Thursday, January 29, 2015

Transporting our Printers and the TSA

BPC maker club is at the 3D Printing World Expo! We have a booth in the same room as some of premier members of the 3D printing world, which is pretty cool.

When we got around to planning the logistics of our trip, we learned that most organizations ship their 3D printers ahead of time. Oops. We were going to have to carry ours on Southwest Airlines.   We read over the official list of TSA prohibited items, and we didn't see anything remotely 3D-printer related on the list. We brought two of our printers - our Cube 2 and our Printrbot Simple, since they both seem small enough to pass as carry-on luggage!

To travel on the airplane, and after trying many orientations in a suitcase, we had to remove the build plate from the Printrbot simple and carry it separately.  To someone unfamiliar with 3D printers, it looked like a jumble of metal parts and wires. The Cube stayed relatively intact and looked, as one student described "pretty much like a children's toy."

We had to get through the TSA with the 3D printers they were surprisingly nice, which surprised us because Reddit said they were horrible.  We just took them out from our bags and sent them through the x-ray thing. I think if you put them in checked baggage it could be very different.  The TSA guy even joked "of course I had to get a 3D printer today!"  Another TSA guy told us that the weirdest thing he say someone try to bring through security was an automatic transmission.

We arrived at the convention center with the printer in multiple parts, and in under 15 minutes, had the build plate re-installed and a print running!

- Jane (8th grade) & Sam (8th grade)

3D Printing A Glucometer Case

For one family affected by type one diabetes, a glucose monitor was posing an unusual problem: The monitor connected to a cell phone, allowing the phone to communicate glucose levels to a remote device. However, the monitor cord fell out of the cell phone during things like sports practice. 3D printing offered a unique solution. A cell phone case, designed to hold the cord in place. Whenever the phone is upgraded, the case can be reprinted to reflect the new dimensions.

Even if the case is broken, it can easily be reprinted. However, for the young patient, one of the most exciting aspects of the new case is a different aspect of the customizability. The current case is orange, his favorite colour.

- Jane (8th grade)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Building the DropLit

Last August, out teacher was introduced to SeeMeCNC at the 3D Printer World Expo in Seattle, WA. got the scoop early.  By now, the DropLit is available for $399 on the SeeMeCNC website. All the parts except one are open source and that part you can buy from SeeMeCNC. Most DLP projectors will work but make shure your not using a LCD projector. You check the rest of the specs on SeeMeCNC's website. We went with this projector.

Here is a timelapse of us building it.

And here are some of the issues that we had.

Issue #1: Don't pull the tape off too quickly, because you will tear the fiberboard.
Solution #1: superglue, a clamp, and time

Issue #2: Where does the Arduino go?
Solution: We read forums to find an answer.  We found out that there was as new orientation for the Arduino, which is represented differently in the online instructions.

Overall, the building is going pretty well.

Issue #3:  The base plate orientation was tricky, but we solved it by READING the instructions aloud a few times.

Issue #4: We installed alot of the parts backwards.
Solution: Take it apart, flip it around.

Our projector is in the mail and we will post an update when we finish!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Don't forget the Cube Tube

Any Cube owners out there ever wonder about the reasoning behind the cube tube? It just adds a step to the printing process, right?

I would like to say that we made the conscious decision to experiment with removing the cube tube and printing, but in reality, I rushed through the routine task of changing the cartridge.  I thought I knew the process up-down-and-sideways, but I forgot an important step. The Cube tube. It turns out, that without the Cube tube, not only does the print fail, but you ruin a perfectly good filament cartridge. Oops.

The cartridge was not removed, but it no longer works. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ou New Cube (Take 3!)

Our Cube 3D printer recently started malfunctioning. The printer powered off mid-print, making an impressively loud noise as the build plate crashed back to the bottom. Dramatic, to say the least. I decided to troubleshoot the problem. The first step I took was to try and remove as many variables as possible. We plugged a light into the same power strip the cube was using, to check that the power strip wasn't failing. (Yeah, we could have just plugged it into a different strip, but...). Equipped with my smartphone and a slow-mo video function, we checked the power strip. Nope, not the problem. Then we tried a different file, a different USB stick, a different computer to cut files, everything related to file itself we could think of.  Also nope. We also tried just running the same file over and over and over and over in the hope something magical would happen, but it didn't. Remembering this  and this from earlier in the year, we emailed someone who worked at the Cube company.

Success! He emailed back, and said that it sounded like a motherboard fault. He even offered to replace the printer for free (this printer was originally free, as well)! Needless to say, we took him up on his offer.

Here is a picture of our new cube:

It's Blue!

- Jane (8th grade)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Our newest 3D Printing Club - Run by Students!

Our BPC Maker Club encourages students to join in the second trimester of 7th grade or later, (1) to keep it to a manageable size and (2) because it can be very frustrating to new students to work within the constraints and difficulties of maker club.  In the beginning of 7th grade, we do a lot of our engineering design work and you learn to deal with frustrations and work more independently.

To include some younger students, Sam, a fellow student, and I are running a 3D printing club, focused purely on the 3D printing aspect of our maker club. We teach a single 3D printing concept, from the 45 degree rule to exact measurements in TinkerCAD, every club meeting. We try to print everyone's models by the next club, and begin the next club with a discussion of what went wrong, and what went well.  (Here is an example of one week's lesson plan, although it doesn't make too much sense without the person explaining it.)

A few of the challenges we've run into so far include our hardware, in the form of Chromebooks, being less-than-perfect for the job at hand. Another is the problematic nature of TinkerCAD, and its tendency to crash at inopportune times. We haven't run into this problem yet, but we do have a back-up plan for when we do.

One of the biggest things that is going to have to change for 3D printing to be a feasible classroom technology is speed. Even for a club of 6, with 3 (active) teachers, Ms. Mytko on standby, and a once-a-week meet-up, printing these files sometimes is difficult. Each print is between 30 minutes and 1 hour long, and every print fail (~30-40% of them fail, because the 6th graders are relatively new to 3D modeling) adds significant time to the total print. Never mind the likelihood of both printer functioning at once. So teaching a 3D printing class to, say, 24 kids each printing a 20 minute file, which is a very small model, would take more than 11 hours of solid print time. Including time for transitions between prints, heating, and processing the files, that could be 15-17 hours.

15 hours of print item isn't really feasible for most classrooms. So many of us will be eagerly awaiting faster printers, and until then, trying to figure out a workflow that scales up more efficiently.