Dollar Stores

Have you ever browsed a dollar store, store going out of business, or garage sale?  The senses are overwhelmed with the sheer number and variety of things you’d never ever want to take home with you.  It boggles the mind to even conceive of how or why such things were created in the first place.  The frustrating part of it is – there’s probably a really good deal on something very useful somewhere inside that place.

Unfortunately, this is kind of how I’m beginning to feel about Thingiverse.  I love the idea of a place for sharing digital designs.   Over the last month it has gotten flooded with “things.”  People just uploading Sketchup, SolidWorks, or other 3d modeling files directly to Thingiverse, outright plagiarism, and stuff that could never be printable/cuttable/makeable (such as several objects with zero thickness).

I’m totally good with uploading an unfinished design, partial designs, or the outline of an idea.  But, for heaven’s sake, please include a title, description, and a copy of your file for sharing.  And, by sharing I mean an STL or DXF file – not a proprietary format.  By all means, include your source Sketchup or SolidWorks file, but please also include a file type that’s actually meant for assisting in the production of the thing.

Next in the cranky-pants series:  Hey you kids!  Get off my damn lawn!

A new design and an old problem

I don’t have killer 3D modeling skills – but am able to build a reasonable model using Sketchup.  It may be closed-source, but it’s got a fantastic UI.  (Heck, Apple has made an entire business model out of this proposition).

I’m trying to design a printable nut and bolt – and have a pretty good design.  The diameter of the threads on the bolt is almost 1cm, so it’s pretty large.  Constructing spirals manually is a real pain, so I used a plugin/script for generating the internal and external helixes.  (Helixi?)

The difficulty with Sketchup is that it’s not really a 3D modeling program – it’s a sketching program that makes really good looking images and reasonably good 3D models.  The problem is that it doesn’t really check to make sure triangles are properly oriented, sides are facing the way they should be, or that it is manifold.  Oh, and when the model is small it will start making little holes in your object.

There are plugins for exporting Sketchup files to STL files, but either due to a flaw in Sketchup or the plugins, they results are not as good as what you would find in other programs.  The end result is that to get a really good STL out of Sketchup I have to design in Sketchup, export as a 3DS model, import into Blender or NetFabb, fix it up, and then export back to a fixed STL.

If you’ve got a better way for transmuting a Sketchup file into a reliable STL, please let me know!

Zaggo’s Pleasant3D v2.0

I’ve always been a PC kinda guy ever since my IBM 286.1  PC’s are inherently more modular and hackable than Macs – I can buy any off the shelf no-name brand part and fix something myself.

That said, Zaggo’s software is making me wish I had a Mac.  His Pleasant3D v2.0 software is crazy awesome.  I use Google Sketchup to design and a combination of Netfabb and Blender to convert formats.  But nothing I have lets me view models in the way Zaggo wrote.

  1. Which still works – rockin’ a 20 MB hard drive! []
March 1, 2010 | Comments Closed

Why make blocks?

Making blocks with a MakerBot is almost counter productive.  Why would you want to make something out of plastic that can be used to make other things out of plastic?  Why not just print the final plastic object as a single piece all at once?

I like the idea of being able to physically play with the design of something.  Sketchup is easy to use, but legos are even easier.  I never worry about an operation that I can’t Ctrl-Z my way out of.  Plus, it’s even easier to go from idea to objection with physical building blocks.  I think it would also be a very interesting way to get around the overhang and size limitations of a CupCake CNC.

February 18, 2010 | Comments Closed

New Print: Cogsworth

I designed this in Sketchup, exported to STL, Skienforged to gcode, RepG’d to an S3G file, and printed. The feature I’m the most proud of is the pendulum inside his chest.

Digital Cogsworth

Digital Cogsworth


Physical Cogsworth

The design needs to be tweaked a little since parts of him have too much plastic and a few parts have too little. But, overall I’m quite happy with the result.

February 14, 2010 | Comments Closed

Printed Dinos!

Don’t get me wrong – I like the acrylic dinos I have.  But what if you want to replace yours with a printed set?  Or what if you want to print up a full extruder kit for a friend?  Well, now you can!  I just uploaded some designs for a printed set of dinos.  Depending upon your batch you may have Big/Little dinos or Weird/Big dinos.  These should work in place of either, assuming that the placement of the bolt holes in the Z stage haven’t changed. 1

I’ve uploaded the sketchup files to make it easy to play with the designs.  As I was mocking these up I was tempted to turn them into bunnies instead of dinos.  Or to give the dinos some more features.  Since I was so torn about which route to take I decided to upload the bland models and let others embellish if they want.

So, print up printstruder and a few dinos for an authentic fully printed printruder.

Update:  Try out Zaggo’s printed dinos instead.  His is a much cleaner more elegant design.

  1. Doubtful []

Open Everything

The ideal is obviously using a totally open source environment to develop things with a RepRap/MakerBot.  For the most part I use open source software – FireFox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, Pigin, PHP, MySQL, WordPress.

However, I’m still tied to certain closed source proprietary software.  I still use Windows and haven’t made the leap of faith to Linux/Ubuntu.  I really like the ease of use and intuitive nature of Google’s Sketchup.  But, I can’t help feel like a little bit of a sham – still clinging to Windows and Sketchup because they’re easy and familiar.  All the while cranking out wonderful plastic goodness with my open source hardware ‘bot.

I have a feeling I could get used to Linux/Ubuntu if I gave them a shot, but the alternatives to Sketchup I’ve seen and tried are nearly unintelligible.  Does this mean I try to run Wine or break down and spend the time to learn something else?

Google Sketchup Plugins

I cannot take credit for these fantastic plugins.  Since posting this originally I have heavily edited it to include all the great Google Sketchup plugins I’m using. 1  Without further ado they are:

  1. (2291 downloads) – This script will allow you to import STL and DXF.  I haven’t used this one as much as the other two.  I think this script was written by someone named Guitar-list.
  2. (3280 downloads) – This script will allow you to import/export STL files.  I’ve had pretty good success exporting STL files, but the importing is very hit or miss.  This Ruby script appears to be encrypted, so I don’t know who wrote it and I don’t know enough Ruby to decode it.  This is the best link I could find to it.
  3. (2106 downloads) – This script will reduce the number of polygons and faces in a Sketchup model.  With really complex models (or an underpowered computer) it can take a LONG time to work.  Fair warning.  This great script was written by someone named Whaat.
  4. Update 7/11/2010: (1799 downloads) – Script for generating a helix.  Super awesome for creating screw threads. 2  This script was written by someone named Peter Brown, but I cannot find any link to his site or contact information.  Sorry Peter.  I did find some instructions on how to use this plugin.
  5. Update 7/27/2010: (961 downloads) – Script for making a Sketchup object manifold.  I’ve tried it a few times and found that it works slowly on my super under powered machine.  I’ve gotten bored and stopped it before it has completed.  That said, I’m quite confident a more patient person could get it to work no problem.  :)  Manifold was written by someone named TIG who is a prolific creator of Sketchup plugins/Ruby scripts on the Sketchucation forums.  I found this plugin thanks to the Capolight blog – there’s some amazing stuff over there – check it out.
  6. Update 11/25/2010: (945 downloads) – Script for importing STL files by Jim of Jim’s Sketchup Plugins.
  7. Update 11/25/2010: (5232 downloads) – Script for adding rounded or beveled corners to objects.  This plugin by Fredo6 has some detailed installation and usage instructions on the Sketchup Forums pages.  He’s also included instructions as a PDF – Quickcard-RoundCorner-English-v2.1.pdf (652 downloads) .  This plugin requires Fredo6’s shared code library called (887 downloads) with it’s own LibFredo6-User-Manual-English-v3.4-14-Sep-09.pdf (579 downloads) .
  8. Update 11/25/2010: (690 downloads) – Script for manipulating objects, also by Fredo6 with detailed instructions on the Sketchup Forums.  Also with detailed instructions as a PDF – FredoScale-User-Manual-English-v2.0-28-Mar-09.pdf (527 downloads) .  There are also tutorial videos here and here.  This plugin requires Fredo6’s shared code library called (887 downloads) with it’s own LibFredo6-User-Manual-English-v3.4-14-Sep-09.pdf (579 downloads) .
  9. Update 11/25/2010: (843 downloads) – Script for creating curved surfaces or skins from contours or paths, also by Fredo6 with detailed instructions on the Sketchup Forums.  Although there isn’t any documentation, there are two tutorial videos here and here with an additional tutorial here.  This plugin requires Fredo6’s shared code library called (887 downloads) with it’s own LibFredo6-User-Manual-English-v3.4-14-Sep-09.pdf (579 downloads) .
  10. Update 11/25/2010: (724 downloads) –  Script for detecting problems with solid forms by Thomas Thomassen.
  11. Update 12/27/2010: wafer.rb (574 downloads) – Script for converting a Sketchup file into Gcode for cutting 2D shapes using a CNC machine.  I can’t find the name of the author, but this is his website with instructions for how to use his plugin.
  1. I don’t have the author’s names/links handy at the moment, but when I find them I’ll update this page. []
  2. As you can tell, I’ve spent the last six months relentlessly searching for this script… []