3D-Printed Desiccant Container Exploits Infill

Desiccant is common in 3D printing because the drier plastic filament is, the better it prints. Beads of silica gel are great for controlling humidity, but finding a porous container for them that is a convenient size is a little harder. 3D printing is a generally useful solution for custom containers, but suffers from a slight drawback in this case: printing dense grills or hole patterns is not very efficient for filament-based printers. Dense hole patterns means lots of stopping and starting for the extruder, which means a lot of filament retractions and longer print times in general.

The green model is used as a modifier to the orange container (of which only the corners are left visible here)

[The_Redcoat]’s solution to this is to avoid hole patterns or grills altogether, and instead print large wall sections of the container as infill-only, with no perimeter layers at all. The exposed infill pattern is dense enough to prevent small beads of desiccant from falling through, while allowing ample airflow at the same time. The big advantage here is that infill patterns are also quite efficient for the printer to lay down. Instead of the loads of stops and starts and retractions needed to print a network of holes, infill patterns are mostly extruded in layers of unbroken lines. This translates to faster print speeds and an overall more reliable outcome, even on printers that might not be as well tuned or calibrated as they could be.

To get this result, [The_Redcoat] modeled a normal, flat-walled container then used OpenSCAD to create a stack of segments to use as a modifier in PrusaSlicer. The container is printed as normal, except where it intersects with the modifier, in which case those areas get printed with infill only and no walls. The result is what you see here: enough airflow for the desiccant to do its job, while not allowing any of the beads to escape. It’s a clever use of both a high infill as well as the ability to use a 3D model as a slicing modifier.

There’s also another approach to avoiding having to print a dense pattern of holes, though it is for light-duty applications only: embedding a material like tulle into a 3D print, for example, can make a pretty great fan filter.

Guide To Mastering OpenSCAD Costs Roughly The Same As OpenSCAD

OpenSCAD is a fantastic free tool for 3D modeling, but it’s far less intuitive to use for non-programmers than mouse-driven programs such as Tinkercad. Powerful as it may be, the learning curve is pretty steep. OpenSCAD’s own clickable cheat sheet and manual comes in handy all the time, but those are really more of a reference than anything else. Never fear, because [Jochen Kerdels] had quite the productive lockdown and wrote a free comprehensive guide to mastering OpenSCAD.

[Jochen]’s book opens with a nice introduction to OpenSCAD and it’s user environment and quickly moves into 10 useful projects of increasing complexity that start with simple stuff like wall anchors and shelf brackets and ends with recursive trees.

There are plenty of printing tips along the way to help realize these projects with minimum frustration, and the book wraps up by covering extra functions not expressly used in the projects.

Of course, you could always support [Jochen]’s Herculean effort by buying the print edition and forcing yourself to type everything in instead of copy/pasting, or give it to someone to introduce them to all the program has to offer.

Need help mastering OpenSCAD workflow? We’ve got that. Just want to make some boxes or airfoils? We have those in stock, too.

Main and thumbnail images via [Devlin Thyne]

Micro Quadcopter Designed In OpenSCAD

Quadcopters are fantastical things, and now come in a huge variety of flavours, from lithe featherweight racers to industrial-grade filming rigs worth tens of thousands of dollars. The Beatle-1 from [masterdezign] comes in at the smaller scale, and its body was created entirely in code.

To create the Beatle-1, [masterdezign] used OpenSCAD, a 3D modelling program that uses code rather than visual tools for producing geometry. Thus, with a series of Boolean operations, extrusions and rotations, a basic lightweight quadcopter frame is created in a handful of lines of text. Then, it’s just a simple job of 3D printing the parts, wiring up four Olimex F1607 motors and hooking up a flight controller and the little drone is ready for takeoff.

The Beatle-1 serves as not only a fun flying toy but also a great example of applying OpenSCAD modelling techniques to real-world applications. Parts are available on Thingiverse for those wishing to roll their own. 3D printed drone frames are popular, and we’ve seen a few around these parts before. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Micro Quadcopter Designed In OpenSCAD”

Peek Into This Synth’s Great Design (And Abandoned Features)

[Tommy]’s POLY555 is an analog, 20-note polyphonic synthesizer that makes heavy use of 3D printing and shows off some clever design. The POLY555, as well as [Tommy]’s earlier synth designs, are based around the 555 timer. But one 555 is one oscillator, which means only one note can be played at a time. To make the POLY555 polyphonic, [Tommy] took things to their logical extreme and simply added multiple 555s, expanding the capabilities while keeping the classic 555 synth heritage.

The real gem here is [Tommy]’s writeup. In it, he explains the various design choices and improvements that went into the POLY555, not just as an instrument, but as a kit intended to be produced and easy to assemble. Good DFM (Design For Manufacturability) takes time and effort, but pays off big time even for things made in relatively small quantities. Anything that reduces complexity, eliminates steps, or improves reliability is a change worth investigating.

For example, the volume wheel is not a thumbwheel pot. It is actually a 3D-printed piece attached to the same potentiometer that the 555s use for tuning; meaning one less part to keep track of in the bill of materials. It’s all a gold mine of tips for anyone looking at making more than just a handful of something, and a peek into the hard work that goes into designing something to be produced. [Tommy] even has a short section dedicated to abandoned or rejected ideas that didn’t make the cut, which is educational in itself. Want more? Good news! This isn’t the first time we’ve been delighted with [Tommy]’s prototyping and design discussions.

POLY555’s design files (OpenSCAD for enclosure and parts, and KiCad for schematic and PCB) as well as assembly guide are all available on GitHub, and STL files can be found on Thingiverse. [Tommy] sells partial and complete kits as well, so there’s something for everyone’s comfort level. Watch the POLY555 in action in the video, embedded below.

Continue reading “Peek Into This Synth’s Great Design (And Abandoned Features)”

OpenSCAD Prints Woodworking Aid

Home-based 3D printing is getting pretty unremarkable. Sure, printers aren’t as ubiquitous as, say, PCs. But you wouldn’t be any more surprised if your neighbor had a 3D printer than if you found out they had a drill press. In fact, sometimes the real value of 3D printing something isn’t to make a working part, but to make up something that helps you create other things using methods other than printing. That’s exactly what [iqless] does when he uses his printer to make some jigs to help him easily build shelves. (Video, embedded below.)

The issue is making dowel joints for the shelve’s feet. Sure, you could just drill a piece of scrap wood as a template, but with a 3D printer you can do better. Using OpenSCAD, it is possible to create a parameterized jig that fits exactly the job at hand.

Continue reading “OpenSCAD Prints Woodworking Aid”

Hyper Links And Hyperfunctional Text CAD

Strong opinions exist on both sides about OpenSCAD. The lightweight program takes megabytes of space, not gigabytes, so many people have a copy, even if they’ve never written a shape. Some people adore the text-only modeling language, and some people abhor the minimal function list. [Johnathon ‘Zalo’ Selstad] appreciates the idea but wants to see something more robust, and he wants to see it in your browser. His project CascadeStudio has a GitHub repo and a live link so you can start tinkering in a new window straight away.

Continue reading “Hyper Links And Hyperfunctional Text CAD”

Keycap Customizer Brings All Your Caps To The Board

With bright colors and often intricate designs, after the physical shape of a keyboard the most conspicuous elements are surely the keycaps. Historically dictated by the stem of the key switch it attaches to, keycaps come in a variety of sizes, colors, profiles, and designs. As they necessarily include small features with tight tolerances to fit the stem of their key switch, injection molding is the classic manufacturing technique for a keycap. But as hobbyist 3D printing matures and resin printers become more accessible, home keycap manufacturing is increasingly good option. Instead of designing each cap by hand, consider trying [rsheldiii]’s KeyV2 OpenSCAD script to create custom caps with ease.

To cover the basics, KeyV2 can generate full keycap sets with Cherry or Alps stems, in the SA, DSA, DCS profiles (and more!) for any typically sized keyboard. Generating a particular cap of arbitrary profile, position, and size is just a short chain of function calls away. But standard keycap sets aren’t the highlight of this toolset.

If you’re not an OpenSCAD aficionado yet, visit [Brian Benchoffs] great getting-started guide or our other coverage to get a feel for what the tool can do. Part of OpenSCAD’s attraction is that it is the the paragon of parametric modeling. It’s declarative part files ensure that no parameter goes undefined, which is a perfect fit for KeyV2.

The root file upon which all caps are based on has about 150 keycap parameters which can be tweaked, and that’s before more elaborate customization. Making simple “artisan” caps is a snap, as the magic of OpenSCAD means the user can perform any Boolean operations they need on top of the fully parameterized keycap. Combining an arbitrary model with a keycap is one union() away. See the README for examples.

For the prospective user of KeyV2 worried about complexity; don’t be, the documentation is a treat. Basic use to generate standard keycaps is simple, and there are plenty of commented source files and examples to make more complex usage easy. Thinking about a new keyboard? Check out our recent spike in clacky coverage.