Visiting my local maker space, and playing with 3d printers

So, Last night I payed my second visit to my local maker space here in Canberra, Make Hack Void. A couple of weeks ago, I came to chat about 3d printers, and this week I came in hopes to get hands on experience with the one they have at the space – a Lulzbot TAZ 5. I’d never had the opportunity to play with a 3d printer before, but had read about them in passing previously.

A few weeks back, my father was talking to me about 3d printers, and that his local Mens Shed was interested in possibly purchasing one to learn and experiment with. With this in mind, I began researching printers a bit more seriously, and I finally made the plunge to go visit Make Hack Void, as it seems like a great place to learn about such things without breaking the bank and buying a 3d printer myself.

Getting involved in MakeHackVoid has been on my todo list for waaay to long, so it’s nice to finally get a chance to visit.

All they guys I’ve met so far have been really friendly, and even though I’ve only been there twice, and I’m generally an awkward, shy person in unfamiliar places, I felt comfortable, included and at ease. I actually felt part of the place.

Anyway, back to the 3d printers. I bought with me a few models that I’d like to print, but starting with a fairly basic model that would print fairly quickly, and allow me to get things done.

The model I was printing was a modified version of this model:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2234814

I modified the original print to remove the actual Lyre style shockmount for this print. It’s pretty basic, but it prints fairly quickly (this took about an hour), and lets me check the sizing of the clip, and cold shoe, as well as seeing if the arms are likely to snap in half as soon as I try and clip in the microphone. The model I printed is shown below, and I’ve uploaded it to Thingiverse at: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2497931

 

The Lulsbot Taz5 printed my first print fantastically. It was touch and go early on, when the long skinny clip arms came off the print bed, but damage was minimal, and the print kept going, all the way to completion, and I ended up with a very usable print.

3D printers are mesmerising to watch, and the Taz5 sounds like a happy little robot buzzing around the printbed as it worked away.

As I mentioned earlier, the print I did last night took about an hour to print. While it printed, we chatted about 3D printers, and some electronics, and I managed to snap a few pictures of the print in progress, as well as the settings we used:

Finally, once the print was complete I let the printer cool for a few minutes and then the print popped right off the print bed.

Once I got home, I  snapped a few pictures of the completed clip, so you can see the details of the print, and attached the mic to the camera, so you can see it in action.

So my first hands on 3D printer experience went better than I could have expected, and everyone at Make Hack Void are really friendly & inviting. I look forward to coming back again soon so I can have good chat with everyone, and play some more with the printer!

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Quick and simple laptop mod – a tape measure

Here is a very quick post to show an idea that I had recently.

Its so small, that It’s hardly worthy of a post, but I thought someone might find it interesting.

Often, I’ll find it handy to know how big something is while surfing the net, or trying to size up something I’m looking at, and I’ll either need to go find a ruler, or make a rough guestimation of the size.

Then I had a brainwave, what if I stuck a ruler to my laptop?

printable rulers can be found at various places on-line, and I found a neat short ruler at http://web.ncf.ca/jim/scale/, which is the one pictured below:

 

Ruler closeup

I printed it out, measured it for accuracy, and adjusted the size a few times and printed again until the accuracy was close enough for my liking before cutting it out and sticking it down with double sided tape.

 

The little ruler was a neat size, but I thought a longer ruler might be helpful, so I was going to find a larger ruler to print out, then I thought of an easier idea:

Ikea give away paper rulers at their stores, and I’ve had a bunch kicking around for ages. I thought I could save myself some trouble, and use one of those.

Instead of printing off another ruler, this time, I chose to go the lazy route, and cut up an Ikea measuring tape.

I split it down the middle, so i could use both the inches, and the centimetre  measurements, and stuck them down to the laptop with double sided sticky tape like before.

Laptop displaying rulers

As you can see from the pictures, the results aren’t exactly super neat and fancy, but they do exactly what I want them to do.

Hopefully someone can find this simple idea useful.

3D animation Assignment

Over the last semester, I’ve been doing an introduction to 3D animation unit as part of my university degree, and it went pretty well.

The course revolves around blender, the free 3d modelling and animation software. I’ve tried to play with blender in the past, but always got swamped with its way of doing things.

But this course, even though it was mostly just tutorial videos, has given me a fairly solid grasp on the basics, and can hopefully utilize its power in other projects I might attempt in the future.

My final assignment was a 30 second video, which you will see below The resolution is a bit low, I’ve been meaning on rendering out a higher res one. If i do, I’ll edit this post so you all can see it in great detail.

And here it is:

My wife is so wonderfu!

It’s my birthday today, and my awesome wife Diana bought me some awesome presents.

First off was the Cigweld Weldskill 170. That’s the one I knew about. It was already awesome!

What I wasn’t expecting is the iPod
Touch I was presented with when I woke up this morning! OMFGZ I wasn’t expecting that!

So here I am, writing a blog post on the touch, just to test it out!

Yeah!

I love you sweetie! You blow my mind every birthday!
Xoxox

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Cricut Cutter With USB, it can be done!

NOTE: recently Make The Cut has been updated, and supposedly no longer will support the plugin.

I suspected this day would come eventually.

Quote from the Make The Cut website:

“On 8/17/2012 a new version of Make The Cut! was released (version 4.1.1) which no longer allows the Cricut Plug-in to be loaded. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

One possibility (which is untested) is to buy a licence, and find an old version of the installer. I don’t know if this will work or not, but if someone tests it out, let me know. I’m sure others would like to know.

 

Back to the original article:

The Cricut is a cool little cutting machine, aimed at the Craft/Scrapbooking market. It looks like a printer, but is more like a pen plotter. If you saw my previous post, I bought one for my loving wife Diana for her birthday.

Cricut Personal Cutter

The Cricut comes with very minimal usability out of the box, and requires you to buy ridiculously expensive cartridges. You can get cartridges on amazon from about $25 (pretty cheap) but most are much more than that. With postage on top of that (to Australia, makes it expensive). Locally, You’re looking at more like $60 per cartridge for a cheap one. There must be a better way!

On the back of the machine, there is a USB port. Sweet. surely there is some software out there that can make good use of the cutter, and make it much cheaper to use?

Well, there is, BUT……….

There is the Cricut Design Studio, which seems like a handy idea, and likely is in many ways, if you have a bunch of cartridges.

You see, the Cricut Design Studio requires you to have bought the cartridges that you want to use. You can’t print custom-made designs, or use fonts on your computer or anything, so you are really only marginally better off with this software. It does allow you to lay things out better than the basic interface you get just the machine.

Then, there was several of other pieces of software available such as Sure Cuts a Lot, and Make the Cut, which allowed you to use standard True Type fonts on your computer, as well as importing vector graphics from other software  to cut your own design of graphics.

Of course, the makers of the Cricut cutters didn’t like this, as for the price of a single cartridge, you could then use all the fonts and pictures out there on the internet, without ever having to pay the makers of the Cricut anything. It appears that they started sueing all the makers of this software, so now none of them work with the Cricuts any Longer.

Make The Cut

But, you are not out of luck just yet, I have worked out (with help from the internet)  how to make the Make the Cut program work once again with the Cricut!
You see, Make the Cut uses plugins to interface to the Cricut, and other different Cutting hardware. It seems all the makers have done to make the software incompatible is remove the Cricut driver dll from the application.

Some very awesome people out there have discovered that, by putting the dll file in the plugin folder for the current Make the Cut download, you can still use the software.

Make it Happen

First,I should note, that I was lucky enough that the firmware on the Cricut was already up to date, so i didn’t need to upgrade ours. You may need to upgrade firmware, you apparently can do this with the demo of the Cricut Design Studio. A quick google should get you going in the right direction. I think Make The Cut! works with firmwares of 1.1 and above for the Cricut Personal. Your cricut will tell you the firmware version on the LCD screen when you turn it on.

First, with a standard printer style USB cable, plug the cricut into your computer. Windows will hopefully find and install the drivers for the cricut automatically. The cricut will appear as a usb to serial adaptor. When I first tried with my laptop, I had struggles, but eventually it seemingly sorted itself out somehow. My wife’s worked right away, and both laptops are windows 7. If it doesn’t install properly, I’m afraid you’ll have to do a bit of research online.You may need to download the drivers manually.

Download and install Make The Cut! (the demo will work, so you can test it all before you commit to the software).

Google “PCCPlugin.dll” and download the file to your computer. This is the driver for the cricut cutters. It should be out there for you to find. (edit update: try these links which have been provided in the comments: filedropper, filedropper(zipped), filefactory (zipped). these are not my files, so they may go down at some point)

Place the PCCPlugin.dll file in the plugin directory of Make The Cut (default will likely be c:\program files\Make the Cut!\Plugins).

Run the program. Now when you click on Cut Project With… you should be able to choose the ProvoCraft Cricut.

If this works for you and you haven’t already bought Make The Cut, I recommend buying it now. We chose to wait until we’d seen it working before buying it. In demo mode Make The Cut will work but anything cut will be cut with a big X thru it, making it pretty useless.

Now Enjoy using the hardware you own, in a way YOU like it.

Happy Birthday Diana!

Today I would like to take the oportunity to wish my lovely wife a Happy Birthday for yesterday!

I love you my Sweet! I hope you had a wonderful day!

Testing out her new cricut

Diana trying out her new Cricut

Above you can see her playing with her present, a Cricut cutter, working with Make The Cut!.

Unfortunately Make The Cut are no longer allowed to make their software work with the Cricut cutters, but with a bit of research, I managed to work around that to get the two talking again, and thus, making the Cricut a truly wonderful machine!

I’ll post more info on on what I had to do to make it work soon, but this post is to thank my wife for being so damn awesome! and to let her know how much I love her.

I love you sweetie. XOXOXOXOX

Quick Electronics Prototyping / playing

Here on my blog, I had an idea of individual  electronic modules which can connect to a microcontroller (in my case, the picaxe microcontroller) . My little series never went too far, with switches, LEDs, A speaker, potentiometers, Temperature probes, and the picaxe 08m and the picaxe 18

Now SeeedStudio have used a similar idea in their Electronice Brick kits and  you can buy the ready made kit from Little Bird Electronics for AU$60, or straigh from the SeedStudio Store. If you go to the seedstudio store, they have many addon components for the kit

seed   studio electronic bricks starter kit

Above is what you get in the starter kit. It makes a neat way go get started, but i’m sure it won’t take long for you to want to expand your collection

And just to make things doubly clear,  I have no involvement in this product at all, they just had the same idea and ran with it, ending up with a great looking product. Check it out, its a great idea for beginners