Monday, July 28, 2014

MaKey MaKey Scratch Operation 2

Operation Game 2: browser-based, global low-scores, modular bodies, advancement of the platform. 

Contribute your ideas and Scratch projects, please.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thing-O-Matic 3D Printed Upgrades

My trusty MakerBot Thing-O-Matic finally suffered from the bad design choice to use Molex connectors for the power supply to the Heated Build Platform. I went to print a project for a friend and the bed would not heat up. After some Google Group searching I found JetGuy's explanation of the problem, which turned out to be my problem, too. Putting too much voltage through a Molex connector not designed to handle such voltage will eventually burn out the connector and sometimes the Heated Build Platform, too.

Since a replacement cable is as scarce as hen's teeth, I took JetGuy's advice to salvage the good parts of the cable and replace the faulty parts. I went to a close-by HobbyTown USA. I purchased a Deans connector, which is designed for the voltage the Heated Build Platform requires. By the way, the clerk at Hobbytown was fascinated with what I was doing with the part. Support businesses that supply the arcane parts makers need for projects like this!

I cut the Molex apart, preserving in the Molex the blue ground wire and the three wires that read the temperature of the Heated Build Platform and freeing up the electrical wires.

Soldering the electrical wires in the harness to the Deans connector and a short piece of wire from the Deans connector to the Heated Build Platform was very stressful. I am not great at soldering and worried about doing more damage than repairs. Fortunately, I was able to solder good connections. I used some Sugru to seal up the connection between the wires and the Deans connector. The Deans connector and Sugru are red and part of the harness in the photo below. The Deans connector and the remaining Molex encased parts can be unplugged if the Heated Build Platform needs to be removed.

I used Tinkercad to design a bracket and cover for the remaining Molex and soldered wire connection to the Heated Build Platform.

Afterwards, I thought about printing a few Thing-O-Matic upgrades I had not yet added to my trusty 3D printer. The best thing about the original and subsequent Rep-Rap heritage 3D printers is that they were meant to be upgraded with 3D printed parts from the printers themselves.

First, the super-awesome universal X-Y axis tensioner. 

My friend Jaymes printed a set for me back when I originally received the printer but it was more meaningful for me if I printed them myself. I was scared to drill through my Thing-O-Matic to install the tensioning screw and the X axis required a good breakdown, but the results are awesome. Super easy to adjust X-Y axis, keeping the vertical walls of my 3D prints truly vertical from top to bottom.

Next up, a better X-Axis support from Jetty, one of the authors of Sailfish firmware for Makerbot and other Rep-Rap style 3D printers.

My Thing-O-Matic still skipped steps printing above 50 mm/s, probably because I am lazy and not printing from the SD card. But my default test object, difficult but fast to print, a circa second century BCE Indian lion, printed beautifully.

After these prints I changed my Skeinforge profile back to the Thing-O-Matic defaults with better results. Dan and Jetty really have Sailfish dialed in.

It is exciting to own a 3D printer that can still be hacked. As 3D printing becomes mainstream and the devices become more close boxed, without user-upgradable parts or accessories, the spirit of innovation behind 3D printing will change. I appreciate a 3D printer that requires some tweaking and updating now and then, as it keeps it a challenging maker project for me.

Blokify 3D Printed Puzzles

I ran two 3D design and printing five-day workshops for elementary and middle school students this summer. One design tool we explored was the Blokify app on the iPad. While the app is based around themes, like castles, space ships, and more, think outside the box and use Blokify to build 3D puzzles that you can print.

Start with a collection of LEGO bricks. I sorted through a big bin and pulled out 2x2, 2x3, and 2x4 bricks. My first prototype, shown above, was built with the studs all facing to the side, instead of up, but subsequent student builds used a studs up build.

If you are working as a group, this is a great collaborative exercise because all of the pieces of the puzzle must fit together. Aim to create a puzzle that when assembled creates a big cube or rectangular-shaped, smooth-faced solid.

Next, use blue tape to label each piece with a number. It is also important to label each piece on the same side of each piece, so you can remember how to solve the puzzle.

Divide the pieces of the puzzle among your teammates and open the Blokify app. When you re-create your LEGO prototype pieces in Blokify, each peg in the LEGO piece stands for one block in Blokify. So, a 2x2 LEGO piece translates into a single-layer 2x2 square in Blokify.

Additionally, turn you LEGO prototype pieces so your Blokify models have minimal overhangs. If your pieces have overhangs you will need to print them with a raft and support, which uses additional plastic and takes extra time.

Once your Blokify model is complete, have your teammates check it over next to the LEGO prototype piece. Make sure one peg on the LEGO corresponds to one block in Blokify. Once you are confident you models are ready to print, load them into your slicing software. I scaled these puzzle pieces down 50% to reduce print time. They were still very useably sized pieces at this scale. Print your puzzle.

Keep your LEGO prototype handy: you will need it to troubleshoot any puzzle pieces that end up not fitting. You might even need the labeled LEGO prototype to help you solve your puzzle the first few times you play with it!

Some students colored the white filament with Sharpie pens after printing. The pieces looked good in the distinct colors and a sharp individual might even use the colors to help remember how to solve these delightfully tricky puzzles.