My latest 3D printing project is a Christmas Ornament inspired by the Library of Congress. It is currently one of the 20 Finalists in the White House 3D Printed Ornament Design challenge. Since the challenge was hosted by Instructables, all my step by step instructions of how to model the ornament in Blender (and the downloadable .STL file) can be found up at Instructables.
The ornament can also be printed at Shapeways.
My mother drove a school bus for 24 years. During the school year she called Friday and Saturday nights “Wine Nights” because she could drink a glass a wine and not have to worry about getting up obscenely early the next morning. Well, after 24 years, she retired, meaning every night could be a wine night!
To help celebrate, I wanted to get her a school bus wine stopper. Oddly enough, there seem to be an absence of products that combine “school bus driving” and “alcohol.” : ) Luckily, that’s exactly the niche 3D printing and Shapeways is for! I designed and 3D printed her a customized School Bus Wine Stopper.
I’m still new at 3D Modeling and Blender and by no means an expert. But for what it is worth, here’s how I made my School Bus Wine Stopper a reality with Blender, Shapeways, and SS Niles Bottle Stoppers. Maybe something out there will be helpful to your projects!
Recommended Best Practice – Don’t Recreate the Wheel If You Don’t Need To
With 3D printing, you often pay by the volume for the material. With that in mind, was it worth it to me to pay more to print the stopper portion? Bottle stoppers on the internet were just a couple of dollars. It would cost me more to custom-print that portion. Purchasing a pre-made stopper also took some risk out of my process as that was one less piece I had to worry about sizing right and fitting with O-rings and all that. An added bonus is the only material (as of this post writing) at Shapeways that is “food-safe” is the ceramics and I knew I wanted my stopper to be in steel.
I purchased Bottle Stoppers from SS Niles Bottle Stoppers. It was already a proven product and manufactured in FDA-grade food-safe stainless steel. They have many different types of stoppers to choose from for different applications. I used the 302 product which included a 3/8” stud.
Recommended Best Practice – Plan Ahead
It really really really helps to know what material you plan on printing in and what it’s limitations are, so you know your measurements from the get go. Shapeways has detailed design recommendations for each of its materials. For my mother’s wine stopper, I knew I wanted steel. I knew from the breastfeeding pendants that it feels solid and sturdy. I also knew the gold plated steel (which happens to be school-bus appropriate yellow) is gorgeous. A rigorous review of the steel materials properties page had me mentally poised that all my walls, all my engravings, etc would have to be 1 mm deep and wide. Knowing that from the very beginning was immensely helpful for the design.
I took measurements of existing wine stoppers and the stopper I ordered from Niles Bottle Stoppers so I knew my dimension of my bus right away. Although it is easy to scale things in Blender, I still recommend knowing your base object size right away. Here’s why– if you do all your engravings and additions and then you size your object up or down– you’re also mucking with the sizes of all your details. So if you had a compliant 1mm engravings and you size it down to 75%, suddenly, you have engravings that are now too short and you’ll have to fix them all.
Recommended Best Practice – Naming Your Objects
My day job is programming and I definitely know the benefits of naming your form elements. I found the same thing to be beneficial in modeling in Blender. I ended up with dozens of objects for my windows and doors and headlights. Keeping the default names of “Cube.001”, “Cube.002”, “Cube.003” would have been tedious to keep up with, so I made sure to give them more meaningful names.
Process – The Bus Base
I started with two “cubes” that I scaled to make the body of my bus. I selected them both and went to Object->Join to fuse them into a single object.
I wanted to round the corners, but I didn’t want to bevel every single edge, so I got to learn about setting the Bevel Weight for specific edges in order to control how each edge was going to be beveled.
And then I went under Modifiers and added a Bevel Modifier.
Process – Engraving Versus Embossing
With my details for the bus, I had a couple of choices, I could engrave my windows and doors into my bus base so they were set into the bus body, or I could raise them out of the bus base. At the time I chose engraving. Why? I’m a cheapskate. With the steel pricing at the time, the amount of material was the biggest factor in cost. Everything you engrave out of your design, that is less material and saves you money!
Process – Hollowing the Object
And speaking of saving on material cost, my bus is hollow underneath. There are different techniques to hollowing objects out. With this project, I simply made some smaller cubes and used the Boolean Modifier (more on that below) to subtract them from the bigger bus.
Process – Boolean Modifier Crazy!!!
After that, pretty much of the rest of this project was all done through the Boolean Modifier. I did a LOT of subtracting of objects from each other. A lot of it.
The Boolean Modifier is pretty easy. You click on your Base Object and then you click on the Modifiers icon. You select Boolean. Then for Operation, most of what I did was Difference (Subtracting one object from another). Then you select your second object.
Remember above when I recommended naming your objects? Here’s a situation where is it’s helpful. You aren’t sifting through dozens of “Cube.001”, “Cube.002”, “Cube.003”. Naming your objects makes it easy to pick the right one to subtract.
All my windows, doors, stop signs, were just outer objects with smaller, inner objects subtracted from them. For example, let’s take the school bus door. That was a big cube with two smaller cubes subtracted from it:
So in the above photo, I start with three objects—a large rectangle and then two smaller ones. I use the Boolean modifier to “Subtract” the two smaller rectangles from the larger one and I end up with my school bus door.
With my end result intended to be steel, I made all my engraving lines 1mm thick and 1mm deep.
Does it look hard? Well, as proud as I was of my handiwork, it’s not hard. In fact, after I finished my modeling, I discovered this technique of making your object out of a bunch of little objects is prominent in a 3D printing tutorial for CHILDREN. CHILDREN! So if I can do it and children can do it, you can do it. : )
Quick Tip on Object Sizes
And a quick tip. I initially made this mistake and I’ve seen others on the Shapeways forums make the same miscalculation. When you are making your object sizes, it’s easy to think, “Oh, my minimum wall requirement is 1mm, so I want my outer object to be 1mm larger than my inner object.” That’s not necessarily the case because you are likely making more than one wall. Take, for example, my cylinder to hold on to the Wine Stopper stud. My outer cylinder has to actually be 2mm wider than my inner cylinder– because I’m going to have TWO walls. I want them both to be 1mm thick for steel.
Continuing the Boolean Modifier craziness, once I made all my windows and doors and headlights and grill lines, I used the good ole Boolean Modifier again to subtract (aka engrave) those items from my base bus body.
And the same went for the text at the top of the bus.
|Quick Tip With Engraving Text—I’ve found it to work better if I convert my text to mesh and then extrude it. The normals of the faces work out better for the Boolean Modifier Difference operation.|
Process – Fixing Thin Walls
When I was ready to try my model out on Shapeways, I went to File->Export and saved it as an STL file. When I uploaded my .STL to Shapeways, however, their checks indicated that I had some thin walls with the “A” in my engraved text. I fixed that by manually moving vertices around and uploaded a new model.
Math – Making the Stud
I’ve only been 3D modeling six months or so and I’m finding math to be quite valuable. A good example of this is fitting my bus on the stud for the Niles Bottle Stopper I purchased. The stud itself is 3/8” in diameter. I work in millimeters, so I just used Google to figure out the conversion.
So basically what I wanted was a nice little cylinder to fit over that stud. If I was going to error, I would want my hole to be TOO big. I could always fill it with adhesive or Gorilla Glue. I didn’t really want my hole to be too small and put myself in a situation where I would have to drill it (or rather ask my husband to drill it) to make it fit.
Now, looking at the material page on Shapeways, I noted steel does have a margin of error.
3/8″ == 9.525 millimeters. To calculate the margin of error, I multiplied that by 0.01 (1%) and added 0.1 to it (per their accuracy statement). Since there would be TWO walls (one of each side of the cylinder) that could affect my fit, I multiplied that by 2.
The meant I would probably want to increase my cylinder opening by 0.3905 mm to account for possible margin of error. I went ahead and rounded up to 0.5mm just to be safe (And again—I would rather my hole to be too big than two small)
I decided my hole would be 10.025. So my inner cylinder had a diameter of 10.025. I wanted my walls to be 1mm thick, so I made my Outer Cylinder 12.025 in diameter (remember there are two walls). Then using, you’ve guessed it, the Boolean Modifier, I subtracted the inner cylinder from the outer one.
So get this—either I had beginner’s luck or my math was solid. My steel school bus arrived and the stud attachment was PERFECT. I had to tap it gently with a hammer to place it on the bottle stopper stud and there it has stayed nice and snug. No adhesive necessary! Score!
Note: If you are modeling for Niles Bottle Stopper #302 and you plan to print in the Strong and Flexible plastic, you may want to choose different diameters. I’ve found the plastic to fit looser and require glue.
Prototyping and End Product
Before diving into the more expensive steel, I did print a version of the School Bus in cheap (and fast) White and Strong Plastic. It looked great (other than I shorted my Mom’s service years by 1), so I changed “23” to “24” and ordered a version in Gold Plated Steel. It arrived just in time for my Mom’s last day of school!!!
Prototype and Final Product
And the end product was a hit! I think I got myself one notch closer to being my Mom’s favorite child. : )
And if you happen to covet a School Bus Wine Stopper of your own, you can order one to be printed from Shapeways (I have the Personalize option turned on too). Also, I’m a big believer in Creative Commons, so feel free to download the model for your own projects. Just don’t forget that Attribution clause! :)
Here’s an amusing stock photo captioned by the “It’s Like They Know Us” Tumblr Blog.
For those of you with computers and without small children, it’s funny because it’s not true. My children, in particular, have a keen sense of when I’m working on something really important on the computer. They will both drop everything and approach my machine, sticky fingers widespread.
When I see them tettering my way, know what the first thing I do is? I quickly unplug my USB mouse. While they are distracted moving that around and doing futile clicks, I have just enough time to sign out of the production database server, save important documents, or move the laptop to a higher elevation. By the time they realize the mouse isn’t doing anything, the laptop (and all my production data!) are safe.
I was enacting that one day and I realized I’m wasn’t particularly inventive. I was employing the exact same defense mechanism salamanders and seemingly other “lower” creatures have used for millions of years.
I drop the USB mouse to distract the predator. The salamander drops its tail. : )
Salamander Dropping Tail (Photo by Gary Nafis of California Herps)
Distracted Modern Day Predator
Like all toddlers, my oldest son has his fair share of emotional moments. And like a lot of mothers, I often find myself perusing various “Mommy Blogs” on the Internet. Somewhere along the line, I read an article (whose author completely alludes me at the moment) that talked about how kids need to feel safe to express their emotions–positive AND negative. When Sagan is upset, we often “take a lap.” One of us carries him in the circle through the rooms on our second floor. Inspired by that now nameless article, I started to sing a simple little song to the tune of Frère Jacques:
You’re my Sagan
You’re my Sagan
I love you
I love you
Even when you’re fussypants
Even when you’re fussypants
I love you
I love you
Well Sagan isn’t especially communicative when he’s upset. He would just sort of zone out and sniff, occassionally wiping his nose against my shoulder. Really, I didn’t think he even noticed the song. Then one day, he bumped his knee and I had the nerve to switch it up a bit and sing Elvis instead.
“No! no!” His crying intensified. “The fussypants song! I want the fussypants song.”
Now that’s our thing. When he’s upset, I’ll ask him, “Do you need a lap?”
“Do you need a song?”
“Fussypants song.” he’ll croak out.
I’ll carry him a few laps and sing our song.
I have failed miserably at getting it on video, but Sagan has a stuffed monkey he occassionally plays with. He does baby stuff with it– puts on diapers, feeds it, etc. On a few occassions, I have spied Sagan hugging it and singing the Fussypants Song. It’s super adoreable, but super elusive. Everytime I bring the camera out, the moment subsides.
BUT– two weeks ago, I heard Sagan singing the Fussypants Song to Dyson and I did have success convincing Sagan to sing a few bars for the camera. Sagan’s version of the Fussypants song. Enjoy!
Sometime ago, Ryan and I were walking with the kids and he told about an interesting Ted Talk on “Arguing”. It was by Philisopher Daniel H. Cohen and he talks about the winners and losers in arguments. Traditionally we think of someone winning an argument and someone losing an argument. But Cohen suggests that it is the “loser” of the argument that actually walks away with the biggest gain. The winner walks away with nothing but a stroked ego. The loser on the other hand, walks away with a new belief– a “well articulated, examined, battle-tested belief.”
Last week, I was working on a Washington Post crossword puzzle and a whole section stumped me. After revisting the clues again and again without any new insight, I surrendered and decided to Google on my phone. It was, in my mind, the act of defeat. The act of a loser.
The very first clue I decided to Google was “Vanzetti’s Co-Defendant”. And just that like that I was enthralled. The rest of the evening, I found myself immersed in and fascinated by The Sacco and Vanzetti Trials of the 1920s, almost a century ago now. I read account after account until it was well past my bedtime. I read about the questionable aspects of their trials and conviction. I read about the world-wide protests, how renowed personalities such as Albert Einstein and H.G. Wells signed petitions urging another trial. I was surprised (and somewhat amused) at how generations before Johnnie Cochran and O.J. Simpson, there was another famous trial that prominently featured an article of clothing being too small.
Sacco Tries on a Hat, Simpson Tries on Gloves
Source: Boston Post
I never returned to my crossword that night. Days later, those boxes remain glaringly empty. But with a wealth of new information in my mind, I’m having a tough time feeling like I lost.
In mid-August, Ryan and I took the boys to Warrenton, Virginia for an afternoon at the DC Skydiving Center. Don’t worry– we didn’t take a 3 year old and 1 year old skydiving. We’re not that adventurous. : )
My friend Meg is fighting cancer for a second time. One of the long-standing items on her Bucket List was to go skydiving. I absolutely did not want to jump out of a plane. No way. But you know what I can do? I can *pay* for someone else to jump out of a plane! (This was made even easier by a serendipitous Groupon). Meg’s longtime friend, Karen, also jumped. Meanwhile, Ryan, the kids, and I watched from the ground. Meg was relaxed and at ease the whole time (She reports skydiving is no where near as scary as cancer). Karen, on the other hand, seemed to be a tad nervous.
They were both equally ecstatic after the jump and concur it was thrilling and peaceful at the same time. I even heard the phrase “life-changing” when they would re-describe their experiences in the coming days. See also Meg’s recap from her CaringBridge site.
As for the Sommas, even though we stayed put on the ground, the DC Skydiving Center was a fabulous adventure for the kids. In an intimate and disarming setting (so disarming I actually thought, “Huh, maybe I could do this too.”), we got to watch people learn their skydiving basics. We were right there when the plane took off and landed which was a huge thrill for Sagan. We got to watch the sky for the tiny black dots after the plane passed by and we got to watch those dots get bigger and bigger. Eventually the skydivers would land right smack in front of us. And 1 year old Dyson? It turns out skydiving instructors can also make great playmates.
If you think about, our family adventure that day was watching someone else’s adventure. But it was just as fun as our usual Sunday adventures… and more fulfilling.
More photos of our visit to the DC Skydiving Center are on my Flickr site.
P.S. Ryan’s already talking about taking the boys skydiving…when Dyson turns 18.
In late April, we took the boys to visit the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge Area. The Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Area encompasses 2000 acres of hardwood forests and six miles of Potomac River shoreline, which means hikes there get a nice mixture of marsh and forest. So “Woodmarsh” was an accurate name for the trail. The Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge is free. There is an entrance fee if you choose to drive to the nearby Mason Neck State Park afterwards.
The Woodmarsh Trail is about three miles long. With a couple of cut-through trails at Hickory Pass and Fern Pass, you have the ability to “Choose Your Own Adventure” and loop back whenever you feel like it. We took the Spur Trail down to Eagle Point and since we were hoping to see Great Blue Heron nests (See Fauna below), we kept on the eastern most section of trail to skirt along the marsh. We returned via the western section of trail through the woods.
Back when I hiked alone, my decision criteria for “a good trail” would be something like:
- Invigorating climb (to make you feel accomplished)
- An overlook or a waterfall (to make you feel awed)
Now that I’m hiking with two small children, a previously overlooked trail feature has taken on new importance:
- Bridges or wooden walkways.
Wooden structures just call to my older son. He loves running across them. Sometimes over and over and over and over again. : ) For younger children who are just learning to stand and pull up, bridges are a nice opportunity to practice. This trail sported a number of bridges so it was a win for the boys. And then more importantly, there was a nice wooden viewing platform at Eagle’s Point. That simple structure was probably the highlight of the trail for the boys. It was wooden with benches for the boys to climb and crawl on… AND it had a FREE telescope to take in the views. It was their own little private jungle gym with great water views. We only had to walk a flat mile for a “home run.”
The Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest Blue Heron Rookeries. Nesting peaks in April and May, so we came hoping to see one of those 1300 Great Blue Heron nests. Alas, nesting views can only be approached through water or during the annual Bald Eagle Festival at the nearby Mason Neck State Park. We couldn’t see any nests from our vantage point on the land. Nonetheless, we saw our fair share of wildlife. We saw herons and Bald Eagles flying by. We saw a large brown bird (perhaps an an owl) in the tree canopies. Small, but just as entertaining, we found an inch worm at the viewing platform at Eagle Point.
Mayapples are a favorite wildflower of mine. I love how the big umbrella leaves conceal a tiny, single white flower underneath. We saw Mayapples on this hike and they were budding, but we were just a little bit too early to see the blooms.
What we did seem blooming was Virginia’s State Flower, the dogwood.
The trail passed through a section called “Fern Pass.” Our assessment was that was aptly named. It was one of the more beautiful sections, carpetted in green, with the fiddleheads uncurling away.
More pictures of our Woodmarsh Trail Hike at Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge can be found on my Flickr site.
Length: Varies – 3.0 Miles of Trail to Choose From
Elevation Gain: Flat!
Entrance Fee: FREE!