Return of the Beer Bottle Lock

20170823 Beer Lock Blank

It’s been quite a few years since I first posted this design on my blog – check out where it all began here. One of the great things about sharing designs like this on file sharing websites like Thingiverse or Pinshape is that you get to see when someone enjoys your design and shares their own photos of the print, or even better, remixes it to add their own unique twist to the idea. Someone even made a video on Youtube which featured this lock 🙂

Occasionally I get requests, either on these websites, through social media, or on this blog, for me to make alterations to a design, or share the native design files for someone to more easily modify. 9 times out of 10 I’m more than happy to help. A few days ago I was contacted through Twitter to make a simple variation to my Beer Bottle Lock, removing the text on top that says “hands off my beer” to provide a blank surface for someone to more easily add their own custom text.

Given that the file is parametric in Solidworks, the alteration only took a few seconds. However rather than email the files direct, it seemed like a good opportunity to share a remix of my own design on Thingiverse, and hopefully benefit even more people. So you can now download this design for free by clicking here, just like the original.

This got me thinking about remixes, and the fact that many of my favourite 3D printing sites like Pinshape and Cults don’t really allow for remixes to be clearly linked to the original source file. I can either upload a print of a design (just photos, not a new STL file), or upload a completely new design. If I want to let people know this new design is a remix, I have to manually write this in the project description, and supply a URL to the original file as you can see on my upload of this new blank version beer bottle lock on Pinshape. On Thingiverse, you can specifically say your design is a remix of another with the click of a button, and a link is created so others can easily go to the original, and see all remixes to find the one most appropriate for them. This is a better system that ties in with the whole Creative Commons (CC) licencing used by all of these websites.

I hope some of these other file sharing websites will take up the challenge to make file attribution and remixing more transparent, it shouldn’t be left up to the user to understand the licensing options and manually enter this information. A common standard across a website, as done by Thingiverse, would really help encourage more sharing, and appropriate attribution to designers.

– Posted by James Novak

Creating 3D Print Test Parts in Solidworks

20151125_3D Test Piece

Over the last 2 days I’ve been heavily involved with the “Beyond 3D Printing: The Evolving Digital Landscape” conference in Brisbane  as discussed in a previous post. As part of the day 1 masterclasses I ran sessions on “CAD Strategies for 3D Printing” where we got everyone hands-on with Solidworks and ran a tutorial on how to create useful test pieces when you have a 3D printer, and how to take advantage of parametric tools available in Solidworks.

Obviously there are lots of ways to test your 3D printer’s limits, one of the simplest being to download some pre-made test pieces and run them through your printer to work out things like minimum wall thicknesses and support angles – Make Magazine have provided some great ones free on Thingiverse which they use for their articles comparing 3D printers. However this is more of a calibration tool, and doesn’t give you a deeper understanding of the limits and opportunities of 3D printing.

To get people thinking about this, I created a step-by-step tutorial showing how to create the test-pieces shown above. Click the below PDF to download the guide and follow along. If you don’t have Solidworks, you may still follow along and use the tools available in your own CAD software to create something similar.

CAD Strategies for 3D Printing – PDF Tutorial

A good test piece should give you a number of things to discover in each print, not only about what your printer can/can’t do, but also informing your design process. As you can see in the photographed prints, a test piece doesn’t have to successfully print in order to be valuable, you can learn a lot either way. By taking advantage of the parametric tools in Solidworks, when a print does fail, it will be very quick to modify a dimension or 2 and re-run the print. In this model we can learn about 3D printing without support material and minimum wall sections. We can also gauge how likely our more complex model on the right is to print, which is simply a repeated pattern of the basic pyramid lattice. Complexity doesn’t actually have to be complex to model, you can use pattern features to repeat a relatively simple shape over and over again.

This also brings into question the debate about when CAD should be used in your design process. Traditionally the development of a concept has been done by sketching on paper, with CAD being used more as a final documentation tool later in the design process. But when designing for additive manufacturing, perhaps it’s time to bring CAD into the early stages of the process alongside sketching, in order to understand exactly what’s possible with the technology, and challenge traditional thinking? What do you think?

– Posted by James Novak

Grasshopping Continues

150418 Hex AttractorWhile I seem to be spending more time in CAD than 3D printing at the moment, I’m enjoying it just as much. I’ve just finished a few more Grasshopper tutorials (continuing on from my last post) and challenged myself to build a hex grid that changes the diameter of each piece, and also it’s extrusion length, based on proximity to 2 control points. There are a few advanced things going on here that improve upon what I had in the last post:

  1. The individual cells won’t get so large that they overlap. At their maximum size they will maintain a small gap from each other.
  2. The grid itself is also parametrically controlled, so spacing can be modified using 2 sliders, or expanded to include more elements.
  3. The length of each extrusion is directly related to the area of each individual hexagon.

Below is the way I created it in Grasshopper.

150418 Hex CodeThis is such a powerful tool and I’m still only just scratching the surface. Hopefully over the coming week I’ll get to playing around with the Firefly plugin that pairs with my Arduino. If I could control the 2 attractor points in this model from the Arduino for example, that would be pretty amazing!

– Posted by James Novak

Grasshopper OMG!

150416 GrasshopperThe more I play around with Rhino the more I wish I’d got into it years ago! Following on from my previous post playing around with Rhino and comparing it to Solidworks, I’ve now got into the plugin Grasshopper and am literally blowing my mind!

The images above are a of a simple grid I’ve created, and as I move the yellow point around, the cylinders automatically adjust their diameter in relation to their distance from the point. This is simply not possible in Solidworks, not even close. Once you committed to a pattern, it would take a lot of work to change it, whereas with Grasshopper this is automated, parametric and happening in real time! This is such a powerful tool and I can already highly recommend this software to designers, particularly those wanting to create the sort of complex, organic forms that are frequently shown as exemplars of 3D printing.

– Posted by James Novak

Generative Design Experiments

Test LineupFor a while I’ve been interested in the idea of generative design – where 3D CAD files can automatically generate endless forms in response to certain inputs from the user, or through algorithms or random events. Today I’ve started playing with a free piece of software called Genoform which plugs into Solidworks, along with Rhino or Inventor. You can see how powerful it is from the images above; the top left form is my original creation in Solidworks, and the other 25 are the outcome of a few seconds of processing by Genoform. Talk about concept generation in the blink of an eye!

This is the first time I’ve seen something like this that works with Solidworks, and it looks as if you can get right into the detailed settings to control certain dimensions, and only allow a set few to change between iterations. Very powerful, and quite exciting in terms of the future of CAD software. Certainly reminds me of the great work being done by nervous system and their online tools for customising 3D printable designs. If you haven’t seen their work, I highly recommend checking it out and even downloading some of their designs from Thingiverse to 3D print yourself.

– Posted by James Novak