3D Printed Quadcopter Props

Here’s something that isn’t quite a hack; he’s just using a 3D printer as a 3D printer. It is extremely interesting, though. Over on Hackaday.io [Anton] is creating 3D printable propellers for quadcopters and RC planes. Conventional wisdom says that propellers require exceedingly exacting tolerances, but [Anton] is making it work with the right 3D file and some creative post-processing treatment of his prints.

These 3D printed props are a remix of an earlier project on Thingiverse. In [Anton]’s testing, he didn’t get the expected lift from these original props, so a few small modifications were required. The props fit on his 3D printer bed along their long edge allowing for ease of slicing and removal of support material. For post-processing, [Anton] is using acetone vapor smoothing on his ABS printed design. They come out with a nice glossy sheen, and should be reasonably more aerodynamic than a prop with visible layer lines.

Although [Anton]’s prop is basically a replica of a normal, off-the-shelf quadcopter prop, 3D printing unique, custom props does open up a lot of room for innovation. The most efficient propeller you’ll ever find is actually a single-bladed propeller, and with a lot of experimentation, it’s possible anyone with a well-designed 3D printer could make turn out their own single-blade prop.

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Ultrasonic Misting Vapor Polisher for 3D Printed Parts

If you’ve ever seen 3D printed parts form an extrusion type printer, one of the first things you’ll notice is the texture. It’s caused by the printer laying down its plastic layer after layer. This surface texture isn’t always desirable, so people have found a few ways to smooth the 3D printed part out. For example if you are using ABS, you can rinse or “paint” the part with acetone. Another method of smoothing is heat up some acetone in a container, and let the acetone vapors do work to smooth the finished part.

[Mike] from engineerdog.com thinks he may have found a more elegant solution using an inexpensive ultrasonic humidifier you can buy online for about $40 USD. This room humidifier uses a piezoelectric transducer that can vibrate liquids at a high frequency to produce a mist. [Mike] removed the transducer and electronics from the humidifier and mounted it into a paint can.  This is where the acetone is stored, and turned into a vapor by the transducer. An aquarium pump is used to transfer the highly concentrated vapors into the polishing chamber (an extra large pickle jar.) He added a spring loaded, electrical timer (the kind you might find in the bathroom at an office building) to make his vapor polisher as easy to use as a microwave oven.

[Mike] concludes his post with some strength testing of parts before and after acetone treatment, and was surprised to find that the parts were weaker after the treatment.  You can read more about that on his blog and see a video of the vapor polisher after the break.

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Smoothing PLA printed parts

We’ve seen a few advances in the finishing processes of 3D prints over the last few months that result in some very attractive parts that look like they were injection molded. Smoothing ABS prints is now a necessary skill for anyone looking to produce professional parts, but those of us using PLA for our RepRaps have been left in the cold. After some experimentation, the guys over at protoparadigm have come up with a way to smooth out those PLA prints, using the same technique and a chemical that’s just as safe as acetone.

Instead of acetone, the guys at protoparadigm are using tetrahydrofuran, or THF, as a solvent for PLA. Other PLA solvents aren’t friendly to living organisms or are somewhat hard to obtain. THF has neither of these qualities; you still need to use it in a well ventilated area with nitrile gloves, but the same precautions when using acetone or MEK still apply. It’s also easy to obtain, as well: you can grab some on Amazon, even.

The process for smoothing PLA prints with THF is the same as smoothing ABS prints with acetone. Just suspend the print in a glass container, pour in a tiny amount of the solvent, and (gently) heat it. The evaporated solvent will smooth all the ridges out of the print, leaving a shiny and smooth surface. You can, of course, hand polish it by dedicating a lint-free cloth and a pair of gloves to the task.

Smoothing 3D Prints with Acetone Vapor

If you’ve ever used an extruding 3D printer, you know that the resulting prints aren’t exactly smooth. At the Southackton hackerspace [James] and [Bracken] worked out a method of smoothing the parts out using vapor. The method involves heating acetone until it forms a vapor, then exposing ABS parts to the vapor. The method only works with ABS, but creates some good looking results.

Acetone is rather flammable, so the guys started out with some safety testing. This involved getting a good air to fuel mixture of acetone, and testing what the worst case scenario would be if it were to ignite. The tests showed that the amount of acetone they used would be rather safe, even if it caught fire, which was a concern several people mentioned last time we saw the method.

After the break, [James] and [Bracken] give a detailed explanation of the process.

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DCF77 signal filtering and decoding


[Udo] decided to build a clock using the DCF77 radio module seen above. This of course has been done before: the hardware draws a clock signal from the atomic clock in Braunschweig, Germany. So he grabbed a library for Arduino and got to work. But he was getting rather poor results and upon further investigation realized that the library had been written for 20 Hz modules and his operates at 300 Hz. This means better accuracy but the drawback is that the hardware is more susceptible to noise.

So began his journey to filter, process, and decode the DCF77 protocol. That link goes to the project overview. It will be in several parts all of which will be linked on that page. So far he has applied a low-pass filter and coded some exponential smoothing. He has yet to write the other four parts, but does mention that early testing shows that this technique will make the reception better than what is achieved with commercially available clocks. He was able to lock onto a signal that had more than 80% noise ratio. That’s impressive!

Just want to see a clock that uses a DCF77 module? Check out this PIC-based atomic clock.

Super refined Kinect physics demo


Since the Kinect has become so popular among hackers, [Brad Simpson] over at IDEO Labs finally purchased one for their office and immediately got to tinkering. In about 2-3 hours time, he put together a pretty cool physics demo showing off some of the Kinect’s abilities.

Rather than using rough skeleton measurements like most hacks we have seen, he paid careful attention to the software side of things. Starting off using the Kinect’s full resolution (something not everybody does) [Brad] took the data and manipulated it quite a bit before creating the video embedded below. Skeleton data was collected and run through several iterations of a smoothing algorithm to substantially reduce the noise surrounding the resulting outline.

The final product is quite a bit different than the Kinect videos we are used to seeing, and it drastically improves how the user is able to interact with virtual objects added to the environment. As you may have noticed, the blocks that were added to the video never rarely penetrate the outline of the individual in the movie. This isn’t due to some sort of digital trickery – [Brad] was able to prevent the intersection of different objects via his tweaking of the Kinect data feed.

We’re not sure how much computing power this whole setup requires, but the code is available from their Google Code repository, so we hope to see other projects refined by utilizing the techniques shown off here.

[via KinectHacks]

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