Tag Archives: The Next Thing

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.

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.

11 Reasons A Heartwarming Kickstarter Failed: #2 Will Give You The Feels

Well, that certainly could have gone better.

crash

The funding period for Faire Play 2 has ended and we’ve come up short. Like, way, way, way short. You can still purchase the models for the Faire Play 2 chariot, gladiatrix armor, and Empress Makeover Kit over at The Bazaar, but the Kickstarter’s gone off and joined the choir invisible.

Before we proceed, allow me this big, red, throbbing, baboon-ass of a caveat. Nowhere is it written that one is entitled to a successful Kickstarter. You buys your ticket, and you takes your chances. Zheng Labs rolled the dice and came up with a big old nothing-burger this time. C’est la vie.

But you can’t hit if you don’t swing, right? Build it, as is told in the Book of Costner, and they will come.

And come they did, in droves. Faire Play 2 received a tremendous amount of favorable media coverage in online publications across the spectrum, from The Huffington Post to Newsmax. There are Kickstarters that would kill for that kind of exposure.

There are rumors that the potato salad guy did kill for that kind of exposure. But only rumors, mind you.

And yet, despite a truly inspiring amount of publicity and online good will, Faire Play 2 missed its goal by roughly eighty percent.

Ouch.

But as Grandma Zheng always used to say, if you’re going to fail, you might as well fail spectacularly. So there’s that.

What happened? Let’s explore some possibilities.

#1. In hindsight, launching a Kickstarter contingent on the cooperation of cats might not have been the smartest business plan.

Everybody knows there’s no way you’d ever get a cat to pull a chariot. Ever. And even if you did the cat would find a way to kill you in your sleep. The Venn diagram of people with Barbie dolls, 3D printers, and cats is also vanishingly small, which further limited the number of potential Faire Play 2 backers.

cat reveal

#2. People are used to getting amusing content for free, and converting Kickstarter video views into Kickstarter backing isn’t a viable strategy.

I had a tremendous amount of fun creating the Kickstarter video for this project. My hope was that people would watch the video and then think, “Yes! Imagine what this guy could do with greater resources. Here’s two bucks.”

Alas, in a world where hilarious dashcam vids of road-raging mascots are free for the taking, asking people to selflessly contribute to one’s artistic endeavors is hoplessly naïve.

thumbs down

Still, STILL! Many people did contribute to the project for precisely that reason! I’m thoroughly grateful to the hundred or so idealists who supported Faire Play 2. You folks are the best, and the world would be better off with more people like you.

Also, apparently 3d printed lithopanes are a terrible idea for a backer reward. Who knew?

#3. Nobody plays with dolls anymore.

It hasn’t been a great year for Mattel. Barbie sales crashed 21% in Q3 of 2014 and have been sinking for three years straight, and Mattel’s CEO left for greener pastures.

I’m doing what I can to revitalize Barbie’s image, but I can’t imagine a kid born after 2010 picking up a doll when there’s an iPad nearby. The market for aftermarket Barbie accessories, already quite nichey, gets smaller every day.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but model this Barbie-compatible tire iron. In this house, Barbie changes her own tires.

tire iron

It’s free! Download it here. You’ll have to heat-deform it after printing to get that nice bend in the shaft.

My guess is that at this point in the article some folks are wondering why there aren’t 8 more reasons the Kickstarter didn’t succeed. It’s because the 11 in the title of this post is in base-2.

So, what’s next?

Oh, man, I am so excited for the Next Thing.

(I’m always chasing the Next Thing. Character flaw. Greatest strength, greatest weakness, and all that.)

I’ve been working on the Next Thing for the last couple of weeks and hope to announce it soon. Here’s a wee teaser image for you.

teaser

#staytuned and #watchthisspace, my friends. This temporary setback has got me generating all kinds of new ideas. The ride’s only going to get more fun from here on out.

And big, big, BIG thanks to everyone who supported the project. I’s got good peeps.