Category Archives: 3D Printing

Octoprint Upgrade In Progress

Whenever I would ask for help trying to get the wifi capabilities of my Monoprice Select Mini Pro working as they were originally advertised (specifically, where to get the firmware to reflash the printer’s wifi software), it seems like everyone just shouts “OCTOPRINT” at me instead of answering my question.

So, screw it, I’m trying Octoprint since I couldn’t get an answer to my original questions.  I’ve heard wonderful things about it, and it should hopefully give me most if not all the functionality I’d want long term, but it would have been nice to have been given an answer to the question that was asked.

I’m using a Raspberry Pi 4 to run Octoprint since the printer runs in a different room from my PC.  The image I started from is the OctoPi image, where someone made a disk image specifically for setting up Octoprint on a Raspberry Pi.  The initial image can be found here:

https://github.com/guysoft/OctoPi

So far it’s working pretty well, though I need to doublecheck and update my logbook to make sure everything is recorded.  Sadly, there was a gap in my process (prepping for a convention), so I’ve probably missed some important documentation.  There are a few things to note when installing one of these.

  1. The person who set up the OctoPi image is from the UK, so there are a number of localization settings on the image that need to be changed after install.
  2. DO NOT CHANGE THE PASSWORD UNTIL YOU’VE SET UP THE CORRECT KEYBOARD LOCALIZATION.  I wasn’t thinking, and the symbols when you hit shift + any number are NOT the same for various keyboard layouts, so I accidentally made my pi temporarily unusable because I couldn’t figure out where the symbols had moved to, so I had to reimage it and start over.
  3. Set an assigned IP address for your Pi from your wifi router’s control screen.  This way you won’t have to hunt for the correct IP address as you connect and disconnect various IoT devices to your network.
    1. I finally solved the issue of changing IP addresses that had caused issues with my wireless webcam, which turned out to just be a matter of setting them from the wifi router side.  I feel like a guy in a Civ game developing his tech tree out of order on that one.  It was a really simple change I should’ve already known how to do.
  4. Create a desktop shortcut that goes directly to your octoprint page.  It just makes things easier.
  5. RTSP webcam streams are not currently supported by octoprint.  If you are planning on using any of the Wyze series of internet webcams for monitoring your printer, it will not be supported natively by octoprint.  Some people have been working on workarounds, but I have not been able to make it work for myself yet.

 

Thoughts:

Now that I’ve at least got it running to a certain degree, here are my thoughts about Octoprint.

I like that I now have a telemetry feed, allowing me to monitor temperatures.  I got the impression there were big temperature fluctuations at one point, but now I can check the graph.  It has a default image in the background, but I was able to load my own custom one.

octoprint temp graph.PNG

I’m really enjoying increased functionality.  I no longer have to keep loading and slotting an SD card between my desktop and the printer in the other room.  I can just send files over, and tell it to print.  Much less of a hassle that way.

One of the plugins that I added is an e-stop.  I haven’t tested it, and it’s awkwardly located on the control page (right next to the settings menu), but at least it exists.

If I want to check whether the printer is ready and/or monitor it’s progress visually I currently still have to open VLC, but it’s at least there.  It just isn’t an all-in-one app setup at the moment.

 

Verdict:

Octoprint is an amazing tool, which gives me more information, more control, and saves me the hassle of moving files around manually.

Buuuut… it still needs some work.  Not supporting RTSP natively is really frustrating, as I was already using this camera specifically for monitoring 3D prints, but the app won’t let me view the feed directly.  There are multiple threads dedicated to people trying to figure this out, and following the directions people claim to have success with doesn’t appear to be working for me yet.

 

Misc Updates:

My printer is ALIVE again!  While I was performing maintenance, I discovered that the y-axis linear bearings were giving out.  That’s part of why everything was somewhat on hold with Octoprint, as I couldn’t really test it too well with a broken bearing.  I ordered parts, then discovered when I went to install them that I did not have the tools or expertise to swap them out easily.  I had thought that the bracket would come apart with screws.  Instead I found this:

linear bearing in bracket

Turns out these were press fit, so I ended up taking it to a machinist to swap them out.  He was able to remove the old bearings and insert the new ones in less than 10 minutes, and for much cheaper than if I had tried to get an arbor press to do it myself!  I’m definitely going to keep this shop in mind for future repairs and possibly for getting some custom parts made.

 

 

Link Dumping Ground:

This is kinda here as much for my reference as yours, so I can find these things again if I need to.

 

Here are the settings I used for setting up the printer’s config:
Monoprice Select Mini Settings for Octoprint

This page was helpful for trying to figure out a PIP not found issue with octoprint on my setup:

https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/linux/software/python.md

I’ve attempted these instructions to try to get my Wyze 2 webcam to work on here, but so far it’s not working for me.  I think I lack the fluency to see what’s going wrong yet.

RTSP on Octoprint Workaround

 

 

 

 

COM|POST: 3D Printer Feature Wishlist

After a few short years of using 3D printers, and reading up on them, here’s my wishlist of features that I’d love to have incorporated (or incorporate myself) into one FDM printer.

 

Accustomed Features:

These are ones I’ve gotten used to on my Monoprice Select Mini Pro:

Removable build plate:  Allows me to remove the print bed and work on removing the item from the bed at a more convenient height on my workbench.

Heated bed: Allows for more material options, and prevents some warping issues.

Build-tac plate:  Build plate surface material that doesn’t require frequent blue tape replacement or gluing.

Self leveling:  Leveling the printer manually is tedious and annoying, particularly if it shakes itself loose periodically.

Webcam:  I use a Wyze 2 camera to monitor my printer from other rooms and/or on the go, so I can tell if there is an issue.  I plan to integrate this with wifi control down the line, but I haven’t implemented that yet.

 

Common Features:

Commonly available, but not currently on my setup.

Direct drive:  My printer uses a Bowden tube setup, which doesn’t handle flexible filaments, but direct drive printers (printers where the extruder motor is directly above the nozzle) can.

Wifi printing:  Mine doesn’t work, at least not from the printer.  This is optional for me now that I am experimenting with Octoprint on a Raspberry Pi to control my printer, so it probably doesn’t need to be onboard.

Large print volume:  This has mostly been a matter of cost so far.  A tradeoff between quality and build size for me for my last purchase.

Printer enclosure:  Keeps the temperature more constant for printing.  Also would enable an air filtration system to avoid issues with toxicity and particles for a wider variety of print materials.

 

Less common features:

I’ve thought up or heard of these, but I don’t often see them as standard features if at all.

Filament Sensor:  Detects when filament is running out, pauses the print, and alerts the user to change out the filament without ruining the print in the process

Runaway heating cutout:  I’d just like a bit more assurance that I won’t have a printer fire issue with the nozzle and/or the heated printed bed.  I’d want the temperature sensors to be able to trigger the print to cancel and turn off the power to the heating systems if they started to get to dangerous ranges.

Multimaterial printing:  I’d like to experiment with some of the options of multimaterial printing, particularly with unusual filaments worked into common ones.

Fire suppression:  Call me paranoid, but I’d really like to make absolutely sure there is no chance of an out of control fire.  I’d want a system to detect fires, cut the power to the printer, and flood the enclosure with carbon dioxide, before venting to the exterior of the building through a filtration system.

Big red button:  I want a kill switch for the printer so that if something is going wrong I can immediately kill the print.  Preferences are for it to turn off power to the heating elements, stop all motion, and then raise the Z axis slightly away from the printer.  Needs to be a bit away from everything else, and be big, red, and slappable.

3D Printer Periodic Maintenance Items

I think now is as good a time as any to write something about 3D printer maintenance items while, since I’m going through some of them on my own printer right now.  Not all FDM 3D printers are built the same way, but some of these items should be pretty common.

HEALTH AND SAFETY:

I highly recommend wearing disposable gloves for this entire process.  Otherwise you will get a lot of various lubricants on your hands that may be difficult to remove.  I also tend to wear safety goggles and an apron to keep from getting these chemicals in my eyes or on my clothes, but that is probably overkill.

 

Lubrication:

Guide Rails and Z axis Screw Gear:

The printer’s parts move along guide rails, and there is often a screw gear used for the z-axis.  These all need to be cleaned and lubricated periodically to ensure smooth motion and precise prints.  For this I wipe them down the rods with clean cloths or paper towels.

Once they have been cleaned, I use a spray can of white lithium grease to reach the rails, and move the parts through their range of motion to ensure a reasonable spread of lubricant.

WARNING: Make sure that if you are using spray lubricant that your printer is in a location that you don’t overspray on other objects.

Note:  Listen out for any odd sounds after performing maintenance.  You might hear indications of issues such as linear bearing damage… *sigh*

 

Pulleys/gears:

It is also good to lubricate the pulleys and any gears.  I use sewing machine oil for this, as well as for some of the earlier parts that are hard to reach.

 

Tightening Belts:

Loose belts can cause issues with layer shift.  In my case, on my CoLiDo DIY, the print head would sometimes randomly slam into the y-axis stop and when it went to resume printing it would be off by a large amount.

This part will likely require you to look for more specific information on your printer.  It often requires removing one or more zip ties, loosening screws in a clamp around the belt, tightening the belt, screwing it back, and replacing the zip ties.  Some printers, like mine, appear to have a piece that is designed to maintain appropriate tension on it’s own, but I’m going to have to research that further.

 

Print Bed Maintenance:

Bed Leveling:

This will also require specific information for your model of printing, but it is very important to your print quality.  This will probably be a more frequent maintenance item than the others.

In my case my printer is supposed to use a self-leveling mode, but it still requires tweaking.  Bad leveling can cause issues ranging from poor print quality, adhesion issues, or even gouging your print surface.

Bed Surface Maintenance:

This will vary a bit depending on your bed material.

Plastic:

On my CoLiDo DIY the bed was plastic, and would occasionally get damaged during printing, so I had to use a razor blade and sandpaper to smooth the surface back out.

Build Surface on Metal:

On my Monoprice Select Mini Pro there is a rough build surface material attached to a metal plate which occasionally requires replacing.  I use a scraper and Goo Gone to remove the material and it’s adhesive, then rinse in water, dry thoroughly, and apply a new piece of material.

Glass:

I don’t have much experience with glass build surfaces, so I highly recommend looking up more information elsewhere.  I’m fairly certain that it requires periodic cleaning of the hairspray, glue, or slurry that people use to promote adhesion, and occasional replacement of the glass surface.

 

Tightening Screws:

Over time vibration can cause screws to loosen in many places on your printer.  You should probably check to make sure any and all fixed screws are tight to ensure precision.

 

Electronics Maintenance:

Check the electronics connections for issues, particularly at the connections that move, such as on the extruder head and on a heated bed.  Check for looseness, scorching, fraying, and anything else unusual, as this may indicate impending issues.

Use a can of air to remove dust from the control electronics periodically, like you would on a desktop computer.

COM|POST 02/10/2020: A Skypirate’s Life For Me

Forest of Oakenspire Airship:

This past week’s hobby work has mostly been a matter of 3D printing the airship shown at the top of this post. The models are from a great 3D model creator who goes by Ecaroth (he’s on Kickstarter, Thingiverse, Facebook, and Heroes Hoard).  I love using his designs.

I got the STLs for this model as part of a kickstarter campaign a couple years back, but never got around to printing it until recently.  It’s taken me a while to trust a 3D printer to run unattended long enough for the process.

Each section of the hull has taken 8-13 hours to print.  Sadly, some of the pieces are somewhat warped, but it’s only really obvious on one piece (it was printed at a different orientation).

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Still came out pretty awesome in my opinion.  It uses openlock clips, so I can connect these modular pieces and even be able to lift it up and move it.

Lifted Airship.jpg

 

Printer Issues:

My 3D printer gouged itself this past week, so I had been making do with using blue tape over the build tac sheet.  I probably should have turned off the heat, as I think that is part of what has caused the blue tape to loosen and the prints to warp.

Before it gouged, it had some issues with one corner acting as if it’s much higher, which the autoleveling software is supposed to take care of.20200206_093730.jpg

I tried troubleshooting the levelling, but it ended up gouging the bed after a slight change mid print.  As you can see at the beginning of the print, it was showing indications of being way too high, but gouged as I adjusted it slightly while it moved to the problematic corner.

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I tried again more carefully, and it gouged at the very beginning of the print!  I’ve been using blue tape to make do over the gouges, but it’s warped them slightly (hence the bow of the ship not being as well fitted as it should be).

I’ve contacted Monoprice tech support, and apparently I didn’t get the same helpful tech support person that I did the last time I had a problem.  I guess with the information overload of extra details that I tried to get help on all at once (mostly minor things that had added up to annoy me), the thought I was trying to get another replacement printer (my first Select Mini Pro had a faulty z-axis sensor).  After emailing back, they gave me a link to replacement parts, so I finally have a place to go to order those on my own!

GigDigit

I’m stocking up on some parts now.  Spares to save me a lot of time trying to get a shipment when things are broken.

 

Keytar Cyberdeck Upgrades:

I still haven’t gotten around to some of the issues on the cyberdeck build that have bugged me… but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and chatting with the deckers on the cyberdeck discord about various items.  Any guesses on what I plan to do with this new parts order?

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Random stuff:
I just binge watched the entirety of the mainline Dragon Ball Z Abridged series…. and then shortly after I finished they announced that they were ending it.  I don’t disagree with them, but it’s just really weird timing.

Sanctum Upgrades 01/27/2020: Treadmill plugin for Steam VR, Cable Management

It’s been a weekend of upgrading my sanctum in general, and my VR rig in particular.

VR Upgrades:

Treadmill

I pulled my treadmill back out of storage, cleaned it up, and lubricated it.  You have to keep the dish low-friction for it to work well, and… let’s just say it’s been a while since I’ve tried to use it.

20200126_224014.jpg

I also implemented the newer plugins from Wizdish.  It now registers as a peripheral in Steam VR!  The instructions and driver are (mostly) here, though when I contacted them it sounded like they are going to be releasing new instructions soon.

Wizdish Downloads Page

I would like to emphasize that you should read ALL the instructions, and finish implementing them before you think you have issues.  I had not doublechecked the audio settings, and in fact had not noticed that specific value ranges were listed as guidelines.  I thought that the red lines on the screen for input and output weren’t moving because of some kind of connection issue.  It turned out that it was because the sliders were in the wrong positions.  Hopefully they’ll make this a bit clearer in the next draft of the instructions.

At any rate,

I CAN FINALLY PLAY FALLOUT 4 VR ON THE TREADMILL!!!!

Right now I’m tweaking settings for the best experience, and I’m hoping to eventually start recording a new playthrough on VR, to give people a better idea of the experience in the game.  Buuuut, I may hold off on that part and just play around for a while.  I don’t want to keep having barriers between me and playing the game, especially since half the point is for me to be able to jump in easily to get some more physical activity.  I just don’t want to wait on teaching myself recording before I start spending more time in VR.

I’ve also managed to verify that I can use the new version to work with VR Chat, and I want to run through checking that these settings work on various other VR games run through Steam as well.  I was gonna try using it with the OASIS beta, but I had forgotten that it’s teleport movement only.

 

Cable Management

I’d decided I was tired of tripping on my headset cables, to the point I was willing to risk the possibility of messing my textured ceiling slightly.  I’m using the KIWI design VR cable management system, which I picked up from Amazon here:

KIWI VR Cable Management

They have a newer, quieter version, but apparently I overlooked them when I was searching for these.  I think they weren’t out when I’d added them to my Amazon wishlist months ago.

I decided to go with the adhesive patch hooks rather than the screw hooks, in the hopes that I can peel them off later without damage.

20200126_224050.jpg

I’m using the triple pulley configuration at the point the cable drops down from the ceiling in the center of the play area, in the hopes that it reduces the tension acting on any given pulley, reducing how much force that exerts on the ceiling.

20200126_224038.jpg

My VR Wiring

3D Printing/Printed Upgrades

Printing Upgrade

I’ve had some occasional issues/worries with power flickers, so I finally decided to put the printer on a battery backup.  Now I just have to remember to not switch off the power at the wall switch, or else I’m gonna be hearing some obnoxious beeping.  I’m only really worried about flickers or very brief outages, so I think this one will be sufficient.

20200126_234303.jpg

 

Practical(ish) 3D Printing

I got tired of using my gorillapod knockoff tripod for my Wyze camera.  I came across this stand on Thingiverse, made specifically for this model of camera.  It uses the joints in the camera rather than all the unnecessary degrees of freedom of the legs, which is much easier to move around and point precisely.

20200125_220426

Simple Tripod Stand on Thingiverse

When that was finished, I got annoyed that I was leaving the print time idle, so I looked around for other improvements I could make.  I realized my sonic screwdriver collection looked sloppy just laying there on the shelf, so I looked up some models for stands for them, and printed those out.  Right now they are still on top of the shelf-o-games, but at least they aren’t just lying there and getting moved around every time I move other stuff on there.  I’m debating putting them on a command strip shelf, whenever I can figure out an appropriate spot for them.

20200126_222153.jpg

Sonic Screwdriver Stands on Thingiverse

Currently printing:

I’m printing a wireless charging stand for my cell phone.  I’ve already got the charger, but it’s somewhat finicky about placement, making it almost worse than a charging cable at the moment.  The stand should make precise placement easier and allow me to not have to fiddle with it so much.

Keytar Update 01/20/2020

Lately I’ve been trying to work on the software side of things a bit lately, while I have this thing assembled (I’m still debating whether to embrace the scuffed look of the casing paint job).

For one thing, I found out that my last SD card image was 6 months old!  I had some things I had figured out since then, but as I tried new things I kept messing up the card, so I took the time to implement everything that I KNEW worked onto one card, while testing out things on a different SD card.  That way I have a safe image of all the things that work, while the other spare cards were considered expendable, and I’d only bother testing new things on them.  Once I was satisfied that I had made sufficient progress, I used Win32DiskImager to copy the image of the good card as a new baseline.

New things implemented in the baseline:

Loading all the files that I had been transferring via USB into the image so I don’t have to reload them

Establishing a new cyberdeck logo as a wallpaper (courtesy of fellow decker BillieRuben on the cyberdeck discord)

Changed screen resolution on the primary display (when I was at MAGfest I couldn’t access the buttons on some menus, which drove me NUTS).

Updating password, because apparently I had left it unlocked.  D’oh!

Implementing SSH on the Pi and installing PuTTY on my laptop.  This change was one of the more important ones!  I’ve been attempting to tweak some of the graphical settings, but every time I get them wrong, the screen on the Pi becomes unusable.  When that happens, that had forced me to swap cards, and start all over again.  It also led to me possibly corrupting cards because of powering the Pi off incorrectly, and having to wipe and reimage the cards before I could use them again.  Now, with SSH implemented, I can remote into the Pi and access the command line perfectly well, allowing me at the very least to be able to power off the Pi correctly, but it has also allowed me to continue trying new things while the display settings were messed up.  This saves a LOT of time (it takes far too long constantly reformatting and reimaging these SD cards).

Working but not baselined:

I’ve been able to VNC to share the Pi screen to an old android phone of mine.  So far that works with RealVNC Viewer on the android phone.

Instructions for VNC on Raspberry Pi

Current trials:

I’m attempting to use VNC to share a side-by-side version of the raspberry pi display onto my android device so I can use it as a head-mounted display (HMD) to simulate a larger monitor to work from on-the-go.  I’m attempting to use a software called VR VNC.  So far I’ve been receiving an error message about incompatible VNC security, and haven’t managed to get it to work.

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Upcoming tests:

Once I get VR VNC (or some equivalent) to work, I want to change the network interface from being over WiFi (which requires both devices to be on a WiFi network together, not ideal on-the-go) to being through a wired connection over USB.  Someone appears to have written a guide here:  Android Device as Screen for rPi via USB & VNC.  End goal:  wired connection between the keytar and the android headset to simulate a large monitor on-the-go, making using the system much easier… and has added cyberpunk vibes.  If/when I get this to work, I’m gonna get an old-fashioned-looking curly cable for the connection.  It just feels more authentic.

I’d like to add an app for simple-ish pass-through of the camera into an augmented reality display on the headset.  If the lag isn’t too bad, I might be able to wear the headset and still be able to see where I’m going at cons, if I want to fully indulge the costume at times.

Things I’ll have to get back to:

Attempting to switch between HDMI output (for a TV or digital projector) and back to the built-in LCD.  I was attempting to use some code I found to switch automatically, but that kept failing and rendering the screen unusable, hence the need for the SSH above.  Then I remembered the original scripts onboard for switching by command and thought I should make sure that works first.  So far I can get it to switch to HDMI, but not successfully back.  At least, the screen is still covered with some other text when it switches back.  I’ve already fixed one issue, from where the screen kept coming back upside down, but I haven’t gotten back to a useable desktop using this method.  Thankfully the SSH works and allows me to keep poking at it.

Down the line:

Now that I’m trying to add a HMD to the setup, I think I need to make some modifications to the casing.  I think I may either remove the existing branding from the case, and/or add a thematically appropriate sticker to cover it up.  I also may need to manufacture and attach an appropriate connection for hanging it from my belt securely.  I’m not going to want to wear it on my head all the time.

 

Random Updates:

I may or may not post more on these topics later, but I thought I’d go ahead and put these out there.

I reorganized my workspace, mostly by adding a rolling cart to store things on (and still be able to move out of the way when I need that particular floorspace back).  My living room (including the top of my workbench) was getting rather cluttered with projects, materials, etc. and it was becoming unusable.  I’ve now tossed some stuff, and reorganized the rest onto the cart, reclaiming some needed square-footage off of the floor, workbench, and other shelves.  I now even have space to run my laptop out of the way of the bench itself for when I want to SSH into my cyberdeck at the bench.

WorkbenchUpdate.png

I thought the table lamp needed a lampshade, so I designed and printed one inspired by a Japanese style pagoda roof.  The green is a reference back to the Jade Pagoda from Whovian lore.  Right now 3 out of the 4 segments match.  I ran out of material when printing a later version of the design.  I still need to get some more green filament to finish this properly one of these days.  I’ve posted the files on Thingiverse here:

Pagoda Style Lampshade

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Christmas Presents: Light Staves

This year I decided I wanted to build something for at least part of the Christmas presents for a couple kids in my family.  They are active outdoors, so I figured I’d make them some custom walking sticks.  This… has been an adventure, and I’m not done yet.

And, yes, Gandalf was an inspiration for it, as well as some 3D printed light up “crystals” I saw online.

Premise:  if you print a “crystal” in translucent filament, and point a light into it, the crystal glows in a cool way.  I thought I’d create a 3d printed case for a flashlight to hold such a crystal, epoxy the flashlight into the case, attach it to a broom handle (cut to length), and put a little rubber foot on the bottom (to protect floors).

proof of concept.jpg

Note: This crystal is not my design, I made a new one for the staff.

After talking with some people about flashlights to use, I settled on an old favorite, the mini-maglite.  It’s been updated since when I got one as a kid, to now use an LED and be over 300 lumens.  The simpler shape also allows me to slide bits on, epoxy them, and use the threaded connections of the flashlight’s parts to hold everything together while allowing it to be disassembled for swapping batteries and possibly changing light filters.

minimag.jpg

An upgraded classic.

Other concepts I had considered were shake lights and a flashlight that had a recharging port on the side.  The idea being that in either case you wouldn’t have to be able to open it up to change batteries, but one was unavailable and the other was… 1000 lumens.  A bit much for kids.  Also, on a trail when you want a light source, you want to be able to change your batteries and not rely on having a plug handy or having to shake the staff a bunch (though it would be amusing to watch).

I attempted it first with the 1000 lumen light (I had ordered one for myself) as  practice, and it just got weird as I went on.  I experimented with leaving accessible holes for the button and the charging port on the opposite side.  I added some greeblies for fun, and a shroud on the basis that you wouldn’t want to blind yourself (or hopefully your scout leaders) with it while walking.

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Various iterations, not all in order.

When the maglites arrived, I started over from scratch, using what I had learned from my earlier experiments.  New crystal, new models, new everything.  As I went on, it felt more and more like making a custom lightsaber.

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A few intermediate models

So far I’ve built 1 prototype (for testing fit, getting the parents’ opinions).  The greeblies on this version were simpler, and serve more than one purpose.  Yes, they look kinda cool… but every point where you see greeblies is a spot where you need grip when unscrewing parts for changing lenses, batteries, or turning the flashlight on or off.

late prototype off.jpg

late prototype on.jpg

Casing on the workbench.  Each segment can rotate separately.

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Visualization, until I figure out how to screw the thing on

I think it’s looking pretty good.  I still have to figure out the threaded interface to the broom handle that serves as the shaft.  I also plan to print some cross-sectional models to check fit better (you can only see so much from the full model), then running a few of these off, painting them, epoxying the plastic bits to the flashlight, and modifying the length of the handles.

Whew, I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.