Booklet Maker

TL;DR: I designed and printed a booklet maker for a friend.  

Instead of completing the Inktober challenge I spent the month of October designing and printing gifts for friends… and I spent November writing about them, haha. I posted about a Darth Vader dice tower here, an Ironman figurine here, and the third project I completed is this booklet maker.

My friend Will reached out for help solving a specific problem: he likes to staple papers into booklets, but needed a way to make them more easily and consistently. We went back and forth with some requirements (number of sheets at a time, staple placement, etc.), he drop shipped a stapler to me, and I started designing.

I began by modeling the classic Swingline 747 stapler from caliper measurements. I needed an accurate stapler model to ensure a good fit for whatever 3D printed part I would ultimately design. Capturing the draft of the side and determining the clearance available during stapler actuation was of paramount importance, so I created the stapler in two components and added movable mates.

Creating the stapler model in two components to allow for assembly mating features proved very useful in determining space available for designing

For this project there were advantages to taking a top-down design approach. In a new part model, I created a layout sketch to place the staplers per the desired specifications 6 inches apart on a line ¼ inch away from the left margin.

Taking a top-down design approach ensured the requirements were met from the beginning. All dimensions were driven from where the staples ultimately need to go.

With the staplers fixed in place, I focused my attention on the design of the main paper retention body. The trickiest part of the design was creating an attachment method that keeps a clear path for the stapler head to reach the crimp area.

After completing a test print to check the fit, I made a few adjustments to the paper backstop height, mirrored the body and connected the two halves with beam extrusions. Pictures speak louder than words, so here’s the build gallery:

Will tells me he’s very happy with the results, and I couldn’t be happier myself.

Action shot! It might take a bit of time for the gif to load

Ironman Figurine

TL;DR: I uploaded my first Thingiverse share! I improved the design of an existing Ironman model by adding pegs to allow for articulation and adhesive-less assembly.

I went on a work trip to Phoenix in early November. Fortuitously, my best friend growing up lives there and loves Ironman like I do. I decided to squeeze in a quick design and print project to gift him.

I found a decent looking Ironman figurine on Thingiverse here. This model is actually a remix of another project—the remixer made the part easier to print by separating the limbs. While this was a good step forward for printability, I further improved the design by adding pegs between the extremities and the main body:

The pegs I added are in red. They allow easy assembly plus articulation.

The boolean tools available in Fusion360 make it incredibly easy to complete simple changes like this. I undersized the peg in the CAD model, but small variations in print settings and nozzle wear and tear make perfect fits a bit tricky. In fact, it took me a few tries to get the pegs working really well, but the prints were short, and the results were worth it:

Assembly in process

Given that this project originated directly on thingiverse, I thought it was only right to give back to the community and share my very first remix here: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3998580. The number of views and downloads of this model pleasantly surprised me, given the simple and obvious nature of the change I made. I’ll probably consider sharing more stuff going forward… we’ll see ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

I think the assembly with articulation turned out pretty well—the yellow looks vaguely gold-ish, so the only thing missing is some red paint:

He just needs a paint job

Vader Dice Tower

TL;DR: I made a villainous dice tower for a friend’s bday, combining two of his favorite things—Star Wars and board gaming.

October was a pretty busy month for me with work and fantasy football both ramping up. However, I’m very happy I was able to get some design and project time in. My friend Nick’s birthday was earlier this week, and I wanted to make him something practical yet personalized. Anybody who knows him at all knows how much he loves both board games and Star Wars, so to me, printing a Darth Vader dice tower was simply a no brainer.

For those of you who may not know, a dice tower is a very simple device to ensure fair rolls while keeping dice from flying all over the place and messing up stuff on the table. Dice towers can take on a wide variety of shapes and sizes. All that is really needed is some sort of aperture at the top to put dice in, a path which randomizes spins, and a tray to collect them at the end.

Before I started designing, I did a quick search on thingiverse and other 3d print sharing sites to make sure I wasn’t completely reinventing the wheel. I found a few Vader dice towers, but to be honest, I didn’t think they were very good in terms of amount of detail and general aesthetics. I was fortunate to find a great model of Darth Vader to begin with: https://www.myminifactory.com/object/3d-print-star-wars-darth-vader-30-cm-tall-60500.

Essentially my plan was as follows:

  1. Reorient and resize the head to maximize the print area on my bed.
  2. Create the dice travel path leading from the top of the head out of the mouth.
  3. Subtract the path model from the head model.
  4. Create a tray to catch the dice
  5. Print the parts
  6. Ship it

Parts 1-4 went incredibly smoothly all within Fusion 360. I successfully printed a ¼ size test part to ensure the path I created could be printed without any internal support structures to minimize post processing work. Unfortunately, I then ran into printer issues I had never previously encountered…

My Monoprice Maker Select Plus (aka Wanhao Duplicator III Plus clone) has been a workhorse without any major issues for years now. Of course, she decided to act up when I was up against a deadline since birth dates are immutable. My printer would randomly stop working and send bed temperature errors before rebooting. I pinpointed the problem to the thermistor on my print bed, but I didn’t have time to mess around. Luckily for me, my neighbor across the street literally has a print farm in his bedroom (15 machines and counting) so I was still able to get the parts made on time. The only unfortunate thing is that his machines are smaller than mine—so he had to scale the size down by 5% to get them to fit. (I found out later that the fix I needed on my printer was incredibly basic: the kapton tape holding the thermistor to the bed loosened over time, thus the printer received intermittent temperature readings.)

Luckily, the 5% reduction in size did not severely diminish the part’s functionality:

It works! May the Force Be With You!

I’m incredibly happy with the results of this project. I enjoyed the challenge of modifying an existing mesh to create a new, meaningful, and practical object. Even though UPS spoiled the surprise by giving Nick a notification about the arrival of a package sent from my area, and the package arrived late, I’m pretty sure he was very pleased upon arrival.  

Thanks for making it to the end of this post—here’s an incredibly sparse build gallery:

ButterBot Spotlight Lamp

TL;DR: I made a robot whose only purpose is to hold up a spotlight… At least it’s a step up from passing butter :D. I am extremely pleased with how this guy turned out. The light is adjustable both in leaf rotation and tilt angle.

A few weeks ago, I desperately wanted a lamp for my nightstand to keep me from needing to stumble around in the dark trying to find the bed while avoiding squishing the dog after turning off the lights at night. Thus, I decided to do the most practical thing, and began designing my own.

I began my design around the idea of creating something in a modular manner. I knew I wanted to have some sort of character holding up the light source, but was unsure about the specifics of what was going to be feasible, and what would be accepted by my landlord to have around the house. I landed on the idea of building around a spotlight—I like the simple shape and general aesthetics and the character-neutral nature.

Over the next few weekends, I kicked around a few ideas and asked some friends for inspiration when I had my eureka moment—THE BUTTER BOT FROM RICK AND MORTY IS PERFECT FOR THIS!!! I am a huge fan of the show, wanted to use up my silk silver plastic filament, and thought I could give this little guy a better purpose than just passing butter. Really, it was a win/win/win scenario.

I don’t have any photos detailing the electronics, but I’ve got a simple ATmega32U4-based Arduino board with a micro-USB interface. I found this awesome inline DC jack power switch and paired it with an even cooler DC jack to micro-USB cable to provide power and add the ability to turn the light on/off.

Designing and implementing my idea was relatively straightforward after deciding what to build. The trickiest part was designing the parts in such a way so they could be broken up and printed in different jobs—the overall size is roughly 7” x 8” x 18” (although the 7” width can change depending on how the spotlight leaves are oriented, and the height can change depending on the tilt angle). I am particularly proud of my insight of creating a domed peg to enable the printing of the main body without the need for supports.

The only thing missing from the completely finished design are a red wire, a yellow wire, and a red led bulb. Anyway, here’s a gallery of my design and build process:

Laundry Basket Divider

TL;DR: I made a divider for our new laundry bin using material from our old bin and printing some threaded pins to hold it in place.

We used to have a stiff cloth laundry basket, but there were two main problems with it. Whenever I tossed my clothes on it inaccurately (this happened all the time, let’s be real), the walls would buckle a bit under the weight. Secondly, there’s just a single compartment, and I’m allergic to the laundry detergent Tiff likes to use.

To fix the first problem, we actually used the ubiquitous 20% off Bed Bath and Beyond and bought a new hard plastic hamper. To address the second, I got a bit more creative. Since our old laundry basket was cloth-based, I was able to fold it up using binder clips. The divider fit very tightly near the bottom, so I only needed a way to hold it in place closer to the top. I created a pocket on each side by adding two binder clips around where I wanted to place the holder.

The custom design I went with was very simple—it’s a simple threaded pin and retaining nut. I measured the hole I needed to fill, extruded a few cylinders, and added threads, ezpz. About two hours on the printer later, I installed two pins with nuts on the basket and put the divider into place.

I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t my sexiest design ever, but it’s quite utilitarian.

Here’s a few build photos:

EL Headbands done!

TL;DR: I finished the EL headbands I’ve been working on :D.

I finished up the electroluminescent headbands I described in my post a few weeks ago here. Since my prototype was close to the final product, completing the production was fast after I received the custom fabric components.

As in the prototype, EL wire was passed through the printed channels and connected to a DC to AC inverter for power. I found nifty coin battery sized inverters, which fit directly on the bands without too much interference. The most time consuming portion of the build was attachment of the plastic to the fabric, since I’m bad at hand sewing.

Here’s the build gallery:

Here’s a bonus gif, with a little preview of a flag project I’ve been working on as well…

Thanks Sara and Vi for demo’ing 😀

Supreme EL Box

TL;DR: For my friend Teddy’s birthday, I made him a hypebeast worthy (if I do say so myself) Supreme EL box.

My good friend Teddy is one of the biggest hypebeasts I know, so I wanted to make something he would like. I went back to the EL wire well again for this project (see: headbands http://www.andrewpip.com/2019/03/28/el-wire-lighted-headbands/ and sign <http://www.andrewpip.com/2019/04/07/faux-neon-signage>). However, I needed to dig into my paint supplies dating all the way back to my Iron Man Mask (http://www.andrewpip.com/2018/05/06/infinity-war-masks).

Conceptually, this project was relatively simple:

  1. I made a box.
  2. I cut some channel shaped holes in the box.
  3. I painted the box.
  4. I put my wire through the box.
  5. I gave Teddy the box.

For this project, honestly I think the gallery will explain things better than I can in words, so here it is (it looks nicer if you click to open the full-sized images):

Faux-Neon Signage

TL;DR: For my friend Gina’s birthday, I made her a faux-neon sign to decorate her new condo with. I ended up making a few different versions of this sign and through the process, I learned several useful tricks to speed up vector image modifications, which will definitely make it easier for me going forward. 

I continued playing with el wire since I bought so much for my headband project. Since my friend’s birthday was coming up, I figured it was a great opportunity to make something cool with it. I decided to make a faux-neon sign reading “Mama G’s House”.

I started by searching for neon sign fonts on google and downloaded a few to try out including “Warnes”, “La Patio Script”, “I am online with u”, and “Fenotype Neon”. All of them were free to download, but not all of them were free for commercial usage, which is fine for this project as I’m not selling it.

The first prototype I made used Warnes as the base font. I really liked how the letters all connect at the bottom. However, I needed to do a bit of surgery in Inkscape to connect the disparate words after vectorization:

The main modifications I made to this first font were just around connecting the letters and adjusting some of the spacing

I imported the SVG directly into a sketch Fusion 360 and resized it to ensure I had a ~3mm wide channel all over. Next, I modified the sketch to remove areas near the bottom where the lettering overlapped. In a fashion similar to what I did for the EL headbands, I extruded a positive model of the letters. Next, I needed to move the apostrophe body and combine it with the rest of the lettering. Then, I created a sketch, offset the entire object, and cleaned up the line overlapping lines created by the offset tool. After extruding the outlined body, I cut the positive lettering model out:

I reused the technique I discovered while making the EL headbands of cutting the positive channel from the main body

After slicing the STL in Cura, and waiting about 3 hours for production, the print came out pretty well:

However, with the physical model in front of me, I saw the font I used had a few issues. Primarily, although the channels I made fit the el wire, there were too many places where stringing it required a double back, which was not accounted for. Oops. Luckily, I hadn’t spent a lot of time on this, and I figured Gina could still use it as a nice decoration even without lighting effects.

The next font I tried was called “I am online with u” which had the advantage of being a single connected line. Although this font was more ideal out of the box, I still needed to tweak the vector version to make it work properly. Essentially, I just modified the “corners” of the letters to allow for more space wherever they changed direction, I adjusted the spacing between words and letters, and I moved and combined the apostrophe to overlap with the letters.

I modified this font a bit more heavily to ensure a good print. The biggest tweak was widening the letters where they changed direction so the EL wire could bend around.

My workflow in Fusion 360 was essentially identical to the one I used for the previous version of the sign: import svg, scale, and clean up sketch -> extrude a positive channel -> offset the body and extrude the outline -> use the combine tool to cut the positive channel away from the outlined body. Unfortunately, this part was a bit too big to fit on my printer in one piece, so I needed to split it into two. The split created a physical weakness which I shored up by creating a small base to hold it together and help the entire assembly stand upright.

The split was unfortunate but necessary to allow me to actually manufacture the sign. The base I made fit very well and helps keep the assembly standing too.

The print didn’t take very long—maybe about 4 hours in total for all the pieces. I was pretty happy with the results, and I think she was too 🙂

El Wire Lighted Headbands

TL;DR: My friends asked me to make custom light up costume headbands for them in the style of Naruto… so I did. I 3D printed channels through which I fed electroluminescent wire to make logos of their favorite DJ’s. While the project is simple in concept, I needed to dust off a bunch of tools I hadn’t utilized in a while to complete it. While I’m not quite finished with these, I’m too excited about how the project is looking NOT to share.

In the anime Naruto, the characters wear headbands to protect their foreheads while they fight. My friends wanted ones that light up for their costumes, and asked if I could help. If you want to skip over a lot of unnecessary detail, just go to the gallery at the bottom where I put the build photos 😛

El wire is a fantastic way to add lighting effects to projects since it is very bendable, easy to install, and does not require any programming at all (just add power!). Before this project, I hadn’t played with electroluminescent (el) wire for years, so I was excited to jump back in. The technology has become a lot more common and widely available than I remember—there’re tons of vendors for wire and the requisite DC to AC inverters. Unfortunately, the inverters still make an annoying high pitched buzz whenever they’re on.

In terms of the mechanical design, the headband was very simple. I created a base in Fusion 360 CAD to reuse in each version with a different logo. The majority of my time has actually been spent optimizing the image preparation pipeline. To go from a 2D-logo to a cut channel, the process I went through was as follows:

  • Prepare an outline image in Gimp (a free Photoshop competitor). The easiest way I found to do this was by using the fuzzy select tool to select the outline of the image I wanted to convert, then using the stroke selection tool.
Using stroke was key to getting a nice solid outline to begin my vector image with
  • After saving the image as a bitmap in Gimp, I imported the file in Inkscape (similar to Adobe Illustrator) and stroked the bitmap to a path. I resized the vector image to fit my headband base, and manually edited the nodes until all parts of the path were approximately 2.5mm in width to fit my el wire.
I ended up doing quite a bit of manual manipulation to change the logo shape such that the 2.5mm channels would fit and still look somewhat like what I started with. Simple automatic offsetting didn’t work well at all.
  • Initially, I was exporting vector images as 2D CAD-friendly DXF files. However, I made the groundbreaking discovery that Fusion 360 actually lets you directly import and use SVG files. Using the vector files (svg) directly is a lot more computationally friendly and MUCH easier to work with. For example, the dxf version of the Illenium logo had upwards of 670 line elements, whereas the svg file had two curves.
I can’t believe it took me so long to realize I could use SVG’s directly in Fusion 360… this was a gamechanger for my speed of productivity.
  • Within Fusion 360, I directly extruded the imported drawing. Next, I did a few manipulations with the combine and move bodies menu to create a “positive” model of the channel I wanted to CUT from the headband.
It’s a bit difficult to see, but I moved the positive cut out forward so it only intersects the model for the last 2.5mm of its extruded depth.
  • One of the limitations of working with el wire is that there is a minimum bend radius before you can actually break the wire and cause shorts. Unfortunately, since I was making headbands most of the detailed bends weren’t physically possible to make in a single piece. To maintain sharp edges required for the logo designs, I created pass through holes. This allows me to bend the wire in an unsightly loop where it can’t be seen in the final product. Positive models of the pass through holes were created by extruding cylinders from behind the headband up to the channel model.
Thru holes were simple extruded cylinders
  • Lastly, I created some “channels” on the back of the headbands to accommodate the loops. In an early prototype, I created actual channels out of spline sketches, but that proved to be a lot of work for no reason. Now, I’ve simply created large inset areas that can fit the el wire loops. It’s much less effort to achieve the same result. The positives for this were extruded initially as separate bodies to the channels so I could shift them backward about 0.8mm before joining to the rest of the positive channel model.
I cut the positive channel model away from the base headband shape
  • A simple combine, export as STL, and slicing in Cura resulted in a pretty decent print, if I do say so myself ;).
Here’s my first prototype blinking 😀

The first prototype I printed was in black PLA before I received this gorgeous silk silver shiny PLA made by Hatchbox on Amazon. I quickly realized that I didn’t have a great way of making the fabric for the bands since I don’t have any sewing skills. I am incredibly lucky to have super talented parents (check out my dad’s website here… he’s much more artistically talented than I am: www.bounsaypipathsouk.com) who are always willing to help. I Facetime called them to explain what I was making and mailed them my first sample. A few days later, I received some photos of my prototype solidly attached to a custom headband they made, and should receive them next week :D.

My parents were able to deliver!!

While there are still a few improvements left for me to make before I deliver my final product, I’m pretty stoked at how well the project has turned out so far, and just couldn’t wait to share.

As promised, here’s a gallery of the build:

Lithophane Lamp Shade

TL;DR: I made a lithophane lamp shade for my sister’s birthday. I used an online tool that combined multiple images with specific measurements to create a part that fit around my particular desk lamp. This was probably my longest single part print to date—about 60 hours, but the results were well worth the wait!

I continued playing around with lithophanes and made my sister a birthday present—a litphophane lamp shade! I found another online tool at: https://www.lithophanemaker.com/Lamp%20Lithophane.html. This one lets you enter various parameters to create an entire ready-to-print part very quickly. While I would design this part a bit differently if I were to do it from scratch, the speed of use was pretty undeniable.

I only had a two small hiccups—the size of the lamp retaining lip didn’t quite match what I expected. That is—the cylinder turned out undersized for what I needed. Luckily, I had the foresight to first print only the inner cylinder for a fit check. After I started the print the first time, I realized that I forgot to add supports for the cylinder retaining lip to come out properly, so I had to restart the print after a few hours >.<.

Once I started the print for real, I had the full lamp shade in hand after about 60 hours. This was my longest single part print to date, and I think it turned out incredibly well 😀

The gallery with descriptions below shows the process: