Sunday, June 14, 2015

Door Sign

I wanted to make a sign for my drone laboratory.  I made it about as large as I could fit on my printer in a single piece, 220 mm wide.  I sketched a rectangle in 123D Design and used the text tool to add the text.  I made the base 3 mm thick and the letters 4.5 mm thick.  I recessed the letters into the base 1.5 mm and used the subtract function to create recesses for the letters in the base.  Then I printed the two parts in different colors.

The letters were a perfect snap fit in the base.  They probably didn't even need any glue but I used some just in case.  Only the "e" needed some slight clean up on the first layer to fit.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

LiPo Charge Indicators

I do a lot of work with drones and so I have accumulated quite a collection of LiPo batteries. It's always been a challenge to remember which ones have been used and which ones are fully charged. I'm constantly looking for my battery meter to check each battery before use. Recently I saw these charge indicators on Hobby King. Such a simple and elegant solution, just colored silicone covers that slip over the end of the XT60 plugs. Looked like something I could print.

I took some measurements and drew up the covers in 123D. I recessed the text so I could add paint. I printed them in PLA at 0.1 mm layer height.  I found that the dimensions of the XT60's differ slightly depending on the source. These are a friction fit so you may need to scale the prints slightly to fit your particular battery. The files are available on Thingiverse and YouMagine.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Compensating for ABS Shrinkage

Summary: Quantify your ABS shrinkage rates and scale your model to compensate...maybe.

ABS is known to contract or shrink as it cools. The amount of shrinkage depends on the quality of your filament as well as your printer settings and capabilities. Heated build platforms and enclosed print chambers can minimize these shrinkage problems that can lead to warping in ABS parts. I never noticed much of a problem with the final size of my ABS parts until I started printing small holes. I was designing a bunch of 3 mm holes into my parts and each needed to be drilled out after printing to get the hardware to fit.

So I decided to print a bunch of ABS pieces and compare the CAD dimensions to the final printed dimensions. I used MatterHackers Red Pro Series ABS filament for these prints. All prints were with 0.2 mm layers at 230°C with 90°C bed temperature, 50% fan, and 107% flow. I also used the brim option for adhesion. I started with cubes 5, 10, 15, and 20 mm square.

test prints

When the prints were finished, I carefully measured the length, width and height of each cube with a set of precision calipers. Ironically, all dimensions actually increased except for two measurements. There doesn't appear to be any correlation between the size of the print and the amount of error. Note: I tried carefully to measure at points on the cube that were clean, avoiding any print fragments or over-extrusions.

shrinkage of cubes

Next I wanted to test hole sizes. I designed a 3 mm thick card with 5, 10, 15, and 20 mm diameter holes in it. It was printed using the same settings as above and measured with the calipers. In all cases, the diameter of the holes were smaller than designed. And this time, there was a clear decrease in print error as the size of the hole increased.

shrinkage of holes

As it turns out, it looks like shrinkage isn't as much of a problem as I thought it was. In fact the cubes were slightly oversized. Perhaps it is the quality of the filament. Or maybe the files I printed are accidentally designed in a way that minimizes shrinkage. Or does the extra flow at the nozzle make up for any shrinkage? I don't know, but so far the dimensions of ABS parts from the UM2 are almost perfect. But, if you do find you are having problems with final dimensions, you can always repeat this test and scale your final prints. As for the holes, you may want to oversize your small holes accordingly or simply drill them out to their final size.

for perspective, this is the average error in the cubes

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ratchet and Pawl Mechanism

servo-driven ratchet and pawl

I've been working on a project that requires some precision motion control, rotating an object 360 degrees in 12 steps. At first, I tried using a stepper motor but it drew too much power, ran hot, and was too heavy.  Worst of all, it wasn't strong enough to turn my load. A servo would be a better solution but most servos are only capable of 180 degrees of motion. How do you get 360 degrees of rotation from the limited throw of a servo? A ratchet and pawl looked like it might work.

drafting the ratchet
I looked online for an existing design but I couldn't find anything that would work for me. So I drew one up in 123D Design. It was pretty easy; simply draw two circles to define the top and bottom of your teeth. Sketch one line from the center point to the outer edge of the circle. Then use the Circular Pattern tool to replicate that line around the circle as many times as you need (once for each tooth). Then use the 3 Point Arc tool to draw the back edge of the tooth and replicate that arc just as you did the lines. Lastly, just extrude and remove any unwanted parts. The arm and catch aren't nearly as critical, just sketch them to fit the profile of the teeth.

the finished design

With the design finished, I printed the parts in ABS at 230°C with a brim. Since the appearance isn't critical, I printed with a 0.2 mm layer height at 80 mm/s. I mounted the pieces to a scrap piece of lexan and used some small springs to tension the pawl and arm against the ratchet. Using an online calculator I determined that for a 30° arc, the servo arm needed to be about 19 mm long to give me the necessary linear motion from the ratchet arm.

servo connected to arduino

I used an arduino to test the mechanism. I simply modified the Sweep code from the Servo library and shortened the sweep from 180° to 30°. To my surprise, it worked on the first try. I modified the code a few degrees to dial the servo motion in perfectly. This is a nifty little design that should come in handy in the future. Next I'll print a hub to mount this to the part I need to rotate.

Files are available on Thingiverse and YouMagine.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Printing Multiple ABS Parts

multiple ABS parts printed "all at once"

Summary: Print ABS parts one at a time, not "all at once".

Lately I have been printing a lot in ABS to make some custom parts for my multirotor helicopter. When I need to print several copies of the same part, I have been using the "print all at once" option just as I did with PLA. With PLA, this setting allows time for each layer to cool and generally gives higher quality prints.

layer separation

However with ABS, I noticed some layer separation in my prints with printing with the "print all at once" setting. There were obvious gaps in some of the layers. With just a little pressure, the layers pulled apart very easily.

layers pulled apart

I think this is due to the fact that ABS shrinks some as it cools. Print continuously and the previous layer is still hot while the next layer is printed. But given extra time to cool, the previous layer shrinks before the next layer is printed and you end up with the layers not touching.

Luckily, print quality has not been an issue; it seems easier to get good prints with ABS. So the print all at once option does not seem to be necessary. I have been printing my ABS parts one at a time and the quality and strength are perfect.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Figure Stands

One of my daughter's favorite gifts this Christmas was a fold-out school house book. The book opens up to make four classrooms and came with 18 paper figures to play with. Unfortunately, the paper stands that came with the figures were frustratingly flimsy. My daughter would spend 30 minutes getting her schoolhouse set up exactly as she wanted it. But as soon as she started playing, the figures would fall over like a class full of delinquents sending her into fits.

looks like Mrs. Ellie the art teacher
had one too many at lunch

So I decided to print some new stands for her figures. I took a few measurements. The paper was 0.44 mm thick; I made the slot 0.40 mm wide for a good friction fit. Then I drew up a quick design in 123D and printed out one test piece. It fit perfectly so I printed out 17 more.

Success! Now the class can stand at attention for Mrs. Meows and the set is much more fun to play with. The files are available on YouMagine and Thingiverse.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ultimate Jams!

uh oh!

Summary: Keep an eye on your prints in case something goes wrong. Things can get really messy, really fast. A little glue is cheap insurance for long or multiple prints.

No, I'm not talking about music here. This is what happens when your prints don't stick to the build platform. I was printing a bunch of spirograph gears. I had printed many sets before. So, confident that it would print without problem, I walked away from the printer and let it do its thing. I came back a while later to this...

bottom view of print head

One or more of the gears had slipped off of the build platform and stuck to the print head. The printer kept going, knocking off other gears. Eventually the nozzle got blocked by the parts, but the extruder kept going. The melted plastic oozed up around the nozzle and hot end engulfing both. It looked like a total nightmare to clean.

this is what was stuck to the print head.

I peeled the mass of plastic off of the print head before it cooled down. But there was still a big mess of melted plastic surrounding the hot end up inside the fan shroud. I though I would have to disassemble the entire print head to clean it. After closer inspection I could see that the fan shroud is attached by four allen screws on the outside of the print head.

one of the screws holding the fan shroud on

mess of PLA around the hot end

Once I removed the fan shroud I could see it wasn't as bad as I thought. I turned on the machine and used the advanced settings to heat up the nozzle to about 190°C; hot enough to melt the plastic, not so hot that it burns or makes a bigger mess. I gently pulled on the mass of PLA with pliers until it came off easily. With the nozzle still not, I wiped off the hot end and used a dental pick to remove the last little bits of PLA from around the nozzle threads.

all clean and extruding properly

With the hot end all clean, I advanced the extruder to make sure the nozzle wasn't clogged. The PLA flowed nicely so I screwed the fan shroud back on. I printed the gears again, this time using glue on the build platform. They printed perfectly. Even if you may not need it, use glue to make absolutely sure your prints don't come loose.