More 3D Printing Adventures

Today we’re back in the city at Manhattan Free School!

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Douglas (an MFS student) and his dad Geva got a 3D printer for the school–in kit form. I came down to helped them set it up. It was an awesome experience. Since I got my 3D printer pre-assembled, it was great to be able to build a similar (same company, different model) printer from the ground up. I also had a great time joking around about rhinos, bicycles, superglue, nanobots, and hegemony/world dictatorship with Douglas and Geva. I’ll be going back down at least once a month. Some of the things I’ll be doing include helping set up the Makerspace there and, at some point, helping Geva run a “Make Almost Anything” class for the students and others.

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A bag of partsIMG_1400

Building it…

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Almost there!

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Setting it up to print


It works!!!


Things I’ve 3D Printed (So Far)

I’ve been doing a lot of 3D printing lately. Actually no. That’s an understatement. Here are some pictures of the things I’ve printed so far:

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Little tiny Cloudhouse logos

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Feather earrings for Abby (a MFS volunteer and Agile Learning Facilitator)

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A gear-y cube (it doesn’t turn yet, but it will!)

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A board game called Pocket Dungeons

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A replacement button for one of my favorite shirts

May there be many more prints to come!

All of these designs (except the Cloudhouse logo) are not mine, but were made by someone else and put under the Creative Commons License.

Attributions: Feather earringsCube gearsPocket DungeonsButton

The Cloudhouse Space

Eric Bear and I are working on the space for Cloudhouse (in my basement). We’re putting up whiteboards for the walls! I really enjoy planning, measuring, and cutting the holes in the whiteboards, and then see them (sometimes) slip perfectly into place. Here is a time-lapse of the work we did:

First Successful 3D Print! and My Challenges and Frustrations

Today, my 3D Printer (which we named Magritte after the painter) printed its first successful 3D Print! Yay! Here’s a video of that:

You might say: “Wow the process you went through to get to this point looks really quick and easy! Cool!” Sadly, no. Not including the issue of unfolding the printer, there were several things that stopped me from being able to print. First, the thing wouldn’t print at all because the bed was not calibrated. This was easy to fix, once I figured out that I had to fix it. So at this point I thought that the printer would print. I was severely mistaken.

Whenever we started a print, it would go for a couple of minutes and then just freeze. This would happen over and over again. We changed software settings, temperature, and all sorts of stuff, but it wouldn’t complete a print. Finally, after hours and hours of prowling the Printrbot forums, and many experimental prints, we figured out that you couldn’t print from a Mac. Dang. So we hooked up the only non-Mac computer that we could continue to use reliably–an ancient Toshiba laptop.

After downloading the correct software, we discovered that the newest version of one of the pieces of software didn’t work and we had to use a different one. Then, we couldn’t connect to the printer at all. It turned out that we needed to install a special USB Serial driver. That required like finding the way through a maze of files and settings of a operating system that no one in the family was familiar with.

And, even now that we’re printing, there is still a continuing challenge that I face: Keeping myself from punching a hole in that old dinosaur of a laptop. It is super slow and only has a track-point style mouse control that malfunctions every few minutes by sending the cursor flying in one direction or another.

This whole process was really frustrating for me. I spent quite a long time doing research on the printer, waiting for it to come, etc., and then once it was here, I had to wait days until I could even have a semi-working machine. I think this has taught me some more patience.

But here we are, with a growing pile of successful prints, and an even bigger pile of failed ones and scrap plastic. Time to buy more spools of filament!

Printrbot Jr. (v2) 3D Printer Unboxing Guide

So 3D Printers. Yeah. If you’re confused right now then read this.

I recently got really excited about 3D printing and decided that I wanted to have a 3D Printer, and now I do. I got the Printrbot Jr. (v2). It came in the mail today and I unpacked it only to find that it was  perplexingly hard to put into its ready-to-print state, and, on the entire internet, there were no unboxing videos or instructions on how to set it up. This post will serve as an unboxing guide for confused Printrbot owners (I hope).

This is what the 3D Printer looks like right when you take it out of the box:


This is how it should look when it’s ready to print:

Photo Sep 12, 3 50 05 PMThe print bed (the flat red part) needs to be folded down (towards the camera in the first picture). In order to do this, the two wooden support pieces that hold the Printer in place during shipping must be removed. They are locked in tightly and it’s a confusing process to get them out. First, you’ll need to cut all the zip ties (not pictured) that hold the two wooden pieces on to the printer. DO NOT cut any zip ties that have been trimmed down by the manufacturers (like the ones holding the bunches of wires together), and do not have their long tail piece. These are permanent and should not be cut.IMG_1375

One of the two support pieces has holes for the metal rods that go through it. You need to get this piece loose in order to fold down the bed. The piece can slide up and down, but even when it is up as far up as it can go, the bottom of the piece is locked in place by the frame of the bed assembly (the part that sits on the ground).

To fix this, find this nut (it’s at the bottom of the threaded vertical rod):

IMG_1374This is the mechanism that raises and lowers the whole extruder assembly. Turn the nut until it goes up enough for it to fit snugly in its place in the wood above. Then, turn the small round-cornered rectangle of wood at the bottom of the threaded rod clockwise for a few turns. This should raise the extruder assembly.IMG_1376

Once it is raised enough, you should be able to slide the wooden support piece up, detach it from the other support piece (this may take some brute force. Just do it carefully), and then wiggle them both free.IMG_1379


But wait! The bed still wont fold down because the extruder is in the way!

To fix this, simply keep turning the threaded rod clockwise until the extruder assembly is as high as it can go. Then push it back so the extruder is out of the way.

But wait! The fan is still in the way!


*sigh* Pull the fan up and out of the way.

Photo Sep 12, 3 45 38 PMThe bed can now fold down, but will be tilted.

Photo Sep 12, 3 46 36 PMFind these small, black screw things, and pull them out so that the bed assembly can be level. Then, put them back in, and screw them into the bed assembly to lock it in place.

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You’re done! Now follow the setup instructions on and make sure to level your bed!

Now hope that your bot will work! Mine took days of troubleshooting and lurking around vague forums until we finally got it up and running. Also, I hope that the people at Printrbot will make setup instructions for the Jr. (v2).

Banana Piano

At Manhattan Free School, I made a banana piano with the MaKey MaKey, a small device that lets you operate a computer using everyday objects. I plugged it in to the computer and then attached it to the bananas using pipe cleaners in place of wires. Then I held on to the MaKey MaKey’s ground output, and by touching a banana I complete a circuit and the computer thought I was pressing a key. After pulling up an online piano, I could play the bananas.
photoIt was a cool thing to do, and it was fun to teach the other kids how to use it and how it worked.