Semester Wrap-Up

The decision to take this class was one of the best decisions I have made in my college career. Week in and week out I found myself inspired by a new piece of technology that I had never heard of. Even more inspiring was the way these technologies were making the world a better place. I think it is incredible that machines like 3D printers can be applied to so many fields to save lives and make the world a better place.

When deciding on my semester-long project, my head was all over the place. I considered helping with the smart glove (fantastic idea), or pursuing some sort of business-related application so that I could sell my idea. Instead, I settled on solving a different need. Jack Carlson and I spent the semester working on a light-up, fully functioning and wearable DJ-helmet, similar to ones used by professional DJs such as Deadmau5 or Daft Punk.


While this idea sounds ridiculous, there is a reason why these artists choose to perform the way they do. Anonymity is a huge part of art in the 21st century, as many artist choose to “make art for arts sake”. Additionally, many performers choose to obscure their identity out of embarrassment. I would say that I fall into the second category. This semester, I entered a DJ competition at a local bar. I knew that my performance would benefit from light effects and added mystique, so my friend and partner Jack had the idea to create a DJ mask similar to the ones shown above. While the mask was not ready by the time of my performance,we still were able to create some prototypes that could be used by DJs in the future.


Our first step in the design process was laying out what we wanted the helmet/mask to look like. We sketched some front and side views in a notebook. We drew from many inspirations for the etchings on the helmet.


The outer, black part of the mask was designed with Darth Maul inspired insignias from Star Wars, and the red, inner part of the mask was taken from an album cover by the band the Arctic Monkeys. Next was deciding what materials to use. For the interior, Jack had the idea to use glue foam together into a large block, and then shape it with knives and cut out the middle so that a head could fit in. We glued the foam together with liquid nails, let it dry, and came back to the FabLab to check it out from day to day.

File_000-5 File_000-6

During the drying process, we rasterized and cut acrylic to form the red and black shiny parts of the mask. We also 3D printed ear and mouth holes for the mask.


After that, we returned to the FabLab workshop to realize we had used to much glue, and that we would be unable to cut through the foam. Essentially, prototype 1 had failed. Our next idea was to buy a helmet from a costume store, and attach our pieces to that. while I have been away from campus, Jack has been working on putting all our pieces together. Hopefully we will have time to use arduinos to the helmet so that it will light up during a performance. I would say the biggest thing I have learned from this project is that like any tech-related project, it is an iterative and incremental process. At times, we worked too quickly which led to us making stupid mistakes. Luckily this is only prototype 2! Hopefully in the future Jack and I can collaborate on future creative projects and make them more effective and efficient.


Week 11 How-To and Summary

Week 11 was an exciting one for the digital makers, as it marked the last time we would be learning a new technology in our makerspace, the Digital Making Lab in the BIF. Week 11 was dedicated to using Meshmixer software in conjunction with two types of 3D sense scanners, the Sense 3D Scanner as well as the iPad mounted Structure Sensor. Some of the members of the course had a previous exposure to this technology during our build-a-printer event, however, it was a new learning experience for the majority of us. The scanner I used was the Structure Sensor, and it was rather intuitive to use. My partner simply did a 360 degree capture of my torso as I struck a pose. The scan was almost perfect, and the imperfections could be touched up in Meshmixer later. From there, I used the app connected to the scanner to e-mail the raw sensor data to myself.

Next comes the Meshmixing. This software by Autodesk allowed us to clean up the raw scanner data by patching any holes and smoothing strange bumps in our scan. There were a number of meshmixing tools that allowed us to do this, and Arielle, our guest speaker, was able to walk us through any issues. Meshmixer also allowed us to add additional shapes onto our scans, such as a base for our busts. After smoothing out of busts, we then saved them as .stl files, and transferred the files to an SD card so they could be loaded into our 3D printers. Most of the students prints took less than an hour.

Additionally, Arielle Rausin came in once again to speak to our class. She has had experience using the SenseScanner in her Digital Making project last year. Her project is one of the most successful projects to come out of UIUC’s makerspace. Last year, Arielle used one of Beckman’s Institutes scanners to scan and print a model of her wheelchair racing glove. By recreating the glove with 3D printer filament, Arielle was able to create a lightweight version of her glove, that was also more injury resistant. You can read more about her story at the following blog from last year’s digital making class:

Additionally, her story has even made it to the new 3D printing course on Coursera. Here is a more recent interview from Arielle. It definitely inspiring to our class to hear how own projects can actually make a difference in the real world! There is even a group of students this semester working on an improvement to Arielle’s model.

Based on my classmates reflection posts, it was clear that we all saw a great deal of potential for this canning technology. By using the scanners, any real-life object could be reverse engineered into a file that could be manipulated. The process of reverse engineering could be applied to a number of sciences that want to create models of things they want to study. One particular story that jumped out to me was from the Geomagic Community Case Studies. This blog talks about how archeologist have used similar scanning technology to study the Easter Islands heads, one of the biggest mysteries of the archeological community.

The students of our class had many interesting ways to describe how the 3D scanners worked. A few students compared the scanners to Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect. Paige mentioned that printing her bust felt like she was being carved into Mount Rushmore, which I would pretty funny. Many students mentioned that getting the initial scan was rather easy, and that the meshmixing was the harder part of the day’s lesson. Specifically, meshmixing the base to our busts proved to be rather troublesome. Once that hurdle was overcome, printing our busts was a matter of hooking our files up to the Ultimakers and printing, something that has come as second nature to us at this point in the semester.



Nick and Jack’s DJ Helmet: An Update

While final projects and exams in other classes have kept us busy over the past few weeks, Jack and I were able to get through the first step of the construction of our helmet: gluing stacks of foam together. On Monday, we plan on carving this foam into a helmet-like shape, and carve out the middle so that a head will be able to fit inside of it. The gluing and drying process took almost a full week. There were a few time lags as we had to find the right type of glue to insure the foam would stick and settle together properly. I had to make multiple trips to Menards to resupply on liquid nails, a tough adhesive, typically used in construction projects. Additionally, we have been drawing up some designs as to how we want the outer shell of the helmet to look. We rastered and cut some acrylic for the eyes of the mask, and plan on 3D printing a front grill. We also have been considering 3D printing additional parts such as ears/horns/headphones that we could attach to the sides. In the coming weeks we will be working and experimenting more with acrylic and 3D prints. We also plan on adding arduinos to the grill and front of the mask as well.


Here is a rough sketch of how we want the helmet to look (Jack has a more detailed drawing, my art skills are lacking):

IMG_4952(front view)

IMG_4951 (side view)


Learning to Scan and Meshmix – Week 11

On Monday, we met back in our home base, the digital printing lab. We have now moved far beyond simply looking up prints online, we have begun to create and edit our own 3D models. We used two different types of scanners to capture our faces, and create busts of ourselves using a program called Meshmixer. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the scanner captured my head. All I did was rotate in a chair while my partner captured my head using a scanner attached to an iPad. From the iPad, I emailed my the file of my face to myself, and began to play with it in Meshmixer. Meshmixer was a really cool software to use, however, it was also a bit frustrating. Manipulating my own face on my laptop was difficult because I had to even out an strange edges the scanner captured and fill in any holes. After that, I attempted to attached my bust to a base with my initials attached. This part was much easier because the program attaches the shapes together for you. By the time I got all this done, saved on a SD card, and in the printer, my print failed. Just goes to show you 3D printing doesn’t always come out perfect. I still have the file, and will have to get back in the lab sometime before the end of the semester to print myself out correctly.

Learning how this type of technology works is especially important because it allows people to recreate things that they already own, and make any additions that they see fit. By owning one of these scanners and a 3D printer, one could print anything they already own. These scanners are basically replicators straight out of a science fiction movie. What’s even cooler, is the fact that by using Meshmixer, or a software like Fusion 360, one could improve on the products they already own. For example, if I had a coffee mug that was perfectly sized, but had an uncomfortable handle, I recreate the mug and design it however I wanted.

Although it was one of my more frustrating days in Digital Making, I would say that it was one of my more impactful lessons. When watching 3D objects get transferred to the computer, then reprinted in real life, I thought a lot about the economic impact this scanning technology could have all over the world. If poorer communities had scanners and printers like ours, they could provide household items and other living essentials for everyone they knowing simply by printing them out.

Digital Embroidery

Our last class meeting in the Fab Lab for the semester had me exploring the digital embroidery section of the lab. I have not had my hands on a sewing machine since 7th grade Home Ec, so I was a bit hesitant to start sewing, however the gurus at the lab were helpful as always. I have always wanted to put iron-on patches on my backpack, so I took this opportunity to make a patch using the badge from my fraternity, Sigma Chi. I choose a simplified version of the shield, and designed it with white and blue to go for an “old school” look. I think my retro design looks like one that could’ve been worn on the backpacks of students decades ago. Transporting the design to the printer was extremely easy, and once I got my hands on the sewing machine muscle memory kicked in, and I was actually craftier with the machine than I thought I would be. My stitching turned out like this:


I attempted to turn it into an iron on patch by gluing iron-on paper to the backside of my patch. Unfortunately, the ironing didn’t work well with the type of backpack I had. To make sure the patch stayed secure, I hooked my backpack onto the machine and sewed some outer stitches for reinforcement.

This experience was important to me because it showed how computers can be used to create perfectly sized stitches and patches using vectors. Anytime I want to customize a piece of clothing I own, I can bring it into the Fab Lab to add my own logos or designs. This is especially important for those who are less fortunate and rely on making/sewing their own clothes rather than buying new articles of clothing. With Fab Labs popping up all over the world and growing in popularity, I am sure that there will be an increase consumers fixing up their old clothes rather than pouring their money into buying new outfits. Additionally, this technology opens up the field of fashion design. Aspiring fashion designers have the ability to digitally make designs and patterns using their computers, and go into places like the Fab Lab and see their ideas come to life in a matter of minutes. I am sure that this technology’s impact will be felt by major clothing manufacturers around the world. Personally, I will be sure to use the right materials with one another. I struggled with attaching my design to my backpack because my backpack was beaded and old. Perhaps a different type of threading would have worked better with my backpack. Another problem I have found with my creations this semester is that I find myself getting so eager to bring them to life,that I rush through important parts of the making process and mess them up. I learned to be more careful and focused while working with the sewing machine this past week.

Final Semester Activity Update

Jack and I have decided to use our combined expertise to create a unique helmet for an upcoming DJ performance. We believe this will add a special visual effect to the performance, much like the helmets used by the artists DeadMau5 and Daft Punk. The skills we have learned in class through the manipulation of multiple materials are a great fit for a project such as this. We plan on using flexible materials in the fab lab to create a skull casing to specifically fit my head. We will use foam or other soft materials we find in the lab for the interior, and we will 3D print the hard outer casing. We will also raster imagery on acrylic and create a light-up faceplate. Jack will be the head of design for our project, and I will serve as creative director. We plan on going for a robotic look for the helmet based off design used in popular media such as the Halo video game series, as well as those used in ancient medieval battles.  We also plan on implementing LED’s somewhere on the helmet. Electronic music and performance art are two things we have always both felt passionate about and have a mutual interest in. Nick has also been researching music production and its software over the course of the semester and plans on using this knowledge for the competition as well.

Soldering with Mitch

Last week in Digital Making, we had a lesson in soldering, something I would have never expected to do in a class about cutting edge technology. As insane as it seems, soldering is something that computer “nerds” have been doing since the early days of Silicon Valley. I almost felt like Steve Jobs and Wozniak working alongside my friend Jack in the impromptu lab we set up in Wohlers Hall. It was awesome to see how intricate and precise the work is that goes into making a computer chip. Unfortunately, I got so excited with the idea of making a computer chip, I missed a step of the production process and was unable to get the light on my chip to light up. Either way, not too shabby for my first attempt at soldering. Here is a photo of me and my failed creation (unfortunately is got crushed in my backpack on the way home).

Soldering itself was very interesting to me because the process of doing it right is so delicate. Pulling the soldering iron away from the chip at the exact right time is something that it took me a few tries to get right.

I also really enjoyed the meeting Aric the other creator of the UIUC MakerLab. We didn’t really have time to converse but it was cool to see the other mind behind the lab. Our presenter, Mitch was a bit eccentric, but was pretty good at explaining how to soldering properly. He spoke a bit fast at times, but was extremely helpful whenever anyone had questions. After spring break I will be sure to look into his other endeavor, Cornfield Electronics. I also could definitely use a TV-Be-Gone at the bar I work at because I am constantly having issues turning off and on all of the TVs.

Overall, the lesson from this week was empowering because it shows how, in two hours our whole class could go from knowing little about how computers operate internally, to creating motion responsive microchips in a classroom that would normally be used for Econ discussions.

Week 2 in the Lab…

Well, my semester project took a full 180 after messing around in the Fab Lab a second week…the place seems like it oozes creativity. After learning how arduinos work, I decided to start helping Stephen, Andrew, Toheeb, and Pri with the pressure pad for their wheelchair smart glove idea. It is a really interesting concept that is constantly evolving, but basically we are trying to pair an accelerometer with a pressure pad so that the wheelchair racing team can gather data on touches and speed to see how to race more effectively. After just meeting together in the lab that one day, I can tell that we will work well together. Going into the lab with no knowledge of arduinos, and teaching ourselves in a matter of hours how to make a pressure sensor makes me think that we will be able to do some pretty big things with the project. I am excited to get back in the lab tomorrow, and use the sewing area so that we can figure out a way to sew the sensor into the glove…..Also I ripped a hole in my backpack this weekend and I am going to attempt to patch it up myself. Lastly, if you are reading this and not following me on twitter, please follow @NickHans55 because myself account for this class still only has 3 followers!



Fablab Day 1 Reflections

This past week’s class was my personal favorite thus far and really got me thinking creatively about my semester long project and ability to create. When I heard we were meeting in a different building for class I assumed it would be just another classroom with some different technology. In reality, the FabLab as a concept really showed me how “makers” can utilize the things and tools they know, and come together to solve problems. Specifically, I am an IT and Marketing major, so a lot of designing parts of the class go over my head. The early stages of my semester long project were a bit discouraging as I was unsure what I wanted to do, or how to go about it. Seeing the way people collaborate in the FabLab is inspiring because it shows you don’t have to know everything to do great things, you can learn from and help those around you.

Taking this knowledge, I used the class Facebook page and saw another student with a similar idea to mine (cupholder). If we determine it is feasible and that we want to work together, we plan on making a portable, suction cup cup holder than can conduct thermal energy in order to charge phones. Updates to this idea will come this week.

Week 4 Reflection

Learning Fusion 360 over the past two weeks has been a turning point in the semester for me and my perspectives towards 3D printing. I knew the technology was groundbreaking and saw the designs that could be exported from Thingiverse and other websites, however, seeing a lamp built from scratch on my own computer screen is when the potential of this technology really clicked. While Fusion 360 is fairly complicated and a lot to take in at first, it is unbelievable to me that basically any object that you can imagine can be made in a matter of hours with a 3D printer. I especially liked the render tool, because it brought the items to life and made them look realistic. In the near future, I would like to go to a 3D printing lab where I could print with different types of materials and metals.

This past weekend, I spoke to my 11 year old cousin who owns a 3D printing pen. I was astounded to learn that his middle school is investing in 3D printers just as a school would invest in traditional 2D printers in the past. His skills and creativity already outweigh mine. It was during this conversation that had another realization about the potential of 3D printing. Having generations of children grow up with this technology in their schools will develop the making economy rapidly. I told him about the class I’m in and think I may have recruited a future Illini!

Lastly, I took time this week to pitch my semester project on Facebook. I am planning on printing and selling cup holders to local bars, restaurants, and students. These cup holders will be customizable, and can be screwed into the wall or stuck to the wall with suction cups. I was inspired to make these after putting drinks on top of gross urinals far too many times. I’m sure this idea will evolve greatly throughout the semester.