3D Printing

My printer.

Reading this week:

  • No Time to Lose by Peter Piot
  • The Innocent Anthropologist by Nigel Barley

Look, this was inevitable. I expertly foreshadowed it at the end of my DeLorean Upgrades post, but I bought a 3D printer. Having successfully (“successfully”) produced one thing from a 3D model, it would simply be the thing that I would just keep on doing. I had been admiring various 3D printers online for weeks, and watching YouTube videos, and eventually decided to get a Monoprice Select Mini 2 off of ebay. The one I got was already modded with a variety of what seem to be the “standard” upgrades, like re-running the wiring for the build plate, installing a glass print bed, and some other tweaks around the edges. It arrived pretty quickly and I quickly got to work figuring out how to use it.

I wouldn’t say there was a learning curve, because I managed to print something off quickly after setting up, but the past few weeks have been a learning experience figuring out the capabilities of the printer, how to troubleshoot problems, how to prevent problems, and how to get the best prints considering the printer’s limitations. It’s been a lot of fun and no it totally hasn’t been distracting me from all the real work I need to do for grad school here, like studying or writing papers or whatever. Nope not at all.

The first big project I tackled was getting a switch cover for the DeLorean that actually worked. The thing that is really useful about 3D printing I think is not so much that you can print off random stuff at home, but that you can do iterative prototyping. You can print something and see what needs to be changed and then just print off the next version. I documented how I mangled the switch cover I paid $37 to get printed (leftmost in the picture), and I wound up printing off three more versions until I got the one that worked (mostly). You can see in the above photo some of that process, where I tried a two different hinge designs and had to modify the switch holder until I arrived at the below version, which mostly works. There are still tweaks to be done to it, though at some point I started eyeballing the design of the center console itself and frankly I live in a tiny apartment and don’t have the space or budget for the tools I am tempted to buy. But I think it looks pretty neat!

I guess that is a useful uh, use of 3D printing, but I also like the brand of YouTube videos that start with “is 3D printing actually useful?????” and then have a dude (I realized all the makers I watched on YouTube were dudes and made an effort to add some female makers; Simone Giertz I think is the one “everyone” knows, I have enjoyed April Wilkerson’s videos, and Laura Kampf I have to make more time for) show off like, the little organizer thing he printed. In that vein I am delighted to show off the stand that I designed for the soldering iron I still haven’t used, along with some clamps which I didn’t design and work surprisingly well. I imagine I might use them to clamp down the soldering iron stand when I eventually solder something:

That concludes the useful portion of 3D printing, and I will now move onto the random plastic things I have printed off for both myself and all my friends. Below on the left is a little cello for my roommate who loves to play the cello but doesn’t currently have access to one (she asked if I could print her a cello; she meant it as a joke and full-sized, bit I did my best here), and some parrots for my friend who loves birds and who wanted to get dinner on the night I got my 3D printer causing me to ditch him so I could play with my new toy. The one on the left is actually the second thing I ever printed, and the one on the right is a larger version as I got more familiar with the printer’s capabilities.

Below is a sheep for my super amazing girlfriend. She was the recipient of the very first print I did, which was a much tinier sheep and in yellow, and since she has been very supportive of my 3D printing and at least once was forced to try to fall asleep against the gentle tones of my 3D printer whining in the background, I made her a slightly bigger sheep and this time in black, which is a more realistic color. The smaller yellow sheep rests on top of it, belying the notion that it’s turtles all the way down.

I have also printed decorative items for myself! I printed the pumpkin because I thought my room needed some Halloween decor; it now rests on top of my webcam so when I am chatting with people I am really staring into the triangular eyes of my nearly-the-right-color pumpkin. The turtle is a somewhat failed attempt, in that it had some neat internal mechanics that my printer couldn’t handle and also I almost instantly snapped off two of its legs, the poor thing. At the bottom is my various failed attempts at printing off the Falcon. I forget what went wrong the first time, but then the printer jammed, and then the print fell over, and finally I decided to print it horizontally, which worked I guess but doesn’t look great.

I got a request to print off a boob planter (like, a thing for plants in the shape of boobs, not a thing in which to plant boobs). I swear this is true and I am not just using my printer to print smut, which I have unfortunately (via this project) discovered exists in bounds on the 3D printing website. Due to various problems with the printer, learning how to use it, and the fact that it is pretty slow anyways, this occupied days of my time and brainspace. The below picture is actually a failed print due to a clogged nozzle, causing it to be very weak. Eventually I got it (mostly) right and it was sent off to the recipient, who is using it in her boob-themed bathroom. The ship I printed for my own benefit because I like ships.

Having done all that, I am trying to branch out with my skillz. My lunchtime YouTube viewing now mostly consists of Ivan Miranda, and I admire the many things he builds that don’t really work, because it inspires me to try to build things that don’t really work. This is why I bought the soldering iron. Below is a stab at a paddle wheel boat which will require a massive redesign. And below that is various iterations of a holder for a motor for a propeller-powered device. These are what I design when I am supposed to be paying attention in class. One of the advantage of Zoom classes is that I am no longer forced to merely doodle in class when I don’t want to pay attention.

I hope you have enjoyed the various pictures of the random plastic things I have now had the opportunity to print. I specifically hope you enjoy it because at this rate my blog will now consist entirely of 3D printing projects, so stick around for that I guess. I am avoiding googling even more expensive printers, because I live in a tiny apartment and just don’t have the room.