All posts by Technomancer_Ral

Week In Review: 09-06-2020

It’s been another hobby filled week here at the sanctum. I’ve been working on a few things here, sadly I can’t fill you in on quite all of the details, as some of it is being kept secret for a competition.

To start out with, I’ve been doing a lot of work towards an online competition with the Cyberdeck Cafe. Here’s the flyer:

And here’s the link if you are interested:

The short version of it is that we were given requirements and a short timeframe to design a cyberdeck based on a pi zero. The winner gets their design printed in resin and constructed by one of the judges, and sent to them. I’ve been spending a lot of time running through prototypes, though hopefully I’m just in the fine-tuning stage at this point. I’d tell you more… but I know some people from the associated Discord occasionally check this site, and I want to maintain the surprise on my entry. I’m fine with not winning the competition, I just don’t want to lose to someone using my idea and doing a better implementation of it.

While running off prototypes on my printer, I’ve been trying to use up what’s left of a few partial spools of filament. It’s past time I clear out the stock of old filament. I’m planning on transitioning over to better grades of filament, but it would have been a waste to simply throw out the older filament. And I needed to use it sooner rather than later, because the filament can degrade and get brittle (hence one spool’s remnant being tossed out due to frequent breakage).

I’ve been putting the finished off spools to good use, as shown in the cover image for this post. I have a second miniatures tower on a turntable to more neatly store my minis. At this rate of minis production lately, I may have to make a third when I have the spools. And I should probably learn how to paint minis at some point…

With all this 3D printing, I finally got a test and validation of one of my upgrades. I think I posted way back that I had put my 3D printers on a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) in case of power failure or tripping a breaker. A couple nights ago I tripped a breaker while printing on both printers (and having some other loads on the system), but since I had both printers and the control system on the UPS, I didn’t lose these multi-hour prints! Successful test of 3D printing on UPS backup!

“Medieval” Backpack Upgrade Finished

This past week I finished my updates to the backpack. I cleaned up the leather straps, replaced the corroded fittings, cut the straps to length, punched new holes, and attached the straps to the frame. Here are the results.

The replacement buckles look better than the originally planned buckles! I doubt you’d notice, but I had to remove and adjust that felt padding on the lower frame by narrowing the area covered by it. Otherwise the leather straps would have to wrap around the padding, which doesn’t provide as secure of a hold.

From this top view you can see the leather badges on the bag that I keep on top of the overall pack. I found the bag and those badges at DragonCon a few years back. The in-character explanation is that I’d carry the whole thing as I walked from town to town, and set it down in my room at an inn, taking my lighter bag around shopping in town.

At some point I still need to go through what I carry in and on the pack for events. Right now I’ve got it in a kind of “all-purpose” configuration, with a bota bag for water, a small bag for local shopping, and a wool blanket for warmth/shelter. I’d like to figure out 1) what I would want to carry if I decided to take this camping and 2) what I would want to carry if I were actually the character that this was designed for. What tools would I carry for my trade? What in-period essentials would I carry for survival? Would I have anything in there to deal with bandits or wild animals?

As someone pointed out to me recently, I apparently like to have a story behind the things I create.

Mini Project Update: “Medieval” Backpack

Years ago (before I started this blog) I made a medieval-ish backpack for Renaissance Faires and the like. I had wanted something to carry stuff around at events while in costume without carrying a very obviously modern backpack. Recently I’ve decided to take a crack at fixing/updating it. Here it is when I first built it years ago.

One of the “features” that I was not happy with, and prompted the repair work, was that the leather support straps would sometimes pull out in the direction of the furniture tacks holding them to the frame. I removed the leather straps, sanded the wood a bit, and used wood glue while reattaching the straps to the frame, clamping it to make a stronger connection.

I also reinforced a couple connections with the posts that hold the box in place on the frame. I placed glue in the gaps, and hammered the posts back in tighter. My guess is that they had been pulling out from the frame from the load of the box.

When the glue had 24 hours to dry, I worked on my next annoyance: I had never cut the leather straps flush to the wood. The corners stuck out past the frame, contributing to the straps coming off in the past when things caught on a corner. After some experimentation on some scrap leather, I used an exacto knife to cut the leather, and only then removed the clamps from the frame. Why add unnecessary stress to a recently glued item?

Since I was working on it anyway, I decided to tackle another thing that had always bothered me: the shoulder straps. Here’s another old photo:

Note the rope being used for terrible shoulder straps. At some point between then and now, I swapped them out with some belts from cargo shorts. These are the belts I’m talking about:

They were MUCH more comfortable, but still doesn’t look quite right. None of them match, and it still looks crude. I did some thinking and researching, wanting to swap them for leather ones. I had always wanted leather ones, but after a while I had kinda written it off and forgotten about them.

This time, though, I came across some sword belts that looked like they might work with the frame, so I ordered those. Unfortunately, it was not as easy a swap as I had hoped, and I’ve still got work to do. Here is one of the belts that arrived:

If you look closely you’ll note that all the metal fittings were corroded prior to arrival. This stained the leather and made me loath to use those fittings. The buckles would require heavy cleaning, and the chicago screws were pretty much a lost cause. The leather should be fine, though. That did inspire me to look for some upgrades. I’m replacing the buckles and all the screws, all with antiqued brass.

It’ll look better than it would have if they had come through properly! However, I’ve still got to do some leatherworking, as the straps are actually too long for their intended positions. Also, the holes were not positioned correctly for wrapping around objects of the size of the rungs on the pack.

At least nowadays I have a workshop set up, and more tools to work with, so it’s a much less daunting task than when I originally built the pack! It shouldn’t take too long to do, but I want to make sure that I take my time and do it right, so I’ll have to make sure I have a solid block of time to work on them.

Keytar Power Switch

I got fed up with the power cables sticking out of the side of the case, so I decided to make the power switch a more integral part of the build. Also, I didn’t like the gaping hole in the case.

There were two power switches, one for the deck itself, and one for powering the USB hub. I modified this one for the hub, deciding to route it fully inside the case, even though that means I have to briefly open the tray to turn on the hub.

I also made this cable up for the main power to the Pi.

As part of this design process there was a lot of tinkering and iterating.

And, I mean a LOT of tinkering. This is what I ended up with:

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I knew I liked the idea of a red safety cover for the switch, but those are designed to turn a regular flip switch off when they closed. I needed a way to have a cover a switch while the thing was still powered on. I found the switch that would fit through the hole of the safety cover (after a little… modification with the deburring tool), and figured out how to design the little bugger to hole the actual switch, the switch cover, allow for proper free movement of the switch to function, and attach the switch neatly and securely to the case. I’ll spare you the iterations, but it took a while, and I think I got it to look pretty good and hold well. I like that I have a red power button under a red safety cover now. It just feels… right.

Sanctum Upgrades: Surge Protection

I’ve been dealing with a lot of thunderstorms lately, and got kinda fed up with my old habit of unplugging my sensitive electronics every time they come through, so I decided to finish fully surge-protecting my primary workstation and my router.

The internet connection required a few changes while I was at it. Here it was before.

I kinda dropped a whiteboard on the coax connector a while back, and was worried that it might have been damaged a bit in the process, so I replaced it just in case. Also, the coax cable stuck out of the wall, taking up a bit more floorspace than necessary, so I replace the cable with a shorter yet more flexible one and installed a 90 degree connector. I added an in-line surge protector on the coax cable, and replaced the wall surge protector (I wanted to use the other one somewhere else).

Now it doesn’t stick out as far, and I don’t have to worry about surges going through the router. Though, I guess I kinda went a little redundant on protecting the PC from power surges on the internet connection, as the the ethernet cable was already routed through a surge protector. Oh well, there is no such thing as overkill.

While I was making some changes, I also replaced the old surge protectors for the computer’s peripherals. Here are the old ones:

And here is one of the new ones. I’ve installed them on the walls to be neater. Hopefully the command strips will hold in this configuration.

My Favorite Technomancers in Fiction

Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

These characters in fiction epitomize this concept with their devices… in some cases being able to defeat things that normally required magic through their technology.

The Doctor (Doctor Who) – The guy solves many problems through technobabble, a “not-a-magic-wand” sonic screwdriver, and the TARDIS, a ship that travels through time and space, can make pretty much anything… and is bigger on the inside.

Ghostbusters (Ghostbusters franchise, duh) – In many other franchises, you have to have access to divine or supernatural powers to get rid of ghosts. These guys and gals build their own energy weapons capable of defeating ghosts, capturing some, and blowing up others. Awesome.

Iron Man (Marvel) – Tony Stark builds a suit of armor that allows him to fly, shoot energy beams from his hands, and do many other things that would be described as magic by previous generations, so I’m gonna count it.

Seto Kaiba (Yu-Gi-Oh) – This guy recreates the feel of ancient magical games with holographic projections, and in Dark Side of Dimensions even defeats “unstoppable” ancient magic through the power of his own technology. Badass.

Technomage Elric (Babylon 5) – This is the main technomage we meet in the Babylon 5 series. They purposely and explicitly use technology to create what would have been considered magic.

Warp Core Table Lamp

I’ve been wanting to build one of these for years, since before I got my first 3D printer, but I had so many problems with my 3D printers on long prints that I never got around to it.

Well, I’m fixing that now!

For one thing, the models for this have been redone drastically, increasing quality and reducing the print time.

Here’s the original: Warp Core Table Lamp

And here’s a redone version: 1701-D Warp Core (HI-RESOLUTION)

It’s also been downsized slightly, which makes the large parts fit on my smaller 3D printer.

For another, I’ve been fixing my 3D printers, and have had all this monitored print time available recently, so I’ve had no excuse NOT to make it anymore. So, I’ve been spitting out the parts for this thing lately.

Those translucent sections were much larger and more complex in the original model, each made of 5 toroids. Also, many pieces were replaced with metal rods that I was able to order on Amazon, I just have to cut them down to the correct length.

So… yet another project ongoing! I’ve gotten the tools and hopefully all the parts I need, so when I have some more time (I’ve been kinda busy) I’ll be:

  1. Writing the arduino code for controlling it
  2. Testing the code on a breadboard
  3. Soldering an absurd number of connections
  4. Cutting a bunch of metal rods with a reciprocating saw
  5. Filing some metal bits to safer edges
  6. Assembling the lamp

Sanctum Upgrades: Resurrecting the Colido DIY, Part 3

There were a lot of maintenance items that I ended up trying/doing, and I don’t feel like dragging this out any further, so I’m trying to condense the rest of what I did here.

Smooth Motion Maintenance:

This is a combination of some general maintenance items. I replaced all the bearings I was able to. This included the ones on the hot end carriage and on the vertical axis, but I had no way to easily swap out the ones on the print bed carriage.

While I’m thinking about it, remember that if you have to swap out bearings, put the thicker white lithium grease on the inside of the new bearing before putting it on the rod, to make sure the bearing gets fully lubricated. When you’ve finished assembling, make sure to move the bearings back and forth several times to make sure the lubrication spreads within the bearing evenly.

While doing that, I cleaned and lubricated all the linear rods and z-axis screws. I also replaced all the timing belts. I think this has reduced the friction greatly, and improved the smoothness/ease of motion.

Here’s one of the bearings I replaced on the extruder carriage.

Stepped Spool Holder:

As I discovered in the previous post in this series, the smooth spool holder allowed the spools to slide off, and I remembered that there was a stepped variant. I printed off one of those, assembled it… and it works much better! The steps keep the spools on top of the printer, despite the vibrations from the printer’s motion in certain circumstances.

This spool holder allows for quicker filament changes, without having to fiddle with an exterior spool holder. This is especially helpful as the original spool holder had required disassembling the holder each time I wanted to change filaments, and clamping to keep it from moving in the way of the print bed.

Hot End Replacement:

I was having some temperature fluctuations on the hot end, at least in what temperatures were registering. I’m so glad I started using Octoprint and could monitor temperature telemetry!

Based on talking with other people about it, and looking at the symptoms, it appeared to be something wrong with the thermistor and/or the wire connecting it to the control board. I was considering replacing the thermistor, but I was having difficulty finding a compatible one. I was, however, able to find a replacement hot end from the manufacturer, which would give me the added benefit of replacing the nozzle and lining tube at the same time, so I swapped out the whole assembly.

It was a straight up swap for identical parts, though it was tedious because of the cable wrapping that had to be removed in order to remove the old wires and include the new ones.

This stuff is necessary to reduce wear on the wires, but annoying to implement.

Cooling Fan Addition:

The major issue I was seeing with overhangs and general print quality was an overheating issue. There are a couple ways to address aspects of this: adding a silicone sock to reduce reheating issues, and/or adding a cooling fan to make the top surfaces cool more quickly. For now I’ve only implemented the latter option. I’ve been unable to find a compatible silicone sock so far.

thedayowl on Thingiverse designed a fan duct for a blower fan to be added to the carriage. You can find it here. I printed it out, ordered the other parts, and attached it to the assembly.

The trickiest bit was figuring out how I was supposed to connect the power. There’s an open connection on the board that provides sufficient power continuously. You can’t control it through the software, but I don’t see the harm in letting that small blower run continuously.

By the way, the connector on the board is NOT the standard connector it looks like, and I’m not sure what it is, so I made do with a dupont connector.

Gear Grinding/Nozzle Turnoff/Layer Shift

There was an intermittent issue that I’ve had with the stepper motors (particularly on the y axis, but occasionally on the x axis) moving unexpectedly, often running into the end stop and grinding the belt. When that happened, the hot end would turn off (causing the filament to stop flowing and just grind), and the printer would lose track of the hot end’s location (causing massive layer shifts), both of which ruined the print. I attacked this from a few different angles. Replacing the belts earlier in the process was part of one of the attempts, as I’ve had issues with slippage before, as well as just part of replacing older parts.

Stepper Motor Driver Tweaking:

Based on a recommendation I’ve gotten from some other people, I got a multimeter to check the stepper motor drivers, and a ceramic screwdriver to adjust the voltage. I’ve tried tweaking it a few times, but I didn’t really see any improvement.

Power Supply Replacement:

Upon other recommendations, I decided to try getting a replacement power supply. I’ve been told that the one that came with the printer is considered a really reliable brand, but since I’ve swapped out the power supply the printer seems to have stopped having that intermittent failure.


With all that finished… WOW. This older printer can now print better than my newer one! I now do all my more precise prints on this printer.

For a point of comparison, here’s the before photo of the temperature towers printed on this printer.

Absolute rubbish!

And here’s the miniatures that I’m able to print now! I’ve been running it a lot lately building up my miniatures collection.

Thoughts/notes for the future:

If I run into issues on the hotend again, I think I may do what I’ve seen others do and switch to a more industry standard hotend, though that’d be an… interesting conversion process. It would make finding replacement parts a lot easier, though!

I think there is a little bit of a bed level issue, still, and I’m not sure how much is in the tramming and how much is in the metal bed I placed on it. It may be related to how I mounted the bed with command strips.

For now I’m printing mostly small items. When I print larger items I get a bit of warping, so I think I need to remember to implement brims on the larger ones. I’m not sure how much is due to the unheated bed, and how much from variations in leveling. And no, I’m not considering adding a heated bed anytime soon. From what I’ve read, trying to do a DIY heated bed increases the fire risk more than I am comfortable with.

At one point I was considering replacing the z-axis screws with thicker ones, but the manufacturer used a nonstandard interface piece (it had 3 holes instead of the standard 4), so I couldn’t easily swap them out without also having to print and install completely new blocks at the ends. This is the kind of nonsense that makes me want to scratch build a printer on my own down the line, with an eye for maintenance and using industry standard parts.

Anyway, I guess I’ve got to start working on the other printer soon to bring up the quality level on it! It feels kinda weird that my older and larger printer is currently better at producing the smaller miniatures. I need to address this imbalance, so I can print smaller things on the smaller printer and larger things on the larger printer.