Thursday, April 27, 2017

Chain Mail 3D Print - First Try

3D printed some simple Chain Mail recently. Just small sheets to begin with - about 6"x"6" inches. But I am really happy with how flexible and sturdy the result turned out.

I used some basic black PLA from Hatchbox with a layer height of 0.2 mm on the Monoprice Maker Select v2. I was worried about the huge number of bridges, but the printer worked like a champ. I slowed the print speed by 30% on the first two layers of the bridging and got a solid print with no stringing. No supports were required.

The sheets bend well in one dimension and in two dimensions. They wrap around cylinders and even drape well over sharp edged shapes. There are some oddities in that behavior that depend on the orientation and spacing of the links. Nothing to keep me from experimenting, but it is something I need to understand more before I create any real projects.

I also experimented with varying the link-size and spacing between the links to see if I could add some visual interest or patterning to the sheets. It oriented fine, but the differences didn't show up as well as I had hoped. This might be because the chain mail was all black - maybe another color or surface finish would show the variations more effectively.

I also added a few through-holes along the edges of the small sheet so that I could tie several sheets together to form a larger sheet. It kind of defeats the concept of "pure 3D design," but it's a simple solution that I can use right now.

Overall, this is a successful experiment for me. I'm already working on a more finished piece with some extra goodies and techniques thrown in. Hopefully, I will have a small piece ready to wear soon.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Rainy Day Retouching

Have been wanting to play around with PS again for quite a while now, and the opportunity finally presented itself. We've been having several rainy days all week. Between the newly formed cascades and being indoors, this was the perfect time to dust off a few darkroom skills.

The results are okay, but I've forgotten almost everything I once knew. But hey, that's one of the compromises for switching mediums and project-types as frequently as I do. At least I remembered where the commands were. The atrophy showed up in more in my creative judgement - just couldn't get the images to do what I wanted.

After a frustrating first half-hour, some of the skills started to show up and I could at least begin to tee some of my ideas take shape. Like I said, the result is so-so, but it really felt good just to play around and stretch my Photoshop muscles again after so long. The experience reminded me of why I used to like working in this medium, so there might be more projects like this in the future.

And here's the original image

My self assigned task was to make the image a little more painterly, or at least more dramatically lit. I succeeded in that, but now I'm not sure the overall affect is better - it wasn't what I was after.

But it was a great way to spend a rainy evening, so everything is, as always, very very good.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Wire Wrapping Class

Attended a beginner's wire-wrapping class. The teacher was great with newbies like me. She made it seem simple, and her explanations of the techniques and materials made the whole process accessible and achievable.

Despite having a numb, heavily wrapped thumb, even clumsy me managed to create a passable length of a basic weave and wrap it around a stone. It's not the prettiest project from the class, and definitely not professional quality. As usual, I tried to do something a little fancier than the lesson required and created needless technical issues that came back to bite me

But for a first try, I am pretty happy with it.

The most important takeaway, for me at least, is that you can start with basic materials from the hardware and hobby stores. You do not need expensive silver and gold wire to practice with. Even the copper wire scraps from my electronics projects are good enough to practice with.

Well actually, I guess the MOST important lesson is that the process is fun, easy and even relaxing. I had always thought it would be complex (and it can be at advanced levels) but the teacher and other class members were so enjoyable that I wound up learning about a new craft while laughing for most of the evening.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Party Light with EL-Wire

One of the easiest ways to add some "wow" to any lighting project - EL-wire is cheap and super simple to work with. This project adds some reflective panels courtesy of the fins from a gigantic aluminum heat-sink that I scavenged from a discarded stereo.

The spacing between the fins was perfect for the width of the EL-wire. And the polished metal surface gave a cool 3D effect to the project.

You can see the "wire" wrapped around the base in this photo, and notice how the light reflects all the way to the top because of the shininess of the metal.

The light carries all the way to the outside edge of the aluminum heat-sink. Usually, EL-wire projects are either flat or a 3D wireframe. But the heat-sink looks like a 4x4 cube and the way the light falls off and reflects adds to the three dimensional effect.

Also, the aluminum fins hide the EL-wire itself except for certain angles. So the look of the light changes as you move around it.

El-wire is very simple to install and run; just plug it and turn it on. You can find controllers of various power levels, everything from a coin cell, 1xAAA to 4xAA on up to 12v. The more power the controller is the more wire you can run and the brighter the glow is.

Most of the controllers have at least a few display modes (always on, slow blink, fast blink etc.) There are versions that react to sound. And Sparkfun has two versions that use Arduinos to create programmable displays with up to 8x different wires.

If you want to create your own party-light I would strongly suggest buying your supplies from either Sparkfun or from Adafruit. Both of these companies feature high quality, durable and very bright versions of EL-wire components. I have bought the cheap versions from other vendors. They do work, but they are always much dimmer and more fragile. If you want a dependable, brightly glowing version stick to the versions from Sparkfun or Adafruit - they are worth the extra cost in the long run.

Also check out my glowing pillow project on Instructables for more ideas about how to use EL-wire.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

RC Airboat Built From Scrap

Last summer's project was a working remote controlled airboat made from a broken toy drone, some holiday ornaments and a squeegee. It worked better than I ever expected - a little slow, but for less than $5 in parts it was a blast to build and to play with.

Full, step-by-step building instructions are over on the Instructables website.

RC airboat built from quadcopter drone

This year I want to learn how to hook up an Arduino to a real brushless motor and ESC (electronic speed controller) and build a much faster airboat. My brain tells me to build a land-based RC vehicle first, but the lure of the lake is strong.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Nightlight from Digital Picture Frame

A controllable nightlight (moodlight?) made by combining a hand-me-down digital picture frame and several layers of paper cutouts.

You control the color by choosing the image that is displayed. You can also set the digital frame to random cycle for an ever changing display. I liked strong geometric images or blurry ambient images. Somehow, "regular" images didn't work as well for me.

The patterns, layer-spacing and the thickness of the paper cutouts really affect the look of the moodlight. The cutouts shown here are made from discarded failures from other projects.

Theoretically (I did not accomplish this) you could hack the frame's IR remote with an Arduino or Raspberry Pi to create an "ambilight" or other sensing/smart or IOT display.

Digital moodlight nightlight upcycle

I also tried this behind a blank mounted canvas. It made for a nice diffused look, especially when used with blurry landscapes and still-lifes.

I also tried acrylic and plastic cutouts etc. They were very eye catching, but they reminded me of 70's sci-fi movie sets. Cool for certain events, but not what I was after.

If I can find those pics, or recreate them, I will post pics of these also.