Feed on

Food trucks are all the rage lately. Good food that finds you; what is not to like about that? But where do you sit? Trevor and Brad McAllister are brothers on a mission to answer that question. They aim to provide a unique product to this growing food service segment. Their design is a very tidy one: a collapsible, yet sturdy design with integrated trash bins and even a spot for an umbrella.
The prototype model is approximately 10" tall at its highest point.During the design phase, Trevor and Brad wanted more than just capability to visualize their product on a 2D workstation display, they wanted to hold a scale model in their hands. That is where Chatt*lab enters the story and I enter armed with Trimble Sketchup, MeshLab, and a Makerbot Replicator.
Over the past couple of months, I basically have had my arse handed to me on this one folks so pay attention. This was the most challenging and rewarding 3DP project I’ve experienced yet. I knew going in it was going to be a tough one but once I got the STL from the machinist I had to take a deep breath. Lessons follow.
Lesson 1: Quality source files
Work with the designer to get a quality STL or whatever you can obtain. Sure, there are fantastic apps like NetFabb Basic that will fix your models preventing ‘why did that happen’ moments off the printer. Suffice it to say there are plenty of CAD programs out there that will generate non-manifold models for you to struggle with trying to manipulate and print. Quality check these and see if you can improve the source data to get the vertex count down to under a billion. Seems like I had about a billion point 5 to contend with and just remodeled a number of parts.
Lesson 2: Print orientation multiplies your work (often)
There are somethings that just cannot be printed on a 3DP. It is something we need to talk about more often but overhangs and bridges can be a real challenge. Often times the slicer/firmware will just print into space. After all these are just robots that happen to spew out ABS/PLA, etc. and don’t care about your print as they are just following orders! Reorienting, disassembling parts for later assembly will cost you time, lots of time and headache and get you into trouble with fitment of parts. Guaranteed. You can actually bridge some huge spans with ABS but it isn’t solid once printed.
Lesson 3: Scaling and assembly multiplies your work
If you enjoy model building and gluing your fingers together with SuperGlue then by all means printing smaller components for assembly into a larger object may be right up your alley. For this model I pushed the limits by scaling the largest part I could print on the given 6x6x8″ (rough) volume I had available. This required me to split specific parts into two which also caused more work.
Lesson 4: Large prints fail (often)
This is a statistical fact. These machines are far from perfected consumer appliances at this point. Don’t get me wrong, they are wonderful machines and you’ll have to pry mine from my cold hands. I really pushed the boundaries of size with this assembly and large, complex structures will have a failure rate that will frustrate you. One issue was maintenance (lightweight) maintenance that was needed on my Rep1. The other issue I ran into was how to handle a 1kg spool of ABS. I build a few different spool holders and finally found one that worked reliably. I blew a few major prints in that time.
Lesson 5: Kapton tape is the devil
I’ve turned into a real pro at applying two pieces of 4-inch Kapton tape to cover the print bed. This stuff is lightweight and sticks to air and anything else with a positive charge including fingers, Makerbot parts, itself. While I’ve mastered handling this material, I am looking forward to printing more PLA on glass with my new Prusa. Kapton is used as it is just so happens that ABS sticks to it very well. The issue is when you do a large surface area, actually removing the part can be a real challenge without damaging the part itself.
Lesson 6: Trying something beyond your capabilities is the fastest way to learn
Prior to this challenge I had some experience in TinkerCad (does that count?!), Sketchup and Blender but these tools were maxed out by this project. I found the limits of Sketchup, especially with regard to planes and the ability to do complex shapes quickly. Also, Trimble, the new owners of Sketchup, need to work on their support of STL out of the box. I was able to get decent results but always had to pull an STL into NetFabb where numerous errors would be fixed. I’m very pleased with AutoDesk’s 123D Design, which I’ve used to build new things as of late. It has an amazing amount of power and while the GUI is unlike much you’ve seen prior, it just works and actually shares a great deal of ‘motif’ with their more advanced suite’s such as Inventor.
I certainly wish I could have turned this around faster for my ‘clients’ but this was an all volunteer effort and mostly dark thirty work given other priorities. I’m grateful for the experience.

Whether we like it or not, everyone is a photographer nowadays. Chatt*lab has been working with the Hunter Museum and Chattanooga Public Library to establish a series of art+technology collision topics. The Hunter Museum’s CREATECH program will feature multiple series each consisting of three parts: exploration, demonstration, MAKE IT! (emphasis added for effect).

The 3rd phase of each series would be actually making something whether it is a photo portfolio, a musical piece, a 3D object. The idea is to get people out of their shell if not comfort zone, and give them an opportunity to dive in front to back. Perhaps it is a technology they’ve dabbled and just gotten stuck. All of this will be facilitated by creating an environment where they can take things to completion, if they choose.

The first topic is smartphone photography. Other topics are still being formulated but 3D printing is one that I’ve personally pushed to the steering group. Fingers crossed.

I really like this first installment of Make’s Believe series of videos. These are longer format than what we have seen in the past and explore “Miniatures and Scenery • Sculpting and Molding • Figure Modding • Latex Mask Making”; just in time for halloween, eh?

This sort of thing makes you feel like you are 10 years old again when you think back to the toys and other fandom type items you may have enjoyed and long forgotten. The other aspect is just the attention paid to the artists behind these creations which are as deserving as those you find in more popular circles in our culture. Overall, a very enjoyable peek into these amazing makers and their craft that brings so much joy to the world.

Check out the videos here on YouTube or search on Makezine.com

We’ll have a small presence for the Atlanta Mini Maker Faire coming up on October 6, 2012. Since we are squarely in the organization phase, we won’t have too much in the way of projects, however we will at the very least be there to represent Chattanooga and spread the word.

Our only concern is the robot cops that have been rumored to be roaming the event looking for expired Maker Passports. Very creepy times in which we live. Very creepy.

We hope to see y’all there. For more information see the following link: Atlanta Mini Maker Faire 2012 Website

This holiday weekend was chock full of DragonCon craziness, silliness and just plain carnage, thanks to the maker track that is gaining popularity rapidly. Among the largest of the XCon conferences that bring together all things comic book, sci-fi, steampunk…really too many sub-subculture genres to even try to list.

The robot battles are among the largest audience attendance in the world…that’s right. The crowd was huge (there was a line waiting to get into the 2000 seat room for most of the day), loud and rowdy making for a fun competition with cheers and jeers and the occasional wisecrack. Kelly Lockhart served as master of ceremonies entertaining the crowd every minute of the day.

Photo album here with lots of hot & sticky robot battle video action!

This is a clever approach to improving our analysis of tornadoes using our favorite 3D design and animation tool, Blender. Which just happens to be open source and completely amazing in its own right.

An example of a RepRap Darwin open source 3D printer.Want a 3D printer at cost?

We are working with Hacker Consortium in Nashville to put together a group of participants from Chatt*lab (represent!) for a 3D printer build party. Essentially, this is a Saturday all day and Sunday morning turbo build of a RepRap Mendel for the cost of the parts and supplies. HC sets this up with the MidSouth Makers out of Memphis and a few more folks in Eastern TN to make this happen. Last year they built 7 or 8 printers in a 36 hour period. It can get a bit smelly by Sunday morning but much fun is had and you can print your own car to drive home in. Okay not really but the fun part is definitely there.

Here are the details which I will update on this post, and eventually on a landing page our our site along with a sign up process. Read the FAQ below, which will be developing as questions are asked below, then if you are interested, please reply on the discussion list linked below and let us know so we can gauge the number of folks that Chatt*lab would be bringing to the build party.

The ever evolving FAQ:
When will this happen? Winterish 2013 (February)
How much will it cost? The costs for the 3D printer parts offered up is $950. This is a real value as there are hundreds of parts that have to be sourced and even produced to build said printer.
What kind of 3D printer is this? An open source one called a RepRap (see Wikipedia) most often some sort of Mendel or variant thereof.
Is there a warranty with the 3D printer? Hahahahaha! You are in the wrong discussion group! Please see: groups.google.com/thingsIcannotbuyatWalmart. Seriously, Chatt*lab’s community is all about supporting one another. That beats any warranty.
What can I print? Just about anything in ABS or PLA. Please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reprap and http://www.RepRap.org!
Who are these Hacker Consortium, KnoxMakers and MidSouth Makers people? These are our fellow makerspaces here in TN and they have hosted this buildoff with great success in the past.

We hope this is gets the turnout it deserves! Stay tuned for more info as it develops on our discussion group here: TN Makers Meetup and 3D Printer Buildoff

Tuesday evening the core build team spent some quality time with the CNC Router. After tightening, shimming, lubing, and pontificating, we got a decent result in the form of a darn-near square pattern from the CAD station!

I was fortunate to attend my third Google IO developer conference a few weeks back. Everyone focuses on the giveaways, which are nice. The reason I go back year after year is the raw computer science in practice that is on display and the topic of every session. Ne comprend pas? Just search for ‘Google IO 2012’ on Youtube and you’ll find every session available. Just dive into a couple of whatever looks good and you’ll most likely see what I mean. The good thing this year is I had stuff to bring back to Chatt*lab!

Last year I attended the Android ADK (Accessory Development Kit) session as I was digging Android in 2011. The ADK was an Arduino shield that allowed USB to Android development and was a really surprising piece of kit that was given to the ADK session attendees. This year I’m walking between sessions with a focus on big data and Google AppEngine and just happened to walk by the ADK session as the doors were opening. ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to snag another Arduino to take back to the *lab?’ I thought to myself. Well, I had no idea I’d be bringing home the equivalent of a stealth fighter.

As you can see it looks like a stealth fighter. This is one sweet piece of kit. It is essentially one giant collection of sensors held together by magnetic catches. The ADK team wanted to make a kit that would allow accessory development but in the process delivered the most hackable device chock full of sensors: light, color, proximity, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and acceleration. At the chewy center is a 32-bit ARM Cortex M3 processor and Arduino UNO. Did I mention Bluetooth support? A microSD card slot? Color LED numeric arrays and it is an alarm clock! It is an Arduino with all the bells and whistles and it is ours for prototyping.

For more pics of the conference see the link below.
Google IO 2012 Web Album

Marillion’s new album Sounds That Can’t Be Made contains a printable model of their album art. This could really catch on from heavy metal (black ABS anyone?) to the Disney crowd, particularly.

Very creative smashing together of two forms of expression and their media.

Shapeways link

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »