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3D printers - Findi...
 
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3D printers - Finding a good one  

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Hans
 Hans
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July 18, 2020 5:51 AM  

Note: Continuation of a conversation in this forum topic.

Posted by: @lakerice

Yes actually my first printer was a used Ultimaker 2, which I believe came out around 2012.  It was pretty horrible; constant clogged filament, stepper motor grinding, annoying bowden tube removal (any time you wanted to change or clean something).  I was quite surprised considering the extreme expense of those printers and the reputation of Ultimaker.  However, printers have come a ways since then. 

The technology is still a lot I think for the general public, but I believe printers are consistently improving. I bought a Prusa i3 MK3 from the Czech Republic where they are made (hardly any retailers carry them in Canada) and it was expensive after duties and conversion from American to Canadian dollars but the difference was night and day compared to my old Ultimaker.  I haven't had a single problem with filament jams, except one grind. Their print beds are heated and self-level so you never have to worry about manually ensuring the nozzle is aligned with the bed, or having a print not stick to the bed.  They are also extremely quiet; like you wouldn't even know it's on if you weren't watching it.

I think for the price, Prusas are comparatively cheaper than a lot of printers and much better for customer service and quality than the knockoff versions from China.  They are very tedious to put together (hundreds of small screws and delicate 3d printed parts) but are cheaper than the ready-made ones.  P.S. I promise I do not get paid for this recommendation; I'm just really impressed with them :)

Did you mean this Prusa model?
Which of the "steel sheets" do you use?

I used to have tons of problems with my 3D printers, anywhere from bed (leveling) to extruder problems (stuck/heat settings/etc).

The biggest issues were prints not sticking properly to the bed, or prints not staying consistent.

So would you say that the Prusa i3 MK3 is (after putting it together) is reasonably "plug-and-play"?
What are the most common issues you run into?
Do you have any example prints? (pictures of)
I'm always curious about the quality.

The price of the Prusa is very reasonable, and I wouldn't mind tinkering a bit to assemble it (gives me a good idea how it works as well).


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Hans
 Hans
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July 18, 2020 5:55 AM  

What software do you use? (eg. Slicer, 3D design, etc)

I used to use Simplify3D (slicer) - which made things very much easier.
At the time I tinkered with several 3D CAD applications, and I have no idea how this has developed in the past years.

p.s. My old 3D printers were Leapfrog Creatr (I had 2, after the first one proved problematic they sent me new model for free), and a Makerbot (Kickstarter project, basically a "toy").


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lakerice
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July 20, 2020 12:23 PM  

@hans Hi Hans, so sorry for the late reply!  Yes that's the model I have.  I got the spring steel sheet with double-sided PEI sheet. The Prusa i3 MK3S basically does the whole calibration when you first boot it up the first time and then afterwards it does it's own fine leveling every time you print.  No filament jams in my experience or need to clean the nozzle.  So basically, it really is plug and play. 

I think it's reasonable to buy the kit and put it together yourself.  It's cool to see how it's put together and how everything works, although it did stretch my brain a lot with it's 100+ page manual (but the steps are really thorough and easy to understand).  There was one issue I had when I put it together where the sensor for the filament in the extruder was showing that filament was in the nozzle when there wasn't any.  Turned out I had to very carefully shave a small 3d printed piece inside the nozzle that acts as a lever for the sensor.  It was very slightly too large and it caused the printer to think there was always filament in there.  That can be an issue if you are trying to remove filament or do checks on your machine.  That being said, I don't think that happens to everyone, and there are tons of great troubleshooting articles on the Prusa site as well as an active forum, so you will likely always figure out a solution.  And then of course there is their customers service, which is quite good.

If I were to sum it up, I would say #1 greatest quality is the lack of issues printing (I print mostly PLA though; I haven't had great luck with ABS, although ABS is quite tricky even with an enclosure), the self leveling bed, the prints stick well to the bed because it is heated and you can use a glue stick to make sure prints stick even better, the print quality itself is good, faster print times than my old Ultimaker and the quietness of the printer.  And it even has a battery mode, where if the power goes off in your room, the printer will still keep going :)

I use the Prusa Slicer software with it, which is a variation of Slic3r.  It's free too, so that's a bonus. 

Ah, I haven't heard of those printers, I'm guessing they were difficult to calibrate?  That is a frustrating issue indeed. 

Here are some pics of recent prints (not sure if they were sanded in these pics but the layer lines are not too bad)

 

The first 2 are the base of a lamp I'm designing.  The stringy things you see are because I did not use any supports, so the printer did it's best to do a lot of bridging.  But the sunset you see on the front did quite well in my opinion (for bridging).  Especially considering how thin the lines are.  The other pic is a standard Arduino Uno enclosure. 


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Hans
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July 21, 2020 6:00 AM  

No worries about the delay in reply - I do not always get to replying right away either 😉 

I wouldn't mind to assemble these myself, it would give me a good understanding how things work, and running into a tiny issue (like you did) just helps understanding things better. 😋 

I did find PLA to be more forgiving as well. My first Leapfrog Creatr was when they released their first model. I did get excellent support, but in the end leveling and heating of the bed were problematic.
They were very helpful and kind, and did mail me a newer model for free - so a big thumbs up for that. The newer model worked much better, but the nozzles of the dual extruder were impossible to align properly (one nozzle kept hitting the prints) and sticking to the glass bed failed miserably as well.

Nice prints by the way - I think you're right and you may want to add support pieces for the overhang 😊 .

Now that you've made me think about 3D printing again, I ran into this $250 Elegoo SLA printer. I hear very good things of those, but the print size is a little small for my taste.
  L = 4.53in (11.5 cm)
  W = 2.56in (6.5 cm)
  H = 5.9in (15 cm)

With those dimensions I can just fit a Raspberry Pi or Arduino Uno. Your lamp may be too big ...
Just for my reference: how big are the 2 prints you made in the pictures?

The price range is good though, versions $3,500 for the bigger boys (like FORMLabs).

I'm not sure yet is SLA would be the way to go either, just something I was looking at SLA since FDM didn't work that well for me in the past, and from what I hear, some of these issues have been resolved with newer printers, but some of the issues still exist (with FDM).

I do hear that the resin for SLA can be a bit messy and may not be as strong as ABS or PLA though. 🤔 


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lakerice
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July 22, 2020 4:04 PM  

Wow that was nice of Leapfrog Creatr to send you a new printer.  Always a good sign for customer service.  That's unfortunate thought that the nozzle was not aligning properly with the bed and that the prints weren't sticking.  Personally, I don't think I would ever be good at manually achieving these things.

Thanks!  Yes, I ended up printing the lamp base on it's back, rather than bottom.  The only supports needed were for the slots for the parts that go inside, but that took up far less time than the alternative of using practically 100% supports for the top.  The bridging worked much better.  The dimensions are 5X5X4 inches; the base was made large on purpose to balance the weight of the actual lamp, which is about 10 inches high.

 

That Elegoo printer looks fantastic.  Am I right to assume the main advantage of printing resin is the lack of layer lines?  If so, that would be amazing.  I think if you only want to print smaller pieces, it's totally fine.  I haven't watched the whole thing, but if you haven't seen this review from Thomas Sanladerer, you might be interested? 

I'm very much looking forward to the day when PLA has a non-hazardous solvent to smooth the print lines...it's a wonderful material (except for the brittleness.  I tried printing the lamp base with ABS in an enclosure, but even then (and with no air conditioning in the room), it still cracked a bit.  And the sunset lines you see in the picture were quite droopy.  This is with the recommended settings of 255 nozzle temperature and 110 temperature for the bed.  It did smooth the lines nicely when I used acetone vapours but unfortunately it made the delicate parts extremely droopy and melted.  So it is a very tricky material in my experience for larger prints.


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Hans
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July 23, 2020 6:07 AM  

Yes indeed, Leapfrog has been super helpful - not sure how they do this these days, at the time they were just starting their business.

Thanks for the dimensions! That is very helpful in guessing what build size I should take into consideration.
Having said that: Elegoo has launched their new printer: the Elegoo Saturn.
The price sound ridiculously good, so if I decide to buy anything, I'll at least wait until that one becomes available.
Here you can find more specs. The build volume is said to be: L = 7.55in (192mm)  W = 4.72in (120mm). H = 7.87in (200mm), so technically I could build your lamp with it 😋 

For comparison:

(the one in the middle is the Saturn model)

Yes, the resin makes it that you will have a very hard time seeing any layers.
They will still exist of course, but when you look at the Uncle Jessie Youtube video you'll see the amazing build quality.

Thanks for the link to the Thomas review. 👍 

I too am looking for that as well: PLA builds that look great. But FDM inherently will probably never be able to do this.
then again; Resin can be a messy thing to work with if you're not careful, and I suspect that FDM prints may be a little bit stronger.

There is biodegradable resin though (probably still toxic when handling it in it's fluid state).

To get an idea how to work with resin:
If you look at this guy - this is not a short video, but it shows you how messy working with resin can be ... depending on how you handle things (so a little discipline is needed).

Your experience with printing with FDM is one of the reasons why I abandoned FDM as well.
Each print, each material, each environment, each printer, they all have their very specifics that you need to fine tune, which is probably not for me.
As I understand, the resin based printers (from Mars and the likes) do not seem to have that problem and print in a very high quality.

I used to eyeball the FormLabs printers but what I can read from users is that even $3,000+ resin printer comes with issues. So I ended up never getting one.

I suspect that the cheaper printers perform more reliable since they use an LCD screen (4K) to mask the UV light, where as the FormLabs printers use a laser that keeps moving around.
Some say that the laser will give a slightly better detail, but in the end the Elegoo Saturn looks way easier (especially after watching all the reviews).
Since Elegoo started using a monochrome display (unlike the Mars model), this new model seems faster and more durable as well.
It seems the display of the Mars needs to be replaced every couple hundred hours, which is not super expensive by the way, but the monochrome display lasts much longer.

Considering the $230 (Mars) - $400 (Saturn) price range, I'll be waiting for the Saturn to become available I think.
I'll do some more reading up in the meanwhile and it is always nice to have a chat with someone who is interested in 3D printing as well 😉  


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lakerice
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July 24, 2020 10:08 PM  

@hans Wow I never knew much about resin printing until now.  I think the Elegoo Saturn sounds like a great machine for the price, especially considering the build plate size.  I am personally always more interested in build plate capacity, but of course quality should always be there too.  Leapfrog sounds like they are more of an industrial type of printer now if I am not mistaken?  There are many brands that are so extraordinarily expensive and in my opinion, do a disservice to the community of 3D printing by making them so inaccessible to many users.  Blender (software) comes to mind in building a powerful community and knowledge base with open source technology, which is what Prusa does as well.  In fact, you can apparently use their specifications and technology for replication.  I am a huge fan and user of Blender, but that is another topic 🙂 

Wow I can definitely see the appeal for resin printing.  I can tell you that hours and hours of sanding PLA, then spray painting with primer/filler and then using wood filler only to still find scratches and print lines is incredibly frustrating.  However, there does seem to be a trade off with all methods of eliminating print lines.  You can print PLA and do all the sanding (which still invariably leaves some print lines no matter how long you sand), or use ABS and worry about temperature and fumes, or resin with all of it's extra care and precautions.  That guy who printed the Alien character, really showed me how much you have to care about getting resin on anything including tools.  But man, the total lack of print lines does make it seem worthwhile!  From what I can see, the quality of the Elegoo seems very good.  I would be suspect of any rival company who charges significantly higher prices, with negligible difference in quality.

Yep, always great to chat with someone who is into 3D printing as well! It's amazing how many applications it has outside of printing figurines (although there is nothing wrong with that!).  But it is quite difficult I have noticed to learn Fastled/Neopixels code, soldering/wiring and understanding LED strips and Arduinos and 3D printing all at once...I hope to show you the lamp once it is complete.  It is loosely based on this video, which used your famous toggle/all effects sketch.

 


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Hans
 Hans
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July 25, 2020 5:17 AM  

I was at first looking at the Elegoo Mars [Pro], but that one has a build volume that is just to small.
So the Elegoo Saturn may be something I'd be able to use. Still learning on this topic though, as it seems it is mostly used by folks that create miniatures, where as I'm more interested in builds like your.

Oh wow, just looking at their website and it indeed seems Leapfrg has moved more towards industrial applications.
I have seen how a local architecture agency uses their printers for models of their designs - pretty neat.

Oh cool that you mention Blender. I just started digging into that as well. It's a very powerful application with a huge community for sure. 👍 
I needed to do some "stick figure animations" for my website, so I started playing with that.
The other day I was experimenting with level design for games (Half-Life:Alyx) and noticed that Blender has some interesting features for that as well (still research this topic, as I'm definitely a newbie when it comes to Blender).
This makes me wonder how well it would work with a printer like the Elegoo Saturn (I did see that Blender has an stl export option).

Yes, I did like the guy's video that printed the alien. He was a little lengthy in his explanation, but it did give me a clear picture of the steps to take once the print is "done".
And you're totally right: some rival companies sell printers with similar specs and even the same technology, for several thousands of dollars. Can you imagine the profit margin? 😱 
I agree that they are doing the further growth and development a disservice by limiting access only to those who have plenty cash to burn.
So I'm curious about the Elegoo Saturn and very interested.

Sanding etc. of prints is something I'd happily would trade for the resin approach.
And with a better build size I could creatively use it to make RPI/Arduino/etc cases.
It is indeed fun to chat with someone that shares similar interest - reminds me of the days when people would gather a specific locations and as a group would show off their computer stuff and share experiences. Way back in the day. 😊 

One thing I am worried about is how "solid" resin prints will be. FDM printing is already "less" than mold casted plastic objects, and I'd assume resin will have similar challenges. That's why I'm a little disappointed to not see more people use resin for printing their cases. Is it because the printers used to be too expensive, or is there a catch with the result of resin prints that I'm not yet aware of?
Well the Elegoo Saturn won't be available until September, plenty of time to read up on that topic. 😉 
(I did find a few videos related to that topic, basically saying that SLA resin prints are just fine, and much easier to "finish")

You may find this video interesting when trying to replicate an existing object: using Meshroom to create 3D models based on photos.
I have not tested this yet, but it sure looks interesting.

Interesting mood lamp, since I was watching that exact same video last week - I'm doing a little project with an ESP8266 ($5 Arduino replacement with build in WiFi etc).
I had totally not seen he looked at my code haha. Very cool!
If you need any help - just ask and I'll see what I can do 🙂 


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lakerice
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July 25, 2020 6:01 PM  

@hans The Elegoo Saturn looks like a great deal and I personally (as well as many on this forum I am sure) would be interested to know how it works out for you when it becomes available.  It is quite interesting how the cheaper printers can sometimes rival the industrial ones, although the industrial ones seem to have a monopoly on large build volume, with the exception of Modix.  You're right though, the profit margins are likely high for the industrial grade printers, which just means they are used in industrial environments; many could be used in an apartment 😋 In fact, as I build my skills on the Prusa, and test the market with my lighting designs, I plan to invest in getting a Modix.  They are (as far as I know) one of the very few printer companies that sell very large print volumes (1,200 x 600 x 640 mm for the 120 printer) for a relatively "cheap" price (at this time I think around $6000 US).  Of course, that comes with a huge shipping cost (last I checked around $1000 Canadian) and duties and other options like an enclosure and ventilation.  That said, their reputation among regular printer enthusiasts (not corporations) is quite good considering the price.  I would invest in one of these for larger light projects with novel shapes you would never see in modern furniture stores.  The real future of 3D printing (in my opinion), is the democratization of manufacturing; whereby a designer is no longer limited to a required output of 1000s of from China or extremely costly (and thereby prohibitive for most companies) injection moulds made from a factory, or resorting to using simple parts that are either bent, welded or simply put together, ultimately end up looking like everything else out there.

I'm glad you like Blender too!  I always joke that if I visit Amsterdam, I will try to find Ton Roosendaal and buy him a beer or 2 for creating Blender 🤣 You definitely found a great time to learn the program, as it has gone through a massive overhaul of it's UI and features, including the expanded 2D and grease pencil environment, which allows 2D animations which I am sure you would have worked with, with your stick figure animations.  I have to admit, with great power comes a steep learning curve and even though Blender has been my sole 3D/animation/sculpting tool, it has been an incredibly challenging program to learn.  That's pretty cool you were working with for a game though!  I know Blender technically has a game engine, but I have never used it before.  That said, Blender is awesome because it is totally free (can't beat free), the community is strong and supportive and it is constantly trying to improve and add new and better features with every build. 

Yep, you can export .stl or .obj among other formats in Blender...I think for organic designs (like characters or trees) you can make them in Blender easily and 3D print them, as long as your mesh is manifold (meaning no geometrical impossibilities like missing faces or vertices).  However, you can fix them for free with tools like Meshmixer or Netfabb or Fusion 360 before printing.  For standard parts that need to fit together in real world dimensions, I think a CAD program like Fusion 360 is better though (although technically Blender can use real world dimensions...it's just more awkward).

Yes, it is interesting you mention groups.  There really isn't a 3D printing group where I live but many libraries have printers and young people are very fascinated by them.  They may still need more time to catch on with the wider public, as they begin to come down in price.

I think resin printing is probably just more niche and unknown to the wider 3D printing user base.  It may be a little discouraging for some users as well considering the extreme care you need to work with resin.  But ABS is difficult to work with, and many users still try to master it, so I'm guess it's just a matter of preference.  From what I have seen so far though, it's very enticing to see a print that comes out with no layer lines.

Oh yes!  I have seen that video from CG Geek a while ago.  Pretty awesome stuff.  I think photo scanning is one of the coolest things you can do right now.  CG Geek makes excellent tutorials for Blender, so I would highly recommend him if you are interested in more.

Wow haha I didn't know you weren't aware he was using your code for his video for the 3D printed lamp.  Yes, I remember being very amazed when I first saw it and I imagine 1000s of others are too.  In fact, your code for the toggle switch effects was the only one I found (and believe me I have looked) that was featured in a YouTube video and wasn't just a simple breadboard on off test lesson. I appreciated your help with it too in the past (I am still using it) but I hope to understand coding better as I learn all this stuff so I can make my own effects.  Sadly, coding is my biggest weakness; it is quite painful for me.  I will definitely ask you for help next time I have a question 👍 

 

 

 

 

 


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Hans
 Hans
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July 26, 2020 4:56 AM  

If I get to buy the Elegoo Saturn, I'll most certainly will report back 😉  - unfortunately, the number of active participants in this forum is a little limited. Maybe that will improve over time.
Considering it won't be available until September, and I do not know the "regular" pricing yet, we will have to see if I get to it or now haha.

The Modix printers look quite impressive, looks like they cover Leapfrg's market as well.
However, having been burned with FDM based 3D printers, I would have to see some serious innovation and improvements before I'd invest in that again. Even large printers like that (that's one impressive printer by the way! It makes me wonder how long a big print would take?). Makes me curious about your future products though!

I agree that 3D printing will be a great alternative, once accessible to the masses, for mold injection - I did see by the way that the resin prints appear suitable for making a mold. Then again; you'd probably can use the mold only once?

Blender is indeed impressive and the learning curve is indeed quite steep. I did find quite a few short YouTube videos explaining just enough to get me started.
If you look at the VR Tips & Tricks article I wrote: Figures 1, 3, 4,5 and 6 are all done with Blender.
I had to modify and rig the puppet, add the chair (prefab model) and create modify the VR equipment.

It was indeed not easy to learn, but I wanted some consistency in the pictures, and drawing them by hand would have been a disaster 🤣 .
My drawing skills are not the best, especially when I have to repeat the same figure.

Since I've been playing with VR (Half Life: Alyx is a fantastic game), and Valve made the Hammer editor available for free (create models/maps/etc), I just had to give it a try. Back in the day with the old Half Life versions, there was a Hammer editor as well (about 15+ years ago) and at the time I had played with that one as well. So far I managed to rebuild the house I grew up in, and it's just fun to be able to walk through that house in VR (granted: the interior is not 100% perfect of course, since I didn't want to recreate all the furniture and such - so I did use prefab models).

Playing with that, I became curious how hard it would be to import 3D models from other sources, and of course Blender is right in the middle of that scene.
So I did manage to import models als .obj files, but still have trouble getting the textures to work (I only get the wireframe model).

I played with Fusion 360 a few years ago, and I did like it. It reminded me of SketchUp. On that note: SketchUp has been by far the easiest tool to do 3D editing (for me). Just exporting it to another application is not always all that great. I've done a few builds in SketchUp, drawing the complete house of a friend, with walkthrough option. Super cool (I'm talking about 10 years ago). Unfortunately, SketchUp is only free these days if you use the web version, and somehow I do not like web-based applications. Just something about the interface just not being smooth enough for me to work effectively/efficient with.

Now I remember Netfabb as well, at the time the ultimate tool to prepare your 3D model for 3D printing. But since I abandoned 3D printing about 5 years ago, I honestly have no clue how they are doing these days. I do remember how wonderful Simplify3D works and how it supports pretty much any FDM printer. At the time (2013?) a copy did cost only something like 29 USD, whereas today they charge $149. It is well worth it though, and I noticed that more and more printer manufacturers provide a free copy or a really cheap copy of Simplify3D with their printers.

User groups used to be a big thing here in the area, but with the Internet becoming more common, they just disappeared. I loved the gathering where you could actually meet people, see their equipment, exchange ideas and project plans, and swap stories and experiences. Even though the Internet contributed to more connections all over the world, it also seem to have opened the door for people trolling (can't stand it when people do that) and ... it has become easier for people to just briefly pop in and then to disappear for ever (very understandable, since we can't keep track of every single person we encounter).
So the "consistency" of the user-groups has changed I guess haha.

Note: where I live, there are no user groups for anything computer related haha. (rural area)
So at times it is quite frustrating to have discovered something awesome and being unable to share with someone who would get it.

As for resin 3D printing: I think these Chinese companies opened the market with their cheap resin printers with a reasonable build volume.
Super affordable and high quality prints. When looking how much work goes into cleaning up an FDM print, I think resin will have the advantage that the steps are simple and easily repeatable without any real efford. Almost invisible layers makes it easier than sanding and filling. So I do see a future there. I have seen a few videos of folks building their own resin printer already (using a 4K TV or a DLP projector), and it seems that the Elegoo community is growing. The FDM community is of course much bigger at the moment, but who knows what these cheap resin printers will do for us.

CG Geek did a good tutorial, but with that particular video, his face kept covering some of the important details haha. I did find him original when looking for Blender guides as well.

Cool to hear people using my code! Makes writing it all so worth it.
Coding does require a certain mindset at times, but the more you code, the better you'll get at it.
Programming an Arduino (I recently started using an ESP8266 as a replacement) is relatively easy once you get the basics down (I did write a short "course" for Arduino programming, in case you're interested).
Having said that: feel free to ask for help if you need any. There are plenty folks here asking for assistance, and it always feels great to be able to help people.


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lakerice
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July 27, 2020 10:18 PM  

Cool well hopefully the Elegoo is a reasonable price and that it works well for you if you choose to get it.  Yup, Modix is for Leapfrog's market but I know you can definitely use them in residential areas.  Yes, I have mostly seen stuff like a dolphin or giant spider printed with them, but of course many people who print love these things so I am not to judge.  But it would be cool if more mechanical devices or even furniture was made with it, considering the large build volume. Absolutely, I will be happy to show you what I make if I get one of their printers :)

 

Yes!  Actually I have always wondered about making moulds from 3D printed parts. Last I checked though, it was not something many people have done, at least with FDM.  I can definitely see how a resin printer would be more suitable for this, for the simple fact that there would be no layer lines visible.  I suppose thought that you could technically make smooth moulds out of ABS with vapour smoothing, but I really don't know much about the technology.  I think however, the future of 3D printing will likely be an adjunct to home inject mould machines.  I think it will also have to fix the whole single use injection like you mentioned....perhaps  a type of plastic that has very high heat resistance or even metal.  As wonderful and liberating as 3D printing is, I believe it's biggest disadvantage is the very long print times for large objects at quality settings.  With a system for mould making, I think that will significantly help small businesses get off the ground.  Of course, then there is the whole safety aspect of molten liquid handling 🤨 

 

Wow that's very impressive what you have done in Blender so far!  I definitely was not able to make anything good in my first while learning.  Actually also impressive you learned about textures, rigging and lighting.  Especially rigging, which I have never liked doing or was good at.  It might come from the fact that I've rarely done character design though, with the exception of R2D2, but that was following an 18 part tutorial 🤯   Cool though that you wrote a whole article on VR!  Maybe if I get an Oculus I will read it in depth.  I have used my friend's though and it was such a cool experience.  Probably one of the coolest things I remember was flying through the world and even seeing the earth from space using google maps...very trippy!  I also exported a chair I designed in Blender and saw it in a game.  Only problem was it didn't retain the materials, so that makes 2 of us wondering about that.

 

So yes, actually I think I did play Half Life Alyx with that buddy of mine who has the Oculus!  I recall some of the scenes now that I'm looking it up.  That's very cool you were able to recreate your home you grew up in...I actually think that's a great business idea for people who want to relive certain environments.  I created a rustic cabin for my mom for Christmas one year as she asked if I could.  She gave me a very general description and I tried my best.  I was thinking one day of exporting if for VR so I could walk around in it :)  Here are some renders of it, if you are interested.  There were a lot of issues with memory and materials (the trees alone made the file huge) but I was relatively happy with it in the end.  I would have liked it to look more realistic, but at least my mom liked it, so that's all that matters lol.

 

I remember reading about Sketchup when I was applying to do renders for architectural firms.  Unfortunately, there seems to be some snobbish bias against it.  I personally don't care for that though; if a program does the job, then that's all that matters.  I'm not a fan of web-based programs either...just seems like a needless burden on workflow speed as well as another way to rope you in for perpetual subscriptions.  Fusion 360 is quite good though...I've been using it for a few years and actually got a certification in it from Autodesk, but again most employers don't seem to use it (or Blender) despite how powerful and strong it's user base is.  I still feel like I need to go back to basics often with it.  Parametric modeling is very cool in that it's super precise and keeps a memory of every change, but I find it very frustrating how long it takes to model something compared to Blender, which is like 2 seconds for me to make the same object.  I also hate how sometimes a new change in the timeline will affect 5 other things you did in the past, but again that's just me needing to get better at it.

 

Yeah Netfabb is great for in depth  repair and model preparation for printing.  There's probably a million other things it can do, but it really was the only program that wouldn't crash my model (it was high poly, so almost 4gb, even after trying to reduce poly count in Blender).  Simplify3D I have heard is awesome.  I use Prusa Slicer though, since it's free and made for my printer but maybe I will check out Simplify in the future.

 

Yes I totally agree with you about user groups.  Meetup has kinda brought that back, but I know what you mean about the organic way they were done in communities.  I run a meetup group for 3D artists, but it has been a big struggle to get big turnouts and return people.  In my city, it's interestingly more about very specific groups like C++ users or Unreal Engine, Houdini, etc but not 3D or 2D art.  Often, it's a company that is sponsoring it and the presenters are well connected people. I have felt like there's a snobbishness when you ask a question, like you are an idiot if you don't understand the program on their level haha.  So I suspect much of it is just to advertise the product, rather than grow a  real community organically.  So I was trying to do what you described and have artists come by for a coffee or beer and talk about their projects, bring their laptops and help them with questions.  But as time went on, it just seemed hard to get people out without a venue and mic and projector and free food/drinks, etc. So the companies have a clear advantage in that way. 

 

Yes I agree as well about the problem of trolling (so sad and stupid) and the internet culture in general.  It has made it harder in a sense that it's made things too easy, i.e. responding to youtube comments rather than meeting with people.  Social media has great contributed to this disconnect as well.  I think the internet has been an unbelievably amazing tool for connecting in some ways though (like this!) and user forums, but then there is all the dark stuff, like the trolling and bullying among others.  Like any powerful technology, it comes with a double-edged sword.

 

Hm you are making a great case for resin, now that I am learning about it more...I probably would be happy with cleaning resin if it meant not having to do hours and hours of sanding.  One way I could see it working for me would be to test and prototype the idea on the FDM printer and then when the model is ready, I could print it in the resin one.  Although for large scale, I think most printers are still FDM (I could be wrong though!).

 

Haha CG Geek is excellent, although I find he goes very fast.  that's unfortunate he blocked some of it with his head. I like that his tutorials normally don't go on excessively long, but even as a relatively experienced user I sometimes have to go back and rewind because he moves quickly.  Blender Guru is slower but can go on tangents a lot (I like it though; it's who he is). 

Oh yes you mentioned the ESP8266 a few times...what would you say was the attraction compared to Arduino?  I also use the Nano too, although for the cost, I felt the Uno was much easier to use (I particularly found the Nano difficult to solder with).  Yeah coding has always been my biggest weakness (like math) but the power it gives you to make awesome stuff is too hard to resist.  That's great you wrote an article for how to program an Arduino though!  I will spend time tomorrow going through it in depth.  I also recently installed some LEDs for a guy who owns a Belgian restaurant in my city with your code (colours were changed on some) and he wants to know if I can program the meteor effect (my favourite one) with the colours of the Belgian flag, so perhaps if I can't figure it out I will ask you.  I thought it was interesting to imagine a yellow and red comet 🙂 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Hans
 Hans
(@hans)
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Joined: 7 years ago
Posts: 1443
July 28, 2020 7:43 AM  

I have not spoken with anyone doing moulds either, and FDM is probably not the most suitable for that (I agree with you: due to the layer visibility).
When I did have my 3D printer, I did do a few attempts to do favor smoothing, but have to say that it's an art on it's own (in other words: not for me hahah).
The long printing time (if it even turns out OK) is indeed an issue, and improving on that would be a winner for sure. This kinda makes me wonder about new developments. I have seem a few interesting ones (not for home use or not commercially available yet), but in the past 8 years not much has changed. At least thats my feeling about it. Sure FDM's have become more reliable and accurate, and SLA more affordable. But nothing spectacular just yet.

Haha, thanks! Yeah, it took me quite a lot of time getting this done in Blender, so don't feel bad. ton's of tutorials, tons of starting from scratch before I got close to what I was looking for. And honesty, if I had to do it again today, I'd probably have to grab most of those tutorials again. 🤣 
I don't use Blender daily, so I tend to forget the fine details ...

VR is super fun and I really like the Oculus Quest. For one: it can run it's own games, so no heavy duty gaming PC required.
You can however also use it as a regular VR headset (tethered to a PC) and play SteamVR and Oculus Rift games.
It gets even cooler when using ALVR (which is what I prefer) or VirtualDesktop (others seem to prefer this one): you can now play VR games wireless from your PC on your Oculus Quest. Super cool and such a great experience.
My 2 favorite games: Half-Life: Alyx (SteamVR - the best I have ever seen) and BeatSaber (runs natively on the Oculus Quest).
I do see a bright future when it comes to VR, and like I said before: I even started creating my own maps (just for the fun of it).

You make a valid point with a the business model for folks wanting to relive or visit the past.
You mentioned renders, of the rustic cabin for your mom, but I think you forgot to add them 😉 

I've done thing like that with SketchUp, which offers a walkthrough as well. I wonder how "easy" it would be to port this to VR. Makes me wonder if SketchUp will come with a VR module? Never mind: they do! (link) It looks like it will work with the Oculus Rift, so this means that it will work (wired to a PC) with an Oculus Quest as well. Super cool!

As for the snobbish attitude; yeah I know what you mean. A friend of mine does interior design for large facilities. She admitted that she does most of her work in SketchUp and only moves to expensive tools when the customer needs it haha. But she would never admit this in public hahaha.

As an amateur user, I really love how simple SketchUp works, and I see that other 3D modelling tools are very slowly adapting to their techniques. I notice AutoDesk moving to that as well (I'm talking about 7 or 8 years ago - no clue what the current state is, since using some AutoDesk tools requires a second mortgage haha).

From what I'm hearing; are you in the 3D business?

Interesting that you are having the same observation as I do when it comes to some people being snobbish.
One of the (unplanned) goals of my website is to get rid of the snobbish behavior, get rid of trolls, and just have a pleasant environment where any one can ask any question.
I think people may have forgotten how they want to be treated themselves, and they have forgotten how great it can be to share success and excitement with others.
Not to mention: a newbie may actually come with the greatest ideas 😉 

On the topic of Youtube videos: Hosomi does some awesome tutorials for editing Half-Life:Alyx maps. Super short and to the point. I love his videos. (not that you'd need them, just to give you an idea).

The EPS8266 has a ton of advantages over most Arduino models.
I'd say first the price ($5/each) and size (very compact) are a clear winner for me.
But on top of that: much more memory, much faster, build-in and rock solid WiFi, lower power consumption (compared to some Arduino models).
And when looking at its sister, the ESP32, then things get even better (faster, dual core, more pins, bluetooth, etc).

I admit that I purchased mine out of curiosity and $5 wouldn't break the bank ...
Having played with for several weeks now, I can only say that my Arduino probably will become something of the past.

Cool to hear that my code is used on the most interesting places, and interesting that you mention the meteor rain with Belgian flag colors.
I just (on the ESP8266) created an effect that does something pretty close to that. It's a yellow comet with a slowly gradient to red as the tail degrades.
I've attached a quick video I just made on my experimentation board (it doesn't use the Arduino, just the little ESP8266 board on the beardboard).
Since I move around stuff quite often, I had to make a board with a 1 meter LED strip (60 LEDs) and a power supply, so I can start experiments quickly without having to make space and dig up all the components. (i hope the video isn't too small)


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lakerice
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July 28, 2020 10:27 PM  

Haha true Blender is a lot of time and effort; I frequently have to go back to tutorials whenever I want to make something I've never done before or forgot about.  I can definitely tell you did a lot of work though.  Have you heard of Blendswap?  They are awesome for getting free materials, environments, assets, etc.  The Blender community never ceases to amaze me.

Oh yes!  Now that I look at it, my buddy has the Oculus Quest as well.  I can't imagine having to worry about wires if I were to get a VR set.  Haha this is so funny the 2 games you mentioned were the ones he has.  I believe the Virtual Desktop has a living room and tv and a bunch of games you can choose?  Very cool you created your own maps.  I think he also has a Spiderman game where you can jump from building to building.  I think it's great too that Blender is right in there with the VR development.  Oh I guess I didn't end up adding the link for my cabin renders...OK try here.  Thanks though, if I wasn't trying to start a business with 3D printing, I would definitely look into the custom VR stuff as an idea. 

Nice!  That's awesome Sketchup is compatible with VR.  I think it has applications for real estate and architecture for sure. Haha that's cool your friend uses Sketchup anyway.  I really think the work produced is more important than the tool you choose, and like you said, even the industry is starting to mimic some features of Sketchup :) But I think open source helps the world in a big way.  I use Fusion 360 because it is free and (apparently) is cutting edge for manufacturing.  I have a suspicion it is Autodesk's way of growing their new user base to compete with Blender's success.  Although Autodesk has such a huge amount of users from the market anyway, so maybe I'm wrong.  But absolutely I refuse to pay $5000 a year for any program...even if I could afford it :)

Nope I am more of an entrepreneur than an industry insider.  I was using Blender in some of my jobs in the past, but mostly because I was doing very uncreative work and desperately wanted to inject creativity into the office for anything.  Unfortunately, almost no animation studios or architecture firms or pretty much any design company in my city recognizes Blender (they prefer to live under a rock and not realize how popular it really is).  Also no companies I applied to used Fusion 360 (yet) and if they did, they mostly wanted engineers.  Interestingly, if you look up product design it mostly comes up with app developer jobs...why they choose to call it that I have no idea, but it is frustrating when you are looking for industrial design roles haha.  So I am not discouraged anymore, I just realized that the job market (at least in Canada) seems very conservative and wants people with standard qualifications like engineering and tons of relevant work experience, rather than someone who has had the discipline to teach themselves 3D printing, 3D rendering and modeling and CAD for years.  I am putting these skills to use though with modern 3D printed light designs that I am building in my home.  I prefer to work for myself anyway, and can't waste time forever trying to convince narrow-minded companies 😎 

I agree 100% with you about addressing the snobbishness of others with your website and what others have to offer!  See, what successful people don't understand sometimes is that they got there with the help of others somewhere along the way.  So I believe they have the duty to help newcomers as much as they have can (even if it's a little) because that's how knowledge and success gets shared.  I can't tell you how many parties I have been to where designers acted like I was out of my mind for introducing myself and attempting to get to know them...it doesn't make me bitter, but it's so sad that it's actually funny!  So when I do establish myself, I will make a point of helping newcomers because I know how hard it is.  Your website is great too because I can tell people are happy and excited when they post and that is because of the open environment.  I get snappy and sarcastic language sometimes from the Arduino and Fastled (Reddit) forums and it doesn't bother me but I really don't think it's necessary.  If you're replying to help someone, why would you insult them?

Yes when I get an Oculus Quest, I will definitely check out Hisomi's videos.  Thanks for that!

Interesting regarding the EPS8266...if I am not mistaken, it sounds like it has the same memory as the Arduino Mega!  I purchased one unfortunately before reading this (the Arduino), but in the future I will look into it.  And you're right it's literally 4 times less than the cost of the Mega...that's amazing.  The reason I got a Mega is because I am working on an LED matrix wall for a friend's business...I have one panel almost done with 600 leds!  All that soldering made my head hurt haha.  The idea is to have it on a door hinge or rail and put them in front of his office windows so that people on the street can see massive LED art at night.  During the day, he can slide them out of the way and have sunlight but at night he can slide them back and turn on the magic.  It's been crazy with the amount of power too; I chose to wire several adapters in parallel every 5m or so rather than from a super high watt transformer for safety reasons. I'm hoping to make him at least 4 boards, so 2400 LEDs total 🤯 

 I just read your part about the board...so you have made something similar!  Yes, it's a great idea for easy experimenting.  Many of your effects look great vertically too I have noticed.  So yes actually that video is perfect!  I was trying to work with the code, but couldn't figure out how to add a second colour.  Is it a simple change?  Thanks by the way for showing me that...my client will be very happy that I can make him the colours of his flag :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Hans
 Hans
(@hans)
Noble Member Admin
Joined: 7 years ago
Posts: 1443
July 29, 2020 6:07 AM  

Yep, Blender (unless you work with it daily) can be challenging haha.
Thanks for the awesome Blendswap tip! I had not heard of them - excellent find! 👍 
I'll admit that the intimidating (and super annoying) request for a subscription, initially made me want to close the browser haha.
I am getting a little sick of subscription models.
Then again: it seems subscribing is not required?

My first VR headset was from Oculus as well (the original Rift - 2017), and I loved it, but found that I started using it less and less. The setup of stations and the wiring just made it a hassle. When the Quest came out, I loved it simplicity. I was up an running in 2 or 3 minutes! Then when ALVR came out (before the Oculus Link came out - the cable method to hook up your Quest to your PC) I loved it even more. I tried Link a few times (cable to PC), and initially the quality was better than ALVR or Virtual Desktop. However ther cable was a pain. In the meanwhile both ALVR and Virtual Desktop have grown and become even better, and now I can no longer play with cable - I get stuck every single time hahah.

Virtual Desktop is initially thought to display the desktop of your PC. So you can start applications, etc. I see zero use for that though.
Then the developer added the option to access things wireless and he did a great job with that.
The only things I like better about ALVR is that it is free (always good) and it seems more smooth/stable than Virtual Desktop.
So for example: ALVR seems to drop a video frame every now and then, but I (and this seems person specific) do not really notice this during game play.
Virtual Desktop has less hiccups, but when it has one, then entire screen freezes for a fraction of a second and this make me nauseous.
So anyone willing to try wireless SteamVR, I'd recommend starting with ALVR and see if that works for them.

There are a few requirements one should keep in mind though:
- You will need a 5Ghz WiFi access point and preferably just use it for this purpose (so disconnect other clients)
- Set the 5Ghz to 40Mhz bandwidth (some routers do not handle 80Mhz all that well)
- Make sure the router supports better than AC1300 (my old Netgear worked pretty OK [AC1300] but a cheaper D-Link [AC1750] works more reliable)
- Stay close to the router

OK, so I went a little overboard on explaining this VR thing haha ... maybe your friend wants to give it a try though 😉 

As for Blender and VR: It's all 3D models. In essence a regular 3D game would be good for VR. Level design is the same for VR and a regular 3D game. For example: porting Doom or the old Half Life games works without impacting the maps. There is a need to adapt for controls, but this doesn't need to impact the maps itself. Probably the reason why the old Half Life Hammer editor still can be used for Half-Life:Alyx maps. There are a few things to make the VR experience better though, but that's more related to minimizing vertical motion to avoid motion sickness.

Fusion 360 is indeed great, but for some reason I thought it was no longer free - I must be wrong about that. Thanks for sharing! 

I think, when it comes to AutoDesk, SketchUp, Blender, etc, that it is in everybody's interest to start editing in a similar way. this way we can switch easier between applications. I have been playing with 3D application for quite a while now and not every application works the same way - which can be super annoying hahah.
I do believe you make a valid point though: this may be AutoDesk's way to secure their following. If I see how quick SketchUp is, and how easy it is to learn to work with it, then if I'd be AutoDesk I'd be worried as well hahah.

Interesting observation, I ran into the same thing earlier this week. Businesses are heavily focussed on the tools they have, and are rarely open to switching to other tools.
Since I work mostly in IT, I see the same thing. Companies thinking they are stuck with bad software and just keep doing that without being open to change.
Since my work has mostly been with smaller medical labs, it is interesting to see that lab people are more willing to use something else, whereas offrices are often "stuck" and badly enough: stuck with old Microsoft stuff.

I totally agree; we all have been newbies, and we all had to start and learn somewhere. Without the help of others, we simply wouldn't have been able to get where we are today.
New users should be helped when possible buy the more experienced users. I just hate it when they make statements like "read the manual", "learn how to program first", and "you're doing it all wrong" ... if an experienced user doesn't want to help: then just skip the question. If the experienced user wants/can help: be patient and help by the best of your abilities.
So negative, rude, snappy, insulting and shitty responses: skip that, it is not helping anyone and it most certainly does not contribute to a fun and exciting experience.
(always makes me wonder why people would even put time in something like that - there must be something wrong with them I guess)

This reminds me of one of my professors haha. I wrote my thesis for the masses, since the majority of the people listening to my thesis would be family. So not "my peers".
My initial professor loved it. But then he changed jobs and I got another professor. He told me to rewrite my entire thesis, saying something like "you're writing this for your peers, regular people should not have to understand what you're saying" - that just meant to me: keep the masses dumb so we can shield our field of expertise and I just do not agree with that haha.

ESP8266 vs Arduino mega: check out this list, it gives a nice overview of the differences. You'll see that the Mega has 256 Kb for a sketch, where as the ESP8266 has 4 Mb (!). The clock speed of the ESP8266 is significantly higher as well. But don't feel bad; I have a mega laying around as well (and several other models like the Uno and Nano).
Yes $5 for something like that is just amazing and astonishing.

A 600 and then up to 2400 LEDs in a LED matrix - oh cool! That's on my "to do" list as well hahah (I'd probably never get to that kind of quantity - neat idea though!).
The most I have used it 300 LEDs for an ambilight kind of solution for my TV.

Adding a second color isn't too hard, but things will work a little different with the code that I'm using right now.
Instead of endless looping the "void loop()", I've made the effects check the web-interface very frequent.

Also note: the code is FastLED specific. I'll have to post that in the next message.

This post was modified 2 weeks ago by Hans

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Hans
 Hans
(@hans)
Noble Member Admin
Joined: 7 years ago
Posts: 1443
July 29, 2020 6:21 AM  

I was experiencing some issues when placing code. 😞 

Alright, the original meteorrain:

meteorRain(CRGB::White, 10, 64, true, 30);

and the function (I had to adapt the code, since there were some specifics for my project) is relying on FastLED:

// MeteorRain - Draws a meteor in selected color with decay options
// Parameters : Color (black = hue colors), meteor size, trail decay, random trail decay, speeddelay

void meteorRain( CRGB Color, int MeteorSize, int meteorTrailDecay, bool RandomDecay, int SpeedDelay )
{
  int LEDPosition = 0;
  int LEDCounter;
  uint8_t fxHue = 0;
  
  bool UseHue = (Color.red==0) && (Color.green==0) && (Color.blue==0);
  
  while(true)
  {
    if(RandomDecay)
    {
      fadeToBlackBy( leds, NUM_LEDS, meteorTrailDecay/8); // decay for all
      
      for(LEDCounter=0; LEDCounter < NUM_LEDS; LEDCounter++) 
      {
        if( random(10)>5 ) 
        {
          leds[LEDCounter].fadeToBlackBy( meteorTrailDecay );
        }
      }
    }
    else
    {
      fadeToBlackBy( leds, NUM_LEDS, meteorTrailDecay); // decay for all
    }
    
    for(LEDCounter=0; LEDCounter < MeteorSize; LEDCounter++)
    {
      if(UseHue)
      {
        leds[LEDPosition+LEDCounter] = CHSV( fxHue, 255, 192);  
      }
      else
      {
        leds[LEDPosition+LEDCounter] = Color;
      }
    }
    
    FastLED.show();
    delay(SpeedDelay);
    
    LEDPosition < NUM_LEDS ? LEDPosition++ : LEDPosition = 0;
    fxHue<255 ? fxHue++ : fxHue = 0;
  }  
}

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