Why You Need To Finish

Mike and I were talking about an interesting smart-glasses hack on the podcast. This was one of those projects where, even if you don’t need a pair of glasses with LEDs on them to help you navigate around, you just couldn’t help but marvel at a lot of the little design choices made throughout.

For instance, I love the way the flex PCB is made to do double duty by wrapping around the battery and forming a battery holder. This struck me as one of those quintessential hacks that only occurs to you because you need it. Necessity is the mother of invention, and all that. There was a problem, how to fit a battery holder in the tiny space, and a set of resources that included a flex PCB substrate. Cleverly mashing that all together ended up with a novel solution. This wouldn’t occur to you if you were just sitting at the beach; you’d have to be designing something electronic, space-constrained, and on a flex PCB to come up with this.

Mike made an offhand comment about how sometimes you just need to finish a project for the good ideas and clever solutions that you’ll come up with along the way, and I think this battery holder example drives that point home. I can’t count the number of my projects that may or may not have been dumb in retrospect, but along the way I came up with a little trick that I’ll end up using in many further projects, outliving the original application.

Finishing up a project on principle is a reasonable goal just on its own. But when the process of seeing something to conclusion is the generator of new and interesting challenges and solutions, it’s even more valuable. So if you’re stuck on a project, and not sure you want to take it all the way, consider if the journey itself could be the destination, and look at it as an opportunity to come up with that next long-lasting trick.

Bad News: Arecibo

If you read the newsletter last week, you heard me wondering aloud if the damage to Arecibo Observatory had crossed the threshold into where it’s no longer economically viable to keep it running, and the sad news has just come in and the battle for Arecibo has been lost. We said we’d shed a tear, and here we are. Sic transit gloria mundi. Here’s hoping something cooler replaces it!

Sanding Seashells By The Seashore

We all maintain this balancing act between the cool things we want, the money we can spend, and our free time. When the pièce de résistance is a couple of orders of magnitude out of our budget, the only question is, “Do I want to spend the time to build my own?” [Nick Charlton] clearly answered “Yes,” and documented the process for his Nautilus speakers. The speaker design was inspired by Bowers & Wilkins and revised from a previous Thingiverse model which is credited.

The sound or acoustic modeling is not what we want to focus on since the original looks like something out of a sci-fi parody. We want to talk about the smart finishing touches that transform a couple of 3D printed shells into enviable centerpieces. The first, and most apparent is the surface. 3D prints from consumer FDM printers are prone to layer lines, and that aesthetic has ceased to be trendy. Textured paint will cover them nicely and requires minimal elbow grease. Besides sand and shells go together naturally. At first glance, the tripod legs holding these speakers seemed like a classy purchase from an upscale furniture store, but they are, in fact, stained wood and ground-down bolts. Nicely done.

The moral is to work smarter, take pictures, then drop us a line.

Bringing Fiction To Life With 3D Printing

I print something nearly every day, and over the last few years, I’ve created hundreds of practical items. Parts to repair my car, specialized tools, scientific instruments, the list goes on and on. It’s very difficult for me to imagine going back to a time where I didn’t have the ability to rapidly create and replicate physical objects at home. I can say with complete honesty that it has been an absolutely life-changing technology for me, personally.

But to everyone else in my life, my friends and family, 3D printers are magical boxes which can produce gadgets, weapons, and characters from their favorite games and movies. Nobody wants to see the parts I made to get my girlfriend’s 1980’s Honda back on the road before she had to go to work in the morning, they want to see the Minecraft block I made for my daughter. I can’t get anyone interested in a device I made to detect the algal density of a sample of water, but they all want me to run off a set of the stones from The Fifth Element for them.

As I recently finished just such a project, a 3D printed limpet mine from Battlefield 1, I thought I would share some thoughts on the best practices for turning fiction into non-fiction.

Continue reading “Bringing Fiction To Life With 3D Printing”

3D Printing Brings A Child’s Imagination To Life

Telling somebody that you’re going to make their dreams come true is a bold, and potentially kind of creepy, claim. But it’s one of those things that isn’t supposed to be taken literally; it doesn’t mean that you’re actually going to peer into their memories, extract an idea, and then manifest it into reality. That’s just crazy talk, it’s a figure of speech.

Original sketch of the CURV II

As it turns out, there’s at least one person out there who didn’t get the memo. Remembering how his father always told him about the elaborate drawings of submarines and rockets he did as a young boy, [Ronald] decided to 3D print a model of one of them as a gift. Securing his father’s old sketchpad, he paged through until he found a particularly well-developed idea of a personal sub called the CURV II.

The final result looks so incredible that we hear rumors manly tears may have been shed at the unveiling. As a general rule you should avoid making your parents cry, but if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it in style.

Considering that his father was coming up with detailed schematics for submarines in his pre-teen days, it’s probably no surprise [Ronald] has turned out to be a rather accomplished maker himself. He took the original designs and started working on a slightly more refined version of the CURV II in SolidWorks. Not only did he create a faithful re-imagining of his father’s design, he even went as far as adding an interior as well as functional details such as the rear hatch. Continue reading “3D Printing Brings A Child’s Imagination To Life”