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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This is when you will outgrow your first 3d printer

The minute you want to build something bigger than the printer is capable of printing in one piece. At least a dozen people I know have said something which indicates the size printer they want to buy is dictated by the thing they most want to make RIGHT NOW. Later on … you get the picture?

Minifigs, RPG set pieces, jewelry, designer ice trays … tiny stuff. Cool.

And that STILL shouldn’t stop you from printing something pretty darned huge.

The guys at Ultimaker proved this by printing a life sized elephant in dozens of individual pieces using a “print farm” – a group of Ultimakers all working together.

The Gulanee model I printed out was originally targeted for the Makerbot Mini where the size was set to 1 foot – minus the base I made separately.

Want to know what comes in strikingly handy? The built in Windows 8 calculator which does many conversions natively.

calculator

If this is the first time someone has praised Windows 8, don’t freak out.

Going bigger on the Ultimaker 2 meant doing some re-configuring to get parts that would print the model 2 feet tall. That’s bigger than my old Godzilla toys.

Having a good grasp of conversions is something every scale modeler knows – 1/8 scale this or that, 1/32 scale ships and so on.

So a workflow for me always started with “How big do I want this thing to be” and not “how big can the printer make it.” Because frankly, it’s a stupid question. The bigger and better questions are “what’s the right scale” and “how much filament do I need.”

All slicer software worth it’s salt should tell you a few things.

  • How much material will it take
  • How large the final print will be
  • The exact scale entered to produce the final print
  • And how long it will take to print

This is an example of the Cura display showing these values.

Rocket-Cura

In a previous post I said how crucial CGI modeling skills were going to be? Glad I spent years modeling things the hard way – polygon to polygon.

The Gulanee was designed and built for animation production – not 3d printing. Plenty of conventions in animation just don’t fly in 3d printing.

The biggest problem? Floating parts. Anyone who has done visual effects and CGI knows this.

polygroups

All of the armor and little screws were all discreet pieces of the model that had to be merged so it’s a bit like building the model twice.

The final result can be noticeably better if you take the time to merge things manually – the biggest reason is that the software which more easily merges models also increases their file size and can soften certain details. Even with more expensive software, I spent so much time modeling the Gulanee the first time, I REALLY wanted to preserve that detail.

People call this process making the model “watertight.” It’s still an important step but it’s one lots of people are working hard to eliminate. Wouldn’t you want to save production time?

Determining the ideal spot where you will split up your model is also something various programs handle differently – I’ve been doing it manually. For the most part, breaking you model into parts is about scale.

It is also about strength. Many parts of the Gulanee were made unnaturally thin – it was meant to indicate something sleek. But in the real world, that meant change attributes of the model to be stronger.

The legs of the Gulanee were printed with different settings – basically they were given more internal structure and therefor strength than the res of the model. Parts of the feet are almost solid.

If you are satisfied downloading models from the internet, printing out that Yoda model in the material of the day, be my guest. Once you find out what you REALLY want to make, you’ll have to design it yourself.

THEN, you’ll be making the future. Then you’ll likely want another printer.

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Can you make a rocket out of carbon fiber PLA?

Sure you can. As long as you’re talking about a carbon fiber Rocket Racoon. All joking aside, I made this prior to the Long Beach Comic Con as a demonstration piece for the Ultimaker 2.

The first one came out very well for being printed in one pass – no parts, no orientation tricks. I think people always want to know – especially 3d modellers – how well a 3d printer will work with their models. The answer is always it depends, but so far the Ultimaker 2 has really dared me to do things that are more difficult.

The results of this test aren’t perfect, but they are impressive considering the level of “difficulty” of this model.

Test-render-00003_001

The basic figure was sculpted in Sculptris which thankfully is still free. The figure was posed and the gun was added with Lightwave 3d. I also made the model watertight – if you don’t know what that means, it’s made into one continuous polygon mesh – also in Lightwave. But the software is less relevant than the material – Carbon Fiber reinforced PLA.

Although this came out better than I expected, I should have increased the wall thickness of the print.

As a result the legs broke when I cleaned the model. But, I am used to cleaning and polishing plastic models. What red blooded teen-aged boy didn’t spend hours making plastic models seamless?

Some Tamiya modeling putty and 2 grains of sandpaper (60-120 grain) will make this raccoon whole again, but since the test was meant to see how the untouched surface would hold up – well I think it’s still successful as the finish is actually very good by default.

Chances are you have everything you need around the house when you first get a 3d printer – especially if you are already a hobbyist of some skill level. The only thing I really didn’t have lying around which made this much easier was the Tamiya putty – which is terribly expensive by volume. I think I would DIY an alternative since basically it is a quick drying semi-polymer based, molding putty. Time to break out the chemistry set.

Even printed at only 100 microns (mostly for speed), the model printed well for something with an enormous amount of overhang issues. People constantly tell those who do 3d printing to try and avoid overhangs by orienting parts in certain ways. And that’s still true but I like to torture test materials and equipment with tough situations and this guy has every DON’T DO THAT issue related to 3d printing there is.

For more information on the ultimaker 2 and Carbon fiber reinforced filament, visit https://www.ultimaker.com/ and http://www.proto-pasta.com/

And sign up for important private invites and announcements. I want to offer something to the courageous soon.

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A Carbon Fiber Inkwell?

New size for bigger project painting and drawing - I could just use a coffee cup for my inkwell but that would be LAZY!. #protopasta #3dprinting #ultimaker

So while Inktober is over, I had some ideas and developed a few prototypes for a new inkwell while working on my daily pieces.

One of the posts caught the attention of a filament company – it was my coffee drawing of Superman.

After coffee, #inktober #warmup #superman #dccomics

A few weeks later we agreed to trade wares – a drawing for some filament samples.

I think I owe Alex at Proto Pasta some money! This stuff is the most interesting filament I have used. A spool of 2.85 mm gauge filament for the Ultimaker in 750 gram spool is $60 US. By comparison, a 900 g spool of basic blue from Makerbot cost $56. Both of these prices do not include shipping.

Carbon fiber filament sounds like something out of science fiction. To be fair, it is not exactly like making carbon fiber parts for cars where sheets of fibrous material are layered together to make something stronger than steel. This is basically thermoplastic which has been made with small amounts of carbon fiber to reinforce the final melted product.

Since carbon fiber derives its strength from linear fibers being layered together I am not sure this aaccomplishes the same strength effects. But what it DOES do is something pretty close.

First carbon fiber inkwell almost done. #3dprinting #ultimaker #protopasta

One of the problems I have with almost every FFM filament type is that it is very difficult to photograph with simpler cameras. There is an linear sheen from the build lines which causes strange hot spots and highlights and can obscure details without a better lighting setup.

The carbon fiber reinforced filament Alex sent me is beautiful up close. The finish is just matte enough to diffuse light evenly across the surface and even the courser 100 micron resolution I printed this sample at produced an even and diffuse surface.

Truth be told, the final product feels like wood – this can be said of various filaments usually but in particular the carbon fiber reinforced filament has the feel of stained wood. Cleaning up the brim – part of the printing support settings puts a small “skirt” around the base of the print – with a sharp knife confirms the woodlike feel and even the sound of wood while carving. It’s subtle but it’s something I noticed right away.

There are some caveats on the label to using this filament because it does contain elements which can be a bit abrasive on printing equipment. My tests for now are rather small in scale but given the comparative reliability of the Ultimaker so far I will continue the tests.

For more information:

http://www.proto-pasta.com/

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