3d print show, the opening keynote by Bre pettis

For the next 3 days I will be attending the 3d print show at London (Yes, I am THAT lucky!!!) and I'll try making short posts on the various things going on here to keep you up to date, and hopefully (when I'm going back and catching my breath) something more in depth.

So let's start!! Right now I'm listening to the opening keynote of Bre Pettis, and he is talking about the history of makerbot from the start (using piping and soldering googles) to the new sexy makerbot. In between, a cocktail machine with a very dangerous “random” button!

After maker bots obviously it's time to talk about the digitizer. Bre highlights the fun of using it for random strange stuff (from crumpled up paper to his kid's play doh sculptures for christmas presents).

Thingiverse is up next: the website started out even before starting manufacturing makerbots, with the innovative idea of having a place where to download real objects. Now hundreds of objects are uploaded daily and it has space for users from all over the place.

For the various uses of makerbot Bre talks about houses, the heat shield for the Rover and robotic hands. Prosthetics cost 100,000 $ and are impossible to buy for kids because they grow them out too quickly. The Robo hand costs few bucks to build. Bre talks about a kid that was left handed but had no fingers on the left hand and had to learn to use with difficulties the other hand. With a change in the original Robo hand project to make it suitable to draw, he could draw with ease for the first time and chose to do a picture of his dad.

And he feels like iron man with the robotic hand, not anymore a disabled kid.

Pretty small things of kKcie Hultgren, specialized in set designs uses her printers to try out the movie sets to discuss with the producers and during the rest of the day she uses it to make unique furniture for doll's houses.

Education: kids ask “does it make lego?” And when answered yes they say “ok, move out of the way now!”. Ryan Cain uses makerbots to teach erosion, with small houses and a landscape that floods and washes away all the small houses.

And finally as a fun note “stand tall”, a smiling kid that comes back from an amusement park having had the possibility to go on various rides even though she is 1/2 inch shorter than the minimum height, because dad (now with superhero status) printed 1/2 inch shoe soles for her shoes.

Last part of the keynote, beautiful object culture

As an artist Bre admits he had a scarce success, selling 100$ of art objects in 5 years. Managing to be able to show people the stuff he made with art galleries was difficult, and this was depressing. He then passed to the sharing culture, making hundreds and thoudands of clicks and really being able to show his stuff and make friends through this. And his self esteem gained a lot of points.

Bre closes with his manifesto, underlining how it's important to Make things done, without thinking or planning too much, otherwise you postpone things and get nowhere. Certainly not the best approach when making airplanes as he admits himself, but great to make innovative products.

Questions! On recycling the objects and the possibility of making filaments with the used up pieces. Always an interesting question but bre gives no “hope” on this subjects. Though there are some interesting products doing this the nozzle size must be quite bigger to give decent results otherwise all debris will clog it making unhappy costumers. And one thing is obvious: makerbot just wants happy costumers.


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Temporary FabLab Udine

Our friend Ivan Bortolin asked us to participate to the 3d moment at the temporary FabLab in Udine, but this time we did not take printers with us but just 3d scanners while Ivan brought his Mendel Max.

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We now have 3 scanners: the Digitizer, the Fabscan and the kinect sensor, so it’s interesting to see the various applications of all of them. We used the kinect to scan a couple of visitors but mostly we showed how each of them performs and when to use one or the other.

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The lectures were also very interesting and quite a crowd listened to Carlo and Ivan descrive the hardware and software that enable us to transofrm an idea into something tangible.

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Filastruder: lets start assemblying!

Finally the filastruder kit arrived, and we are really curious to build it and see if it's th solution to our recycling problems. It comes with a sticker with the serial number to attach to it, a nice touch I have to say.


Extruder version 1.3 instructions version 1.3

The pieces are in various bags but determining what is what is not that simple.

You must print some pieces with a 3d printer but obviously if you want a filament extruder you already have a 3d printer, otherwise what would you need an extruder for? We chose to print a different version of the hopper, found on thingiverse

The instructions come with very nice diagrams instead of photos, and being a naturalist I'm partial to diagrams because they usually are much clearer than photos. You can really show the pieces better in a diagram, but in this case there are too few illustrations and some of them leave doubts.

The instructions are fairly clear, but I always have problems with some of the “big words” so here are some pictures of the various steps to help you out through the process.

1) Collar on feed screw, we are moving it near the black coated part

On the other side the collar we used a vice to screw it and a Dremel to grind the lips of the barrel

2) the instructions say you have a bearing, but we had to assemble it from 3 pieces in 3 different bags

We also found out some steps after that the bearing was off center so we added some kapton tape to have a better fit, though on the website it states it's not a problem even if it's a little bit loose.q

5) now you should add the hopper body but we printed out a different version in 2 pieces so you can add it aftewards

7)the heating band in the following diagrams is a little more clear, we installed it with the cables pointing backwards

8) and then the brass nozzle

9-11)time to add some more wooden pieces and the spacers on the bolts

12) tightening by hand the screws on the wooden piece

13) now this step is interesting: you use a dowel pin to connect the motor to the auger, but you need to add a couple of small metal tubes to make it fit nicely. In the diagram you only see one so here you have more pictures.

Check now if the setscrew in the shaftcollar is too tight preventing the auger from turning, we had to loosen it and tighten it again after this part.

15) attach the motor to the wooden piece, the piece is not simmetrical but placing it next to the rest of the assembled pieces we think this is the right orientation, with the largest piece of wood underneath

16) wrap hot end in provided insulation (note!!! Wait for this step, it will be easier to do it after placing the sensor, otherwise you will have to open it up again)

17) get your wooden base (not included) and start drilling!!

21) now you have to attach the angle brackets, the instructions don't state it but it's useful to add a washer otherwise the bolt will ruin the bracket.

22) line up everything and again add some washers

26) filament guide: uses washer, nuts and bolts around a copper piece but the provided screw is too short.


And that's the end of the mechanical assembly, not bad you can also have a look at these videos on youtube.


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3d scanners comparison

Right now at the lab we have 3 scanners: Fabscan, the digitizer and the kinect sensor with Skanect software. Today we will have a demo of all 3 of them and I am very frantically trying them all to check if everything is fine.

I grabbed this skull Louise Leakey gave us that has been made with cardboard pieces and this is the result. The screenshots come from the software of the scanner, meshlab and Cura just to see a rendering on how it would really print. I could not use Fabscan because of the size of the object, it can’t fit in the scanner. In the end small objects can fit in Fabscan but give problems to the kinect sensor that needs a certain amount of “geometries” to work, and the other way round. Digitizer manages objects of different sizes.

Skanect with kinect sensor:

Skanect 1MeshLab v1 3 2 64bit 1Cura  13 06 5 1

Makerware digitizer

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Skanect completely lost all the texture of the skull, giving a smooth finish to the object. On the other hand Digitizer saw all the small crevices but closed up the bottom of the skull because the shadows cast on the bottom were seen as part of the object.

Just a very very quick comparison, but as there are not pictures of objects scanned with the various scanners online I thought it might be interesting. Will domore in the next days.


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Printing skulls

The files have been provided by Louise Leakey, and the 3d rendering is visible on the website african fossils.

First experiment: skull KNEMER1813

Makerware, PLA, standard settingsKNMER1813 obj

It was printing fine but halfway through the object got separated from the raft (that had sticked perfectly to the bed)
New experiment changing in the slicing profile the “raftInterfaceWidth” to 14mm (maybe a little too much!)  and the “raftModelSpacing” to 0.19 (from 0.21) so to achieve a better bond. 

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Second experiment: ER 3733 

Cura 13.06.5
Layerheight 0.15, shell thickness 0.4
support everywhere, raft
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The raft lays out only where the object will be, so the first layer of support is too high and won’t stick. Yuck. Trying again with support but only brim…

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Not bad at all, though the support was a bit annoying to scrape away.

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And where the support was the surface is not that good, you really see the difference but we already had that problem with the same plastic (Faberdashery white PLA) before.

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Voice 2 Sign Language Prototype

I still have to tell you so much about the maker faire in Rome! It has been an incredibly interesting occasion to see and learn. We also brought a small project Jonathan and Enrique have been working on, with the help of a software programmer.

Tha robotic hand, designed by Jonathan in OpenSCAD, is powered by an Arduino and a Raspberry pi and translates letters and numbers given through the microphone in hand gestures.

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The project has been challenging: Jonathan has designed the hand choosing to avoid screws in the fingers, that are printed (in ABS) already assembled. The hand is then powered by a series of servo motors that enables it to perform the majority of movements needed for the sign language. 

During the faire we also met some deaf visitors that were very curious towards the project and happy that there was interest in these problems.

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The microphone we took with us was catching too much noise so we had a lot of difficulties during the faire to show how the hand responded to the voice signals, so have a look at the video Enrique made some days before where you can see it in action.

And a second video on the project during the makerfaire

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Pordenone Scienzarteambiente

And another time we packed the 3d printers to carry them to a science exhibition. It’s Scienza-arte-ambiente, a very nice science fair held in Pordenone since 2005. Carlo had the opportunity to present “Wired”, the documentary filmed by Nicole Leghissa on his work with wireless networking in developing countries. We then organized a 3d night opened to the public and a 3d morning for schools.

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As always there was a huge interest, this time we also had a 3d scanner (the new Makerbot Digitizer) and the perfect object with which to experiment, a skull :)

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You can see more pictures on this facebook album 

and see the video (in italian) here

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Green 3d printing

We got to meet the guys behind Perpetual Plastic project at the workshop in may, and were so fascinated by their idea that we managed to invite them for the researchers night that took place at the beginning of october.

The Researchers night in Triest is held in Piazza Unità, the big square right in front of the sea and it certainly is a nice background. Our friends arrived the day before, so we could unpack and set up everything wth some ease. While Enrique and Carlo assembled the 3d objects on display and the sign, the guys could set up their factory.

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Having moved the setup many times they are very organized, and manage to assemble a fully functional factory in a short time, screwing the metal shelves together and adding the various elements needed to clean, shred, extrude and finally print the plastic.

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In the mean while Ilaria was helping out trying the coffe machines. Usually the plastic factory “works” recycling soda and beer cups made of PLA, but we had the occasion to collaborate with Illy Caffè, the famous coffee roasting company located in Triest, and needed cups suitable for hot beverages. So we discussed with Gaspard in Holland and they tested the PS coffe cups with success. Illy kindly offered us the coffee cups and obviously something to put inside of them ;)  

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During the morning we had various schools that booked their visit with us, but the factory was so fascinating that in the end all the school kids visiting the other stands stopped by to crank the shredder or see the coffe cups bouncing around while drying.

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The idea behind the perpetual plastic project factory is simple and clever: you take your dirty cup and see it get recycled. 
The step 0 in our setup was offering and drinking the coffee (again thanks to Illy and to Laura and Diana that served roughly 700 coffee cups in 1 day smiling continuously!)

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Then the cups were washed in the small sink and dried with air blasts.

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When the cups are dry they are retrieved from the plastic enclosure and shredded with a hand crank. This is where the kinds were enjoying themselves, shredding things has a certain appeal I have to admit.

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The small pieces of plastic are then sifted and can be extruded.

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Again a cranck is used to activate the filament extruder, so kinds can participate.

The pieces of filament are fed to the 3D printers, to produce nice rings to take home.

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It was a huge success, and attracted a wide audience that appreciated very much the 3d objects on display and the explanations given by various ICTP scientists that partecipated.

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To recap everything, here is a video of the event edited by Enrique Canessa 

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I’m always looking for nice stuff that can be shown at the various science fairs, and when I saw on thingiverse this Chalcopyrite, I knew it was perfect!

We tried printing it with the Ultimaker without success, but it turned out perfectly with PLA on the Replicator, with support and raft. Thanks to Muonic for his nice design!

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It’s way nicer that the 2d model ;)


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Assembly: FabScan by Wetterott (my personal instruction guide!)

One of the things we found at Makerfaire Rome and were eager to try is the FabScan 3d scanner by Wetterott. It comes in a kit, and is really cheap (126€). So we bought the kit and assembled it a couple of days ago. As always, here comes the review.

As soon as you open the box you realize that the construction is really really simple. There are the arduino and the shield, the laser module and the webcam, a motor with its driver. Add the wooden parts, some nuts and bolts and the power supply and you are finished. To be fair if you sum up the prices of all the pieces you reach a sum that is really near the price of the kit.

But let's start building it! Where are the instructions???? There are NO instructions!!! Or at least some parts are described, some have old descriptions pointing to the previous kit and some other are just plain missing. And everything is on different pages-websites and all mixed up. Yuck, hate it.

I was building it with Carlo this time, and he just started with the arduino shield that was the most difficult (and less described) part.

So part 1: the shield. The shield must be soldered, and it's a ton of components to solder together (well, maybe I'm an electronics newbie but it really scared me!). The really ugly part is not that you have to solder all the pieces, but that there is no clear instructions on how to do it. The website has a nice description on how it works and a video on how it was manufactured, but no description on how to assemble except on the instructions page where it states to start soldering the female headers (nice pictures at the beginning) and to go on with the male and lastly the interconnect headers (no more pictures…). We also had to break some of the headers. So be prepared to solder, and quite a lot! Actually, this shield has space for 4 stepper motors but we will be using just one right now, so if you are lazy you can just solder the corresponding connector and leave out the others.

Then just place it on the Arduino board provided.

Part 2: the Pololu stepper motor driver carrier. This part is probably so easy that they decided not to spend a word on it… Anyhow this is how it should look like, and you can read all about it on the website of Pololu. So solder it, and it's ready to be placed on the shield.

Now on to step 3: dismembering the poor webcam. We are given a Logitech webcam but need to separate it from its case. This time we have nice instructions to follow, and though it's kind of scary to open it up and “gut it”, you can do it easily. The only very tricky part is the unsoldering of the cable to move it out of the case. you then have to re-solder it, so if you are not interested in saving the webcam for possible other uses, you might as well try and break the plastic to free the components. But do it at your own risk ;)

Step 4: the laser nothing to assemble here, you just open the box and solder the 2 wires to the shield. Wait to do this part because you will find out that the cable is too short and just doesn't reach the shield when in its final position! Again we couldn't find a clear picture so here you, go, this is how the wires should look like.
Step 5: assembling the wooden enclosure and adding the components. This is where things start to be really funny, because the instructions manual you can download in pdf here, states that the new Cube version will have wonderful interactive instructions available soon, but the last update is of february 2013. Not soon enought for me, I would have preferred simple easy instructions NOW instead of wonderful, interactive ones in the misty future… So we had to follow the older assembly guide and look at the pictures and renderings! No fun… First of all the motor enclosure, this is pretty different from the original one, take a look at these pictures.
BTW there are no instructions on how to connect the stepper motor to the shield, in the older version the motor just has 4 wires, while the new one (described on this page) has 6. So… What to do with the other wires? And which are the right ones to connect? Again no clear photo, we had to squint and guess a little bit and in the end we cut away the yellow and white wire and soldered the remaining 4 on a connector (that we had in the lab). They were probably meant to be soldered on the shield, but we preferred a removable solution.
Here you can see the colors of the wires, without squinting ;)
On with the case, the laser enclosure is again a little bit different from the previous version, could be because with this assembly you could add a second stepper motor to turn the laser. The software already has the possibility to control this second motor and the corresponding wooden piece has already the holes to screw it.
On the other hand, the laser wires are too short, and we had to do add another piece (in a horrible way, or at least Carlo says so)
The webcam has to be screwed directly on the wall of the enclosure (again, no pictures for the 2.0 version) with 2 M2 screws that are easily misplaced. They barely fit, so carefully enlarge the holes on the webcam PCB before screwing them.
The turntable fits nicely on the stepper motor axis, and the walls of the box are easy to assemble though some more screws would have been a good idea, the top and bottom have no screws and can easily fall of if you move it around.

The power supply is a general purpose multi-voltage one and you have to set it to 12v (it's not written anywhere though) and you have to choose the right connector.

And you are done, you can plug it in you computer (no usb cable given, but we always have tons lying around), power it up and hope you have done everything correct ;)

And here we are!!!!

Marco helping us understand WHY the step motor was not working… Turned out the voltage on the power connector was wrong… Sometimes the easiest solutions are the best ones ;)

Next time, the software set up and the first scans.


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