Making Custom Gradient Markers At Home

When doing high-end industrial illustration work, smooth gradients add a lot of production value to the final product. However, markers designed to do this well can be difficult to lay your hands on. [Eric] decided to create his own set of custom gradient markers, using commonly available supplies.

Starting with some existing markers that have dried out, the fabric ink reservoir inside is removed. A new one is created using tampons wrapped in heat-shrink, to replicate the construction of the original. Alcohol-based ink is required for smooth gradients, and [Eric] suggests using a heat gun to harvest the ink from a ballpoint pen, if store-bought is not available. The ink is then mixed with denatured alcohol to dilute it and injected into the fabric reservoir using a syringe. Each marker gets a slightly different ink mix to hit a range of lightness values for making smooth gradients.

It’s a tidy way of creating your own gradient markers in whatever color you may find useful. As a plus, the materials to do so are cheap and easy to obtain. We could even imagine 3D-printed marker bodies being an option, though nibs might prove a touch more difficult. We’ve seen [Eric]’s work before too, like this well-illustrated guide to using cardboard in product design. Video after the break.

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Improving 3D Printed Supports With A Marker

Anyone who’s spent some quality time with a desktop 3D printer is familiar with the concept of supports. If you’re working with a complex model that has overhanging features, printing a “scaffolding” of support material around it is often required. Unfortunately, supports can be a pain to remove and often leave marks on the finished print that need to be addressed.

Looking to improve the situation, [Tumblebeer] has come up with a very unique modification to the traditional approach that we think is certainly worthy of closer examination. It doesn’t remove the need for support material, but it does make it much easier to remove. The method is cheap, relatively simple to implement, and doesn’t require multiple extruders or filament switching as is the case with something like water-soluble supports.

The trick is to use a permanent marker as a release agent between the top of the support and the area of the print it’s actually touching. The coating of marker prevents the two surfaces from fusing, while still providing the physical support necessary to keep the model from sagging or collapsing.

To test this concept, [Tumblebeer] has outfitted a Prusa i3 MK3S with a solenoid actuated marker holder that hangs off the side of the extruder assembly. The coil is driven from the GPIO pins of a Raspberry Pi running OctoPrint, and is engaged by a custom command in the G-code file. It keeps the marker out of the way during normal printing, and lowers it when its time to lay down the interface coating.

[Tumblebeer] says there’s still a bit of hand-coding involved in this method, and that some automated G-code scripts or a custom slicer plugin could streamline the process considerably. We’re very interested in seeing further community development of this concept, as it seems to hold considerable promise. Having a marker strapped to the side of the extruder might seem complex, but it’s nothing compared to switching out filaments on the fly.

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Measuring Sharpie Thickness… The Ink Itself, Not The Pen!

How we missed this one from a few years ago is unknown, but we’re glad to catch up with it now. Have you ever needed to measure how thick the ink in a Sharpie line is? Of course you haven’t. But if you needed to, how would you do it? Using a wicked-sensitive indicator gauge and levering an interesting test setup.

[Tom] from [oxtoolco] got his hands on a tool that measures in 1/10,000,000th (that’s one ten-millionth) increments and was wondering what kind of shenanigans you can do with this Lamborghini of dial indicators. It’s one thing to say you’re going to measure ink, but coming up with the method is the leap. In this case it’s a gauge block — a piece of precision ground metal with precise dimensions and perfectly perpendicular faces. By zeroing the indicator on the block, then adding lines from the Sharpie and measuring again, you can deduce the thickness of the ink markings.

After arraying diagonal lines on the gauge block it is placed lines-down under the dial indicator. This distributes the ink layer across a larger area, as probing the ink line directly would likely result in inaccurate readings. On that topic the gauge block is moved using pliers, as introducing heat from your fingers could result in expansion of the metal upsetting the readings.

The results? Black, blue, and red Sharpie were all tested, alongside blue and black Dykem layout fluid. Ten samples of each were run and the readings were all very close, save a couple of obvious outliers. Clocking in the thinnest is black Sharpie at about 118 millionths of an inch (~30 microns) and blue Dykem was the thickest at 314 millionths (86 microns). [Tom] quips that since we now know the thickness, you could even use ink as a shim.

If you can’t get enough Sharpie in your life, try it as an extremely satisfying add-on for your plasma cutter.

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Making Metal Dominoes

Nearly as versatile as a deck of playing cards, dominoes are a great addition to any rainy-day repertoire of game sets. [Apollo] from the Youtube channel [carbide3d] has manufactured for themselves a custom set of domino tiles replete with brass pips.

Cutting the bar stock to the appropriate size, [Apollo] ran a few test engravings and hole sizes for the brass pips. That done, all they had to do was repeat the engraving and milling process another couple dozen times, as well as all the requisite wet and dry sanding, and buffing. [Apollo] opted to use paint marker to add a little extra style to the tiles, and advises any other makers who want to do the same to set their engraving depth to .01″ so  the paint marker won’t be rubbed off when buffing the pieces.

When it came to installing the brass balls, [Apollo] undersized the holes by .001″-.002″ for a snug press fit — adding that the hole depth is a little greater than half the ball’s diameter. They used 1/8″ balls for the pips, and 3/16 balls for the center of the tiles which also allows the tiles to be spun for a bit of fidgeting fun during play. Check out the build video after the break.

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What You See Is What You (Laser) Cut

WYSIWYG editors revolutionized content management systems, will WYSIWYC interfaces do the same for laser cutters? Unlikely, but we still appreciate the concepts shown here. Chalkaat uses computer vision to trace lines drawn in ink with the cutting power of a laser.

At its core, you simply draw on your work piece with a colored marker and the camera system will ensure the laser traces this line exactly. There is even a proof of concept here for different behavior based on different line color, and the technique is not limited to white paper but can also identify and cut printed materials.

This is a spin on [Anirudh’s] first version which used computer vision with a projector to create a virtual interface for a laser cutter. This time around we can think of a few different uses for this. The obvious is the ability for anyone to use a laser cutter by drawing their designs by hand. Imagine introducing grade-school children to this type of technology by having them draw paper puppets and scenery in advance and have it cut in shop class for use in art projects.

A red arrow indicates cut line, but a pink arrow is used for indicating positioning on a work piece. The example shows a design from a cellphone etched next to a positioning marker. But we could see this used to position expensive things (like a Macbook) for etching. We also think the red marker could be used to make slight adjustments to cut pieces by scribing a work piece with the marker and having the laser cut it away.

This concept is a product of [Nitesh Kadyan] and [Anirudh Sharma] at the Fluid Interfaces group at the MIT Media Lab and is something we could see being built into future laser cutter models. What do you think?

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Draw Your Own Vinyl Beats

 

The Dyskograf lets you make music with a magic marker. The musical installation looks much like a turntable for playing vinyl records. But instead of a spiraling groove containing the sounds, this uses marks on a paper disk to play sound samples.

You can see the light outline of several tracks on the paper disc shown above. By adding black marks the optical input of the Dyskograf knows when to start and end each sound. This is best illustrated in the video demonstration after the break.

The marker-based setup makes a lot of sense, and we think it would be perfect if the disc was a dry-erase board. It certainly makes it a lot easier to lay down new beats than this other optical turntable which required holes to be drilled in a vinyl record to play the sounds. While we’re on the topic you may also find this coin-based turntable sequencer of interest.

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Digital Marker Communicates With Touch Screen

In an effort to be more relevant to children that just aren’t impressed with crayons and markers anymore, Crayola released the ColorStudio HD pen. Instead of ink, this pen is filled with electronics that communicate with a tablet to draw different colors in the Crayola ColorStudio app.

[Rob Hemsley] had done some work with capacitive touch screens before, so when he heard the clicking of a tiny relay inside the pen, he automatically knew how it worked. Of course this meant tearing apart the Crayola marker to look at the electronics, but [Rob] also went so far as to replace the microcontroller, allowing you to craft your own ColorStudio HD pen.

The digital Crayola marker communicates with the app by switching a relay on and off very quickly. This completes a circuit between the user’s hand and the touch screen, allowing the tablet to interpret the desired color by measuring how many touches are received per second.

Inside the pen, [Rob] found an RGB LED, a relay, and a PIC microcontroller. Not having any experience with PICs, [Rob] changed out the ‘micro to an ATtiny44 and started writing some firmware with the help of the Arduino IDE.

[Rob]’s updated version functions exactly like the stock version, communicating with the Crayola app by pulsing the relay to indicate the selected color. Even though the Crayola app only has three possible colors, [Rob] says it’s feasible to program the digital pen to send an RGB color value to a tablet, allowing you to choose what color to draw with on the pen.

You can see a video of [Rob]’s updated pen after the break.

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