Project RO-RA!

My 2.5 year old son has started drawing faces!Apparently, the vertical lines are the subject's neck. I do have to wonder if Dad's beard was any inspiration.

I stayed home, half day last Monday as our sitter was sick. I'm so glad I did too. Sitting on our dining/playroom, my son just picked up a piece of chalk and started drawing the above picture; all the while naming out the parts, eyes, nose, neck, etc. I was floored! This was his 1st drawing of anything recognizable and it was of a face!! I haven't Googled it and I'm not sure when kids usually pick up on representational drawing, but it was great to see happen.

Later that day he drew this for my wife. Apparently it is a monkey. Looks like one to me!

Ok, so what does this have to do with 3D printing, making, etc?? Well, it's mostly just me, proudly showing off, but it's also a bit of a (albeit something of a stretch) segue to an upcoming project I'm really excited about.


Project RO-RA!

Prior and since my son's foray into portraiture, one of our favorite activities has been collaborative drawings on the Magna Doodle. Namely, he would draw a shape or squiggle and then hand the pen over to me to complete the picture. With some requests for a kitty or doggy, the lion's share were for robots, or 'ro-ras'. I absolutely love this game and the boy seems to as well. He's one hell of a critic though and not above barely glancing at my finished piece before swiping the eraser knob from one end to the other. It's hit or miss with this kid.

Some start out as simple shapes.Others can be a bit more chaotic.I've got a few more (including some Play-Dough bots) and while pretty rough, I think they would be a great basis for the modeling of a series of figures to be output on a 3D printer, molded, cast and painted. I know the grown-up art based on childrens' drawings thing has been rather beat to death, but I think this would be fun. Besides, if it goes nowhere beyond our household, that's fine with me. Why buy robot model kits, when you can make your own? Expecially, kits your kid had a grubby little hand in.

I've got another project currently in the works, but hope to start pre-production on RO-RA soon. I'll start with some Photoshop sketches and firm up on a handful of designs/silhouettes. After which I'll start modeling in Zbrush and go from there.

I'll update as soon as I've got something to show!

Some Sci-Fi Blaster Silhouettes

I love science fiction. With a fascination for science and technology, and a deep appreciation of storytelling, it's sci-fi that takes me to the places that no other form of literature or film does. 

Star Wars played an enormous role in forming my idea of good sci-fi; namely in the look/feel/design departments. While I know the light sabers are the hero hero weapon Lucas's films, it's the work horses of the film's armory, the blaster that always caught my eye.

I'm going to be starting a class on Solidworks in April at the Artisan's Asylum and need a project to work on over the following month. As much as I get a kick out of, say the stormtrooper blaster, I really have no desire to build one. It's been done and done well by a number of people. I want to design my own.

So, here are a few sillouettes I'm playing with. Nothing concrete yet. I want something with the grounded-in-reality fashion utilized in the Star Wars movies, while at the same time fancifal and clearly of the sci-fi genre.

I'll post progress as it comes.


I borrowed a bit (namely the grip, top rear, and trigger area) from the Broomhandle Masuer. If it looks familiar it may be because it's the very gun used as the base for Han Solo's blaster. You can see however, as my design moved along, less and less of the Broomhandle remains.

I borrowed a bit (namely the grip, top rear, and trigger area) from the Broomhandle Masuer. If it looks familiar it may be because it's the very gun used as the base for Han Solo's blaster. You can see however, as my design moved along, less and less of the Broomhandle remains.

Project X Comes to Light...

Children of the 70s and 80s, remember these?

No, that's not a special edition Black Sabbath.

A year or so ago my wife sent me a link to an instructable, by the very cool Fred Murphy, about 3D printing your own Fisher Price record player records. Fast forward to a month before her birthday this year, and my stroke of genius; 3D print my wife a Fisher Price record of the song (The Book of Love, by the Magnetic Fields) played when she took the forever walk, at our wedding. Not only would this be a kick-ass gift, but perhaps a way to show my lovely wife that my owning a 3D printer isn't that crazy after all.

The pictured player is a vintage model that my wife bough off of Ebay. We wanted one for our son but found out that the new versions use a chip/speaker combo, instead of the old-school music box technology. Boo!

I won't bore you with the the details of how I made the record as it's pretty well laid out in the instructable. However I will regale you with the results.

Groovey. It took two prints to get it right. Well, sort of right. The 1st print was 3mm thick and not scaled to compensate for the very small percentage of shrinkage inherent in ABS FDM prints. It did not play at all. The second print was 5mm thick, which pushed the play surface up a bit to facilitate contact with the pins in the player's arm, and was scaled up around 3% to compensate for shrinkage.

Enough bullshit Lee! Did it play?! Well, kinda. Despite my scaling of the source model, there seems to be a bit of an issue with the grooves corresponding properly with the music box style pins in the player's arm. Long story short, one can get a relatively recognizable tune out of the record by holding the arm down and pushing the record while playing, in sort of a slow motion DJ technique.

In the end, however this was the favorite among my birthday gifts to my wife. Just between you and me, I think she's starting to see the light. :)




Digital Sculpting for 3D Printing/Model Kit Gig!

Industria Mechanika recently announced a February availability of their 1/35 scale sea birds kit.  I am the sculptor of this kit and am very excited to see it being released. They were sculpted entirely in Zbrush and were a lot of fun. The legs and feet of the seagull and the feet of the pelican will be made of photo-etched brass. The files are currently at the printers and the kits will be available as resin castings. Thank you to Michael Fichtenmayer of Industria Mechanika, for the opportunity!

Handgun Model, Completed.

This is rather late in coming. The holidays, a cold and a new job have taken most of my focus.

So yeah, the model came together rather well, if I do say so. Some of my simulated wear could be better and I need to do some paint touch-up but otherwise I've got a kick out of the finished product.


A few cool things came together at the end.

  • I printed out templates of the grip geo in order to cut out some grip tape overlays. I think it contrasts nicely with the frame and lends some realism, as I know grip-tape is a favorite among special forces operatives, swat, gun-nuts, etc. 
  • I experimented with Krylon grip spray on the frame, in hopes of creating the pebbled/grippy surface one might find on the plastic composite frame with many modern handguns. It's hard to tell from my crappy pic but the effect was somewhat of a success. It indeed looks textured, though I would have liked for it to have been a bit bumpier. Word to the wise, spray the texture spray 1st, as I had problems with the paint crazing after applying the grip spray over the dried brown paint. If one MUST spray the grip over the paint, make sure you have the model fully primed. The only places that crazed were where the primer had been sanded away prior to painting. I guess the smart thing to do, in the end, is just make damn sure your model is fully primed.
  • I felt that weight would lend a sense of realism to the model when it was picked up so I filled the slide with about 10 ounces of lead weights. I also glued in 10 or so ounces of carriage bolts into the frame. It gives the model a good heft.
  • One thing I'm rather proud about is the fact that the sights actually line up. Furthermore the glow in the dark 'inserts' (drilled and filled with glow paint) look pretty cool.

To sorta step back in the process a bit; I want to mention a step I'm really glad I took. I had a general idea as to how big the print should be, but I wasn't exactly sure. In computer games, objects can usually be scaled after the fact. However, clearly with printing, that is not the case. So I took a orthographic screenshot and pasted it into Photoshop, where using the rulers I came up with the best size. First one was too big, the second two small, the last nice and bracketed in between. I'll spare you the embarrasing pictures of me holding the cut-outs, looking for the size, that felt, as well as looked correct.

I call this the 'count on your fingers' approach. I'm sure there are some 3D modeling/printing ninjas out there that could skip this step, but like I've said before; fine tuning real world scaling is tricky (for me at least.)


A handful of things to do differently next time:

  • I need to incorporate more tab and slot arrangements for the various components. The safety switches in particular merely lay on the side of the slide and have already popped off. I may end up pinning them, but having that already incorporated into the model would help a lot.
  • Improve the quality of the print. I'm not sure why I got the artifacts I did on the frame and slide, but they certainly made my job harder.
  • I need to come up with a better way of simulating the wear of the finish that exposes the underlying metal. I found that in some spots, I accidentally wore down to the grey primer, missing the metallic paint all together. It could just be dialing back my sanding, but I'm going to explore other methods.
  • Grip spray crazes paint!!
  • I attempted to glue the slide to the frame with 5 minute epoxy. I love 5 minute epoxy (hence the name of the blog), but in this case I didn't get a good bond. I ended up using Aves Apoxie Sculpt for a more mechanical bond, to great effect. Unfortunately, if one looks real close between the slide and the frame you can still see a little shiny epoxy.

In the end, I had a lot of fun working on this model. I learned a few lessons and have been bolstered by the results.  I've got an idea or two for some ray guns/blasters, but I think for my next project I'm going to do something a little less weapony. I hope to start posting that project within the next week or so. Thanks for tuning in!

Handgun model - Almost done...

This post is going to be somewhat condensed as I have some catch-up to do on posting my progress. We're snowed in today, so I'm going to try and finish the handgun print before the clock strikes midnight.

I've spent a fair amount of time using filler-primer in order to remove the print lines. Both the frame and the slide had some artifacts. I looked at my .STL files and they seemed to be clean, so there might be some issues with the printer I am not aware of.

But a heap of filler-primer, some Aves Apoxie Sculpt and quite a bit of sanding, at this point I've got a fairly clean model.

I was waiting for some coyote brown spray paint, textured spray and some grip tape for the frame, so I started painting the slide and smaller parts.

Painted slide with breechblock and threaded barrel glued on.

Rear site. You can't tell from this pic, but the dots are more along the lines of a pale green, with some glow in the dark paint mixed in. My shop looks like hell, I know.Ok, so the day is still young. I will try my best to get this wrapped up tonight!

Mini Maglite Flashlight Diffuser Cap - With Lens Installed - Beam Comparison

I've woken up from a night of crazy-assed fever induced dreams and simultaneous sweat and chills, to be a new man.

So quick and dirty; here is the cap with the diffuser lens(es) installed. Again, I used three pieces of translucent plastic cut from a Chinese take-out soup container. 3 pieces seemed to be enough to give me the diffusion I wanted. I took their collective thickness into the equation when I made my reference model. However I seemed to have been a bit off some as the cap doesn't fit as snugly as w/o the lenses. I'm sure the fact that I cut out the lenses by hand, doesn't help. Next time I would opt for translucent acrylic cut on a laser cutter. But damned if real-world fit and tolerances ain't hard!

Black FMD is a hard target to photograph.

When it comes down to it though, mission accomplished in that the beam is indeed diffused. Oh, and the 'anti-roll' feature on the bezel does it's job too! Here's a shot of the beams with and without the diffuser. My iPhone adjusted a bit for exposure between the two, but you get the point.

Approximately 12 inches from dingy, satin white wall.The only task left to (hopefully) ensure toddler resistance, is to white glue the threads on the flashlight head. My son has a tendency to unscrew it (thus exposing the bulb), and Loc-Tite just didn't cut it.


Mini Maglite Flashlight Diffuser Cap - Success-ish!

Well, I finally got the diffuser cap assembly home from the printer. Washed off the alkali solution, dried if off and went for a test fit on the flashlight head.

POW! Just a tad too small and wouldn't fit! No! Where did I go wrong? I had measured until the cows came home and compensated for shrinkage of the ABS. Come on!

Then it occurred to me to heat the parts up in hopes of gaining that extra millimeter that might allow me to slip the parts onto the flashlight. So after about 5 to 10 minutes in very hot water I tried again.


It fits! Alas my cool clips, however are no more...

I say success-'ish' as while the parts fit after being heated, the little snaps I had engineered to hold the two parts together were as fragile as old bird bones. Unfortunately since I printed the half of the cap that held the clips, with it's long axis vertical, the clips were printed such that the ABS was extruded across the clip's width. It was as though they were perforated and broke right off, with the slightest of pressure.

I was going to stamp this with 'back to the drawing board' but frankly the cap fits so tight, that it should be relatively toddler resistant and hold the lens material just fine. 

Speaking of lens material, I built the cap to accept three circles of plastic from a plastic Chinese soup container, sandwiched together. Cheap, but I had it laying around and wouldn't have to source something. I might get around to posting a pic of the cap with the lens installed. Not tonight, though. I'm sick with a cold and just want to call it a day.

What I would do different next time.


  • The clips were too small. I think I would have fewer of them around the bezel (say, 4 instead of 6) and make each one a bit bigger/more robust.
  • More importantly, I would build the cap and the clips separately, such that after being printed the clips would be glued to their host. This would allow me to orient the clips in the printer such that the print striation goes along the length of the clip, hopefully making it much less likely to just snap off.



Handgun model

When you work in the computer games industry it's not unusual to have a few gun models lying around. I built this model about 4 or so years ago as a means to learn Zbrush. The basic layout and angles were cooked up in 3DS Max, but the majority of the shaping occurred in Zbrush. The concept of this gun is of my design.

Considering the concerns regarding 3D printed guns, I feel it necessary to stress that this is a non-firing prop and could sooner be used as a kludge than ever fire a bullet. It is essentially hollow with no internal workings.


The following render (rendered in Marmoset Toolbag) is of the realtime/low poly version, as I don't have any nice and fancy renders of the umpteen-million poly Zbrush model. 

Low resolution (realtime) version shown.This sucker was nuts to get into the printer and required a fair amount of finagling, not to mention the hollowing process so the print wouldn't cost me an arm and a leg. But once I got it loaded the print went well, with only a few funky bits in a couple of spots, which I'll talk about later.

Photographed with a potato. I then began the process of priming and sanding the 15 separate pieces...

The primer/filler used is actually a bit greyer than shown in the photo.That's all for now. I'm almost done with this piece and will post more of the process tomorrow...

Mini Maglite Flashlight Diffuser Cap

I really like flashlights, namely of the relatively small, high intensity LED variety. I have a small collection of two Surefires and more recently a Fenix PD35. At 860 max lumens, this thing is a pocket sized spotlight!

Well this love for flashlights must be hereditary, as my two year old would run off with any flashlight left within reach. We put a stop to that right off the bat and now keep my lights out of toddler territory. Even my dimmest light (60 lumens) is too bright for a two year old (or anyone for that matter) to stare into, as he is apt to do. 

So hey, bright idea (heh), let's get the kid a flashlight for Christmas. Well a quick look at flashlights marketed for kids showed a bunch of crap, destined for a land fill. Dim, poorly constructed and generally not long for this world. So we decided to forgo them all together and get him a 'real' flashlight.

Junk (no offense, Elmo).

Enter the incandescent bulb equipped Mini Maglite. We paired it with an I.Q. Switch, which acts as a clicky tail cap, but most importantly turns off the light after 14 minutes.

American made and hopefully toddler resistant.

However, even at 14 lumens, I thought that perhaps it could be a little dimmer. Thus I decided to design and print a cap to mount to the head of the flashlight. This cap would serve to hold a translucent lens and hopefully dim the beam down a bit. Why, do this when one could easily remove the existing clear lens, sand or steel wool the back of it and VOILA have a diffused beam? The challenge to actually build something functional, maybe? Or perhaps it's along the lines of that old adage 'buy a hammer and everything starts to look like a nail.' Whatever, I knew it would be fun to try, and it has been.

So, first off I got a digital scan of the flashlight head, courtesy of the good Scott Janousek.

I took this scan and threw it into 3DS Max, where with the help of the actual item and a micrometer, I built a correctly (hopefully) scaled, symmetrical reference model.

Once I had the reference model (with fingers crossed that I got the measurements right) I imported it into Zbrush. There I modeled the two part cap.

Cap shown, with reference head on the bottom left.

While I was at it, I also incorporated an 'anti roll' bezel for the heck of it. Not a CAD model by any stretch of the imagination, but it ended up pretty clean nonetheless. Zbrush's Dynamesh subtract can (when behaving properly) can give some satisfying results.

The model loaded to the Uprint without a hitch and printed nicely. As of this writing it is sitting in an alkali bath having it's support material dissolved away. Unfortunately, as I was in a hurry, I didn't take the opportunity to photograph the parts, hot from the machine. That said, I will be sure to post the final product. Fingers crossed!


3D Printed Knife

I've got some catch-up to do on my latest work, so here's an all-in-one account of how this knife came together.


The source file is from a 3D model I made in February of this year. It was built using 3DS Max and Zbrush. I took the high rez model and with a few tweaks, output it to 3 separate .STL files. You'll notice on the final print that the hand guard got turned around to face forward as I realized it made more sense that way.

Being new to 3D printing it took me a while to get my .STL correct. Holes, flipped faces and other errors in the geo that might not show up in a render can stop a print before it even happens. Fortuantely I had the forethought to bring my source files and a laptop to the Asylum with me on set-up day and was able to massage the files into shape.. 


I just about jumped out of my skin when the print came out of the machine. It was amazing to see my work, previously digital and untouchable, to now an object I can actually hold. Hot (literally) out of the machine:

Right out of the Uprint.

Prior to painting, I pinned and expoxied the three parts (blade, guard, and handle) together. Should I have painted them 1st and then glued them together? Good question. It's a toss-up. Anyway...

Quick fit checkIt was pretty obvious that I was going to need to do some sanding, filling or something. Someone on the LinkedIn 3D Printing Guild forum recommended using high-build primer filler. I couldn't find it locally so I picked up some Rust-Oleum Filler-Primer from Amazon. Where has this stuff been all my life? It's great! Using it as well as some progressively finer sanding, I was able to get rid of the print lines. Or at least those you can readily see.

Priming, filling, sanding in progress.


Let the painting begin. At this point my hands were full so I didn't get a lot of pictures. My process in a nutshell: After filling, priming and sanding, I painted the blade 1st, using Krylon Fushion 'Metalic Shimmer'. Afterwards I masked off the painted blade and painted the guard and the pommel with Fusion 'hammered finsih'. I can't say it looked very hammered, but it was darker than the blade and created enough contrast that I was happy.

Once, I had the main components painted, I wrapped a strip of vinyl faux leather around the handle, adhering it with some 3M spray adhesive. Incidentally, the strip was from some scrap given to me by the nice people at Broadway Upholstery. Many thanks to them! The vinyl looked great, but just wouldn't conform to the handles shape due to a woven fabric backing. I found however that a short soak in some denatured alcohol (the vinyl, not me) allowed that backing to be peeled off.

Once I had the handle wrapped I commenced to applying a dark brown acrylic wash to the entire knife. A few wipes and reapplications of wash and I had a fairly used looking knife. I followed up with a mixture of gloss and matt sealers. FYI the vinyl didn't take too well to the sealer and has stayed a little sticky, though not enough to leave any residue on your hand.

So far, people have reacted pretty positively towards the finished piece. While it was originally designed as a Lord of the Rings-ish knife, more than one person as said it looks like something a pirate would carry. I can live with that.

The two 'final shots' I have are ok, but I hope to post some glamour shots in the near future.

Overall, I'm pretty damn happy with my 1st start-to-finish 3D printing project. I think the design translated well to the phyiscal world and fit the hand fairly well. Surface prep and painting didn't take too terribly long. However there are a few things I would do differently if I were to make another one of these knives:

  • Model the parts so that they more readily fit together, as the way I have it now, they merely sit against each other. Thus I had to drill and pin the parts together in conjunction with glueing, which isn't terrible, but made proper alignment a bit tougher in the glueing stage.
  • Model in additional and more pronounced scratching and dents. The filling and sanding stage really destroyed a lot of the finer detail found in the original model. Of course the fact that this as a FDM print in the 1st place eliminated some of the detail, right off the bat.
  • Instead of using rattle cans, I would decant and airbrush. I found that the thick application of the spray paint, further masked detail.
  • I need to find a better means of sealing my models. The stuff I'm using now is more of a craft quality fix spray. An epoxy coat of some sort? I would also not seal the vinyl, which for some reason is still sticky.
  • I will keep all Christmas wrapping paper that utilizes gitter away from anything that is remotely sticky as I now have a (albeit sparsely) glittered Dwarven/Pirate knife in my possession.

 Thanks for reading and comments are more than welcome!

Here goes nothing, or something.

Hello? Echo, echo, echo...

Well, after a false start or two in the past, I've decided to try blogging again. I've got the 3D printing bug and hope to chronicle my exploits as time goes on. I'm sure other projects (non 3D printing) will rear their heads on occasion as well. This page will likely end up as more or less a catch-all for whatever extra-curricular projects come along.


I will likely make mention, on occasion, of the Artisan's Asylum, a maker space in Somerville Massachusetts, of which I am a member of. It is here were I access the uPrint SE Plus 3D printer that I have been using to create the few 3D prints I have done so far.

As the title says, here goes nothing. Or something like that...