OpenSCAD: Tieing It Together With Hull()

What’s your favorite OpenSCAD command? Perhaps it’s intersection() or difference()? Or are you a polygon() and extrude() modeler? For me, the most useful, and maybe most often overlooked, function is hull(). Hull() does just what it says on the can — creates a convex hull around the objects that are passed to it as children — but that turns out to be invaluable.

Hull() solves a number of newbie problems: making things round and connecting things together. And with a little ingenuity, hull() can provide a nearly complete modelling strategy all on its own. If you use OpenSCAD and your creations end up with hard edges, or you spend too much time figuring out angles, or if you just want to experience another way to get the job done, read on!

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Repairs You Can Print: Broken Glue Gun Triggers Replacement

Picture this: you need to buy a simple tool like a glue gun. There’s usually not a whole lot going on in that particular piece of technology, so you base your decision on the power rating and whether it looks like it will last. And it does last, at least for a few years—just long enough to grow attached to it and get upset when it breaks. Sound familiar?

[pixelk] bought a glue gun a few years ago for its power rating and its claims of strength. Lo and behold, the trigger mechanism has proven to be weak around the screws. The part that pushes the glue stick into the hot end snapped in two.

It didn’t take much to create a replacement. [pixelk] got most of the measurements with calipers and then got to work in OpenSCAD. After printing a few iterations, it fit well enough, but [pixelk] saw a chance to improve on the original design and added a few teeth where the part touches the glue stick. The new part has been going strong for three months.

We think this entry into our Repairs You Can Print contest is a perfect example of the everyday utility of 3D printers. Small reproducible plastic parts are all around us, just waiting to fail. The ability to not only replace them but to improve on them is one of the brightest sides of our increasingly disposable culture.

Still haven’t found a glue gun you can stick to? Try building your own.

When a Skimmer Isn’t a Skimmer

I have a confession to make: ever since the first time I read about them online, I’ve been desperate to find an ATM skimmer in the wild. It’s the same kind of morbid curiosity that keeps us from turning away from a car accident, you don’t want to be witness to anyone getting hurt, but there’s still that desire to see the potential for danger up close. While admittedly my interest is largely selfish (I already know on which shelf I would display it), there would still be tangible benefits to the community should an ATM skimmer cross my path. Obviously I would remove it from the machine and prevent others from falling prey to it, and the inevitable teardown would make interesting content for the good readers of Hackaday. It’s a win for everyone, surely fate should be on my side in this quest.

So when my fingers brushed against that unmistakable knobby feel of 3D printed plastic as I went to insert my card at a local ATM, my heart skipped a beat. After all these years, my dream had come true. Nobody should ever be so excited about potentially being a victim of fraud, but there I was, grinning like an idiot in the farmer’s market. Like any hunter I quickly snapped a picture of my quarry for posterity, and then attempted to free it from the host machine.

But things did not go as expected. I spend most of my free time writing blog posts for Hackaday, so it’s safe to say that physical strength is not an attribute I possess in great quantity, but even still it seemed odd I couldn’t get the skimmer detached. I yanked it in every direction, tried to spin it, did everything short of kicking it; but absolutely no movement. In fact, I noticed that when pulling on the skimmer the whole face plate of the ATM bulged out a bit. I realized this thing wasn’t just glued onto the machine, it must have actually been installed inside of it.

I was heartbroken to leave my prize behind, but at the very least I would be able to alert the responsible party. The contact info for the ATM’s owner was written on the machine, so I emailed them the picture as well as all the relevant information in hopes that they could come check the machine out before anyone got ripped off.

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Try This for 3D Printing Without Support

Have a look at the object to the right. Using a conventional fused deposition printer, how would you print the object? There’s no flat surface to lay on the bed without generating a lot of overhangs. That usually requires support.

In theory, you might be able to print the bottom of the sphere down, but it is difficult to get that little spot to adhere to the bed. If you have at least two extruders and you are set up to print support material, that might even be the best option. However, printing support out of the same material you are printing with makes it hard to get a good clean print. There is another possibility. It does require some post-processing, but then again, not as much as hacking away a bunch of support material.

A Simple Idea

The idea is simple and — at first — it will sound like a lot of trouble. The basic idea is to cut the model in half at some point where both halves would be easy to print and then glue them together.  Stick around (no pun intended), though, because I’ll show you a way to make the alignment of the parts almost painless no matter how complex the object might be.

The practical problem with gluing together half models is getting the pieces in the exact position, but that turns out to be easy if you just make a few simple changes to your model. Another lesser problem is clamping a piece while gluing. You can use a vise, but some oddly-shaped parts are not conducive to traditional vise jaws.

In Practice

Starting with an OpenSCAD object, it is easy to cut the model in half. Actually, you could cut it anywhere. Then it is easy to rotate half of it so the cut line is at the bottom of each part. That doesn’t solve the alignment problem nor does it help you clamp when you glue.

The trick is to build a flange around each part. The flanges mate with a few screws after printing so alignment is perfect and bolts through the flange holes can keep the parts together and immobilized while your glue of choice sets. The kicker is that I even have an automated process to make the design side of this trick very easy.

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If 3D Printer, Then Custom Aluminum Extrusion Brackets

Aluminum extrusions are a boon for mechanical assemblies, but they require a stock of brackets and other hardware to be kept on hand. [mightynozzle] has decided to make things a little easier for prototyping and low-stress assemblies by creating a collection of 3D printable brackets for aluminum extrusions. 3D printing your own bracket hardware means faster prototyping, and if the assemblies don’t need the extra strength and rigidity of metal brackets you can just stick with the 3D printed versions.

The files are on Thingiverse, and include STL files of common brackets as well as an OpenSCAD script for customizing. Not familiar with OpenSCAD? No problem, we have a quick primer with examples.

This project showcases two things well. The first is that while brackets are not particularly expensive or hard to obtain, it can still be worth 3D printing them to reduce the overall amount of hardware one needs to keep on hand to make prototyping faster. The other is that 3D printing can shine when it comes to the creation of things like brackets: a few dimes’ worth of plastic can be turned into precise yet geometrically simple objects that would be a pain to make by other means. It certainly beats sitting on one’s hands waiting for parts to be delivered.

Making Rubber Stamps with OpenSCAD

There’s an old saying that goes “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, but around these parts a better version might be “If you can’t buy ’em, make ’em”. A rather large portion of the projects that have graced these pages have been the product of a hacker or maker not being able to find a commercial product to fit their needs. Or at the very least, not being able to find one that fit their budget.

GitHub user [harout] was in the market for some rubber stamps to help children learn the Armenian alphabet, but couldn’t track down a commercially available set. With a 3D printer and some OpenSCAD code, [harout] was able to turn this commercial shortcoming into a DIY success story.

Filling the molds with urethane rubber.

Rather than having to manually render each stamp, he was able to come up with a simple Bash script that calls OpenSCAD with the “-D” option. When this option is passed to OpenSCAD, it allows you to override a particular variable in the .scad file. A single OpenSCAD file is therefore able to create a stamp of any letter passed to it on the command line. The Bash script uses this option to change the variable holding the letter, renders the STL to a unique file name, and then moves on to the next letter and repeats the process.

This procedural generation of STLs is a fantastic use of OpenSCAD, and is certainly not limited to simple children’s stamps. With some improvements to the code, the script could take any given string and font and spit out a ready to print mold.

With a full set of letter molds generated, they could then be printed out and sealed with a spray acrylic lacquer. A mold release was applied to each sealed mold, and finally they were filled with approximately 200ml of Simpact urethane rubber from Smooth-On. Once the rubber cures, he popped them out of the molds and glued them onto wooden blocks. The end result looks just as good as anything you’d get from an arts and crafts store.

The process used here is very similar to the 3D printed cookie molds we’ve covered recently, though we have to assume these little morsels would not be nearly as tasty. Of course, if you had access to a small CNC machine you could cut the stamps out of the rubber directly and skip the mold step entirely.

Cheap Flamethrower Is Predictably Worrying

We’d never criticize somebody for coming up with a creative way to save a few bucks. In truth, pickings would be pretty slim around here if we deleted every project or hack where cost savings was a prime motivator. That being said, there’s still some things you should probably spend a few extra dollars on. You know, the essential things in life that you need to know will be safe and reliable, like your car and…your flamethrower.

While we don’t have any information about what kind of car [Steve Hernandez] is driving, but over on Hackaday.io, he’s posted some info about his 3D printed wrist-mounted flamethrower. The final result does look pretty impressive, but given the subject matter and the lack of any safety gear, we would firmly plant it in the “Don’t try this at home” category.

At the heart of this flamethrower is a solenoid valve recovered from a Glade air freshener. Rather than spraying out the smell of lilacs, this valve has found a new purpose in life by squirting out butane from a pressurized can. The butane is then ignited by a spark gap made up two nails connected to a 300 kV boost coil.

[Steve] designed the frame of this creation in OpenSCAD, and printed it out in a single piece. It holds the butane can and solenoid in position, as well as keeping the nails in the proper orientation for the spark gap to function. Admittedly the head of his printed flamethrower does look very cool, but if there was ever a situation where you should be suspect of the heat tolerance of 3D printed plastic, a flamethrower is probably it.

What’s noticeably lacking of course is any method to keep the flame from potentially traveling back up through the valve and into the butane can. The high-speed flow coming out of the nozzle is probably enough to keep that from happening, but we still wouldn’t feel comfortable strapping his device to our wrist as-is.

You may be surprised to find that wrist-mounted flamethrowers are a relatively popular project here at Hackaday. We’ve covered quite a few over the years, but still aren’t convinced this is something we personally need to add to our collection of gear.