Wednesday, January 28, 2015

John Pennington Invited to Explore 3D Coat

As everyone that reads this blog knows, I love using Moment of Inspiration (MOI3D) for creating the 3D objects I print.   And, for simple organic sculpting, I use Sculpt.   But, the world of 3D design is much broader than these packages cover.  So, when John Pennington, a friend, contacted me about his exploration of a voxel based 3D package called 3D Coat I became intrigued about it.

Here is their promo video...  But, be warned!  You might want to turn down your sound before running it!  LOL!

I believe that the best time to teach others is when the struggles of tackling an application is fresh in our minds.  Ultimately, we need experts to fully master an application.  But, in the beginning these very experts can lose us FAR too easily.  So, the fact that John is just beginning his exploration of 3D Coat is something I see as a plus because I know, from experience, how he goes about learning a new 3D design application.  I met John when I was blogging about CBModelPro some years ago.  We both loved the product and John went from complete novice to pushing the envelope with what could be done in a remarkably short period of time.

Consider this to be an experiment in trying to find an organic 3D application that can be used to create sculptures and pieces of art that go beyond what MOI3D or Sculpt can deliver.  As with all such advanced 3D applications the learning curve could be steep.  But, we'll stand back and let John beat the bushes and report back to us what he has found.  If anyone can find the easiest way to get up and running it's John.

The beauty of this experiment is that John doesn't pretend to be a great and accomplished 3D artist.  But, in my experience in hearing about his CBModelPro creations is that what he comes up with is always fun and enjoyable.  He does it because he loves it.  He loves the challenge of learning new things and is great about passing on what he learns to others.

The other benefit of John doing our groundwork for us is that the 3D Coat developers, knowing about this experiment, will be available to help him over some of the hurdles he encounters.  3D Coat is a VERY comprehensive 3D application and I suspect most of their users are equally proficient.  If John can help create entry level articles with clarity, it may take some of the load off the the 3D Coat support effort.  So, it should be a win-win for everyone.

While John is exploring 3D Coat, I plan to upgrade my understanding of Sculpt by adding the new Touch 3D Stylus device which YouthQuest Foundation is adding to our 3D ThinkLink Lab. 

The one I can promise you.  We are in for some FUN!

Welcome aboard John and 3D Coat!

P.S.  If you are already familiar with 3D Coat, I'm sure John would welcome some collaboration.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A G.R.E.A.T 3D Systems Birthday Present!

I have probably written this before.  But, I've been an 'early adopter' in the infancy's of many of the technologies that we take for granted in our daily lives now going back to the late 1960's when I obtained my first video recorder.  In almost all of the cases, the potential for education was a primary motivation for my interest.

But, of all these technologies, I am convinced that 3D design and printing has had the most direct impact on the lives of those who are exposed to it.

It goes well beyond 3D printing itself.  In fact, I doubt that many or any of the students that we reach through YouthQuest Foundation will go on to own or even use a 3D printer in the future.  But, in the few short months that they have access to a 3D printer they will come to realize the power of their brain's ability to come up with unique and creative solutions.  They will be better plumbers; better electricians and more energized people in whatever their chosen profession.

We use the phrase "Turn on YOUR brain!" when introducing our students to the 3D ThinkLink classes and we have seen it do just that, class after class.

But, YouthQuest, and the Youth ChalleNGe programs with which we work, are not alone in this belief.  And, I was reminded of this just this morning when I received an email from Jeff Epps of the Richmond County G.R.E.A.T 3D Academy in Hamlet, N.C.

In this case, he wrote about a young man, named Ben, that DID find a position in the 3D printing industry.  The cool thing for me was that Ben started his new job on my birthday.  And, while I have never met Ben, he gave me one of my most memorable birthdays ever.

Just as with our students, Ben was helped to be introduced to 3D design and printing by 3D Systems  through their support for programs like YouthQuest and G.R.E.A.T.  But, in Ben's case, the story came full circle.  I won't give away the plot.  But, please enjoy this video that was sent to me by Jeff in honor of Ben's achievement.

Congratulations, Ben!!

And, thank you Jeff Epps, Richmond County Schools for making my day with this G.R.E.A.T. story!

But,  special thanks to 3D Systems that help make this young man's dreams a reality.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fix for Filament Getting Onto Air Vents Beside Wiper Tray

I received an e-mail from Ibrahime Abraham recently and it sent me off on another quest.
"One re-occurring issue I have been having with the printer though is bad wiping of filament into the waste bin. ...  Once print jobs are completed I notice that filament that has been wiped is sent behind the waste bin and actually enters the inside of the printer housing..."
Early Cube owners observed that bits and pieces were dropping onto their print tables.  There were two issues causing that.  Some of the wiper trays were designed so that the wipers were too high, dragging the underside of the print housing.  In newer Cube 3's that has been fixed.  The wipers are just the right height to barely brush against the print housing.  The fix for this, if your printer has the taller wipers is to simply trim them a bit with an Exacto knife.  Just be careful you don't trim too much.

The other issue, early on, was the path of the head just prior to beginning to print.  That issue was fixed by early firmware and Cubify Software updates.  If you have faithfully updated both the Cubify Software and the firmware this should no longer be a big issue.

But, one issue still remains.  And, that is the issue that Ibrahime wrote about.  Sometimes, filament fails to drop into the wiper bin and, instead, falls onto the vents behind the wiper bin.  The risk, of course, is that filament will fall through the vents and into the machine... over time having some adverse affect.

Having a 3D printer, my first thought was to try to design and print a fix.  But, that was applying the wrong hammer to the problem.

Sometimes the old bailing wire and duct tape approach beats the high tech approach.  And, in this case, that exactly how I tackled the problem.

Goal:  Keep filament from falling on the vents behind the wiper tray

The goal was simple enough.  I needed to come up with a barrier that would prevent filament from ending up on the vents.  It had to be flexible enough not to impede the print head housing; but, tall enough to touch the housing.  After several failed 3D printed designs (not flexible enough) the solution came from observing the wipers... which met the criteria of flexibility.  I quickly abandoned the 3D printed approach for the bailing wire and duct tape approach that has served us all so well over out lifetimes.  It was time to apply "Tom's Rule"
Tom's Rule:  When all else fails... get out the glue gun.
Admittedly, applying Tom's Rule on a high tech 3D printer can be a bit scary.  But, being braver than I am smart, I forged ahead anyway.

Solution:  Wide Rubber Band, 1 pair of Scissors & a Glue Gun

The solution came in the form of 1 wide (1/4") rubber band, a pair of barber's scissors and an old and trusted glue gun.

Given the fact that rubber bands have a bad history of deteriorating rapidly, It's quite possible that I will regret my choice of working materials.  But, the rubber band was, in fact, flexible.  It was wide enough to be used.  And, best of all it was right in front of me.  That has to count for SOMETHING.

The scissors were right here, too.  Only the glue gun had to be found by rummaging through draws.  But, once found, the task took off with few hitches.  The idea was to hot glue a section of rubber band to the back of the wiper tray housing so that the rubber band formed a barrier between the wiper housing and the vents.  Here is the result.

Rubber Band Barrier
As you can see, I wrapped the rubber band around the back of the wiper housing as well as along the back side as I had observed that some filament seemed to escape out the back at times.  The rubber is attached so that one edge will make contact with the print head housing.  It is flexible enough not to be a problem at all.  

Here is what it looks like when installed.

Rubber Band Barrier in Use

Will it Work?

Who knows.  It appears to be working right now.  But, not enough time has passed to call it a resounding success.  And, the question is still open about the longevity of the rubber band, itself.  I don't THINK it will be a harmful modification; but, even that isn't proven thus far.

I'm guessing that it may void the warranty... which is why I pointed out that I'm more brave than smart.  But, if it does all that I hope it does, it should lengthen the lifetime of the printer by keeping the filament from dropping down into the innards of the machine.  (Note:  Those of us from the south are particularly fond of using the word 'innards' whenever we can.)

I put this out there for what it is... my solution to an issue that may or may not be all that useful.  Hot gluing things to their products is rarely something that manufacturers like to embrace.  Hopefully, at some point, the designers will revisit the wiper and vent issues.  But, it is well down on the list of priorities right now.

I'll post updates on the effectiveness after I've had time to actually assess it.  In the meantime, I just want to thank Ibrahime for setting me off on the chase for a solution!    


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Cube 3s to test

At YouthQuest, we just took delivery of four Cube 3 printers.  Due to other commitments, I have only been able to set one up and get it running.

Two things I found with this printer are important to all Cube owners expecting a new Cube to arrive soon.


I can't emphasize enough how important it is for ANY new 3D printer owner to go through the various checks of table leveling and proper z-gap setting.

In the case of the new machine, the printer, after running auto-level, reported that I needed to make adjustments.  I needed 9/16 turns to the right in the back and 1/16 to the left in the front.  The fact that it was not absolutely correct when it came out of the box was not an issue to me. Traveling by truck is enough to make that little bit of difference.

After leveling I needed to run Auto Cal to recalibrate the printer.  I ALWAYS check the z-gap with the gap tool that comes with the printer.  Only after assuring myself that both Level and Gap were set correctly did I make my first print.


In addition to the $1000 Cube 3 printers, we also have 3 CubePro printers (2 Trio & 1 Duo) that list upwards of $4,400.

I can see no appreciable difference in print quality between the CubePro and the Cube 3.  If anything, the Cube 3 might be a bit better.  Where the CubePro shines is the large print table size and speed.  A 5 hour standard print job on the CubePro is a 9+ hour print job on the Cube 3. That same job is 22 hours on the CubePro at 70 microns and as you will see in a future post there is a noticeable print quality difference between standard 200 and premium 70 in the Cube Pro in the object I'm testing..

I have not yet tested the new printer in a large scale print at 70 microns.  But, I will after the current 9 hour job completes.  I'm 3 hours into the current print job with no clogging issues so far.

This weekend, I will open and set up the additional Cube 3 printers this weekend.  So far, I am really pleased with a tough two-color embedded cylinder test.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Embedding Text & Objects in Vertical Surfaces

Being able to emboss objects into a vertical wall is definitely cool. 

But, clean 3D printing often requires the emboss pattern be created with an object that has had its back surface CHAMFERed.

And, that presents a problem when we want to apply text or a complex object that cannot easily be CHAMFERed into a vertical oriented wall.

For these objects, perhaps the best option is to embed the objects into the wall so that the object itself is the support needed for clean 3D printing.

Here is a short video (No sound) that walks through the process of using Moment of Inspiration's new FLOW command and BOOLEAN DIFF to precisely and cleanly wrap and embed complex objects into a vertical surface.

 The videos should be ample testimony as to why I love using Moment of Inspiration as or primary 3D design application.  It's just a joy to use.

Considerations for Embossing 3D Printed Vertical Surfaces

As mentioned in a previous blog article, no topic has generated more email messages than questions about how to wrap text and logos around things like personalized mugs and holders for the small LED votive candles.

Now that we have the ability to print in two colors the demand for wanting to print these kinds of objects should dramatically increase.  But, in doing so, there are some realities we need to consider.

Gravity is more foe than friend

Embossing, by its very nature means that we are cutting away material.  And if we aren't careful this can leave design features that are essentially outcroppings or overhangs.

To print cleanly, overhangs must be minimized.  

While an FDM 3D printer, like the Cube,  might be able to print some of these features, it cannot be assumed that it will do so cleanly.  Gravity is always pulling down on our filament flow and drooping is not pretty. If we are trying to print in mid-air, things might not go as we'd hoped.

We have to keep this in mind when we cut into the vertical side of an object and try to minimize outcroppings and overhangs.

Angles can be either friend or foe

Obviously, a 3D printer has no problem printing straight features as long as there is something under those features.  It can be the print bed or a previous layer of print.  And, it doesn't require a straight vertical match for the previous layer to help support a new layer.

This means that we can use angles to our advantage when embossing!

Here is a short video that discusses why.  There is no sound with this video:

The CHAMFER technique is usually simple on most objects.  But, it gets tricky when it comes to TEXT.  Some fonts handle it well; but, others do not... particularly script fonts with complex curves and thin features.  For these it is often best to use an embedded techniue with no overhangs or outcroppings.  Printed in two colors, the effect is essentially the same.

But, we'll leave using FLOW for EMBEDDING text to a future video. As always, I hope these video are useful in your quest for beautifully clean prints.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2 More Reasons for Loving Moment of Inspiration

As most of you know, I am a real fan of Moment of Inspiration for creating the 3D objects that I print. It is precise, powerful and extremely fast and easy to use.

In fact, it is so easy that we use it to teach our Youth ChalleNGe cadets 3D design in our YouthQuest 3DThinkLink Lab classes.  Now, remember, our students are high school dropouts hoping to obtain their GED in a special boot camp style educational environment!

We have been using MOI Version 2 in our classes.  But, with the release of Version 3.0, we will be upgrading and the cadets are really going to be excited by two new 'verbs' at their disposal, TWIST and FLOW.

TWIST deforms an object around any user selected axis.  It's possible to create very complex shapes by applying TWIST multiple time using a different axis each time.  It can do some amazing transformations on the simplest of 3D shapes.

FLOW uses objects on a plane to project copies onto a selected surface.  The most common use is wrapping text around a cylinder.  It easily allows us to create personalized items like pencil holders and decorative electric votive candle holders.

Here is a short video demonstrating these power new MOI Version 3.0 capabilities.  There is no sound in this video.


The number one capability people have asked me about in 3D design programs is wrapping text around objects,  The 3.0 MOI beta had it; but, now it's released so that anyone downloading the trial can check it out.  I will be creating a full tutorial on both TWIST and FLOW in the near future.

In the meantime, feel free to shoot me an email if you need some help getting a handle on it with the trial version.

I love Moment of Inspiration and I have no hesitation at all recommending it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

CubePro Added to Our Blog Coverage

Last week, at the YouthQuest Foundation, we took delivery on 3 new CubePro printers. 

Our 2 Trios and 1 Duo arrived just in the nick of time on the opening day of our Youth ChalleNGe cadet 3DThinkLink Immersion class for 2014-2.

The six cadet graduates selected for the Immersion Class immediately slammed the new printers  with work the entire week.  So, the timing could not have been better.

While it means great things for YouthQuest Foundation's work with the at-risk young people, it also means that we won't be flying blind when it comes to covering the CubePro series of printers.

We have already gone through the processes of making sure the print beds are perfectly level, making sure the print jets are perfectly level and, through no fault of the printer, removed a print jet and successfully cleared it of a clog and replaced it.  (Not securing the print table properly is NOT a good thing.)

The CubePro comes with ABS cartridges.  And, with the proper application of the new glue along with the controlled environment temperature system, warping was minimal.  The cadets were too anxious to get their pieces printed to allow the glue to dry properly in all cases.  So, we'll have to have a little more experience with the printers to claim that warping can be completely controlled by the proper application of the glue.

One of the things that I do need to point out is that it would be much more convenient for users if all the available maintenance documents were readily available online and easy to find.  While support was good about sending out documentation that enabled us to solve our clog problem, not knowing if such a document existed when it first happened was a bit unnerving.

CubePro Client Software

The CubePro software handles color selection a lot differently than does the Cube 3 software. The CubePro seems to require a separate STL be created for each color group.  It knows to place the groups in their true positions.  At first, it was unclear that the software required the user to turn color selection off before proceeding to BUILD.  We'll cover the software with a video soon.

Having more than one CubePro, with different cartridge color configurations meant that we needed to be sure to change the Settings > Printer Configuration for each build depending on which printer it was going to use.  It would be nice to be able to simply name the different printers and select each printer in the main menu.  I'm too old to remember which colors are loaded in which order in this or that printer.   :)

The good news is that we were able to simply set NONE for the #1 print jet that clogged and treat the three color Trio as if it were simply a two color Duo.   The maximum possible print size was reduced a bit; but, that was not an issue for us in this class.

We were VERY thankful for the timely arrival of the printers.  Both the staff AND the cadets were VERY happy campers!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Easy Way to Level the Cube 3 Print table

Leveling the Cube 3 print table is much easier than with previous 3D printers I've owned.

It's especially easy if we have a tool to help us track the number of turns we need to make to perform the adjustments provide to us by the printer itself.

While I have created and printed a Level Gauge Tool to be used with the Cube 3, it is just as effective to print the gauge with a standard printer on paper and cut it out.  Here is a template for you to download.  This is a PNG meant to be printed with .5" margins in 8.5"x11" portrait.

8.5x11 Level Gauge Template for Laser or Inkjet

Creating The Gauge

Print the template using .5" margins.  The heavier the paper the better.  Cut out the shaded shape and use something like an Exacto knife to remove the centers of the tree circles.

Mounting The Gauge

Remove the print plate. 

Print Plate Leveling Pads as seen from the back of the Cube 3

The print plate rests on 3 magnetic pads.  Looking from the back of the Cube 3, we have numbered these pads from 1 to 3.  For each pad there is a corresponding setscrew that can be loosened and tightened using the hex wrench that came with the Cube 3 tool set.

Pad 1 to the right and back of the group.  Pad 1 is the anchor, or pivot point, for all level adjustments.  It should never need adjustment.  But, should we suspect that it has worked itself loose, the factory setting (as I understand it) is that Pad 1 be turned clockwise all the way down until it stops.  Be sure to loosen the setscrew before adjusting and tighten it after adjustment.

It's easy to identify how to place the Adjustment gauge over the pads.  The ring that has no markings goes around Pad 1.

Gauge mounted in place

Notice that a mark has been written on both Pad 2 and Pad 3 that gives us a 'dial' to use against the gauge.  A 'Sharpie" was used to create these marks on Pad 1 and Pad 2.

Using the Gauge

Following the marks that are written on each pad, each time the mark on the pad passes a mark on the gauge 1/16th of a turn has been made.  1/8th of a turn would require turning the Pad so that the mark on the Pad passes two marks on the gauge.  So, all we have to do is count the number of marks the "dial" passes to turn the pad very precisely according to the specifications reported by the Cube 3's Level Adjustment procedures.

General Observation About Leveling

The setscrew for each pad must be loosened before the pad is turned and then tightened after the pad has been turned.  The steps are:
  1. Loosen Setscrew (Using hex wrench supplied with the Cube 3)
  2. Turn Pad
  3. Tighten Setscrew

Neither Pad 1 nor Pad 2 operate completely independently.  Raising Pad 2 tends to lower the back edge of the plate requiring a slight re-adjustment of Pad 1.  So, Leveling can be an iterative process requiring smaller and smaller adjustments when done correctly.  Always re-run Level until the Cube 3 reports that no more adjustments are needed.

I hope this has been helpful.  Please let me know if I've been unclear or have missed something.