3D Prints Turn Any Keyboard Isomorphic

In the history of weird musical instrument interfaces, isomorphic keyboards are a favorite. These keyboards look like a grid of buttons, but when you play them, the relative shapes of chords are always the same. The benefit? Just say no to five hundred years of clavier tradition. It looks cool, too. Theoretically, it’s easier to play independent of whatever key you’re in. [John Moriarty] has built one of these isomorphic keyboards, and unlike everything we’ve ever seen, there are no electronics. It’s all 3D printable and turns any MIDI keyboard into an isomorphic keyboard.

We have seen isomorphic (piano) keyboards before, from a slew of Cherry keyboard switches to a bunch of arcade buttons. There is one downside to these builds, and that is that it’s really just building a MIDI controller. [John]’s build is simply a 3D printable overlay for a traditional piano that turns any standard keyboard into an isomorphic keyboard. The advantage being that this is really just a few pounds of plastic to be printed out and not a mess of wiring and electronics. Simple, removable, reversible. Not bad.

This keyboard effectively adds two differently colored keytops to each key on a keyboard. The best explination of how this keyboard works is in this video, but the basic idea is that all the note names are grouped together by color; C flat, C natural, and C sharp are all blue, for example. This means a third interval is two colors away, and a minor third is two colors to the right and one ‘row’ down. Yeah, it’s weird but that’s what an isomorphic keyboard is.

Since this is just a bunch of 3D printed parts meant to fit on any piano keybed, this is something that’s extremely easy to replicate. All the files for this keyboard overlay are available on Thingiverse, and [John] is offering to print these key tops for others without a 3D printer.

3D Printering: The Past And Future Of Prusa’s Slicer

If you own a desktop 3D printer, you’re almost certainly familiar with Slic3r. Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, there’s an excellent chance that a program you’ve used to convert STLs into the G-code your printer can understand was using Slic3r behind the scenes in some capacity. While there have been the occasional challengers, Slic3r has remained one of the most widely used open source slicers for the better part of a decade. While some might argue that proprietary slicers have pulled ahead in some respects, it’s hard to beat free.

So when Josef Prusa announced his team’s fork of Slic3r back in 2016, it wasn’t exactly a shock. The company wanted to offer a slicer optimized for their line of 3D printers, and being big proponents of open source, it made sense they would lean heavily on what was already available in the community. The result was the aptly named “Slic3r Prusa Edition”, or as it came to be known, Slic3r PE.

Ostensibly the fork enabled Prusa to fine tune print parameters for their particular machines and implement support for products such as their Multi-Material Upgrade, but it didn’t take long for Prusa’s developers to start fixing and improving core Slic3r functionality. As both projects were released under the GNU Affero General Public License v3.0, any and all of these improvements could be backported to the original Slic3r; but doing so would take considerable time and effort, something that’s always in short supply with community developed projects.

Since Slic3r PE still produced standard G-code that any 3D printer could use, soon people started using it with their non-Prusa printers simply because it had more features. But this served only to further blur the line between the two projects, especially for new users. When issues arose, it could be hard to determine who should take responsibility for it. All the while, the gap between the two projects continued to widen.

With a new release on the horizon that promised to bring massive changes to Slic3r PE, Josef Prusa decided things had reached a tipping point. In a recent blog post, he announced that as of version 2.0, their slicer would henceforth be known as PrusaSlicer. Let’s take a look at this new slicer, and find out what it took to finally separate these two projects.

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Go Back In Time With A Laser Cut Wood 3D Printer Kit

About a decade ago, the only way the average hacker was getting their hands on a desktop 3D printer was by building it themselves from a kit. Even then, to keep costs down, many of these kits were made out of laser cut wood. For a few years, wooden printers from companies like MakerBot and PrintrBot were a common sight in particularly well equipped hackerspaces. But as the market expanded and production went up, companies could afford to bend metal and get parts injection molded; the era of the wooden 3D printer was over nearly as soon as it had started.

But [Luke Wallace] thinks there’s still some life left in the idea. For his entry into the 2019 Hackaday Prize, he’s proposing a revival of the classic laser cut 3D printer kit. But this time, things are a bit different. Today, laser cutters are cheap enough that these kits could conceivably be manufactured at your local hackerspace. With a total bill of materials under $100 USD, these kits could be pumped out for less than the cheapest imports, potentially driving adoption in areas where the current options are too expensive or unavailable.

Of course, just a laser cut wood frame wouldn’t be enough to break the fabled $100 barrier. To drive the cost down even farther, [Luke] has redesigned essentially every component so it could be made out of wood. If its not electronic, there’s a good chance its going to be cut out of the same material the frame is made out of. Probably the biggest change is that the traditional belt and pulley system has been replaced with rack and pinion arrangements.

After cutting all the pieces, essentially all you need to provide is the stepper motors, a RAMPS controller, the hotend, and the extruder. He’s even got a design for a laser cut wood extruder if you want to go back to the real olden days and save yourself another few bucks. Or skip the LCD controller and just run it over USB.

But what do the prints look like? [Luke] has posted a few pictures of early test pieces on the project’s Hackaday.io page, and to be honest, they’re pretty rough. But they don’t look entirely unlike the kind of prints you’d get on one of those early printers before you really got it dialed in, so we’re interested in seeing how the results improve with further refinements and calibration. (Editor’s note: Since writing this, he got backlash compensation up and running, and it looks a ton better already. Very impressive for something running on wooden gears!)

A Compact Strain Wave Gear Assembly

Strain wave gearing is a clever way to produce a high-efficiency, high ratio gearbox within a small space. It involves an outer fixed ring of gear teeth and an inner flexible ring of teeth which are made to mesh with the outer by means of an oval rotor distorting the ring. They aren’t cheap, so [Leo Vu] has had a go at producing some 3D-printable strain wave gearboxes that you could use in your robotic projects.

He’s created his gearbox in three ratios, 1:31, 1:21 and 1:15. It’s not the most miniature of devices at 145mm in diameter and weighing well over a kilogram, but we can still imagine plenty of exciting applications for it. We’d be curious as to how tough a 3D printed gear can be, but we’d expect you’ll be interested in it for modest-sized robots rather than Formula One cars. There’s a video featuring the gearbox which we’ve placed below the break.

This certainly isn’t the first strain wave gearset we’ve brought you, more than one 3D printed project has graced these pages. We’ve even brought you a Lego version. Continue reading “A Compact Strain Wave Gear Assembly”

Transparent And Flexible Circuits

German researchers have a line on 3D printed circuitry, but with a twist. Using silver nanowires and a polymer, they’ve created flexible and transparent circuits. Nanowires in this context are only 20 nanometers long and only a few nanometers thick. The research hopes to print things like LEDs and solar cells.

Of course, nothing is perfect. The material has a sheet resistance as low as 13Ω/sq and the optical transmission was as high as 90%. That sounds good until you remember the sheet resistance of copper foil on a PCB is about 0.0005Ω.

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A Better Bowden Drive For Floppy Filaments

You might not think to use the word “rigid” to describe most 3D-printer filaments, but most plastic filaments are actually pretty stiff over a short length, stiff enough to be pushed into an extruder. Try the same thing with a softer plastic like TPE, though, and you might find yourself looking at this modified Bowden drive for elastomeric filaments.

The idea behind the Bowden drive favored by some 3D-printer designers is simple: clamp the filament between a motor-driven wheel and an idler to push it up a pipe into the hot end of the extruder. But with TPE and similar elastomeric filaments, [Tech2C] found that the Bowden drive on his Hypercube printer was causing jams and under-extrusion artifacts in finished prints. A careful analysis of the stock drive showed a few weaknesses, such as how much of the filament is not supported on the output side of the wheel. [Tech2C] reworked the drive to close that gap and also to move the output tube opening closer to the drive. The stock drive wheel was also replaced with a smaller diameter wheel with more aggressive knurling. Bolted to the stepper, the new drive gave remarkably improved results – a TPE vase was almost flawless with the new drive, while the old drive had blobs and artifacts galore. And a retraction test print showed no stringing at all with PLA, meaning the new drive isn’t just good for the soft stuff.

All in all, a great upgrade for this versatile and hackable little printer. We’ve seen the Hypercube before, of course – this bed height probe using SMD resistors as strain gauges connects to the other end of the Bowden drive.

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Microscope-Inspired Toolchanger Spins Multicolor 3D Prints

The 3D printing community is simply stirring with excitement over toolchanging printers, but these machines are still the exception rather than the norm. Here’s an exceptional exception: [Paul Paukstelis] built a five-color printer with a novel head-changing solution.

[Paul’s] 3D printer is a hat-tip to anyone who’s spent time in the wetlab. For starters, the printer is born from the remains of a former liquid handling system, a mighty surplus score. When it comes to headchanging, [Paul] combined some honest inspiration from E3D’s toolchanging videos with some design features borrowed from the microscope in his lab. The result is that the printer’s five-tool head-changer mechanically behaves very similarly to the nose piece in a compound light microscope.

Because the printer evolved from old lab equipment, [Paul] dubs his printer into a lineage that he calls the “Reclaimed Rapid-Prototyper,” or the RecRap. Best of all, he’s kindly posted up the CAD files on the Thingiverse such that you too can take a deep look into this head-changing solution.

We love seeing these tools get a second life, and we think there’s plenty of potential for new offspring in this lineage of discarded lab equipment.

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