In our vernacular, bricking something is almost never good. It implies that something has gone very wrong indeed, and that your once-useful and likely expensive widget is now about as useful as a brick. Given their importance to civilization, that seems somewhat unfair to bricks, but it gets the point across.
It turns out, though, that bricks can play an important role in 3D-printing in terms of both noise control and print quality. As [Stefan] points out in the video below, living with a 3D printer whirring away on a long print can be disturbing, especially when the vibrations of the stepper motors are transmitted into and amplified by a solid surface, like a benchtop. He found that isolating the printer from the resonant surface was the key. While the stock felt pad feet on his Original Prusa i3 Mk 3S helped, the best results were achieved by building a platform of closed-cell packing foam and a concrete paver block. The combination of the springy foam and the dampening mass of the paver brought the sound level down almost 8 dBA.
[Stefan] also thoughtfully tested his setups on print quality. Machine tools generally perform better with more mass to damp unwanted vibration, so it stands to reason that perching a printer on top of a heavy concrete slab would improve performance. Even though the difference in quality wasn’t huge, it was noticeable, and coupled with the noise reduction, it makes the inclusion of a paver and some scraps of foam into your printing setup a no-brainer.
Not content to spend just a couple of bucks on a paver for vibration damping? Then cast a composite epoxy base for your machine — either with aluminum or with granite.
Due to social distancing, gym rats throughout the world are turning everyday objects into exercise equipment to keep up the routine without actually hitting the gym. A particularly pleasing version of this are these concrete dumbbells whipped up by the unfortunately named hacker [ShitnamiTidalWave].
If you happen to have half a bag of concrete — quick set or otherwise — out in the shed you can follow the lead on this one. But even if you’re not the kind of person who has “arm day” on your calendar (most of us here in the Hackaday bunker do not) this hack is still worth your time. Mold making is one of the uber-useful skills you should have in your hacker toolkit and [ShitnamiTidalWave] has done both an excellent job of building a mold, and of explaining the process.
Raw material for this one couldn’t be easier; each mold is made out of plywood, 2×4 stud, and nails, along with handles made of 3/4″ PVC pipe. The studs were ripped down and used to create the 45 degree chamfers at each edge. Mold-making veterans will tell you that release agent is a must and in this case rubbing the insides of the molds with wax made it a snap to pry the wooden forms off of the set concrete.
In the world of additive manufacturing, there’s always need materials being added to the list of potential filaments to use for printing objects. A method of rapid liquid printing of concrete designed by [Anatoly Berezkin] of Stoneflower 3D makes it possible to print a large variety of shapes from concrete while avoiding the negative effects of fast dehydration. The technique is based on an approach to printing polyurethanes, developed by MIT in 2017. This technique requires physically drawing a 3D object within a gel suspension using a chemical curing process. The gel allows gravity to not affect the printing process, as well as helping out with the curinng. Berezkin, an engineer and hobbyist working out of his garage, has published other work including print heads, ceramic printing, and micro printing sets.
One might be skeptical of whether the weight of the material could cause potential collapse during the printing process, or whether it is simply unrealistic to print objects given the time needed for the concrete to dry. Their demo shows the process being done in household items – bowls and tupperware – combining affordable items such as clay, concrete, and sand for the matrix and mortar. The viscous clay is strong enough to act as a good scaffold for keeping the concrete structure in place as it is being printed. As their video demonstrates, at least for simply objects, the process seems relatively fast.
RLPC doesn’t require toxic chemicals or proprietary components such as gels and suspensions. Its immersion of the final printed object in a humid environment is also superior to the standard process of liquid deposition for hardening concrete. Moreover, the process simply requires clay or retarded mortar for the matrix and mortar paste for turning into concrete. It’s advertised as eco-friendly, but just the simplicity of the materials needed for the matrix and mortar make this a promising technique.
Although it’s possible to buy a soldering setup out of the box, the one that works for you will likely develop over time. Honestly, it may never stop evolving. Sure, you can start with el-cheapo helping hands or a nice hobby vise, but it probably won’t end there. Why? Because no one of these tools will be right for all applications, unless you plan to solder the same thing over and over again. Sometimes it’s just easier to alligator clip a board in place than to slowly manipulate the jaws of a vise, but those helping hands have such a limited range of motion.
Have you been meaning to build a soldering squid out of coolant hose because that stuff just looks so dang cool and bendy? Well, then let Hackaday alum [JeremySCook] show you how it can be done. A few years ago he built a similar squid with a wooden base, but it just isn’t heavy enough, so he redesigned it with a concrete base. He took the opportunity to make some nice tweaks, like zip-tying a small PC fan and 9 V to make an endlessly repositionable ventilation system, and adding a big clip in the back for extra stability while soldering. And of course, threading the solder spool on to one of the hoses is genius.
If you follow [Jeremy] at all, you know he’s been playing around with concrete for a while now, and it’s neat to see him cement his devotion to the stuff by using it in the pursuit of better tools. He’s got the files for the printed mold up on GitHub, and the build video after the break should be all set up by now.
If the current Administration of the United States has their way, humans will return to the surface of the Moon far sooner than many had expected. But even if NASA can’t meet the aggressive timeline they’ve been given by the White House, it seems inevitable that there will be fresh boot prints on the lunar surface within the coming decades. Between commercial operators and international competition, we’re seeing the dawn of a New Space Race, with the ultimate goal being the long-term habitation of our nearest celestial neighbor.
But even with modern technology, it won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t be cheap. While commercial companies such as SpaceX have significantly reduced the cost of delivering payloads to the Moon, we’ll still need every advantage to ensure the economical viability of a lunar outpost. One approach is in situ resource utilization, where instead of transporting everything from Earth, locally sourced materials are used wherever possible. This technique would not only be useful on the Moon, but many believe it will be absolutely necessary if we’re to have any chance of sending a human mission to Mars.
One of the most interesting applications of this concept is the creation of a building material from the lunar regolith. Roughly analogous to soil here on Earth, regolith is a powdery substance made up of grains of rock and micrometeoroid fragments, and contains silicon, calcium, and iron. Mixed with water, or in some proposals sulfur, it’s believed the resulting concrete-like material could be used in much the same way it is here on Earth. Building dwellings in-place with this “lunarcrete” would be faster, cheaper, and easier than building a comparable structure on Earth and transporting it to the lunar surface.
Now, thanks to recent research performed aboard the International Space Station, we have a much better idea of what to expect when those first batches of locally-sourced concrete are mixed up on the Moon or Mars. Of course, like most things related to spaceflight, the reality has proved to be a bit more complex than expected.
Today, it can feel like you’re always connected to the grid. We’re constantly alerted to notifications from smart phones, smart watches, and our houses have begun to swell with all manner of internet-enabled devices. [Jake P] wanted a less connected lifestyle, and built a shelf to help realise that goal.
The idea of [Jake]’s Analog Smart Shelf is to serve as a digital check point in his home. It’s a name that more reflects the ethos of the shelf rather than the components. The shelf contains a Qi wireless charging platform, so smartphones can be placed on the shelf when entering the house and left to charge. The shelf also conceals an Amazon Fire tablet behind woodgrain veneer, which displays the time, weather, and basic notification data. This enables [Jake] to see relevant digital information at a glance, while being able to switch off from the online world by simply walking away.
In a lot of fields – motorsport, space exploration, wearables – lighter is better. But it’s not always the case. When you want to damp vibration, stop things moving around, and give things a nice weighty feel, heavier is the way to go. This is the case for things like machine tools, anvils, and yes – speakers. Using this philosophy, [SoundBlab] built a set of concrete speakers. (Youtube link, embedded below)
The concrete speaker enclsosures are sized for 3″ drivers, and were cast using two measuring jugs as the mold. This gave the final product a smooth and glossy surface finish, thanks to the surface of the plastic used. The concrete was also agitated during the casting process to minimise the presence of air bubbles in the mixture.
Once cast, the enclosures are fitted with plywood end caps which mount the Fountek FE85 speaker drivers. These are a full-range driver, meaning no cross-overs or other drivers are required. The speakers are then mounted on stands constructed from wood edging, which are stained in a contrasting colour for a nice aesthetic touch. Felt pads are placed on the base, and polyfill inside the enclosure to further minimise any unwanted vibrations.