3D Printing!

As of a few weeks ago, we have entered the world of 3D printing! Thanks to a generous gift from my in-laws, I got a PrintrBot Play 3D printer. I also ordered the Y-axis extension bed for it. I haven’t upgraded it to a heated bed to print ABS and other filaments that require a heated bed yet, but I probably will at some point.

We’ve had fun printing parts for our drones (more on that soon!) and other things. The Boy has also gotten interested in designing his own things to print, so he’s been learning about 3D design. He started out using TinkerCAD, but has progressed to Autodesk’s 123D Design app, which is pretty much TinkerCAD Pro. I’ve been a little surprised at how quickly he’s learning it. He’s designed a cool spaceship that we’ll print once he finishes the design. He’s also printed out some desk nameplates for his teachers, which has really fascinated them. He’s also been printing out stuff for his friends, too. I told him the first one’s free. I think a number of them are saving up for 3D printers of their own now! The Play is a fantastic entry-level machine (it’s only $399), and it was highly rated in the most recent 3D printer roundup from MAKE: magazine.

Stay tuned for more 3D printing content! This weekend, we’re going to build an AstroPrint server for it out of the Raspberry Pi Zero I got Daniel for Christmas. That will allow us to print to it wirelessly from any computer in the house (and even across the Intertubes!) and monitor it wirelessly from any computer or smartphone or tablet (again, also from across the Intertubes).

VU Meter Guitar Strap Project

Our latest electronics project is our first wearable electronics project. The Boy plays bass in a band, and I wanted to make him something cool to wear on stage when they perform. Looking around the web for project ideas, I came across the LED Ampli Tie on the Adafruit Learning System, which is a fantastic resource for all sorts of technology information. The Boy isn’t a tie-wearer, though, so I thought I would adapt it to a strap for his bass. It’s going to require a few small changes, but should be pretty straightforward.

The project is based around Adafruit’s Flora micro controller, which is an Arduino-compatible board designed for use in wearable electronics projects. It takes the input of a small microphone and flashes a series of NeoPixels like a VU meter.

Though the plans call for using conductive thread, the hard nylon material the strap is made out of made it very difficult to tie tight knots in the conductive thread, and I ended up with a semi-working model. So, instead, I used flexible silicone coated hookup wire to make it. Of course, that meant about a bajillion soldered connections, but I eventually got it done.

Here’s the final product: