R, PLA and Chameleon without a single clog. 

I've printed on blue painter's tape (Tough 3D Ink) and straight onto the BuildTak.  I have two different build plates and swap them out ween switching filament types makes it necessary.  With each swap I re-run the auto-gap calibration and check it.  While I might change it plus or minus .1, it's probably not all that necessary.  In any case, I've not had a single print failure or clog with any run.

So, while I do have to wait for hours for something that might take less than an hour on the 3rd Gen Cube printers, I an more than willing to be patient without the noise pollution and/or prints that fail.  It's just set it an forget it until I see the print head is in the parked position.

Now, this bodes very well for the Pro version which, from the specs and updates, a significantly faster and more automated printer.   Check out the 'Mega Update' on Kickstarter and seriously consider backing the M3D Pro KickStarter campaign.  While I am sure they can use your money to finalize the development and production, the real winner will be you! 


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Watermark Your 3D Prints

The only reason for the title of this post is to pretend that the content of the post is actually based on a sane idea.  But, I can assure you that the genesis of the idea behind this article was simply serendipity and nutty curiosity.

There is a reason why I named this blog IdeaRoom3D.  I wanted to focus on new ways we can use 3D printing in every aspect of our lives. And, I mean it when I say that "Any room can be an "Idea Room" with the addition of a 3D printer."  Ideas are what 3D printing is all about.

It's just that some ideas are crazier than others.  And, this is one of them.

I've always been of the opinion that USING a 3D printer for even the simplest of tasks is a LOT more rewarding than tinkering with a 3D printer.  But, sometimes, to be able to expand what you can do, it becomes necessary to play around with the 3D printing process itself.

It should be obvious, from previous posts, that one area of life I intend to explore is using 3D printing for crafting.  The crafting community is both enormous and creative.  And, it's also expansive and widely diverse, making it a perfect community to benefit from personalized 3D designs.

In anticipation of going down one of the craft trails, I obtained a few embossing folder samples from Craftwell, hoping to see if embossing folders can be created by a 3D printer.  (They can... as you will read later.)   These folders were laying next to my M3D Micro.  As I was removing a Tough 3D Ink part from the print table, which was covered with blue painter's tape, I realized that my gap was set at THE perfect value.  The part came off easily; but, the bottom of the part was absolutely smooth!

In fact, the bottom of the part was more smooth than the top with this gap setting.

At that point, my brain, randomly making the connection between the embossing folders and smooth bottom surface, came up with a crazy idea.  What would happen if I embossed the painter's tape and printed at the same gap?  Would it emboss the bottom of the printed piece.

Well, here's the answer...

Effects Using Embossed Painter's Tape

As you can see, the pattern of the embossing folder was transferred to the painter's tape and, in turn, the pattern of the painter's tape was transferred to the bottom of the printed part.

But, the embossed pattern is relatively shallow.  So, the resulting pattern on the printed piece is barely able to be seen unless, as I have done, we spray color ACROSS the printed piece so that the impressions are more easily visible.

Watermarking a printed page is the closest analogy that I could make that would give the idea anything close to a sane rationale.  But, I have to tell you... it WAS fun to see that it actually did work.  And, I am certain that the concept can be expanded with slightly deeper embossing folders.

One of the significant things about the pattern in the printed object is that it is on the underside of the piece.  The tape becomes the support!  There is no drooping caused by lack of support.  I am certain this will come in handy in the future.  

In the meantime, my brain is happy and proud that its crazy idea actually worked.  

Believe me... It's not always that lucky!  :)