3D Scanning Natural Forms

IMG_20190117_3D Scan EinScan Pro

This is a post about my new favourite toy – the EinScan Pro 2X Plus 3D scanner from Shining 3D. Why? Because it allows you to turn any object into a 3D model! And I can tell you upfront, it works REALLY well!

This is not the first 3D scanner from Shining 3D, which is a good sign that both their hardware and software has had time to mature. The EinScan Pro 2X Plus is brand new to the market, which means there are not many reviews at the time I’m writing, although you can find a brief overview from 3D Scan Expert and will no doubt see a full review from him in the near future. I’m not a 3D scanning expert, so am not going to dive into all the details here. I have used several scanners in the past and written a few posts, but this is the first that I have full access and control over and am currently using on a daily basis.

Enough with the introductions. One of my first experiments has been to 3D scan some challenging organic forms, including some shells which I picked up from the beach. The top photo shows one of these shells being scanned (we have the “Industrial Pack” turntable and “Colour Pack” upgrades for the scanner). The process is straight forward in the accompanying EXScan Pro software – a few basic settings about the detail you’d like to capture and press go. The turntable and scanner do the rest, and you can see the points being captured in real-time on screen. There is a bit of cleanup after the first scan to remove any points that aren’t needed (e.g. you can see in the photo some points around the perimeter where the scanner picked up an edge of the turntable), at which point you have your first scan.

This could be all the detail you need depending on your application; however, all you have is an outside collection of points, with no detail about the inside of the shell. So I then flipped the shell over and performed a second scan. The only difference from the previous step is that now there are 2 scans. Amazingly the software is proving quite intelligent at automatically aligning multiple scans, finding common points and bringing them all together. This doesn’t always work, and there is an option to manually align 2 scans by selecting 3 common points in each. I must admit the interface for this process is quite painful to use at the moment, so it’s always great when the software automatically does this. Overall the software is very basic, you really don’t have a lot of control – which can be both a blessing and a curse. You certainly can’t perform any sort of editing actions other than selecting and deleting points.

The final step is to turn all of the points (aka. point cloud) into a mesh suitable for 3D CAD software, or 3D printing. There is an option to create a watertight mesh, letting the software automatically fill any holes in the model. For this shell scan I only had very minor gaps which were nicely cleaned up and blended into the mesh. However, I have found with some other scans that if holes are quite large, or there are some messy overlaps in scan data, the software will produce some weird results – best to keep scanning to capture as much data as possible before creating a mesh, once you get to this step there is no turning back.

IMG_20190118_3D Print Shell

Best of all, being a watertight mesh, the file can be immediately used for 3D printing. But why simply replicate a shell? I always see large shells as decorator items in stores retailing for hundreds of dollars – and now I can 3D print them for a fraction of the price. This one was scaled up 500% and printed on a Wanhao Duplicator D9/500 – which is still working somewhat consistently after my previous post and firmware upgrades. I decided to print it in an upright orientation so that the 0.5mm layers are similar to the layers naturally occurring in the shell. Even though the print quality is still quite rough, I think this only adds to the natural effect.

The shell has been saved as a .obj file, meaning that it has all the colour information along with the geometry that would normally be a .stl file. I have shared this on Sketchfab so that you can have a closer look at the mesh in 3D using the above viewer. I think it’s a really great result, and hopefully you can see why I have called this my new favourite toy. It really does open up new opportunities (perhaps you’ve already seen some new experiments if you follow me on Instagram). Stay tuned, I’m sure there’ll be plenty more posts that involve 3D scanning and 3D printing in the future.

– Posted by James Novak


3D Printed Action Camera Floaty


Most people when they get an action camera head straight out and start filming crazy things – not me!

I’ve just bought a Garmin Virb X action camera, choosing to avoid the popular GoPro’s for a number of reasons (I’ll spare you the details!) – suffice to say that the Garmin not only records great video, but has a range of built-in sensors allowing you to overlay data on top of video. If you’re curious to see what I mean, check out their promo video.

Since many of my interests are on the water (Kitesurfing and Stand Up Paddling) I needed to add the floatyย  – I lost a GoPro a few years ago in Hawaii by not having one, expensive mistake! Sure I could fork out the $27 for the Garmin floaty, but I already had a GoPro floaty as part of a kit, so why not make my own attachment?

The design of the Garmin Virb X has a range of great little details to snap on to, which is how the USB clips onto the side for charging and data transfer. So I’ve simply used these to create a 3D printed bracket, to which the GoPro floaty can stick. As you can see from the images above, 2 prongs hook around one side, while the snap comes around to the front and secures the bracket around the camera. And gee it makes a good snap sound when is attached! Very secure.

Print orientation is really important for this one, the bracket is printed standing up much like the pictures (you can see the layers in the left image). This means that when force is applied to flex and snap around the camera, the whole thing doesn’t break apart. Also a bit of filing or sanding is needed on the back face to give the floaty sticker a good surface area to stick on to. Otherwise it’s good to go straight off the printer, which took about 100 minutes to print on my Cocoon Create 3D printer. Solid infill, 0.2mm layer height, brim adhere to the platform and a small amount of support material.

If you need this part, it’s all yours for free – just download from your favourite site Thingiverse, Pinshape, 3D File Market or Cults.ย  Be sure to post a picture when you’re done, I hope it helps you get those awesome videos on or in the water.

– Posted by James Novak

Spreading the 3D Printing Bug

20160528_3D Printing Workshop

Another weekend, another 3D printing workshop. This is my third year at Griffith University as a lecturer, and my third year running these weekend workshops on 3D printing for local school teachers to help answer their questions, teach them CAD, and get them hands-on with some 3D printers so that they can take this knowledge back to their schools. Definitely a great feeling to turn a few more people into fellow 3D printing geeks like me!

Within an hour of running the group through the basics of Solidworks, everyone was printing their first little key ring designs, all unique, and for them a really exciting moment to see their first design being produced on our Up Plus 2 printers in our brand new 3D printing lab. I couldn’t drag them away while their parts printed out! But I don’t blame them, I still love watching the printing process.

We then moved onto some more complex designs for some lattice chess pieces after a suggestion from one of the teachers, and eventually found our way to creating some designs around a 3D scan of an arm.ย  Combined with an analysis of what’s happening in the world of 3D printing, some of the theory, and the future careers some of their students may be interested in, I’m quite sure this was a very big day for everyone!

We will be running some more comprehensive workshops at the beginning of July over 2 weeks (during the school holidays), so keep your eyes on my blog for details when I confirm details with the uni. Teachers can even bring 1 student for free, so this should be a lot of fun.

– Posted by James Novak

A New Year Miracle… Sort Of

20151230_Solidoodle Grommets

A “New Year Miracle” might be overstating things a bit, but these are the first useful prints I’ve had from my Solidoodle Press – and I use the word useful instead of successful, awesome or great because they are only useful in the sense that they prove what I needed to in a rough prototype – they fit. But if you look at the surfaces they are far from pretty, and for every one of these parts that was made another couple were thrown out. But compared to my last attempts, or anything else from this machine, it’s something!

These parts are just some little grommets which are designed to plug into a soft foam or neoprene material – some electronics get mounted within them and the rest is… well a bit top secret at the moment. Yes the usual excuse, but that’s how research projects go.

I’m continuing to get the slipping problem I wrote about in my last post using the Solidoodle and think I have an idea why – it might be something to do with the motor that drives the forward/back motion of the print head. I’m noticing that after about only 20 minutes of use the slipping becomes a problem, consistently, and that this motor is getting extremely hot, like hot enough to burn you. Which I don’t think should happen since it’s got nothing to do with the hot end of the print nozzle. So it’s possible that when it gets this hot, the motor starts failing internally. So normally the first one of these little grommets prints out fine, and then things go wrong and I shut down the machine for a while and start again. Obviously it’s manageable on such a small part, but means printing anything useful at a larger size will never happen.

Come on Tiko, I need you!

I’ve found a thread on the Soliforum from someone with the same issue and added my observations and a photo. Hopefully there are some solutions that people have found, there are a few suggestions listed already but I’m doubtful whether they’re going to solve my problems. I’ll try again soon.

– Posted by James Novak

3D Printed Motorcycle Key Guard

20151215 Bike Key Cover

To finish 2015 I have finally had a chance to 3D print another part for my motorcycle – a key guard. In a previous post I showed some 3D printed rear peg plugs and mirror plugs using this same bright orange ABS colour which perfectly matches my bike. With this being a second hand bike from 2007, the paint around the ignition has many scratches, with previous owners obviously having a key-ring and letting the extra keys bounce around to cause a mess. Nothing major, but something I see every time I get on the bike. I personally keep my bike key separate so this doesn’t happen, but something to cover the scratches seems like a nice addition, and another custom feature for the bike.

With a new tank pad, I’ve used a matching pattern for this part to create some consistency in design. As usual the design was created using some digital calipers to take measurements, and Solidworks CAD software for the 3D modelling. Another quick job less than an hour to design (my favourite)!

The challenge with it is definitely in the 3D printing – it’s quite a fragile piece, and I have broken a number of previous attempts just trying to remove support material. You can see in the top left photo that this working part was printed standing up on an Up! Plus 2, ensuring the layers run in the optimal direction for strength when flexing it over the bike handlebars (it uses a snap detail to hold in place). The downside with this orientation is that support material was added to each of the openings, requiring a slow and painful process to remove it all. A couple of minor fractures had to be super-glued along the way, but at least it’s held together OK. I will try this part again in the future (hopefully on my new Tiko when it arrives!), possibly thickening it a fraction to give it a little more strength.

I also did try using acetone to cleanup the surfaces and stress marks where support was removed, which I’ve had success with on previous prints, but found that a white residue was left on the material – apparently this can happen with some colours of ABS plastic. So instead I tried ‘brushing’ the surfaces through a hot flame, with moderate success. This removed the white residue and cleaned things up a bit, but in one area did cause a bubble to form and slight blackening of the surface. Luckily these aren’t really noticeable unless you get up really close. So all in all, another great bit of custom 3D printing for my bike!

That’s it for 2015, have a fantastic Christmas and New Year, and thanks for reading my blog and following all of my trials and errors with this great technology. See you all for another big year of 3D printing in 2016.

– Posted by James Novak

Solidoodle Resurrected 10 Months Later…

20151213_Solidoodle Slip

*sigh… I really wanted to give my Solidoodle Press another chance to do anything other than act as a shelf to stack books on next to my desk. It’s been 10 months since my last post about the 3D printer, and therefore 10 months since I simply gave up trying to make it work after many long hours spent tweaking both the hardware and software with no success.

Obviously from the photos above it’s safe to say that I’m still at square one, although have to admit that these failed prints are about as good as anything I’ve had from the machine EVER! What I’m noticing is some slipping, where for some reason the printer decides to start printing 5-10mm offset in the y direction part way through the print. Up until this point of the prints I had been really excited that things were finally working and looking OK! As I look over at the printer which is having a 3rd attempt at this part while I write this post it looks like the same has happened again… I’m not surprised, just disappointed.

In order to get even these results a few things have happened:

  1. Most importantly I’ve been counting on the fact that 10 months means a lot of time for Solidoodle to update their Soliprint software, which they have. Some of my issues in the past seemed to be where the print nozzle would move erratically, crossing over areas it had printed without lifting the nozzle and therefore colliding with the print. On first impressions, this seems to have been improved. The user interface has also been updated and made easier to navigate (although you will still need to jump into the detailed Slic3r settings in order to tweak things like print speed and layer thickness). The current version is 1.3.0, and I’m pretty sure my last one was 1.1.3 – so there have been 9 software updates in this time.
  2. I’ve done a full clean of the print nozzle after noticing some issues extruding material. To do this I’ve taken apart the print head (as shown in a previous post), unscrewed the 2 pieces of the nozzle from the main block, and heated them over a candle to remove the bulk of material with tweezers. I’ve then soaked them in acetone for an hour or so, and cleaned out any remaining plastic. I have a feeling that part of the nozzle is taking longer to heat up than the very tip, so even when the printer says it’s ready, the filament is actually not liquefied at all and causing a clog. I have spent hours figuring this out, and now make sure I completely withdraw the filament after printing to minimise this problem.
  3. I have changed out my ABS in the Solidoodle Press to one I know works very well from use in an Up! Plus 2. This may also minimise clogging, I’m sure the stock that came with the machine will be as rubbish as the printer itself!
  4. I have glued the small screw in the extruder gear so that it can’t loosen – this may also cause some slipping of the filament.
  5. I’m raising the extrude temperature to 250 degrees Celsius, not the default 230 degrees which is a bit on the low side for ABS.

While all of this is good, it still doesn’t get me a useful 3D print. I will soldier on for a couple more hours, but am very close to giving up on this machine as a 3D printer. I have a few ideas to take some of my experiments with Arduino’s and game controllers and hack this into some sort of 2D plotter or something.

Maybe through this second life the Press will find function?

– Posted by James Novak