Saturday, April 29, 2017

Washer Bowl Teaser

Failure can be freeing!!! Totally messed up on my first try at making a welded washer-bowl - it turned out better than I expected - but still a total failure.

Luckily, I have a stock of spray-paint and I'm not afraid to use it. Went out into the yard and tried to obscure some of my previous errors with said paint - this is the result.

Still not happy with it ( a second round of paint is in the near future) but the paint is doing a wonderful job of masking the horrid welding. Thinking seriously now of actually emphasizing them and their texture with some spot color(s).

But... the paint hasn't even fully dried yet and I got a serious reminder. The red paint I used always "eats" any color applied over the top of it. I've tried it before, gotten a pretty two-color gradient going - then come back the next morning only to find all the second color has been swallowed by the red.

It's the Krylon Fusion paint. I actually love the paint and I use it frequently because it sticks to anything - especially plastics. Since I do a lot of mixed-media and 3d printed projects, I need a paint that I can spray on an object with two, three or even five different materials and be confident that the paint will adhere and be durable.

But I always forget that I cannot layer or glaze over like I can with standard spray paint. Some day I will learn.

There should be a gold/bronze sheen in the center of the bowl fading out to pure red around the rim with a black border. It was there just a few hours ago, I swear. But the gold and black are already disappearing and they will be almost completely .

I'm going to wait a day or two, let all the paint dry completely, then try to reapply the gold gradient and black rim. As I remember, if I wait for the Fusion basecoat to dry completely then the gradient's secondary colors will "survive" when I reapply them.

If it turns out okay I might post the results. I'm still trying to decide if my ego can take showing the raw welding. But I do have an excuse, er um - a reason - okay "I have a good story about why the welds are so bad that involves my own ineptitude and a series of unfortunate decisions."

Maybe later, if I can make the bowl somewhat attractive, I will tell the story of my own idiocy.

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Printing at Home vs SLS Services for Chainmail

Recently posted about some chainmail that I printed on my Monoprice Select v2. A friend asked how this chainmail differed from a version that I had printed from - so here's a quick comparison.


Materials: The home printer version (black) cost me pennies on the dollar compared to Shapeways. I can't state the exact costs because they are different sizes and materials, but it's something like $0.80 vs $80 for the same sized sheet. Let's just say the home-based machine has already paid for itself in material costs.

Labor and Time: Well Shapeways is super convenient, just submit the file and wait one to two weeks to get it back. With the home printer I had to convert and slice the project (15 mins) load the printer and wait for it to heat up (another 15 mins) and monitor the project over four hours. Also, I had some filament break, so I lost another two hours. Basically, Shapeways is more convenient and quicker.

Development Time: Here, the home printer definitely wins - no question. I can try small-batch experiments in minutes (the one shown here is probably about a 12 min print). I can try different sizes and shapes and heights quickly. This ability to run rapid iterations is, for me, the real reason to own your own printer.

But what about quality and strength and appearance? Well you can see from the above photo that the black PLA print is considerably more chunky, about 30% larger than the white version from Shapeways.

That's because Shapeways uses a thin laser to print the object while the home printer squeezes melted plastic out of a nozzle. That nozzle is 0.4 mm wide, so if you want two layers on each side you will get a 1.6 thick object. Both of these prints use the smallest, thinnest dimensions recommended by their manufacturers.

Strength and Appearance

I would say the black PLA print is stronger, but if the white Nylon were printed at the same size, then it would be stronger. Part of that is the material properties. Nylon is simply stronger than PLA, and PLA is kind of brittle.

However, the home printer can print other materials like modified PLAs, PETG and even some types of nylon. So with those materials, the home-printed version might be as strong, or even stronger, than the Nylon from Shapeways.

Shapeways' lasers also bond all the layers together very well which assures a consistent, dependably strong part. Home printers can also print dependably, but it's good to note that you will need to know how to set up your printer to achieve those results.

As noted, the home printed version is thicker, less delicate. The white version from Shapeways almost begins to feel like a fabric while the black PLA version, though flexible, still feels like traditional chainmail. It's flexible and comfortable and smooth to the touch - definitely wearable - but nothing like a fabric.


Get a home 3D printer. They still can't produce as delicate a print as the SLS from a service provider. But you can experiment quickly and to your heart's content for pennies a day. And with the huge varieties of filaments of all colors (including glow in the dark, color-changing and transparent) you can print out several different versions for the price of one experiment printed from a service provider.

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.
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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.

Or how about my 3d printed EL-wire bracelet for raves and festivals.

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.