Category Archives: 3D Printing

Flying V Construction Gallery

Early design phase:

Here’s some of the early stuff I went through, starting from making a sketch to figure out the angles to make the triangles in order to fit the components, and an early test to make sure the electronic components could work together.

Guitar Neck and Head:

The neck was easy to construct from components I had ordered. I 3D printed the head first as it could be designed and printed independently of the rest of the guitar while I took time designing the interdependent body sections. I originally intended to use a USB cable and an ethernet cable as fake “guitar strings”, but dealing with the cables would have added another layer of complexity that I didn’t need to deal with in the timeline of a competition project.

I modelled 2020 extrusion in CAD in order to use offsets to create interfacing components. This was included in various forms in the guitar head and the keyboard body. I also left spaces for t-slot nuts to attach to the neck. I put in screws in place of tuning pegs. Eventually I’m considering some changes such as thickening the head (to better support the monitor) and adding some decorative (or functional) fake tuning pegs, perhaps with SD cards in them.

Keyboard Sections:

I designed these sections next after the head, as the were the next comparatively simplest section, and I needed to get parts in production ASAP, using the print time of the simplest parts to design the next parts to print. This section connects directly to the guitar neck, and contains the ball joint hinge connecting to the monitor section. It also houses the keyboard and the second guitar strap button for wearing the guitar around.

Keyboard 1:

This section’s primary features are the connections for the latch, the plastic section designed to slide into the 2020 extrusion, and the added t-slot nut to allow to clamp solidly to the extrusion.

Keyboard 2:

This section is the beginnings of the slot to hold the keyboard in place. It also continues the trend of t-slot nuts to hold onto the rail.

Keyboard 3:

This section houses the magnets that hold the keyboard onto the guitar.

Keyboard 4:

This part holds the remainder of the keyboard, as well as the guitar strap button for wearing the guitar around. At some point I want to slightly redesign this so that in the upper right of the keyboard slot there is space for access to the keyboard’s power button and a wire connecting the keyboard physically to the Pi instead of relying on bluetooth.

Keyboard Joint:

This had to be designed closely in tandem with the monitor side of this joint. This section’s purpose was to be solidly mechanically connected to the keyboard half, and hold the ball joint connecting the two halves together. There’s a space for a screw on the bottom to attach the ball joint, and a space and end-stop for a bold sticking out of the side of the ball joint. An accident after assembly caused the bolt to break straight through the end stop. Conveniently, I had recently added a 3D printing pen to my arsenal, and rebuilt the stop by hand in the same plastic… just much denser than it had been when it was originally printed.

Keyboard Section Assembled:

Keyboard Attachment:

The magnets are used to attach the keyboard, which can be folded up to avoid being too obviously a computer. They keyboard then folds out to lay flush in the slot. I had to add tabs to get an easy grip on the keyboard to fold it back closed. Another item on my to-do list if I rebuild this is finger slots for grabbing the edges of the keyboard, for a cleaner build.

Note: They keyboard section could use a bit more weight to offset the weight of the monitor. The monitor tries to make the whole thing lean backwards a bit. For now, the guitar-neck kickstand partially compensates. Thickening the head of the guitar to match the thickness of the body would also help.

Monitor Sections:

This section was one of the last things I designed due to to complexity and the need to get stuff to the printer as fast as possible.

Monitor 1:

This section includes the hole for the charging port cable and mounting points for the latch that holds the guitar closed.

Monitor 2:

This section has the slot for the battery pack, one side of the mounting holes for the Raspberry Pi mount, a hole for the power switch, and part of the space and connections for the monitor. There is also an extended gap and mounting holes in the section near the 2020 extrusion, where I later installed a metal strap to rigidize the connection between this section and the hinge. Without that strap that connection would have been far too weak.

Monitor 3:

This section holds the majority of the monitor, and the ethernet port.

Monitor 4:

This section includes the holes for the audio jacks, the slot for the USB hub, and a recessed section to accommodate the cables coming out of the side of the monitor.

Monitor Hinge:

The hinge sections were crazy, trying to deal with the ball joint. This half also had to accommodate a metal strap connection to monitor 2, connection points for the Raspberry Pi mount, a hole for possible future expansion, and a slightly different sideways connection to monitor 3.

Monitor Assembled:

Ball Joint Design Tests:

This is the mechanical 3D printed assembly that I designed LAST, due to complexity. For one thing, I ended up having to get a new tool to figure out what the heck the threads were on the bolts on this thing.

I had designed the connections with adjacent sections as I was going along. This took a couple iterations to get close enough, but as previously mentioned, the bolt broke through the end stop, which I repaired with a 3D printing pen. I also had some difficulties with the screw going into the monitor joint. I appear to have made the hole for the heat set insert slightly too large and it slipped around. 3D printing pen to the rescue again! I covered the back of the screw and filled the area around the screw with plastic.

Full Plastic Assembly Layout:

Assembly required connecting all the appropriate plastic pieces together with bolts, then sliding the neck into the slot on the keyboard half and tightening the t-slot nuts. The picture below isn’t fully assembled, but shows about where things went. In particular, the neck is upside down relative to the position of the boards it’s supposed to connect to, since i needed to see the insides of the case for planning purposes.

Hardboard backing:

In order to save a lot more 3D printing time and hopefully add some rigidity, I designed this with a board backing. Scored and snapped hardboard.

I didn’t photograph this very well, as I was kinda in a hurry to finish at the time. I cut hardboard to fit the back, drilled holes, and wrapped the edges with electrical tape for a slightly neater look than the edges of scored and snapped hardboard. Down the line this needs to be painted or replaced.

Monitor/CPU Internals:

Here’s the setup overall. I added breakaway extension connectors for the battery and the power switch (I colorcoded them to prevent mishaps). The USB cables mean to go to the USB 3.1 connectors are wrapped in blue tape.

Some parts were hot glued into place, as I can remove hot glue with a bit of effort if I need to make modifications later. Also, it allowed me to get away with not having positive retention on the audio jacks, which would have been a pain to implement on the short timescale I had available.

Here’s the modification I made to the PiSugar2 Pro battery management board in order to add an external switch that I could get to more reasonably. It seemed to work at first, but for some reason it no longer seems to work, so for the moment I’ve bypassed this board and only try using it directly plugged into the Raspberry Pi.

Upgrade Port/Cover:

Here’s where I placed and covered a spot for a potential USB upgrade, intended for a cable connecting the keyboard physically to the Pi for power and more reliable data. The cover is my maker coin, modified. The door in the middle of the cover conceals a hole that the two halves of the coin are designed to wrap around a USB cable. The whole thing can be removed for a larger hole, big enough to run a USB cable through.

Whew. I’ve probably missed some stuff, and may need to go back and edit, but this should cover the vast majority of the build.

ΠTar Flying V Cyberdeck

So, you may have noticed that I appeared to drop off the web for about a month. Well, I was busy trying to build a full-size cyberdeck in a month for VirtCon 2021. I took Adam Savage’s advice from his book Every Tool’s a Hammer and took advantage of the competition to set a deadline for myself in order to build a concept that’s been floating around my head for a bit.

Now I get to share the result with you.

I decided to continue with the transforming feature from the last one, and the musical instrument theme from the first one, so here’s the ΠTar Flying V Cyberdeck.

A 3d-printed deck based around the general outline of a Flying V electric guitar, folding from guitar mode to cratetop cyberdeck mode. The neck is made of 2020 Aluminum Extrusion (aluminum extrusion was one of the requirements of the competition).

Here’s how it transforms:

I haven’t yet documented this one as thoroughly as my last build, but I can share with you some of what I do have this time. I may be posting more about this down the line as I sort through my photos.

Here’s the in-universe “sales flyer” as if this were being sold at a small shop as a custom item. It includes the general specifications and basic operating instructions.

I’ve posted the STLs on thingiverse, here:

ΠTar Flying V

Virtcon 2021 Design Competition

I’ve been clearing my tasks and workspace in prep for this competition, hosted by the cyberdeck.cafe group. The rules were announced last week here:

https://cyberdeck.cafe/mix/virtcon-2021-comp

The competition has two categories:

Competition A: Design a thematic t-shirt for the cyberdeck.cafe group to use for merch (additional requirements on the above link).

Prize: VOXELAB Proxima Monochrome Resin Printer

Wow. A resin printer for a prize? Pretty awesome. But that’s not where my talents or interests lie. I’m more interested in:

Competition B: Designing a portable cyberdeck (additional requirements on the above link).

Prize: An EZFlex build plate or your design printed on a large 3d printer.

I have about a month to design and present a new cyberdeck, this time using aluminum extrusion or piping. Conveniently, I’ve had the basics of a design that fits these requirements in the back of my head for a while, but insufficient motivation to build it until now. The prize is nice, but I’m really in it for the impetus and deadline to build another design.

I tend to get a bit… quiet about the details of my competition builds, so you’ll probably have to wait to see the design until I’ve submitted my entry to the competition. I can tell you that I’m definitely gonna be using some components and concepts familiar to anyone who has seen my previous builds.

Most of the parts are at the sanctum or will be arriving soon. Most of my concept seems like it should be straightforward (which I think means I’m not grasping something) except for one thing the whole design hinges on, which might get iffy.

Points where I have been or will be doing some learning:

Components new to me for this build so far:

Aluminum 2020 extrusion

Fan-based cooling on a Pi

PiSugar 2 Pro for a Raspberry Pi 4B

MDF board

Processes I have a bit of concern over:

Printing large objects without warping:

I’ve been running tests this past week trying to adjust for some warping issues that I’ve had with large objects. I’ve built a temporary enclosure to reduce issues with drafts causing unequal cooling (I’d post it… but I think the current version is a rickety potential fire hazard that I don’t want to condone for others). I’ve also changed some of my print settings to help with adhesion. These include checking the bed levelling (I still may need to redo this), increasing the first layer temperature, adding a large brim… and simply avoiding the area of the printer that seems to run into the worst problems. Side benefit: I’ve rebuilt the arch lamp, and didn’t have to use tape or glue.

Cutting MDF:

I’m currently planning to use MDF for part of the design to cut down on the parts count. I can eliminate about 12 3d printed parts from the design if I use some kind of sheet material, and MDF seemed appropriate. There are two methods I have access to at the moment that I plan to try: 1) cutting with a reciprocating saw or 2) attempting the “score and snap” method. I’m expecting some difficulties with this, but even if it takes me a few attempts and a bit to figure out, it should still be better than printing all those additional parts. It should be a simpler and stronger build this way.

A Very Belated Project Post: Pi-Tar Final Steps and Anatomy

As you’ve probably been able to tell from the dedicated page on the website, I finished the Pi-Tar months ago, but I never got around to explaining the final construction of it. 2020 was a hell of a year.

Looks like I left off after adding a power switch to the casing. I apologize in advance for lack of detail on certain aspects, I’m catching up on something from months and a few projects ago.

USB Hub:

In order to offload some power requirements for additional USB peripherals from drawing power through the Pi, as well as to make a more convenient location for plugging things in, I decided to add a powered USB hub. As an added bonus, this one came with an SD card slot and a microSD card slot.

This did add some complicating factors, though. I needed the wires to fit through some pre-existing holes in the casing AND the thing uses USB-C. I ended up having to buy some additional parts to make this work, which got rather weird. I had to find a USB-A to USB-C cable that would connect to the Pi on one end and fit into the existing hole into the casing. I made that part work, but it took some finagling with the wires.

I also had to find a USB-C to USB-C connector to connect that wire inside the case to the USB hub.

I also had to add a micro-USB power switch cable to connect the hub to the power bank (as mentioned in a previous post), and I attempted to modify the cable coming from the Pi to avoid drawing from or backfeeding to the Raspberry Pi (I can’t remember if I ever got that part to work without losing power, but that was the intent).

Once I figured out the wiring, I then had to figure out how to attach the thing to the exterior of the casing. Originally I was going to use the USB hub as the basis of some sort of pseudo-cartridge system with USB drives, but eventually cut it down to just being a conveniently accessible hub.

As part of this, I also decided that I needed to move the large audio port to the exterior of the case, and add an additional regular-sized audio jack. Moving the port freed up the existing hole in the casing to pass through all the wires for the interface hub. This meant I didn’t have to try to cut or drill a new whole in the interface between the two halves of the shell.

This hole, which is in the top right of the original casing

The 3D modelling and physically attaching that in was troublesome, but electronically it was simple. I just added an audio splitter cable to the end, putting one female end exterior to the case and the other connected to the adapter I had already been using.

I went through a LOT of iterations with the interface module (one of the names I’ve been workshopping, may be subject to change), and eventually settled on a two-part assembly that screwed onto the casing through existing holes. It took a LOT of measuring and iterations to get it to fit reasonably, both with the electronic components and the actual casing. I designed it in two parts, with the larger portion (containing the hub itself) screwing directly onto the casing, and the smaller portion (containing the audio jacks) sliding onto the larger part, and then screwing into both the casing and the larger interface section. The smaller section also served the purpose of covering the hole that the wires went through.

I quickly learned in that process to only print as much of a model as I actually needed to test the fit of parts, in order to reduce turnaround time and materials wastage. I also found out that parts moving in different directions can lead to weird shenanigans, like installing one part causing another to become unplugged.

Once I got that figured out and painted up (along with the new power switch), I finally assembled it for the last time. That was… interesting.

Final Assembly:

There are a lot of parts of this assembly that have to be done in a specific (and weird) order or else it physically cannot be assembled. Connecting the Raspberry Pi, it’s case, and the interface between those wires and the shell is a very delicate process of going back and forth and making sure that you don’t crush ribbon cables while also carefully routing wires before and after attaching the cable interface (the bit with the universal greeblie).

Connecting the top and bottom halves is also fraught with issues (having to carefully move wires to lay properly while closing the shells), and you have to do that before you can even start on attaching the interface module. I know I’ve missed many steps in documenting this process, including some that anyone crazy enough to attempt recreating this might want, but I’ve only got so much time and patience at the moment. What madman decided to design from a pre-existing case this way?

Oh, wait, that was me. Ahem.

If you have further questions, please let me know what you would like to know more about and I can see about adding it.

Grand Tour:

Note: the stuff on the end of the grip handle and anything in pewter color is purely decorative and non-functional.

Top View
Keyboard slides out of tray for charging
Internals
Interface Module End View
For further reference.
Back View
Recommended dose of geek-punkification

This has been a long project and a valuable learning experience. I learned more about Raspberry Pi (both from a hardware and software perspective), spraypainting, 3D modelling, 3D printing, electronics work (soldering), managing the details of a project, and working with professionals when I needed parts that I couldn’t yet make myself. I’ve even made new hobby contacts in the process who have helped me pick up more skills and helped out on other projects such as the Warp Core Lamp and encouraged me to make the Pioneer Falchion as another project.

I call this project “complete,” but as with a lot of other makers, this is more of a “project made it to baseline.” I’ve got some improvements I’d like to make (better power supply, attaching a headmounted display, making the Pi swappable as new models are released), but I’ve at least reached the initial goals I made before too much scope creep got in the way.

You may see more of the Pi-Tar (and possibly a sequel?) if/when I make upgrades to it.

COM|POST 01/21/21: Painting Progress and Disaster averted

I’ve been enjoying painting minis with my new setup! I’ve been painting my 3D printed mini collection. I decided to start with an adventuring party, and these are the ones I’ve started with so far.

I’ve gotten a bit sidetracked from my original schedule by a new challenge. One of the kids in the family is reading The Hobbit for the first time, and is going to be tracking the movement of the characters on a map that they are going to draw. I’m making miniatures for them, based on how the party gets divided a few times in the story.

Gandalf, Bilbo, Thorin, and a dwarf to represent the other 12 dwarves.

In random news, either through glitch or user error, my Roomba began vacuuming unexpectedly… and the room was NOT prepared for it. The room that just happens to contain my painting setup right now.

The only thing that was disturbed was the paint table, and the vacuum clearly caught on the thin wire connected to my newly built arch lamp….

BLU-TAC SAVES THE DAY!

Thankfully I had stuck the switch for the lamp to the table with blu-tac, and the cable had a breakaway point, so after being yanked around the room a bit the cable came away from the table without pulling the lamp down or knocking stuff off the table.

WHEW. Crisis averted.

The cable got chewed up a bit, but is still functional, and I didn’t lose any work as far as I can tell.

Sanctum Upgrades: Arch Lamp

I built this lamp as part of my rapidly upgrading painting setup, to provide light from different angles.

Originally I wanted to build a version of this lamp.

LED Bridge Lamp Universal Segment by Opossums on Thingiverse

However, it’s too big for my workspace, and it’s complex enough that I need to study it some before attempting scaling.

It’s a beautiful lamp, but doesn’t work for my original intent of painting on my primary workbench. It also would take a lot of space to store. I also wanted something I could construct quickly so I would have it available ASAP since I had paints coming in soon.

I did find this one, however:

LED Bridge Light Mini by FeedMePi

I ordered the LED strips and began printing.

Assembly, barring some issues I’ll get to further in this post, was rather straightforward. Cut the LED strips to length at one of the marked locations. Slide it through the guides section by section, coming in where you see the wire in the pictures below. Make sure that the LEDs are facing out of the slot. Then do the final attachment of the sections together.

When finished, set the arch upright, and turn the LEDs on. Then you’ll have lighting from many angles at once while working on your projects.

I did run into a couple issues while building this.

Issue 1: Warping

It’s become apparent that I have some warping issues with my 3D printer that is large enough to print these parts.

I ended up working around this by using a chisel to remove one of the pegs in each section, and using a lot of tape. It’s not perfect, but at least it gets it functional for now until I can reprint it properly.

Issue 2: Height

The arch is a bit short to comfortable use with the painting handle that I use for painting. While priming I don’t think that it’s so big of an issue, as I can easily just use the pucks to hold the mini, but for stability I’m going to want more space for both the stand and the brush in my hand.

To fix this, I designed and printed some extenders to raise the arch up approximately 2 inches. This gives me more space to work with.

They are designed to just stack the arch on top, and route the power cables out the back.

If you want to build one of these lamps with the extender pieces, you can find my extenders here:

Base Extender for LED Bridge Light Mini by Ralnarene

My current hope with this arch is that I will not have to use my workbench lamp on my secondary workbench, and can keep my painting and 3D printing workflows separate as much as possible. I also hope this means I’ll be able to see what I’m painting more clearly without having to move a lamp arm and my head around so much.

Sanctum Upgrades: 3D Printer Control Console Panel

This one was a relatively straightforward and simple upgrade to my workspace.

I took an old tablet of mine out of storage, cleaned it up (charged it, ran updates, etc), added shortcuts to my Octoprint controls, and put a snazzy screensaver on it.

Then I found a spot on the wall over my workbench, attached it with my old standby (command strips) and stuck it to the wall. I routed power to it from the workbench, and… done!

I now have access to controlling the software for my 3D printers set up to be in the same room as the printers themselves. It makes it easier if I need to access the controls for calibrations and such, without the need to bring them up. It’s still not as quickly accessible as I’d like (it still requires waking it up and punching in a pin) but it’s still more convenient than bringing up the controls on my phone or running to the other room to my shortcuts on the computer.

And I get to pretend a bit more I’m on a starship at times. Win-win.

Sanctum Upgrades: HOTAS Chair

I got tired of having to find spaces for my HOTAS controls on my desk, and having them competing for space with my keyboard and mouse. I had time and parts on my hands, so I decided to revisit clamping the HOTAS controls to my gaming chair.

I hadn’t done it previously because the clamps I had did not fit my newer gaming chair. The clamps I printed from here had a bit too short of a length for the screw to get a grip on the underside of the armrests.

Saitek X52 (Pro) and X55/56 Mount by Harrishedge

So, I finally got around to modifying the socket for the screw clamp to fit my style of chair here:

Extended Clamp For X55/X56 Mount

I printed the new clamps, went digging through my parts to find the screws I’d used previously to connect the mounts to the controls the clamping hardware. That took longer than it should have.

I used a corded USB hub, some velcro straps, and the straps on the chair cushion to control the wires in a way where they wouldn’t get in the way, and I can still lift the armrests up out of the way when I don’t want to use the controls.

I also added a USB extension cable to my computer to easily connect to and disconnect from the chair, so I wouldn’t be permanently tethered to the computer.

Here’s what I ended up with.

This makes flying in spaceflight sims a lot more comfortable, and doesn’t require me to keep moving the controls around on various table surfaces in my computer room. Certainly makes it a lot easier to jump into Elite: Dangerous whenever I feel like it. Just plug the hub in, fold the controls down, and I’m ready to fly.

Technomancer’s Spellbook aka Codex Technarcana

There are oftentimes bits of information that I frequently need to look up. Originally some of the stuff was on bits of paper, or I would have to repeatedly look up documents online. I got annoyed with trying to keep track of it across multiple locations, so I decided to get a binder or something. Then I decided to lean fully into the wizard/technomancer theme, compiling my everyday references for my technological hobbies as a “spellbook.”

One thing I liked from reading gaming rulebooks about wizards was their description of their spellbooks. How they could vary, and how there were two general categories of spellbooks: workbooks and grimoires.

The workbook is an everyday spellbook that had their notes that they cobbled together as they traveled. It can be messy, and written on all sorts of bits of paper that they tucked together in a cover. They could add new information as they came across it rather easily, and they could be carried around anywhere.

Grimoires were fancy neatly written books that require preplanning, and are often kept locked away somewhere (like someone’s gilt-edged special editions in a private study).

I decided to make my own workbook, and instead of going with a plain binder, I did a bit of looking around online, and found a place that sells custom laser-engraved leather binders. These awesome people here:

Murdy Creative Co.

After a little back and forth on the customization, and swapping out the chicago screws binding with ones I liked better, this is what I’ve ended up with.

In here I collect my notes for commonly used bits of information, divided by categories such as 3D printing, software, etc. I’ve thrown in some of my favorite inspirational quotes, too.

The 3D printing section in particular includes my notes on what temperature settings work best for the various filaments I have, my versions of procedures for calibration, modeling and slicing considerations, and a handout on checking bed levelling.

I’d show you guys more of the contents, but for now it’s not exactly an IP friendly collection.

At any rate, I highly recommend putting together your own for your own maker hobbies. It doesn’t have to be as fancy as a custom leather binder, a folder or slim 3 ring binder would work just as well. My main recommendations for building your own are these:

  1. Either get something with pockets or a way to store hole-punched sheets. That way you can insert printouts our handouts that you get, and not have to rewrite everything if you were using a notebook. It also gives you the freedom to reorganize later.
  2. Pick something very portable for your workbook/spellbook. A 3-inch 3 ring binder might be able to hold a lot, but it’s rather unwieldy to carry.
  3. Include information that you frequently need to look up or often forget (for me it’s partly the tolerances and temperatures I often need to check).
  4. Include some blank paper in there somewhere so you can add stuff in when you become aware of it, and not have to track down more paper.

COM|POST: Look Carefully Before You Complain

I’ve long complained that one of my printers, the Monoprice Select Mini Pro, was not designed well for maintenance. The vertical column does not seem particularly accessible. The column is made of a couple pieces of bent sheet metal that is structural but can’t be removed without fully disassembling it, and I had no idea how to do that and be able to put it together again.

I was in the process of photographing it to point out to someone where there should be a door on the design so you can access the Z-axis screws and rods for lubrication. And I noticed something.

Wait a minute…

That silvery piece is not one continuous piece of metal!

In fact, it’s cut in places where I would want to be able to remove a panel!

I had to open up the bottom and carefully look for what appeared to be the appropriate screws.

Screws circled in red.

The screws on the top of the column were pretty obvious. Once I removed it, my hunch bore out. It actually was an access panel. I’d been trying to lubricate it the hard way.

I cleaned up the overspray from previous maintenance cycles, and directly applied lubricant to the rods and rails this time.

Sometimes we really should take more time to get thoroughly acquainted with the inner workings of our tech!

At least now I know how to get at parts. That had been driving me nuts ever since I’ve had one of these.