Saturday, March 22, 2014

Even a Cubify Fan Has to Eat & Coastal Flats Fills That Role!

 Or, should that be ROLL.. as in "Ozzie Roll"!

OK.  This post is seriously off topic.  But, life IS more than 3D printing even for the most avid 3D printing fans.

All of us have to eat to live.  And, I have to warn you that this post is about eating, and eating extraordinarily well having nothing to do with 3D printing.

But, if you are in the DC area... or ever visit this area, you will be grateful for this little excursion.

Today, my wife and I traveled from Maryland to Tyson's Corner, Virgina to visit one of our favorite restaurants.  It's Coastal Flats in the Tyson's Corner Mall.

Now, I live along the Bethesda - Rockville corridor in Maryland.   And, we literally have hundreds of good restaurants from which to choose.  There are at least five in walking distance of my home.  So, it takes a remarkably good restaurant to coax me across the river into Virginia just for a meal.

One is the incomparable Bistro L'hermitage, an absolutely superb French restaurant near Historic Occoquan, Virginia.  But, that is more than an hour away in good traffic.  So, it is reserved for very special dining celebrations and events. 

The other is Coastal Flats.  And it lures us across the Potomac River on a regular basis no matter what the traffic.

As the name and decor suggest, sea food has a prominent place on the menu.  But, you will be hard pressed to find a better steak filet at even the most famous of steakhouses.  Quite frankly, I would actually rather have a Coastal Flats filet than anything I have tasted at Ruth's Chris or The Palm, both of which are famous in their own right for very good reasons.  The secret, I'm told, is their wood fired oven expertly held at just the right temperature.

But, what is even more remarkable is that the company that brought us Coastal Flats has created not one; but, NINE different restaurant themes, each quite different in food offerings and ambiance.  And even though they are distinctly unique in some way, they are held together by what can only be described as a phenomenal system for hiring great staff and providing wonderful service.

The great news is that Great American Resaurants' locations are spread around a wide area of northern Virgina.  While I have not been to all, I can vouch for some.  So, if your trip takes you to DC or through northern Virgina, you find yourself near one.  Here are those that I've tried.

If you are traveling on I-95 and need a break, just take the Springfield, Virginia exit.   It's on a few blocks off the exit ramp.  I think this was the original site from which they grew. 
  • Carlyle - Arlington/ Shirlington (Includes Best Buns bakery)
The Carlyle location is a little far for us; but, still a favorite for special occasions because the unique Art Deco motif has a special air of romantic loveliness.  Be sure to ask to be seated upstairs to fully appreciate the ambiance as well as the food.
It's located off of I-395 just south of Washington, DC.  I urge you not to miss it if staying near National Airport or in Arlington.
  • Sweetwater - Merrifield, Sterling, Centerville  (Western Theme Microbrewery)
I've only been in the Merrifield location.  But, I expect that while each of these locations shares the same western theme, wonderful service and food, the decor is unique.   As one might expect of a microbrewery, a bar is prominently located in the center of the action.  It's a fun place, even it beer is not your thing and they won't hold that against you.
 If you are traveling around I-495, it's just a short hop off the road to the corner of Route 50 and Gallows Road.  Love the burgers and iced tea!
  •  Artie's - Fairfax (Boathouse Theme)
I've only been to Artie's a couple of times.  And, that is not because I didn't like it.  It's farther away than Coastal Flats and when I'm hungry, I'm hungry.  But, if you find yourself in Fairfax, Virginia then I urge you to stop and enjoy the fare and service.  You will not be disappointed.
And, while in Fairfax, if you happen to drive by the old courthouse, raise a salute to my ancestor, Richard Ratcliffe,  who leased the land for the courthouse for $3 for as long as they hold court.  The lease is still in effect.   If you have a bit of time, you may be able to visit his home on Main Street near the Historical Society.
 As I said, this post was WILDLY off topic.  But, I know that many of you will, sooner or later, find yourselves in the Washington, DC area and northern Virginia in particular.  And, I'm not just interested in your shared interest in 3D printing; but, that your whole life be filled with great things... including great food.  So, if you have a chance, give one of these restaurants a try... and don't forget to leave room for the Flourless Chocolate Waffle!

Great American's Warm Flourless Chocolate Waffle

Now, THAT is what I'm talking about!  LOL!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Want to Explain 3D Printing to Anybody??? A Great Place to Start.

If you have even a moderately successful blog or video channel, you hear from a lot of people.  Many are spammers.  But, sometimes these contacts present rare gems of information that are highly creative and well worth sharing.

The email I received this morning from Naomi Paton of aleerted me to a definite keeper!

Naomi has created a wonderful infographic called 3D Printing: One Step Closer to a Star Trek Future?” that I found very, very well done.

It covers a LOT of ground in a short, well organized presentation.

The infographic can be found HERE.

The web site, itself, is also intriguing and informative.  It covers everything from the Top 10 Web Design schools to the average salaries of computer related careers.  After reading the 3D printing article, be sure to wander around a bit and pick up some great information.

Thanks Naomi!  Nicely done.

P.S.  Aside from the 3D printing article, my favorite article was...
"Selfie Syndrome - How Social Media is Making Us Narcissistic"

I KNEW I was going to like that site!  LOL!

P.S. P.S.  One thing leads to another...

I noticed that the "Selfie" infographic was created by and taking a side trip to that site is also worth the effort.  In particular check out the page.  A few of the images of employees are animated.  Very clever.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Special Promotional deals on Cube2 and CubeX

The Cubify site has announced promotional offers on both the Cube2 and the CubeX.

Special Cube2 & CubeX Promotional Offers

Each offer includes 2 free bonus cartridges with each printer. 

The offer is good while printer supplies last.  I wish I could tell you how long that might be.  But, I have no clue.

To take advantage of the offers enter the code CubeBonus or CubeXBonus when you check out.  

Be sure that you select your two bonus cartridges before checking out.

 While I've never had a CubeX, I own several Cube2 3D printers and work with five more on a regular basis with the cadets that I teach.  The Cube2 has been a real proven work horse in every sense of the word.  And, since it was introduced each and every software or firmware update has introduced increasing accuracy.  

So, if you want a proven machine that is highly accurate, now is the time to pick up a new Cube2 and have some fun. :)


Monday, March 17, 2014

3Doodler: Be Your Own 3D Printer

No, I have definitely NOT abandoned my Cube 3D Printers.

But, I have ordered a 3Doodler 3D pen.  And, I had good reasons to do so.

The 3Doodler as Welder

First, it can act as a plastic glue gun, welding PLA or ABS pieces together.  For example, I have already written about creating a face relief of a child in one color and creating a frame to hold it in another.  With the Cube 2, limited to single color printing, this had to printed as two separate jobs and then I used glue to put the pieces together.

Using the 3Doodler to weld the pieces together should be a LOT more effective.

The 3Doodler as Accessorizer

Hmmm... not at all sure that is the right spelling.  But, you get what I mean.  There are designs that are just too difficult for the cadets I teach to pull off in a CAD program.  One of them, for instance, wanted to create a candle holder with angel's wings.  Yes, it could be done.  But, not at his skill level and certainly not in the time he could allot to it.

But, he COULD freehand the wings onto the printed candle holder.

Even closer to home, that frame and relief that I printed could be enhanced by 3Doodling (Is that a word?) a hanger onto the flat back of the combined piece so that it could be hung.

The 3Doodler as 3D Demonstrator

Because of the configuration of 3D printers, with the head being extremely close to the print table, it can be a bit difficult to show the extrusion process.  The actual 3D printing process is easily demonstrated with the 3Doodler since the head can be pulled up so that the extrusion process is clearly seen.

While the 3Doodler is NOT a toy and the minimum recommended age is 14, that does not stop us from using it to demonstrate the 3D printing process to younger children.  We'll be working with the girl scouts at YouthQuest and I expect to be able to put the 3Doodler to work in helping explain how the Cube 3D printer works.

The 3Doodler as Randomizer

So far, while I've seen a lot of fun objects that people have created with the 3Doodler, none could be called high art.  Part of the reason for that is the randomness of the flow when hand held as apposed to the precision of the Cube 3D printer's X-Y-Z engine.

But, there is a certain charm in randomness that has a place in design.  And, I expect that my artist daughter will be quite pleased with some of the things that she can do with this little hand held 3D print tool.

While it might seem that using the 3Doodleradding add accessories and to add randomness to an object is the same thing, it is not.  There are nuanced differences.  I expect to notice an accessory.  I do not expect to notice a subtle added randomness that mimics hand created works.

The 3Doodler as Fun

Let's face it.  Given everything I say above, everyone knows the real reason I ordered a 3Doodler.  I expect it to be a LOT of fun for me and my grandchildren, who are old enough to use it safely.  I sure hope they let me use it!

Bottom Line....

It should arrive soon.  As soon as I have a chance to try it out with all of the above applications I will be sure to post an update. 

Interestingly, YouthQuest, 3D Systems and 3Doodler will all be at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in DC in late April and our booths are adjacent.  (Actually according to the floor plan our YouthQuest booth and the 3Doodler booth are back-to-back on either side of the 3D Systems booth.   The cadets we teach will be helping explain 3D printing to visiting students and parents and I am certain that they are going to want to drop by the 3Doodler booth when they have a chance.  If they end up creating something we'll post images.

A Suggested Methodology for Learning a 3D Application

I've been silent for a while because I've been creating a curriculum for teaching 3D printing for YouthQuest's 3DThinkLink Initiative.  Creating tutorials is moderately time consuming.  Creating a full curriculum is MASSIVELY time consuming.

While the new curriculum is focused on Moment of Inspiration, the methodology that came from creating it is useful when it comes to learning any new 3D application.

The technique is to treat 3D design applications as if we were learning a new language such as  English, Spanish or Latin and break down the interface into NOUNS and VERBS.  We then proceed, in steps, to introduce at least one new NOUN and one new VERB in each step of learning the application.

Nouns are THINGS, like circles, rectangles and ellipses.  Verbs are ACTIONS that we use to modify THINGS.

In our materials, we sometimes identify nouns and verbs by color code.  Nouns are red and Verbs are blue.

In general. sentences make sense when they have both nouns and verbs.  For instance, we "Wash the car", "Walk the dog" or "Extrude the circle."

The problem is that manuals generally present the 3D application's features in the order in which the interface presents it. Let's take Cubify Invent as an example.  The opening screen, in context of our assigning nouns and verbs, consists of only verbs!

It presents a series of operations or verbs like "Extrude", "Revolve" and "Sweep" without the benefit of a single noun (thing) on which these verbs can be applied.  The only nouns in the menu ribbon are reference objects like "Plane" and "Axis".

A person facing this interface without any experience can be excused for being very confused as to what to do to get started.  The key, of course, is to find out how we can create some nouns to use with the verbs.  In the case of Cubify Invent, we click on the "Activate 2D Sketch" button.

When we do this, the menu ribbon changes and one of the sections on the ribbon presents us with the NOUNS upon which the verbs on the first menu ribbon can be used.

While these nouns are presented in symbolic form, the icon buttons allow us to create real THINGS.  In the upper left we see the button that allows us to create the LINE noun.  The icon below the line allows us to create another noun, the CIRCLE.

We can begin exploring the application by determining that we will explore the application by learning a new noun (Circle) and then immediately apply a verb (Extrude) to it.   In this way, we learn the 3D application just as we learn any new language, by putting nouns and verbs together to create sentences that make sense.

In this case we create a CIRCLE (noun)...

and then we complete the 3D sentence by applying EXTRUDE (verb) to it.

If we were to write a sentence to remember what we have done we would see the noun/verb applicability.  "We have EXTRUDED a CIRCLE, creating a new Cylinder!"

We can then move on to either exploring applying other verbs to form new sentences or creating new noun/verb combinations.  This provides much needed feedback that let's us know early on that we CAN learn the 3D application.  Not only do we proceed in small steps; but, those steps demonstrate success early.

Learning by using a Noun/Verb methodology will also let us find those combinations that do NOT make sense.  For instance, it makes little sense to couple the single line noun with the extrude verb.  But, the best way to learn that is to try it and see what happens. 

It may seem like a quirky approach to learning a drawing program.  But, I'm convinced that it is an effective approach to learning any 3D application.  I hope you also find it useful.

With the experience of creating the curriculum for Moment of Inspiration nearly complete, I'm hoping to be able to turn my attention back to expanding our exploration of one of the Cubify 3D applications.  If that becomes possible, the noun/verb approach is the one I intend to pursue.

Let me know what you think.  Thanks.