Friday, August 31, 2012

Cubify Invent - Tutorial #4: Planar Surfaces and Tangent Planes

One of the problems that we face when creating tutorials as we learn a product is that we can miss some things resulting in misleading information.  I'm guilty of doing just that.

I had previous thought that we were limited to creating our 2D sketches on planes.  Happily, that turns out not to be the case.  We can also create 2D sketches on any flat surface of a 3D object.  These flat surfaces are called PLANAR SURFACES.

In this tutorial we continue exploring the surfaces on which we can sketch by looking at planar surfaces and TANGENT PLANES.  A tangent plane is one that is created tangent to the surface of a curved surface.  Typically, this would be the wall of a cylinder.

As you may have seen in the video, once we select a plane, planar surface or tangent plane on which to sketch, we can begin sketching beyond the visible boundaries that we see,  For instance, we might chose a very tiny planar surface.  Yet, we can draw well outside the boundaries of that selected planar surface.  And, the same is true of a tangent plane.  We are not limited to simply drawing within the limits of the curved surface with which that surface was created.

The more I work with Cubify Invent, the more I see its potential.  I'm beginning to see that once the learning curve has been put behind us, this is not only going to be a powerful tool; but, an easy and quick tool.  That is a good feeling to have to anyone interested in 3D printing moving into the mainstream.  Nice.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cubify Invent - Introducing Creating Planes

I can already see that Cubify Invent is one of those programs that is hard to learn; but, easy to use once you grasp the concepts.  I find myself reading the Help file, thinking I am following the steps just as they are written, only to fail.  Then after a few minutes of consternation, it dawns on me what I am missing and then it all looks so simple!

One thing that is completely different about Cubify Invent from my current experience with Moment of Inspiration is Invent's complete reliance on 2D sketches drawn on planes to create 3D features.  So, it dawns on me that I had better figure out how to manipulate planes if I ever want to get anywhere with Cubify Invent.

This tutorial is the result of my first breakthrough in understanding the rudiments of plane creation and how powerful they are in helping us easily control the placement of our features in 3D space and create wonderfully contoured shapes via the Loft tool.  It's very powerful.

Here is our first video on the topic of Plane Creation and the Loft Tool.  I have to apologize for the extraneous sounds.  I need a quieter chair.  And, I'm still working out how to mount the microphone so that it does not pick up vibrations from the mouse, etc.  We'll get there.  But, right now I'm afraid your going to have to listen to my chair squealing.  Just, remember, you'd squeal too if you had someone my size sitting on you!!!  LOL!

The great news is that shortly after creating this video, I FINALLY got the angled plane process to work.  My next video will demonstrate how to create a plane that is angled to the current object... uh...IF I can replicate it 24 hours later!!!  In the meantime, I hope this tutorial was helpful.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Great Reason to Invest in Cubify Invent

The actual cost of adopting a new piece of software is rarely limited to the purchase price.  We usually have to invest a good deal of time and effort before we master the application.  So, I choose those products into which I will have to invest that time very, very carefully.

Moment of Inspiration was one of the products that has ended up being a fantastic investment.  Every minute spent in mastering it has returned an equal amount of time saved in creating 3D objects.  It has been a great investment.

So, I am very reluctant to turn my attention to a different 3D design package.  There has to be a compelling reason for me to put in the time to learn a new system when I am already very comfortable with the one I currently use.

I have found that compelling reason in Cubify Invent. 

And, that is the fact that the native file format for Cubify Invent (.FUN) permits alterations to the design even after the file has been closed and re-opened.  Obviously, this is not the first program that provides that capability.  But, the fact that it was created specifically for the Cube/Cubify community at an appealingly low cost give it a special place among Cube owners.

In fact, I believe that this capability in Cubify Invent will provide the bridge between experienced 3D designers and consumers with little design experience.  It may well be the door through which the larger consumer community can see a reason for buying their first 3D printer.

It's one thing to simply download finite designs and quite another to be able to download designs along with instructions on how to easily customize and personalize those designs for printing at home.  The STL file format, frankly, cannot deliver that to consumers.  It's a "take what you get" file format.  The .FUN file format, on the other hand, is perfect for giving relatively inexperienced users the capability to modify professionally created designs!

Here is a video that demonstrates the point.

I, personally, see it as giving more value and a wider audience for the designs I upload. 

If the Cube is to penetrate the consumer marketplace, it will be in part, because they believe that a 3D printer gives them the ability to print items unique to their needs using an easy software package.  If they can be shown that they do not have to immediately learn ALL the capabilities of Cubify Invent to be able to print customized objects they might be convinced to try 3D printing.   Combining "template" designs, along with a tutorial on how to customize the template before printing, using one or two simple steps, goes a long way in helping them to see what they can do with 3D printing.

I'd love to know how you feel about the idea that we be allowed to distribute our designs in .FUN file format as well as .STL file format on the Cubify Store.

Cubify Invent Tutorial #1

I've decided to use the time while my Cube is being loaned out to a museum to take a hard look at the new Cubify Invent CAD software.  And, I'll be sharing what I'm learning with you.

I'm a firm believer that ignorance is a benefit when it comes to creating tutorials to be used by other new users.  Experts often bypass what was helpful to them as they learned the product for the first time.  I like to create tutorials while my struggles are fresh in my mind, knowing that other will be going through those same struggles.

Keep it simple.

Tutorials are not only helpful at learning various operations of a product; but, also provide some strategies for attacking the learning process.  In this regard, my strategy is simple.  Don't take on too much at once.  Use one drawing tool and see what can be done with it by applying the modifying tools.

In this tutorial we use only the CIRCLE drawing tool.  We then apply various modifying tools like Mirror, Offset and Extrude.  It's surprising what can be accomplished using this simple learning strategy.

So, here it is... our first tutorial for Cubify Invent...

As you can see, if we try not to be too ambitious as we learn a new product, we can get a very good feel for the potential.  And, for a sub-$50 product, Cubify Invent is VERY powerful!

Cost vs. Other Considerations

I can already tell that I will probably not be as productive, in terms of time, with Cubify Invent as I am with Moment of Inspiration (MOI).  But, MOI is 6 times more expensive.  And, having a lower cost alternative that can get the job done just as well, if not as quickly, is a huge deal.  And, I can already tell that there are some things in Cubify Invent that are missing in MOI.  So, I cannot see myself limited to one product or the other now that I have both.

The feature were I change the original drawing and it's reflected in the updated extrusion is a very cool feature and, alone, makes it worthwhile to learn Cubify Invent.  That is something I have longed for in MOI and, as far as I can tell, it's just not there.

I was skeptical about Cubify Invent until I actually sat down and played with it.  Yes, there are some things that continue to be completely baffling and others mildly annoying (Like the inexplicable need for multiple clicking in Mirror.).  But, those are small hurdles that probably go away with experience.

I hope this first tutorial helps get you up and learning quickly.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Alternative Racks now on Cubify Store

I finally uploaded the alternative rack designs into the Cubify Store.

Either design is, I believe, stronger than the original Cartridge Rack and there are improvements in the filament hold down clips.

The design goals of both versions was to minimize the amount of filament required while still retaining strength,  Having used both for some time now, I think they achieved their design goals.  The filament hold down clips have also been improved to provide a tighter grip.

The first of the alternative designs provides greater strength by alternating short oval patterns, delivering greater overall lateral strength.  Click on the link below to go to the store entry for this version of the Cartridge Rack.

Cube Cartridge Rack - Oval Patterns

The second alternative design uses a layered pattern of hexagon holes where each layer provides vertical and horizontal support for the companion layer.  

Cube Cartridge Rack - Hex Patterns

I've love to know how well these designs work for you.  It's important to get feedback because if they work as expected these strategies can be used in future designs.  As usual, the cost is the minimum I believe is permitted ($3.00).

By the way, a big THANKS! to those that have purchased my designs on the Cubify Store.  It helps toward being able to afford the time to put into this blog.  :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Explaining the short Lull in Posts

Last week I was away on vacation.  The week before, I'd loaned my Cube to Peyton Duncan, who brilliantly used it.

This week, the Cube is visiting the Hagley Museum in Wilmington, DE.  I will be writing more about Hagley in the near future.  It's a wonderful place.

In the meantime, I am printing with my RapMan 3.2 to test designs for the Cube.  And, I'll have some observations about what it takes to get layer-to-layer print accuracy with a 3D printer... something the Cube doesn't have any issues so far.  :)


My contact at Hagley reports that the Cube has caused considerable excitement and that they are enjoying their foray into 3D printing.  So, we agreed that they can keep it at least for another week beyond this one.  In the meantime, I've begun to explore Cubify Invent in a more detailed way.

I'm also happy to report that being able to turn my attention back onto RapMan improvements has resulted in finding a way to completely eliminate Z-Axis wobble caused by slight deviations in the long screw rods.  I'll post these findings in my more generalized 3D Printer Users blog shortly.  And, I will print the new part design out on the Cube when I get it back.  While the PLA parts are working, ABS is a tougher, more robust, material than PLA.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shaping the Filament Tip for Loading

It is relatively important to shape the tip of the filament correctly before loading in any 3D printer.  The filament for the Cube is no exception.  Mike asked how I do this.  So, I thought I would mention several ways one can shape the tip correctly.

Since I'd had a 3D printer before the Cube, I'd already found ways to shape the end of filament using several different tools.

Flush Cutters

A micro flush cutter is a small cutting tool with cutting surface that is flat on one side.  This makes for a very clean cut.  Rio, a supplier of jewelry tools and supplies sells many varieties.

Micro Flush Cutter

Right out of college, my daughter set up a well equipped jewelry studio in our home.  It's still here.  As it became clear that shaping the tip of filament was important, I had a lot of tool choices close at hand.  Flush cutters will work.  But, it takes several cuts at different angles.

Nail Emery Board

The least expensive option is a simple emery board normally used to shape nails.

Emery Board

ABS filament is relatively soft and shapes very well.   For under $2.00 you usually can buy a set of boards with several different grits.

Dremel Sanding Wheel

Few tools are as versatile as a Dremel rotary tool.  This is my tool of choice in shaping the end of the filament before loading into either of my 3D printers.

Dremel Rotary Tool with Grinding Stone

The grinding stone attachment makes short work of shaping ABS plastic.. But, a light touch is a must.  Otherwise, it will melt the plastic.  Light touches as you go around the tip tip on all sides does the job very, very well.  Sanding wheels would also work well.

Obviously, these aren't the only ways to get the job done.  But, they represent 3 different approaches that I know work.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Tool to Clear Clogged PrintJets

Scour the hobbyists and consumer 3D printer sites and blogs and you will see that sooner or later most, if not all, 3D extrusion printers will clog for one reason or another.  It comes with the territory.

As more and more 3D printer manufacturers use pre-built hot ends, it becomes less effective to tear a hot end apart to clear the clog.  The Cube falls into this category... as does the much more expensive ($17,000-$22,000) HP 3D printer.  HP has even published a Support Document that deals with how to clear a clog in their printer.

While it rarely happens, when a Cube's tip becomes clogged, a user has two choices.  They can either send the unit back for repair.  Or, they can clear the clog themselves.  Cube time is so precious to me that I have opted for the latter.  And, I want to explain to everyone how I do it.

But, before doing so, we have to say that if you try what I am about to describe that you do so at your own risk.  To clear the Printjet tip, it has to be heated and it can cause a nasty burn if we aren't careful.  Of course, no child should be allowed to do this.  It requires good small muscle control and a steady eye.


The most critical item you will need is piano wire that is under .5mm in diameter.  I use .38mm piano wire (0.015") that can be found in any hobby store.  This wire is inserted into the tip of the hot end to clear it.


While it is not required to have handles, they certainly make it easier.  And, since we have a 3D printer, we can make the type of our choice.  In my case, I printed two different types.  Since I've not had a clog recently, it's not been possible to test either of them.  But, I am certain that both will work well.


The first style is short and the wire is mounted in the center of the handle.  There is a shaft for the wire's exit and a small hole into which the bent end of the wire is inserted.

Short Handle for Piano Wire
Taking some time to discuss the design characteristics is useful not only for this project; but, others.  As always, the first design goal, other than basic usefulness, is NO SUPPORTS.  The objects print FACE DOWN as in the bottom right quadrant of the image.  There are holes in both halves.  And, some posts are printed separately.  These posts will be inserted into the holes to line up the halves.

The reason why the posts are not attached before printing is that it would have required supports for at least one half.  The above arrangement, with external posts, allows us to print without supports and still provide a way to ensure perfect alignment of the halves.

Notice that the holes appear to be considerable larger than the diameter of the posts.  At print time this difference goes away and the posts and holes are very closely sized.  Remember, holes get smaller and posts get larger as we discussed in a previous article.

In like manner, the shaft and hole for the piano wire must be a lot larger than the piano wire's diameter.  Otherwise, the hole will close up.  Here is an image of the completed small wire handle.  A piece of paper is included in the image to help show the wire.

Finished Piano Wire in Short Handle


In the small handle, the wire exits the handle in the middle of the handle.  The large handle is designed to be asymmetric so that we can reach in from the side.  It may or may not be easier.  We'll see if and when we have a clog.

Long Handle for Piano Wire
Aside from the length, the only big change in this design is that the hole for the wire's exit goes through one of the halves and near one end of the handle.  A stabilizing channel is wedged between the two halves.  The posts and alignment holes are the same.

Here is the completed long handle.

Finished Piano Wire in Long Handle


If I get a clog, I will used the "Install Cartridge" option to heat the Printjet hot end.  When I hear the extruder running in reverse to back out the filament, I insert the wire into the tip and hot end and gently press upwards until the wire moves freely up into the print tip about 1/4" to 1/2".  This should push the errant filament out of the bottom tube.  Or, at least that has been my experience in the two times I've used piano wire in the past.


Normally, I would put the designs up on the Cubify Store.  But, liability issues outweigh helpfulness in this particular case.  It's not only possible to burn yourself.  It's also possible to ruin your Cube unless you are careful.  So, I post this article simply to tell you how I deal with the issue and let you decide if you do or do not want to go the same route.  Hopefully, NONE of us will need it.  But, I want to be prepared, just in case.  I don't want to lose a single day of work with my Cube!


There are two things that I have found will CAUSE a clog.  
  •  The first is to pull the filament out too aggressively when changing cartridges.  You do NOT want to break off a piece inside the head.  So, be patient and let the machine do the work of reversing the filament.
  • The second is not rounding the tip of the new filament before loading.
Here is a simple image that shows filament tips trimmed in three different ways. 

Three ways to trim the end of the filament

The cut on the blue filament is too straight.  The edges can bump onto the lip of the bottom tube just below the extrusion wheels.

The cyan filament is cut so that the long tip bends outward.  Filament has a natural curve and the tip of the filament cut like this ends up either hanging on the lip of the bottom tube or guiding itself outside the tube altogether.

The best way to trim the end of the filament is to trim it in multiple directions so that the pointed tip is roughly at the center of the filament.  Also, make sure that the filament is as straight as possible.

Connecting the Cube

WIRELESS - Ad-Hoc Option 

Because I prefer to use the Cube with the memory stick, I had not tested the WiFi connection.

I have not been able to connect via WPS as yet.

But, I was able to connect via the "Ad-Hoc" connection option.  The trick is to turn on the Cube and search for the Cube on the computer's available wireless choices BEFORE starting the Cubify Client.

The manual actually points this out; but, I thought it important to re-confirm the order.

Frankly, since the Cube requires a response via the touch screen before beginning the print job sent to it wirelessly, I fail to see that there is much benefit by the wireless option.  In addition, the Ad-Hoc option appears to require me to choose between the my normal network wireless connection and a wireless connection to the Cube.  

Since I print in an outside studio, it's just as convenient to use the USB memory option.

USB Cable - Firmware Updating

When I first tried to connect the Cube to the computer, a USB FAILURE message popped up.  This had been reported by another user and it concerned me.  Then I discovered the problem.  The USB memory stick was still in the machine.  Only 1 USB connection can be made at a time.  So, be sure to remove the memory stick before plugging in the USB cable.

Once this was done, the failure message went away and the USB connected OK.

HOWEVER.... it did not happen quickly and there was no evdence that it had connected OK.  More importantly, when I opened Cubify to upload a firmware update, following the directions in the manual, Cubify, at first, could not find the firmware loader.  It was only after another minute or so that all seemed to connect correctly, find the loader and begin working.

While it worked, it was a bit disconcerting.  Nothing is scarier for me than uploading new firmware to  a device since, in most cases, a failure can mean you've turned a useful device into a brick. 

It's unclear to me if the fault lies with Windows or the Cube.  But, in any case, I am hoping that they work on refining this process or the description of the process..

The good news is that in the end I still had a working unit and a successful firmware update.  :)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Saving Filament While Keeping Strength

Earlier, we posted an article about creating a rack to hold Cube cartridges.

Cube Rack - Initial Design

One of the design goals was to reduce the amount of filament required to print the rack.  The design worked very well.  But, it wasn't quite as strong as it could be.  So, a second design goal was added... maximum strength.

We came up with two more designs for the Cube Rack that met the need for saving filament using holes in the rack and yet also met the criteria for maximum strength.

The first design used holes similar to those of design #1.  But, this time the holes where shorter and arranged in an offset pattern that provided more lateral support.

New Rack Design #1 - Offset Holes

The design not only worked beautifully; but, ended up being very strong and pleasing.  Here is the printed version of the above design.  I printed both of the new racks on my RapMan 3.2 because I'd loaned my Cube 3D Printer to Peyton Duncan.  And, that is why the raft is evident.  On the Cube, I would print this without a raft for a cleaner look.  Neither printer requires supports for any of the rack designs.

New Rack #1 - Printed Version

So, now that we demonstrated that we can reduce filament and keep strength, it was time to try to reduce filament even more.  That gave me the opportunity to test a completely different approach.  Instead of cutting holes completely through the wall, this time the design used a lattice of holes that only went half way through the wall adjacent to an offset pattern of holes on the other half of the wall.

New Rack Design #2 - Lattice

This design allowed for larger holes while still meeting the strength design criteria.  Plus, it turned out to be a very pleasing look.  Here is the printed version.

New Rack #3 - Printed Version

The secret to the strength lies in the fact that each hole is supported both laterally and vertically by the wall of an offset hole.  This lattice design is surprisingly strong and probably saves the most filament.  Overall, it is my preferred design.

Here is a video that explains the process using Moment of Inspiration...

All of the designs will be up on the Cubify Store site at the minimum allowable cost.

Word of Warning

Both of the new designs print with increased noise and time.  The printer must print small features and then jump over the hole to the next small feature.  This means that it's not laying down a nice continuous layer of filament.  So, you may want to print them in a area where the noise won't affect others.  It's well worth the extra noise and slight additional time.  But, it's something that you need to consider when choosing which design you will download.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A ZBrush Expert Tests the Cube

One of the smartest things I've ever done in my life was to use my nephew, Peyton Duncan, in the early 1980's to test our video games for Astrocade's Bally Professional Arcade.  Not only was he terrific at finding issues with the games; but, he was also terrific at suggesting game play improvements.

But, it has also paid off for him, leading him to become an accomplished digital artist and game designer.  He is now an art director with Electronic Arts Sports.  He is an incredible artist and photographer.

One of the 3D modeling products that he has used, over the years, is ZBrush.  Two events provided an opportunity for him to test the latest release of ZBrush with the Cube 3D Printer. Last week, to test the new Dynamesh technology, Peyton created this high poly model in just 4 hours.  And, then he came to visit his family in nearby Virginia, giving him access to my Cube 3D printer.

Peyton Duncan - Old Man

According to Peyton, ZBrush with Dynamesh is amazing, allowing him to go way beyond the point where the mesh would become a mess in other applications.  I'm no great 3D artist so I don't even know enough to comment on it.  But, knowing his experience, I'm going to take his word for it.

For me, the fun part was having the privilege of being able to loan Peyton my Cube while he and his family are visiting his parents.  This gave him the opportunity to print his "Old Man" on the Cube.

Here is the result.

Cube Print - Old Man 01
Cube Print - Old Man 02
Cube Print - Old Man 03

The bust is 4.5" tall and took 24 hours to print.  It did require support materials.  The great news is that Peyton is very impressed by the quality of the print, given the fact that "Old Man" was not designed to be printed.  It was designed to push the capabilities of Dynamesh,  So, the surface being sent to the Cube is incredibly detailed. 

What was amazing to me, once I had a chance to see it, is that Peyton had chosen to set up the Cube printer in an area that undergoes big swings in temperature.  There was some bottom warping, which one would expect from such temperature swings.  But, over all, the filament binding was very nice in spite of the temperature swings over the 24 hour print cycle.

Obviously, the children were fascinated by the printing process and went to check on it dozens of times.  Peyton was highly impressed that the Cube could go for 24 hours while maintaining precise alignment even in the face of the children shaking the table on which it sat.

I plan to reprint "Old Man" in my studio where I can control the temperature more precisely... and, without the table shaking!  In the meantime, count Peyton in as a Cube fan.

Note:  "Old Man" is a work in progress.  When he gets back home he will finish it and send me a better STL file to print.  So, look for an update in the near future.