Monday, September 30, 2013

World Maker Faire 2013 (NYC)

World Maker Faire 2013

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the World Maker Faire in NYC and participate in various other activities while visiting friends in the area.  It's been a while since my last visit to the East Coast and I've been long overdue to visit so I used the Maker Faire as a prime opportunity to "kill two birds with one stone" so to speak and make the most of my visit.

Ultimaker 1 printing a globe from 2 colored materials

I wrote about my attending the Seattle Mini Maker Faire earlier this year and how small the event was...  Well, the World Maker Faire in NYC was quite the opposite to put it lightly, the event was absolutely bustling with exhibitors and attendees.  The "maker movement" is definitely growing by leaps and bounds.  One thing that wasn't in short supply at the Faire was 3D printing-related "stuff."  The event was seemingly dominated by 3D printers, technologies, printed objects with very little spread in variety of other Maker-related things.  While a lot of individuals seemed to be overwhelmed with all the 3D printing stuff, I believe we haven't even come close to reaching the tip of the iceberg with regard to the growth of 3D printing being a mainstream product--next year's World Maker Faire will probably have an even larger 3D printing presence.

Ultimaker 2 - a new printer announced at the Maker Faire

For example, the patents to create 3D printed METAL parts using laser sintering processes are expiring in 2014 which will likely give birth to desktop metal 3D printers (probably through KickStarter) shortly.  Personally, I think metal 3D printers should be left to industry consumption as they are a potentially incredibly dangerous technology for a variety of reasons, but we'll see what the future holds!

There were a lot of cool things to see at the Maker Faire, and a lot of cool gadgets and toys to purchase or pre-order.  I'll let a select few pictures do the talking:

The ShopBot, a really cool mobile CNC tool

Woolbuddys loose felt plushies and kits

Mini moss-"biospheres"

Zoa Chimerum rubber-based jewelry designs inspired by nature

VR welding training tools

Coffee-making robot

Formlab's featured prints display

While staying with a friend, we went on a variety of fun adventures, like visiting the MoMA, ate at Japanese restaurants, checked out various sights & popular tourist destinations, and more.

Towards the Times Square area

Ippudo, a nice ramen place, almost as good as the real deal

Cool street art under a bridge in Brooklyn

Opposite side

Also, as I mentioned in the last post I said I was going to paint the Slardar-headphone covers.  The completed results are below--hand painted using acrylic UV-fluorescent paints.  I'll try to get a photo of them under a UV lamp to show off their glow!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

3D Printed Modular Headphone Design "Slardar Ears"

I'm a really big fan of modular design, and have long had an idea to combine modular design with common / everyday wearable objects.  Headphones in particular are designed and intended to be fashionable straight from the factory, and consumers can be seen everywhere going about their day-to-day activities wearing earphones, ear-buds, or headphones--listening to their favorite music.  However, people typically own just a single pair of headphones (this makes sense, we only have one set of ears after all), limiting the range of compatibility with an individual's everyday outfit or fashion sense.  A modular (headphone) aesthetic design could open up an infinite range of possibilities toward enhancing one's sense of individuality in this regard.  A different headphone attachment (module) could be worn not only to complement one's appearance, but also to reflect one's state of mind or emotional demeanor, or to act as a outward display of one's taste in entertainment, hobbies, or other (/designer lingo).

This idea doesn't have to be limited to headphones, but could be applied to each and every facet of one's life.  Cars for example, are often seen as a blank canvas to enthusiasts and tuners who attempt to gain a sense of identity by differentiating themselves from other vehicles of the same make and model through aesthetic modifications (paint, light, spoilers, etc.).  

In this way, I feel that 3D printing can more easily facilitate these customizable modular designs.  As a proof of concept, I took a pair of my headphones and designed a set of detachable aesthetic "ear pieces" to be a fun experiment and provide one of my visions of modular design.

Slardar the Slithereen Guard

The source of inspiration for the ear pieces again came from Valve's DOTA 2.  More specifically, from Slardar, a hero or playable character in the game that I feel (among others) has a cool and unique design.  Slardar's fin-like ears are one of the focal points of the character's appearance--I wanted to isolate this element and incorporate the design with my headphones such that I could have my own pair of Slardar's ears--being almost like a mini-cosplay of Slardar.  

CAD/CAM designed

Sent to the printer

Using a portrait of Slardar taken from the game, I modeled one of Slardar's ears in CAD, which was built as an offshoot of a cylindrical cup designed to fit over each headphone ear piece like a sleeve.  The headphones were precisely measured with digital calipers and the dimensions were translated to the modeled ears as they were being constructed.  The "cups" could have been made a little more "organic" as opposed to being obvious cylinders, however, they were left as is because the design is just a proof of concept as mentioned before.  The parts were then printed on the Form 1, taking about 12 hours for each piece (!) and were cleaned up by washing and removing the support structures.  

Freshly printed

Cleaned up

The printed pieces look pretty amazing and I'm really happy with how they came out.  The fitment with the headphone ear pieces is absolutely perfect as well--snugly tight.  They look really nice as is in a transparent finish, however, I have a plan to make them more like Slardar's ears by giving them a coat of paint.  I hope the idea in my head can be implemented well and do the pieces justice.  Updates to come later.

Finished product

Monday, September 2, 2013

3D Printed "Blueheart Spotter" (PAX Prime 2013 Update)

The latest 3D printed object I created was inspired by attending PAX Prime, one of the largest gaming conventions in the world, which took place here in Seattle last weekend.  The last time I attended PAX was back in 2011, and the event has grown substantially every year since--it being one of the most fun and entertaining conventions I've ever attended.  I spent a good amount of time at the Wacom booth (Cintiqs on display) and met a lot of extremely talented artists and 3D modelers and watched them perform their craft in real-time.  They were able to perform some amazing "wizardry" turning simple spheres into complex organic creatures in ZBrush and Mudbox--it was definitely really impressive and inspiring to watch.

Reference image used

As a result, I wanted to recreate an object from a game and picked the Blueheart Spotter vision ward from Valve's DOTA 2.  The vision ward is based off the aesthetics of the Crystal Maiden which is sort-of a frosty / ice crystal-like character in the game.  As a result, the ward has a lot of crystal-like features built into its design.  I recreated the model as best as I could from a simple photo reference and then sent it off to be printed on the Form 1.  After printing, the model was lightly-sanded in areas to smooth out the support-attachment bumps, washed, and then photographed.  The printed model prototype is only about 5 inches tall.  I'm thinking about printing a larger scale version with a base plate / stand and wiring it with an arduino-controlled LED lighting setup, in addition to a transparent colored paint job to better recreate the ward aesthetically.

Completed 3D model

Finished and cleaned print

PAX was an incredibly fun event this year and one of the highlights was getting to play a really creative and innovative game called Johann Sebastion Joust, which involves up to 18 players each holding PS3 a motion controller wand to move smoothly and steadily, as sudden movements of the controller will knock you out of the game.  However, it's a "last man / team standing" type of game so players must "joust" and attempt to "jostle" the controller of another player while keeping theirs' steady to win.  All this is also affected by the tempo of the music that's playing in the background.  The game is brilliant, hilarious, and insanely fun.  I believe a version of the game along with a few others were funded through KickStarter recently.  The best way to fully understand the game is to check out the video below.  I hope JSJ really catches on and becomes more popular.

Also while at PAX I randomly bumped into some YouTube celebrities, Jimmy Wong & Clinton Jones, from various YouTube channels but probably best known through Freddie Wong's channel--Freddie being regarded as essentially the "face of YouTube."  They were a great bunch and it was awesome to get to casually meet them in person too.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

3D Printed Sunglasses *Updated*

Completed sunglasses design

I finally took on the challenge of designing and building a pair of sunglasses from scratch.  It was a fairly tricky process but watching the model slowly take shape over time was rewarding in itself.  The design was inspired from a quick sketch of the kind of sunglasses I imagined a Japanese samurai would wear.

Sunglass concept art

The frames look a bit "off" without lenses, but the build is just an experiment for now.  As I up the ante in terms of the next project I design, I'm getting closer and closer to my goal of 3D printing an entire full-scale wearable helmet.  It may be a little while longer before I jump into that project though.  Shots of the printed sunglasses are pending!


The glasses came out well after printing.  The design had to be split apart as the 1-piece design was too big for the printer's build platform (4.9" x 4.9").  The temples were attached to the frame after the fact by welding the joint connection with spare resin and a UV laser pointer.  The plastic frame body could use a little more rigidity but flexible frames have good utility too.  The fitment is good and reminds me of another start-up company which has taken the idea of offering 3D printed glasses which are custom-designed to be perfectly molded to your face.

I don't think I'll be trying to have lenses installed.  Right now the design is just a proof-of-concept prototype.  However, I may choose to do so with a future design iteration, until then...

 The 3D printing revolution has arrived and the possibilities are endless!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

3D Printed "Tempest" Earrings

Just wanted to put up a quick update with the results / progress of the 3D printed "Tempest" earrings from an earlier post.  I threw together an "energy ball" model and printed off a set to match the earring bodies that were created earlier--then linked everything together with gold jump rings.  They're now completed.  I'm really happy with how they came out and I'm looking forward to the next project!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

3D Printed Plastic → Metal; Pseudo Alchemy

Nickel-plated 3D printed plastic models

3D printed objects definitely look great in their natural finish.  However, there are a variety of ways to improve upon and modify the existing surface through coatings, finishes, and surface treatments that can be applied to printed objects to add another level of dimensionality with regard to a material's appearance in addition to the potential to develop new unique material properties.  One system in particular that is compatible with 3D printed plastic models can effectively "transmute" the surface to metal--the electroless plating process.

Electroless plating is analogous to electroplating in that both are surface treatment processes.  However, electroless plating does not require an electrical power source but instead is an auto-catalytic chemical reaction revolving around chemical reduction as opposed to an electrical reductive process.  This key difference is what enables traditionally non-conductive materials like plastics, wood, etc. the ability to be plated with a thin layer of metal.  Electroless plating is possible with a variety of metals including copper and gold.  However, nickel is the most commonly used plating metal due to its exceptional hardness & corrosion and wear resistance.  Nickel is also a very good base metal in preparation for subsequent surface treatments and coatings.  Nickel coated plastic models can be also be soldered and applied toward unique electronics and lighting projects as well.

Electroless nickel plating solids prior to dissolution

Realizing the potential of this technique, I wanted to try my hand at replicating (it) to learn more about this process.  There are a seemingly limitless number of recipes for nickel-based electroless platings.  However, using what materials I had on hand, I applied a formula using nickel chloride as the metal source and sodium hypophosphite as the reducing agent.  A few other chemicals were added to the plating solution including sodium citrate (a complexing / chelating agent) and ammonium chloride (for pH adjustment & balance).  The solids were dissolved in water, forming a nice teal green aqueous nickel solution.  While the electroless plating solution is easily prepared, actually plating an object is bit more complicated as it involves more than just throwing the sample that you want plated into solution (which will lead to no result, unless your sample has a catalytically-active metal surface).

Teal green aqueous electroless nickel plating solution

What I learned from my venture into electroless plating is that surface preparation and activation are absolutely key to achieving success with this process.  The surface that you want to plate must be hydrophilic ("water-loving") and easily-wetted, which can be achieved by oxidizing the material.  I ended up dipping my 3D prints in concentrated sulfuric acid for a few seconds followed by a thorough rinse in water.  I believe my prints could have been oxidized a bit longer to achieve better results.  However, this being a preliminary investigation, the achieved results were a good test.  Following the surface preparation step, an activation step is required in which the surface of material is impregnated with essentially a catalytic seed metal atom from which nickel will crystallize and grow from the plating solution.  I used a very dilute aqueous solution of palladium chloride for this step.  Alternative activation solutions such as silver nitrate are also effective from what I've read as well.  After allowing the palladium solution to dry onto the surface of the plastic 3D print, the samples were finally ready to be lowered into the plating solution.  I did not suspend the models due to a lack of space and simply dropped them to the bottom of the heated solution.

The reaction proceeded very vigorously and appeared to get very hot.  I question whether the plating solution may be going out of control (thermal overrun) and precipitating all the nickel out of solution--the plating solution should theoretically be reusable over many cycles by plating only the catalytically activated surface of the 3D printed model that is lowered into solution.  This is something that will need to be examined more closely in the future.

Surface prep is key to a quality finish

Regardless, the 3D printed plastic models were allowed to plate for about an hour before being removed from the plating solution--revealing a rather lustrous and durable silver-colored metallic finish.  The texture of the model surface appears to be accentuated by the nickel coating and it seems that very smooth surfaces do not coat well (due to the metal plating being a mechanically-bonded material interaction / see owl in above photo) and may need to be roughened up or chemically etched to enhance nickel's adherence.  The nickel plated 3D prints feel very metallic (as should be expected) and look great too.  All-in-all, the electroless plating process shows a lot of potential for further optimization and application toward further surface treatment steps, such as chrome plating and more.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

3D Printed Jewelry: Part Deux

I've deviated slightly from my original plan to print a pair of sunglasses, but I had a sudden inspiration to make another set of earrings (I still have lots of earring loops and parts to make several set pairs).  The latest design is also quite a step up in complexity from the previous simple "teardrop" shape covered in the previous post but was still fun to put together in 3D.

Official SC2 Tempest model

FastMatt's Tempest-inspired model design

The design and shape was loosely inspired from the Tempest flying unit in SC2 and because it was loosely inspired I took liberties in simplifying and generalizing the design for the intended application as a wearable earring.  Most notably, the tail end of the earring has a hollow post to inset an earring loop connection.  Additionally, the front of the earring also has a loop physically built into the design with the intention of hanging an as-of-yet-undecided "dangling model" representing a ball of lightning / energy.  The design is slightly modular in this sense.  

3 copies, 1 extra "just in case"

Two iterations were required, the first was scaled slightly too small causing some of the details and features to be lost due to the frailty of the miniature printed part.  The earrings were scaled up in size by about 25% and have come out nicely.  Both iterations (5 earrings in total) also had no failures as well which was really great.  The high print yield of the Form 1 is much appreciated.

Freshly-printed models on the build platform

The earrings will be extracted from their supports and attached to loops and after designing a 3D "energy ball"--that will be attached to the physical loop as well to yield the completed product.  The next issue will be to figure out what to do with the earrings (I'm no fashion model)...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Jewelry For The Masses

Nordstrom exclusive Lucite® earrings

As mentioned in the previous post, a friend recently inquired as to whether I could make some 3D printed jewelry--with the answer being, of course!  I received a link to a pair of earrings sold by Nordstrom--a set of Lucite® (aka Plexiglas®) earrings in the shape of an abstract teardrop, along with a request to replicate the design if possible.  Not being one to pass up a fun challenge, I accept the request and began the reproduction process.

Crude measurements

Without having a physical set of the earrings in front of me to accurately measure dimensions, I roughly gauged the earring's length based off a guesstimate of the length of the model's ear in the photo above and came up with a value of ~50 mm.  Thereafter, the first steps were to obtain the rough dimensional constraints of the teardrop shape (as seen above) so that everything could be drawn to scale in the CAD software.  Drawing the model in CAD was a learning process and took several iterative attempts to recreate the curved surfaces properly.  Once the general teardrop shape was created, a plan had to be devised with regard to how an earring loop would be attached to the top of the earring--in addition to needing to buy the earring "metal bits" as well.  This required making a trip to a local DIY jewelry craft shop, Fusion Beads, here in Seattle.  The trip was an interesting experience, and a little awkward as I had no idea was I looking for other than to describe the desired pieces as "metal earring bits that go through the ear," which I later learned are simply called "earring loops" which I properly referred to earlier.  After picking up the necessary supplies I discovered that the small eyelets that would inset into the teardrop had extremely narrow metal driving rods (~0.6 mm in diameter).  As far as I could recall, drill bits smaller than 1 mm in diameter don't practically exist.

However, instead of drilling into the top of the earring, the hole could simply be drawn into the CAD drawing and printed without requiring any modification.  Getting the holes to print properly required several iterations of changing the hole diameter and earring wall thickness.  A related minor issue that had to be overcome was that the 3D printed earrings had very small hole features which would fill with resin during printing and wouldn't get properly flushed out when cleaning the completed prints.  This proved to cause problems when trying to insert the eyelets into the earring bodies.

Freshly printed on the build platform

Regardless, after several trials, the earrings were successfully printed and the eyelets were inserted.  To prevent the eyelets from backing out, the driving rods of the eyelets were dipped in liquid resin, inserted into the earring body, and then the liquid resin was cured with a 405nm UV laser pointer which I happened to have laying around.  This method of sealing parts by manually curing the liquid resin with a handheld laser appears to be really effective.

Job complete

FastMatt exclusive Plastiq® earrings

Finally, the earrings were attached to earring loops and project was declared to be successfully completed.  Hopefully the future owner will get some good mileage out of them.

Freshly printed with supports

Freshly sanded

Also as mentioned previously, the full-scale Möbius bracelet was also completed, lightly sanded, and delivered to its happy new owner.

Hand delivering the goods

It seems like more 3D printed jewelry and accessories may be on the horizon in the future.  I recently designed a pair of sunglasses (on paper) and I'm thinking about fleshing out that project by prototyping a set if I can find the time.  Hopefully that will be one the next projects that I feature.