Folding Raspberry Pi Enclosure Prints In One Piece, No Screws In Sight

[jcprintnplay] has challenged himself to making Raspberry Pi cases in different ways, and his Fold-a-Pi enclosure tries for a “less is more” approach while also leveraging the strong points of 3D printing. The enclosure prints as a single piece in about 3 hours, and requires no additional hardware whatsoever.

The design requires no screws or other fasteners, and provides a mounting hole for a fan as well as some holes for mounting the enclosure itself to something. All the ports and headers are accessible, and the folding one-piece design is not just a gimmick; in a workshop situation where the Pi needs to be switched out or handled a lot, it takes no time at all to pop the Raspberry Pi in and out of the enclosure.

Microsoft’s 3D Builder has a pretty useful measurement tool for STLs.

[James] points out that the trick with a print-in-place hinge like this is leaving enough space between the parts so that the two pieces aren’t fused together, but not so much space that the print fails. He doesn’t go into detail about how much space worked or didn’t work, but an examination of the downloadable model shows that the clearance used looks like 0.30 mm, intended to be printed with a 0.4 mm nozzle.

[James] also demonstrates the value of being able to do quick iterations on a design when prototyping. In a video (embedded below) The first prototype had the hinge not quite right. In the second prototype there was a lack of clearance when closing. The third one solved both and shows the final design.

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3D Printable Kinematic Couplings, Ready To Use

Time may bring change, but kinematic couplings don’t. This handy kinematic couplings resource by [nickw] was for a design contest a few years ago, but what’s great is that it includes ready-to-use models intended for 3D printing, complete with a bill of materials (and McMaster-Carr part numbers) for hardware. The short document is well written and illustrated with assembly diagrams and concise, practical theory. The accompanying 3D models are ready to be copied and pasted anywhere one might find them useful.

What are kinematic couplings? They are a way to ensure that two parts physically connect, detach, and re-connect in a precise and repeatable way. The download has ready-to-use designs for both a Kelvin and Maxwell system kinematic coupling, and a more advanced design for an optomechanical mount like one would find in a laser system.

The download from Pinshape requires a free account, but the models and document are licensed under CC – Attribution and ready to use in designs (so long as the attribution part of the license is satisfied, of course.) Embedded below is a short video demonstrating the coupling using the Maxwell system. The Kelvin system is similar.

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Concentric Rings Keep This Calendar Perpetually Up To Date

The variety of ways that people find to show the passage of time never ceases to amaze us. Just when you think you’ve seen them all, someone comes up with something new and unusual, like the concentric rings of this automated perpetual calendar.

What we really like about the design that [tomatoskins] came up with is both its simplicity and its mystery. By hiding the mechanism, which is just a 3D-printed internal ring gear attached to the back of each ring, it invites people in to check it out closely and discover more. Doing so reveals that each ring is hanging from a pinion gear on a small stepper motor, which rotates it to the right point once a day or once a month. Most of the clock is made from wood, with the rings themselves made using the same technique that woodturners use to create blanks for turning bowls — or a Death Star. We love the look the method yields, although it could be even cooler with contrasting colors and grains for each segment. And there’s nothing stopping someone from reproducing this with laser-cut parts, or adding rings to display the time too.

Another nice tip in this write up is the trick [tomatoskins] used to label the rings, by transferring laser-printed characters from paper to wood using nothing but water-based polyurethane wood finish. That’s one to file away for another day.

New (mis)Use For Lithophanes: Miniature Diorama Backgrounds

What’s better than a well-lit photo of a 3D-printed miniature? A photo of the miniature in a mini diorama, of course. [OrionDeHunter] shows off a clever technique that has something in common with old-timey photo stages and painted backgrounds, and (mis)uses 3D-printed lithophanes to pull it off. What [OrionDeHunter] does is use a curved and painted lithophane as a stand-in for a background, and the results look great!

Lithophanes are intended to be illuminated from behind to show an image, with thin areas showing as lighter and thicker areas darker, but when it comes to high contrast patterned images like brick walls, the same things that make a good lithophane just happen to also make a pretty good 3D model in the normal sense. No 3D scanning or photogrammetry required.

Here is the basic process: instead of creating a 3D model of a brick wall from scratch, [OrionDeHunter] simply converted an image of a brick wall (or stairs) into a curved lithophane with an online tool. The STL model of the lithophane is then 3D printed, painted, and used as a swappable background. When macro shots of the miniatures are taken, the curved background looks just right and allows for some controlled lighting. It’s a neat trick, and well applied in this project. Some sample images demonstrating how it works are just under the break.

Lithophanes were originally made using marble or thin porcelain, but a modern spin has been put on the technique with 3D printing. Enterprising hackers have even discovered ways to add color, too.

Slothbot Lives Up To Its Name

For moving about in the real world, robots can crawl along the ground or take to the sky. Both options have disadvantages, with obstacles being a problem on the ground and flying being very energy intensive. What we don’t often see are robots that move along aerial cables, which can offer the best of both worlds for certain use cases. Taking inspiration from a sloth’s slow and efficient movement through the trees, researchers from Georgia Tech¬†created a robot to crawl slowly along a cable network and monitor the world around it, and of course named it Slothbot.

The cable switching mechanism

Slothbot trades speed for efficiency, letting it operate for very long periods on solar power alone. It does require the set up and maintenance of a cable network, but that brings the advantage of no obstacles, and the ability to stop and recharge. To us the most interesting feature is the cable switching mechanism, that allows it to navigate its way along a web of interconnected cables.

Ring gears with a section removed hold the upper part of the pulley mechanism, but can rotate it’s opening to the left or right to allow an interconnecting cable to pass through,¬† The body is in two pieces, with an actuated hinge in the middle to allow it to turn onto a different cable section. Each section of the body also has a powered wheel which pushes up against the cable and moves the robot along slowly. Not surprisingly, researchers say that making the cable switching mechanism reliable is the biggest challenge. It does look like the current design would not work well with thicker cable joints. Watch the video after the break for a better look at the mechanism Continue reading “Slothbot Lives Up To Its Name”

Dremel Workstation’s New Job: Applying Threaded Inserts With Cheap Soldering Iron

Dremel has been helping people fit square pegs into round holes for years, and [concretedog] saw that the Dremel 220 Workstation — a piece of hardware similar to a drill press — could be convinced to hold a cheap soldering iron just as easily as it holds a rotary tool. A soldering iron makes an effective thermal insert tool, and the job of heating and pressing the threaded metal rings into plastic is made much easier when it can be done similar to operating a drill press. With a few modifications and a 3D-printed adapter, the thermal insert rig was born.

Whenever one is working around a design that already exists, it pays to be flexible and adjust to the unexpected. The Dremel 220 has a holder intended to clamp a rotary tool, and the original plan was to simply design and print an adapter so a soldering iron could sit in place of the rotary tool. That plan changed upon realizing that the entire rotary tool holder disconnected from the tool’s frame with a single bolt. It made much more sense to make the soldering iron replace the rotary tool holder, instead.

The resulting modified soldering iron is mounted via standoffs to a 3D-printed adapter with a copper foil heat shield. [concretedog] admits it’s not ideal from a heat management perspective, but it makes a fine prototype that seems to work well for light duty. The next step would be a metal version.

If you’re intrigued by threaded heat-set inserts, you can learn all about how to use them from Joshua Vasquez’s guide to the handy things. And should you prefer to make your own DIY press from 3D printed parts and off-the-shelf hardware, we have that covered as well.

External Battery Mod For Action Camera Does It Non-destructively

[Facelesstech] owns an SJCAM SJ4000 action camera, but the internal battery was no longer functional. Not wishing to buy a replacement and unwilling to hook up an ungainly USB cable to feed power, the solution was to design and 3D print an adapter to power the camera from a single rechargeable 14500 sized battery (which is the same size as an AA cell, and a good match for the width of the camera.)

The adapter works by mimicking the original battery, so the camera never knows the difference. A 3D-printed holder for the 14500 battery (which doubles as a GoPro compatible mount) has an extension the same size and shape of the camera’s original internal battery. The tricky part was interfacing to the power connectors buried inside the camera’s battery bay. For a solution, [Facelesstech] eventually settled on the small connectors harvested from inside a female header, using them to connect to the small blades inside the camera. We broke open a spare female 0.1″ header, shown here, to make it clear where these little pieces come from. The only other battery hardware needed are the contacts for an AA cell, but those are also easy to harvest and reuse.

The GitHub repository for the project includes STL files as well as the FreeCAD files for the parts. A video overview is embedded below.

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