Category Archives: Print Diary

Print Diary – Fun Police Sheriff’s Badge

A friend of my brother’s passed away last week. He was in his thirties, so it was an unexpected death. Last night, my sister-in-law texted to see how soon I could 3D Print something for the funeral. She wanted a Sheriff’s Badge with one request– that it simply read “Fun Police”.

Thanks to Thingiverse, OpenSCAD, and Simplify3D, I was able to turn around her request fast.

Thingiverse and OpenSCAD
Thingiverse had a lot of Sheriff Badges to choose from. I went with the design by Bichiatari. I liked the standard six star approach and bonus– it was in OpenSCAD, which I taught a class on last June! I used his base code to make some slight alterations:

  • I made the points of the stars spheres to give it a more three dimensional look.
  • I changed the font to “Rockwell Extra Bold”. I liked the look of the text and I liked how thick the letters were
  • And finally, I changed “Sheriff” to “Fun Police”.

Fun Police - Test Run
Original Model

Now, when I was done, the points of my stars did extend below the base of the star thanks to the spheres.

Fun Police - Test Run - Untruncated Spheres
I didn’t want to print those sphere bottoms

For my first trial run, I didn’t go to the trouble of making that flat in OpenSCAD. I just flattened the bottom when I sliced in Simplify3D. I simply changed the Z offset, so the bottom part of those spheres were below my build plate, so those parts wouldn’t print. A nice handy trick.

I also felt the proportions were a little off, so I scaled just the height of the object down so it was only 6mm high.

Simplify3D - Fun Police - Quick Hack with Offset and Scaling
Hack with Simplify3D – Changed my Offset To Lower the Object Down

Rev 2
The first print was okay— and I bet they would have been satisfied with it. I didn’t like how the “E” at the end of “POLICE” printed out and I thought it would be a better use of real estate to make the letters bigger.

3D Printing - Fun Police - First Print
The First Print Had a Messed Up E

So I went back into OpenSCAD and made some changes:

  • I put “FUN” on one line of text and “POLICE” on another
  • I made the text bigger.
  • I resized my object down to 4mm high
  • Finally, I went ahead and chopped off the bottom of those spheres so it would all lay flat

For those interested in the code, the full OpenSCAD code is below.

As far as the second print— I liked it much better. I used the MakerGear Silver PLA filament.

3D Printing - Fun Police Second Revision
Second Print

OpenSCAD Code

//I thought the current height was too chunky,
//so scale it down to 4mm high after everything
//else is done
difference () {

//Rotate the star 30 Degrees, so it is easier to visualize
//and place the text
union () {
    //The first two cylinders are our star
    //3 sided cylinder is a triangle
    cylinder(r=40, h=5,$fn=3);
    cylinder(r=40, h=5,$fn=3);

    //Spheres at each star's point
    sphere(r=5, $fn=32);
    sphere(r=5, $fn=32);
    sphere(r=5, $fn=32);
    sphere(r=5, $fn=32);
    sphere(r=5, $fn=32);
    sphere(r=5, $fn=32);

//These cubes are our engraved lines
cube ([50,1,4]);
cube ([50,1,4]);

//This is our text for engraving
text("    FUN ", font="Rockwell Extra Bold");

text("POLICE", font="Rockwell Extra Bold");

//Finally this cube is to cut everything off at the bottom to make it flat

Print Diary – Curiosity Rover

Over the summer, NASA released a FREE 3D Printable model of the Curiosity Rover. Now that the Fall Occoquan Arts and Craft Show is behind me, I had time to do a “fun” print. NASA had two versions to choose from – detailed version estimated to take 11 hours and a Simplified version, estimated to take 2 1/2 hours. I chose to go with the “Simplified” version.

Fun Print - Curiosity Rover

I decided to break the print up into two prints. I did most of the parts in MakerGear Silver PLA filament (I did have to rotate some of the parts in Simplify3d before printing) and then I did the six tires in MakerGear Black PLA Filament. I printed at 0.25 layer height with 20% infill.

The final rover came out FANTASTIC! An easy print with easy assembly. NASA even put in their own rafts and supports which worked wonderfully. I am impressed how easy it was. Great job, NASA!

3D Printing - Curiosity Rover

P.S. Curiosity isn’t the only free NASA model out there. They have an entire 3D Printing section!

Print Diary – Painting Party!

We’re in crunch time for the Occoquan Fall Arts and Craft Show. How can a first time vendor make forward progress toward having a respectable inventory and keep their social life going? Why, a painting party, of course!

Remember all those Cork Puppies and Cork Kitties I’ve been printing? Some friends of mine generously agreed to help paint them. Not only that, they hosted said painting at their house… and they fed me homemade lasagna. (They seemed to have gotten the short end of this deal).

Cork Puppy and Cork Kitty Painting Party

Cork Puppy and Cork Kitty Painting Party

We had a good time and we all fell in love with the black cat. Green eyes popped so gorgeously on that Black plastic… and he is perfect for the upcoming Halloween Holiday.

3D Printing - Cork Puppies and Cork Kitties

In fact, when I left with my newly painted Cork Puppies and Cork Kitties, I also left with an order for 8 Black Cats. My hostess is going to use them for a Halloween party she is having. : )

Print Diary – Cork Puppies, An Injury, First Etsy Sale!

Greetings All! Another busy, busy week preparing for the Occoquan Fall Arts and Craft Show. Here’s what I’ve been up to.

Achievement Unlocked – First Injury???
And….. I suffered my first 3D Printing injury. You know how I was reveling in the benefits of printing on the painter’s tape? One of the “perks” is the items stick so well to the tape, I need to use a scraper to get them off. I like to consider myself typically a smart individual, but Tuesday I made a very un-smart decision as to where I placed my thumb. I sliced right into it.

3D Printing - Injury

Good news– I didn’t get stitches (I used to verb “get” instead of “need”– because it was borderline).
Bad news– it is steri-stripped and all wrapped up to keep immobile.
Good news- now my Mom, my four year old ad my husband get to do raft removal. Muahaha : )

3D Printing - Raft Removal with Ryan and Mom

Cooling Fan
Eight days ago, I had a victory when I replaced my 50mm Cooling Fan. I know, that’s not normally a victory, but you have to keep in mind that I am a software person. Anything remotely hardware related is an immediate victory for me.

That cooling fan was perfect for 8 days. Then yesterday some filament fell into it… again… and snapped a blade…again.

I’m officially adding M107 to all my ending GCodes.

Cork Puppy Licensed!
I heard back from Thingiverse Designer EHM and she gave me permission to sell the Cork Puppy at the Craft Show! This week, we’ve printed a mini army of Cork Puppies.

Cork Kitty
To compliment the Cork Puppy, I designed a little Cork Kitty. I tried to match Designer EHM’s style for the puppy. My two year old instantly pointed and said “Cat”, so it seems I was successful in making the species of domestic animal identifiable. At least to two year olds. : )

Companion piece to Designer EHM's Cork Puppy-- the Cork Kitty.  #3DPrinting

First Etsy Sale!
Holy crap, Internet. I already had my first Etsy sale. I wasn’t going to promote my shop until October. I haven’t even told my closest girlfriend that my shop is up. But someone found me and bought something! AND they left the most amazing review.

First Etsy Review

This is very different from my listings on Shapeways where you often have to actively promote to get the word out. Tracy Hazzard from HazzDesign had mentioned to me a while back that Etsy is a buying platform and people know to go there when they are shopping, whereas they may not necessarily think to go over to Shapeways. My experience so far, seems to support her claim.

Print Diary – Not Held Back By Hardware Issues

Phew. A whole SLEW of updates for you. Been quite busy.

Printer Problems
In high school, when I would meet friends for rollerskating, I would always be tense about falling. It just seemed like the worse thing that can happen. But after that very first fall each skating adventure, I’d relax. It was never nearly as bad as I thought.

So it goes with issues with the MakerGear M2. We had a slew of issues crop up recently. But so far (knock on wood), none of them were as paralyzingly scary as I envisioned printer problems to be. And holy crap, MakerGear Technical Support is top notch.

  1. Heated Bed Issues
    A wire to our heated bed snapped. This part was under warranty and MakerGear promptly sent me a new one. In the meantime, we printed on a cold bed with painter’s tape.

    3D Printing - Bed Wire

    Perk: I learned to appreciate printing on painters tape. I actually ended up loving that I don’t have to wait for the print bed to heat up to begin and wait for it to cool to pull off prints. I can see occasions in the future where my first choice will be to print on a cool bed.

    3D Printing - Birds - New Finch Design

  2. End of Life Extruder Drive
    In troubleshooting a filament drive issue (see below), we noticed the hot end was loose in the extruder drive. I learned from Technical Support that “Generally the v3b extruder system is expected to last about 6 months of ‘normal’ usage. This could be accelerated with more abrasive filaments or just heavy usage.”

    Perk: Validation– I’m a heavy user! I’m a heavy user, everyone! : )

  3. Filament Motor Issues
    My filament motor was clicking and jamming when I did a Retract -100 in Simplify3d (even when the filament drive and hot end were off– the gear itself would stop spinning). Since I’ve done my fair share of technical support with software, I tried to gather up as much information as I could about the issue, even getting the behavior on video. MakerGear send me a new Filament Motor and I’m shipping the old one back to them for some diagnostics.

    Perk – I’ve built confidence and got to know my printer better by taking apart the filament drive.

  4. Broken Cooling Blade
    And this one was me. Totally me. I dropped some filament into the running cooling fan and snapped a blade.

    Perk – The Cooling Fan still ran fine sans one blade… and the replacement only cost 7.50.

Now that was a lot of issues in this past week. Well, would you believe it– we still managed to keep up our Craft Show production!

3D Printing - Birds - Post Procesing

New Finch and Cardinal
I revamped my finch design to make the wing detail simpler so he matched the look and feel of the other birds, particularly the Oriole and the Blue Jay.

3D Printing - American Goldfinch

And after five iterations, I finally got a dang cardinal I like. The trick was adding in orange for his beak and feet. Subtle, but made a difference.

3D Printing - Cardinal Final

I also got a Eastern Common Firefly design I’m happy with. His butt is in GlowFill, so it actually glows.

My Firefly...getting closer to the real thing.  #3DPrinting  Photo in the background is by Mattie Bryant -

Dyson Spheres
Ryan is creating a table top game he is calling “Dyson Spheres”. He modelled the board and the pieces in OpenSCAD and we printed out a few copies for play testing. The printing part has proven to be a lot easier than the play testing. Play testing is hard when you have a 2 year old and a 4 year old constantly trying to steal your pieces.

3D Printing - Dyson Spheres - Trial Set

Atom Pendants Back on the Table
Previously I had fretted about adding the lovely Creative Commons Science-themed pendant to our Craft Show inventory because the hole was so small. Turns out the hole is perfect for 9mm rings. Thank you Michaels…and thank you Creative Commons.

3D Printing - Atom Necklace - Silver

Cork Puppies? Cork Kitties?
Last Friday night, I was looking at an overflowing bowl of wine corks my Mom had collected. I tried to brainstorm some projects for them– like Cork Snowflakes. Sidebar– it’s hard to experiment with corks when a 2 year old and a 4 year old are constantly trying to steal your corks. : )

I thought about making the corks into cats. Cork Kitties– the alliteration alone makes me want to model it. Turns out someone had already done something similar. Designer EHM made a Cork Puppy on Thingiverse. We did a test print and my Mom was instantly in love.

Tried someone's else design on the MakerGear M2 today.  A Cork Puppy (Designed by EHM #3DPrinting

The design is licensed Creative Commons for Non-Commercial Use. I wrote the designer to see if I could license the design or split profits for the Craft Show. I hadn’t heard back yet, so I may have to go back to my original plan. Cork Kitties. : )

Been working with my graphics designer sister-in-law for a logo. For the first time in my life, I picked a logo based on “how will it look as a 3D print?”. Our lead contender would make a mighty fine pendant.

We have four weeks, but we are already mucking around figuring out how we want to display all this stuff. We happened to find an old metal birdhouse on clearance that our magnet birds stick to. It might be destiny.

3D Printing - Staging Area for the Craft Fair

And I did manage to post some things to Etsy finally. I won’t be heavily promoting it until October…. after the Craft Show. Nonetheless, my heart does a little pitter-patter when I see how my prints are all starting to come together into a product line.

Etsy Screenshot!

So yeah. I’ve been busy. : )

My Duh Moment of the Day – Build Table in Simplify3D

A few weeks ago, I prepped a bunch of birds in Simplify3D and when it started, I noticed one of my birds was only half on the bed. It struck me as odd, because I thought I saw your bed size in the settings.

“You’d think it warn me,” I thought.

Since then I’ve been very conservative with my plating so as to make sure to stay well within my print bed.

Yesterday, all of a sudden I had a breakthrough moment. In my preview screen, if I check Build table under Show In Preview, there I have a lovely visual of my actual bed.

Simplify3D - Build Table Checkbox

And now that that’s on, when I got back to plating, that visual is still there.

Duh Moment of the Day - I can see my Build Plate in Simplify 3d

This is proving to be super handy. Now I’m able to fill my bed up to its full capacity.

In preparation of the craft fair, I have a goal of printing 10 items each weekday. If I’m printing birds, particular small birds like a chickadee or finch, BAM. I can meet my craft fair goal in a single run!

Print Diary – Experiments in Pumpkin Carvings

Occoquan Arts and Craft Show – September 26th and 27th!
First off, I’m in! My application to the Fall Occoquan Arts and Crafts Show has been accepted (with multiple explanation marks from the show director). It’s official– TGAW 3D is the show’s very first 3D Printing Booth! Hopefully, we’ll be setting a trend for future shows.

Even better news– our booth is going to be adjacent to my brother’s shop, which means we’ll have access to power. Weather permitting, Ryan and I will be bringing the MakerGear M2 down and have it running. We’ll also have our Kinect on hand in case anyone wants to get themselves scanned. 🙂

If you are in the area, stop by and see us!


Automating Pumpkins
My ultimate game plan with the Glowing Pumpkin Pendants is to take advantage of one of the great perks of 3D printing– customization. I want people to draw/design their own pumpkin faces. I have my base pumpkin model. I would just need to make their face into a model and subtract it from my pumpkin. Thinking ahead, I did some experiments. I grabbed a Sharpie, drew a face and scanned it as a black and white image.

3D Printing

Now what?

Looking over the OpenSCAD documentation, it looked like I might be able to use the Surface feature to achieve my goal. It uses the greyscale values of an image to determine the various heights of a surface. Since my image was Black and White, it should give me a template to carve out of my pumpkin.

It did make my face surface as planned… but it had a bottom plane underneath it. No worries, I rotated it 180 degrees. At this point, all I would need to do is position it, size it, and subtract it from my pre-existing pumpkin template.


I got it carved out, albeit a lot smaller than I wanted. At this point, I had to abort. I do truly believe OpenSCAD could be a viable option. But the rendering times were sooooo long. And then anytime I wanted to scroll or examine my object, I would have to wait again.

Disclaimer- It very well could be my old laptop from 2010 that has dwindling harddrive space…courtesy of all my 3D modeling.

If you’d like to explore this option further, my OpenSCAD code is below for reference and you may also want to refer to CubeHero’s Emboss and Impress Images onto a Surface in OpenSCAD article.

module pumpkin_template()
    //This is me importing in my base pumpkin template
    //what I want to carve the face out of.
   import("C:\Users\Vicky\Google Drive\Personal\Blender\Pumpkin Pendants\template-glowing-pumpkin.stl", convexity=10);

//This difference command is me subtracting my
//face surface from my base pumpkin .STL

//This is me making my surface file based on my PNG
//of my face.  I rotate it 180 degrees so the solid
//plane base is on top (and out of the scope of my carving
    resize([30, 0, 5],auto=true)
        surface(file = "C:\Users\Vicky\Google Drive\Personal\Blender\Pumpkin Pendants\evilVampire2.png", center = true, invert=true);

Inkscape seems to be a very powerful way of turning images, logos, and patterns into scalable vector graphic images that you can import into Blender or other modeling software. I’ve seen many people having success with it on the Internet.

One of those people just isn’t me. : (

Inkscape - TraceBitmap in Action

I’ve tried using it for three different projects over the last 18 months. Each time, I’ve ended up with a model that is cumbersome to edit and full of mismatched face normals. It just seems like I have an awful lot of cleanup to do. And not fun, “I’m learning more about 3D modeling” cleanup– tedious, demoralizing cleanup (“What– now I have even MORE non-manifold edges? #@(*&$I*!”)

Disclaimer- This could end up being user error– something like I should export to a different SVG format instead of the Inkscape SVG.

Interestingly enough, the tool I found I liked the most is Shapeway’s JavaScript-based library, ShapeJS. Just like OpenSCAD’s surface, you can upload an image and the colors in that image is used to make your model.

I stole code from their Absinthe Spoon example, uploaded my Black and White image and very quickly I had a model.

ShapeJS- Pumpkin Face

They have a Download 3D Model button, but I couldn’t seem to get that to work in Internet Explorer or Chrome.

My workaround was:

  1. Click on Upload & Print button.
  2. When the new Model details came up, I clicked on the Download button near the top and saved the file to my desktop.
    Shapeways - Export to x3db
  3. This downloaded a zip file, so I extracted the inside
  4. D’oh. This file was in x3db format. I wanted .STL. I had the free version of NetFabb Basic on my machine. I opened that up, added my x3db part and then went to Part->Export Part->as STL. (Hat Tip, StackOverflow!) NetFabb Basic - Export Part - as STL
  5. Yay! I had my .STL

Yes– that is indeed a lot of steps. But guess what– I found it still better than Inkscape cleanup. : )

If you wish to follow in my footsteps, here’s my ShapeJS code. To compliment the code, you’ll want to click on Add File Input at the top of the code editor and then upload the file you wish to use.

ShapeJS - Adding a File Argument

var voxelSize = 0.1*MM;

function makePart(path, width, height, thickness){

  var img = new ImageBitmap(path, width, height, thickness);

  return img;

function main(args) {
	//This argument (arg[0]) is our PNG file.
	//I add by clicking on the "Add File Input"
	//and then I upload the file I want to use
	var image = args[0];
	var a = 32*MM;

	dest = createGrid(-a,a,-a,a,-a,a,voxelSize);
	var th = 5*MM;
	var width = 20*MM;
	var height = 22*MM;

	var img = makePart(image, width, height, th);
        var maker = new GridMaker();

	return dest;


3D Printing

Other Options
There are most definitely other options out there. I’m sure my learning and experimenting will continue. Last night, for example, I was just reading an article by Chris Gerty about using Online-Convert to do the same thing. H.G. Dietz’s Trace2SCAD looks interesting as well.

But for now, the ShapeJS method has served me well. My husband drew me two new faces that we were able to model and print quickly this past weekend.

3D Printing

Print Diary – August 11 – Archilochus colubris

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
On Tuesday, I welcomed Archilochus colubris (Ruby-throated Hummingbird) to my 3D printed aviary. He was designed in Blender (based off a Creative Commons photo by my husband) and printed in the MakerGear M2. I used four different Simplify3D processes to print four colors– White, Traffic Red, Mint Turquoise, and Black.

3D Printing - Birds - Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Overthinking the Color Order
Originally, I was printing Red, White, Green and then Black. My thought process was I wanted that White directly underneath the green, so it could be as bright as possible. I was worried if I printed green right on top of the red, it would appear brown.

So I did Red, White, Green and Black…. and I found myself very distracted by the Red outlines to the whole bird.

I switched them up. I printed White, Red, Green and then Black. With the first layer, it does look like my worse fears are realized– the bird is a pretty icky brown.

3D Printing - Birds - Green on Red Doesn't Look So Good...At First

But I have four layers of green (at 0.10mm each) and by the time it finishes all those layers, the green layer looks just as green as it does over the white. It made no difference whatsoever… for my ColorFabb Mint Turquoise. It is possible my translucent filaments from MakerGear (Grey and Orange) may be a different story.

Multi-processes to the Rescue!
I discovered that running Simplify3D’s multiprocesses one at a time are good for more than changing colors. It does give you an opportunity to recover should a mishap occur. In this case, one of my hummingbirds came unstuck to my bed. My attempts to glue stick him back on failed, so every time my extruder hit that blank spot it was making a nice spaghetti mess of filament (Side note– it is impressive to see how little filament actually goes on a layer– no wonder why my filament spools last forever).

3D Printing - Birds - Lost Hummingbird

Luckily, since I was running multi-processes, once my base layer of White finished, I had the opportunity to go into Simplify3D and remove the troublesome hummingbird (being VERY careful not to hit that Center and Arrange button). I exported my new processes to my SD card and that allowed me to not have to waste any more time on the MIA hummingbird.

Simplify3D - Saving Filament

Occoquan Craft Fair Preparation
I also got my application in for the Fall Occoquan Arts and Crafts Show on September 26th and 27th! I’m hoping to be their inaugural 3D Printing booth. Although I have no reason to worry about my acceptance into the show, meh, I still do worry a little bit, so I’ll be happy to hear back from the show director.

In the meantime, we are still preparing. My entire family is pitching in. Ryan is locating a tent and table and getting us a credit card processing solution. My brother, a small business owner, has been helpful in the business side of things. My Mom, as always, is a huge asset. Even my children are helping! They help with “Market Research” and young Sagan has mastered preparing my filament for color switches. : )

3D Printing - Sagan Preps Filament

3D Printing - Birds - Dyson Plays with Birds

3D Printing - Glowing Pumpkin Pendant - Sagan Helping Me Decide

On my end, an entire wall of my office is covered in Post In Notes of ideas and action items. My evenings are spent modeling and slicing, so I can make sure the MakerGear M2 has stuff to do while I work during the day.

3D Printing - Craft Show Planning Wall

And our dining room table is currently a staging area of potential products.

3D Printing - Craft Fair Inventory

It’s going to be a busy fall. 🙂

Print Diary Catch Up – Business Trip

Phew. I was on a business trip to Wisconsin last week and I returned home to a two year old with strep throat. Needlesstosay, 3D Modeling and 3D Printing were not on the forefront of my mind. But here’s what I’ve been up to:

Business License!
I got my business license from the Town of Occoquan. The Town Clerk confirmed my suspicion. I’m the first 3D Printing business in Occoquan. : ) Now to submit my application for the Fall Craft Fair!

I’ve slowly been getting an Etsy site ready to go. My goal is to have everything I’m selling at the Craft Fair, also on Etsy. This is probably going much slower than necessary. I suspect I’m being overly picky about pictures. :/

Glowing Pumpkin Medallions
I have this awesome moving part product on Shapeways – The Dial-O-Lantern. It prints assembled and allows people to configure their Jack-O-Lantern face. It was a hit with children at the Maker Faires. And six children got to design faces for the Dial-O-Lantern (via a contest).

National Maker Faire - Army of Dial-O-Lanterns

The price point is super high though ($50), particularly for children. I want to do something specifically for children at the Craft Fair. I grew up in Occoquan. I remember being a little girl perusing the vendor booths looking for kid stuff.

So I tried to brainstorm something that would be fun for kids at the craft fair at a much lower price point, a kid-friendly price point. I came up with glowing pumpkin medallions.

3D Printing - Glowing Pumpkin Pendant - Sketch and Final (Far)

Without moving parts, they don’t need the fancy SLS printers of Shapeways. I print them on my MakerGear M2. The bottom in green, the middle in ColorFabb GlowFill, and the top in orange. The facial features are carved out of the orange, so the GlowFill shines through in all its glory. I could print a whole plethora of face combinations and still invite kids to customize them at the Craft Fair. It would be easy to have them draw faces and carved them out of the pumpkin.

3D Printing - Glowing Pumpkin Pendant - Standard Face - Before And After

Best part– I think I can price it in the single digits and still make a good margin. : )

Redwing Blackbird (Agelaius Phoeniceus)
A fan of my Baltimore Oriole requested a Redwing Blackbird. I managed to model that during my business trip and print it when I returned home.

3D Printing - Redwing Blackbird