Hands On With Variable Layer Height

3D printers are an exercise in compromise. Generally, you don’t want a lot of mass on your tool head, as that can lead to ringing and other mechanical artifacts on your print. However, direct drive extruders are better for many filaments, and the decision on what printer to build ultimately comes down to a choice between speed, build area, and the ability to print in exotic filaments.

Even in slicing a 3D model, a 3D printing enthusiast must balance the quality of a print versus how long the print will take to squirt out of a nozzle. Now, just about any printer can produce fantastic models at a very high layer height, but no one wants to wait several days for the print to finish.

This balance between print time and print quality has, for the last few years, been completely ignored. One of the best solutions to this we’ve seen is variable layer height slicing. Basically, if you’re printing something without much detail, you don’t need small layers in your 3D print. Think of it as printing the neck of a bust at 0.3mm layer height, and the face at 0.1mm.

Yes, there were a few papers from a decade ago laying the conceptual foundations of variable layer height slicing. 3D printers weren’t exactly common back then, though. Recently, Autodesk’s Integrated Additive Manufacturing Team released Varislice for automatic generation of variable layer heights on a 3D printed object. So far, though, there’s no good automated solution for variable layer height slicing, and the tools for manual configuration of variable layer height slicing are terrible.

For the past few months, Prusa Research has been working on their own edition of Slic3r that includes an easy to use interface for variable layer height slicing. This version of Slic3r was just released, and now it’s time for the hands-on. Does variable layer height slicing work?

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Gesture Controlled Sword of Omens Gives Sight Beyond Sight

The 80’s were a golden age of Sci-Fi cartoons. We had Transformers, Voltron, and of course, Thundercats. The story of feline humanoids on third earth has stuck with a few hackers, including [Juan Garcia]. Juan has tunneled his fandom into something amazing – he’s built his own version of Lion-O’s iconic Sword of omens. The modeling and 3D print work are top-notch. While this sword doesn’t have the Eye of Thundera as a power source, it does have some pretty clever electronics. It’s also one of the amazing entries in this year’s Sci-Fi Contest.

[Juan] wanted to create the “sight beyond sight” effect from the TV show. He started with an MPU6050 six axis gyro + accelerometer. These chips are most often found at the heart of quadcopter controllers. An Arduino Pro Mini reads the sensor data. When the sword is lifted vertically, it turns on a row of WS2812 LEDs. The LEDs replicate the pulsing eye effect from the cartoon version of the sword.

[Juan] really made this a neat build. The whole sword is powered by an 18650 Li-Ion battery. Power control and charging circuitry are all concealed inside the 3D print. When it’s time to charge up the eye, the hilt can be unscrewed to reveal a USB charging port. Click past the break to see this hack in action!

Click past the break to see this hack in action, and don’t forget – there’s still time to enter the Sci-Fi Contest!

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CheetahBeam: More Proof that Cats are Your Overlord

We don’t know what cats see when they see a red laser beam, but we know it isn’t what we see. The reaction, at least for many cats — is instant and extreme. Of course, your cat expects you to quit your job and play with it on demand. While [fluxaxiom] wanted to comply, he also knew that no job would lead to no cat food. To resolve the dilemma, he built an automated cat laser. In addition to the laser module, the device uses a few servos and a microcontroller in a 3D printed case. You can see a video, below. Dogs apparently like it too, but of course they aren’t the reason it was built.

If you don’t have a 3D printer, you can still cobble something together. The microcontroller is an Adafruit Pro Trinket, which is essentially an Arduino Pro Mini with some extra pins and a USB port.

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Ingenious use of 3D Printer gives Simba the Mane he deserves

Here at Hackaday, we love clever 3D prints. This amazing lion statue remixed by [ _primoz_], makes us feel no different. It is no secret that FDM 3D printers have come a long way, propelled by the enthusiastic support from the open source community.

However, FDM 3D printers have some inherent limitations; some of which arise from a finite print nozzle diameter, tracing out the 3D object layer by layer. Simply put, some print geometries and dimensions are just unattainable. We discussed the solution to traditional FDM techniques being confined to Planer layers only in a previous article.

The case in point here is a 3D printed lion whose original version did not fully capture its majestic mane. [_primoz_] solution was to construct a support cylinder around the head and form the actual hair as a series of planar bristles, which were one extrusion wide.


This was followed by some simple post processing, where a heat gun was used to form the bristles into a dapper mane.

The result is rather glorious and we can’t wait for someone to fire up a dual extruder and bring out the flexible filament for this print!

[via Thingiverse]

3D Printed Rockets are a Gas

We’ve probably all made matchstick rockets as kids. And around here anything that even vaguely looks like a rocket will get some imaginary flight time. But [austiwawa] is making some really cool 3D printed rockets that use common CO2 cartridges as a propellant. You can see them in action in the video below.

You might think just sticking a CO2 cylinder in a 3D printed jacket isn’t such a big deal, but [austiwawa] really went the extra mile. He read up on how to make the rocket stable (by manipulating the center of gravity versus the center of pressure) and explains what he had to do to get the rockets flying like you’d expect.

In addition, the launch tube is pretty interesting. A 3D printed part holds a sharp point and a spring. You lock the spring and when released it punches a clean hole in the propellant casing. The actual tube is a long piece of PVC pipe. From the video, it looks like these little rockets fly pretty high.

Judging from the video, the rocket body and launcher came from TinkerCAD. The way [austiwawa] put the fins on was both simple and clever.

Of course, you could also use Coke and propane, if you like. We’ve also seen some pretty cool setups with compressed air. Check out the rockets in action after the break,

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Handmade Keyboards For Hands

There were some truly bizarre computer keyboards in the 1980s and 90s. The Maltron keyboard was a mass of injection-molded plastic with two deep dishes for all the keys. The Kinesis Advantage keyboard was likewise weird, placing the keys on the inside of a hemisphere. This was a magical time for experimentations on human-computer physical interaction, the likes of which we haven’t seen since.

Now, though, we have 3D printers, easy to use microcontrollers, and Digikey. We can make our own keyboards, and make them in any shape we want. That’s what [Andrey]’s doing. The 32XE is an ergonomic keyboard and trackball combo made for both hands.

The keyboard has curved palm rests, a trackball under the right thumb, and is powered by the ever popular DIY mechanical keyboard microcontroller, the Teensy 2.0. This keyboard is equipped with a trackball, and that means [Andrey] needed a bit of extra electronics to handle that. The mouse/trackball sensor is built around the ADNS-9800 laser motion sensor conveniently available on Tindie. This laser mouse breakout board is built into the bottom of the keyboard, with enough space above it to hold a trackball… ball.

Since this is a very strange and completely custom keyboard, normal mechanical keyboard keycaps are out of the question. Instead, [Andrey] 3D printed his own keycaps on an FDM printer. Printing keyboard keycaps on a filament-based printer is extremely difficult — the tolerances for the connector between the switch and cap are tiny, and nearly at the limit of the resolution of a desktop filament printer. [Andrey] is taking it even further with inlaid keyboard legends. He’s created a keycap set with two color legends on two sides of the keycaps. If you’ve ever wanted to print keycaps on a 3D printer, this is a project to study.

3D Printed Bicycle From Stainless Steel!

You wouldn’t 3D print a car, would you? That’d simply be impractical. However, if you’re a team of students attending the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands, you might be inclined to 3D print a stainless steel bicycle instead.

The TU Delft team collaborated with MX3D, a company that uses an articulated industrial robot arm with a welder for an effector, welding and building the Arc Bicycle, glob by molten glob. Printed in chunks, this process allows the practical construction of larger objects that are able to withstand the stresses and forces of everyday use. Weighing around 20kg, you might not want to spend much time carrying it up to an apartment anytime soon, so stick to the cobblestone streets — the Arc Bicycle can take it.

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