My First Kickstarter Goes Live!

I don’t normally use my blog to promote or sell anything, but I figure for the launch of my first Kickstarter campaign I can make a small exception! Besides, it’s actually developed from some of my previous posts where I hacked my useless Solidoodle Press 3D printer to draw images and had some fun using a Wii Nunchuck controller to manually move the extruder.

Through the month of January Kickstarter are running the Make 100 Challenge, and I was inspired to set something up quickly that would be a bit of fun for both myself and potential backers. The idea of the challenge is to get something off the ground that is limited to 100 editions, so it’s inspiring to see a lot of new projects that might not normally launch on Kickstarter, many of them quite creative and artistic. That’s where I’ve pitched my Kickstarter – something a bit unusual and creative, yet fitting in with my interests of customization, hacking, digital manufacturing, algorithms, coding, parametric design, CAD… All the fun stuff.

On paper the idea is relatively simple – send me a photograph, I use some software to generate a Picasso-like line drawing, and that drawing gets sent to my hacked Solidoodle Press to be drawn on paper. But hopefully the video shows that the process is a little more complex than that, and quite interesting to watch.

I would love you to take a look, share the link, or if you’re really interested help get this project off the ground with funding levels starting at only $8 for the final eBook compilation. Whatever happens it’s been a great experience to put this campaign together.

– Posted by James Novak

22/1/2017 UPDATE: To thank everyone for your support and reaching the 200% funding milestone, here’s a new short video showing what happens when Robot Picasso draws a cliff-top building.

Robot Picasso also has a new Facebook Page you can follow to keep up to date with the latest developments. Let’s keep the momentum of this campaign and try and get 100 unique drawings!

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Abstract Portrait Drawing Machine

Earlier in the year I gave a little demo of controlling a 3D printer with a Wii Nunchuk controller. Well I can finally show you where that project went since it ended up in the ACM SIGCHI Designing Interactive Systems conference which happened this week in Brisbane, Australia. The easiest way to explain what it does is to watch the video – but in simple terms it is a process of automatically drawing abstract portraits from a webcam in real-time, using a hacked 3D printer to draw this artwork on paper. Perhaps the machine version of Picasso?

For those of you who follow my blog you would no doubt be familiar with my frustrations with the failed Solidoodle Press 3D printer, which was so bad that it actually caused Solidoodle to close down only a few months ago. Well this project has stemmed from a need to find some useful function for the machine rather than simply throw it away, so now it is more of a 2D printer and it finally seems to be useful.

20160606_Hacked 3D Printer

The photos above are from the DIS experience night where conference attendees were able to come and get a free portrait drawn in about 10 minutes, taking home a cool souvenir and a unique, one-of-a-kind artwork produced entirely by algorithms and a machine. I was just the guy loading paper and pressing a few buttons on and off (a slave to the machines!). But it drew (pardon the pun) a really good crowd for 3 hours with some fun group portraits, some posts on social media, plenty of suggestions to play with different drawing tools and materials, and a pile of portraits with no technical failures during the event – amazing considering my experiences with the Solidoodle printer!

This is something anyone could do with their 3D printer (or indeed any CNC machine) since it is all controlled by standard G-code, it just requires a way to hold a pen on the extrusion nozzle (in my case a custom 3D printed attachment) and a way to convert any linework into G-code – in this case using the Grasshopper plugin for Rhino. I wish I had something like this while I was an Architecture student, it would’ve been fantastic to cheat with my drawings and use it to create quick pencil sketches of my designs from a CAD model! Haha perhaps there is more to this project yet.

To access the published paper that accompanies this work, click here for the link to the ACM Digital Library.

– Posted by James Novak

Wii Nunchuk Controls 3D Printer

Yes it’s as simple as the title says; I can now control the movements of my useless Solidoodle Press (and probably almost any other 3D printer) using a Wii Nunchuk!

Don’t ask me why. It’s more of a personal challenge to see if it could be done, and now that it can, I have a few fun ideas for this. The whole thing was surprisingly simple, and builds upon some previous work where I used Wii Nunchuk’s to customise a 3D CAD model, and of course my work using Rhino CAD software combined with the Grasshopper and Firefly plug-ins. In simple terms, I’ve managed to convert the X and Y signals from the Wii Nunchuk’s joystick into the X and Y G-code commands used by most 3D printers. It’s a little clunky, but at the same time it’s pretty cool to directly control this machine.

With a couple of buttons on the front of the Wii Nunchuk it won’t be hard to add some extra functionality to this, although my intention is certainly not to try printing plastic using this controller, there’s just no real reason to. You will just have to check back in later to see where this experiment goes!

– Posted by James Novak

Shattered Faceted Light

20150726 Faceted Light

As featured on Pinshape’s ‘Pick of the Week

You may have already seen, or even downloaded, my Lightbulb Lampshade which I created a while ago to give a new lease of life to an old Ikea lamp. Now I’ve create a new version to fit the competition criteria of the latest Pinshape Design Competition for a low-poly design. Of course this means you can also download the file for yourself completely free, just click here to download from Pinshape, or here for Thingiverse 🙂

20150726_143212The model was printed on an Up! Plus 2 3D printer, using the 0.2mm layer thickness and minimal support material. As you can see in the image to the left, there really was only a small amount of support material generated in the middle to support the top section, and this broke away very easily. You can also see a small break near the bottom where the printer must’ve bumped the model as it was printing, but thankfully it kept printing. Overall it took about 4 hours to print. If you’re planning on making one, the minimum diameter inside the design to fit over your light fixture and light-bulb is 31mm – if you need it larger, just scale up the design before printing.

Faceted Development

Above you can see the process of creating the 3D CAD model, this time challenging myself to use Rhino for the complete development rather than my usual Solidworks. This was to create the more complex form in a shorter amount of time. From left to right the process was:

  1. Use Revolve to create the light-bulb form.
  2. Convert this to a Mesh.
  3. Reduce Mesh to create the faceted effect.
  4. Use the Line tool to connect the points of the faceted mesh.
  5. Use the Pipe tool to add thickness to the lines.
  6. Add some solid sections to fill in some of the gaps, then Join all the pieces into a single mesh ready to export to STL.

If you make one please share your photos back on Pinshape or Thingiverse so I can check it out!

– Posted by James Novak

Convert Your Solidoodle Into an Up! in 3 Steps

2015-02-11 Time LapseAfter a previous post where I listed my steps to printing success with the new Solidoodle Press, I am now on a roll with completing prints. My secret? Convert the Press to be more like one of the Up! series of 3D printers!

There are really only 3 key things you need to do this, 2 of which are obvious in the time-lapse photos above of my latest complete print of the Beer Bottle Lock:

  1. Avoid the mess of glues and sprays – much of the success of the Up! 3D printers is that they use a perforated PCB as the printing plate. I bought 2 perforated boards from Jaycar and cut them to fit on top of the existing glass plate. A bit of masking tape is all that’s needed to secure them in place. Just make sure they’re completely flat, shiny side up.
  2. After watching all my early prints fail on the Press, I realised the other element the Up! printers combine with the perforated board is a good ‘raft’ base (automatically generated for the Up!), creating a solid lock into the perforations and evening out any issues in bed level before you get to your product. This is not a feature available in SoliPrint, so for the print pictured above I actually modeled my own 0.5mm thick raft in CAD. While this is a bit more complicated if you’re printing downloaded models, it’s relatively quick to add using the freely available MeshLab or similar STL editing software. However if it’s your own design, it should only take 30 seconds to add this detail before exporting to an STL. Pictured below is the raft after peeling away from the Beer Bottle Lock, along with photos of how the Up! Plus 2 prints a raft before putting your STL on top for reference.2015-02-12 Build Raft
  3. Change the nozzle temperature and printing speeds. The Up! Plus 2 prints ABS plastic at 260 degrees, while the default for the Press is only 215 degrees. This is too low to properly melt ABS and let it flow. At the moment I’m using 240 degrees with good results, and also slow the printing speeds so that there is less shaking and opportunity for error. My settings from this successful print are below.150211 Second Success Edit

I realise many people are having success using a variety of other hacks/fixes/additions which you can find on the useful SoliForum website, but this is my own twist on improving the Solidoodle Press. Also a big thanks to Solidoodle for releasing the new SoliPrint software version 1.1.1 which has corrected some of the bugs I initially wrote about.

Finally, below are some detailed photos showing a comparison of the print from the Solidoodle Press (pink), to the same file printed on the Up! Plus 2 (green). The main thing I’m noticing is that the Press does an average job of flat surfaces parallel to the print plate, failing to fill them in completely like the Up! Plus 2. But the other surfaces are quite good! Of course it’s important to keep in mind the Press is about a third of the price of the Up! Plus 2, so expecting the same quality is asking a bit much. Yet I believe if Solidoodle continue to improve their SoliPrint software, the quality could really come close to that of the Up! Plus 2. Time will tell.

2015-02-12 ComparisonIf you have any questions about getting you Press to work, or want to share your own modifications, please post them in the comments section.

– Posted by James Novak

Solidoodle Fix Number 1

2015-02-10 Solidoodle FixOne of the first problems all Solidoodle Press owners find is the ‘umbilical cord’ to the extruder getting caught behind the arm at the back of the printer (photo and discussion in one of my first posts about the printer). It does not sound good and will have you jumping for the power switch! Well thanks to the ever useful SoliForum and a video from Ray Steele, I think I have now (temporarily?) solved this problem.

A simple rubber band can be used to keep tension on the cord and prevent it from being able to fit between the extruder arm and back of the printer. Luckily the small pins used as hinges for the lid of the printer can slide to the side (indicated by the red arrow), allowing you to fit the rubber band in and the lock it in place by sliding the pin back. Tweezers or something similar are enough, and you just need to use a rubber band (or link a few smaller bands together) to get the tension right.

One small fix for man, 999 fixes left for mankind.

– Posted by James Novak

Let There Be Light

2015-01-26 Lightbulb LampMy first free giveaway for the new year! Click here to download the file ready to 3D print from Thingiverse.

I literally had an old Ikea lamp in my hands ready to throw away when I realised I could give it a whole new life with the help of 3D printing. My only real restriction was the volume of the Up! Plus 2 printer I’m using. You can see the original Ikea lamp in the images above, and process of transformation into something with (I think) much more personality. Projects like this are extremely satisfying as I hate to throw things away, and really demonstrates the opportunities to extend product longevity through 3D printing.

I’ve also taken some photos of the printing process so you can see the support material required. I knew this would be a bit painful and increase the print time, but while it looks like a lot the support is so thin that it really wasn’t too wasteful. I also have a feeling that there may be less support if I printed it upside down. If I need another one I’ll definitely try it out.

2015-01-26 Lamp TimelapseIf you make one I’d love to hear how it went and if you manage to print with less support. Just leave a comment here or through Thingiverse (along with photos). Happy printing!

– Posted by James Novak

Hybrid VR Headset

2015-01-16 VR HybridYesterday I completed the Google Cardboard Virtual Reality (VR) headset and mentioned I was planning to try a simplified hybrid version that would incorporate 3D printed components. Well here it is after a morning of cutting and printing!

One of the problems I had with cutting the original Google Carboard was the difficulty (and pain!) cutting all those small details, slots and holes by hand, eventually using a Dremel to carve out the eye holes (check out my original by clicking here). I have also been looking through the designs on Thingiverse to 3D print, however can’t find a design that seems properly thought through and doesn’t include unnecessarily chunky sections of material that seems wasteful (yes just another bit of motivation to get onto designing my own). However the adjustable arms many designs feature seems useful to optimise user experience for individual eye width, focus etc, and to improve visibility of the phone screen.

I have downloaded and 3D printed just the arms from the OpenDive Headset, which perfectly fits the 25mm lenses I bought on Ebay. Something else I’ve realised through printing is that if I were to 3D print the full headset, it wouldn’t fit onto the small print plate of my Up! Plus 2 3D printer with it’s 140mm maximum dimension. I would either have to slice the model in half and glue together after printing, or print on a larger printer (which reminds me I have still not heard anything about when my Solidoodle Press will arrive, and has the larger print size I would need! Check out my little rant by clicking here).

2015-01-16 Google vs HybridI have also significantly simplified the design of the Google Cardboard template to suit the thick cardboard I’m using and 3D printed adjustable lens holders as shown in the images above. This new design was significantly quicker to cut!

Overall the completed design is nice and easy to make, provided you have a 3D printer on hand. I’m getting a much clearer view of the phone without anything obstructing the lenses, however it takes a few minutes to get the positioning of the arms correct for your eyes. If you look closely at the top images you’ll see I used a sharpie to mark a line on both the cardboard and the lens holders where the optimal position is for my eyes. Like last time I’ve also used a small bolt to hold it all together, and used my 3D printed ‘edditive’ logo to stamp onto the cardboard (which you can read more about here).

– Posted by James Novak

Hack it up

2014-11-13 ClampsThere is nothing better than getting away from the computer screen and into the workshop to test the fundamentals of an idea. It can be rough, dirty, ugly, but oh so useful!

Case in point; a few clamps sliced and diced together to form an adjustable rig. Really quick to build and demonstrates what can’t be tested in sketches, and would take too long in CAD. Thank you Glenn Smith for teaching me the value of model-making and hacking! There was recently a story on Jonathan Ive discussing exactly this need for designers to learn “how to make stuff,” not just pretty digital images of a 3-dimensional object.

Sorry I can’t share any more details about what this is for! Another one of those hush hush projects 😉

– Posted by James Novak