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3D Printed Layer Strength Fixed! May 14, 2020

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One of the many problems with the gee-whiz near-Star Trek technology of 3D printing is the sometimes poor adhesion between layers of deposited plastic; sometimes they just don’t bond as strongly as desired, resulting in a weaker part than an equivalent injection-molded part. In a paper dropped in Nano Letters, scientists at Texas A & M have found that carbon nanotubes in the mix under a plasma stream heat just the surface layers of the plastic and insure a good weld, as it were, between them. Naturally, they said it in a much more flowery way: “a dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) plasma electrode mounted concentrically around the nozzle of an ME 3D printer for in situ welding of thermoplastic parts.” That’s just the abstract; I’m sure they managed to make it sound like they earned their pay in the full document.


Homework: C. B. Sweeney et al, Dielectric Barrier Discharge Applicator for Heating Carbon Nanotube-Loaded Interfaces and Enhancing 3D-Printed Bond Strength, Nano Letters (2020). DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.9b04718

3D Printed Topological Map February 27, 2020

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One of the more retentive members of Silicon Valley 3D Printing Meetup has printed a very complex and beautiful rendering of (some of) the Earth’s topological features in glorious PLA. Thirty-two tiles, ranging in print time for four hours to twenty-two(!) hours for the taller elevations, each “pixel” is 10 KM on a side.


Meanwhile, at Hydra HQ November 10, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Mutants, Octopus, Toys.
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3D Scanning to Print (Photogrammetry) October 8, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Photography, Publishing Tools, Star Trek Technology.
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Due to an unfortunate incident while moving from the ver parted lips of Hell (Greenville, CA) I have had to replace a few parts on my Casio CDP-120 piano keyboard. Basically, the highest key (C for those who need to know) was/is smashed and needs a replacement. Aha! I have this iPrusa printer and can whip up a new key post-haste using
Fusion360 to measure and design a new key.  Right?

No. It’s a part with surprisingly complex geometry, so I thought I would try photogrammetry to create a model and see how that works.  I never tried this before, so what could it hurt? Can’t be any harder than Fusion360 to master. Right?

No. There seems to be no (free as in beer) software which can do this which is simple enough for me to install (grumble, grumble) on this company Mac, and I’m not sure company policies built into the security suite on this company Mac would permit it (grumble, grumble) anyway. Since my replacement Windows box isn’t here yet (grumble, grumble) I have to pay for a cloud-based solution…Altizure.com.  So I took 56 pictures of the C key an octave down with my cellphone camera, submitted them to Altizure.com‘s loving embrace and was rewarded with a fairly competent render of my key:

Screen Shot 2019-10-08 at 11.06.36 AM.png

I say “fairly competent” because it has lots of hole in the sides.  No matter; I can probably fix it in software modify it in Fusion360 to fill in the holes.  I will likely need to use Fusion360 to get the dimensions useably correct in any case.

Now I have to steel myself to pay the subscription rate of something like $70 per project. It would be worth it if I was a company making a prototype with great prospects for the future…but I’m not (grumble, grumble).

The key costs about five bucks from Casio’s parts subcontractor, plus six or so to ship it. I know which I am going to choose.

It’s a shame, really; I was looking forward to monkeying around with it. Maybe next time.

However, I don’t give up easily; I got 3DF Zephyr and used the (limited to) 50 pictures in it at the highest defaults in the wizard to create this render:

c-key-3df zephyr

My army of loyal and discerning readers may notice a bit of degradation here and there…yeah.  I will try again, but this took an hour or so and was NOT automatically rendered, but went through stages. In all fairness it would have been shorter if my graphics card had CUDA…but I don’t have a graphics card, just whatever Lenovo thought was cheap but still enough to get by on. Still, it needs work, and it’s midnight.  Possibly updates to follow, if I get any sleep.


I got a better render with 50 pictures and the most extreme settings I could figure out:

c-3df-zephyr-2-extra tasty

It’s got the holes that Altizure’s render had, but 3DF Zephyr is free to use.  Now I have to figure out how to make the save-able form of this (an .obj file) into an .slt and thence to gcode. With luck, I will have a hideous key to use before my real one arrives.




Giggling Maniac with Gatling Gun July 16, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Toys, Uncategorizable, Uncategorized.
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It’s lovely what you can do with 3D printers. It is, of course, best illustrated by a cackling madman with a Gatling Gun.


EXCITING UPDATE: I tend to forget the excellent work done in a related space by Jeorg Sprave, a happy German fellow who specializes in rubber-driven devices for impelling various projectiles:

As the video shows, he is also a giggling maniac, just this time with an electric fully-automatic crossbow.

Frankenprinters May 14, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Science, Toys.
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My army of loyal readers (hi, Mom!) will recall my fondness for and fascination with the promise of 3D printers, and similar robotic manufacturing techniques. I should have acquired several by now, but I am famously cheap thrifty and so never indulged this particular whim..until just a bit ago when I acquired three not-working printers from a cosplay parts dealer named Alder (last name redacted, because I never learned it) for a bargain price of a hundred bucks apiece.


They each had at least one major thing wrong, and all had some disconnected wiring. The middle one had a missing limit switch on the y-axis and a missing adjustment for the z-axis (it’s still missing; I am going to try and fix that this evening–look for exciting updates) limit switch.  I can’t tell what else is wrong with it until I stop threatening my build plate.

The left one needed a bit of wiring (fairly easy to find wiring diagrams for the boards attached, with a bit of intuition) and an adjustment to the z-axis limit switch and a new motherboard. The right one needed (may still need) a new heated build plate (I am currently using it as a PLA printer, so a hot plate is not so critical), wiring, z-axis adjustment and some patience, as I was a little too stupid to fix it myself when I bought these guys a while back.  I had to grow in confidence before I could troubleshoot. In fairness, the exhausting regimen of commuting between my work and home on weekends (six hours one way) really dampened my spirits.  I’m not usually such a coward.

I forget how many of them needed new hot ends or thermistors (two, I think) and rewiring to accomodate them.

Lastly, all needed new blue tape (very important; no adhesion without fresh tape!)

adhesion fixed.jpeg

and one needed new glass.  The first print (with new tape) did not photograph well:

sdhc swiss army knife.jpeg

I attribute poor image quality to beer; cameras should never drink.


3D Printing Progress May 10, 2019

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There’s going to be a lot of that, now that critical mass of commercial systems are available. new materials are being used in additive manufacturing and new devices have considerably expanded the capabilities of systems in terms of speed, build volume and finish. It’s an interesting moment in engineering history, and nobody knows where it will lead.

Printing with [anything besides plastics] is fraught with difficulty, so interesting methods have been tried for substances like metals, clay, frosting(!) with varying success. Two methods have lately shown promise in metal and glass(amazingly enough).

First, metals. The most common method of depositing metals has been to embed the metal in something a bit more fluid, like in an ink suspension. This has the usual effect of having poor mechanical adhesion, because after the fluid dries the metal may adhere to itself poorly (likely) and there may be fluid contamination trapped in the metal layers (very likely).  Researchers got around this with an entirely new method, using a sacrificial electrode to generate ions of the metal and spraying those ions electrostatically. You can get insanely small resolution using this technique:

…and you can print with more than one metal by building both into the tip and just switching voltage from one electrode to the other:

Elegant as hell, isn’t it?

Then, glass: a team in France using chalcogenide glass (which softens at a relatively low temperature compared to other glass) produced chalcogenide glass filaments with dimensions similar to the commercial plastic filaments normally used with the 3-D printer. The research team then increased the maximum extruding temperature of a commercial 3-D printer from around 260 °C to 330 °C.  The result is pretty interesting:

An interesting proof-of-concept piece, this points to novel uses for chalcogenide glass commonly used to make optical components that operate at mid-infrared wavelengths. It’s not likely to be used elsewhere, as it’s a “soft” glass, but the feat is going to be useful in optics fabrication. Also, there are some low-temperature metal alloys that could probably benefit from this technique.


Homework: Alain Reiser et al. Multi-metal electrohydrodynamic redox 3D printing at the submicron scale, Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-09827-1

E. Baudet et al, 3D-printing of arsenic sulfide chalcogenide glasses, Optical Materials Express (2019). DOI: 10.1364/OME.9.002307

3D-Printed Flexible Piezoelectric Element January 24, 2019

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Mechanical engineers develop process to 3D print piezoelectric materials

New methods to 3D print piezoelectric materials that can be custom-designed to convert movement, impact and stress from any directions to electrical energy have been published in Nature Materials.  The materials can also be activated — providing the next generation of intelligent infrastructures and smart materials for tactile sensing, impact and vibration monitoring, energy harvesting, and other applications. Unlike conventional piezoelectrics, where electric charge movements are prescribed by the intrinsic crystals, the new method allows users to prescribe and program voltage responses to be magnified, reversed or suppressed in any direction.

A factor in current piezoelectric fabrication is the natural crystal used. At the atomic level, the orientation of atoms are fixed. The researchers produced a substitute that mimics the crystal but allows the lattice orientation to be altered by design.

“We have synthesized a class of highly sensitive piezoelectric inks that can be sculpted into complex three-dimensional features with ultraviolet light. The inks contain highly concentrated piezoelectric nanocrystals bonded with UV-sensitive gels, which form a solution — a milky mixture like melted crystal — that we print with a high-resolution digital light 3D printer”.

The material has sensitivities 5-fold higher than flexible piezoelectric polymers. The stiffness and shape of the material can be tuned and produced as a thin sheet resembling a strip of gauze, or as a stiff block. “We have a team making them into wearable devices, like rings, insoles, and fitting them into a boxing glove where we will be able to record impact forces and monitor the health of the user,” said the chief investigator Zheng.

The team has printed and demonstrated smart materials wrapped around curved surfaces, worn on hands and fingers to convert motion, and harvest the mechanical energy, but the applications go well beyond wearables and consumer electronics.

“Traditionally, if you wanted to monitor the internal strength of a structure, you would need to have a lot of individual sensors placed all over the structure, each with a number of leads and connectors,” said Huachen Cui, a doctoral student of Zheng’s and the first author of the Nature Materials paper. “Here, the structure itself is the sensor — it can monitor itself.”

Homework: Huachen Cui, Ryan Hensleigh, Desheng Yao, Deepam Maurya, Prashant Kumar, Min Gyu Kang, Shashank Priya, Xiaoyu Zheng. Three-dimensional printing of piezoelectric materials with designed anisotropy and directional responseNature Materials, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41563-018-0268-1

3D Models Through Multiple Primitives January 7, 2019

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Sometime the 3D scanner can’t model complex interiors. Geeks to the rescue:
The authors of a nifty paper describe how their software creates solid models based on a kind of successive approximation using a library of primitive shapes.  They claim success in over one hundred complex models (see video, above).

Manufactured Human Organs November 20, 2018

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Brain, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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Scientists at Tel Aviv University have created human organs (little ones but, hey) from a bit of biopsied tissues.  They separated the cells from the rest, induced pluripotency and built up organs in differentiated cell layers on a gel scaffolding.  They were able to grow cardiac, spinal and cortical cells from the biopsy sample.

This is critical to success: the cells are the patient’s own cells, with little chance of immune system rejection.  These guys (Tal Dvir, Reuven Edri, NAdav Noor, Idan Gal, Dan Peer and Irit Gat Viks) are currently engaged in regenerating an injured spinal cord and an infarcted heart with spinal cord and cardiac implants. They have also begun to investigate the potential of human dopaminergic implants to treat Parkinson’s disease in animal models.

They have big plans for this technology: “We believe that the technology of engineering fully personalized tissue implants of any type will allow us to regenerate any organ with a minimal risk of immune response,” Prof. Dvir concludes.

Homework: Reuven Edri et al, Personalized Hydrogels for Engineering Diverse Fully Autologous Tissue Implants, Advanced Materials (2018). DOI: 10.1002/adma.201803895

I Was a Callow Youth of Forty When June 7, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Japan, Mutants, Octopus, Toys, Video.
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I first saw Ghost in the Shell, an anime of now classic status, which features cyborgs questioning their own humanity and a possible AI they may discover, and perhaps combat.  There is competent animation, what I imagine is good writing (the subtitles I saw on this fan-subbed version were perhaps a reflection of the translator, however) and an interesting soundtrack.

It also spawned a legion of anime geeks and fanboys, one of whom has made a copy of the mech of choice from said anime, the Tachikoma.  It is very, um, lifelike:

It’s a beautiful build. I would be so proud if this were my child.

Why 3D Printing Exists November 6, 2015

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The Singularity Started With the Wheel March 16, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Mutants, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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As difficult as it may be to comprehend, the wheel is the basic unit of technology. It made the repetitive business of carrying stuff easier. When tasks can be easily repeated (preferably automated), they can also be tweaked to do them better, maybe each time.

With computer controls, these tweaking steps can be automated, and the results don’t even have to be seen by a human.  These results can be used to produce new methods to experiment, ad infinitum. This is precisely why we should not allow AIs any autonomy whatever in creating new AIs.

But I digress.

The tools of automation are now cheaply available, giving everyone who wants it access to finely-controlled stepper motors which can be used in the trial and error methods heretofore mentioned.  Cheap microcontroller systems to run them combined with said stepper motors give us robotic assemblers, 3D printers and molecular assemblers.

Yeah, you heard me.

Usually, small-molecule synthesis usually relies on procedures that are highly customized for each target. Martin Burke, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) early career scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, used a single, fully-automated process to synthesize fourteen distinct classes of small molecules from a common set of building blocks.

A broadly applicable automated process could greatly increase the accessibility of [this class of compounds] to enable investigations of their practical potential. More broadly, these findings illuminate an actionable roadmap to a more general and automated approach for small-molecule synthesis (he used Csp3-rich polycyclic natural product frameworks and developed a catch-and-release chromatographic purification method).

As a former chemist, I must say this is plenty difficult and detailed…but it only has to be done once and this genie is not going back into the bottle.  This will step up the pace of novel moiety experimentation, especially now that we have computational chemistry on a sound footing.  Picture this: computer cranks out theoretical molecule families for research.  Magic chemistry machine makes them.  Another automated machine tests them.  Potential drug candidates can be screened without human intervention, for conditions that currently have no treatment, but do have a good theoretical model.

Honestly, I have been thinking of this for thirty-five years, when one of my classmates described the room-temperature chemistry that was just being used for automated peptide synthesis, a hot subject in my college years1.

Now, with  automated synthesis producing testable quantities of continuously-varying drugs, we can start continuously comparing them with standard drugs for, say, antibiotic activity in a Petri-like environment (I hope it is no surprise that this technology exists already, although it is not in concert with the aforementioned molecular assembler), quickly finding optimal candidates in what could be an entirely automated process.  Promising candidates’ structures can be continuously varied by the molecular assembler under the watchful eye of an expert system (it is fun to imagine the expert system eventually deciding that chlorine bleach is the optimal antibiotic; obviously safety trials against mammalian cell lines need to run in parallel).

Aha, I hear you cry, what about diagnosis?  I’m pretty sure I covered this already2, when I  talked about brute-force cracking the human medical condition through big data: thousands of tests administered cheaply, regularly through millions of peoples’ lifetimes.  This data would be trawled for correlations between medical conditions and test results, telling us things clinicians would miss just because human heads can’t hold that kind of data well enough to draw statistical conclusions, or even reasonable inferences…but computers can.  Frustratingly, the legal problems here are beyond human comprehension as well; the intellectual property costs to create this many tests would be astronomical, although once acquired it could be quite cheap to administer (this is already possible, just not done for greed’s sake).  This will require a revolution in thinking which is not, alas, forthcoming soon3.

Other science can be brute-forced in a similar fashion by automation in other chemical reactions; I picked drug discovery for illustration since that’s where the most money can be found currently.

These are delightful speculations and become even more possible as long as things continue the way they are going, at least in terms of physical possibility.  Cheaper, faster processors make it possible to control all manner of laboratory  and industrial devices, not just your toaster, son.

It all makes me wish I were a better writer, because these ideas deserve better advocacy than I can bring to bear.



Synthesis of many different types of organic small molecules using one automated process Junqi Li, Steven G. Ballmer, Eric P. Gillis, Seiko Fujii, Michael J. Schmidt, Andrea M. E. Palazzolo, Jonathan W. Lehmann, Greg F. Morehouse, Martin D. Burke


EDIT: Somebody did it: “As proof of concept, we have demonstrated its capacity by optimizing the lycopene biosynthetic pathway. This fully-automated robotic platform, BioAutomata, evaluates less than 1% of possible variants while outperforming random screening by 77%. “–Mohammad HamediRad et al. Towards a fully automated algorithm driven platform for biosystems design, Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-13189-z



1 We’re getting there, fellas.  Keep up the good work.

2 Please try to keep up.

3 If ever.

Because it’s Beautiful March 16, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Video.
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This Lego-Modded Glue Gun is A Handheld 3D Printer

This hand-held 3D printer is made of LEGO and a hot glue gun, just the way God intended it to make bespoke hats and whatever else you can’t be bothered to scan, convert to pointcloud, convert that to STL, put in your (horrendously expensive) 3D printer and wait.  Like this tasty video (with cheery music) shows:

Cheap, Non-toxic Printed Circuits November 23, 2014

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Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU) have successfully printed complex electronic circuits using a t-shirt printer. They were printed using in layers on flexible stuff like paper or plastic and included resistors, transistors and capacitors. All were printed using non-toxic organic materials like silver nanoparticles, carbon and plastics.

The types of complex circuits the team has successfully printed include a 4-bit DAC, and an RFID. Not all that complex, sure, but a great proof-of-concept.

Associate Professor Joseph Chang is the leader of the NTU Singapore research group behind this. I couldn’t find the relevant paper for homework, but I did find this photo.circuit on a sheet

small circuit

3D Printing Tiny Complex, Multi-material Devices November 23, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Uncategorizable.
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3D printers are, at this stage of their march through the Singularity, largely confined to printing with only on material, probably due to cost constraints.  But, what if all the materials needed to produce some specialized bit of kit were available in one printer?  Just how complex a device could be manufactured?  Princeton scientists have just manufactured a 2 x 2 x 2 matrix of quantum-dot LEDs as a demonstration of their 3D printer, which can manage five different print materials, including (1) emissive semiconducting inorganic nanoparticles, (2) an elastomeric matrix, (3) organic polymers as charge transport layers, (4) solid and liquid metal leads, and (5) a UV-adhesive transparent substrate layer.

That’s right; five.  And complex; here’s the matrix and a picture of a single LED on a suggestively curved substrate.  I think we are meant to be reminded of a contact lens.

Homework: It’s published in NanoLetters, right here.

The Reason 3D Printing Was Invented November 4, 2014

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Wrist Rocket October 1, 2014

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That’s right, friends, a quadcopter camera that you wear on your wrist.  THIS IS WHAT I WANT FOR NEWTONMASS, PEOPLE!  The prototype (not the rendering above) looks like it would actually work pretty well:

The promo video from their website hints at uses, which I have been advocating for years, like a follow me camera for safety and bragging:

Nixie is powered by Intel’s Edison kit, which is both small enough and affordable enough to fit inside such a small device. And devices like this will only get smaller.

As far as I can tell, Star Trek did not think of this in the 1960s.  Of course the Next Generation did, but we already had cell phones by then so no points for out-of-the-box thinking for them.

Printing Circuits With Conductive Ink May 20, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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Printing circuits with conductive ink

These guys were printing with (various) conductive inks, making little circuits right in front of the inquisitive crowds of Maker Faire 2014.  Sadly, I have lost their card. Sad smile

I want this.

EXCITING UPDATE: I found their card, and thence this URL: http://www.botfactory.co/blog/17-botfactory-presents-squink

Portable PrintrBot May 19, 2014

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In case you break some small, cheap, worthless item during your extended camping trip.