Printing gears, part II

Now that we have covered the somewhat tricky route of tracing gear curves from images (which, by the way, you can use to create meshes out of any image) in part I, let’s have a look at the eMachineShop way. eMachineShop is a free gear designing software from the firm by the same name. They allow you to use their proprietary software for free in personal use, and then you can order the final product from them in a variety of machining finishes. I commend such an approach, especially since the software exports pure STL for our needs.

You can download the software package from eMachineShop.com and install it. When you start it the first time, you see a tutorial screen, but you can turn it off once you have the hang of the software. As it happens, it is very powerful, but a little quirky.

The main window looks like this: (more…)

Printing gears, part I

Gears are an interesting set of things to print. With gears you can make all kinds of things, and if you run an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi, you can significantly extend the toolbox when you can design custom gears. Of course, on Thingiverse, you have literally thousands of gears to pick and print from, but surely you want to make your own?

Blender itself has a Gears add-on, which you can install merely by downloading it and using the Install Add-on feature in the User Preferences. It adds a new type of meshes to the Add Mesh menu, namely Gears. In it you have Gear and Worm Gear, of which I will leave the Worm Gear for later.

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Getting the 3D Print Lab running

Having had the MiniFactory 3D printer for a little over a year now, I have been very satisfied with it. It has lots of power, it can build quality prints, and it has just the right amount of the frontier spirit, that hack lab feeling to it. I have been able to produce just about every piece I have come to think about, and having stripped the machine a couple of times to the frame, I feel confident with it and can maintain it well enough. Now, Haaga-Helia bought two more, and here’s a video of one of them in operation.

The door sign

The door sign

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Solving everyday niggly bits with 3D Printing

I don’t know about you, but I am one to get irritated with stuff that hangs out in the wrong places. A good example is the chest strap of the computer backpack: I never use it, but I don’t want to cut it off either and harm company property. Instead, I made a quick mesh in Blender and printed it out on the Minifactory, with the net result of straps no longer hanging around causing me to lose hair even further.

Here’s the starting situation:

Messy straps

Messy straps

And this is the finished, improved situation:

Better situation

Better situation

Let’s have a look at the fixing clip.  (more…)

Quick ‘n’ dirty 3D printing

Recently, I was asked to design and print a set of miniature tables and chairs, as well as the layout of the room these items of furniture reside in. This is to enable meeting planners to move these little printed chairs and tables and whatnot around, and then re-set the meeting room layout to suit the next meeting.

The tables and chairs need not be detailed, as long as the relative measurements of the items are correct. That’s fine, because that way I can work in Blender and scale everything relative to a table for example, and then just print sets of these at one go. The room furniture comes from Kinnarps, a leading manufacturer of such items. The dominant piece is the Trixagon table, and the cabinets in the room are hexagonal too.

So, off to Blender then. When you need a hexagon, it is actually a circle of only 6 vertices, and when you insert a circle, you can then reset the number of vertices to 6 before hitting Enter. (more…)

Printing Fractals on MiniFactory

Last week, we had our 8th International IT Week for Students here at HAAGA-HELIA where I work. We had teams from Spain, Denmark, and Finland, and we looked into issues like mobile games development, robot building on the Arduino set, and on the Danish day, fractals. My good friend and colleague from Coopenhagen North, Anders Kalhauge, presented a lecture, and the students then led a workshop into fractals.

Fractals are odd creatures. Wikipedia says that

“A fractal is a mathematical set that typically displays self-similar patterns, which means it is “the same from near as from far”. Fractals may be exactly the same at every scale, or, […] they may be nearly the same at different scales. The concept of fractal extends beyond self-similarity and includes the idea of a detailed pattern repeating itself.” (more…)

Things I have learned of MiniFactory

I have now had the wonderful MiniFactory 3D printer for about three months. As I have little teaching with contact lessons, and hence no need to go to the University every day, I haven’t been able to print something all the time. Nevertheless, I have become somewhat proficient in managing the printer, so I thought I would write a little blog post to illustrate some of the stuff I have picked up along the way.

MiniFactory is located in Seinäjoki, Finland, and its manager Janne Pihlajamäki has been instrumental in getting our machine to work properly. I have contacted him on email and phone, and he has never failed to provide an answer to my questions. He probably thinks me a very nontechnical person, what with the million questions I have sent him, but on the other hand, he’s been getting the word back from the trenches. I hope this is a mutually beneficial set-up. MiniFactory is a startup company, and hence, they have been too busy in building the production line and the machines themselves to get all of the documentation in place yet, but they are doing an admirable job at this difficult business.

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Happy Hacking Day 2014 a success

Yesterday, Feb 11th, was the day of the 2nd Annual Happy Hacking Day at HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences.

The word ‘hacking’ has a notorious sound to it. That is due to the early days, when so-called black hat hackers broke into computer systems with malice and forethought, and caused widespread havoc (today we also have white hat hackers, who are good guys, and grey hat hackers of whom we are not so sure).

But you need to remember, that Wikipedia states this:

A hacker is someone who loves to program or who enjoys playful cleverness, or a combination of the two. The act of engaging in activities (such as programming or other media) in a spirit of playfulness and exploration is termed hacking. However the defining characteristic of a hacker is not the activities performed themselves (e.g. programming), but the manner in which it is done: Hacking entails some form of excellence, for example exploring the limits of what is possible, thereby doing something exciting and meaningful. Activities of playful cleverness can be said to have “hack value” and are termed hacks (examples include pranks at MIT intended to demonstrate technical aptitude and cleverness). (more…)