The Meshmixer Mashup: Mashup-Rex!

Tutorial Meshmixer Mashup

The mashup is a favourite technique in the music world that combines two or more songs together into a single song. They might be from completely different eras or genres and when cleverly mashed together, they create a new smash hit. But did you know that creating a 3D printable mashup is just as easy as creating a musical one? Take a bit of File A, mix it with File B, and you now have your own creative design.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been putting together a new tutorial for my friends at Pinshape, which includes my first video tutorial as well as the usual step-by-step process to follow along with. Click here to learn how to mashup STL files in only 10 easy steps using the freely available software Autodesk Meshmixer.

The mashup is often called a Remix in the 3D printing world, and is a great way to build upon other designs and add your own creative touch, or re-purpose a design for a new application. The video tutorial is a real-time look at the process, which with a bit of practice, will have you remixing new designs in a matter of minutes. If you want to follow along, you just need to install Meshmixer on your computer, and download the 2 T-Rex files used in this tutorial which are free on Pinshape:

  1. Low Poly T-Rex by steven_dakh
  2. The T-Rex Skull by harry (we are only using the head piece, not the jaw)


Alongside the tutorial is my latest design, the Mashup-Rex. I have made this available for free on Pinshape, just click here to download the file. Maybe you you will create your own remix of my remix? If you do, or you just 3D print the Mashup-Rex for yourself, please share it on Pinshape to add to the community and see how far the design can go! In the version pictured above I simply used a coffee stain to “age” the skull, similar to my previous print of the Star Wars Deathtrooper. I’m enjoying this simple technique at the moment, although you may like to use a 2-tone print, or go all out with some painted effects.

Happy mixing!

– Posted by James Novak


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!

Repairing 3D Prints with a 3D Pen


It’s been a while since I last played with my 3Doodler Pen to repair a broken 3D print – the results were pretty cool, although it takes some practice to get reasonable results. Check out the post and images here. Some people make pretty amazing sculptures with the pen, however I find the real value in using the pen to fill gaps created by warped 3D prints and fix other cosmetic problems.

One of my latest projects is assembled from 16 separate pieces printed on my Cocoon Create 3D printer (60 hours worth of printing!), and inevitably with such large pieces printed using desktop FDM technology, there are some gaps caused by print warping. Most of them are reasonably small, but some like the ones shown above and below are quite large. Unfortunately the 3Doodler uses 3mm filament, meaning that I couldn’t use the same 1.75mm filament used to print the parts to begin with, but given that this project doesn’t need to be cosmetically pretty (prototype only), a different shade of yellow that came in the box will do.


The first step is of course to use the pen to extrude material into the cavity, ensuring to move slowly and use the hot nozzle to bond the new plastic with the original. It can get a bit messy and smelly (do it in a well ventilated area – I had a fan blowing to keep a lot of the fumes moving away, but there were times my eyes were stinging), and as shown in image 2 above, might look a bit rough, but that’s OK. You can go back over some of the rough patches using the side of the hot nozzle to try and smooth them out, not extruding any material but using the nozzle like a hot rolling pin. This technique is also great for blending some of the sharp edges or smaller gaps that don’t really need to be filled. The final step is to use a metal file to clean things up, giving a much smoother finish.

Admittedly this process wasn’t all smooth sailing, my 3Doodler kept getting clogged despite me taking it apart and cleaning it out – I have a feeling it might be the material quality and/or the temperature of the nozzle not being quite as hot as it needs to be, so a lot of time was wasted trying to manually push the filament through the pen and get a steady flow. I did notice that when I pushed the hot nozzle into my original print (the darker yellow plastic) it melted much quicker than the 3Doodler filament, despite them both being ABS. So material quality is likely the cause. But the final result is worth the pain, gaps are cleaned up nicely and the surface is nice and smooth. Time for some testing!

– Posted by James Novak

InMoov Comes to Life

Look! It’s moving. It’s alive. It’s alive… It’s alive, it’s moving, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, IT’S ALIVE! – Frankenstein.

Yes finally the InMoov robot arm I’ve been slowly printing and assembling is complete and functioning with only the occasional little hiccup. I thought I was really close in my last post where I had assembled all the 3D prints and electronics, but it is definitely the last 10% that takes the most work.

Tensioning the braided lines just right and tying them to the servo’s is a painstaking task, especially in the heatwave we’ve been having in Australia, where you’re trying to resist the urge to wipe sweat from your face while you tie the knot just right… I felt a bit like a surgeon out in a humid jungle performing emergency surgery. A few little broken bits along the way as well from prints splitting or glue not holding, so it’s a relief to finally iron out all the kinks and start playing with the controls.

As you’ll see in the video, I’m using Grasshopper (plugin for Rhino) with the addition of Firefly to control the hand movements at the moment – if you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ve seen multiple demo’s of this software and why I think it’s so good, so I won’t bore you here (if you’re interested check out my project which was displayed at Design Philadelphia 2015). But it basically means I can manually adjust the servo’s in real-time using a simple slider for each finger, or connect fingers to the one slider to control them all at once and create a fist for example. It really makes those final tweaks to the servos easy.

I hope you enjoy seeing this arm come to life – it’s quite inspiring when you see it in real life, especially if you’re familiar with 3D printing and the time it takes just to print all of these parts. Now I can finally start modifying this project and experimenting with the controls, the build is only just the beginning for this robot.

– Posted by James Novak

Cowtech 3D Scanner – The Build

20160729_Cowtech Ciclop Build

3D scanning has featured a few times on my blog (eg. see my custom virtual reality headset which perfectly fits my face), so it was only a matter of time until I bought a scanner for myself. Earlier in the year Kickstarter convinced me to help fund the Ciclop 3D Scanner from Cowtech, a $99 open-source system that was impossible to refuse. Yep, $99!

Well here it is, built over a couple of days and making me feel like a kid again with a new kit of Lego. I bought the cheapest version of the scanner, choosing to 3D print the components myself (naturally!) which can be freely downloaded from Thingiverse. These worked really well, only a few areas where support material was time-consuming to remove, and were all done on the small build plate of the UP Plus 2. The top left photo shows most of these 3D printed parts (12 in total needed).

20160805_Cowtech BrokenAfter receiving the other scanner hardware from Cowtech this week, it was finally time to put this kit together – no simple task after I snapped one of the key parts early in the assembly process! You can see the 2 broken pieces of acrylic to the left, which are both from the long arm connecting the 2 main octagonally-shaped hubs in the middle photo at the top of the page. So far Araldite seems to be holding them, and this snapping seems to be a common problem people are reporting – maybe a bit better tolerances required in the laser cut pieces, or a different material that’s not quite so brittle.

Otherwise the assembly process has been quite straight forward, the video provided by Cowtech is very easy to follow, especially if you’re a little familiar with Arduino’s. There are some really clever details in the way nuts slot into the laser cut pieces and screws slide through the 3D prints that I’ve never seen before, so as a designer it was fun to discover these details. I really appreciate the tolerances for many of the different parts fitting together, from laser cut to 3D print to machined screws, I am honestly surprised how well they all came together for me. So in the top right image you can see the final result – I have to admit I feel like an extra 3D printed part is required to cap off the top above the camera, it doesn’t look right to me so this might be something I make myself soon.

The challenge I’m having now is that I can’t get my camera to be recognised by the recommended open-source software for the scanner, Horus. I’ve spent hours installing software and drivers, rebooting my computer, uninstalling, installing in a different order, rebooting… Nothing is working. Hmmm, a bit frustrating but as I’ve learned with these sorts of new products from Kickstarter, sometimes it can take some time for people to start posting solutions and updates as my order was dispatched quite early and there is just not much up on the forum yet. Hopefully soon!

Keep an eye out on my blog for updates, and hopefully soon some successful 3D scans!

– Posted by James Novak

Update 7/8/2016:

Settings That Work CroppedAfter some ideas from the Cowtech Facebook Group, I have solved the connectivity problem – hopefully it helps anyone else that reads this. Firstly the Cowtech Scanning Guide says to plug in the camera to set it up in Horus – but you actually need to plug in the entire scanner – 2 USB’s and power. I then went into the preferences, selected the appropriate camera and serial, then changed the Arduino type to “Arduino Uno” and clicked “Upload Firmware” (shown left). I had to close and then re-open Horus, but now it’s all up and running. Hopefully the rest of the calibration goes a little smoother. I think the instruction booklet from Cowtech needs to make this clearer, and include these preference changes.

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

A Whole New World

2015-01-15 Google CardboardIt’s finally finished!

As discussed in yesterday’s post, I’ve been struggling to carve through some very dense 3mm thick cardboard to build my own Google Cardboard Virtual Reality (VR) headset. I did eventually use the Dremel to cut the details for the eye holes, there’s just no way I could cleanly cut them using a knife. Straight lines are one thing, but small circles are a whole different league! So my biggest piece of advice is to use the fluted cardboard recommended by Google, or use a Laser Cutter 😉 The only upside is that this headset feels very strong and durable, so I’m not at all worried about my phone falling out.

Some of the slots also required modification once I started to fold everything up due to the extra thickness of the cardboard. But otherwise it came together really well. I used a small bolt to hold it all together on 1 side rather than gluing so that it can easily be taken apart. And just as a final touch I used my 3D printed ‘edditive’ logo as a stamp (read a previous post about 3D printing a stamp by clicking here).

So far I’ve only watched a couple of short demo videos on Youtube using the glasses (The Matrix, 3D Canyon Coaster) but what a ride! Although I think it’s time for a new phone, I’m still using a Samsung Galaxy SII and with virtual reality you really need a much higher resolution screen – mine is extremely pixelated once you get those lenses on!

Now it’s time to take the next step and 3D print some parts to compare. I’m thinking of a possible hybrid between the Google Carboard and some of the full 3D printed headsets you can download from Thingiverse…

– Posted by James Novak

When Cardboard Feels Like Steel

2015-01-04 Google CardboardFinding time to get to this little (well at least I thought it would be little!) project to build the Google Cardboard Virtual Reality (VR) headset has been a struggle over the Xmas and New Year period. I originally found inspiration after playing with the Oculus Rift at a VR meeting (click here to read my original post).

My big mistake has been in using a very thick, solid cardboard (often called ‘boxboard’ used for architectural models) since it’s what I had lying around. It’s an absolute nightmare to cut all the details through about 3mm of card! The only upside is that the pieces I have completed are very rigid, so I don’t feel worried about putting my phone in there. The photos above show the process of printing the templates from Google (image 1), cutting them out (image 2), and then tracing and cutting these from cardboard (image 3). I really only have the eye holes left to go, and think I might try using a dremel to get these right. With a knife I fear they will just end up severely hacked!

Since I’ve been asked to give a talk about the opportunities and limitations of 3D printing and virtual reality, I might also try some of the freely available 3D printable headsets for comparison. I bought 2 sets of 25x45mm lenses from Ebay, so can try a few different things. Stay tuned for the completed Google Cardboard and 3D printed headsets over the coming days. If I can find time, I’d love to design and print my own, there’s not much out there at the moment.

– Posted by James Novak

3D Printed Arms for Sunglasses

2015-01-03 Sunglasses 1My Aviators never quite fit properly behind my ears, so of course with a 3D printer in the house it was time to design and 3D print my own! This is another fun, quick little project that you can easily make yourself as I have provided the files for free to download from Thingiverse. Just click here to get them 🙂

All you need to make your own are some wireframe glasses or sunnies (best for wire arms with a diameter of 1.5mm, although you could scale the print or simply drill the holes out to fit your frames). The only other important thing is to trim the arms off as in the middle image above, leaving 15mm that can fit into the corresponding holes of the 3D printed arms. This creates a secure fit when glued with Araldite. I printed my arms one-at-a-time to fit the small print plate of the ‘Up! Plus 2‘ 3D printer, but if you have a larger printer you should have no problems printing both arms at once. Each arm took 32minutes to print using the 0.15mm layer setting.

2015-01-03 Sunglasses 2I also recommend trying on the glasses before gluing – this allows you to angle the arms to fit securely behind the back of your ear as you can see in the above photos. I estimate mine are angled 20 degrees off vertical.

Would love to hear your feedback or photos if you make these, please share them here or through Thingiverse and let me know how you go.

– Posted by James Novak