I haven’t worked in 3D at all before, and I was looking for a simple project.
As with the Brio/Duplo wagon, I was thinking about what was within my ability, and not commercially available. I decided I would try to build a custom tire valve stem cap with my daughters’ school logo (a polar bear).
Looking at freely available 3D modelling tools, I checked out Blender and OpenSCAD. OpenSCAD seemed to be simple for someone starting out with designs built out of basic shapes.
I converted the bitmap logo I had to a vector drawing using Inkscape‘s “Trace Bitmap” feature. Following an Instructables tutorial, I exported the bear’s outline and features to a DXF file, which can be imported into OpenSCAD. I encountered number of difficulties (it has been a while since I completed the design – I can’t remember which issues, specifically, I encountered). I tried again, with great results, using the Inkscape OpenSCAD export plug-in.
I merged the bear with a cap designed by Dan Ujvari, and printed it at the Toronto Public Library’s innovation lab. I used a black permanent marker to highlight the bear’s details after printing.
It was interesting to learn that even with a simple project as this one, there are limitations to 3D printing. It was almost impossible to remove the support material on the reverse side, as the bear is narrower than the cap. If I were to refine the design, I would make the bear the same width as the cap. I definitely have more to learn about successfully designing an object around the limitations of current 3D printers.
I have been excited about the potential for 3D printing for quite some time.
Shortly after our local library acquired a couple 3D printers, I took the mandatory course, where we were taught the two primary rules of printing at the library:
Rule #1) Don’t touch the heating element
Rule #2) Don’t print guns
Course completed, I started to think about applications. What can’t you just buy, what makes sense to print?
The idea of combining Duplo and Brio seemed like a great idea – I was thinking of an elaborate track with bridges over bridges, and Duplo seemed almost perfect for the job. What I really wanted was a piece with a wooden train (Brio) top, and Duplo bottom.
A quick search revealed that I wasn’t the first person to think about this, someone had already designed a Duplo/Brio bridge support system. Looking into this further, and loading these parts into 3D printing software revealed that each segment would take about 2 hours to print – the maximum time allowed on the library’s printer. Given that a simple bridge would require at least four segments, I looked for alternate ideas and stumbled across the Duplo/Brio wagon.
I downloaded the file, went to the library, and printed it out. 83 minutes later, my train was completed. I attached the wheels to the body with paper clips, and glued fridge magnets to the ends for the couplings. I was quite pleased with the end product (see photo). The library charged just under $5 for the printing time, which is about what a train car costs from a local toy store.
Taking this idea further, I thought I may try to design my own toy 3D printed TTC subway or street car for wooden train tracks. I have occasionally seen them available commercially, but they are generally hard to come by.
After lunch, the girls and I hopped on the subway and headed to the Canada Day events hosted at Queen’s Park. We ended up having a great time – there were free bouncy castles, live music, hula hoops, and more.
But I thought the coolest activity was the build and test your own air rocket, hosted by Makerkids.
The children were given pipe insulation for the rocket’s body, and duck tape, scissors, cardboard, streamers, and everything else you would need to complete an air rocket.
With occasional help from Rachel, Tegan built her rocket.
The Makerkids team had several launching stations setup on University Avenue, which appeared to be similar to the Make design.
As scotch tape was used for some of the cosmetic touches, I warned Tegan that the rocket may not survive its first test flight intact. She decided to launch it anyway.
Shortly after breakfast on July 1st, Tegan picked up a recently discarded brown cardboard box sitting beside our recycle bin. She had a vision in mind: she wanted to build a rocket ship. She needed some assistance – the cardboard box was too thick to cut with her scissors. So she created a design.
First, I was assigned the window. With a utility knife, I cut a circle out of the box. A clear plastic lid, also sourced from the recycle bin, was installed. Tegan then made the fins from the box’s former flaps, and installed them using packing tape.
Next came the nose cone. Rachel was a proponent of using the two remaining box flaps, and building an A-frame, triangular nose cone. Tegan had her heart set on a true conical design, but couldn’t quite figure out how to achieve it with the materials at hand. In the end, we taped 9 sheets of construction paper together, and rolled the now super-sized sheet into a cone, and installed it on the top of the rocket.
Together, the girls painted the rocket red. To this day, it sits in a corner of their room.
Although this book is targeted at older children, and my children aren’t particularly interested in robotics, we still had fun completing a couple of the simpler projects at home.
First, we built a mechanical hand with cardboard, drinking straws, string, and a glue gun. This was a great craft, because my six year old could complete all the assembly steps (given guidance) and the completed project was unanticipated, functional and fun.
Next, we built a drawing robot, which consisted of a plastic cup, tape, an electric motor with an added weight (like a mobile phone or pager vibrator), batteries, and markers. This craft required more assistance – I connected the batteries, and the weight to the motor. My six year old assembled the cup and the markers, and shot video footage.
Here’s what the output looked like:
My personal brain dump, Opinions, Projects, Toronto