Category Archives: 3D Printing

Learning at the worksite

This last week I got to do something different during “bring your kid to work day” – provide additional STEM activities for the kids that came to MESH Systems in Carmel, Indiana. The idea came about when a parent in Greencastle, who often brings his child to Castlemakers, wasn’t sure if there would be enough to keep his son interested all day. Since his son really enjoys stopping by the makerspace, and he knew we’ve done many youth programs in the area, he asked if we could do something at his office. After some discussions with their HR person, we were able to put together an afternoon STEM session at Mesh.

Learning how to program a micro:bit using Makecode.
Programming a micro:bit using Makecode.

We began by going over the micro:bit by demonstrating beginning programming on the IoT like device. It’s been one of our favorite single board computers since we gave them away to every 6th grader in Putnam County. The MakeCode web interface, where you can use block based programing or even JavaScript & Python, allows you to accommodate different levels of programming knowledge – important when doing a group of mixed ages kids. As expected, some picked it up quicker than others but there’s enough projects available at different skill levels to keep everyone busy during the time we had!

Introduction to 3D printing using Tinkercad
Explaining how to export 3D printing files for printing.

There was also interest in 3D printing, so we started with a quick overview of the printing process. After starting our 3D printer making some parts and explaining how some of the 3D printed parts we brought were made, we had them design their own part to be printed using Tinkercad. The later afternoon kids were more interested in design, so we focused in on using Tinkercad to create objects and how it differed from other 3D design programs. Those that were left had access to other 3D printers, so we finished up on how to export and print their designs.

Thanks to Mesh Systems for giving us the opportunity to teach some of their kids about single board computing and 3D printing design!

Foam Box Derby

Foam Block and c o 2 cartridges.
Foam before shaping with CO2 propulsion cartridges

This Friday night, at Greencastle’s First Friday, we’ll be trying something new, letting folks carve a foam block into a car, then propel them down a wire on Franklin Street.

Carved and painted foam block that we'll be racing down Franklin street.
Finished foam block mounted on the base.

For the first attempts we’re keeping it simple, although admittedly we’ve got bigger plans. For Friday night we’ve built a platform to put the foam block on, participants can carve the block into a car body, then will launch it down a cable using a CO2 cartridge.

Foam box car launcher
Foam box car launcher testing

In the future we’re going to try 3D printed and laser-cut wheels & want to also try using model rocket engines for propulsion. We’ve even thought about dual tracks for racing and putting an on-board micro:bit to measure speed and acceleration. Come join us on Friday night from 6-8 pm on Franklin Street in downtown Greencastle and to try out our first prototypes!

Upgrading 3D Printers

One of the makerspace areas upgraded during the pandemic was 3D printing. There’s been several printer upgrades and we even added a new liquid resin printer to the makerspace.

Rewiring a Rostock Max 3D printer
Ian works on the Rostock Max 3D printer wiring.

The most significant change has been to our delta 3D printer, upgrading our Rostock Max from v3 to v3.2. That included 3 major upgrades; a new printer controller board, upgrading the stepper motors, and a new hot end.

The controller board change went from an Arduino-based RAMBo v1.3, an 8 bit control board, to a newer 32 bit Duet WiFi board for the printer ‘brain’. The RAMBo board is certainly a good one, we’ll probably use it to build another 3D printer, but the Duet has major improvements in both usability and speed. The Duet is also WiFi remote controlled and since the control board is located internally, the former LCD panel and SD card was removal. We recently bought a PanelDue, so there will be a new touch screen control available soon when we make that upgrade next.

New Duet 3D printer controller board installed.

We also changed the 1.5 degree to .9 degree stepper motors. Combined with the Duet control board this reduces the printer noise level dramatically and improves printer quality/speed with the micro-stepping addition. A new hot end assembly also improves the bed leveling sensitivity and heating capability. Bed leveling and the ability to print higher temp materials are a nice improvement for this machine!

There’s been other improvements in makerspace 3D printers, including the Printrbot Metal Simple & an older now modified XYZ printer. We’re in process of setting up a workspace for a MoonRay S100 SLA/DLP 3D printer & will write up more about that in a future post. Come to one of our 3DPO (3D Printer Owner’s) meetups, the next one is 12/30 at 6:30 pm. Or stop by Castlemakers to learn more!

Window Micros

Web accessible lamp with ping pong balls for LED diffusion.
LED lamp at Castlemakers in Rainbow mode, the colors change continuously in this video.

Pointing out the new ping pong ball lamp in the Castlemakers window on Franklin Street is a natural follow-up after writing last month about the micro:bit in the window. It’s a great fun, low cost project built by one of our member with items found at the makerspace, except for the ping pong balls.

Example lamp components, penny included for size comparison to the ESP8266 modules.

Recently several of us started experimenting with ESP32’s, a ‘system on a chip’ device that’s less than $10. I’m working on a squirrel proof bird feeder using an ESP32 with a camera for squirrel recognition, more on that later. This project is built however with an ESP8266 module, predecessor of the ESP32, which cost even less. The ESP8266 modules, bought some time ago for $4, are still quite capable having both wifi and a control channel built in. Ian, who’s known to build things for the heck of it, turned an ESP8266, a bit of leftover led strip lights, some 3D printing, ping pong balls and some glue into a flashy user controlled lamp!

Webpage for lamp controls if you’re logged into our network.

There was mathematics involved in figuring out the right way to spiral the LED strip up the side for tight ping pong ball spacing, which depends on the diameter of the 3D printed cylinder. What’s also impressive is the built in web server. If you’re at the makerspace and logged into our network, type http://pingpong1.local to change the lamp pattern. Pretty darn impressive for a $4 circuit board!

We’re thinking about creating a class to help folks build these. If you’re interested stop by to let us know, post on this blog or send us an email.

3D Printing with Scrap

CD3D 3D Printer made with scrap parts
Ian’s new 3D printer made with scrap parts.

One of our more prolific makers, Ian Girvan, recently created a 3D printer using mostly scrap parts found at home and at Castlemakers. It’s impressive, using old computer CD-ROM and DVD drives for their stepper motors and mechanisms along with a second hand computer power supply.

What a great way to learn about 3D printers, brings to mind how the first consumer level 3D printers were created in the early days of the RepRap movement. I’ve been watching in awe the last few months as he figured out how to make the old parts work, only buying a very few new items like the hot end. He’s detailed some of his work for us on this webpage, it’s definitely worth a look!

Building a 3D Printer with scrap Parts


Some meandering thoughts on successfully building a 3D printer based on old DVD laser head linear movement mechanisms and an old PC power supply:


Greencastle Makerspace has a great selections of 3D printer options ( to allow members and interested members of the public to get hands on experience with this Fuse Deposition Modelling (FDM) additive manufacturing technique. With 3 actual printers to choose from it all with varying sizes and mechanical designs, one might think that as a member, there wouldn’t be much desire for anyone to roll their own. But sometimes as they say, sometimes it’s the journey not the destination that provides the most enjoyment: – or at least the most learning opportunity.

The other activity that has some momentum at the Makerspace in recent months is the addition of CNC capabilities. In addition to the Carbide 3D Nomad, and more recently the Carbide 3D Shapeoko XL, we were gifted a generic 3040 type desktop CNC/router.  ( This CNC had the disadvantage of requiring a legacy parallel port from a host computer. All though this could have been arranged, we felt that a better option was to retro fit it with a GRBL controller that has a number of advantages including being able to be used by any of the PCs at the Makerspace and not requiring any drivers of software that is getting progressively outdated. This exercise got me impressed with what has been achieved with open source Gcode parsers and machine controllers with cheap and ubiquitous embedded controllers such as the Arduino range of boards.

In conjunction with this, there seems to be an ever-increasing amount of outdated or superseded technology devices that end up in landfills or otherwise need to be dispose of or (hopefully) recycled/reclaimed to reduce potential environmental impacts.

Reclaiming Hardware

With this a background in mind, I started wandering around google looking for options to use old commonly available electronic legacy components to create a 3D printer. What I discovered was a good number of examples of people using the head positioning systems from particular CDROM/DVD drives to successfully produce small print volume 3D printers. (To see some of these take a look at the links at the end of the post.) Using this as an inspiration, I decide that I’d get my hands on some DVD drives and see if what I had seen on the internet could be reproduce with minimal financial out lay. To this end I made a trip up to the attic, move the Christmas decorations, luggage and other various totes until I discovered a couple of PCs that had seen better days. A few minutes later I had a couple of potential DVD candidates in hand and returned to start the disassemble. What I found was a little disappointing. I was hoping to see some small 4 wire stepper motors combined with small carriage on rails carries the laser heads, all driven via a small diameter lead screw. What I found was the later models that used a standard (and no doubt cheaper) standard DC motors.

Back to the search.

A quick review of the computer hardware in the Makerspace, came up with 3 potential candidates and with the luck of the Makerspace, they all had stepper motor-based mechanisms. The basis of the 3-axis movement was in hand: – time to “glue” it together in some fashion.

Framing Things Up

In my Google travels I came across a design for a laser cut frame for this type of printer. Give the Voccell laser ( )is another one of the tools at the space I decided I’d make a couple of adjustments and press that laser into action to produce a plywood frame.


The Hot Stuff

One of the key pieces of a FDM 3D printing process is the hotend mechanism to heat up and extrude the filament on the bed or build plate. Also to ensure the initials layers of filament stick to the bed, the use of heated bed is often used and allows printing materials that would otherwise be challenging to get to effectively adhere.

The examples I found online of printers built at this scale didn’t use a heated beds but rather focused on limiting the materials printed to those that would allow unheated beds like PLA. I thought it would be interesting to include bed heating to potentially allow using more varied material. A small scrap of 50mm x 50mm 1/8″ thick aluminium was used as the bed. 2 1 ohm 7W wire wound resistors were attached to the bottom of the bed with high temperature JB Weld.

The resistors were connected in series and some tests run to see if the bed could be effectively heated with this arrangement. The tests were positive and this bed was attached to one of the DVD mechanisms in place of the laser head.

When looking at options for the hotend, it became clear that building a hotend from scratch, although fun (perhaps another blog post in the future) would probably not be within the spirit of keeping the over build time within realistic limits. As it turns out, eBay provides a large number of relatively cheap hotends with the necessary heater elements, temperature sensor, nozzle, cooling fans etc ready to go. I was able to purchase an E3D style hotend for under $10 shipped. I decide to go with this approach for now and leave the option to build my own for the future challenge.

Bowden Tubes and Extruders

Because of the very small motors that make up the DVD mechanisms I estimated that they simply would not be able to carry the weight of a direct drive extruder so it was an easy decision to look at a remote extruder with a Bowden tube to guide the filament to the head. This also factored into the selection of the e3d hotend.

Having manually pushed filament into a hot extruder it was clear that more power would be needed from a motor than was available in a DVD drive.

The standard for the consumer class extruders is to use a nema17 standard motor of around the 1-2 amp phase current. Back before we had CDROMs there were 5-1/4″ floppy disk drives and they often used nema17 stepper motors to move the heads. It may be showing my age, but I did harvest a few of these motors before disposing of them. Unfortunately, they are of the unipolar variety rather than bipolar which most common current stepper driver electronics are set up to work with. It turns out these motors can be purchased on eBay for less than $10. As fortune would have it, an eBay seller known to the Makerspace has an online store and provide a number of parts with no shipping overhead. This included the aluminum extruder itself. All up the extruder, motor and pfte Bowden tube came it at ???

3D printer made from old CD parts.
The CD3D

Edge Lit with micro:bit

We’ve still had projects at Castlemakers this summer, even with the Covid shutdown hampering our hands-on education efforts. One that I’m excited/impressed with is a high school student built project that includes programming, electronics, 3D printing and using a laser cutter – all made with items at the Makerspace!

Programming the micro:bit to control the LED light strip using MakeCode, a block based programming language.

Ever since we gave every 6th grader in Putnam County a micro:bit last year, we’ve wanted to do more micro:bit projects to help youth and adults see the power of microprocessors and IoT devices. And to get a chance to expose and use some of the some different fabrication tools often found in a makerspace. This summer Hunter Miller made a really interesting project, an edge lit sign controlled by a micro:bit. It looks a bit like an emergency exit sign with a disco like effect and instead our logo on it.

The design and case was modified from something created at the Cambridge UK makerspace, who was looking to create something to experience the different makerspace tools. We used our 50W CO2 laser to cut and etch an insert for a 3D printed case that with led lighting on the edge makes our logo stand out. Hunter, who was looking for something else to do this summer, then cut a section of a 2m LED strip and after some soldering connected the wires directly to a micro:bit. Then he wrote a micro:bit program using MakeCode that makes the LED strip change color and intensity.

Color scrolling mode using addressable LED strip controlled by a micro:bit.

It’s on display right now in our front window on Franklin St. Stop by and take a look or come in and we’ll show you how it works – the different lighting modes may have you dancing!

Makers & Covid

Castlemakers window display of covid-19 projects on Franklin street.
Face shields and a 3D printed mask made at the makerspace.

Our blog posts have been running behind lately, but we’ve been busy the last few months. We’ll update with some older entries since like many folks we’ve had more ‘stay at home’ time with the COVID-19 mess that’s been going on.

Even though we’ve stopped having public events since mid-March, there have been things going on inside (using recommended guidelines). Our main 3D delta printer has never been worked so hard in such a short time since we got it 3 years ago.

The picture to the right has some examples of what’s been made there to help first responders and others with the COVID-19 battle. We can’t make things in large quantities, but we can fabricate and adjust quickly – plus worldwide the makerspace community has rapidly stepped up to help people where they can. Longer term existing manufacturers will and are already starting to fill the gap, but it sometimes helps to do locally what can be done until the gap is eliminated. We’ve got a special webpage with some local covid making projects in Putnam County and more details about how the face shields, face masks, and ear savers can be made.

Greencastle First Friday Events

With this month's Laua theme we had a palm tree & create-your-own Tiki head out front.
First Friday project to color/create a Tiki head out in front of Castlemakers.

Our downtown location gives us a great opportunity each month to participate in Main Street Greencastle’s First Friday. Each month we not only have ‘open shop’ to share what’s going on inside the Makerspace, but also try to have some themed making events that folks can see / participate in.

This month Main Street was promoting a luau theme – so making a carpet tube palm tree and some Tiki heads were naturals. The Moai head printed on our Rostock Max 3D printer inside was so big that it took nearly 11 hours to finish; although started at noon I’m fairly sure no one else saw the finished print Friday night.

Moai Head printed on delta 3D printer.
Moai head print that is over 35 cm (14″) tall.

Then there was the ukulele playing Lego Mindstorm robot that Jacob built for the event. Thanks to Putnam County 4H we’ve had some EV3 robotic kits on loan for a while, using them in our CoderDojo, projects like our PuttCode, and getting kids & adults interested in robotics.

Thanks to Jacob & the rest of the Hale family for helping out – not only the things they made but with running this great family oriented monthly event.

2019 Midwest RepRap Festival

A lot of folks don’t realize that world’s largest 3D printing meetup is held right here in Indiana. This year several of us went to the 2019 Midwest RepRap Festival (MRRF) in Goshen Indiana – and it exceeded expectations. It was impressive in a number of different ways, from the 3D printing ‘names’ and prototypes that were there to the number of innovative ideas that people were trying and showing off. You could describe it as a Maker Faire just focused on 3D printing.

MRRF2019-spireThis is not a Midwestern or even just a USA event. I talked with firms from Britain, China, Czech Republic, Israel, and I’m sure other places I don’t remember. You could learn about products directly from the manufacturers present, then walk over a couple of aisles to someone that was using their parts in a 3D printer they had built.

Folks spent most of the day gluing this massive 3D printed light up alien.
Folks spent most of the day gluing this massive 3D printed light up alien.

And the really exciting part was being able to network with all of the interesting people and the things they brought. From a school built/designed concrete printer to a home-built printer designed to print outdoor 4-5’ tall artistic spires (which lit up from internal LEDs), innovation was everywhere with tables of folks showing off what they had made. Filament mixers to create multicolor prints? Stopped counting, too many. Continuous 3D printing on a belt? There & being open-sourced. Even someone rebuilding 3D printers & shipping them to underdeveloped countries.

It was actually hard to get around, between the massive crowd and number of Youtubers that were there making segments for their online channels. Sure many printers & prints were complex and daunting. But there were also tons of simple ideas like an enclosed 3D printer case using a food dehydrator to keep things warm & humidity low.

3D printed R/C car racing was held next to the "Livestock Potty Area" at the 4H Fairgrounds.
3D printed R/C car racing was held next to the “Livestock Potty Area” at the 4H Fairgrounds.

Definitely won’t miss next year & started planning our table for the annual event. We’re discussing 3D printed R/C cars for the race & perhaps Rob will bring out one of his 3D printer designs for next year…