Category Archives: 3D Printing

Photogrammetry and 3D Printing

roman lamp made using photogrammetry
Image of a Roman lamp unearthed this summer in Italy created from photos & then 3D printed.

Castlemakers offered our first class on photogrammetry, or using photographs to create 3D objects, in October. But the more interesting story to me was how we got there. It began just before our Intro to 3D Printing class last spring, when a couple of folks wanted to learn about 3D printing so they could hopefully print things from an archeological dig in Italy in the summer. While I had experimented some with earlier software, this was mostly new territory.

Italian dig site near Umbria being printed. Pillars are the flooring in a Roman bath house.
Italian dig site near Umbria being printed. Pillars are the flooring in a Roman bath house.

But Rebecca, one of the students in the class, took it to another level. She was able to get a copy of a professional program, Agisoft, then take pictures at a Roman dig site in Italy this last summer. Using the program, she generated 3D images of artifacts they found and even took photos of the excavation at the site (a Roman bath house) which she was able to turn into a 3D image. When she got back in August, in a little over a week she was able to 3D print not only artifacts but also make a model of the dig site using the 3D printers at Castlemakers.

As we prepared for the Castlemakers class to show others how to do it, we discovered what may be an even better solution – a program called 3D Zephyr. We decided to cover both, especially since 3D Zephyr has a way of extracting photos from video to make the 3D image – a pretty amazing feature! The experiments will continue with local landmarks and we’ll be doing the class again this spring.

It’s Not Rocket Science

First stage of the model rocket that Nick launched in the fall of 2016.
First stage of the model rocket that Nick launched in the fall of 2016.

If you walked by the Makerspace this summer and looked in the window, you may have noticed a very large model rocket. It was the first stage of a creation that Nick Adams, who taught our ‘build a model rocket’ class, built last year and launched. Several people have stuck their head in since it left and asked us where the rocket went. The short answer is he prepping it for an even higher/faster launch this Labor Day weekend in Kansas.

Earlier this year Nick asked if we could make something that would plug the air intake holes, the kind of project we love! When you go supersonic a flat surfaces creates even more turbulence, so for his upcoming flight he wanted a more streamlined version. Plugging 4 intake holes on the side of the rocket would help.

Different versions of the intake plugs.
Different versions of the intake plugs.

We initially fabricated a plug out of foam, using a hot wire cutter at the Makerspace, then scanned the piece so it could be 3D printed. Creating the styrofoam piece was easy, scanning… well the Makerbot Replicator we have wasn’t quite up to the task initially. Learned that covering the foam with masking tape helps (the foam color and irregular surface created problems), but it was still less than a satisfactory design.

Nick's QCC rockets assembled, the one on the left has black intake plugs installed.
Nick’s QCC rockets assembled, the one on the left has black intake plugs installed.

Then one of our younger makers, Ephraim, helped by creating by creating a quick model in Autodesk’s Inventor. That design came closer, but we missed measuring a few key dimensions like the chamfer where the plug goes into the rocket. We finally ended up redrawing with Fusion 360, which turned out to be the best solution. Although the program has a steep learning curve, it allowed us to make several more design changes quickly & easily to get the 4 pieces printed out last month.

This weekend Nick’s letting Castlemakers take the rocket to show off at Makevention in Bloomington, Indiana – an annual celebration of making things. Located at the Monroe County Convention Center, it’s open to the public and a great event! Stop by and see the assembled 12.5 foot tall rocket and also stay tuned to Nick’s YouTube channel. I’m sure he’ll have a video of the launch posted not long after the launch on August 30th!

Castlemakers July Class

Chris and his brother add the battery leads to their LED Chaser (think Cylon moving eyes).
Chris and Cameron add the battery leads to their LED Chaser (think Cylon moving eyes).

One of our main goals as a non-profit is providing educational opportunities to the community. Like our Learning to Solder class in May and our upcoming Introduction to 3D Printing Design July 8th (2-4 pm at the makerspace).

In May participants built an LED Chaser (or Larson Scanner), to get first hand experience soldering electronic components, LEDs, and an integrated circuit on a circuit board. Thanks to George Edenfield of Putnam County Auxiliary Communications (local Amateur Radio group) for leading the class.

For the Intro to 3D Printing Design class, we did a prototype class last December when we had kids design & print holiday ornaments. Everyone had fun and we learned that too many people trying to print 3D parts at once can take a long time! We’ve added 2 more 3D printers in the makerspace, more laptops, and changed to a quickly printing basic design that offers more learning.

Demo ring for our upcoming class, other orientations will be used also!
Demo ring for our class,  but decoration can be reoriented…

In the upcoming class (for both old and young) you’ll be designing a custom ring to fit your finger and adding an adornment on top. It’s a great way to learn the basics in Tinkercad and prints in 4-5 minutes per ring depending how elaborate you get. Special thanks to the Maker Lab at Chicago Public Library for the idea – like almost all makerspaces they willingly exchange information and share ideas to help the maker movement!

3D Printer Owners Meetup

It’s been a very busy week at the makerspace, even though a lot of our equipment is still coming in/being decided. Besides the Castlemaker Kids meeting & open shop nights, the 3D printer build continues and there was a lot of activity there for our Putt Putnam County miniature golf build.

3D Printer Owners share their experiences.
3D Printer Owners share their experiences.

We also had our first 3D Printer Owner’s (3DPO) Meetup a monthly meeting to get 3D printer owners to share their successes, failures, and experiences with each other. Anyone that’s done 3D printing  quickly realizes it can be a complex undertaking. Like many things in life, product manufacturers tout things as simple to do but really are quite challenging to master & do well. This group’s 3D printing experience is with Fused Filament Fabrication, although one attendee has a beta Stereolithography 3D printer kit.

Jacob shows off the leatherman belt holder his son designed and printed, while Bojan reaches for his smartphone DLSR camera mount/control that was a Kickstarter campaign.

What an interesting group of people and first meeting at the makerspace! We started with background/experiences and then discussed future meeting topics.  Six people attended (and 2 regrets) which represented a broad range of printers and experiences.  No one had the same 3D printer/manufacturer, although one person did have 2 models from one firm. Reasons for a printer were even more diverse – ranging from artistic endeavors, “building a prototype for my Kickstarter campaign” (which he brought to show us), gift, curiosity/interest, and of course wanting to make things. We even had someone there who sells 3D printer parts on eBay & is designing his own RepRap printer!

Future topic ideas included software used to slice 3D models and control the printer, designing printable parts, and the physical hardware used. But most of the interest was troubleshooting prints. So for our next meeting everyone will bring in a ‘bad’ print to share to get comments from everyone else.

Becoming a community innovation resource for technology has been a long term goal for Castlemakers, last week we took another important step towards that.

3D Printer Manufacturer Visit

Rostock Max V3 like what we picked up printing a continuous cross-section fractal print. About 11 hours in, it's a really cool print we'll be trying!
We picked up a Rostock Max V3 like this, which is 11 hours into a continuous cross-section fractal print (cool print!).

Yesterday we made a trip to SeeMeCNC in Goshen, Indiana to get a large format Rostock 3D printer kit from the manufacturer. SeeMeCNC began as Blackpoint Engineering 20 years ago, but got into the open source 3D printing world early on and began making 3D printers as SeeMeCNC in 2011, their primary business today. Their main product line is a series of 3D printers based on the delta robot design, versus the more traditional Cartesian design in most RepRap style printers that uses XYZ coordinates.

Nathan, their master machinist, programs a CNC machine that is making parts for extruder.
Nathan, their master machinist, programs a CNC machine that is making parts for their extruder/hot end.

SeeMeCNC embraces the open source design movement. Their design information (both hardware and software) is readily available and the active user community helps to improve it. They also make the parts right here in Indiana. Once you see all the equipment jammed into their facility, you realize this is not a firm that buys different parts and boxes them up; they actually design and make their own parts to have parts designed for each product and to have better quality control.

Their largest injection molder, there are two smaller Niigata machines that get used. SeeMeCNC makes their own dies for the molded parts.
Their largest injection molder, there are two smaller Niigata machines that also get used. SeeMeCNC makes their dies for the molded parts inhouse.

We currently have a member loaned Printrbot Metal Simple that is an awesome compact printer, but wanted something for the makerspace that offered a little larger build area. A delta robot design is a different design that most of our participants have seen (except for Travis who sells 3D printer parts).  We chose the Rostock Max V3 printer, which has a build area of 275mm dia. by 400mm tall (10.8”x15.7”). The SeeMeCNC Rostock line is well proven; the new version adds an accelerometer probe on the hot end plus significant fan and heater improvements. They’re transitioning over from the V2 due to simplified parts and reduced assembly time.

A really big delta robot printer at the NYC World Maker Faire. Yes, the street clock in the distance was 3D printed.
A really big delta robot printer at the NYC World Maker Faire. Yes, the street clock in the distance was 3D printed!

Thanks to JJ in engineering who gave us a great tour. We’ll be putting the unit together over the next week or two (if we can wait that long!). Join us or come to one of the open shop nights on our events page – we’ll be glad to show it off!

Steve "parts daddy" shows off a newly assembled Rostock Max V3 on his desk.
Steve “PartDaddy” shows off a newly assembled Rostock Max V3 on his desk.

Teaching With 3D printing

The whistlers share their designs and prints. The train whistle in the foreground didn't turn out as planned, something every engineer has experience!
The ‘whistlers’ (Ben & Carlie) share their designs and prints. The train whistle in the foreground didn’t turn out as planned, something every engineer has experienced!

A high school Principles of Engineering class I visited last week is providing a great example using a 3D printer to teach the engineering design process and critical thinking.

Mr. Shields at Greencastle High School inherited a 3D printer when he took over a new class this winter. I had contacted him to see if he or his students were interested in a community 3D printing competition that Castlemakers is putting together. He was able to take the basic idea we had and turn it into valuable classroom experience for the students. Plus provide a pilot test for a future community 3D printing event!

Another student demonstrates his 3D printed frog, which resonates sounding like a 'ribbet' when a stick is rubbed on it's back.
Craig demonstrates his 3D printed güiro, a frog which resonates ‘ribbet’ when a stick is rubbed on its back.

The challenge was to 3D print a functioning device that would make noise or music. They had to walk through a seven step design process, print the part, and then write a report that included evaluation of their prototype by others.

The projects they made were impressive with whistles, a drum, ribbiting frog, and of course musical instruments. While all of them were good, perhaps the most impressive sounding was a musical instrument that 2 students collaborated on – Mattia designing and making a mouthpiece while Dalton did a horn. You can hear the mouthpiece/horn in this video.

Justin B assembles his banjo/ukulele. One of his tuning keys broke but of course another can be printed!
Justin H. assembles his banjo/ukulele. One of his tuning keys broke but of course another can be printed!

Piaget would be proud of the constructivist learning going on Mr. Shields’ classroom. It really shows how hands on learning and the maker movement can improve learning in the classroom. IU School of Education is embracing the movement, opening a new a makerspace(The MILL) last fall in the Wendell Wright Education building just for teachers. Not all learning goes on in a classroom however, and people need tools/equipment and a place to practice – one of the reasons that Castlemakers feels Putnam County needs a makerspace.

Strandbeest Exhibit in Chicago

An earlier Strandbeest, Animaris Apodiacula. On the far wall you can see a picture of his workspace and that room is full of parts used to make them.
An earlier Strandbeest, Animaris Apodiacula. On the far wall you can see a picture of Theo Jansen’s workspace and that room is full of parts used to make them.

Spring break turned out to be more of a making experience than expected, starting with the Strandbeest exhibit in Chicago and then taking a Chicago Public Library makerspace class and later one about laser cutting at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Fab Lab.

If you haven’t heard of Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests, and even if you have, the Chicago Cultural Center has a fabulous exhibit for anyone interested in mechanical creatures. You get to see what an eccentric artist can do when combining engineering and art. Jansen’s wind powered beach creatures have evolved over the last 25 years, getting more sophisticated by storing wind energy, sensing when walking into the water, and even self-correcting to prevent them getting stuck. Some even anchor themselves if they detect a storm, all without any electronics just plastic pipe, cloth, and recycled bottles.

Close-up of the Animaris Suspedisse before the walking demo. Over by the windows you can see visitors walking a smaller one.
Close-up of the Animaris Suspedisse before the walking demo. The plastic pipe you see in the foreground hanging down with red tips is part of the propulsion system from the plastic bottle stored air. Over by the windows you can see visitors walking a smaller one, here’s a video.

Check the schedule if you go, you can watch a 42’ long Animaris Suspendisse walk or they might actually let you move an Animaris Ordis by yourself! The exhibit also included the evolution of the creatures and a small case of what other inspired people in the making community have done with his designs. Hamster powered Strandbeest anyone? How about 3D printed Strandbeests? The Segway like device inspired by a Strandbeest was pretty impressive too! Anyone interested in building a Strandbeest here?

The Chicago Cultural Center is a beautiful building itself and just across the street from Millennium Park – you can see Cloud Gate from many of the windows on the east side of the building. Make sure you check out the other exhibits in the building and look at the incredible dome on the 2nd floor of the Center.

I’ll cover the workshops on making your own greeting card using a electronic (vinyl) cutter and making a custom acrylic keychain with laser cutter in a future post…

Model Rocketry in Putnam County

Rocket launch picture
Rocket being fired from pad #2, which was for some of smaller rockets.

Rocket launching was the theme of the day last Sunday for the Castlemakers that could attend. Nick and Emily Adams extended an invitation to a Rocket Launch at their place south of US40. Four families, along with some invited friends and Castlemakers got to see a wide variety of solid propellant rocket launches in South Putnam County.

Pad #1 was used for some of the larger rockets. Up to size G rocket engines can be used without FAA approval.
Pad #1 was used for some of the larger rockets. Up to size G rocket engines can be used without FAA approval.

Amateur rocketry has been popular for years; many people will remember putting together Estes rockets as kids growing up. That still continues, with additional firms involved, with more gps units, cameras, electronics and even Arduino boards. Many of the tools used in a fab lab/ makerspace are being used! For an example check out the Carbon Origins effort (10,000 feet & Mach 2 before breakup); their story was detailed in a recent article. We didn’t see that kind of launch on Sunday, but there was a video of a Mach 1.5 flight Gus hit the day before at a site near Chicago (and he does a lot bigger rockets).

Gus Piepenburg mounts a camera on the side of number 13 before launch. It wasn't the lucky number of the day, the landing didn't go well and it will become number 14 with some improvements.
Gus Piepenburg mounts a camera on a model CM-10 Bowmarc before launch. The flight didn’t go well, landing in several pieces, and after changes it will become number 14.

What we did see on Sunday was incredible. There were four families that had built multiple rockets, all involved with Indiana Rocketry, and there were two launch pads and 4 towers to launch rockets. I noticed several with GPS units (one hit 2500 feet) and several had cameras. One even had the infamous 808 keychain spy camera, sometimes used in robotics, that had a 3D printed camera case on the side of the rocket.

The local Putnam County 4H has a rocketry group if you’d like to get more involved, or you can also contact the Lafayette-based Indiana Rocketry club which has even more information.

3D Printing & Math in a Classroom

Printrbot 3D printer in classroom
Kids look over the a mini-whistle being printed in their math class.

Last Friday I got to talk about how 3D printers work & demonstrate printing to a class at Tzouanakis intermediate school in Greencastle. A lot of the math skills being learned in 4th and 5th grade math, at least in the current common core curriculum, are used when printing on a 3D printer. Obviously simple length and dimensions are needed and almost all 3D printer software controls are entered using metric dimensions. In contrasting a 3D printer with an ink jet printer (which the kids all have seen) we could bring in how coordinates are used with the printer head so the plastic goes on the right place on the printer bed (some of the kids have already been plotting x and y coordinates on charts).

Cura Software Screen printing whistle
The Cura 3D software screen used to show some of the things taught in 4th and 5th grade math.

There was lots of other things briefly covered related to math & science, including how the software being used (Cura) estimates how much plastic will be used (both length and weight). By having them measure the diameter of the filament used, we worked through calculating the circle’s area and then volume so they could see how much plastic will be used. Some of the kids have been exposed to unit volumes in the current curriculum, and while it was covered pretty rapidly perhaps the rest will remember it when they get that in more depth next year.

We also talked about the temperature settings and how that melted the plastic, asking if the 206 degree setting was hot enough to melt plastic. Some of the children that have been overseas immediately recognized that this was in centigrade rather than degrees F, so we worked through a conversion equation so everyone could realize these were oven like temperatures.

Mrs. McCoy's Tzouanakis Class with their 3D printed whistles
Kids trying out their mini-whistles… outside!!

After printing out a mini-whistle, I then showed them how the scaling function could change the size with a few clicks and re-printed a larger whistle. Most of the kids guessed correctly that the larger whistle would have a lower sound/pitch, but there was a lot of looking around to see who was raising their hand when they were asked to vote.

A special thanks to Mrs. McCoy for allowing me to come into her classroom for the printing demonstration. The class was scheduled at the end of the day & each of them got a 3D printed mini-whistle. Hopefully their parents are still speaking to me! I certainly hadn’t realized how loud 28 small plastic whistles blown at the same time would be!! You can listen to it in a video here

Making Persistence

raspberry pi case 3D print
3D printed Raspberry Pi camera case that will be used with Octoprint to monitor/control a 3D printer.

One of the things that makers (and good entrepreneurs) have is persistence. It’s a basic part of the DIY (Do It Yourself) culture, you don’t give up even if you don’t know exactly how to do it. A fair amount of uncertainty and vagueness are expected, you simply believe it will work out in the end. Even if it doesn’t work the first time. Or the second.

I’ve been going through a lot of that in building a 3D printer the last few months. Picked a kit versus a fully assembled so I’d learn more about how they work. But have to admit, there has been several times that I’ve felt like throwing in the towel. Even with good documentation it’s hard to cover every possible wrong step. And the technology is still… ‘developing’…

What has been a key has the online 3D printer community. When I had a problem with a z-axis nut that wouldn’t fit, others with the problem confirmed that grinding off some metal would fix it. When my first prints had problems and I posted a picture of the problem, I had detailed suggestions on what to change in the software parameters within 30 minutes of my post!

But writing out detailed questions and getting answers still takes more time than talking in person. While I love the sheer number of people you can reach with an online post, it still has some disadvantages versus talking to an expert in person or sharing what you’ve learned with others directly.

A local community of makers could help that. There are at least 3 other groups of people here in Greencastle using 3D printers that I know of and I believe there are more. We need to create opportunities for people to share their experiences and help the knowledgebase to grow.

Castlemakers as a group is exploring some events to do exactly that, including a local competition for 3D printers and designers. If you have an interesting in helping, please contact Chris directly or send an email to .