Using Rapid Prototyping to Make a Clock

[Markus] is attending the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. For his Advanced Prototyping class he had to make something using rapid prototyping technology — i.e. 3D printers, laser cutters, and breadboards. He chose to make a fantastic looking clock.

He started by designing the entire thing in CAD. The base is 3D printed on a Ultimaker. The world clock display is a piece of laser engraved acrylic which he heated up and curved to fit. Using an Arduino and a 16×2 LCD matrix he created a simple clock program with the ability to show different time zones. The way you select them is very clever.

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Milk-Based 3D Scanner

3D scanners don’t have to be expensive or high-tech because all of the magic goes on in software. The hardware setup just needs to gather a bunch of cross-sections. In perhaps the lowest-tech of scanners that we’ve seen, [yenfre]’s GotMesh scanner uses milk.

Specifically, the apparatus is a pair of boxes, one with a hole drilled in it. You put the object in the top box and fill it with milk to cover the object. A camera takes pictures of the outline of the object in the milk as it drains out the hole, these get stitched together, and voilà.

There are limitations to this method. The object gets soaked in milk, so it won’t work for scanning sand-castles. (It’s optimally suited for chocolate-chip cookies, in our opinion.) If the camera is located directly above, the objects have to get wider as the milk drains out. You can do multiple takes with the object rotated at different angles or use multiple cameras to solve this problem. The edge-detection software will have issues with white objects in milk, so maybe you’ll want to scan that porcelain figurine in coffee, but you get the idea. More seriously, the rate of milk drain will slow down a bit as the amount of milk in the upper box decreases. This could also be handled in software.

In all, we’re not surprised that we don’t see commercial versions of this device, but we love the idea. It’s based on this experiment where they dip a guy in a tank of ink! If you just drank all your milk, but still have a line-laser lying around, maybe this build is more your speed. What’s your cheapest 3D scanner solution?

3D Printing Houses from Concrete

We’ve seen 3D-printed houses before, but most make use of prefabricated chunks. This hurricane and tornado resistant hotel suite in the Philippines was printed in one shot.

Sound familiar? This is the work of [Andrey Rudenko], who started by building a concrete 3D printer in his garage 2 years ago, moved on to 3D printing his kids a concrete castle in his backyard later that year and now appears to have a full-blown company offering commercial 3D printed houses. Way to go [Andrey]!

The building was designed in Sketchup no less, and the printer makes use of Pronterface for the control software. It’s absolutely fascinating to see this built at full-scale. We want one. Continue reading “3D Printing Houses from Concrete”

3D Cocooner (3D Lattice Printer)

Sometimes it feels like we haven’t yet tapped into all the possibilities of additive manufacturing. Festo, a company that loves to try innovative things (and not always bring them to market), just came up with something called the 3D Cocooner — essentially, a rostock style 3D printer on its side, with a UV cure feature to allow it to build up skeletal structures and lattice style shapes.

Similar to the MX3D-Metal 3D printer (which is currently on a mission to build a bridge end-to-end — by itself), this 3D printer specializes in printing structures as opposed to the more traditional layer approach. It’s called the 3D Cocooner as it is a bionic technology platform designed to “spin” complex lattices, very similar to naturally occurring structures.

The cool thing is, it’s not actually using plastic filament like most printers — it’s actually printing using string! The string is covered with a special UV resin which is then hardened into place as soon as it is expelled from the print head — making this more like a giant robot spider than a 3D printer.

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3D Printed Microscope Chamber Saves Big Bucks

Optical microscopy is over 400 years old, and in that time, it has come a long way. There are many variations of microscopes both in the selection of lenses, lighting, and other tricks to allow an instrument to coax out more information about a sample.

One proven way to increase the resolving power of a microscope is oil immersion. The sample and the lens are placed in oil that is transparent and has a high refractive index. This prevents light from refracting at the air-coverslip interface, improving the microscope’s overall performance.

The University of New South Wales has a lab that uses such a microscope. They use a special (and expensive) chamber to hold down the glass coverslip and contain the oil. The problem? At nearly $400 a pop, the chambers are a constant expense to replace, and they are not flexible enough to handle custom size requirements.

[Ben Goodnow], a first year student at the university, applied his 3D printing and laser cutting know-how to design and build a suitable chamber that costs much less and can be adapted to different projects. In addition to all the design files on GitHub, there’s also a document (PDF) that describes the design iterations and the total cost savings.

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Stealing 3D Prints By Sound

In the open hardware world, we like to share 3D design files so that our friends and (global) neighbors can use and improve them. But we’ve all printed things from time to time that we’d like to keep secret. At least this is the premise behind this article in Science which proposes a novel method of 3D-printer-based industrial espionage: by recording the sound of the stepper motors and re-creating the toolpath.

Unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall so we’re short on the details, but everyone who’s played the Imperial March on their steppers has probably got the basic outline in their mind. Detecting the audio peak corresponding to a step pulse should be fairly easy. Disentangling the motions of two axes would be a bit harder, but presumably can be done based on different room-acoustic filtering of the two motors. Direction is the biggest question mark for us, but a stepper probably has a slightly audible glitch when reversing. Keeping track of these reversals could do the trick.

What do you think? Anyone know how they did it? Does someone with access to the full article want to write us up a summary in the comments?

[Thanks LVfire via Ars Technica]

[Edit: We were sent a copy of the full article (thanks [PersonUnknown]!) and it doesn’t explain any technical details at all. Save yourself the effort, and have fun speculating, because reading the article won’t help.]

Colorful Fan and LED Controller for 3D Printer

[Dave] just couldn’t take the ambient noise from his Lulzbot Mini anymore, so he built a fancy fan controller for it.

He measured some points on the printer’s Rambo controller board to see what actually got hot during a print. The hottest components were the motor drivers, so he taped a thermistor to them. He also placed one in the printer’s power supply. He replaced the main fan with a low noise model from Noctua (which have the most insanely fancy packaging you could imagine for a computer fan). The software on an Arduino Nano now idles the fan at an inaudible 650RPM, if an unacceptable temperature increase is detected, it increases the fan speed for a period, keeping everything nice and quietly cool.

The graphics display was added because, “why not?” A classic reason. The graphics runs on a hacked version of Adafruit’s library. It took him quite a while to get the graphics coded, but they add that extra bit of high-tech flair to keep the cool factor of the 3d printer up before they become as ubiquitous as toasters in the home. The code, fritzing board layout, 3D models, and a full build log is available at his site.