Monthly Archives: October 2013

Home is Where the Art Is, Part II


Casa de Zheng is getting some work done lately. Her old house numbers, milled from wood, had to come off so the underlying fascia could be painted. Brittle with age were the numbers, and unable to survive the removal process. Upon reflection we (by which I mean the lovely and talented Mrs. Zheng3 and I) didn’t care much for the early 80’s Facts of Life typography anyway, so replacements were in order.

broken wood

If one has a 3d printer every broken household object’s an opportunity to recoup another few bucks on one’s ridiculously impractical investment.

After choosing font that’s apropos for the house’s character, I plucked some newly ripened heirloom vertices from the south side garden boxes and set to work forging them into house numbers. A quick extrusion, a nip, a tuck, and some geometry welds later and I have some digits ready for printing.

the story of 0

There’s more sculpting here than meets the eye– Maya 2008’s text beveling tools are the very definition of execrable. This oversight was inexcusable in 2008 and even more grating in this day and age, but I’m stuck using M2008 on OSX 10.6.8 in a 32-bit update cycle until I can swing a huge hardware/software upgrade. We go to war with the army we have, not the army we might want or wish to have at a later time.

The numbers don’t have a lot of detail and won’t receive close scrutiny since they’re about 10 feet off the ground, so I print them at .3 layer height to save some time. They are going to have to be sturdy enough to withstand a bit of weather, so I add a second shell to my usual print settings. Infill at 10%.

printing 0

Most of the digits aren’t anything special, except for a couple of pilot holes baked into the 3d model. The number four is an exception; I’ve added a hollow compartment in the back of the model and printed a watertight lid, turning the otherwise innocuous digit into a potential time capsule.


Discussion with the family yields a few paragraphs about ourselves, the house, the painter, our pet, the neighborhood, and the current state of 3d printing. I print it out, roll up the paper, and put it into a Zheng3 Scroll Tube, which is in turn sealed within the printed number four for posterity. I hit the seams with some all-weather caulk because I’m a belt-and-suspenders kind of guy.

Our house painter gets the numbers primed and painted and nailed to the house in short order. I hope whoever finds the note fifty? a hundred? years hence has a good chuckle at the primitive technology involved in its creation, what with the dumb toner, 英文, and thermoplastics.

open me

Previous home improvement post: Home is Where the Art Is

Lightsmithing at Maker Faire

Here’s the third in my series of Maker Faire Gems posts where I’ll be discussing interesting stuff I found at Maker Faire NYC a few weeks ago.


One of my personal highlights was meeting the crew from Providence creative community AS220.

Andrew Lloyd Goodman’s LightSmithing project was fascinating. He helped me make the above image on Sunday morning.

Here’s how it works: Andrew hands you a big honking Mjolnir-like hammer.

The hammer’s got a bunch of LED’s on its striking surface and a (mercury switch? accelerometer?) somewhere in its head.

Andrew guides you into a darkened booth.

Hiding beneath a plexiglas table is a camera set for long exposure, lens pointed skyward through the transparent surface. Someone has strewn flowers on the plexi.

A herculean swing of the hammer creates a brilliant flash of light, and a gentle shake emits just a glimmer. The camera records the results of every swing and creates an image like the one above.

Hats Off To The Great Fredini

body scan in netfabb

This is the second in my series of Maker Faire Gems posts, where I’ll be post-blogging a bunch of fun stuff I found at World Maker Faire in NYC last week.

The Great Fredini is one of the 3d printing community’s more colorful members. He’s a natural showman and instant friend. He’s also responsible for the Coney Island Scan-A-Rama, where tourists can order 3d printed portraits for a modest fee. Fred does the printing in his studio.

All of Fred’s work is Open Source and freely available online, which means there’s nothing preventing you or anyone else from building your own Scan-A-Rama in Bemidgi, Capetown, or whichever far-flung locale from which you hail. He’s standing on the shoulders of giants and is well on the way to becoming a giant in his own right.

Fred did what looked like a nonstop demo of his Scan-O-Tron Saturday and Sunday at Maker Faire. Here’s how my scanning experience went.

The Scan

Fred says that hats and glasses are one of his personal scanning nightmares, so I had to doff mine for the scan. Permit me to talk about my hat for a moment. I really like my hat.

on platform

It’s a Filson Shelter Cloth Packer Hat. I’ve got three of these: one in Otter Green for late spring, summer, and fall, an insulated one in Filson’s Tin Cloth for winter (with earflaps, no less!), and one in white to be worn with a linen suit at semi-formal summer events, but never after Labor Day because even I know that basic fashion rule.

After years of wearing this style it’s become my Samson’s locks, Green Lantern power ring, and horcrux rolled into one. It’s been across the Atlantic twice, it’s been to Vegas, and if anyone ever needs to clone me all they have to do is take a scraping off the inside.


I wasn’t a hat guy until I started reading wilderness survival manuals and realized that having a hat is one of the most basic precautions one can take to keep oneself alive out there in the wild.

On the other hand, in a city this hat’s uncommon enough that it’s pretty easy to look like a dweeb while wearing it.

On the gripping hand, it makes a fine beacon. I’ve met dozens of people who know me as the hat guy before they’ve ever talked to me face to face. Chaperoning a field trip is easy because the kids can find me in a crowd quickly. New acquaintances have their memory jogged by a mention of the guy in the green hat.

(Unfortunately I won’t be able to wear my favorite Otter Green headwear in China, because 戴绿帽子 is why.)

I do get a lot of compliments on this hat from hunters and other outdoorsy types. I’m also frequently jumped by Ukrainian thong models. Apparently Oksana’s into dweebs.

Unfortunately the wide brim on the hat wouldn’t print even if it would scan, so bare-pated I stepped onto the plywood scanning platform.

The scan is fairly quick. Fred will ask you to take a pose without too many overhangs so that you’ll print properly without support. In my case this means arms akimbo, a bit of contraposto, and face angled skyward. One can’t help but tend towards majesty when being 3d scanned by The Great Fredini.

Here’s the view from the platform: on platform

Fred gives you warning that he’s about to release the brake on the platform, and then the platform gently rotates a couple of times while a hacked Kinect invisibly reads your form. A few revolutions later I stepped off the platform and the next next person after me was a drowsy infant. (I’d love to see how that scan turned out.)

I have no idea how much post-processing, if any, Fred has to do to make the model ready for printing, but the mesh was manifold and error-free when I first got a hold of it.

I’ve got a couple of printers here that can take a stab at printing a portrait, but before I do I’d like to get a look at the mesh. There are a couple of little problems like this occlusion error on the inside of my left arm, but nothing that’s going to make the print fail.

occlusion error

Onward, and hatward.

The Hat

If this is to be an accurate portrait, it’s got to have my headwear included. A 123DCatch scan of the hat was decent, and even picked up some of the stitching in the brim’s top surface. After a few minutes of cleanup I realized that although I might eventually edit my way to a printable scan, I might be reflecting poorly on Fred’s scanning process by adulterating it with other scanning technology. Better to let Fred’s scan stand on its own merits and add a modeled hat later on.

scanned hat

It’s a fairly simple model so I made a 3d facsimile in Maya using the 123DCatch scan for reference. I got close enough in 20 minutes to visually communicate Filson Packer Hat, especially at the size it’s going to be printed.

modeled hat

I could in theory just join the hat mesh to the body mesh, but the brim’s overhang is just way too big to print as a single piece. Better to print the hat flat on the build platform and glue it to the body.

I posed the hat at a jaunty angle and used it as a template for slicing off the top of my head. This will give me a nice flat surface to which I can attach the hat.

flat head

And then it’s just a simple matter of printing the hat and body separately and gluing them together post-print. Here’s my 3d portrait, printed at half Fred’s recommended size, standing with a Seej Penny Catapult.