Tag Archives: beast

You’ve Got Fail!

TLDR; I released suspect geometry into the wild. Also 3dprinting.fail is now a thing.

failed citadel

Despite rumors to the contrary, it’s not all mimosas and backrubs here at Zheng Labs. There are times, thankfully few and far between of late, when we fail to make the proper sacrifices to the 3D printing gods and models go kablooie on the print bed.

To wit: these Eyrie caps that bought the farm before they could reach their full potential.

eyrie cap

The bottom surface of the Eyrie cap is a thin circle and occasionally won’t adhere to the build platform. Double woe if one gets ambitious and prints multiple models at a time; one failed print can catch on the extruder nozzle and get dragged into its doppleganger, causing a calamitous cascade of failure.

The printer, being blind, deaf, and completely lacking in agency besides, has no idea that this failure is happening and if left to its own devices will merrily continue extruding hot plastic into thin air.

Fail.

A quick primer on 3D printing for those of us who don’t live and breathe this stuff. One can break the process down into three basic steps, about which one could proceed to write volumes of details.

Step 1: Creation! By some mystic means, a 3D model is created. My weapon of choice in this arena is Autodesk Maya because I use it in my day job, but there are scores if not hundreds of software packages that will export a 3D printable model. Amazingly, even Minecraft can do it with the right mods. Tell your nine-year-old niece.

Step 2: Slicing! Before it can be printed a model must be divided up into a vertical series of horizontal layers. If you’ve accidentally introduced wonky geometry in Step 1 the slicing process will create toolpaths that kinda work, but might result in a less-than-optimal print in the real world. More on this and a mea culpa in a bit.

Step 3: Printing! A tireless bot with a melted plastic-filled hot glue gun draws successive layers on top of each other. The plastic cools and before you can say Bob’s your uncle you’ve got a brand new Dice Citadel. Usually it works, and sometimes this happens:

The reasons for print failure are legion, but I’m guilty of letting an avoidable one slip through my quality-control network with the Classic Citadel. Back to slicing and the aforementioned mea culpa:

Here at the lab our preferred slicing software is Cura. Cura has been churning out perfectly usable G-code for months and I’ve printed dozens of citadels with nary a problem. But here’s the rub, mein grübenses: not everyone out there uses Cura.

Printing problems started cropping up once the Citadel was released into the wild. Users of slicers Simplify3D and slic3r were shocked to find that their printed citadels, walls too thin to withstand an assault even by Marshmallow Mangonels, were crumbling to the touch– see the photo at the top of the post.

Mea maxima culpa, I really should have run the models through several slicers before releasing them. Parallels may easily be drawn between the current state of 3D slicing and the early Web when different browsers would render the same HTML in completely different ways. 1996 was a great year for flannel, but damned if I enjoy the return to crossing one’s fingers and hoping that WYS is truly WYG.

Wizzywig. Now there’s a term I’ve not heard in a long, long time.

But! Thanks to the heroic and dogged troubleshooting efforts of Strongholds backers Chris Yohe and Nate Johnson, the problem’s been fixed as far as I can tell. I’ve uploaded a new Citadel to Pinshape and alles gut. Print, my friends. Print LIKE THE WIND!

Other backers have been busy printing Eyries and plinths a-plenty. If you’ve got a print you’d like to show off to our little tribe of medievalists, send it my way.

backer prints

Unexpected creative output: There’s plenty of downtime to be filled while the printer is producing Citadels and Eyries for physical rewards backers, we’ve been thinking about failure a lot lately, and here at Zheng Labs we’re certainly not ones to let a good domain name go unclaimed.

So I went and registered 3dprinting.fail, polished up my JavaScript-stealing chops, and made a nice slideshow of some of the spectacular messes my printers have created over the years. Tell your friends. Tell your mom. Tell your mom’s friends at the next euchre tournament.

beast fails

(That model’s a Beast Token and you can grab your own at The Forge.)

So! That about covers it for this week. Back to printing backer rewards and obsessing over the Next Thing. Here’s another wee teaser for that project, which I’m hoping to release within a month or so:

wee

Who loves ya, baby?

Lao Zheng out.

Beholden to The Next Thing

Here at Zheng Labs we are busy, as always, working on the Next Thing. The Next Thing is our white whale. It is our golden hind. Our Sisyphus’ boulder. Our El Guapo. It is all of these, and more.

And for us there shall always be a Next Thing, until we are from this earthly womb untimely ripp’d, and the Next Thing, still unfinished, taunts us as we rage against the dying of the light.

And so it was the pursuit of the Next Thing that caused the recent lack of posts at Zheng3.com, and we failed at achieving the Next Thing anyways, and so the Next Thing has become a Last Thing, consigned to the Hopper of Good Ideas That Must Unfortunately Be Backburnered, and we’ll move on to the (next) Next Thing.

next thing

The (last) Next Thing involved lots of voltage dividers and photoresistors and lasers and conduit. Too bad it didn’t work out.

But before we approach the (next) Next Thing, which of course involves parrots and neodymium, we must address an issue that’s been subordinate to the (last) Next Thing for some time. To wit: 3d-Fuel’s Algae-Fuel PLA.

Some backstory: some time ago I ordered a roll of ColorFabb yellow PLA/PHA from PrintedSolid. Nice folks that they are, PrintedSolid threw in a short sample of algae-based PLA for me to test, presumably with the expectation that I would do so posthaste.

Alas, PrintedSolid failed to account for the siren song of the (last) Next Thing, and test prints with Algae-Fuel were unfortunately delayed while I was repeatedly punched in the face, neck, and liver by the (last) Next Thing for the better part of two months.

Pros for Algae-Fuel: it’s compostable, biodegradable, and, best of all, sustainable. The feedstock (algae! will wonders never cease?) can be grown without using huge tracts of land.

Cons: Typical of filaments with infused particles, it can be a little stringy if you’re not tweaking your print settings from regular PLA.

Take a gander at this photo of The Beast. The beast is designed to print without support on an FDM printer, though it didn’t seem to care much for Algae-Fuel.

beast

Prolly shoulda printed an Ooze instead.

UPDATE 7-11-15: Upon receiving some advice from PrintedSolid, I dropped the temperature of my print from 220°C to 180°. I’m almost out of Algae-Fuel at this point, so I designed a little stringing test STL and gave it a go. Here’s a side-by-side comparison.

side by side

The results are definitely improved. Still a little stringing, but nothing like what we saw printing the Beast at 220°. Now back to yesterday’s post.

Other cons: It’s more expensive than your typical PLA’s, and it smells a little funky.

Algae-Fuel is better used in prints without so much open space, like this owl from Thingiverse:

owl

Sharp-eyed readers will note that this is not a Yoda head. Stop printing Yoda heads, people.

You’ll see a little bit of stringing between the owl’s ears and around the beak, but overall the print’s looking pretty good. The final texture is slightly rough, like very fine sandpaper. It’s quite pleasant to handle.

What does algae at 220° C smell like? Strangely enough, like burnt coffee beans. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s definitely noticeable. Ventilate your makerspace well and passers-by will think you’re running a semicompetent java house.

You can purchase Algae-Fuel at PrintedSolid.com.

#staytuned for updates on the (next) Next Thing. Soon.

You Say You Want Some Evolution: Type A Machines Series 1

Longtime readers of this blog will know that, except for a few dalliances with a Printrbot Simple Beta, I’ve been working with a MakerBot Replicator1 since, like, forever. Lately Zheng Labs has been ramping up for Kickstarter #2, and I realized I’d been spending more time tweaking an aging bot than designing and iterating prints. So I did the research, made some calls, bit the bullet, got my ducks in a row, and finally purchased a 2014 Series 1 printer from Type A Machines.

series 1

Photo credit: Type A Machines.

Let’s be completely fair in this comparison– I’m juxtaposing a 2012 vintage machine made of plywood and hobby motors with a sleek new 2014 acrylic and steel bucket o’ hotness. It’s not a fair comparison by any stretch, but if nothing else it’ll help show how far prosumer 3D printing has come in the last two years.

We’re in the late Carboniferous here, folks. If MakerBot Industries got us out of the primordial soup and onto dry land, TypeA Machines has us fornicating in the ferns and laying hard-shelled eggs.

There’s still a long way to go before we fly, but boy howdy have we made some big leaps since 2012.

This particular Rep1 has 957 documented hours of printing, not including the gods-know-how-many-hours I printed before the original Mightyboard melted a year ago. It’s been through a few nozzle replacements and an extruder upgrade during that time.

I haven’t even owned the Series 1 for 957 hours. How’s it going to hold up over time? Same? Different? Better? Worse? Who knows. But let’s dive in for a first look.

side by side

Cost Comparison

A Replicator1 in inflation-adjusted 2012 dollars is $2,208.09 in 2014. The TypeA machines 2014 Series 1 is $2,749.00 today. That $500 difference quickly evaporates when one considers that (time==money), and every minute you’re not spending with a jammed extruder is a minute you could be working on the Next Big Thing.

The Unboxening

The Series 1 arrived at Zheng Labs in a fracking HUGE box, 24″ on a side. It’s well protected in some serious closed-cell foam and includes a bunch of accessories and tchotckes including, but not limited to, a cute little print removal spatula and an Elmers’ glue stick. More on the glue stick later.

Assembly ain’t rocket science; all you’re doing is attaching a couple of acrylic panels to the sides of the machine for aestheics and ventilation. You’ll need less than 10 minutes and the included hex wrench. Note: assembly time may be reduced by temporarily removing all cats from the work area.

inspector

Setup

Once the printer’s all put together the next step is getting it to talk to your other devices. Type A Machines helpfully includes a short cat-5 cable for this purpose.

Plug in the ethernet cable, turn the printer on, and then connect to the printer using your browser of choice. Lo and behold, it works after some fiddling. Expect to spend about ten minutes doing this the first time, especially if you’re an impatient type who power-cycles any electronics that don’t respond within seconds. (guilty, as charged.) The fine print on the Quick Start guide clearly says the Series 1 might need five minutes to recombobulate after a network change.

Initially I had some trouble connecting to the printer over the network, but those problems went away after I ssh’d to the printer once. Coincidence? Who knows. Connections are working flawlessly now and have been for days.

Once the printer’s connected it’s controlled with Octoprint, a web-based interface for 3D printing.

Pre-print prep

The bed-leveling bugbear haunted my experience with the Replicator1 for years. If you don’t get your print bed leveled properly, your print doesn’t stick and you’re left holding a frustrating bag of fail. Over time I’ve gotten super-proficient at getting the Rep1 level, but it’s a tedious process. Sometimes it takes five or ten minutes to get it right.

Not so with the Series 1. You home the Z axis from Octoprint and then turn ONE KNOB. That’s it. Leveling takes less than a minute and you’re ready to go.

bff

This. This knob. This knob is my new BFF.

BONUS: The Series 1 has wifi! I prised the iPad from the kids’ grimy hands and repurposed it as a printer control device. It’s fun to stand in front of the machine like a manager with a clipboard. It’s also easier than running to and fro across the room to my desktop machine to control the print head.

ipad

I’ve since started using an iPhone to control the printer, because it’s easier to hold up one-handed while I’m leveling the bed.

wish_list.append('mobile CSS for Octoprint')

Print controls are clear and straightforward; upload gCode to the printer and hit print. The printer’s got about 5GB of free space on it, so you’ll be able to store all kinds of models right on the machine.

On generating gCode: you’ll need to download Cura for TypeA Machines to slice your models. More on that software in another post.

wish_list.append('Cura for iOS')

First Print

You’ve got two options for getting your prints to adhere to the build platform; painters’ tape or a glue stick. Let’s try the glue stick because it’s NEW! and DIFFERENT! At least to me it is.

No special skills required, just rub down the print area with the (included) glue stick and wait for the glue to dry. One could cover the entire bed with glue, but in the interest of Yankee frugality I just painted the center of the platform.

I’m using my preferred PLA for this print.

Wait five or ten minutes for the glue to dry and then hit print. Rep1 users will be familiar with the happy burble and kachunkachunks of a hobbyist bot. The Series 1 sounds completely different; it whirrs all sleek-like while it homes, like the opening few seconds of a Front 242 riff.

(Front 242 is Daft Punk for old people, kids.)

Ten minutes later we’ve got ourselves a Seej pennon.

flag

Note that this flag prints in pieces– I’ve yet to find an FDM printer that will handle that 90° overhang.

After a couple of prints with a glue stick the print bed starts looking like eczema. The rash wipes off with a damp rag and then you’re back to a pristine surface.

eczema

Print #2
Let’s use the go-to challenge print, the Beast Token. It’s got lots of fine details and almost-impossible overhangs, so let’s see what the Series 1 can do with it, this time on painter’s tape at at .06mm layer height.

I’ll be honest though, putting painters’ tape on a printer this pretty feels like slapping a bumper sticker on a Bentley.

beast token typeA

Niiiiiiiice. The .06mm layer height brings out the details in this model. You can see a little bit of stringing here and there, but I suspect that’s a slicing issue. Not a bad job handling the forked tail, either.

These small prints worked out well so I ran the printer on a gargantuan 22-hour print job. I’ll have to keep my cards close to vest here with regard to content except to say that the print succeeded and I’m thrilled with the results. The final technical hurdle in Zheng3 Kickstarter #2 has been cleared by the Series 1.

Downsides to the Series 1

In all, the Series 1 is a great printer, so I’ve really had to scrutinize my arm fur to pick enough nits for this part of the post. Here they are.

No heated bed. Yet. I’ll lemonade this lemon; printing with ABS isn’t really my bag anymore. I’ve never cared for the odors and I’m not printing parts that require strength, so printing in PLA only is OK.

Mitigating factor: Type A Machines was kind enough to include a roll of ProtoPasta’s High-Carbon PLA in the box for those who’d like a little more oomph in their prints. I’ll evaluate this stuff in a later post.

Also: Cura For Series 1 doesn’t run on OSX 10.6.8 and likely never will due to Apple’s discontinuing support for the 10.6.8 SDK. Sooner or later I’ll move out of my mud-walled yurt and upgrade my main workstation to a modern OS, but for now I just need to slice on one of the 37 other computing devices at Zheng Labs. On the upside I’m getting some cardio by running up and down the stairs a few times a day.

Mitigating factor: Type A Machines’ support has been friendly, prompt, and well, supportive about my admittedly edge case OS conundrum.

In Conclusion:

I’ve thrown all kinds of prints at the Series 1, trying to get it to fail. So far, it’s been very reliable.

Everyday prints (Seej bloxen, catapults, and the like) come off the print bed every time, with no mid-print failures, filament jams, or PLA ramen clouds.

Finally! This morning I had a filament break below the drive gear where one can’t grab it with a pair if pliers. Normally I’d take apart the extruder, clear the jam, and then reassemble. That’s easily a 15 minute job on a Rep1 that throws everything out of calibration.

Series 1? Just feed more filament into the extruder. It’s back online in less than a minute.

Later today I’m going to throw an entire Faire Play armor set at the printer, all at once, just to see how the machine handles it.

As always, #staytuned, my friends. Exciting ride ahead.

Beast Token Print Timelapse

I’ve been getting a lot of referrals lately from Joe’s MakerBot and Fabbaloo with regard to my Magic: The Gathering Beast Token. Thanks, guys!

There’s some healthy skepticism out there suggesting that the either the Beast requires support or won’t print at all on an FDM printer. I’ve been wanting to do some timelapse photography for a while, so this was a perfect opportunity to dig out an old webcam and show that si, se puede.

This is printing on a Replicator 1 with factory firmware. I had some weird webcam software issues so I ended up taking timed screenshots, which turned out to be handy because Replicator G’s “DONE” dialog got caught in the final frames.

You’ll see my hand flicker in there for a frame or two; I’m removing a piece of filament ramen leftover from the extruder clearing action. Didn’t want this model to get touched by His Noodly Appendage.

About 52 minutes, this print.

Beast Token Fail

beast_token

Failure of a Magic: The Gathering Beast Token. Off to the scrap bucket with you, buddy.

This model has become something of a 3D printing torture test for printer companies attempting to show off their new hardware’s abilities. Afinia managed to do it, and while this print failed above on a Replicator1, I’ve gotten dozens of these guys printed since. It’s like a beast farm ovah heah.

So if you think your kit’s up to the challenge, Download the model, give it a go, and tweet or email it to me. I’ll post it here.

こんにちは、日本! ここでは、このモデルをダウンロードしてください!

Saving the Beast for Last

Here’s the last in a series of posts describing my process for creating a 3D-printed Magic: The Gathering Beast token.

beast_token

After many iterations and test prints, I settled on this pose for the Beast token. The neck and limbs are angled with minimal overhangs so that the printer can build the model all in one go.

And here’s the final model, preening in front of a pile of test prints.

beast_token

download

This model is free to download and distributed under the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 US license. Please remix and enjoy.

I have another MTG token in the pipeline, so stay tuned: follow this blog or find me on Twitter for updates from the Forge.

MTG Beast Token, Test Print

This token and an ever-expanding list of others like it is available for free in The Forge.

I like to run a test print before I start posing a model, just to see where the problem spots are going to be. Consumer-level printers like the Replicator are hindered by gravity and overhangs; one can’t print too far out into empty space without the melted plastic drooping and bunching up.

beast_token

The base pose for the Beast isn’t too bad, but I can see that I’m going to need to angle the head and chest up so that the printer creates its own support as it prints.

The long filament coming off the back of the base is leftover from the printer clearing its nozzle at the start of a print.

You can download the completed model here, completely free.

No printer? I’ll print you as many as you need at my Etsy Store. A half-dozen should do it for most games.

This model is distributed under the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 US license. Please remix and enjoy.