Ninjaflex Extruder Mod – Fail

20180409_Ninjaflex Mod

This is a short little update following on from my last post attempting to 3D print with Ninjaflex filament (soft TPU):

After limited success using the stock extruder on a Wanhao Duplicator i3, I found a 3D printable Extruder Drive Block on Thingiverse to supposedly help stop the filament from finding its way out out the back rather than being forced down into the nozzle. Well, as you can see from the photos, it looks like it fits quite well, although I did have to slice and file a few areas to fit properly – most notably around the shaft of the stepper motor which was far too tight and stopped it from turning, and the wheel that pushes the filament against the stepper gear which was blocked from putting any force against the filament so did not drive it down into the nozzle. Admittedly, the file on Thingiverse was designed for the Duplicator 4, so it was a bit of a long shot to work with the i3.

So back to the drawing board I’m afraid for Ninjaflex printing – perhaps time to upgrade to a Flexion extruder, or look at some other TPU materials that might be slightly stiffer and more suitable for this basic extruder. Flexible PLA looks interesting. If you’ve had any successes 3D printing with Ninjaflex on a printer like the Duplicator i3, leave me a comment 🙂

– Posted by James Novak

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3D Printed Ninjaflex – First Test

20180406_Ninjaflex Wanhao

I’m sure if you’ve been 3D printing for even a short time, you’ve heard of Ninjaflex – a brand of flexible filament for your FDM printer that has rubber-like properties, rather than the usual rigid plastic parts that are more common with ABS or PLA filaments. While I’ve known about them for many years, I’ve never risked clogging my printer after hearing some bad experiences with these softer materials. Until this week!

I’m currently working with fashion postdoctoral researcher Mark Liu, who purchased a Wanhao Duplicator i3 v2.1 for some of our research – not coincidentally, it’s identical to my home Cocoon Create 3D printer. We decided to give the Ninjaflex a go to see if it would print, and if so, what sort of quality we could get since the printer and replacement parts are cheap if we really screwed up! Photographed above is one of our first successful prints, although the truth is we had quite a few failed attempts getting to this point as we experimented with settings and carefully watched each print. The primary settings we are using for these first tests (based off the recommended settings for Ninjaflex which are available in the Printing Guidelines) are:

  • Extruder Temperature: 230°C
  • Build Plate Temperature: 40°C
  • Print Speed: 15mm/s
  • Layer height: 0.2mm
  • Retraction: 5mm (I think this is too much and we will try 0mm or 1mm)

These may not be perfect yet, and I’m keen for anyone’s feedback on what’s led to more successful prints with these soft filaments. The main thing we’ve noticed is that the soft filament is challenging for the extruder to push down into the nozzle and force out the tip – it is quite common for the nozzle to clog and filament to keep feeding through until it comes out the back of the extruder. Luckily nothing has jammed up yet, you can pull the filament back up out of the extruder and try again. With a bit of a search online, it seems that some 3D printable parts may solve this problem, in particular this modified Extruder Drive Block available on Thingiverse which closes the opening where the filament likes to escape, and will hopefully better force it down through the nozzle. The video below from Wanhao USA helps highlight the problem, and how this 3D printed part can fix it.

It’s early days with this filament, and I know the stock extruder of the Duplicator i3 is really not optimised for this type of material. But it can be done, and I’m sure with some tweaking can be made more reliable. Stay tuned as I am currently printing the new block to install on the Duplicator in the coming days, and will report back with results.

– Posted by James Novak

3D Printed Kobayashi Fidget Cube

20180115_Fidget Cube 3D

One of the great opportunities presented by 3D printing is to print multiple parts as a single object, and have them move afterwards as a complete assembly. There are many great examples, and this Kobayashi Fidget Cube has been on my “to-print list” for some time now. The file is freely available on Thingiverse, and it is pretty awesome!

The photos above give some idea of how it works; a series of cubes that are linked, allowing them to rotate around through a series of positions as you fold and open sections of the object. However the video below (not my own) shows exactly how it works, and is basically a form of fidget device that is currently a popular trend.

As well as being a fun object, it is a great test of your printer’s accuracy and settings, and I must admit my Cocoon Create only had average results. The cube works, but some of the movements are much stiffer than the video. This is probably to do with my settings, I was a little impatient in printing so did not optimise as much as necessary things like layer thickness (used 0.2mm and should’ve tried 0.1mm) and printing speed (50mm/s instead of perhaps 30mm/s or less). I also had to use a knife to slice some of the bottom layers where the cubes had fused together on the print plate. Not a bad first effort, but I might try printing again soon to get a really smooth operating fidget cube.

– Posted by James Novak

3D Printed Metamorphosis

20170819_3D Butterfly

3D printing insects and creatures is nothing new, but maybe the months written on the image above indicates something more is going on with these 3D prints…

The 3D models of the caterpillar and butterfly are in fact generated by monthly step data collected on my old Garmin Vivofit – no design (or designer!) required. This is all an experiment to explore how non-designers may be able to use 3D printers without needing to learn complex CAD software, or sit on websites like Thingiverse and download random things just for the sake of printing. With the proliferation of activity trackers and smart watches gathering this data, perhaps there are creative ways for software to generate rewards from this data, which can be sent to a 3D printer and turned into something tangible?

Garmin Steps

I won’t go into all the details and theories right now, this work will be presented at the Design 4 Health conference in Melbourne this December. Visitors will even be able to input their own daily, monthly or yearly step goals, along with their actual steps achieved, and generate their own rewards. This is all controlled in Rhino with Grasshopper using some tricky parametric functions to automatically grow a caterpillar into a butterfly; if the steps achieved are below the goal, you will have a caterpillar, with the number of body segments growing depending on the percentage of achievement towards the goal. If the goal has been exceeded, a butterfly will emerge and grow bigger and bigger as the steps achieved continue to increase over the goal. You can see the results for a number of months of my own data tracking in the image above.

The 3D prints are being done in plastic for the exhibition, the examples above done on UP Plus 2‘s, however there’s no reason a future system couldn’t use chocolate or sugar as an edible reward for achieving your goals! I think it will take some interesting applications of 3D printers such as this to ever see a 3D printer in every home as some experts have predicted. But as anyone with a 3D printer knows, it will also take far more reliable, truly plug-n-play printers to reach this level of ubiquity. Time will tell.

– Posted by James Novak

Mashup-Yoda – Download For Free

Yoda Header

Recently I wrote a step-by-step tutorial for my friends at Pinshape about how you can use free software (Meshmixer) to combine downloaded STL files into your own unique design – this is called a mashup, or a remix. The tutorial is nice and easy to follow, and was just the start of my plan to create some really interesting designs in a series of mashups. You can find a full video tutorial and links to the written tutorial in my previous post.

Finally I’ve found some time to create mashup number 2, Mashup-Yoda! This design has taken a lot more time to create in Meshmixer, along with learning some of the more advanced tools and plenty of trial-and-error along the way. However it is based on a similar idea as the Mashup-Rex from the tutorial, combining a skeleton element with an external skin to give a cutaway effect to the creature. However, what might Yoda’s skeleton look like?

Yoda's_death

As you (hopefully) know from the film Return of the Jedi, Yoda’s body vanishes as he becomes one with the force in his death, so there is no way to know. But upon finding the Voronoi Yoda model by Dizingof on Thingiverse, it seemed like an interesting concept for this powerful Jedi, perhaps a more organic internal skeleton that was formed by the Midi-chlorians (some real Star Wars nerd talk!) that gave Yoda his power.

Nerd talk aside, as much as anything the Voronoi Yoda just seemed like a cool model that would be fun to combine with a realistic bust of Yoda, also available freely on Thingiverse. The 2 models are a great fit, with the main challenge being the slicing and dicing of the geometry in Meshmixer to create this organic looking, almost cyborg-like Yoda mashup. Mostly this has been achieved using the Sculpt tools and the Select tool to remove sections of the models and re-shape them to look like they were designed this way from the beginning.

20170625_Mashup-Yoda

I’ll admit that I did have some problems combining the 2 models into a single STL file right at the end in Meshmixer, probably due to the weird intersections between the models where I had pushed and pulled surfaces too far into a non-manifold object. I also ended up with a file size of about 87MB, a bit ridiculous for sharing online, and the normal reduction techniques in Meshmixer were just destroying the quality of the surfaces. So I ended up bringing the large STL file into Rhinoceros, reducing the mesh by about 75%, exporting as a STL, importing back into Meshmixer, using the Inspector tool to repair any little remaining errors automatically, and finally exporting a clean, 3D printable STL file. That’s a mouthful!

Now that the hard work’s been done, I’d love you to have this model for free so you can print it out, or even get crazy and try remixing my remix using some of the techniques shown in my Pinshape tutorial! I’ve uploaded it to my favourite 3D file sharing websites Pinshape, Thingiverse, 3D File Market and Cults. Choose your website, 3D print and share some photos 🙂

May the force be with you

– Posted by James Novak

Moreton Technology Alliance

2017 Moreton Technology Alliance

Last week I teamed up with fellow Advance Queensland Digital Champion  (AQDC) and resident of Moreton Bay, Kate vanderVoort, to discuss the latest digital trends in social media and 3D printing with local businesses in our area. This was hosted by the newly formed Moreton Technology Alliance (MTA), a group of local business owners who are passionate about the region and driving innovation here.

Having been an AQDC for a couple of years now, it was great to team up with newbie to the program Kate, and deliver our insights into what may at first seem like 2 different topics. Kate began by sharing her experience with helping businesses engage with their customers through social media, and how businesses that do this well are finding that their communities of followers begin to act as customer service agents and brand ambassadors, solving fellow customer problems using the immediacy of social media. In Kate’s words, it’s a good problem to have – until your employees start feeling like their jobs are in jeopardy!

This idea of building online communities linked well to my later discussion around Intellectual Property (IP) and how online communities of designers like myself are tapping into the growing libraries of files on websites like Thingiverse and Pinshape to replace broken products, upgrade them, or modify them to perform new functions, sharing our designs for free, or for small payments just like buying a song on iTunes.

20170420_3D Print GoPro Mount

I used the example of GoPro mounts which retail at $29AUD for a pack of 6 genuine mounts, or I can 3D print 6 for $1 in material cost (pictured above from Thingiverse). Sure it’s not quite as perfectly fitting, and the material might break, but I could print 174 mounts for the same cost as 6 genuine mounts – essentially a lifetime supply from my own desktop factory. And this is just from a $400 machine, what if I have a better machine or material?

How do businesses deal with this? Will they be forever chasing people around the world with cease and desist letters (lawyers would be rubbing their hands together!)? Or will businesses shift their thinking and embrace this change, in the same way Hasbro’s My Little Pony has become an online community through Shapeways, where children and adults alike are encouraged to design and sell their own My Little Pony creations?

I certainly don’t profess to have the answers (in short I’m not a big believer of IP even without the 3D printing aspect), however the point of this example, along with examples of projects happening from a variety of industries embracing 3D printing, was to inspire the audience at this MTA event, and encourage further discussion. Which I believe it did given the questions from members afterwards, and realisation that this technology really will affect anyone developing physical products in some way or another.

We also discussed opportunities for businesses to collaborate with universities in order to develop research programs into technologies like 3D printing, with the Australian Government recently changing funding models for universities to emphasise greater links with industry, and grants announced for SME’s to fund innovation in partnership with universities and researchers. Follow the links to find out more information.

Thanks to MTA for inviting me to speak, I hope to be fielding a few questions in the near future from businesses who have been inspired to take the 3D printing plunge!

– Posted by James Novak

3D Printed Action Camera Floaty

20161110_garmin-virb-3d-print

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 floaty  – 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.  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

Enabled by 3D – Twisty Pen Grip

20160829_3D Print Pen Grip

It’s competition time at MyMiniFactory and I thought I’d use it as an excuse to spend an afternoon creating something new and simple to 3D print. The “#enabledby3d” competition brief calls for an “item that makes an everyday chore easier, or an enabling device, allowing those with disabilities greater accessibility.”

I decided to focus on something most of us take for granted – writing and drawing with a pen. If you have arthritis or some other sort of hand dexterity problems from injury or illness, picking up a cheap standard pen and using it can be frustrating, painful or even impossible. One option is to pay a lot more money for large diameter pens, or buy those slide-on grips which look ugly and draw attention to the fact that you may have grip difficulties.

So what I’ve created is a simple sheath that slides over the full length of a standard Bic pen or similar, significantly increasing the diameter of the pen and changing the geometry so that it may be more easily maneuvered. The sheath prints without needing any support material, and the cheap pen simply sides inside ready to use. What I hope is achieved by this design is something that not only enables people with hand dexterity issues, but something that is appealing to anyone – in this way the design doesn’t seem like an assistive device, but something desirable that someone might be using simply to stand out and be unique. Rotate the model around below to see all the details, particularly the spiral top.

If you like the Twisty Grip head over to the MyMiniFactory page to give it a like to increase my chances of winning the competition! Better yet, you can download this design for free and print it for yourself, or for someone you know who could benefit from it. As soon as the competition ends I’ll also post it to the other 3D printing file sites I normally use, but for now please help share this design and have some fun making it for yourself. Print in bold colours to stand out, or use different coloured materials to designate different pen colours – the choice is yours.

– Posted by James Novak

UPDATE 28/11/2016: The STL file to print this design is now also freely available on Thingiverse, Pinshape, 3D File Market and Cults. Enjoy!

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.