Monday, April 1, 2013

The Quest is Part of the Satisfaction

As you may have noticed, the posts to this blog have been infrequent for a while.  That is NOT because my interest in the Cube and 3D printing has waned.  Quite the contrary is true. 

The reason for the infrequency is that I have been using one or both of my Cube printers on almost a non-stop basis creating prototypes for a device that has been a longtime dream.  The Cube has been the focus of a quest and that quest has taken me on a design journey of discovery, insight and, sometimes, perplexing roadblocks.

But, quests are probably at the core of the satisfaction that comes from owning a 3D printer.  And, each small step in a design quest has the potential to spawn a new quest at any time.

My Current Quest

A quest usually involves one's passions.  As I have mentioned before, I have had a lifelong passion for microscopy.   And, being able to capture the microscope images has been a longtime extension of that passion.  What has kept me occupied and limited my blog updates is a quest to design and build a device that combines these passions.

The cool thing about this quest is that it combines complexity with the need for incredibly accurate alignment.   While the first Cube could do the job of delivering models that would work, it was the 2nd generations Cube that really made the project take off.

2nd Generation Cube's Primary Contribution to the Quest

I have been amazed at the accuracy of the 2nd Generation Cube.  Parts fit is now much easier than with earlier 3D printers.  The system that I'm designing has more than 10 parts that must fit together well and at least seven of those parts must move with precision if the design is to be successful.  Moreover, some features have to be fitted with off-the-shelf items like screws and nuts.

I've come to trust that the 2nd Gen Cube is going to be able to deliver, repeatedly, the same precision with each iteration.  This is not only important; but, critical for those of us hoping to design products that others can print on their own 2nd Gen Cubes.  And, it's also good news for those that would be ordering the products that will be printed with much larger 3D printers.

The Quest is nearing Completion

While few design quests end with finality, this one is at least nearing the time when a version is mature enough to be released.  When that happens I want to share the journey because some perfectly good breakthroughs didn't make it to this product for any number of reasons.  But, that does not mean that these design features will not be useful to us in other products.  For instance, I learned how to design sliding parts with ratcheting locks.  But, the final design no longer needs that feature.  I've also learned a lot about parts with springlike give without breaking.  Discoveries regarding filament "grain" and part printing orientation were a natural consequence of such an intense design effort.  I will share those as well. 

Hopefully, by the end of this weeks, we can begin to explore some of the things that came out of this quest so that they might help you in your own future design quests.  It's been a lot of fun.


  1. Hi Tom, I am a complete Newbie on 3D printing and I have to say that your blog is by far the most complete I've found about it. I can't wait to see what you've got in store for us from your quest. I am sorry to have to ask you this via your blog but as I mentioned, I am new to this and printed my first creation last night. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed. If you click on this link you'll understand why.

    The sides of the cube are pretty good but that bottom part looks like I made it out of straw!

    Anyway, if there are any tips you can throw my way, I'd really appreciate them!

    Thanks so much for posting so much information on our exciting new endeavor!


  2. I would love to use the photo to respond on the blog. I think it would be VERY helpful to a LOT of people. :)

    What you see is caused by the large flat gap inside the letter. You can mitigate this by sloping the sides of the letters to taper upward and inward creating less of a flat gap. If you give me permission, I would like to show a redesigned version that should work better. Otherwise, you will have to turn on the raft and supports... not a good option. :)

  3. Awesome!

    Where can I send you the file? What format would you like it on? 3DS, OBJ or STL?