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    MakerBot Mystery Build: Sorting It Out

    Time for another edition of our MakerBot Mystery Build! This week, Will has the MakerBot print something that he can use at home for fun and games. Place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below!

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Something Isn't Quite Right Here

    It's Friday, so that means it's time for another MakerBot mystery build! Something went slightly awry in this week's print, but you'll have to watch and see to find out what exactly went wrong. Place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below!

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Keep it Toasty

    It's Friday, so time for anther episode of our MakerBot Mystery Build! This week, Will finds a tool to print that will help us around our office, especially in the mornings. Place your guess as to what's being printed in the comments below!

    Bits to Atoms: Designing and 3D-Printing Tested Nametags

    Sometimes a project pops into your head and keeps popping up--on the subway, at work, during meetings, while making dinner, laying in bed trying sleep, etc., until you just have to do it in order to purge it. It occurred to me that the Tested logo would be perfect for a 3D print! With its simple geometric parts as well as the opportunity to demonstrate a variety of printing techniques, I couldn’t resist. I had made name badges before for my booth at Maker Faire and thought it was a good idea for the Tested logo--the guys need to represent!

    The first step was to simply sketch out how the logo would break down into parts for printing. Since the Tested logo is made up of simple shapes the break down and modeling were relatively simple.

    In the TARDIS article I mentioned using a backdrop picture to build on top of and Norm supplied me with some Tested logos files, not knowing what purposes they would be used for! A dimmed down version of the logo was used in the top view and the geometry was built right on top of it. Since mechanical precision wasn’t needed, a simple cube was stretched out and modified by eye to match up with each piece.

    The ‘Tested’ text could easily be built from scratch since it’s so blocky, but there’s an even easier option if you can find the actual font, which is free at one of my favorite sources, dafont. Most modeling programs will have a text tool that will allow the letters to be extruded into 3D models which saves a ton of time.

    Makerbot Mystery Build: Failure is an Option

    Time for another edition of the mystery build, starring our MakerBot Replicator 3D printer! Every week, we download a 3D model from Thingiverse and test it with the MakerBot, turning bits into atoms! Place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below.

    The Art of Photogrammetry: Replicating Hellboy’s Samaritan Pistol!

    We’ve gone over the basic concepts and photography techniques on how to capture ideal images for photogrammetry 3D scanning. Now let's get into the meat of the subject and start processing our data so we can see some results. The case study we're going to use is a replica prop from the movie Hellboy, which I found at the Tested office. I spent an afternoon photographing the prop, and processed it using PhotoScan software. Here's how that process went, and what you can learn from it.

    Step 1: Inspecting Your Photos

    For this photogrammetry scan, I used the turntable method to capture photos of the prop pistol, the “Samaritan” from the movie Hellboy. Since the prop is an irregular shape, I didn't put it on an actual turntable or Lazy Susan. It’s propped up on the end of a C-stand pole, which allowed it to be turned a few degrees between shots. I took one "ring" of pictures from slightly above the prop, and another one below. That gave me about 45 photos total. Click here for an example of how one full rotation of photos looked.

    Since the front and the back of the gun aren’t visible from the main sequence, I took another set of photos of the front, and another of the back of the pistol.

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Mr. Rogers Would Approve

    It's Friday, and time for another mystery print from our MakerBot Replicator 3D printer! This week's print goes off without a hitch, and it's something practical too! Place your best guess as to what's being printed this week in the comments below.

    Bits to Atoms: 3D Modeling Best Practices for 3D Printing

    So you’ve managed to build your first 3D creation using modeling software. You send it to the printer and it comes out looking like something sent through a cosmic spatial anomaly. What the heck happened? Building your model on the computer is just the first step to ensure a proper 3D print. Today, we'll go over best practices for modeling and how to prep those models for a good print.

    Photo credit: Tony Buser

    Neatness Counts

    Taking the time to sculpt a neat, clean computer model will prevent headaches down the road. This is particularly true of polygon models where deleting an edge, face, or vertex can quickly make a model unprintable. Using boole operations (adding and subtracting part together) is often used while building models, but can lead to messy models since two pieces of geometry are being combined or subtracted from one another.

    Sloppy modeling can easily occur just in the process of figuring out how to build something. I will often build a quick, rough model to work through the layout, what parts need to be made, and how to build them. I will rebuild the whole thing as a much cleaner model based on the rough version. One of the best pieces of advice I got from my modeling mentor is, ‘don’t be afraid to rebuild something’. It sounds like a drag but rebuilding a model from scratch always goes quicker than the original and it will be a cleaner model, using what was learned from the first version.

    If modeling with polygons, it’s in your interest to keep the mesh in quads (each face is four-sided) and avoid “n-gons” (in modeling, any polygon that is not 4-sided). Modeling with quads makes adjusting the model much easier, whereas n-gons will kind of mess things up. In general, any modeling program will make it easy to model in quads since any primitive (cube, sphere, cone, torus, etc) created will automatically be made out of quads.

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Big Floppy Ears

    Friday brings another edition of our mystery 3D print series with the MakerBot Replicator! Will gets ambitious and sends another day-long print to the machine, and this one ends up going for over 27 hours! Place your best guess as to what's being built in the comments below.

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Could Use Some Propping

    It's time for another edition of Print the Mystery Object with the MakerBot! This week, Will gives an early hint but you're still going to be hard-pressed to guess what's being made by the Replicator 3D printer! Place your best guess in the comments below.

    Bits to Atoms: 3D Printing an Accurate Replica TARDIS

    One of the things that excited me the most about about getting into 3D printing was the ability to make prop replicas. I'm sure Tested readers can relate! Lightsaber hilt, fertility idol, communicator badge, blaster, you name it and it can probably be printed. This technique is turning up more and more on The Replica Prop Forum (RPF) and is here to stay. Not that 3D printing is a replacement for traditional modeling and sculpting methods; it’s just another tool to get the job done and you pick what works best for the project. You may not have room for a workshop at home, but with some software, a bit of time and access to a printer, you can put a phaser in your hand--even custom fit for your hand!

    3D Printed props. See end of article for credits and download links.

    The Community Center

    Thingiverse user NoPoe's TARDIS

    I am not a prolific prop builder but I have done my share and will breakdown some of these projects over the next few months. I wanted to start with something relatively simple, so if you’re a Whovian, this project is for you. But even if you’re not of the Gallifreyan fan base, these design and printing tips may help your future projects.

    I like Doctor Who and found a nice TARDIS model by Gossamer on Thingiverse, MakerBot’s online repository for sharing 3D models. This was a great starting point, but I wanted to add an LED at the top and this is where Thingiverse gets fun. Since most everything is shared via a Creative Commons license it can be downloaded, modded and re-uploaded as long as the original creator is credited.

    Another user, nopoe, had already modded Gossamer’s model to have an LED hole! Perfect! It printed ok, but not great, on my old Thing-o-matic, and a friend put some rough stickers on it. I thought it would be cool to have the windows light up so I modded nopoe’s version to have open windows. Check out the video to see how it was done:

    MakerBot Mystery Build: Running Cool

    Time for another MakerBot Mystery Build! This week, Will stays topical with a print that's far from tropical. Place your best guess as to what our MakerBot is printing in the comments below! Winner gets a tip of the hat and the famous no-prize.

    Bits to Atoms: Your 3D Printing Software Options

    When you first get a 3D printer, the immediate reaction is to print something awesome. But if you don't have a lot of experience with 3D modeling, where are you going to find the files to print? Fortunately, there is a massive amount of free 3D models that you can download and print at home, in repositories like Thingiverse. And in fact, MakerBot and others have already dipped their toes into selling models to download and print in their own marketplaces.

    But there's something extremely satisfying about printing a creation of your own design. Unfortunately, 3D modeling has traditionally required expensive and intimidating software that requires a relatively steep learning curve. It's not as easy as LEGO. The good news is that with the 3D printing boom there are suddenly a lot more accessible options and most of them are free! There is still a lot of learning to do so let's get you started down the path.

    There are quite a few software choices available to create your own 3D models, the trick is finding the one that works for you. When it comes to creating three-dimensional objects digitally there are two main choices: CAD and polygon modelers.

    The Art of Photogrammetry: Introduction to Software and Hardware

    Our brains perceive depth by comparing the images that our eyes see. If you alternatively close each of your eyes, you will notice that the object you see will seem to shift left and right. An object that is closer, will seem to shift more than an object that is farther away. That's stereoscopic vision, and the core concept behind creating the illusion of three-dimensional objects and space from two 2D images. Your brain can use this information to subconsciously calculate and tell you how far away an object is supposed to be. In a similar way, photogrammetry is a photography technique using software to map and reconstruct the shape of an object, by comparing two or more photographs. The science of photogrammetry has been around for over 100 years. It was used in World War II by the Allies to construct invasion maps, discover the V2 rocket program, and later by NASA to make topographical maps of the moon for the Apollo missions. This was an expensive, laborious procedure employing a ton of people, and massive specialized cameras and plotting equipment.

    Photogrammetry has come a long way since then, and it has even come along way since I first encountered it in my professional life years ago. Now you can create a 3D model from photos with just a smartphone and a few minutes of processing--what used to take a room of specially trained people many weeks to accomplish. Photogrammetry scanning pioneers like Lee Perry-Smith from Infinite Realities, and TEN24 have turned it into an art form.

    From these photos, there are a few different technologies for making 3D models that are becoming easier to use, and cheap enough for anyone to do. The most popular include laser scanning with software like David 3D Scanner, using a Microsoft Kinect with software like ReconstructMe, or consumer photogrammetry with software like Autodesk’s 123D Catch, or Photoscan.

    The very best 3D scanning I’ve seen has been done with a laser scanner, but photogrammetry is not too far behind. Laser scanning also takes special equipment, whether you have to make it or buy it. Using Microsoft’s Kinect for 3D scanning is neat because it gives you real time feedback, so you know when you’ve missed a spot. It’s pretty cheap, and millions of people already own one for their Xbox 360. However, because the camera in the Kinect is relatively low-res, it is not great for fine detail. I’m excited to see what people will be able to do with the Kinect 2 in the Xbox One, once Microsoft releases developer software for it.

    Compared to the other 3D mapping techniques, photogrammetry with a still camera and most of the work done in computation is relatively easy. Though not as streamlined as using a closed system like Kinect, photogrammetry gives much higher-fidelity results, and makes use of equipment that is available to virtually everyone. Because it employs just a regular digital camera, the quality of photogrammetry modeling scales well as camera technology gets better. Modern digital camera sensors are extremely advanced, and because there is so much demand, they are also very inexpensive for what they do.

    Today, I'm going to give you an overview of how photogrammetry works, what consumer software and hardware is available for you to try it yourself, and how to stage a lighting environment to best conduct your photogrammetry work.

    In Brief: Rick Baker's 3D-Printed Sculptures

    We've seen 3D printing being integrated into motion picture production--for example to make the puppets in the stop-motion animated film ParaNorman--but I haven't heard much about 3D printing being used to prototype prosthetic masks and makeups. Artist Frank Ippolito of our Zoidberg Project is toying with the idea of 3D-printing tentacle pieces to figure out Zoidberg's animatronics, and has written about using ZBrush 3D modeling to figure out Zoidberg's form and anatomy. Legendary makeup master Rick Baker has also been dabbling in 3D printing, and recently shared some examples of his first prints using a recently bought MakerBot Replicator 2. He's posted photos of his finished prints in the ZBrushcentral forums, where he goes by the username Monstermaker. On the forum, he explains his clean-up process for the print, testing methods like Acetone solvents and sanding to smooth out and piece together printed PLA filament:

    Maker Profile: Alejandro Palandjoglou's Affordable CNC Chairs

    What happens when you put traditional artists in a high-tech workshop with access to the latest in CNC equipment? That's one of the goals of Autodesk's Artist in Residence program, and this week, we're profiling a few of the makers given free rein in this awesome workspace.

    Of all the makers I spoke to at Autodesk's Artist In Residence program, Alejandro Palandjoglou has approached his residency with the most practical, real-world applications in mind. A 31-year-old industrial designer from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Palandjoglou hoped to use his time in Autodesk's workshop to explore the artistic and personal side of his work.

    Palandjoglou's background is in the furniture industry — he founded a furniture company in 2007 that continues to operate in Buenos Aires. He moved to the US in 2010 for a Masters in Product Design at Stanford University and has been living in the Bay Area working as an independent product designer ever since. But while he says he's happy doing contract work, Palandjoglou laments how there is little opportunity for art exploration while dealing with the pressures of deadlines and client expectations.

    "I had a bunch of side projects I wanted to work on," Palandjoglou said, "and this seemed like a great place for that."

    Most of what Palandjoglou produces professionally is high-end furniture, so one of his goals for the residency program was to make an affordable chair. But not just any chair; Palandjoglou wanted to design a chair that could be easily made — and customized — using a CNC Router.

    Bits to Atoms: Making a MintyBoost USB Charger

    [Norm's note: Every other week, 3D printing expert (and Inventern competition champion!) Sean Charlesworth will share some of his insight and experience of 3D design and printing. He started last month discussing modern 3D printing technologies, and will alternate between those guides and walkthroughs of his past print projects to show applications of those tips. Here's the first project walkthrough.]

    I am a huge fan of Adafruit Industries, which was founded right here in NYC by MIT engineer, Limor ‘Ladyada’ Fried and is a supplier of great DIY electronics projects and an excellent source of information. Adafruit hand-picks quality electronic components, designs their own boards and kits and has an amazing tutorial section. I am no electronics wiz and have managed to put together some pretty cool stuff with their guidance. I love this place.

    One of Adafruit’s first kits was the MintyBoost USB charger which you solder together yourself, runs off of two AA batteries and fits in an Altoids mint tin. Throw one in your bag and they are super handy when you need an emergency phone charge. It’s worth the looks you get when plugging your phone into an Altoids tin. I’ve built five of these and from those builds thought of two improvements I wanted to make. The first problem was if the batteries were left in for an extended period of time they would eventually discharge to the point that they would leak and I killed two MintyBoosts this way. The second thing I wanted was enough room in the case to fit a small charge cable, so I decided to design and 3D print my own enclosure.

    Today I'm going to show you how I approached this project and printed this custom MintyBoost charge pack.

    I've Got a Plan

    To solve the battery meltdown problem, I decided to install a switch to completely cut power when not in use. I found a small switch at RadioShack (yes, some still have electronics parts) and the perfect short USB cable from Newegg. With these in hand, the first task was to build stand-ins for the all the parts so I could layout the box. I measured everything with calipers and used simple shapes to represent the greenboard, batteries, switch and cable and screws. I could shuffle these around to determine the best layout.

    Maker Profile: John Whitmarsh's Mixed Media Sculptures

    Sitting amongst the chocolate shops, posh restaurants, America's Cup hangars, and other touristy attractions of San Francisco's Embarcadero district lies Autodesk's Pier 9 workshop—an office space filled with 3D printers, CNC routers, a woodshop, metal shop, and even a test kitchen. But you might wonder: why would Autodesk—a software company—assemble a mountain of high-tech hardware that dwarfs any private man cave and rivals public membership-based workspaces such as TechShop? The short answer is that since the majority of the equipment in the space runs on Autodesk software, having said equipment close at hand lets software developers stay abreast of the newest, coolest ways its digital tools are being used. To that end, the company created an Artist In Residence program to put those machines to good use.

    Open to anyone 18 or older, Autodesk’s AIR program aims to put these cutting-edge tools into creative hands and, essentially, let them run free. Artists accepted to the program are granted unrestricted access to the Autodesk facilities, giving them the chance (as well as the training) to use the kind of top-level production equipment they might never otherwise be able to access. Sculptors who’ve previously worked with clay, for example, can experiment with a paper 3D printer. Collage artists can tinker with the latest 3D scanners. The idea is to let loose Picasso in Tony Stark’s lab. In return, the artists deliver at least one Instructable guide (also owned by Autodesk) for a project they worked on during their residency (which can last up to several months). The real reward, though, are the innovative and unexpected ways these creative minds find to use that equipment.

    We met with four of these artists in Autodesk’s workshop to see what they’ve come up with, and will be profiling one of them each day this week.

    John Whitmarsh didn't set out to be a sculptor, but it's clear he's exactly where he should be. The 41-year-old California native originally attended Syracuse university for film school, but after graduation quickly found a much greater interest in sculpture.

    Having never taken any actual sculpture classes in school, Whitmarsh honed his craft as most self-taught artists do: reading books, watching videos, going to stores and simply asking for advice whenever possible. During this time he mainly worked in construction doing tile installation for residential remodels. This went on for the better part of 10 years, dividing his time between art and sculpture in the studio and high-end kitchen and bathroom remodels to pay the bills.

    "The first couple years of doing it, nothing really turned out that nicely at all," Whitmarsh explained. "Everything just didn't look very good." But while things were rocky to start, Whitmarsh's sculpture work continued to grow and improve, and he's now spent a handful of years focusing on art alone.