More PLA quality issues

Getting good prints from PLA (Polylactic Acid based filament) is usually pretty easy – as long as you have a well calibrated extruder and good quality filament.

I once ran into quality issues with filament on the SAME filament reel. On the first limited test run of my Pencase, I started with a pale blue Matterhackers spool that went well, but then turned into total garbage by the end of the reel.

Since it was a new reel, or at least a newly ordered reel, I thought it was a material issue given the printer itself was also freshly calibrated, cleaned and maintained.

Hey, it happens. But the relative youth of a consumer or even pro-sumer 3d printing marketplace is going to have these kinds of hickups.

It’s one of the reasons I have always enjoyed using Protopasta filaments – the consistency of a material throughout it’s usage and lifetime in your shop is really important. And it’s clear from a sampling of materials that pricing might not reflect quality, but when there is consistent correlation between price and quality – you build some loyalty.

This sounds like more of a marketing blog than a 3d printing rant, but it cn be really tiresome trying to salvage a bad roll of remaining filament with different settings to compensate for brittleness, adhesion, clogging or other difficulties that come wwith inconsistent filament properties.

For instance, I actually sat next to my printer once with my finger on the temperature dial adjusting the filament temperature AS it was printing. If I saw or heard strain in the extruder I would adjust pressure slightly, or if I saw under extrusion I would briefly increase temperature, or even adjust speed. JUST to save on buying new filament.

I’m likely not going to do that again. It’s beside the point of having a robot in your living room, right?

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The Meta Cognitive Training Bracelet

Time Ferris, author of the 4-hour series of books and more, posted an article a while back about the use of Rubber bands as cognitive training tools. Like many things in meta cognitive training, an action, a behavior and an object are blended into a simple program which has become popular with personal development enthusiasts and trainers.

You can read more about that program in Tim’s post here:

Meta Cognitive Training

I happen to like the idea of meta cognitive training but as a designer and 3d printing nut I wanted to add something to that mix. While the rubber band bracelets were truly inexpensive, I thought a much more mechanical “switch” would be more symbolic and perhaps safer in a way.

That thought occurred to me while driving to work. Since the original meta cognitive program in Tim’s post was about complaining, I thought many people would be wearing these rubber bands while driving. If you add rabid cell phone use to complaining about traffic, the act of switching the rubber band from one wrist to the other as instructed in the training protocol above spelled disaster.

You can just see the disdain on the police officer’s face – “You see officer, I was just following my meta cognitive training protocol …”

The biggest advantage to the rubber bands, of course, is that they fit a much wider range of wrists without modification. Perfect design. But my next version of this bracelet may include a flexible wristband as I want to start experimenting with flexible 3d printing filaments.

It’s a little odd that I have not done so in the few years I have been printing. I have never liked the fact that many of these filaments’ early versions were in fact difficult to use and often ended up requiring a hardware upgrade to the printers before being truly usable.

But after the latest reviews of some of the latest flexibles, that may have finally changed. I’ll know more by the end of summer.

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You break it, you print it

I have had one case for my glasses which I liked – but it also had a property I disliked.

I liked that it opened from one end instead of lengthwise – it helped with unintentionally dropping my glasses or the fact that they would pop out of the lengthwise case too easily.

The thing I didn’t like was that the cap was rounded, the base was flat and it was chrome plated – in other words, it looked like a dildo. There were a number of odd glances my way when I would produce the case in public.

But I have had a 3d printer for several years now, and last week, having installed a new extruder I was looking for new projects.

I started designing the next case for my glasses years ago, but it evolved into the Pencase project which you can purchase here.

Although the current design for the case only shows the basic exterior it is no way going to be a business as usual case. I want this thing to be as desperately impractical as possible – more of a toy than something meant for the avid glasses switcher. Whatever that is. Whoever that is.

I am in other words breaking one of those tenets of good design (again) – that something be designed for its purpose as closely as possible. Braun designer Dieter Rams would be furious, but I feel that 3d printers are precisely and particularly fit for this sort of task.

The real purpose I find is in the way design itself is accessible, not it’s final products. There is a fantastic saying floating around the conversation of any technology but especially mobile technologies and I would add 3d printers to it – that what we design, ends up designer us in return.

The feedback from the objects and apps in our lives changes us in return and to be aware of that, act within it and take it as the true process is more important to me lately.

Mostly because I have to find a way to justify spending so much money on 3d printing! Hubris! Have fun out there if you live is LA – triple digits everywhere make for easy melting.

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Deadlines and pricing

I have a few options with my latest book, all of which are driven by the WonderCon Deadline this year.

I made it into the show, that’s not the problem. I wrapped up my last days on the show I was working on – they day job – and took on a freelance job which put me a full two weeks behind the much more comfortable schedule for delivering Pages of Eight 3 at WonderCon this year.

Since getting my Ultimaker 2, I’ve been trying to have a cool new printed project every year – something to have at the table that starts conversations. This year is no different, but with barely enough time to finish Pages of Eight, I might just print out some older projects instead.

I did think I would print out something else from another show I worked on. I got to build and animate a fun horror comedy creature sequence in the Sundance premiere of Snathcers from some fun UCLA alumni.

Hopefully, they can sell the series and I might get to work on it again, but I like having something at the table which represents a broader swath of what I do. Printing out the Snatcher creature itself would be a fun way to show that.

I might even be able to print it out life size – the actual creature was barely a foot long. Crouching over a skull – that might be pretty cool looking. Though I’d need almost as many weeks to print and paint it as I have for Pages of Eight. And I can’t sell the Snatcher, really. I have no rights to its design. A lot of work for a showpiece.

SO when I make up my mind, the show will have ended already, HAHA.

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Inktober and new projects

It’s late in the year but thanks to Inktober I can reset some long dormant projects.

One of the longest waiting in the wings is a 3d printing project which features some new filament from Protoplant – stainless steel PLA. I finally got some of this stuff and hope it turns out well.

Capture

In comics I hope to start another issue of my mini anthology, Pages of Eight which is on Comixology now.

http://bit.ly/1Njatwo

SUB008663

I also want to develop some content for the Ultimaker community through Youmagine. They are currently offering some impressive featured models from Le Haslam – a really talented modeller and model builder.

https://ultimaker.com/en/blog/view/17702-introducing-leo-haslams-fantastical-creations

That’s it for now. Got to get busy.

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Small, Medium and Large Ultimakers

If you follow the news about Ultimaker you will know that they have released a line of 3d printers based on the Ultimaker 2 formula.

If you know my background and my experience with Ultimaker, you will understand this is good news. And that it is bad news for Makerbot which hasn’t released anything but some new materials you can get jammed in your smart extruder.

Yes, that’s me being bitter.

I fully intend to replace my now completely consistently and annoyingly failing Makerbot Mini. I have had enough. I recently suggested that Makerbot re-conceive the materials and user policies used in building the smart extruder in their recent online survey.

Gulanee-outside-sml

I would be willing to pay for a premium smart extruder which allows everything I have consistently asked the company to do. Make it user serviceable, make it from better materials, and make it easier to manage settings and regulate it’s temperature better.

Makerbot did a great job defining goals and specs which made sense to consumers and almost none of the ones important to me were ready at release or were disappointing when seen in action. The built in camera is not very good or useful, the reliability is woeful, the build quality gets progressively worse until the extruder fails entirely, and customer service has either no interest or ability to respond with customer history at hand and instead goes through robotic standard replies and suggestions.

But back to Ultimaker – I saw that they are using the 2 ft tall Gulanee model at their booth at CES which makes me divinely happy she has found a good home. If you see this model, you should know that I was up and running, printing tests and getting work done in under an hour – and that’s me taking what I thought was a LONG time to get acquainted with the printer.

This is also close to the first full year I have been on this 3d printing adventure and want to congratulate Ultimaker for thinking, acting and delivering on the promises of 3d printing.

Conversely I want to encourage Makerbot to consider some of the things I suggested. I truly did enjoy the Makerbot experience when it first arrived and I finished my first model.

Visit  #72024 at CES if you get a chance and say hello!

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Gearing, working parts and 3d printing

I have only ever done a tiny bit of CAD. I had an old copy of TurboCAD for Windows which I barely used, but definitely should have kept using considering the project I have started this month.

I have as much experience calculating differentials as I do hang gliding, but it became absolutely necessary to at least configure the gearing mechanism required for the latest 3d printing project.

gearing

The first version of the mechanism showed me that I was thinking much to linearly and I eventually switched to something more complicated but definitely more elegant.

Essentially, the gearing mechanism rotates two planes away from each other – it operates a bit like a scissors.

gearing01
This is the first operational mechanism I have designed specifically for a 3d printing project and I am considering going to one or more of the open source CAD applications that are available. At least one of them however, is listed by Chrome as a piece of Malware – FreeCAD.

That’s sad – it looked pretty impressive. But I am sure I will settle on a CAD solution, but since I have learned well how to model at scale with fairly high precision, I might not need CAD immediately.

I think the more important issue is how CAD just isn’t as important in consumer level 3d printing – that it’s practically a non issue to many users who are remixing other models, projects etc. Why learn CAD, there are so many free 3d models of reasonably high quality you should be able to kitbash anything you want, right?

You could probably never run out of free things to print online. But just like I remember people using the first dot matrix printers to print out ascii versions of pictures, I think were still very much in that stage of 3d printing. There are definitely the differences between those times and now – some people are truly pushing the envelope but that entry level FFM user is still trying to wrap their head around making these things work reliably at all.

But like I said before, just being a decent 3d modeler is a huge advantage to 3d printing users. It’s pretty much the skeleton key to synthesizing any shape and therefore anything you want to print.

I’ll post more as this project develops.
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Headed to the bank. Sort of.

I literally spent the last week looking around my desk – not even my whole apartment – for thing I needed that could 3d print.

I came up with two things – a pencil and brush holder and a piggy bank. Since so much of my work is digital I don’t do a terribly good job of organizing my pencils and brushes.

Printed VERY clean, will make the next one larger and maybe modular #3dprinting #ultimaker #protopasta

A photo posted by Jesse Mesa Toves (@zeustoves) on

I do an even worse job of organizing loose change.

I spent some time in a previous post talking about the idea that 3d printing has different (not always better) economies of scale when compared to just going out and shopping or re-using something around the house.

In fact, if I am guilty of anything in this most recent exercise, it’s of particularly conspicuous consumption. But I have spent a lifetime designing so many things for other people, I should get a chance to do them for myself.

The largest single object to date that I have 3d printed is this piggy bank. I had originally thought it should be smaller but considering it kind of looks like a hand grenade, I changed my mind. It might be a good idea to print some ears as it is still sort of menacing in a way.

Almost there, will print the screw cap tonight. #3dprinting #ultimaker #protopasta

A photo posted by Jesse Mesa Toves (@zeustoves) on

The next big project might be settled – moving parts. Sound effects – I am sure the nerd rage regarding its design will cause overload. Hopefully it will be done by Christmas.

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Printing your own useful stuff

People constantly talk about the future where you will print the things you need or want.

Before I bought my first 3d printer, I watched a video of a young man who printed replacement parts for various things in his kitchen and bathroom.

While I thought these were interesting uses, the economies of scale in time and convenience are still WAY off of being compelling to consumers.

For instance, the inkwell I made – the larger one took six hours to print. That’s nowhere near as economical as shopping for one at a local art store.

One could say that the hours taken to design it, to print it and clean it so that it is usable costs a consumer far more than it would to simply buy one at retail.

But does it?

Pencil_Holder

My new pencil holder for the desk – designed, modeled and printed in less than 10 hours total time.

Consider some of the most basic aspects of manufacturing an object as simple as the inkwell I designed.

For a manufacturer to produce a similar inkwell for retail, commonly they would have to:

  • Acquire design services
  • Solicit retail
  • Secure credit and financing
  • Purchase manufacturing capacity
  • Arrange shipping and customs agreements if made abroad
  • Marketing and advertising budgets including package design

For myself I needed:

  • A weekend to design the object
  • Design software
  • 3d printer and filament to cover prototypes and the final
  • a few days to print prototypes and the final versions

Obviously I am leaving out a LOT of detail. But at a glance what do you think really means more to users of the things 3d printing is actually capable of making right now?

I have some obvious advantages over everyday users. Even with the emergence of 3d ecosystems with thousands and even millions of objects available for printing, I can design and prototype my own objects without ever incurring anything but the time to design anything.

I also have some experience in computer aided design, drafting and product and packaging design – not to mention nearly 2 decades of computer modeling experience.

It’s really easy for me to fire up a modeling program and synthesize nearly anything I want.

The learning curve behind really making new things is still pretty steep. And I remember when people used to talk about how long it would take for 3d modeling software would take before it became commonplace – a household thing. It’s been almost 20 years since I remember people talking about that and there are only recently some useful 3d programs on mobile devices. That took an awfully long time.

Even I am still looking for that 3d printing “killer app” – that thing that will make 3d printing a real game changer for other people because I have to be honest.

I hate the thought of not having one in my house and being able to make nearly any object I want – especially after making a living for years making monsters.

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Proto Pasta and printing metallic PLA

So I am hoping to get my hands on some of this material soon and try it out.

It’s the new stainless steel PLA from Proto Pasta – it is among the new filaments for Fused Filament Manufacturing (FFM) 3d printers they just released.

The carbon fiber PLA they also make is easily the best looking black material I have used – stock PLA from many sources has a really bright sheen even at higher resolutions which is tough to light and sometimes tough to sand.

The new material from Proto Plant looks really interesting for several reasons.

There are lots of model painting tricks to make something look like metal, and often the results just look painted anyway on plastic models. But there are some blends of industrial plastics that look like brushed metal and let’s face it – I like robots. Robots. Metal. It’s a REALLY good fit.

The other reason is sanding – it looks like this material was made with the intentions of actually looking good even when only partially sanded. I have to say that ALL stock PLA material when sanded looks like just that – partially sanded material.

I hope to get some of this stuff for the next large scale project.

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