A Reflection Of My Digital Making Experience

My learning experience throughout this course had gone beyond my expectations. Though we only had class once a week the Digital Making Seminar had impacted my thinking process and brought in a different perspective of the world. Now, I would like to describe my journey and the various learnings and knowledge I had picked up on the way.

The first two weeks were more of introductory classes, allowing all the students to have a better understanding of what we would be delving into. We immediately were given the hands on experience to create our own 3D printed object after given a quick tutorial. I had learned about various sites and chose to use Tinkercad to print out an Illinois keychain. During the class we learned about the large amount of resources (ex. FabLab) available on campus for making and creating.


During the third week of class, Vishal had brought in UIUC’s Design For America. I really enjoyed their presentation because it truly helped my group, BCC Creations get our creative juices flowing. I realized how naturally creative the human kind is, it is easy for anyone to have the ability to design products or services through the design thinking process in order to meet a consumers demand. The group had taught us through a hands-on activity to create a prototype that would benefit our customer group: senior citizens. We had brainstormed various products that would allow a senior citizen to be more at ease.

Our fourth week we met with Jeff Smith from Autodesk who was teaching us about Fusion 360, the software allowed designers to design products or services from what used to many hours to only a couple of minute. Each of the tools in Fusion 360 were incredibly powerful unlike other softwares. With the step-by-step tutorial given by Jeff, I was able to create my own version of a perfume bottle I had through Fusion 360 after the session,


By the fifth week of class I had learned about different websites and softwares that could be used for designing, now I was excited to see how this could be incorporated to my final project. We met with our groups to brainstorm needs people have on the daily and create “how can we” statements. Furthermore, we had to make sure the statements were broad enough to solve the need and we weren’t delving into finding the perfect product for the need.

Week six, seven and eight we were at the FabLab working on creating a blinky box through three steps: Inkscape/laser cutting, soldering, and coding, My group started out with learning how to use Inkscape, we were given a template of the press fit box, we learned to change the settings for the laser cutting and added designs to our boxes. Once our designs were done we laser cut them, it was an interesting experience and the laser cutter had to be carefully monitored. The next week I learned how to make the lights blink on the hardware through coding. It was an incredible experience and a great learning process for me as my core classes don’t touch computer science coding or work with hardware pieces. In the final class we learned how to solder, it was a new experience for me and I learned how soldering melted filler metal onto metal joined objects by creating an established thin layer. Overall, I had a strong understanding of how everything came together to create the box and learned how all the components could be used, which would come in handy for my final project.


During weeks nine, ten, eleven and twelve we focused on our project, we went through prototyping, researching, improvements, auditing and making final adjustments. Once we decided on creating our “cheap” alarm system we began the prototyping process. We researched on the components needed for the hardware as well as the software side. Then we drew up a diagram so we had a clear understanding of how the hardware would look, what the software would need to accomplish and the shape of the housing. We gathered our components from Vishal and the FabLab. Throughout the process we had challenges, we had received help from the FabLab on useful components and my friend, Alvin Wu (Electrical Engineering) to assist us with the coding and putting together the hardware. In the four weeks I had learned so much about the product we were creating, I learned how to use the Raspberry Pi, searching up code as well as the incorporation of them, how the components worked and starting up Twilio so we could send text messages to the user. Once we were done with the product we worked on the housing which was a bit difficult to make the adjustments as we started out using Fusion 360 and moved on to Tinkercad. We made several adjustments to our housing so all the components could fit inside. FInally, we began our testing process of how our consumers would use it, we added on an extra text message so users would know when the security system was on and once it turned on there would be 60 seconds before startup.


Prior to taking the Digital Making Seminar course I had heard great things about it, not only from Vishal during an advisor meeting but also from students who had taken the course or were about to take the course during the same semester. I was very excited to see where this class would take me, as I had no experience with 3D Printing and all the functions we learned throughout the course. Thus, coming in I had little expectations but I was ready to experience a different side of what IT could offer. Now, that I have reached the end of the course and reflected on my learnings and experience I can definitely say the course reached beyond my expectation. I had not expected to be able to learn so many different aspects on designing and was really amazed by all the results as well as support. Throughout the process, I learned that even though I never saw myself as being a creative mind I was still able to create a final product design that would be suitable for our consumers need. I will definitely be taking all my knowledge from this course and apply it into my future career.

Looking Back

Looking back at this semester and thinking about everything that I have learned is incredible. This class has introduced me to things I was unfamiliar with. It gave me the skills to be able to go about an idea in serveral different ways.

I thought back to some of the speakers that made an impact on what I learned. Even on the first week, when we had two speakers. The video call from John Horlick kicked off the semester. He had written a book on how 3D printing was really becoming more and more prevalent in business and our everyday life. This opened my eyes to Digital Making. I realized that things were constantly changing in how things were being made, but I did not realize how much of an impact innovation was actually making. Even though this presentation was mainly on 3D printing, I felt like it spoke for more than 3D printing. It showed that there is always a better or smarter way to do something. There are also many ways to achieve that goal and I believe that is what Digital Making entailed.

Most of everything I learned in this class, I had not been exposed to before. Something that was really foreign to me was coding aurduinos. I never thought I would mess with that. I had understood some of the code because I had dealt with coding before, but it had only been solely on the computer. I had never used a breadboard before. It was also awesome to see a product come together after our few weeks of class spent at the Fab Lab. Not only did we code Arduinos, but we lasercut wood boxes and soldered wires together. This was great experience that helped prepare us and our teams create and develop a product of our own for our final product.

Throughout the entire semester, I felt like each class taught us the skills to tackle a problem or accomplish a task that we would encounter as we did our final project. The guidelines of the final project were for you to create a project that solves a problem.

When I decided to take this class, I was hoping to get a better understanding of using different softwares. I took this class because I really liked the work I did in the lab and I wanted to be able to do more. I only had one class freshman year that I was taught a CAD software, Creo Parametric 3.0. Other than that, the only time I have had experience with other softwares was when I would help out with workshops at the MakerLab. I wanted to be able to learn them well enough to create things of my own.

I feel like that expectation I had about the class was met. I was taught various softwares through a workshop type environment in class. That helped with figuring out where to start and what to look at to finish a design. Then I had to apply those skills I learned to the final project. It really tested me on how well I knew how to use them. I used Tinkercad for most of anything I did with the final project including the team logo. I was able to do it from my laptop in my free time. When I was looking at a folder I created on TInkercad and photos of designs I had sent my partners, I could see how my skill had improved throughout the semester. When I started, I did the basic shapes and a lot of things were uneven and had odd proportions. As I practiced, I was able to fix those problems and create more complex things. It was frustrating at points, but I was able to get my designs to how I wanted them to be.

This class opened my eyes to many things.  I was able to explore different ways of making I had never done before. I also, went through the product design process that made me explore every aspect of a design even if it is identifying what you can do yourself and when to seek outside help. In this class, I learned what I wanted to learn and more.

A Semester of Creativity


Having the pleasure of fully immersing myself into the MakerLab this semester with the BADM 395: Digital Making Things class, I can now confidently say that 3D printing has the potential to uproot the basics of how we use and purchase products. The ability to think about something, and then model it on some softwares and then print a physical piece within a few hours means that there are endless possibilities when it comes to what one can create.

Coming into the class, I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that it would be unlike any other class I have previously taken on campus. The knowledge and skills that I have accumulated within the short 16 weeks will last for years to come. I believe that this has been one of the most enjoyable classes I have taken and I would like to thank Vishal for that.

The journey that the class has taken me on started with Design Thinking, specifically human-centered design thinking, where one starts with a problem, a need, for a product and develop it that way. This allows for consistent user feedback and to give the product a purpose rather than being a potential paperweight. Design for America, a student organization on campus, held a design workshop to allow the students to visualize this new idea in action.

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 10.58.45 PM

The next step in the course was the introduction to 3D modeling softwares and websites that would be useful for us. This included Fusion 360, Cura and TinkerCad. This process was very crucial as it allowed my team to be able to manipulate our object in a virtual 3D space and it has very advanced skills that gave it a bit of a learning curve but I was soon able to master it.


The FabLab portion of the class taught me more skills that I had anticipated. From soldering to laser cutting, to coding Arduino, these skills are immensely useful, not only for this course but any future project that could require some fine tuning. This portion we made a press box that had an Arduino inside of it with LEDs and a light sensor to trigger specific lights at different light intensities. This was a really interesting and cool way for us to know and become familiar with the tools and services offered at the FabLab.


The final portion of the semester was centered around the ability to create our project with the tools and materials that we have had at our disposal for the past few weeks. This was the most time consuming and challenging part but most rewarding as well. The idea we were tackling was to create an aquaponics system for a college student to be able to have plants and a pet. The challenge was big as we were trying to emulate nature within a confined system. We encountered many roadblocks, such as failed prints, delays in shipping for acrylic and leakages. However, with my team’s hard work and determination, we were able to overcome the obstacles and build a product we were proud of.


Looking back at the beginning of the semester, I had no idea I would be learning so much, and at the same time being so hands on and developing a working product within 16 short weeks. I believe that my expectations of this class were supremely surpassed. It was different because of the way the class as laid out, it allowed us to learn at a gradual rate all the resources at our disposal and how to fully benefit from them. I learned that I was able to tackle problems as they come and being able to be flexible and having a backup plan is crucial. I learned how important it is to constantly change and adapt, whether its designs in a product or user feedback on functionality. Being able to adapt and change with any issues gave me an edge to think on my feet. I learned a lot about softwares, tools, machines and facilities, all of which I will continue to refine for years to come, in my professional life as well as personal endeavors. If anyone that is reading this and is teetering on whether to take this course or anything similar, do it, it breaks conventional classroom politics and provides a fun and creative atmosphere where students different backgrounds can interact with each other. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact me at khnguyn2@illinois.edu.

Idea Coming Toegether

My team and I had a lot of things to get done this past week. We did learn a lot from asking other people what they thought of our design and implementing those thoughts into our design. Although this did put us more towards the beginning of the design development process. Needless to say we had a lot to accomplish.

Our time in class was dedicated to working on our product. My team and I talked about our feedback from others and were able to come to an agreement and create our design on Tinkercad. We came about this by deciding what parts of our product needed to be finalized before we moved onto the next part. Instead of worrying about the material design and testing all at once, we decided one thing at a time. We thought we needed to at least finalize a design.

We had gone through a lot of designs. Our final design will be attached to the side of the door and have the ability to slide out to ajar the door and then slide back in and then let the door close. SInce it will be positioned horizontally on the door we do not have to worry about it moving around too much without the user moving it. Also, the moving part will have a handle to make it easy to move the device in and out.

Now that we had finalized we put it on the printer to see if the dementions were correct. In the time our product was printing, we discussed on what materials we think would work best for our product. Our main concern was trying to find a material that would hold up to a door slam. We needed something to absorb the shock a little bit. We thought the base part that is attached to the door could be made out of PLA since it does not come in direct contact with the door. For the sliding part, we think using the material Flex will be the best because we can print it thick and it has some give to it.

We did do trials in class. We wanted to see if the prototype we printed in class would hold up to the door in the MakerLab. Sadly, the door won after a few trials. But we intend to increase the size and density of our product and use the correct materials for the real trials!

Continuing the Prototyping Process

Coming into this week’s class, our team finally has a good grasp of the project in regards to the hardware and the software portion. As stated in last week’s reflection we were able to complete almost all the coding besides some minor adjustments and ensured that the hardware is able to work. During this week’s class we worked on the housing component and started some testing in regards to the sensor.

The first half of the class we worked on the housing unit, we had started off by using Fusion 360 last week and were having some issues especially with creating the correct holes into the housing unit. Thus, Vishal had suggested that we use Tinkercad to create the holes, as it was much easier to do through their website. We downloaded our already created dimensions from Fusion 360 and uploaded it onto Tinkercad. Tinkercad was much more efficient, we were able to edit at the same time. Immediately we had figured out all the hole dimensions for the lid, the sensor and the power cable. We also decided to add on our team name to the product. When we decided to print it we realized the time of the print was incredibly long and we were figuring out methods to shorten the time of printing. Finally, we were able to start the printing of the housing and will be done for us to pick up the next day.

After we had started printing out housing we decided to start working on some of the testing of our product. We were coming up with different inquiries on our product. First, we realized that we wanted to input location when the text sends to the user but that would require us to include some type of tracker and we realized that would be easiest done through an actual application, which would be the next step after creating the actual product. Some other issues we thought about were related to starting up the product, to leave a 30 second to 1 minute leeway before it started up and started sending texts of an intruder entering the home. Finally, we decided to test the sensor because we wanted to make sure it was reliable and we wouldn’t need to order a different type of sensor, as Vishal had suggested other sensor types like the laser sensor. We realized that our sensor went 120 degrees and was like a dome shape in sensing, we were thinking about purchasing a different sensor because a laser one might be more simple or 3D printing two walls around the sensor. However, we thought more about it and realized that it wouldn’t matter if it did sense all 120 degrees because if there were any movement it would be able to sense it. Thus, we decided to continue using the same sensor but reducing the distance it reached so it wasn’t as sensitive.

This is our housing model we created through Fusion 360 and Tinkercad.

Vishal and Brian were getting the printer started.

We began our testing plan, first testing our sensor.

Process of our housing.

Trying to change the sensor range.

Research and Continuous Improvement

In this weeks session we had first started off with a quick presentation on scanners. I found it really interesting that we can scan with just our own phone cameras; they take pictures and stick them all together through a 3D mesh. They are created through triangles, so the more triangles the more resolution on the surface. The application that this feature could be done through is call Trnio and can be downloaded through an app store. After learning about scanning we began to work on our groups project again. Last week we had accomplished the main gist of how we wanted our product to look like, what components we would need and approximately how we would put it all together and into the 3D printed housing. However, in the last class we had only a general idea, which is why in this week’s class we had to go in more depth to understand more in detail what we would have to do and accomplish.

As none of us are engineers, we don’t have a solid understanding of how we should go about the project, which is why we had done a good amount of research to understand what components we would need as well as the placement of them. We had looked into various websites and videos, checking out the different tutorials and the ways other individuals had created a similar home security product. We had decided to use different tutorials and grab code from some of the already made products. Afterwards, we were able to receive all our components from Vishal and grabbed the rest of the components from the FabLab.

We then ended up meeting at the end of the week to work on the project together with our engineering friends. They had helped us with the installation of the Raspberry Pi and helped us with grabbing the correct code to run the system. We were able to put all the hardware together and plugged in the sensor accordingly. We had some difficulties with installing Twilio into the Raspberry Pi so we had tried to use a different method of Google Voice but that also did not turn out as we had expected even after adjusting many settings. Thus, we went back to trying to download Twilio, and to our surprise it could be done but we also had to download some other things to make it work. Finally, we tested the sensor with Twilio and the product worked! We still need to work on creating a way for the system to start on its own when plugging the power on and off so we will be doing more research on how to work that. During this time we had also started creating our 3D printed housing through Fusion 360 and we will begin printing it during the next class.


A reiterative process of trial and error

The progression of our ideas came to fruition this week as we heavily began idealizing and seeing how all of the parts of our design come together. The first half of this week’s class was allotted to learning 3D scanning from Ariel utilizing a handheld model. We then proceeded to scan our heads as well however, we learned that the scanner does not like dark surfaces and so we had to scan black hair with a phone light.


The next half of class we were heavily involved in redefining our project’s components with an initial rough print. This taught us that we need to prototype fast and quickly due to the nature of how 3D printing is not perfect and it is a reiterative process in order to perfect a design. We continuously developed our design and got an idea of how to make these modules separate in the case if we want to add more or less at any given time. The Fusion 360 model below shows how we visualized our final product.


However, once we started printing, the holes did not line up correctly and sometimes the printer was having trouble with misalignment or if the filament ran out mid print as that happened to our initial prints.


Then after another run through the printer we were able to narrow down the problems, address it and throw in another print. This one proved to be a much more successful model but it still did not stand up on its own which was cause for concern for us since we need it to be able to not only support its own weight but it needs to support, clay rocks, plants and moving water.


Upon doing further research we found a great resource named “The Aquaponics Source” and it helped narrow down what type of plants, planting media as well as the conditions that are needed to keep our plants happy and healthy.

The next stages that I determined to be instrumental for the project is constructing the actual tank from 1/4″ acrylic sheets from the FabLab but they only had 1 clear one left and that was not enough since they were only 12″ x 24″ and so they are in the process of ordering more and it will come in about 10 days, which will hopefully give us time to cure and test our product. But I was able to use that one sheet and start dimensioning and designing the tank.



Our next step is to wait for all of the components we ordered to get here on time, which is the fish pump, tubing, finish printing the modules, as well as waiting for the acrylic to arrive and slowly put it together.


How to get “Perfect” Prints

One of the best features of consumer 3D printers is their ease of use. All the user needs is to slice their model with their desired settings and upload it to the printer via a USB cable, flash drive, etc. While this is straightforward, there are quite a few intricacies to the process. Slicing a 3D model with “perfect” settings does not necessarily lead to a perfect print. There are a plethora of discerning factors and principles of additive manufacturing that can skew the results. These problems are usually grouped into 3 categories: material  issues, software, and hardware. User error can sometimes come into play, but that also usually falls into one of these three mentioned. 3D printing as it is now is not a perfect science, there are many issues prevalent within the technology that prevent it from being greater than what it already is. The slightest mishap during or even before a print begins can cause it to fail or lower in quality. Sometimes, prints even fail for seemingly no reason, and the failed print is simply a one-time occurrence. We can, however, take measures to ensure that we can get the best quality out of our machines as possible. As 3D printing is still rapidly evolving, there really is no “perfect” print. We can get very high quality parts created, but as it stands now there is always something that can be improved in a print. This post is meant to serve as a universal guideline/checklist for getting the best quality prints out of your 3D printer as possible.

1. Filament:

There are a variety of printing materials out there, with the 2 most popular being ABS and  PLA. Other types are special exceptions but they usually have the same conditions for printing as one of these two. You should choose what type of filament to use based on what your part requires. Each has its trade-offs.

ABS- Relatively strong with a little bit of flex. Good for parts that will be used a lot, or pieces that you don’t necessarily care how they look. However, it is NOT food-safe, and somewhat difficult to print. It requires a heated printed, and sometimes a little bit of glue on the surface to help with adhesion. It also has a very strong odor so you need a well-ventilated area.

PLA- Probably the most common material used today. It is vegetable-based and is easier to print than ABS. It also tends to look nicer and the prints are more clean coming out. However, it is much more fragile and sensitive to temperature. Therefore, this is good for models that won’t be used heavily and are more for display.

More in-depth info on filaments here: https://pinshape.com/blog/popular-3d-printing-filaments-3d-printer-filament-types/

2. Software

When slicing your file in your slicer, you have a variety of options. Different combinations produces different results, however, these can vary widely depending on the software and the printer, as well as the filament. An important consideration before printing is what kind of software you are using and if it works properly with your printer. Some companies produce their own proprietary software that can only be used with their printers and vie-verse. This makes it easier for users, but in most situations this actually limits the options. They are many other non-locked slicing softwares that can be used with any printer, but not all printers can use any software. Sometimes you will simply have to test these for yourself and see what is compatible with your printer. These are the more common options adjusted by users.

Layer Height- How tall the layers of the filament are in the z-axis(upwards direction). Usually ranges from .1 mm to .4 mm. The finer the layers, the higher quality the print will be.

Comparison of 4 different layer heights (finest to roughest from left to right)

Infill- How dense the object printed will be, ranging from completely hollow(0 %) to completely solid (100%). Note that as you get higher and higher in percentages, the difference starts to become less noticeable. The shape of the infill is usually also adjustable, these include hexagonal, rectilinear, or even custom settings.

Examples of different infill percentages

Different infill types

Shells/Perimeter- The number of outer lines the printer will produce on the perimeter of the print. The standard is two. This affects the strength of the print.

Speed- How fast the print nozzle will move during the printing process. Higher speeds give faster prints, but lower quality, while the reverse is for lower speeds.

Supports- If your print has overhangs, depending on the angle, the printer may attempt to build the layers over nothing, causing a drooping effect. To compensate, supports (layers thinner than usual), are created by the printer which can be broken off or in some cases dissolved later. The density of the supports can usually be adjusted as well. Flimsy supports break away easily, but may also be torn away accidentally by the extruder during printing, while more rigid supports are can hold more reliably but are harder to remove.

A model with support material

Raft/Skirt/Brim- The more surface contact that your print has, the better it will adhere to the printed during printing. If it has little surface area, there is a possibility that it will actually peel off the printer. In these cases you may want to use a raft, skirt, or brim. There are all similar but each has a specific use. The raft is the most generic and is like support structure but is only composed of a few layers that the model is printed on top of. It is used to provide a larger “footprint” for the model and is removed like support material. Take note however, that the bottom of the print is usually affected by this, as it will tend to be more rough having been printed on top of more material rather than the print bed. A skirt is like and outline of the print made around it. This is to ensure that the filament is flowing properly before the actual print begins. A brim is like a raft, except the bottom layer is printed with the brim instead of on top of it. It provides stability to prints with small contact points, and can be removed or kept on after printing. More info on all of these here https://www.simplify3d.com/support/articles/rafts-skirts-and-brims/

Temperature- Both the temperature of the extruder and the buildplate of the printer can be adjusted in most slicers. The temperature of the extruder and bed should be adjusted depending on the type of filament that you are using. Most filaments come with a suggested nozzle and build plate temperature. Sometimes, the bed may not even need to be heated. Printers also come with fans for the purpose of cooling the components and/or the filament itself. Slowing down or speeding up the fans will affect the flow rate of the filament as well as the quality of the print. This usually doesn’t need to be adjusted but feel free to experiment.

Warped bottom and split layers due to poor adhesion and/or temperature settings

If you need a heated bed make sure it stays on

Retraction Rate- Since the filament in the extruder is under constant heat, it will always want to flow out of the extruder. As the nozzle moves about, small bits of filament may be extruded unintentionally. The retraction setting allows the filament to be withdrawn back to prevent this from happening. Too little a retraction rate will cause strings, while too great may actually wind the filament out of the extruder. Once again, a setting that may some testing to find what works best, it also depends on the filament used as well as the temperature.

An example of too low a retraction rate

There are more settings than those listed, but these are usually the ones that affect print quality the most. Another factor that can affect prints is random bugs in software or issues in the actual model that affect slicing. This is why you should always review your model after it has been sliced in your slicer software before uploading it to the printer. Some slicers have their own file repair settings, but online repair services can be good as well. https://makeprintable.com  https://tools3d.azurewebsites.net

File loaded into software before slicing

Sliced file output, note the large block in the center of the model that was not present in the original

3. Hardware

3D printers, like all machines, can and will eventually fail and usually require maintenance. You don’t necessarily have to take your printer apart bit by bit, but you definitely need to check on your printer and its components every now and then to ensure every things is fully functional. If desired, you can also upgrade your printer parts with purchasable upgrades, or even print add-ons that will improve print quality.

Extruder- The integral part of the printer responsible for the actual printing. A user needs to make certain that this piece is fully functional and taken care of, otherwise no printing can occur. Taking care of your extruder is relatively simple. Just make sure that it is not overworked and kept clean. Prints that run for hours are fine, but you definitely you should not have your printer running 24/7. After a long print maybe give it a break for a few hours or so. Make sure to exercise proper fan usage. It is wise to have at least one, if not even 2 fans running on the extruder during prints. This improves print quality and extends the lifetime of the component. Also, whenever possible make sure to allow your fan to cool off your extruder instead of just turning the printer off. By allowing the fans to run after a print, the extruder can cool properly and gradually unit the next print. Overheating can cause filament to stop flowing entirely and damage the extruder, so be wary of this. It is also a good idea to maybe open up your extruder whenever you see an issue in printing or just feel like it’s time to clean it. When attempting cleaning, a wire brush is usually the go-to tool as most if not all extruder nozzles are made of metals like brass.

Bits of filament stuck in the drive gears of the extruder can really cause printing problems

Signs of extruder problems. The left filament strand is fine, while the center is too thin and the rightmost is too “globby”

A 3D-printed fan mount made by the printer for itself to improve quality

Build plate- Maintaining the integrity of the build platform is key to ensuring good prints. While they can be fixed/replaced like extruders, they are usually much more difficult to do so. One of the most important aspects to look out for is leveling, as in keeping a proper distance between the extruder nozzle and the build surface. Too far and the filament will not stick; too close and the filament will have no room to exit the nozzle and the bed may be damaged. Most printers come with instructions on how to properly level the bed, and some even have auto-leveling settings. Manual offsets can also be input if desired. Like the extruder, it is important to keep the bed clean, as residue from prints and glue for adhesion if used, can buildup overtime and harm the surface as well as your prints. One method of preventing this is using painter’s tape. By applying it over the build plate, you can provide a surface that in some cases is actually better for adhesion than the actual platform, as well as easily peel off the prints afterwards. It also assists in protecting the bed. Many printers also come with beds made from glass, which must be taken care of with caution, as overheating or mishandling of the printer can damage the bed severely and become a safety hazard.

Sign that the bed is adjusted too close to the extruder

A print with an offset shift due to a loose build plate

Chipped and cracked glass bed, most likely occurred when trying to remove a print

Motors- In order to drive the axes of the printer’s nozzle and bed, stepper motors are used. One motor is used for each axis(X, Y, and Z), and the extruder and bed can either share all three, or one may posses all of them (in which case that respective part would be the only one moving). These motors are what allow 3D printing to be 3D. Most use tension belts or rods to move the extruder and/or bed. This motors don’t require as much maintenance and checking as the nozzle or bed, but it is certainly a good idea to check on them and perhaps regrease them every now and then. You may also want to check the wiring on the motors, as the repeated motion of moving back and forth can actually break them and sometimes even get caught in the gears, effectively ruining the printer. Unless you’re experienced in electronics, this can be difficult to fix. Taking good care of your motors can not only save you from buying new ones later, but also improve print quality. Everyone can agree that the smoother a print is, the better it looks and the higher quality it is. The accuracy of the prints depend on the stability of the motors. If they are too tight or too loose, your prints will suffer.

A stepper motor with a loosened belt

A print with ridging along the z-axis, a sign of wobbling motors

Making Adjustments

Last week team Supra went in with a trash compacting idea and have completely changed the whole idea. As we were approaching the prototyping stage of our product we had a lot to consider. Does our product solve the problem? Does it appeal to the consumer? Is it still low cost?

My team and I faced a few problems. We did not feel like our product had much of a need since we had redesigned it. So we needed to start over with our design of the trash compactor. We thought from the perspective to get maximum compaction. We modeled it after the Big Belly trash can you can see around campus. The design would have the look of the Big Belly so that you could throw trash in the top side to the trash can. Then the top would have a board with a weight attached that could be released to compact the trash in the can. Then the weight/board would be connected to a leaver arm that could crank it back to the top of the trash can. After thinking of this complex design we asked the question “Why would people actually need this in their household?” There is really no need for “maximum compaction” in a household trash can. We found ourselves overcompensating to fix some problems in our design and under compensating in some parts of our design. This created a massive problem for us. We thought it was best to revisit different product ideas.

We went back to our original idea list. One idea intrigued us. We wanted to create an improved version of a door stop. We find the conventional door stops that have already been designed faulty. They never really hold the door open and are hard to maneuver. So we plan on developing a door stop that you can attach to the door a few inches above the door handle. It will have a sliding function that will allow you to have it hold the door open when it is slid out and then slid in to allow the door to close. We are still in the beginning stage of figuring out how we are going to attach it to the door and what material we will use. I was originally thinking thinking plastic so it would be cheap, but I am afraid a hard slam might break it. So then I thought about using metal so it is more sturdy, but I think a thick rubber material might actually be the best. We still have a lot to figure out, but we are making a lot of progress!

Final Projects in the Making

For this week, we delved into the last stretch of the course: our Final Project. Each group some sort of solution to a problem of their choosing; big or small. The issue or solution does not necessarily have to be 3D printing-related, but simply portray the aspects of design and making that we have learned over the course of the semester. Although, most of the final projects do include 3D printed models to some degree. This week, we began the first stage(s) of our projects.

My team and I, the MakerLAX, decided aimed to resolve an issue that was felt by many college students and other young adults: tying ties. As one gets older, they will have to attend more and more formal events and gatherings, and as such will require more formal dress. The tie is an integral part of formal attire, but is notoriously difficult to prepare for the first time, as well as long after. It may seem like relatively simple task, but getting accustomed to tying a tie as well as all the different knots that once can choose from takes time. This combined with the fact that most young adults only really have to wear ties from time-to-time and not on a daily basis, makes learning the ins and outs of tying one somewhat difficult. I personally require assistance from someone who already has gone through the whole process of learning how to tie a tie, or watching an online tutorial whenever I find myself needing a tie. While this may not be an inherently big problem, it can certainly be helped.

The premise behind our solution is to create a sort of “tie-helper”, as in, an object about the size of a small paperweight that can act as a guide for a person to use to tie their tie. We have found remnants of what appear to be previous attempts at creating such a product, but they were either flawed or never really reached production. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3tkWcp3wK4 Our group is aiming to create a design that can be mass-produced or even printed at home. The idea as it stands so far is to print a model that is inscribed with numbers and/or pictures of instructions on how to tie a specific knot that has yet to be chosen. After finishing the knot, the object can be easily separated from the tie and the tie will already be tied around the neck. In class, we presented our idea to the rest of the groups and were given feedback. We also created some crude models of possible designs, which could be considered our initial prototypes. From here, we will be creating and testing new models to perfect for our final iteration. We’ve all learned a lot these past few months in Digital Making; I am really looking forward to putting it to good use, as well as seeing what everyone else comes up with.

Paper Prototypes