Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Peek into Peeling Cuts

I've received several questions about peeling cuts and removal of the extra material, so here's a brief peek at peeling cuts with my recent screw & nut projects.

The SD300 builds by ironing layers of PVC film on top of the build platform one-at-a-time, and selectively bonding and cutting each layer of PVC film. Regions that belong to the model are bonded to the layers above and below, and unused material is left in-place (as to act as support material) until the build is finished.

Before building these four bolt models (yellow) I added one long peeling cut (blue) to divide the unused material into two halves. The layers of PVC will be stacked parallel to the table, so the peeling cut is perpendicular to the actual layers of the model.

There's no single "right" way to arrange peeling cuts. You could add as many peeling cuts as you want so long as there are enough cuts to free the model from the surrounding material. Here I arbitrarily added an extra peeling cut to isolate some of the support material into two sub-regions.

Thanks to the extra cut, the material peeled away from two of the screws at a time instead of all four. It took longer than it might have, but there's no harm in making extra peeling cuts. Peeling cuts only affect the unused material, they don't cut into the model itself.

The nuts were a little more complicated. I don't put small cuts inside hollow models like I used to because I've learned a better way to remove the material inside holes. (I'll explain that below.) I added peeling cuts between adjacent nuts, but not inside.

Solido provided strong forceps to help peel away material. Those forceps are great for most models, but they're awkward for cleaning material from holes like these so I bought a set of hobby probes.

The probe's sharp point stabs neatly through several layers of unused material in the hole. Tipping the probe lifts the material so it can be pulled away.

Once the ends are free, the material can be pried out by hand.

The layers of extra material have been glued together in a chain. But these layers didn't just pull out freely; I carefully tugged at the edge of each sheet to tear out the next one, one-at-a-time.

Sometimes one layer of support material tears free of the next, so it's necessary to insert the probe and pry the next layer loose before continuing the chain.

After clearing the holes, I removed the rest of the support material from the outside.

Most observers notice there's a high proportion of unused material in each build, which is true. It's roughly like a CNC mill that custom-builds a block for each model, building up the layers additively and then peeling them away material afterward. But it's generally economical because the process is energy-efficient and uses raw material that costs 10 to 15 times less per unit-volume than other 3D printers in its price class. Nevertheless, the cost per model can vary widely from one sample to the next depending on how efficiently the material is utilized.

The SD300 can't directly re-use the leftover material, but it's recyclable as PVC scrap (recycle code 4) by bagging and tagging it and delivering it to a commercial recycler. It can't go with household recycling, so I collect the SD300's scraps in a separate bin. It could also be discarded as ordinary trash since it doesn't contain anything harmful.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wrong-Way Nut video on YouTube

I built an enhanced version of my Wrong-Way Nut model and posted a new video on YouTube here.

Watch for better pictures explanation. Better still, can you explain how it works?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

George Bell's Dice Box

George Bell designed this box puzzle as a conventional 3D object. It's an example of a coordinate-motion puzzle in three dimensions: its four pieces interlock and slide together to form a box if-and-only-if all the pieces start in exactly the right position and all four must be moved simultaneously.

Here's a full set of parts built on the SD300 with a contrasting red color on some sides. (It rather resembles a stop sign, doesn't it?) George's puzzle is perfectly functional, but I was still compelled to tinker so that I could exploit the SD300's peculiar capabilities.

My first modification was to transform the puzzle into a flat form with living hinges and a tuck-in tab.

When my modified piece is folded and the tab tucked in, it forms a solid shape identical to George Bell's original 3D model.

It can be assembled exactly the same as George's original model, but now all the faces have a lustrous sheen because they're all built parallel to the shiny surfaces of the PVC material.

Then I added small cylinders, raised about 0.18mm above the surfaces to resemble dice pips. And I changed material for exactly one layer while building to give the dice pips a contrasting color.

But there were sharp corners when the flat panels were folded, so George took over again and modified the design.

George's next revision rounded off the corners, so the puzzle really does look like a chance die now!

Because the puzzle starts as a set of flat panels, I decided to package it in a plastic bag with the four panels intertwined in a flat configuration. To solve the puzzle, the user removes the pieces from the bag, separates them, folds them into solid objects, and must figure out how to slide them together.

The puzzle was now named Dice Box. We packed instructions inside each bag.

I built over a dozen sets of Dice Box puzzles over the next few days, so George could take them to the International Puzzle Party.

About half the puzzles are transparent and the other half white.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Orange, Green, and Blue Marble

George Bell graciously took several sets of my Bag of Marbles puzzles to the International Puzzle Party in Berlin this year. Currently I have three styles of marbles, distinguished by color.

Orange Marble was my first design, a puzzle with two interlocking pieces that slide together unintuitively. It was created by accident as part of a design that I abandoned while studying Bram Cohen's Trapped Marble prototype. Although the two pieces are different from each other, they can be flipped relative to each other and they slide together symmetrically.

Green Marble is another two-piece design. This time the two pieces are identical, but they only fit together when the pieces are oriented in one specific orientation.

Blue Marble is based upon the same curves as Green Marble but divides a sphere into three pieces instead of merely two. Most people fit two of the pieces together easily, but instinctively try to insert the third piece upside-down...which doesn't work.

Here's how a batch of Blue Marble pieces looked shortly after I'd removed them from the SD300 and removed some of the support material.

Unprocessed pieces have a translucent sidewall finish. It's attractive, but I wanted a shinier smoother finish.

To smooth the side walls I dipped each piece in Weld-On 2007 solvent for 30 seconds.

After their solvent bath I laid the pieces on baker's parchment to dry. Parchment is non-absorbent and the wet pieces don't stick to it, so it's an ideal disposable drying surface.

Eventually I plan to add other Marble styles (and colors) to the series as I think of new challenging features to add.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wrong Way Nut

A moderator on my favorite puzzle-building forum called attention to a YouTube video entitled Magic Nuts and Screw Threads in which two nuts are shown unscrewing in opposite directions on the same threaded rod.
I don't have any inside information about the trick nut in the video, but I conjectured I could build a nut that would behave like that. The threas on my first test model turn a bit tightly, but it works!

I will record a better demo video later. It could use a little refinement, and the screw threads need to be a lot longer for a better demonstration. But it's sure gratifying when a new idea passes the proof-of-concept test on the first try!

Friday, August 5, 2011

My first functional Yoshimoto Cube

Ultimately I would like to 3D print a fully-functional Yoshimoto Cube in one piece, but I really need a solid reference model to help me visualize the design. So I used the SD300 to build the individual hinged panels and glued them together one-by-one.

This black one is almost assembled; the hinged panels at right will be joined with the already-assembled group at left.
I built and assembled a pair of Yoshimoto cubes, one in black and the other using transparent amber.

The geometry of a Yoshimoto Cube is peculiar and confusing, so it'll sure help to have a physical model for reference! So far I've observed a few details that could enable me to build the model in one piece.