Dedicated box to play new videos from a handful of content creators.

Dedicated Box Makes YouTube More TV-Like

[Exposed Wire] is a huge fan of YouTube and consumes a lot of content. If that sounds familiar, maybe you should build a dedicated YouTube box, too. You get to push buttons, there’s LEDs, and you can take a break from other screens to look at this one for a while. [Exposed Wire] wanted to make it easier to watch the latest videos from their favorite creators, but we would argue that this is more fun, too.

The Rasberry Pi 4 inside checks every five minutes for new videos by keeping track of the creator’s total number of videos in a text file and doing a comparison. If one of the channels has a new video, then the corresponding LED lights up and the new video’s URL is linked to the button. Press the button and the Raspi opens the browser, goes the the URL, maximizes the video, turns off the LED, and updates the video count in the text file.

We like the construction job here. The 1/4″ MDF walls are connected by 3D-printed L-brackets in PETG. At first, [Exposed Wire] mounted the LEDs and buttons to a PCB, but that was really fiddly so they printed panels instead. Combined with the bracket around the screen, the finished build looks good. Check out the build montage after the break.

Regular old YouTube videos not doing it for you anymore? Try watching them at low resolution on an LED matrix.

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Big 3D-Printed Lamp Tries Some New Features

In lamp design, bulbs are usually given generous clearances because they get hot during use. LED bulbs however give off comparatively little heat, which opens a few new doors. [Mark Rehorst] created this huge 3D printed lamp, made with his custom 3D printer and a hefty 1 mm diameter nozzle, and the resulting device not only looks great, but shows off a few neat design features.

The LED filament bulb doesn’t give off much heat, so a PETG partial shade mounted directly to the bulb works fine.

[Mark] printed a partial shade in PETG that is made to sit directly on the bulb itself. The back of the shade is open, allowing light to spill out from behind while the front of the bulb is shielded, making it easier on the eyes. The result is pretty nifty, as you can see here. It sits in the center of the 600 mm tall lamp, which takes up most of the build volume of his self-made CoreXY-based printer, the UMMD.

The LED filament strands in this style of bulb are pretty neat in their own way, and some of you may remember that when they first became available as separate components, no time was lost in finding out what made them tick.

Simple Sensor Makes Filament Measurements A Snap

Just how tight are the manufacturing tolerances of modern FDM printer filament. Inquiring minds want to know, and when such minds are attached to handy fellows like [Thomas Sanladerer], you end up with something like this home-brew filament measurement rig to gather the data you seek.

The heart of this build is not, as one might assume, some exotic laser device to measure the diameter of filament optically. Those exist, but they are expensive bits of kit that are best left to the manufacturers, who use them on their production lines to make sure filament meets their specs. Rather, [Thomas] used a very clever homemade device, which relies on a Hall effect sensor and a magnet on a lever to do the job. The lever is attached to a roller bearing that rides on the filament as it spools through the sensor; variations in diameter are amplified by the lever arm, which wiggles a magnet over the Hall sensor, resulting in a signal proportional to filament diameter.

The full test rig has a motor-driven feed and takeup spools, and three sensors measuring across the filament in three different spots around the radius; the measurements are averaged together to account for any small-scale irregularities. [Thomas] ran several different spools representing different manufacturers and materials through the machine; we won’t spoil the results in the video below, but suffice it to say you probably have little to worry about if you buy from a reputable vendor.

When we see a filament sensor, it’s generally more of the “there/not there” variety to prevent a printer from blindly carrying on once the reel is spent. We’ve seen a few of those before, but this is a neat twist on that concept.

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Plaster Annealing 3D Prints For Strength

[Stefan] is always trying to make stronger 3D prints. Annealing can strengthen prints, but often at the expense of the part’s exact dimensions. His latest approach is to embed the prints in plaster and then anneal in an attempt to fuse the plastic together without changing its shape or size. Did it work? See for yourself in the video below.

He’s done a lot of work we’ve taken note of before where he measures the strength of parts after different post-processing steps. His test plastic parts used both PLA and PETG.

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Reforming 3D Prints With Salt And Heat

The biggest problem with fused deposition 3D prints is that while the layers should stick together, they aren’t the same as a solid piece of plastic you would get from, say, injection molding. You can anneal plastic using moderate heat, but it is likely to cause the part to deform or change size. [Free Spirit 1] has a solution for this. Using a powdered salt, the part is packed on the inside and out and put in an oven. The results in the video below look really impressive.

In addition to making the part look solid and — we assume — adding strength, the resulting prints are also water- and gas-tight which was the purpose of the effort. That alone would make the technique worthwhile.

The only thing we noticed is that the part has to have access to hold the salt. Anything not supported would be subject to deformation. However, the ground-up salt is so fine that it should be relatively easy to fill in most parts and, of course, print with 100% infill to avoid hollow internal areas.

[Free spirit 1] used a coffee grinder to get the salt powder, but apparently you can buy “flour salt.” We wondered if other powders might work well, too. Apparently, sand didn’t work out, perhaps because the salt dissolves out in water, so whatever you use, it should probably dissolve in something that won’t attack your plastic.

Annealing isn’t a new idea, and we’d love to see some objective tests on this new method.

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Mil-Spec Looks Without Defense Department Budget

While hackers and makers have a tendency to focus on functionality above all else, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some visual flair. A device that works well and looks good will always be more impressive than the bare bones approach, but the extra time and money it usually takes to polish up the visual component of a build means it’s often overlooked. Which is exactly what [Jay Doscher] wanted to address with his Mil-Plastic project.

On the surface, the Mil-Plastic is yet another entry in the rapidly growing and often ill-defined world of cyberdecks: custom computing devices that forgo the standard laptop and desktop dichotomy and instead explore the road not taken by mainstream consumer electronics. To that end, it’s a solid build more than worthy of praise. But more than that, it’s also a lesson on how 3D printing and some clever design can create a truly impressive visual for little more than the cost of a spool of PLA.

The modular design allows parts to be printed in parallel.

The Mil-Plastic, as the name implies, looks like it was pulled from a Humvee or an Abrams tank. While the gorgeous olive green PETG filament that [Jay] has stumbled upon certainly helps, his eye for detail and design chops aren’t to be underestimated. He’s given the case a rugged and armored look that simply screams “Your Tax Dollars At Work”, complete with faux cooling fins running along the back and a generous application of low-profile stainless steel fasteners. We’ve taken a close look at the decadence of military engineering in the past, and the Mil-Plastic could hang with the best of them.

Most importantly, [Jay] has given us all the tools and information we need to recreate the look on our own terms. You don’t have to be in the market for yet another Raspberry Pi gadget to appreciate the Mil-Plastic; the design can serve as the backbone for whatever you happen to be building. The printed case not only looks impressive, but can easily be modified and expanded as needed.

[Jay] kicked off a minor revolution late last year with his Raspberry Pi Recovery Kit, and has continued to produce well-documented designs that illustrate the incredible power of desktop 3D printing. If you can look through his portfolio and not get inspired, you may want to speak with a doctor.

Printed It: Print-in-Place PCB Gripper

The goal of Printed It is to showcase creations that truly embrace the possibilities offered by desktop 3D printing. The most obvious examples are designs that can be printed quickly and cheaply enough that they’re a valid alternative to commercially available products. But as previous entries into the series have shown, there are also technical considerations. Is it simply a duplicate of something that could be produced via traditional means, or does the design really benefit from the unique nature of 3D printing?

A perfect example is the Print-in-Place PCB Holder/Gripper created by SunShine. This design is able to hold onto PCBs (or really, whatever you wish) without any additional components. Just pull it off the bed, and put it to work. While having to add a rubber band or generic spring would hardly be an inconvenience, there’s always something to be said for a design that’s truly 100% printable.

The secret is the dual flat spiral springs integrated into the device’s jaws. While most of the common thermoplastics used in desktop 3D printing are relatively stiff, the springs have been designed in such a way that they can be printed in standard PLA. The backside of the jaws have teeth that mesh together, so the energy of the springs is combined to provide a clamping force. Serrations have been added to the jaws to catch the edge of the PCB and help stabilize it.

Visually, it’s certainly striking. The design largely eschews right angles, giving it an almost biological appearance. Many have compared it to the head of a mantis, or perhaps some piece of alien technology.

There’s no question that the design leverages the strengths of 3D printing either; there’s no other way to produce its intricate interlocking components, especially without the use of any sort of fasteners. In short, this design is an ideal candidate for Printed It. But there’s still one question to answer: does it actually work?

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