Monthly Archives: May 2013

Rock Out With Your Cock Out

cock ring

I’m taking a little break from designing Magic: The Gathering tokens to design this 3D printed cock ring before my enthusiasm for the idea peters out. It’s a simple design, so it shouldn’t be too hard on your printer.

download I already had 90% of the rooster model from my Flamingo Among Chickens design, so it wasn’t much work to give it some feet and attach it to the base from my wildly-successful Nose Ring.

Printing at 100% scale fits on an average adult ring finger and is easy to put on and remove. An 85% scale print would comfortably fit an adult pinky.

I’ve got plenty more models, including the Nose Ring over at The Forge. Check ’em out.

A thousand quatloos to the first person to print this design in wood.

Timed Screen Capture on OSX

I’ve done a couple of 3d printing timelapses using a little application called Iris for OSX. Iris doesn’t seem to like to save my movies for some reason, but it at least gets the output from my fin de siècle webcam onto my laptop’s display so I can do something with it, like capture the screen once a minute and write it to a file using a Python script.

The Scrying Pool to the right uses a very similar process to take snapshots of the Forge while I’m working.

I’ve written this script to be as simple as possible for a novice who knows very little about programming. Being familiar with the concepts of variables and loops before using this will help, but really you should be able to paint-by-the-numbers and get one screengrab a minute without any extra work.

Bonus: some version of Python comes pre-installed on OSX, so you don’t have to install anything to get this to run.

To use:

  1. Make a new folder on your Desktop named capture
  2. Open TextEdit.
  3. Copy this script into a new text file. Save it on your Desktop with the name
  4. Open the Terminal.
  5. In the Terminal type python ~/Desktop/

That’s it! You can stop the script from running by hitting Control-Z in the Terminal.

# everything following a hash sign is a comment. Python doesn't execute comments. They only exist to make your code more readable.
# this script requires that you have a folder on your desktop called "capture"

import os,time

delay=60 # this number is measured in seconds.
i=0 # i is a common variable used for loops. We'll use this in the infinite loop later.

while i<1:

# this is an infinite loop! we never change the variable i, so i is always less than 1.
# this script will run forever. You have to quit it with CTRL-Z.
# see how everything inside this while loop is indented by one tab?

# create a command that the Terminal will execute. screencapture is built into OSX.
# str(counter) turns the integer "counter" into a string so that it can be added to the command string.
# if you don't do this, Python will throw an error.
# the -x option turns off the screenshot noise.
# the -o option tells the OS where to save the captured image.
# ~/Desktop is the command line shortcut to your Desktop.
# this script will name the files capture.1.png, capture.2.png and overwrite those filenames in ~/Desktop/capture/

cmd='screencapture -x -o ~/Desktop/capture/capture.'+str(counter)+'.png'

# have the OS execute the command.

# let the user know what you're doing by writing the command to the Terminal.
print cmd

# increase the file number by one.

#wait a little bit. You've already defined delay up at the top of the script.

# this comment is outside of the while loop.
# if our code were to continue, it would start here.
My apologies for the meshuggeneh formatting on the Python code above. Can’t make it work without a CSS overhaul for the entire blog.

A Veritable Smorgasbord of Rats

Paul Lynde as Templeton the rat in what is perhaps the greatest example of voice casting, ever, in the history of ever.

Careful watchers of the Scrying Pool will note that I’m taking a brief hiatus from working on the Drake token. I felt the need to crank out another model quickly, so I’m switching to an MTG Rat Token for a while. We’re about 75% done with the model here.

I have models for several Squirrel tokens in the Forge, so it’s not a huge step to do an evolutionary K-turn and go from Scuridae to Murinae.

MTG Rat Preview

The big difference between the rat and squirrel models is that I can open the rat’s mouth and arbitrarily pose him. The squirrels are limited to sitting on their haunches, mouths closed.

So that’s your basic rat. Whoopledy-doopelty. He’s really not worthy of the title MTG Rat Token yet; needs some scabies, matted fur, and maybe some open sores.

I’m planning to do some work with pose and surface textures to try to make this guy a little creepier. Scaly tail and some sharp fur tufts will help alot. Then I can go down the plague rat avenue, and hot diggety, I could make a rat swarm model. This could be a veritable smorgasboard of rats.

Stay tuned for test prints and the inevitable rat fails.

MakerWare 2.1.061 Review

TL;DR summary: MakerWare is rapidly maturing, and while the UI is easier to use than ReplicatorG, I had a lot of difficulty getting anything more than a basic print out of it. I’m hopeful for the next version, but in the meantime I’m sticking with ReplicatorG.

This is my third review of MakerWare. The first. two. reviews showed the software to be promising but beset with enough problems so as to be unusable. Some problems persist, but the usability’s taken a big step up.

The biggest change I’ve made to my setup is upgrading the Replicator Dual’s firmware to the most recent version. This fixes the MakerWare connectivity problems I was having a month ago, and also makes the Replicator quieter and faster. I jumped from 5.4 to 7.2, and frankly I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

I’ve started aiding the printerless by offering prints of some models on Etsy. A recent order for a set of three Magic: The Gathering +1/+1 counters prompted me to download the new MakerWare to try printing multiple models with a dualstrustion printer.

MTG +1/-1 Counters

downloadThese are small models and they should print quickly, which makes them ideal test subjects. (These counters are available in The Forge, so go ahead and print some for your local Friday Night Magic game. Tell ’em Zheng sent ya.)

Launching MakerWare shows me a familiar interface, including the NYC skyline that I’ve maligned in the past as an unprofessional distraction to the process of 3D printing. I have it on decent authority that this image is the view from Brooklyn, which makes sense given that MakerBot’s HQ is there.

MakerWare Launch

The story of the Brooklyn Renaissance has progressed from interesting to beating a dead horse with a twee-stick. I’m sure it’s great to live in a land where the streets are paved with locally-sourced artisanal chutneys, but give me the option to turn the image off, please. I hear enough about how awesome Brooklyn is from reading Gawker. Or replace it with a truly iconic skyline, like Chicago’s. OH, SNAP. Yes I did, New York.

Back to the review: I reach into my Bag of Holding, withdraw an STL, and MakerWare puts it in the center of the build space, defaulting to white plastic for the build material.

first import

I Command-C/Command-V twice, and now I’ve got three +1/+1 counters. This little feature is far and away my favorite improvement MakerWare makes over grizzled warhorse ReplicatorG. The GUI’s very easy to use when it comes to duplicating and arranging objects on the build platform.

Three counters

Minor feature request: I’d like to be able to select multiple items and group them the way I can in Illustrator, so that I can click one and rotate/scale/translate the group around a common origin. This functionality is kinda-sorta of implemented with a drag across multiple items, but there’s always a chance you’ll grab something else on the build platform by accident.

I import a new item (the -1/-1 counter) and it shows up at the origin, which I guess is to be expected but I have trouble selecting it because another very similar item is in the same spot. I try to move it out of the way and I end up screwing up my placement and I have to start over.

This time I import a single instance of each counter. There is no snap-to-grid option that I can find, but there is an Auto-Layout feature that easily separates the models and places them independently on the platform. Very nice.

Auto Layout

Next. I want to print the -1/-1 in black, and the +1/+1 in red. This is pretty easy to do. Click the instance you want to change and then click the Object button. Select the extruder you want to use. In my case I’ve preloaded the Replicator Dual with black on the right and red on the left.

There’s a color swatch in the Object popup, but clicking on it doesn’t bring up a color picker the way I’d expect it to. Instead I have to go to Preferences, which seems like a weird place to change an object’s settings. I guess if you’re thinking that you’re setting the preferences for the bot it makes sense, but I prefer to think about the object I’m building rather than the tool I’m using.

Object Color

It’s easy to make the +1/+1 counter red, and now I’ll just copypasta the pair of counters and I’ve got three of each. So far, so good.

Ready to Print

I click the make button and get a bunch of well-organized settings, but I’m going to pretend I have no idea what I’m doing and just accept most of the “High Quality” defaults.

I’ve never managed to get a print to work on a Replicator Dual with lower than .18 layer height, but the High Quality settings default to .1 layer height. Either that’s a theoretical minimum that better geeks than me have reached, or it’s a minor oversight in the software. I change the layer height to .2 just to be safe.

My first print fails due to an off-kilter build platform and I have to cancel it from the bot. This isn’t a MakerWare-specific problem– it can and does happen with any software.

Feature request: It’d be nice to have a “try” again button, because now I’m waiting for the slice to finish again. It seems odd to me that MakerWare isn’t caching the most recent slice operation so I can try again quickly. Failed prints aren’t exactly rare as hens’ teeth, and this slice-fail-repeat pattern is really slowing me down.

I re-slice, wait, and try again. This time, it turns out the left extruder head is slightly higher than the right. The first layer of red counter goes to la-la-land, crashes into the emerging black counter, and the whole print goes kablooie. I cancel, get out a wrench, and adjust the hardware while the extruder nozzle is still warm.

This is frustrating, but not unexpected in the world of home 3D printing. So I try to keep things simple, and go back to printing a single color print of a single -1/-1 counter with Make it Now. Success.


I need to print two more of these, so I Make To File and export the gCode. The gCode file is ready in a few seconds.

Export to File defaults to .x3g, so if you’re not poking around in there or haven’t RTFM’d you won’t even know gCode’s an option. You can’t print an .x3g file directly from MakerWare, at least not in this version.

I choose File->Make It from File (this really should be an option under the Make button) and a dropdown appears. I click Make It and the build fails before it even gets to the printer. It tells me to look at the log to see what happened. I see a bunch of cryptic errors in the logs that I’m unqualified to troubleshoot. I’m abandoning this method for now, and I’ll just print two more single copies of the -1/-1 counter, slice delay and all.

I’ll also need some red +1/+1 counters, so in the interest of keeping it simple I import the STL, change the color of the instance to red, and discover a bug shortly after I hit the Make It button. This version of MakerWare doesn’t like single-extruder prints with the left nozzle for some reason.

The Replicator goes through the motions, tracing an empty line on the build platform, but the extruder’s not heating up. It’s got residual heat from a previous attempt, but it’s not getting hotter.

doesn't heat up

But. Both extruders work just fine if I try a dualstrusion print again, now that I’ve leveled the HBP and made sure my nozzles are both at the same height. They work just fine in that they manage to extrude plastic, but they do that job just a little too well.

Both prints have these filament morgellons sticking out of them. Close observation during the print reveals that a little bit of filament continues to seep out of the nozzle as the machine switches colors. That tuft of filament catches on the print the next time the extruder sweeps over the top layer. Maybe this could be fixed in gCode by running the extruder drive motors in reverse for a bit in-between colors. I dunno.


This is more cleanup than I want to get into. Probably better to print one color at a time.

At this point my effit-o-meter’s in the red zone, so I give up and go back to printing with ReplicatorG. It looks like MakerWare is sufficently advanced to handle a simple import-and-print operation, but for more complicated operations I’d prefer software that allows for quick and easy print iterations.

Verdict: Still waiting for MakerWare to live up to its potential. I’m looking forward to the next version, but for now the software is a perfectly cromulent way to troubleshoot away your Saturday morning.

The Long Arm and The Paw

This post is out of chronological order for building the Magic: The Gathering Drake token. I got a little excited by the progress I was making on the wings and forgot to post it a week ago.

Building a 3D hand is one of those things that looks really hard at first but really isn’t that big a deal once you’ve done two or three of them. This is a low-resolution fantasy model, so I’ve got some leeway in the anatomical accuracy. The most important modelling technique here is keeping the mesh as quads while dealing with the transition between the first knuckles and the metacarpals.

The day may come when I forsake quadrilaterals and take the easy path of willy-nilly geometry. BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY!

MTG Drake Paw

The yellow octagon is a NURBS circle that’s more or less aligned with the lead face on the digit. I curve-snap the finger vertices to the circle to keep the digit mostly circular.

MTG Drake Paw

After all eight verts are snapped, I move the circle up to the next digit and repeat the process. I’ll still have to go back and clean up the edge stars between the fingers so that the hand deforms properly, but this is a good start for a hand.

MTG Drake Paw

For some reason I can’t get the refrain to “Becky From the Block” out of my head while I’m working on this. Hera, give me strength.

Printing a Replacement Technic Axle

Zhengspawn the Younger has begun to dabble in LEGO Mindstorms, and since our kit has been floating around the house for the better part of three years, naturally a piece or two has gone to the great scrapyard in the sky.

The bot couldn’t be completed according to instructions in this excellent book without a 9L axle. The axle is a cross-shaped piece of plastic about 70mm long and maybe 5mm in diameter. (I’m ballparking here.)

I’ve got a 3D printer and some modeling software, so a replacement part isn’t too hard to hack together, although I did have to go through a couple iterations before I got a snug but not too snug fit with my homebrew axle.

Note to LEGO, not that they need my help in dominating this particular toy niche: I’d pay for a LEGO-certified chunk of gCode for printing my own replacement parts instead of futzing with calipers and test prints and acetone.

The axle’s cruciform profile means I can’t lay it on its side for printing; it’s got to go straight up. But it’s a really narrow print which means it’s likely to topple if I print it as-is.

So I made a little base for the axle and printed with 100% infill. The model prints in about half an hour, and after a quick wipe of the axle with some acetone to smoove out the printing ridges, Zhengspawn’s Mindstorms bot is off to the races.

Now. Usually I boolean join my multi-part models together so that ReplicatorG doesn’t make a hole at the intersection of two separate pieces of geometry.

If the shaft and base were booleaned together, they’d need to be cut apart with a hobby knife. This can be a little tough when printed at 100% infill.

See how the edges on the top of the base connect to the bottom of the shaft here? This model is watertight– as far as ReplicatorG is concerned this is one contiguous mesh.

But. If one just kinda jams the two pieces together without actually joining the geometry, ReplicatorG will create a very delicate connection, easy to snap off after printing.

Usually this self-intersecting geometry is a problem in 3d printing, like it was with my Gingerzombie cookie cutters, but here it’s actually an advantage in creating the final product.

MTG Drake, Day 5-ish

I have no idea how I’m going to print this, especially once I get the membranes in the wings done. I’ll figure it out, though. My mon Zheng don’t shiv.

MTG Drake

I haven’t added much detail to the head and body yet. He’s going to need a proliferation of cool spines, scales, and wing tatters before he’s ready to play Magic: The Gathering with his other 2/2 drake buddies.

But first things first: the next step is making a temporary skeleton to make sure the wings, tail, neck, and legs deform properly, and then I’ll take a look at those wings and body details.

I’m coming for you, wings.