Tag Archives: kickstarter

Schrödinger’s Shipping

TL;DR: Some backer rewards are shipping. Others are not. Be sure to set a minimum layer time for spherical prints.

Kickstarter update: The first wave of physical backer rewards has been shipped and is happily trundling towards Strongholds backers. This batch is mostly Dice Plinths and a couple of mini-citadels. Eyries and full-sized citadels are (slightly) delayed, for reasons soon to become clear.

But first! We’ve got some photos of backer prints to share, yes we do. Here’s a FlashForge Creator print of the modified Citadel straight outta Pinshape. Some backers had expressed disappointment that their printers couldn’t handle the citadel’s height, so I used Maya’s Multi-Cut tool to split the mesh at a mortar line.

flashforge

Thanks to backer Nagromic Strongbow for this one.

In other, less enthusiastic gnus: we’ve hit our first official backer reward fulfillment snag.

Booooooo.

Hundreds of hours of nonstop printing with abrasive Glow in the Dark filament have worn out our print nozzle. Worn nozzles lead inevitably to failed and/or low-quality prints, up with which the quality control minotaur at Zheng Labs simply will not put.

failed cap

Enjoy the schadenfreude of failed prints? See more at http://3dprinting.fail

The above print failure is hilariously catastrophic, but these holes and blisters in the Eyrie caps are by far more pernicious:

caps

Here one can see the importance of paying attention to your slicing software; a good slice can make the difference between a mediocre and a solid print. What’s happening here is that the hot plastic doesn’t have a chance to cool before the extruder starts laying down the next layer. There’s some inter-layer fricton going on, and the newly extruded layer is dragging the still-gooey previous layer around with it.

Sometimes this process creates a tiny hole in the top of the cap. Smetimes one can’t tell there’s an issue at all. Must have something to do with ambient air temperature and viscosity thresholds or sunspots or something.

Naturally, I didn’t stumble upon the solution until I’d printed a dozen or so faulty caps. All you’ve got to do to fix an error like this is give each layer a chance to cool. In Cura, the setting’s under the Advanced tab– change your Minimal Layer Time to some value other than 0.

I’d rather delay shipping than send out prints of anything less than the highest quality that I can manage, so production’s been suspended until a replacement part arrives. Once it gets here I’ve got maybe 20 caps to reprint at 3 hours a pop.

While this situation is terribly frustrating, Strongholds is still mostly on schedule and, more importantly, shows no signs of devolving into one of those I-took-backers’-money-and-built-myself-a-house-in-rural-Saskatoon Kickstarter fiascoes.

On the subject of fiascoes, I’ll leave you with this deceptively attractive Ultimaker print from backer Michael Zions:

ultimaker

Looks good, right? A thousand quatloos to the Ultimaker team for designing a 3D printer that can do double duty as a diffuse lightbox.

Unfortunately this print crumbled to the touch as soon as Michael removed it from the bed. If you’re having this kind of trouble with your prints, use the citadel_alt STL file instead of the original.

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.

Printing with NinjaFlex on a Type A Machines 2014 Series1

TLDR: print slow and hot with NinjaFlex. It ain’t rocket science, but does require a little attention to details if you’re used to PLA or ABS. If you’re using Cura you can download my Type A Machines 2014 Series 1 profile here.

Our most recent Kickstarter was a smashing success! We were 119% funded with 140 backers. Watch this space for a comparison/post-mortem describing the differences in funding among the several Kickstarters we’ve launched, successful and not so much. I learned a great deal with Strongholds and I’m eager to apply the new knowledge and analytics to the next crowdfunding effort.

Here at Zheng Labs we’re ramping up to start the print-a-thon for backer reward fulfillment, but we have a little side project to get out of the way first. Scoundrels that we are, we’re using the slow trickle of backer survey returns as an excuse to not engage with the following print ticket:

print ticket

That’s-a-lotta-printing, my friends. We’ll get started this evening, I promise.

The Easter Bunny was kind enough to drop off a roll of NinjaFlex last week, so before the printer gets ocupado producing Citadels and Eyries for the forseeable future we thought we’d give flexible filament a try.

Loading NinjaFlex into an extruder can be like shooting pool with a rope. I found that my venerable Replicator1 sucked the NinjaFlex right in without issues, but the faster G2 extruder on the Series 1 caused the NinjaFlex to bind up, thusly:

extruder

The trick is not to use OctoPrint’s Extrude button to pull the filament into the extruder– it pulls the filament in too fast, the filament backs up inside the nozzle and then starts folding upon itself and turning into silly string.

Instead, just heat up to 240°, push the lever on the side of the extruder, and manually push the filament in until you feel it hit the bottom of the nozzle. Make sure you’ve got good thermal conductivity between your hot end and nozzle too; a liberal application of thermal paste will be quite helpful.

Thermal paste fixes so many 3D printing problems.

Print settings: I’m at 240°, printing at 20mm/sec with .2 layer height. Retraction at 50mm/sec with a distance of 2mm.

Rex turned out nicely, printed on glass with Elmers’ glue stick. Then I mushed him under some PT weights.

rex crushed

(You can of course download Rex from The Forge.)

In other gnus: there will be a lot of human downtime while I’m printing all those Citadels and Eyries, so I’ve started modeling work on the Next Thing. Here’s a peek.

boot

#staytuned. This project’s going to be buckets o’ fun.

Nice guys finish first: Cubeforme vs. Just3dPrint

Oceans of pixels have already been spilt in covering the Great Free Model Heist of 2016 and I’m late to the game as usual (what with a 3D printing Kickstarter underway and all), but I’ll bring it up again because I’d like to draw a bright line of contrast between the moustache-twirling mendacity of Just3Dprint and the 3D printing paladins over at Cubeforme.

To recap: A quartet of marketing-school bros decided that offering outrageously-priced prints of freely available 3D models on eBay without crediting or compensating the original designers in any way was a viable business model. Just3DPrint defended themselves against the subsequent outrage with some hamhanded quasi-legal jiggery-pokery and, in doing so earned the ire of the 3D printing community and attracted the gaze of MakerBot’s legal department besides. Nice.

The hullabaloo has since died down and, with any luck, these gentlemen will fade into 3D printing history and pursue careers for which they are better suited, like price-gouging senior citizens out of their pharmaceuticals. Enough about them, let’s move on to Cubeforme.

Cubeforme found an alternative business model using the same wellsprings of free 3D printable content, but where Just3dPrint did everything wrong, Cubeforme is doing everything right.

A primer on Cubeforme: the company selects one designer a month, prints a few of their models, and ships the prints to subscribers along with some liner notes about the designer. They’re all about the end user unboxening experience: the colorful packing material is even matched to the colors of the 3D prints therein. BONUS! 10% of every order goes back to the original designer.

Their first box was “The Jim Rodda Adventure,” a title that the lovely and talented Mrs. Zheng3 thinks is hi-larious. It contains a couple of my designs: Robber Rex, Finger Shark, Zheng’s Diminutive Defender, and the Micro Ballista. It’s a fun little bundle of 3D printed mayhem.

jim rodda adventure

(Cubeforme > Just3DPrint). Here’s why:

  1. They asked permission. This is HUGE. In a world where 3D content is often free for the taking, CubeForme took that extra, polite step of asking me if they could use my work. Pay attention, just3Dprint.com. Creative Commons Attribution matters.
  2. I was compensated! I won’t be retiring on what I was paid– these guys are a scrappy startup, after all– but even a token gesture of financial support for someone who’s cranking out free models day after day means a great deal.
  3. They’re nice guys. CubeForme’s principals Kyle and Nick have gone out of their way to promote me and my work, even after their Kickstarter ended. Communication with them has been excellent and they’ve been good pals of mine ever since.

So! If you’re a 3D printing designer, especially one who got rubbed the wrong way by the Just3DPrint debacle, get in touch with CubeForme. They’ll help get your designs out to more people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a 3D printer.

Not a designer but just want a monthly shipment of curated stuff showing up at your door? Check out Cubeforme here, and use code zheng3 at check-out for 20% off anything designed by Zheng Labs.

Best of luck to Cubeforme in all their future endeavors. This 3D printing startup is worth watching: you read it here first.

I gots new models on Etsy, yo

Kickstarter preparations continue at their frenetic ground-pounding pace here at Zheng Labs. The 3D printers whirrburble day and night, we hear camera shutters flutter in our sleep, and we’re driving the kobolds as hard as half-rations and flickering torchlight allow. We’re sure to hear from Humanoid Social Services if we flog the scaly little bastards any harder.

When last we left our heroes they’d just announced the sale of Dice Citadels on Etsy, and now we’ve got another RPG-related opus out there in the marketplace. Witness for yourself the power of this fully operational RPG Dice Plinth!

plinth gid

This one’s printed in ColorFabb Glow-In-The-Dark PLA/PHA, which is fast becoming my favorite filament. We’ve got ’em in Slate Blue, too. They’re both compatible with Chessex-style dice boxes.

plinth slate

Longtime followers of Zheng3.com will note that these dice plinths are remarkably similar to Dice Plinth 1.0 but there are two important differences to be noted:

First, and I realize this is getting a little deep in the weeds for 95% of the audience, the geometry on the new plinths is way more elegant. It’s been completely overhauled to minimize slicing and printing errors. No wonkiness in the STL, as far as I can tell.

Second, and this is where it gets exponentially more interesting, Dice Plinth 2.0 features a hidden chamber underneath a hinged trap door!

trapdoor closed

The secret compartment is spacious enough to stash a little cash for gaming night. Bust out a Hamilton and summon some mozzarella sticks, baby.

trapdoor open

So! With the completion of the dice plinth I’ve got a couple of backer reward levels done and tested, with solid gCode backing them up. You wouldn’t believe the amount of filament retraction troubleshooting that’s been going on over here.

oh gawd the filament retraction troubleshooting

All that remains now is to make the Kickstarter video, write the copy, and throw this project down on the front step and see if the cat licks it up.

Also I have to get around to designing that tiara I promised. Pinshape! Haven’t forgotten about you guys. Tiara’s gonna RAWK, trust me on this.

#staytuned, my friends. Join the Horde, too, while you’re at it.

Lao Zheng out.

Prelude to a Kickstarter

Sharp-eyed readers and hominids with their auditory orfices pressed to the earth will have noted by now that there have been rumblings in the distance that might just possibly, herald the coming of Zheng3 Kickstarter #4.

Clearly a throng of hardcore loyalists who really enjoy the work that we do here at Zheng Labs exists, but with the exception of the lightning-in-a-bottle success of the original Faire Play, our Kickstarters have failed to gain traction with a wider audience outside the 3D printing community.

I suspect there are two reasons for this:

  1. Zheng3 crowdfunding ideas are mostly unappealing to people not named Zheng3.
  2. Desktop 3D printing still hasn’t reached a significant enough market penetration where backers are willing to receive digital-only backer rewards. People want stuff.

This time around I think we might have a concept that deals with obstacle #1: instead of appealing to the Barbie-age grrl warrior demographic or geeks who might want infant children cut their teeth on Dungeon Blocks, we’re going slightly more mass-market. But only slightly, mind you.

Behold, the Dice Citadel.

slate blue square

Oh, yeeeeeeeah.

The citadel makes a nifty container for one full set of RPG dice, including an extra d10 so you can get your percentiles in there too. The battlement on top unscrews with a quick twist of the wrist.

dice cu

Best part? I’ve got a whole bunch of these ready to go in Colorfabb Glow In The Dark filament.

glow

Now, as for problem #2: people wanting stuff. THINGS. Physical products that they can hold in their hands and show off to Aunt Tillie. I’ve grudgingly accepted that the time for widespread adoption of digital-only backer rewards has not yet come, and have resigned to printing an oxcart full of these citadels and their Kickstarted descendants for those geeks outside the Venn diagram intersection of the 3D printing and RPG-playing communities.

Here’s the thing about Kickstarters: even an unsuccessful one is really, really hard to pull off. If you’ve never done one before you’d be amazed at how much pre-production goes into the process.

Amid all the planning hullabaloo there are known unknowns that can be minimized, however, and one of those is the production capacity of the small facility here at Zheng Labs. To that end, I’ve started moving my prototype Dice Citadels on Etsy. Fulfilling actual orders some outside accountablity in the process, and will help iron out printing, logistics, and shipping issues before we get into making dozens of dice towers for Kickstarter backers.

So! Join The Horde to be notified when the Kickstarter launches later this year.

Thanks. Lao Zheng out.

Dungeon Blocks, enGIFfened!

So! Earlier this week Dungeon Blocks was launched. The Kickstarter’s doing well– as of today we’re 40% funded!

dungeon blocks16-9

Dungeon Blocks are 3D printable alphabet blocks emblazoned with fantasy creatures and dungeon scenery. Here’s the linky if you’d like to throw it a bone or two: http://kck.st/1FNEFwP

The plan is to illustrate 26-odd fantasy tropes and then 3d model them onto the blocks. We’ve got a proof-of-concept D is for Direwolf block, as well as a bunch of scenery like dungeon walls, doors, and staircases. Take a look at the Kickstarter page to see some concept art for scenery that’ll be in the final version.

Despair not, ye without access to 3D printers; there be fantasy critter coloring book backer rewards too!

This time around we’re crowdsourcing the creativity, too: if the project’s funded I’ll be setting up a forum here at Zheng3.com where backers can hash out exactly which fantasy tropes they’d like to see featured on the blocks. We’ve already got some heavy hitters from the 3D printing community as backers and I’m really looking forward to seeing the ideas they come up with.

You, yes, you can get in on the action and be part of the creative process by backing at the PARTY MEMBER level. If you just want to help support Open Source design (and receive a PDF coloring tome to boot) become a FRIENDLY NPC instead.

Usually at this point in the blog post I go into a behind-the-scenes-how’d-he-do-dat 3d modeling riff, but by Jove I’ve been writing/coding a lot lately and just need to flex some different tendons for a bit.

Here’s a GIF instead.

dungeon block