Saturday, November 23, 2013

Get your 3D Printed Menurkey!

OK, so the final product is actually made of ceramic, but 3D printing was integral in its prototyping stage.  The original design was created using TinkerCAD, and prototypes printed by Makerbot.  There are even some related designs on Thingiverse, but in this case, I think the original is still the best!

The Menurkey is a menorah shaped like a turkey.  The brainchild behind the Menurkey is 4th grade Asher, "an inventor and aspiring video game designer who also loves to read and play golf."  He and his family put his project on Kickstarter in August, 2013, and it was funded almost 200%!  (You can still buy your own today, but it may arrive after the holiday.)

Why you may ask?  If you haven't already heard:
The reason Hanukkah and Thanksgiving will overlap this year is because the Jewish calendar repeats on a 19 year cycle, and Thanksgiving repeats on a 7 year cycle.  You would therefore expect them to coincide roughly every 19×7 = 133 years.  Which is correct – the last time it would have happened is 1861.  But Thanksgiving was only formally established by President Lincoln in 1863 (which is why it has never happened before).  It may not happen again because the Jewish calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, at a rate of 4 days per 1000 years.  This means that while presently Hanukkah can be as early as 11/28, over the years the calendar will drift forward, such that the earliest Hanukkah can be is 11/29.  The last time Hanukkah falls on 11/28 is 2146 (which happens to be a Monday).  Therefore, 2013 is the only time Hanukkah will ever overlap with Thanksgiving.  Of course, if the Jewish calendar is never modified in any way, then it will slowly move forward through the Gregorian calendar, until it loops all the way back to where it is now. So, Hanukkah will again fall on Thursday, 11/28…in the year 79811.

You can read more about the Menurkey and the Menurkey Team on their website.  You can also like them on Facebook. :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The gear works!

Who would have guessed?  A while back, a student printed this gear off of Thingiverse. When it printed, we all assumed it didn't work.  In theory, it should have worked, but we couldn't get the gears to move.

Fast forward a few weeks, and one of the kids was playing around with the 3D printed stuff and stuck an Allen wrench into the center of the gear and voilà - it worked!  Seems we just needed a little more torque than we were providing by hand.

Monday, November 18, 2013

MAKE Magazine's Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014 is released! (and we're IN IT?!)

I recently picked up a couple of copies of the long-anticipated Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014.  (You can read the highlights here, but I highly recommend the magazine itself - there is SO MUCH good stuff in there!)

Anyway, during science class one day, a student was flipping through the magazine, when he jumped up and shouted, "We are IN HERE!"  My first reaction was (honestly) "seriously, just calm down" but a split second later it registered - BPC was IN THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO 3D PRINTING?!?!  You can see our picture (from 2011) in the image below - Brook Drumm (in the green and white striped jacket) with all the students crowded around.

It may not be much, but the kids and I feel a little "famous." :)

Here's the original video from when Brook Drumm helped train us on our first 3D printer!  (You can read more about it in this Printrbot post, or this Curriki interview.)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Epic iPad Stand Journey

There once was a student named Cole, who wanted to design and print an iPad stand. Little did he know just how epic his journey would be...

Definition of ITERATION
1:  the action or a process of iterating or repeating; as in a procedure in which repetition of a sequence of operations yields results successively closer to a desired result


Here is a summary of our progress so far:

ATTEMPT #1:  iPad stand design using SketchUp (late September)

PROBLEM #1: Those non-manifold edges will get you every time.  Despite his best efforts (and those of the netfabb repair), he could not produce a closed surface model.

SOLUTION #1:  Cole redesigned the entire thing on TinkerCAD, which we've found very closed-surface friendly.  In fact, the students almost entirely use TinkerCAD for their models, just because it produces such reliable stl files.  Despite there being a hold up with TinkerCAD student accounts....

OUTCOME #1: The model was closed, watertight, and ready to go!


ATTEMPT #2: Redesigned on TinkerCAD.  Printed on the Makerbot (Oct 6) after a lengthy gcode generation.  At 25% fill, this will be an estimated 17 hour 22 minute print job. I started it early (like 5 am early) in the morning.  It seemed to be working quite well.  Cole has really pushed our Makerbot to its limits... literally.  Since the build took up the entire build plate, part of the raft even hung off the edge of the heated bed.

PROBLEM #2: By 11 am, the filament must have gotten pinched on the spool, since a student yelled out, "Ms. Mytko, something is WRONG with the PRINTER!  It is just printing AIR!"  Ends up, the feed tube is loose (since the plastic clamps that are supposed to hold it down were broken on day 1 ... I prefer to say they were "over-loved" by the middle school kids).  In any case, with the motion of the nozzles, the tube was slipping down until it caused the filament to get caught in the spool.  While our temporary solution of rubber bands had apparently been working for short-term prints, it appears this long-term print was going to be an issue. The tube seemed to slip down every couple of hours, causing the filament to pinch.

SOLUTION #2: Cole suggested various solutions (duct tape, print a new clamp, use the other tube, etc), finally settling on the idea of using a binder clip (see diagram below) - it worked!  (I liked the diagram me sent to me.)

OUTCOME #2:  The tube held, but the filament pinched.  It failed after about 8 hours of printing.



ATTEMPT #3: Printed on the Makerbot.  Again.  (October 8)   The feed tube was no longer slipping. 

PROBLEM #3:   The build plate did not seem to be heating evenly, and one of the back corners was peeling up from the heated bed (the part that said "IPAD"). Plus, 17 hours was a ridiculous amount of time to watch a print job.

SOLUTION #3: For his next print, Cole turned the model around, so that the "IPAD" front was in the opposite corner of the heating platform.  He also re-ran the gcode with a 15% fill, to speed up the printing time and allow for reasonable supervision.  Now, it will only take 13 hours to print, which is doable considering the number of hours I typically spend in my classroom each day.

OUTCOME #3:  Even though this print didn't work either (the filament got pinched again overnight), it was exciting to see the potential.


ATTEMPT #4: Printed on the Makerbot.  Again.  (October)

PROBLEM #4: Now, the filament kept pinching itself on the roll.  If I didn't check on it constantly, even this 13 hours print would fail.

SOLUTION #4: Our other 3D printer, the Printrbot Jr. v2 came with a spool coaster, which we borrowed and used to mount the filament spool off the back of the printer.  This way, from most angles in the room, you could keep an eye on the white sticker, to check that the filment was, indeed, rotating and not stuck.

OUTCOME #4:  The spool coaster worked great!  Every once in a while, either I or a student would look over and realize the coaster has moved.  That indicated that it was beginning to pinch, and we had time to fix it before the filament caught in the nozzle and started "printing air."  However, it got to be 10pm and night and I was tired of being at school.  So I wished the print well and went home.  The next morning, the kids and I arrived at school, to find (second picture) that the filament had caught, dragged the spool coaster over, and printed air the last 40% of the stand.


ATTEMPT #5: Printed on the Makerbot.  Again.  (October 15)  This time, we had it.  We had fixed the feeding tube slippage issue, found a way to use the spool coaster to keep an eye on the print, and reduced the fill percentage to shorten the print time so that the print wouldn't have to be left unattended overnight.  We were ready!

PROBLEM #5: Many hours into the print, it was clear that we did not have enough black filament to finish the print.  ARGGGHGH!

ATTEMPTED SOLUTION #5:  We thought that maybe we could load new filament of a different color while it was printing.  This was not a brilliant idea, but this guy's blog post made it sound easy!

OUTCOME #5: Yeah, it didn't quite work out.  The filament broke off in the extruder, and I had to clear the filament jam, which wasn't pretty.  To clear the jam, the platform had been moved, and afterwards, I tried to return the platform right where it left off.  Then I deleted the previous gcode to run what I thought was just the code from where it left off.  Ends up you just can't delete the header like that.  So, I put the header back and deleted just what I thought was the lines of code for the layers that had already need printed.  That was an imperfect adventure.  After much experimentation with adding and subtracting lines of gcode, resuming the print was, at best, like trying to ice a cake wearing a blindfold.  I learned a lot in the process, but unfortunately did not make a successful print.


ATTEMPT #6: Printed on the Makerbot.  Again.  (early November)  We have a solid feeder tube, reduced fill gcode, rotated design, spool coaster and a recently-received new roll of black filament.  Here we go!

PROBLEM #6: With all of the moving around (Mini-Maker Faire & Discovery Days) where we took the Makerbot on the road, our printer bed was not quite level.  Therefore, the plastic was not sticking effectively to the heated bed.  

SOLUTION #6: I tried to level the print bed on the fly while it was printing.  Not so effective.  Especially when I was distracted by students before the raft made it to the right side, and therefore it was only really partially leveled. 

OUTCOME #6:  Print job cancelled early in the print due to excessive peeling.



We will try it again, since I am curious to see how far we can push our printer.  Overall, we've all learned a lot in the process.  We also have a revised, much cleaner, school-mascot inspired solution for our broken feeder tube clamps.

Plus a set of really sweet business card holders?

More to come.  Stay tuned.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Purposeful 3D Printing

This year, we have implemented Maker Mondays at school.  Inspired by the Engineering Design portion of the Next Generation Science Standards, students are working in groups of 1 - 3 students on various projects involving fabrication and/or physical computing.  Today, we printed two purposeful things designed entirely from scratch by students:

(1) a small necklace, the design inspired by our recent stint at the East Bay Mini-Maker Faire.

(2) the corner of a customizable picture frame.

The picture frame corner was especially victorious, since the two girls are not in my after-school Maker Club, and are among the first of my science students to use the 3D printer in their science curriculum.  Without giving away too many of their company secrets, the girls are creating a customizable picture frame, with sides that snap in and out of corner pieces.

It was fun watching the girls plan and learn.  One girl patiently explained to the other that they didn't have to design four corners... they could just design one and print it four times!  This one was, they agreed, just a "test" model.

And I was awfully excited to be able to use my poster (created at my summer internship) for the first time to help explain the steps of 3D printing to the girls.  The girls were absolutely thrilled the next morning when they stopped in to pick up the piece.  They kept saying, "We MADE this.  We really MADE this!" :)

To add:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

We Heart Making Things

Today the students discovered that the cute message we get at the end of a print job, is (understandably) written in the gcode. They enjoy the Ta-Da song.

(******* End.gcode*******)
M73 P100 ( End  build progress )
G0 Z150 ( Send Z axis to bottom of machine )
M18 ( Disable steppers )
M109 S0 T1 ( Cool down the build platform )
M104 S0 T1 ( Cool down the Right Extruder )
M104 S0 T1 ( Cool down the Left Extruder )
G162 X Y F2500 ( Home XY endstops )
M18 ( Disable stepper motors )
M70 P5 ( We <3 Making Things!)
M72 P1  ( Play Ta-Da song )
(*********end End.gcode*******)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Maker Club at Discovery Days and the Bay Area Science Festival

On Saturday, BPC Maker Club took to the road again for Discovery Days at the Bay Area Science Festival!
Discovery Days is the largest free science education event in the Bay Area and we want you to be involved! Our 2013 Call for Exhibitors is open through September 27th. We expect over 50,000 attendees at three Discovery Days events; this is the  ultimate event to bring science education to the Bay Area masses. 

Unlike the East Bay Mini-Maker Faire (where there were many, many 3D printers, we were one of the few (only?) booths about the topic here, so the kids has plenty of opportunities to introduce and teach people who stopped by. 

One of my favorite collaborations is highlighted in the video below, between the BPC kids and another 8th grader who was running a booth about greenhouse gases at a nearby booth!

Here are a few more pics from the event: 

So cool - the entire ballpark was filled with science!  And we were thrilled to be part of it (view the map)! :)