Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Merry Christmas to all New and Previous Cube Owners!

I'm hoping that our ranks increase dramatically on December 25.


We're happy to have you join us and look forward to hearing from you.  That also goes for those times when things don't seem to be going so well.  Working through issues is how we learn the most about our tools and our craft.

Cube Owners

This blog exists to serve all Cube owners... from those that bought the 1st Gen Cube to the newest of the new.

The good news for all 2nd Gen Cube owners is that the printer and software continue to be improved by firmware and software updates.  Each of my 2nd Gen Cubes is a much better printer today than it was when it was first delivered thanks to 3D System's commitment to continually improve the Cube.

Expect continued additions and improvements in the coming year.

Users have also helped to identify those things we can do to make our printing experience more reliable and precise.  For instance, in the coming weeks I will upload a new Cube Print Table Leveling Tool that dramatically helps check that your Cube's print bed is perfectly level and makes the job of bringing it back into level a whole lot easier.

Sense Owners

My excitement about the Sense 3D Scanner remains unabated.  Let me know if you found a Sense under the tree this year.  The combination of the Sense Scanner and Cubify Sculpt is extremely powerful.  For me, the Sense is primarily going to be about saving memories in a whole new way by creating various types of 3D portraits and sculptures.

As I write this, two Cubes are printing frames for some cameo-style portraits that were created with the Sense and Sculpt.  They will be part of a unique gift to friends and family.

As soon as I have thoroughly tested it, I will be uploading a frame that mates a Sense 3D Scanner to a MIMO 7" USB touchscreen monitor.  It makes the task of scanning a LOT easier.  I'll post a video that demonstrates it.

The Coming Year

I've worked for the Justice Department, the military and NIH.  RICO cases, secret aircraft and health systems demand high security.  But, to be honest, I have not found any organization that is able to keep a secret about new products as well as 3D Systems.  I had NO idea the Cube, 2nd Gen Cube or Sense was coming before the public announcement.  So, I have no idea what is in store for us this coming year.

All I know is to expect something good.  And, that CES, in January, is a good time to pay attention.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Experiments with Painting Cube PLA Prints

Now that I have the new Sense 3D Scanner, the amazing potential of this great tool has stormed my brain with hundreds of new applications for 3D printing.

The Sense color capabilities can't be realized with the Cube printer; but, that does NOT mean that we cannot begin to think COLOR with our prints.  And, this most likely means paint and dyes.

So, I've been experimenting with using modeler's paint to see how it behaves with my PLA prints.  The first test seems to be success.  I only use the term 'seems' because I don't yet know how well the lacquer that I am using will hold up over time.  For now it looks great and helps to mask the natural layers of 3D prints.

Experiment 1:  Metallic Over White

Here's a quick look at my first experiment.

For this object, I used multiple coats of Testor's No. 28141, Sterling Silver Metallic 3D followed by several clear coats.  The results, in person, are much more impressive than captured by this photograph.

Future Goals

The Sense/Sculpt combination dramatically opened up new possibilities for using the Cube 3D printer in the category of Crafting.  While scans of faces and heads is a natural, there are many, many ways to present those scans beyond the simple bust above.  Making cameo style ornaments is another.  Here, for instance is my first attempt to create a cameo style portrait.

Sense Scanned Cameo Portrait Style 3D Print
While a simple single color works, it should be a lot more impressive with some color that accentuates the cameo motif.  Options might be experimenting with various antiquing and patina techniques.  But, the primary goal will be to minimize layering artifacting.  So, paying close attention to experimenting with modeler's filling and priming materials. 

I'm also very interested in learning to use an airgun for shading and stenciling.  So, if we have any experts in this area I REALLY want to hear from you!

I'm really looking forward to these experiments and look forward to seeing what YOU are doing in this area.  You contributions will be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Excellent Review of the Sense 3D Scanner

Engadget has posted an excellent and bery thorough review of the Sense 3D Scanner from 3D Systems. 

Brian Heater covers all the bases with a great writing style.

3D Systems Sense review: a 3D scanner for the masses (almost)

I really appreciate the thoroughness of the review.   But, in reading through the replies to the review, it is obvious that many people don't know how to put price/performance into the proper perspective.  This isn't isn't a +10K device!  It's a low cost consumer device that works well for its intended applications.

Many also have trouble realizing that one needs to learn their tools before making a definitive value judgement.  Perhaps I had an easier time of it because of my experience with using 2D photo to 3D applications in which some of the same skills are required.  But, even so, I can already sense... no pun intended... that like any new technology, there is more for me to learn if I am to get the most out of the Sense 3D scanner.  And, I'm willing to put in the time and effort to learn it.

Perhaps if I intended to use the Sense scanner for creating highly textured objects for game play, I might not be as excited as I am about it.  But, I'm not.  I intend to create and print, on a Cube 3D printer, unique gifts of lasting value of people and for the people that care about them.  And, that is priceless.

Just ask the cadets we've scanned so far.  :)

Cube Print Table Tool - Checks and Helps Level the Cube Print Table

I have spent much of my free time in the last three or four months trying to come up with a tool that would help Cube owners check the level status of their print table and make the leveling process a lot easier and more accurate.  There have been a lot of ideas and failed attempts along the way.

But, the effort has finally born fruit in the form of a tool that Cube owners can print from an STL file on the Cubify Store site.  I will be putting up the files as soon as I have a video completed that demonstrates how to assemble it and use it.

It works by hanging a bracket off of the print head cover.  The bracket positions a pivoting pointer near the center of the print jet.  The pivoting point rides along the print table and indicates the relative difference from the print jet at the four corners of the leveling process.

Cube Leveling Tool - Split view

Here is a split view of the componenets of the system...

Cube Leveling Tool - Split View

The silver component is the primary bracket that attaches to the print head cover.  The cyan component is the pivoting pointer that actually shows the relative offset of all the four corners of the print table.  And, the magenta component in the above image is the clip that securely holds the primary bracket in place.

Cube Leveling Tool - 3D View

Cube Leveling Tool - 3D View

The best way to see how the components work together is by seeing them in this 3D view from Moment of Inspiration.  As can be seen, there are raised rails inside the primary bracket that fit into the first and last slots of the print head cover.  This precisely aligns the tool so that the bracket has no play as the tools is being used.  To lock the bracket securely into place, a clip, shown in magenta is slide down over the head cover and bracket and is seated by ears on the bracket to make sure that it is in the proper, most secure place.  A a rail on the clip locks it into place in one of the slots on the head cover.

The bracket includes a shaft for mounting the pivoting pointer and also includes a pointed extension with which to gauge the movement of the pivoting pointer. 

Cube Leveling Tool -Front view

The pointed extension is best seen in the front view.  It is purposely designed a bit long to accommodate differences in how the pivot pointer might be attached.  Simply clip off the end for a flush match.  When starting the leveling process, the top of the pivot pointer is lined up with the top of the extension by raising and lowering the print table giving us a basleine of comparison for the other 3 corners.

Cube Leveling Tool - 3D View

Cube Leveling Tool - Left view

The STL files include two different pivot pointers.  One is mounted directly using a 4mm bolt.  The other permits the use of 3x4x10mm or 4x4x10mm bearings for much smoother action.  The bearings are inexpensive fishing reel bearing that can be purchased on the internet.  The source I use is VBX Bearing and I buy 10 at a time for under $20.     While either 3mm or 4mm inside diameter will work, it is easier to find the 4mm nuts, bolts and washer in local hardware stores.  This image portrays the bold-only version.

Cube Leveling Tool - Left View

You will notice in the above image that the sliding portion of the pivot tool has a peculiar shape. There are two special features of this shape.  The first is that it is elongated so that it will not fold under as it is moved forward across the print table.  The second is that the elongated portion is lightly raised so that it will not interfere with the actual measurement when the movement stops.

NOTE:  Multiple coats of fingernail polish applied to the bottom contact of the pivot tool go a long way to making the movement silky smooth.  I have found that Sally Hanson Triple Shine Top Coat, that can be found at Target, works very, very well.

You will notice that there is about a 5 to one ratio between the bolt hole to the pivot point contact and the bolt hole to the end of the pivot point.  It is this difference that makes it so easy to level the print table more accurately.  Each .25mm difference translates to about 1.25mm swing at the end of the pointer.  And. 1.25mm is a LOT easier to see than .25mm.

A Note About the Price

I try to keep most of the things I have uploaded to the Cubify Store at the minimum allowable cost.  But, this time I will list the tool at $10.  The price reflects the extension hours of design and testing that went into the design along with the realization that it is going to be an enormous time saver for Cube owners.  Moreover, I want to be able to design other useful things to make life easier for Cube and Sense owners.  Having the funds to do so is very helpful. 

I also want to be able to design a version that is specifically designed for printing on the SLA printers and I expect revisions to be a bit on the expensive side.    So, I hope you understand why the cost is being set higher than my normal price goals..

Quick & Dirty Demo Video

I plan to create a much better video that not only covers the information in this one; but, how to go through the entire leveling process using the tool.  I not only use it to level the print bed.  I sue it to check the level of the print bed after carrying it around, etc.  As a result, I am getting much better adhesion. 

Sorry for the poor sound.  I shot this in the outside studio just using the camera's microphone and the sound of the printer cut the autolevel back.


Be sure that you start the leveling process and then lower the table BEFORE attaching the tool.

As soon as I have uploaded the STL files and/or created the new video I will update the status. 

Vicious Turkeys, LBJ and 3D Scans of Cadets - Thanksgivings to Remember

Perennial holidays have a way of creating and recalling memories of those same holidays from the past.

That is especially true for THIS Thanskgiving,

Thanksgiving 1948 and the Surly Turkeys

My first Thanksgiving memory is one that makes eating turkey particularly satisfying.  My relish at the thought of eating turkey began at the age of 4.  We lived in what was then a rural area and one of the ways the local Burke volunteer fire department raised funds was to sponsor a turkey shoot.  My father happened to win two turkeys at that event.

These weren't frozen turkeys.  These were live turkeys.  And, not the domestic variety either.  They were surly wild turkeys common in the surrounding woods.  What set them apart of your average surly wild turkey was their size.  These things were HUGE Toms!

Unbeknown to me, he decided to house the turkeys in the outhouse over night.  Early the next morning, I had to go and as soon as I opened the door I got a rude shock.  The turkeys bolted for the door of the outhouse strait at me!  I slammed the door shut, only to trap one in the door by the neck with his head doing everything possible to destroy me.

Eventually,  my father heard my screams and came to my rescue.  But, by then I no longer needed to go.  To this day, I remember the sweet feelings of revenge when that bird showed up at the table on a platter!  And, it stays with me each and every Thanksgiving when a bird is set before me.

I think that must show that I might have a bit of a tendency to hold a grudge.

Thanksgiving 1963 and LBJ

I was working in Giant Food #14, a very small grocery store in 1963 when the assassination of John Kennedy was announced.  The store was in the upscale neighborhood of Spring Valley in Washington, DC., the home of Lyndon B. Johnson.  In those days vice-presidents remained in their personal homes.  Mostly we dealt with the cook for the Johnsons.  But, sometimes LBJ, himself, would stop in. If memory serves me correctly, he mostly came in to pick up some cigars.

That was a chaotic time for the Johnson family and it wasn't clear, until the last minute, where they would eat their Thanksgiving dinner.  They finally decided to eat Thanksgiving in their personal home, perhaps in deference to Jackie Kennedy.  But, no one had thought to purchase anything for the meal!  The gave our store an emergency call.

Dick Cunningham was the manager of Store #14.  The minute he learned the situation, he sprung into action.   Since he commuted by bus and had a car, he enlisted me into quickly gathering up anything and everything that might be remotely considered a part of a Thanksgiving meal.  Being one of the oldest and smallest stores in the Giant Food chain, we didn't have a turkey fitting for a president.  So, Charlie McCort, the manager of a nearby store came to the rescue with a suitably large bird.  And, we raced over to the new president's personal home.

On arrival, the thing that strikes me now is that I don't recall seeing a single security guard.  But, what struck me then was the ENORMOUS number of empty liquor bottles discarded in a number of what I thought were fairly large oil drums!  I don't know if it was LBJ, himself.; but, SOMEBODY was putting away a LOT of booze around that place!!

Perhaps because this is the 50th year since that event, it is the first time I've written about it. In the past, I always attributed the need for our help simply to the chaos around that horrific event.  But, as I wrote this, it dawned on me, for the first time, that it was probably as much as an act of kindness to Jackie Kennedy and her children, giving them a little more time and space.  I don't know; but, it would be interesting to know.

Thanksgiving 1966 and Mammouth Cave

The Vietnam War was in full swing.  I joined the Army Reserve and was called for active duty training at Fort Knox Kentucky in September of 1966.  So, I found myself, for the first time, away from from family as Thanksgiving rolled around.  I decided to visit Mammoth Cave.  It was there, as I stared at my turkey and dressing dinner, that it truly struck me that Thanksgiving is not just about the turkey and the food.  It truly was about family.

I don't think I have ever felt more lonely than on that day.

Thanksgiving 2013 and Cadets

This Thanksgiving I am thankful that I was able to not only create NEW Thanksgiving memories for myself'; but, for the cadets that I teach and their families.  That is because the Sense 3D scanner arrived just before the Cadets headed home for the holidays.  While we were only able to scan a few before they left, every one of them knows that someone they love is going to get a very special gift this year... a 3D printed bust of the cadet.  We'll finish the scanning when they get back and print their busts before they graduate in December.

I wish you could have been there to see the reactions of the cadets when they saw the scanner in action.  More than one said they knew EXACTLY who would be getting their 3D print.  Yes, we focus on core STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts using 3D printing in the class.  But, there is more than enough time to spend a little bit of it to deal with building relationships, too.  Building relationships is just as much a key for their success as any subject matter.

Thus, this Thanksgiving is going to be cemented in my memory for the rest of my life as one I will be forever thankful.
Thank you Sense, Sculpt and Cube teams!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Glue to use in an emergency...

The longer I work with the 2nd Gen Cube, the more I learn about glue application for the most effectiveness.  But, I often wonder what we would or could do should we run out of Cube Stick at a critical printing moment.

Recently, a 3D printer owner contacted me and in their email they mentioned using Elmers Disappearing Purple School Glue Stick with his printer... which also has a glass bed.  So, I decided to see how well it might work.

Some observations...

First, it works.  

It goes on purple and as it dries it disappears.  In 8 runs there was one failure that I'm sure had to do with low humidity.  It is FAR more sensitive to dry air than the Cube Stick.   You can tell this by how fast it disappears.

Second, it's probably more expensive 

While it would be great in a pinch,  I'm not sure that it's the least expensive or most effective option. It seems to require a good bit more glue to remain active for the full length of time required to start a print job.  This might not be the case in a high humidity area; but, in my area it's definitely a factor.

Third, it washes off easily and cleanly

I must be easily amused because I got a kick out of the fact that if the Elmers is used and then the print table is run under a faucet, it turns purple again!  This makes it easy to see that all of it has been removed from the print table.

Fourth, parts can still be hard to remove

While there is a different feel to sliding a palette knife under a part, the basic function of removing a part remains unchanged.  If the glue has worked well, and there is no warping, some parts can be tough to remove. 

My conclusion is that I am happy to have the option of using a second source of glue.  But, there is no compelling reason, other than local availability, to making Elmer's glue stick the primary glue to use with the Cube.  Still, it's good to know that we have an option in an emergency.

New Update to Cubify Sculpt

There is an update to Cubify Sculpt that includes new "Mashup" capabilities and a direct interface to the Sense 3D Scanner.

With so much happening at one time, I'm a little behind checking out all the changes. But, there are two things I need to point out immediately.  First, the icons have been completely changed to a solid grey.  I was concerned that something was wrong since normally a solid grey indicates "disabled".  I'm not sure I'm crazy about this change.  But, I will follow up to find out why this was altered. 

But, for now, just remember that this is the intended interface.  So, nothing is wrong when you open it up.

The other thing to point out is that some very nice new functionality has been added.  The top section of the icon menu is called "Construct" and the icon to the right at the top brings us to an entirely new "Mashup" functionality that allows us to bring in not only the existing basic shapes; but, new shapes like an egg and torus.   I have not, as yet, figured out the "Magnetize" function.  But, will ask as soon as I can.

As soon as I feel that I'm up to speed on the new version of Sculpt, I will create a new overview video.  And, in particular, I want to explore the Sculpt/Sense interface.  It looks VERY cool.

IMPORT Changes

In addition to STL, OBJ, PLY and CLY file types, we can now import CLC (?) and ZPR (Z Corporation ZPrint CAD format) file types.

It will be interesting to find out where these new file types take us.

More later.

Exploring the Sense 3D Scanner

A lot of people think I work for 3D Systems.  Not only do I NOT work for 3D Systems, I am forever surprised to find that I'm late coming to the party when they release something new.

This was the case of the Sense 3D Scanner.

I had not idea they were even contemplating a low cost 3D scanner... especially one that retails at $399.00!  My first clue came from an email sent to me by a friend that pointed to an article on the web announcing it.  That article, in turn, pointed to the Cubify.com page for the Sense.

I was floored!!!  Talk about being out of the loop!  LOL!

But, I quickly made sure that I had one in house to test.  It arrived late last week and I quickly ran through a few tests.

Before I talk about my tests, I have to put into context my expectations.  First, I cannot afford a $30,000 3D scanner.  So, I have no idea how the Sense stacks up to the big kid toys.  The only "scanning" with which I have any experience is using 2D to 3D applications like 123D Capture.   I blogged about this technology in 2012.

My benchmark for a low-cost 3D scanner is that it has to be (1) easier than 2D to 3D techniques and (2) has to produce equal or better results.  If it meets those two goals it will be very useful to me.

My First Scan

Obviously, when one takes delivery of a 3D scanner, one has to find a suitable target to scan.  I found mine in a character from Monster's Inc.  I didn't go around the object a full 360 degrees because I simply wanted to see if it got ANYTHING.

I also didn't fully understand the options as I went through the workflow.  So, I inadvertently removed some detail.  I was amazed at how easy the process was and how well it came into Sculpt.

I wenr on to scan a styling manikin head that I'd previously used in 2D to 3D tests.  Here is the result as seen in Sculpt.  Because I wanted to print this without supports, I added a bottom and back to create a bookend affect.  The object then prints laying on it's back.  It's printing as I write this.  At the size that I am printing it will take 10 hours.  I'll take a photo when it's done and add it to the bottom of this post.

When compared to the process for 2D to 3D, this was infinitely easier.  And, in terms of being able to handle things like hair, it was amazingly more effective.  Here is a short video of a complete head scan.

Now, don't get me wrong.  Some things work and others do not... like very small white sculptures.  And, to be able to scan reliably every time, is going to take some practice.  But, the feedback that we get as we scan is very helpful and the software's capabilities to create a solid object from a partial scan are nothing short of miraculous.

Here is a short video that demonstrates the basic workflow from scanning to saving an STL file.

The software developers have done a wonderful job of making an intuitive interface that provides excellent feedback during the entire process.  The is made it easy to capture and edit something the first time it was used.  But, reliable results across a wide range of subjects is going to take a bit of experience.  In the little time that I've had it, I have been able to learn as much from the failures as I have from the successes.  All white objects, for instance, might require some special lighting to increase shadows, etc.

In all, I probably only have 2 hours of experimentation into using the Sense 3D scanner.  But, initial observations are mixed when it comes to using a tripod mounted scanner pointed at an object on a turntable.  But, that might be because I have a manual turntable and my hands are in the field of view.  I've also learned that it is best to put the object in an open area when scanning via a turntable.  Otherwise, close fixed objects seem to confuse the scanner.  Rest assured, I will put a LOT of time into coming up with the most effective strategies for using the SENSE.  It's a fantastic device at a fantastic price!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Leveling Print Table & Non-Magnetic Tools

One of the reasons why we've not addressed the issue of checking the levelness of the print table is that leveling the print table poses some interesting challenges.  Among these has to be the fact that most wrenches that we could use, including the very convenient one that comes with the Cube 3D printer can be yanked from our hands by the strong magnet holding the print table.

The other challenge, of course, is simply being able to accurately determine if we have, in fact, leveled the table.  It's extremely difficult to see a less than .25mm offset from corner to corner on the print table that is the optimal specification.

Since the very first day that I took delivery of the Cube, I have tried to come up with something that would help me in this task.  Finding the solution took being called crazy by my wife because it came in the middle of the night and I could not help but get up, go to the computer and start designing at 3:00am!

I will be posting an STL on the Cubify store at a cost of $5.  While you will not have to spend more than that to use the tool to help you to check and/or align your Cube's print table, there are some accessories that will help make the job a bit easier.  One addition will make the tool more accurate and the other will make the process of adjusting the nuts that position the table a lot easier.

Non-Magnetic Wrenches

The benefit of a wrench that is not affected by magnetism is that it won't be pulled into the mounting magnet.

A search on the internet has revealed that while non-magnetic wrenches are expensive, they do exist.  The nuts on the Cube are adjusted with a 7mm wrench.  It would be helpful if the wrench weren't very long, as normal length wrenches don't clear the frame of the Cube and that means having to reset the wrench a lot.  Here are some that I found.

Zoro Tools sells an open end 6mm/7mm bronze/aluminum alloy wrench that is 3-15/16" long.  It's $28.00.

Global Industrial sells a 7mm non-sparking wrench that is 5" long for 19.0

It may be that the world of Hobby R/C racing provides us with the best options.  I found, for instance, thatGolden Horizon Hobby distributes a set of aluminum metric wrenches that look like fit our needs perfectly.  Unfortunately, they are either brand new or backordered.  Golden Horizons GHH01536

I have entered my email so that when they are available they should send a notice.

Other hobby options might what is called a turnbuckle wrench.  Losi makes a 7mm turnbuckle wrench that can be found on eBay and several hobby sites.  Here is a sample site.

I have no idea if a "turnbuckle" wrench will hold up to the job of tightening and loosening the Cue's table adjustment screws.  But, there are several hobby stores in the area and I'll be on the lookout to find one this weekend.

Upcoming Level Gauge Upload

There are two versions of the level gauge I now use to align and level my print beds with excellent ease and accuracy.  One uses a bearing and the other does not.  The same STL file prints both.  The bearing version is designed to take inexpensive "fishing reel" reel bearings in two optional sizes to accommodate either 3mm or 4mm screws.  I have tested the 3mm bearing; but, the 4mm bearings have been shipped but have not arrived as yet.  These bearings can be purchased for as little as 10 for $19.95.  The non-bearing version works.  But, the bearing version is a dream to use.  So, until I am sure that both 3mm and 4mm screws work with their respective bearings, I prefer to wait.  This should be only a day or two at most.

I think you will love how well it works.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Holes Revisted! Amazing Improvements in Both Horizontal and Vertical Hole Printing

When I first started printing with a 3D printer, just after the 1st Gen Cube was announced, I discovered that I couldn't really achieve a clean hole in a vertical wall.  A little experimentation showed me that I needed to print a hexagon or a pentagon (in the right orientation) to simulate a hole.

That has all been changed with the latest Cubify Client software upgrade!  There can be just the tiniest flattening at the top of larger holes.  But, it is miniscule and inconsequential to the point where designing a hole in a vertical wall, once something I cautioned against, is now unleashing some new design possibilities.


Frankly, I attribute the remarkable improvements in my recent Cube prints to two things... commitment and resources. 

From the very first I know, without a shadow of a doubt that 3D Systems was committed to making the Cube and subsequent 3D printers the best that they could be for the cost of the printer.  Obviously, a Cube is never going to deliver the quality of an SLA 3D print.  But, for the technology that it uses, it has continued to improve with each software and firmware update. 

And, that is where the resources come into play.  One of the big reason why I am no longer interested in 3D printer kits is that once built, there are few resources from the kit packagers for major improvements.  Software takes expertise, money and man hours.  Buying a 3D printer from a company that has both commitment and resources brings the kinds of results all Cube owners will be seeing as they take advantage of the new updates.

The print my Cube is delivering even as I write this, validates Staple's decision to select the Cube as their first foray into personal 3D printing.  These recent major improvements in the Cube's ability to deliver quality prints demonstrate, at least to me, that, like Staples, I also made the right choice in selecting a printer to not only use; but, suggest to others to use.  I had faith that 3D Systems would continue to do everything they could to make steady improvements in the printer I'd chosen.  And, they've continued to deliver.

It's one thing to have the resources to sell a lot of printers and quite another to have the commitment and resources to continue to make those printers even better.  My heroes at 3D Systems are the engineers and product managers that continue to make me a VERY happy Cube user.  :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Firmware & Cubify Client Updates Noticeably Improve Print

Latest firmware at the time of this writing is V2.08.

The combination of 2nd Gen Cube's firmware update V2.08 and the latest Cubify Client update offer what appears to me to be remarkably improved print quality.

While I do not know all the improvements that have been implemented, I do believe that I see much smoother curved surfaces.  There are other LCD user interface changes as well. 

I STRONGLY suggest that all 2nd Gen Cube users take the time to apply both updates.

It is my understanding that CubeX owners will benefit by the most recent updates for the CubeX firmware and Client software.  I don't have a CubeX, so I can't verify that in person.  But, if the improvements are as nice as those I'm seeing on the Cube, then it's worth checking it out.

Kudos to 3D Systems for keeping on top of improvements as well as they have.  The 2nd Gen Cube that I have today is performing even better than when it was taken out of the box and that is a testament to 3D System's strong commitment to it's owner base.

While I'm praising 3D Systems, let me also give them credit for the improvements in the readability of the LCD screen itself.  I have 2 2nd Gen Cubes and the most recent one is much easier to see in bright light situations.  It's nice to see that 3D Systems is also listening to buyers and willing to make incremental hardware changes within the model line from time to time.  Nice.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pinhole Camera - 3D Printing & Creatively Recreating Classic Film Fun

I love blogging because it puts me into contact with passionately creative people.

Last night was a case in point.

A young man named Paul emailed me about his step-father's 3D printing project on Kickstarter.

It wasn't a new 3D printer.  It wasn't a new highly technological marvel of never-before-conceived innovation.  It wasn't even a $10 breakthrough in scanning technology.  But, it still got me excited at seeing what 3D printing can do.

Now, this post is not specifically about something created on a Cube 3D printer.   But, I still think it is entirely appropriate to be discussed on these pages.  That is because this project perfectly illustrates that 3D printing can permeate every level of our existence in ways that bring satisfaction even in simplicity.

The Kickstarter project is a 3D printed pinhole camera... revitalizing old technology through new technology!

Clint O'Connor's Kickstarter campaign set modest goals and exceeded them in short order.  There is a reason for that.  Not only is the concept creative; but, the entire Pinhole Kickstarter presentation demonstrates a level of understanding of the search for emotional and intellectual satisfaction that drives creative people.

He not only presents the object that he has designed and prints.  He digs deeply into the emotional and aesthetic  benefits of his own passion... pinhole photography.  To me, this is exactly what the entire 3D printing experience is all about, finally being able to bring into reality tools that benefit our psyche.  One only has to see the image of the Queen Mary to understand why Clint is so taken with pinhole photography.  Very cool.

I plan to use Clint's Kickstarter page in my classes with "At-Risk" students because he presents one of the most powerful lessons that 3D printing can teach us.  Failures are not final.  They can be  simply steps on the way to final success.  Clint's picture of his 35 iterations makes the point loud and clear.

Clint O'Connor's Pinhole Camera Design Iterations

Until they are exposed to 3D printing, most of the former high school dropouts that I now teach through YouthQuest Foundation's 3D ThinkLink Innitiative have felt that failures define us in entirely negative ways. It really is remarkable to see them realize that if their initial design is less than perfect, they can easily do a redesign and print a better one.  I am thankful to Clint for communicating this on his Kickstarter page.

I don't yet know if his design can be printed in the Cube's 5"x5" print platform.  But, I do know that I want to try one of his pinhole cameras.  It's the kind of thing that keeps those nearing 70 feeling young again!  I plan to have some fun reliving my youth... a time when pinhole cameras were very popular.  Sounds like fun! :)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Animating Cubify Sculpt Objects Just for the Fun of it.

I have a very old copy of COOL3D that at one time was marketed by Ulead.  Ulead ended up selling all their products to Corel, which appears to have abandoned COOL3D.  Too, bad, because while it is admittedly buggy and tempermental, it was also the easiest way to create animations and motion titles.

In fact, all the openings for the videos that I create for this and other blogs are created in COOL3D.

As I played around with Cubify Sculpt, I began to have some fun creating fantasy creatures and objects that really weren't as suitable for 3D printing as they are for useless; but, fun animations.

So, I decided to throw a few of them into COOL3D and see what would happen.  Here's the result.

Cubify Sculpt's DRAW CURVE and PIPE work together in a very powerful way to create unlimited ornamentation and/or appendages.  ALL of the characters and objects in the above video were made possible due to DRAW CURVE and PIPE.

The whole process was enormously enjoyable.  Expect to see more Cubify Sculpt creations finding their way into future titles or independent animations.  It's just too much fun not to do it!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sculpt Tutorial #7: Mashup - Unlocking the Power of Cubify Sculpt

OK, so we're getting things a little out of order here.  Tutorial #6 was suppose to go over the usefulness of changing the shapes of the primitives (Cube, Sphere, Cylinder & Cone).  But, I became so excited about extending that concept to creating NEW primitives that I just had to show you that first.  We'll get to #6 as soon as possible.  :)

First, a side topic that you may find interesting.

Before trying Cubify Sculpt, I tried any number of sculpting applications.  Each of them were decent.  And, among the best is Sculptress... IF you are a true artist!!!  I tried it again just to see if I'd learned something since trying Sculptris that had made it easier to learn Sculpt.  The answer is, "No!"

I was no better at Sculptris this time around.  It is DEFINITELY an artist's tool and not for me.  There is nothing wrong with the product.  I just get lost in it.

What that means...

It means that there is something fundamentally different about Cubify Sculpt that is making it easy for me to accomplish more than I have with any other sculpting program.

But, there is more!

I already understood that I was able to get more done and better with Cubify Sculpt.  But, then something dawned on me that blew the doors wide open.  And, that is that I do NOT have to create everything about an object from one single primitive.  I can save the basic primitives in multiple forms and bring them back into my working environment multiple times if needed.  And, THAT little realization boosted my ability to create with Sculpt exponentially!

It made it possible for me to create, in a reasonably short period of time, these Hippo models.  My granddaughter LOVES Hippos and I have been trying for YEARS to create a 3D Model of a Hippo that even remotely looked like one.  The proportions aren't perfect.  But, as you can see by this very short video that I made for her, they at least don't look like fat cows!  LOL!

The Breakthrough

The breakthrough for me was the realization that I do NOT have to create a form from a single primitive that is stretched and pushed into submission.  I can create PARTS as standalone pieces and then assemble those parts together as a MASHUP, or mixture of parts.

I could never, in a million years, have created the above hippos from a single shape.  But, by using different primitives for the body, head, ears and legs, the process was not only doable; but, relatively quick.

So, here is the process that I am talking about.... Tutorial #7, Mashup!

By the way, there is WAY more to cover when it comes to creating new primitives, like the Torus in this video.  I'm really excited to show you what that is all about in Tutorial #6... even if the order is a bit disconcerting!  :)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sculpt Tutorial #5 - Repairing Poor STL Files

There are a number of developing ways to create 3D objects based on already existing items.  Scanning, while expensive now, is destined to both drop in price and yield more useful results.  Another way that several companies, including 3D Systems, are pursuing is turning a series of 2D images into a 3D object that can then be printed on a 3D printer.

But, all of these techniques can have difficulty capturing things like hair or highly reflective surfaces.  This is where an application like Cubify Sculpt can be invaluable.  As a test of these capabilities, I decided to see what I could do with an object that I created several years ago using the beta version of 123D Catch (Then called Photofly).

The item captured was a hair styling manikin.   I sometimes use these to test new photo lighting configurations. 

Styling Manikin Head

123D Catch did a great job on the facial features.  But, the hair didn't turn out as well.  This is common in 2D to 3D capturing.  The defects in the hair made for a poor 3D print.  Until Cubify Sculpt was released I had no way to correct the problems.  I've been waiting for an application that could fix the head so that it printed well.  So, it was natural to bring it in to Cubify Sculpt and see what we could do with it.

Here is a video that explains the process and shows the outcome.

While we do not need to paint objects that are to be printed with the Cube 3D printer, I decided to go ahead and see what I could to color the head.  The painting functionality of Sculpt is pretty basic.  So, it turned out to be the most difficult part of the process.  My primary criticism has to do with the inability to make the bush small enough.  And, my primary suggestion would be that the developers add the ability for us to place an image, for each axis, in the background to help select colors and refine shapes.  What does help is to use the BLENDING function to create the appearance of finer features.  

It was a lot of fun tackling this one.  And, it encourages me to look into Cubify Capture to see if it will allow me to capture members of my family to create 3D printed sculptures.  There wasn't much point for me to attempt to use Cubify Capture before this because I know that it would probably have the same issues with hair, etc.  But, now that I know what Cubify Sculpt can do to repair that problem it just might be time to give Capture a try!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cubify Sculpt - Yes, We CAN Do It!

It's a given that those with true artistic talent can use Cubify Sculpt to create art.  But, what about us.  What about NON-ARTISTS.  Will we be able to create items that even come close to creating anything even resembling art?

I have to tell you.  That was one of my biggest questions as I downloaded and installed Sculpt.

After all, over more than a few attempts at various sculpting applications, I had struck out on all counts.  I loved Cosmic Blobs and CB Model Pro.  But, try as I might, I never even came close to creating anything that remotely resembled a human head.

This short video answers the question in the affirmative in a huge way for me.  No, the head I was able to sculpt is NOT great.  But, it CAN be recognized as an attempt at creating a human head.  And, believe me that is a huge leap forward from all of my previous experiences.

Two factors, I think, helped me feel more confident about my ability to effectively use Cubify Sculpt.  The first is that the designers have come up with just about the perfect set of controls for non-artists.  There are not too few.  Nor are there too many.  And, each of the controls seems to complement the others.  It's not perfect.  But, it certainly is useful and relatively easy to learn.

The second factor is that I ordered and received the 3DConnexion SpaceNavigator.  Being able to quickly position the working piece is an enormous help.  Again, we cover that in this video.

If you, like me, are a non-artist trying to do artistic things, I hope that this video is an encouragement to you.

The results of our artistic pursuit does not have to be great to be rewarding and fun.  And, I had a LOT of fun trying to create my "Bearded Rustler" character from the default sphere.  He's rough, just like my rendition.  But, that's OK.  He's better than the last guy I tried to sculpt.  A WHOLE lot better.  And, that is why he was a rewarding project.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Cubify Sculpt and the SpaceNavigator

Good News!

The SpaceNavigator 3D Mouse device from 3DConnexion works well with Cubify Sculpt!!!

I had noticed that the Options Dialog had a tab for "SpaceBall Device".   Since I knew that the original SpaceBall had been discontinued, I asked Sculpt Support if that feature would work with the SpaceNavigator that seems to have replaced the original Spaceball.  They indicated that it would.

So, yesterday, I ordered the SpaceNavigator from B&H Photo and it arrived today!!!  That was a big surprise since I expected it no sooner than next Tuesday.  B&H Photo must have UPS trucks lined up at their loading dock because that was amazingly fast shipping from New York to Kensington, MD!''

I will include a short demonstration of the control that the SpaceNavigator provides in an upcoming tutorial.  It's going to take some practice to isolate just the motion I want without affecting other motions.  But, I can already see that it is a great investment and works quite well.  The speed with which it works can easily be controlled either from Sculpt or in the SpaceNavigator control form.

Control Includes...
  • Pan Up and Down
  • Pan Left and Right
  • Zoom In and Out
  • Spin
  • Tilt
  • Roll

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cubify Sculpt Tutorial #3: The Beauty of Emboss Area and Texture Maps

I mentioned Emboss Area and Text Maps in a previous post.  I expect to explore these two features in many more tutorials.  They are SO powerful and make adding ornamentation SO easy that it truly makes designing in Sculpt child's play!

When I first heard that the president of 3D Systems was committed to the democratization of 3D printing and design, it was difficult to know if it was a sales slogan or a fundamental core value.  With the introduction of Cubify Sculpt, I now know that it is definitely a fundamental core value and a true commitment.  Cubify Sculpt has the potential to bring 3D design to just about every age group and just about every level of technical competence.

As an educator that taught from 1st grade to high school students, I always hoped that someone would create a product that could be used at the elementary level as well as the higher grades.  While younger students might not be able to create great works of 3D art with Cubify Sculpt, I am convinced that the feature set WILL allow them to successful create nice objects to be printed on a 3D printer.

Cubify Sculpt has the potential to be a major tool for school projects in STEM, Art, Geography and other disciplines.  In this video we show how a simple 2D STENCIL and TOPOGRAPHIC MAP are easily turned into Texture Maps to create reasonably complex 3D features. 

As you can see, a simple paint program can be used to create a tool to be used with EMBOSS AREA to complement any shape.  The fact that Texture Maps WRAP make them particularly powerful.

Cubify Sculpt has exceeded my expectations in a HUGE way.

Cubify Sculpt Tutorial #2 - Setup and Potter's Wheel Simulation

I'm simply amazed that I have been able to actually complete some demonstration projects so quickly in Cubify Sculpt.  I can assure you that this would not have been possible in any of the other sculpting applications I've tried to learn in the past.

One of the first upgrade features that I asked for when I first opened Cubify Sculpt was the ability to manipulate the clay in the fashion of a Potter's Wheel.  Well, it turns out that we can do just that using some hot keys or, I hope, by using a Spaceball type of device.  I've been told that the SpaceNavigator device can be used to spin objects with one hand as the other is used to sculpt.  But, we don't have to wait until a SpaceNavigator arrives to test the concept.

It turns out that the ARROW KEYS can be used to spin the object a specified number of degrees and by holding down the ARROW KEY we can do so continuously.

Here is a video that shows the concept!

The image used for the video preview is the SpaceNavigator.  I have ordered one and should have it by next week.  I was under $100 and I am looking forward to seeing how well it works!

The combination of being able to start with an STL, like the chalice, which is VERY easy to create in a CAD program; but, slow to create in a sculpting application and the having the ability to quickly add features while spinning the piece is a VERY powerful capability.  The ARROWS and other Hot-Keys are good things to explore.

I love it!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cubify Sculpt - Emboss/Texture Maps: A Power Tool Combination

One of the problems I've had with previous sculpting tools I've tried is just how long it takes to make something useful in an educational setting.  If all we had were Push/Pull style tools, that would be true of Cubify Sculpt.  But, it's worth taking a look at the EMBOSS AREA tool and particularly the CUSTOM (with TEXTURE MAPS) option.

In fact, a good number are included with the Cubify Sculpt install, in the PATTERNS directory under the directory where Cubify Sculpt is installed.

Any black & white bitmap image having various levels of gray can be used with the Emboss Area tool.  The lighter the area, the higher the embossing action.  White areas will emboss the highest and black will not be raised at all.  The shades in between will be raised higher as the color moves to white and lower as the color moves toward black.


My main reason for exploring this feature so early is that a number of people have asked me about using the Cube / 3D Printing in an elementary school setting where the time allotted to teaching a 3D creation is limited.  At first, I was skeptical that Cubify Sculpt would meet that requirement,

But, the more I have explored the concepts of "TEMPLATES" (pre-designed basic shapes to be modified) and "Texture Maps" (pre-designed embossing stamps), the more I'm convinced that Sculpt would allow teachers to integrate 3D printing in just about any classroom.


From my high school days, one of my most consistent hobbies has been protozoology.  Some people watch birds, I watch protozoa.  In the late 1970's I taught Junior High Science and so it was natural for me to begin the exploration into how EMBOSS AREA could be used to provide a jumpstart for a student to design their own protozoa models.  For a future article, I will create a tutorial showing how the Texture Map was created and used.  But, for now here are images that show the Texture Map on the left and the final model on the right.

Amoeba Texture Map (Bitmap)

The above image was created in a 3D paint program.  Any, paint program can be used.  The important thing is that lighter areas will result in higher embossing and the black areas will not emboss at all.

Here is the above picture side-by-side with the resulting 3D object.

3D Amoeba Created From Texture Map

Here is another view that demonstrates the embossing a bit better. 

Amoeba Model at an Angle

The bumps in the surface were added after the emboss created the basic shape.  The embossing was done on the surface of a cube and then the cube was cut away using the REMOVE CLAY WITH BOX tool.  While the Texture Map was used like a stamp on the surface of the cube, there was still plenty of design modifications, such as lumps, bumps and indentations to the surface that the student could add.  Older students could have even created the Texture Map itself.  In fact, the Texture Map could even be created using a microscope image of a real creature!  Just convert the color image to black & white.

Finished Amoeba

The beauty in the fact that we can use gray scale images to create 3D features is that the images can be created in a variety of ways, including mathematically   Again, this isn't great art.  But, it DOES demonstrate the usefulness of Cubify Sculpt in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) program. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The NOT AN ARTIST Cubify Sculpt Tutorial!

It's a good thing that I don't embarrass easily.  Because, when people see what I'm able to achieve in Cubify Sculpt some are going to fall on the floor and laugh their heads off.   Yikes!

But, let's put things in perspective.

A LOT of us that are interested in 3D printing are not great artists.  We simply want to be able to have some fun and create some objects that we can print on our 3D printers.  My gift, if I have one when it comes to most 3D applications, is that I am tireless when it comes to trying to figure out how they work so that I can help others, with more artistic talent, become more productive faster.  I get the technical aspects if not the artistic aspects.  :)

As you may already know, the whole reason that I became interested in 3D printing was because my oldest daughter IS a very talented clay sculptor and it was frustrating to watch some of her best work crack in the kiln after weeks and months of work.  So, it was natural for me to explore 3D printing and 3D early sculpting applications... beginning with MudBox.

Now, there was nothing wrong with Mudbox.  But, it simply was not easy enough for either of us to be comfortable with it.   While we abandoned Mudbox, we clung to hope that we WOULD eventually find a virtual clay program that we COULD grasp.

I think we have found it.  And, that is Cubify Sculpt.  So, Cubify Sculpt is very important to me on a personal level.  I may not make great art with it.  But, I know some people who just might.

Admittedly my first samples are going to be crude.  But, they are nonetheless important in demonstrating to me just how important it is to pursue Cubify Sculpt as far as possible.  I've only had it a few days and am happy with where I am in the process of scoping it out.  Of course, I'm aiming a bit lower than I hope many of you are aiming.  And, I am looking forward to what YOU will be able to achieve in Sculpt.  But, here is my first attempts at creating with a goal in mind.

Potato Man

I knew that my best bet was to aim at creating something with big features.  Having consulted to Hasbro, I knew the perfect subject.  I love Mr. Potato Head!

Potato Man Created with Cubify Sculpt

Green Monster

I spend about a year working with a wonderful program for children called Cosmic Blobs.  While not a true Virtual Clay Sculpting program, it was wonderful at creating mythical beasts and funny monsters.  So, it was natural for me to see what I could do with Sculpt when it came to weird monsters!  Green ones, in fact.

Green Monster Created with Cubify Sculpt

Perhaps the reason I liked Cosmic Blobs and Cubify Sculpt is that I THINK like a seven year old!

Again, these don't put me up there with the best 3D artists in the world.  But, they do tell me that I can have a LOT of fun with Cubify Sculpt and, perhaps, eventually do some very nice things.

In the meantime, I will be exploring the tools in Cubify Sculpt and inviting any and all to come along for the ride.  So, here is Tutorial #1, Introduction.

P.S. I was very flattered to see that someone already gave this video FIVE STARS between the time it was uploaded a little while ago and just now as I selected it for this blog.  I hope that means that everyone interested in Sculpt will find it helpful!

I urge you to give Sculpt a try.  Be sure to look for the FREE STL files link on the Sculpt Download page.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Cubify Sculpt - At Last We Can Edit STL Objects

I've been playing with Cubify Sculpt for the last couple of days.  My schedule hasn't allowed me to complete an indepth review.  But, I can tell you that I like it.  And, one of the most compelling selling points is that it finally gives us a way to customize and modify STL files that we find on the web.

It's easy to miss; but, 3D Systems has provided some free STL "Templates" on the same page where you can download the Trial version of Cubify Sculpt.  So, be sure to scroll down to the free STL link so that you can check out how well Sculpt works on STL surfaces.  Nice.

I should be able to post some Cubify Sculpt tutorial videos in the next day or so.

To be honest, modifying objects built in other 3D packages is probably how most of us will use Sculpt.  While an experienced person may be able to create amazingly complex characters, etc.  Mere mortals probably will find that building the bulk of the object in another 3D package and then using Sculpt to give it a more organic form is probably the most efficient use of Sculpt.  Sculpt will become and important part of our design workflow.

Once you have used Sculpt I think you will agree that it's not an either/or question when it comes to finding the best way to create those objects we want to print.  I will demonstrate how to integrate Cubify Sculpt with Moment of Inspiration to enhance objects in a way that would be tough to achieve in a CAD like environment.

It's going to be fun!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cubify Sculpt is Released!

First a little history...

Around six years ago, when I first became interested in 3D printing, it was obvious to me that the then current batch of software tools was daunting for mere mortals.  So, when Mudbox was released I instantly hopped on it and created a blog to document my learning progress.


As you can see, if you clicked on the link, I didn't get very far.  There was nothing wrong with Mudbox.  It was a wonderful product and artists could do amazing things with it.  But, I'm not an artist.  So, it was just an exercise in pain for me.  So, reluctantly, I moved on to something else.

That something else turned out to be exactly what I needed at the time.  A truly simple 3D interface that relied on using tools to manipulate the surface and shape of an object.  It was a product designed for children... making it perfect for me!  And, again. I started a blog to document my owning learning process for other new users.  This time the result was completely opposite of my Mudbox experience!

Cosmic Blobs Blog

I loved every minute of working with Cosmic Blobs.  It was a totally different experience than I'd had with the much more complex Mudbox product.  At the time, they had a "Pro" version called CBModelPro and I also tackled that with gusto with another blog!

CBModelPro Blog

I enjoyed these programs immensely.  But, unfortunately, the surface modeling technology upon which they were built was limited and as the models (and users) became more complex, the programs would grind to a halt.  So, the company behind these products pulled the plug.  They are no longer supported.

Along Comes Cubify Sculpt

I do not know, as yet, how I will fare with Cubify Sculpt.  But, in the few hours since I downloaded the trial, it appears to be very promising.  While it APPEARS to be very much like Mudbox, I can already tell that it has a much simpler interface with just the most critical tools and the most critical adjustments to those tools.  I don't expect to be overwhelmed when trying to learn it.  But, if I am, you will be the first to know.  For, I do plan to document my learning process with videos.

In the meantime, here is an introductory video that Cubify has released to help give you an idea of how it works!


And, here is the LINK to where you can download the 14 day trial or purchase it. 

Personally, I am REALLY looking forward to trying it!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Thingamajig Only Scratched the Surface of USPTO's Educational Outreach!

I have to admit that I was completely in the dark about the work that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was doing to promote creative thinking through its Office of Education and Outreach when I was first asked if I would participate in the Thingamajig Invention Convention.

What I didn't realize is that the USPTO Office of education and Outreach programs go beyond simply participating in an occasional special event.  It turns out that they have focused on 3D printing by bringing in students from area schools to engage them in the entire conceptualization, design and printing process over an extended period of time.

Moreover, this effort also extended on an international level through an exchange program whereby visiting Korean students joined U.S. students in joint 3D printing workshops. The Korean students were visiting the US as part of a program sponsored by the Korean Intellectual Property Organization and  Korean Invention Promotion Association.   The American students were summer camp participants from the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.  This is wonderful on so many levels.

As anyone knows that has read this blog, I firmly believe that 3D printing is NOT about printing out cheap plastic objects.  At its heart, 3D printing is about releasing the creative energy in all of us by allowing us to realize, in a concrete form, the ideas that our brains conceive.

As I got to know more about the work of the USPTO Office of Education and Outreach, it was clear that their mission is committed to that same premise on a grand scale!!!

OK.  I'm pretty conservative when it comes to the government spending my tax money.  But, if there was ever a program that I can get behind, it is the outreach efforts that I have just now discovered that are being done by a very creative and innovative team of public servants.  NOTHING is more important to me than having EVERY student come to the realization that ALL of us have marvelous brains and that ALL of us can learn how to use those brains to do amazing things.  This IS the focus of the USPTO team that is responsible for outreach among students and learners of all ages.

On top of all these hands-on programs, the USPTO Office of Education and Outreach, along with the Office of Innovation Development joined with the National Science Foundation and NBC Learning to produce an 11 part series called Science of Innovation that is available online to schools and home educators.  Number 9 in the series is titled "Science of Innovation: 3-D Printing"   Here is the segment on YouTube. 

Lesson plans are available on the Science of Innovation site.

Now, I want to say something important about the work of the USPTO Office of Education and Outreach.  For my practice teaching in college I was assigned to work in a kindergarten in an inner city mission in Washington, DC.  I was astounded to learn that most of the children had never even seen a pair of scissors and had no idea at all how they worked.  I had expected scissors to be a part of every home environment for young children.  It was not.  Not all children have the same start in life.  I have never forgotten that lesson.

It would be a huge mistake to see the efforts of engaging kids in "maker" projects as simply fun activities for kids.  From my work with YouthQuest Foundation in the Freestate Challenge Academy I have come to see these kinds of mentoring as having tremendous potential for being life altering for students engaged in designing and printing 3D objects.  A kid that may walk in with a nagging feeling that they are a failure can come to realize that they CAN be creative and successful at doing things others consider "hard" and when that happens it is entirely possible to completely alter the path of that student's life and choices.  I have seen that first-hand in an extremely powerful way.  So, the USPTO has won a new fan.  If ever there was a case to be made for investing money to save money it is in efforts like these and I applaud them.

So, my joy at being involved in the Thingamajig Invention Convention now goes well beyond the event itself.  I will continue to follow their work and seek out stories for this blog that demonstrate what 3D printing is all about.... growing brains!  :)

The Cube Travels to the YMCA Thingamajig

As I have mentioned multiple times, one of the things that impresses me about the Cube 3D printer is how well it travels.  And, this makes it easy to say, "Yes!" when asked to be a part of educational events for students.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Office of Education and Outreach has participated in the Thingamajig Invention Convention as part of it's educational outreach mission.  And, this year they wanted to introduce 3D printing to the students that visit their booth.  I was very happy to agree to help out by bringing some Cube 3D printers to the event as a volunteer participant.

For a local event, Thingamajig is huge.  It was held at the Prince George's County Equestrian Center in the Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.  YMCA centers from DC, Maryland and Virginia bring in thousands of students to participate in the event.

The Cube factory is located in northern Virginia and I knew that every Cube that is built is tested by printing a shoe.  With the popularity of the Cube, this means that they have LOTS of shoes.  They make for very popular handouts at events as I'd learned from distributing them at previous events.  So, I took a short trip to pick up some of these coveted 3D printing examples for the attendees.  It's too bad that I only had room in my car for about 500 shoes because the crowd was so huge and the 3D exhibit was so popular that we ran out of shoes in just 2 hours! 

Here is a short video that captures just a few minutes from a wonderful day spent introducing the wonders of 3D printing to a whole new generation of inventors, mentors and parents.

The YMCA Thingamajig is open to the public and if you live in the Washington, DC area and have school aged children, I'd urge you to put it on your calendar.  A similar event is going to be taking place in Silver Spring, MD on September 29th, 2013.  The Cube will be at the Silver Spring Mini Maker Faire to be held at the Silver Spring Civic Center that is presented by the Kid Museum.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Class 40 and Beyond!

Little did I know, when Cathy Lewis of 3D Systems asked me for a favor, that it would result in one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  Cathy Lewis was speaking at a conference on 3D printing organized by Homeland Security and asked me if I would be willing to bring my Cube 3D printer to demonstrate it.  I was more than happy to do so.

During the conference Cathy introduced me to Lynda Mann of YouthQuest, who spoke of their desire to use 3D printing to inspire and motivate at-risk young people.  To make a long story short, I ended up volunteering to teach 3D printing to some cadets from Class 40 at the Freestate Challenge Academy located on the the grounds of the Edgewood / Aberdeen  Proving Grounds.

It was an amazing experience that I enjoyed immensely.  The cadets, as you will see in the video at the end of the YouthQuest story in the link in this article really took to 3D design and printing in a huge way.  There is no need to write much more.  Steve Pendlebury, who shot and edited the video, has done a great job of telling the story of Class 40 and the effects of 3D Printing on the lives of the Cadets.

To read about the life changing experience for both cadets and teacher please check out Steve's article on the YouthQuest web site.  The video is at the bottom of the article.

Why 3D Printing Is a Great Teaching Tool for At-Risk Youth
This class was the first of many classes to be expanded around the country in the future.  And, I am SO happy to be a part of it.