Acetone Smoothing Results in Working Motor

Here’s something only ’90s kids will remember. In 1998, the Air Hogs Sky Shark, a free-flying model airplane powered by compressed air was released. This plane featured foam stabilizers, wings, a molded fuselage that served as a reservoir, and a novel engine powered by compressed air. The complete Sky Shark setup included an air pump. All you had to do was plug the plane into the pump, try to break the pressure gauge, and let the plane fly off into a tree or a neighbor’s rooftop. It’s still a relatively interesting mechanism, and although we’re not going to see compressed air drones anytime soon it’s still a cool toy.

Since [Tom Stanton] is working at the intersection of small-scale aeronautics and 3D printing, he thought he would take a swing at building his own 3D printed air motor. This is an interesting challenge — the engine needs to be air-tight, and it needs to produce some sort of usable power. Is a standard printer up to the task? Somewhat surprisingly, yes.

The design of [Tom]’s motor is more or less the same as what is found in the Air Hogs motor from twenty years ago. A piston is attached to a crank, which is attached to a flywheel, in this case a propeller. Above the cylinder, a ball valve keeps the air from rushing in. A spring is mounted to the top of the piston which pushes the ball out of the way, allowing air into the cylinder. At the bottom of the stroke, the ball closes the valve and air escapes out of the bottom of the cylinder. Simple stuff, really, but can it be printed?

Instead of the usual printer [Tom] uses for his builds, he pulled out an old delta slightly modified for higher quality prints. Really, this is just a 0.2 mm nozzle and a few tweaks to the print settings, but the air motor [Tom] designed came out pretty well and was smoothed to a fine finish with acetone.

After assembling the motor, [Tom] hooked it up to a soda bottle serving as a compressed air reservoir. The motor worked, although it’s doubtful a plane powered with this motor would fly for very long. You can check out [Tom]’s video below.

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3D Printed Cookie Molds for the Best Speculoos

Experiencing nostalgia for the outstanding Belgian cuisine [Adam], currently stuck in Ohio, found himself in craving some home-made speculoos. For the uninitiated, speculoos is what those brown cookies usually served with coffee on planes dream of becoming one day.

To add some extra regional flavour, [Adam] decided to print his own molds featuring motifs from Brussels. The risks of 3D prints in the kitchen are the subject of a lively discussion. They are addressed in this project by recommending the use of food safe filament and sealant for the molds. The fact that the dough will be removed from the molds almost instantly and that the molds don’t go into the oven puts the risks in the vicinity of using plastic cutting boards in your kitchen.

[Adam]’s write up features solid, well illustrated baking instructions that should enable any of you to replicate this delicacy. Some links to additional references and two recipes are thrown in for good measure. The article finishes with detailed instructions for designing your own molds that take the properties of the medium into account, to ensure your custom motif will still be recognizable after baking. Line art with a stroke width of around 2-3 mm seems to work best. It is that time of year and we hope to see a lot more tricks to take your cookie and edible house designs to the next level so don’t forget to send in a tip.

With 3D printed molds having been used to shape resin, silicone and even metal, we are at a point where cookie dough looks like a natural progression.

Visual 3D Print Finishing Guide

With 3D printers now dropping to record low prices, more and more people are getting on the additive manufacturing bandwagon. As a long time believer in consumer-level desktop 3D printing, this is a very exciting time for me; the creativity coming out of places like Thingiverse or the 3D printing communities on Reddit is absolutely incredible. But the realist in me knows that despite what slick promotional material from the manufacturers may lead you to believe, these aren’t Star Trek-level replicators. What comes out of these machines is often riddled with imperfections (from small to soul crushing), and can require considerable cleanup work before they start to look like finished pieces.

If all you hope to get out of your 3D printer are some decent toy boats and some low-poly Pokemon, then have no fear. Even the most finicky of cheap printers can pump those out all day. But if you’re looking to build display pieces, cosplay props, or even prototypes that are worth showing to investors, you’ve got some work cut out for you.

With time, patience, and a few commercial products, you can accomplish the ultimate goal: turning a 3D printed object into something that doesn’t look like it was 3D printed. For the purposes of this demonstration I’ll be creating a replica of the mobile emitter used by the “Emergency Medical Hologram” in Star Trek: Voyager. I can neither confirm nor deny I selected this example due to the fact that I’m currently re-watching Voyager on Netflix. Let’s make it look good.

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UV Sensitive Filament As A Persistent Display

Some of the hacks we feature are modifications of existing devices, others are ground-up builds of entirely new ones. And then there are the experiments, things that have to be worth trying because they just might work. In this final category we have [Matt]’s work with  UV sensitive plastic to form the basis of a simple persistent display, which has created something best described as a proof-of-concept that shows promise, and definitely proves that he had an idea very much worth trying.

The idea makes use of a plastic that changes colour from white to purple when exposed to UV light. He 3D printed a waffle-like structure to locate over a 3×3 grid of UV LEDs, which he could then illuminate under the control of an Arduino Mini Pro. A short illumination changes the colour of the plastic above it, creating a “pixel” that persists for several seconds. In this he has created a working proof of concept for a very simple 3×3 matrix display, albeit rather an unwieldy one. The advantage the idea offers is that a relatively long time of display can be achieved for a relatively short LED illumination, giving a potential for power saving.

The proof-of-concept itself isn’t particularly useful, but from this idea it’s possible a larger display could be practically made. An array of surface-mount LEDs could perhaps illuminate a larger array of plastic to a greater resolution, it’s definitely an idea that was worth trying, and which shows promise for further pursuit. If you’d like to see it in action he’s posted a video, which we’ve placed below the break.

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Fluid Simulations in the Kitchen Sink

In an age of ultra-powerful GPUs and cheap processors, computational techniques which were once only available to those with a government-sized R&D budgets are now available to the everyday hacker. An example of industry buzzword turned desktop software is the field of “computational fluid dynamics”, which put simply allow modeling how gasses or liquids will behave when moving through a cavity under specific conditions. Extensive utilization of these fluid simulations are often cited as one of breakthrough techniques which allowed SpaceX to develop their engine technology so rapidly when compared to Apollo and Shuttle era methods.

But just because anyone with a decent computer has access to the technology used for developing rocket engines doesn’t mean they have to use it. What if you prefer to do things the old-fashioned way? Or what if, let’s me honest, you just can’t figure out how to use software like Autodesk CFD and OpenFOAM? That’s exactly where [Desi Quintans] found himself when developing GUST, his cooling duct for i3-type 3D printers.

[Desi] tried to get the big name fluid simulation projects working with his prototype designs for an improved cooling duct, but had no end of trouble. Either the learning curve was too steep, or the simulation wasn’t accurate enough to give him any useful data. But remembering that air is itself a fluid, [Desi] took his simulation from the computer to the sink in order to better visualize what his cooling duct was doing to the airflow.

[Desi] printed up a box with a hole in the bottom that would connect up to his nozzles under test. As the volume of water in the box would be a constant between tests, he reasoned that this would allow him to evaluate the different nozzles at the same pressure. Sure enough, he found that the original nozzle design he was using caused chaotic water flow, which backed up what he was seeing in his experiments when mounted onto the printer.

After several iterations he was able to tame the flow of water by using internal baffles and fins, which when tested in water created something of a laminar flow effect. When he tried this version on the printer, he saw a clear improvement in part cooling, verifying that the behavior of the air and water was close enough for his purposes.

We’ve seen other projects that successfully used fluid simulations in their design before, but the quick and dirty test procedure [Desi] came up with certainly has its charms.

IceSL is a Cool Slicer

The mechanical and electronic parts of a 3D printer are critical for success, but so is the slicing software. Slic3r and Cura are arguably the most popular, and how they command your printer has a lot to do with the results you can get. There are lots of other slicers out there both free and paid, but it is hard to really dig into each one of them to see if they are really better than whatever you are using today. If you are interested in the performance of IceSL — a free slicer for Windows and Linux — [DIY3DTECH] has a video review that can help you decide if you want to try it. You can see the video below.

IceSL has several modules and can actually do OpenSCAD-like modeling in Lua so you could — in theory — do everything in this one tool. The review, though, focuses only on the slicing aspect. In addition to the desktop client versions, you can use some features online (although on our Linux machine it didn’t work with the latest Chrome beta even with no add ons; Firefox worked great, though).

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Heat-Set Insert Jig Grants Threads to 3D Prints

FDM 3D prints might be coming home this holiday as seasonal ornaments, but with a few tweaks, they may even stand up to the tests of the real world as functional prototypes. Heat-Set inserts are one such tweak that we can drop into a print, and [Kurt] spares no expense at laying down a guide to get us comfortable with these parts. Here, he’s created a drill press adapter and modified his soldering iron to form an insert jig to start melting these parts into his next project.

Heat-set inserts grant us proper screw threads in any thermoplastic. Simply heat them up, stake them into your part, let cool, and: voila–a screw thread that’s firmly embedded into our part. We can load these inserts with clumsy hand tools, but why fumble and bumble with a hot soldering iron when we can adapt our drill press to do most of the tricky fixturing for us? That’s exactly what [Kurt] did here. With a 3D-printed adaptor, he’s letting his drill press (turned off!) hold the soldering iron so that he can use the lever to slowly stake the part into the 3D print. Finally, for no additional charge, [Kurt] turned down his soldering tip to mate cleanly into the insert for a cleaner removal.

We’ve seen adapters like this one before, but it’s never too often to get a reminder of the structural bonus that these parts can add to our 3D prints.