Fingerprint Stool 3D Printed on a BigRep ONE

Fingerprint Stool BigRep ONE

Size matters!

I’ve been throwing out teasers about this project on social media for over a year, and with my research just published in the Rapid Prototyping Journal, it is very exciting to finally be at the finish line and able to share it – all of it! So what exactly is it?

Well, it’s a 3D printed stool. But more than that, it’s the outcome of a design for additive manufacturing case study using the new BigRep ONE 3D printers, housed in the ProtoSpace facility at the University of Technology Sydney. The BigRep ONE is essentially a desktop FDM 3D printer on steroids, with a build volume measuring 1005 x 1005 x 1005mm, that’s over 1 cubic meter of space to 3D print! And much like a desktop FDM printer it uses filaments like PLA, PETG, TPU and realistically just about any other filament material, as well as using a Simplify3D profile for slicing, so designing for the printer and operating it is identical to many common desktop 3D printers.

edfGiven the newness of these machines when they were installed in ProtoSpace in early 2018, my job was to test the capabilities of them whilst developing a showcase product to highlight how they can be used to develop new types of products, and with such a large build volume, furniture was an obvious choice. However, my budget was not unlimited ($1500 AUD) and nor was the time I was allowed to run the printer, which was capped at 5 days so that it was not taken out of commission for other users for more than one working week. Sounds like a generous timeframe unless you’re familiar with just how slow FDM printing is even at the desktop scale, and while this printer is bigger, it is certainly not any faster. And when you are printing for 5 days, this machine will really chew through filament, so that $1500 budget quickly runs out.

In terms of the fingerprint concept, the stool was designed when I was newly engaged and uses a fingerprint from my (now wife’s) ring finger, and my own. Awwwwe… There are few features more unique to each human than a fingerprint, so this concept was also chosen as a truly unique feature that highlights the capacity for 3D printing to be used for one-off personalised products.

The above video helps explain the design and printing process, which essentially involved:

  1. Ink used to take impressions of fingerprints on paper.
  2. Fingerprints digitised using a flatbed scanner.
  3. Fingerprints vectorised in Adobe Illustrator. Exported as DXF files.
  4. DXF files imported into Solidworks CAD software and oriented 420mm apart for the height of the stool.
  5. Manual creation of the 3D geometry.
  6. Export to STL.
  7. Slice in Simplify3D.
  8. 3D print on the BigRep ONE [1mm nozzle diameter, 0.5mm layer height, 5% infill, 2 walls, 3000mm/min print speed]

Sounds nice and straight forward. However, I must admit things did not go this smoothly: Firstly, designing to fit a specific budget and print time required several iterations, with an early version of the design twice as large as the design pictured here. This meant initial cost estimates were in the range of $2194-3882 and print times 117.5-216.1hours – talk about variation! All of this variation is due to experimenting with process parameters like layer height and nozzle diameter for the same design, and was an important learning process that could be taken back into later iterations of the design, which ultimately became smaller.

Fingerprint Stool BigRep Adhesion

Secondly, another obstacle we struggled with was bed adhesion. This is a common problem with desktop machines, however, not normally when printing with PLA. We quickly found that during the first layers, a slight warp or piece of material sticking up would get knocked by the extruder, causing a knock-on effect as the extruder and any material it had collected quickly cause all of the individual sections of the fingerprint to dislodge. Pictured above on the left is the largest section that printed before some material snapped off and somehow caused the nozzle to become entombed in PLA, pictured above on the right. That was an expensive error, new nozzles for the BigRep ONE do not come cheap!

Given the design was intended to print without any need for support material, we eventually had to concede defeat and add a raft. This had the effect of linking all of the initially individual sections of fingerprint together during the first layers, and provided a strong adhesion to the bed. While we could’ve tried all sorts of glues, tapes and other hacks, we didn’t want to resort to these on such a new machine until we had more time to test settings and work with BigRep on a solution. The good news: the raft worked and after 113 hours, and at a cost of $1634 (only slightly over budget), the Fingerprint Stool was complete. The raft did take 1 hour to remove with a hammer and chisel (with a 1mm nozzle there is so much material it cannot be removed by hand), and the surface finish is quite rough – but in my mind this is the charm of FDM, just like a piece of timber has grain and knots that are simply part of the material.

Overall the BigRep ONE is an exciting technology, you just need to keep in mind that due to the scale, all of the small issues you can experience on a cheap desktop machine are also magnified. However, it is great for producing large-scale functional parts like furniture, or any of the other examples you may have seen from BigRep in 3D printing news over recent months.

This is a brief overview of the project, there is much more technical information and analysis in my paper in the Rapid Prototyping Journal, including metrology data of the final design compared with the 3D file, as well as surface roughness data. I’d love to hear your feedback on the project or your own experiences with the printer if you’ve been lucky enough to use one. And keep an eye out for updates about the stool appearing in an exhibition later in the year 😉

UPDATE: Thank you to BigRep for taking an interest in this project and writing their own story about it here, and to 3D Printing Industry for also sharing this story.

– Posted by James Novak

Advertisements

3D Printed Webcam Mount

IMG_20180917_Webcam 3D Print Mount

Whenever I travel I always have a small Guerrilla tripod to easily mount my cameras just about anywhere – the flexible arms make it perfect for wrapping around handrails or quickly levelling on uneven surfaces. Which made it my first choice when it came to mounting an old webcam so I can begin streaming my 3D prints to Youtube!

I’m seeing a lot of people like @wildrosebuilds posting awesome time-lapse videos of their 3D prints, and plenty of tutorials online showing how to build quite elaborate rigs to do so. I don’t really have time to deal with all of the video editing for each print, but the opportunity to live-stream prints directly to Youtube seems like a great way to share what I’m working on in real-time, and also allow me to monitor prints without having to physically be with the printer. However, webcams aren’t designed to mount to the typical screw mechanism used by tripods/cameras, so I had to design my own bracket to allow me to mount an old Logitech C270 HD webcam to the tripod.

The top right image shows the small slide-in clip that screws to the underside of a camera, and locks into the tripod. My first step was to reverse engineer this part with a set of calipers, modelling the geometry in Solidworks. I then added a vertical element to attach to the webcam, which has a hole on the back normally used by a bracket attaching the webcam to a computer screen. An extra lip on the front to hold the webcam in a vertical orientation, and voilà!

The blue bracket has been printed on my Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus in PLA, and a screw I had lying around holds the webcam to the bracket. A nice little solution that should see some action very soon. Subscribe to my Youtube channel or follow me on Twitter to be alerted when I begin streaming prints, I know it can be a bit like grass growing but watching 3D prints is still addictive to me. If you’d like to download this design for yourself, you can find it on Thingiverse, Pinshape and Cults – feel free to make your own modifications as needed and share, I know the C270 is quite a popular webcam.

– Posted by James Novak

UPDATE: If you want to see my first live-stream using this webcam mount, here it is:

Check out my channel to see more, and subscribe to be alerted when I go live.

Add a Sense of Mystery!

20160225 3D Enclosure

Most of the time when you’re playing around with electronics, or sharing them with people, you want the circuits and parts to be as clear as possible for viewers to understand or modify. However occasionally you may have the realisation that what you’ve got is a little bit special, or at the very least you don’t want to be serving up your hard work on a silver platter for someone to copy without putting in some hard yards of their own. That’s where I’ve found 3D printing to be an excellent tool – creating a simple enclosure that neatly hides away the circuitry inside a box of mystery!

I’ve previously done this for the Wiiduino, providing a clean object suitable for exhibition at Design Philadelphia, but this time my purpose was as much about hiding away the electronics as it was about providing a neat, compact electronics module to show at the Wearable Tech in Sport Summit in Melbourne. In the above images you can see the raw electronics (I don’t mind if you see them 😉 ) and the 3D printed enclosure I quickly designed in Solidworks and 3D printed on my Cocoon Create 3D printer the evening before the conference. Ahh yes, the beauty of having a 3D printer at home to quickly create almost anything!

20160221 3D Box

If you look closely at the enclosure you will notice some imperfections – the main lower part lifted in the corners and caused some separation of layers, while the lid obviously has some shifting layers, probably because of the orientation and speed I printed them. Honestly I’m just happy they printed out and were usable with no time to muck around at the last minute! Just like the Wiiduino enclosure, a little bit of paint brought out the logo and makes the enclosure pop as something much more resolved and purposeful (as opposed to an anonymous blank box).

If you’re not as confident with CAD and accurately measuring your circuitry, there are some great free models that will fit Arduino’s and Raspberry Pi’s which you can download from Pinshape or Thingiverse. They make a great starting point, and you can always add your own logo or details following my Pinshape tutorial on using Meshmixer to modify a .stl file.

– Posted by James Novak

Design Your Own Custom Pen

2015-06-18 3D Print Pen

Last year I posted a bit of an inside look at a small project I was working on for my PhD (click here to have a look back at the post) but couldn’t say much since it was for an upcoming conference. Well that conference has been and gone, and my full paper has just been published online for you to read.

In essence it was an exploration of something called interactive fabrication, whereby someone with no CAD or design experience can actually create their own unique 3D printed pen using the ‘testing pen’ shown in the top right image. As you grip this pen, sensors translate the force of your grip in real time into a 3D model that is ergonomically correct for you. You then draw a closed shape such as a hexagon on a piece of paper, hold this up to your computer’s webcam, and this shape is automatically translated up the shaft of the pen. It’s as simple (and behind the scenes very complex) as that! The top left photo shows 4 different pens from 4 different people used during the testing of this project.

The complete process is controlled within Rhino 3D, using the Grasshopper plugin with Firefly to communicate with an Arduino, which I’ve explored in previous projects. There are plenty of improvements that can be made to this design, but as a prototype it certainly proves the potential to embed sensors within a product and automatically create custom functional products for people without the need for them to learn complex CAD software. As it happens, this is a large focus of my PhD!

Please feel free to read my paper called “Drawing the Pen: From Physical to Digital and Back Again” for full details of this project.

– Posted by James Novak

Custom SUP Fin

20160125_Custom SUP Fin

I’ve recently bought my own Stand Up Paddle (SUP) board, an inflatable version from Flysurfer, which so far is working really well. But this isn’t a product review! My local paddling spots are all very flat, but the fins that came with the board are very surf oriented. This means that when paddling in flat water there is a lot of drag from the 2 outside fins which are angled out from the center line (see the middle photo), and the board doesn’t travel in a straight line – you have to swap hands every few strokes. It’s not a huge deal, but I was curious to see what difference a large single fin would make since most boards I’ve seen use this. Unfortunately Flysurfer don’t sell them, so it was time to get making!

All I did was use my flatbed scanner to capture the original fin shape (the black one in the right photo), trace the top section in Adobe Illustrator since this is the critical detailing to fit with the board, and then add my own shape for the fin based on the shape of some popular fins online. No 3D CAD required. This was laser cut from a piece of clear acrylic, and I used a file and sandpaper to add some shape to the edges. Voila.

Unfortunately I can’t give this particular design 2 thumbs up, it doesn’t perform quite as well as I expected. While it seems a little easier to glide through the water, the fin doesn’t improve the boards ability to hold a straight line – I think it’s a little bit loose in the socket and tilts on an angle in the water. The acrylic might be a little too thin, but it’s a start. I’ll make some tweaks and try again – it’s nice to make something that’s not 3D printed for a change.

If anyone has any experience playing around with different fin configurations or shapes I’d love to hear from you – I’ve read a few interesting articles from SUPguide.com and Neverbored but there’s only so much you can learn by reading, especially when you have to make your own fins because of the limitations of the inflatable board.

– 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

Solo Riding Only – 3D Printed Solution

20151102_Motorcycle Rear Pegs

Many motorcycle riders will never take a passenger, yet all bikes will accommodate for those that may by including larger/extra seating, handles and rear foot pegs. While of course you can just leave these on and ride as normal, I’m someone that likes to remove anything that’s not needed, streamlining the look of the bike and of course reducing a bit of extra weight! It can also save a bit on your registration costs.

Unfortunately one issue with my Kawasaki ER-6N is that the positioning for the rear pegs is part of the rear sets, to which my rear brake, gear lever etc. are fitted, so removing them is not an option (as shown in the top right image). Many bikes will have a separate frame for the pegs so they can be completely removed without affecting the rest of the bike. So when I removed the pegs I was left with empty brackets in a very visually obvious position on both sides of the bike. Hello 3D printing!

I 3D modeled a simple plug to fill in the gap using Solidworks, a very quick process once the key measurements had been taken of the bracket. They were 3D printed on an Up! Plus 2 (as usual), and a colleague at uni tried a couple of orientations to test the surface finish as pictured above. Obviously the one on the right has the least amount of support material and the best surface finish in the areas where it will be seen so this is what I’ve used on my bike. Perfect fit the first time, and I think a nice detail on the bike to match my previously 3D printed mirror plugs.

There is another part I’m playing around with at the moment, but as yet the prints I have don’t have a good surface finish, even after playing around with acetone. You will just have to watch this space to see what it is 🙂

– Posted by James Novak

First 3D Printed Motorcycle Parts

20151023_Mirror Plugs

Yes I’m a 3D printing nerd, and yes I’ve been dying to 3D print some pieces for my motorcycle since buying it a few weeks ago!

One of the upgrades I’m doing on the bike is to change my mirrors to bar end mirrors, meaning I have no need for the mounting holes built into the controls for standard mirrors. This will normally leave a large hole (10mm diameter) on each controller in a very visually obvious location, and on my last bike I spent nearly $20 on just 2 coloured titanium screws to fill them in. But this time I knew I could do it far cheaper with 3D printing.

A few simple measurements later, and a quick Solidworks CAD model, the caps you see pictured were ready to print. It may seem a bit wanky but I thought adding my initials to them would be an interesting way to talk to people about 3D printing and the ability to customise a design, in a similar way to adding my name within the 3D printed bicycle I created last year. But what’s most enjoyable is seeing the threaded detail work perfectly (it’s an M10 x 1.25 thread for anyone playing at home!), so once again I have to give my big tick of approval to the Up! Plus 2 printers for being extremely consistent and accurate. These were printed using the 0.15mm layer thickness and fine speed settings.

Plenty more ideas for parts to come, so stay tuned.

– Posted by James Novak