Category Archives: 3dprinting

Soft Robots for Hard Problems

What is a soft robot anyway? Over the last few weeks I’ve been giving demos at Resistor to show students what they are, what they’re good for, and how you can make your own.

Resistor was host to two meetup groups: the ACM NYC Group and the Soft Robotics Technology Group. During the demonstrations I gave a brief overview of the state of the art in soft robotics and then went into how I designed and built my most popular soft robot to date: the Glaucus.

Students helped out by casting waxes, degassing silicone, and pouring up molds themselves. Maybe soon I’ll come up with a way to get an even more hands-on demo where people can each make a bot themselves to take home.

Below you can find video from the ACM lecture:


3D Printed Wireframes

Sometimes I want to fabricate things that are larger than the build volume on my 3D printer or to make things that are hollow and can be covered with fabric to diffuse LEDs inside. To help out with that, I’ve written a program that will generate 3D printable versions of just the vertices — the resulting object looks like a real-world wireframe of the STL file. This also lets you use other materials for the edges, like wooden dowels, laser-cut acrylic or aluminum extrusion, and makes it easy to cover with stretchy fabric.

3D Printed Wireframes

The wireframe program parses the STL file, finds all of the unique vertices, eliminates coplanar edges and generates connectors for the ones that remain. It isn’t very smart about some of the intersections of very acute angles, and the output OpenSCAD file needs some cleaning up before it is ready for printing, but simple low-poly shapes can be fabricated without too much effort.

3D Printed Wireframes

More info is at and the source is available. I’ve also posted the dodecahedron that you can make with regular unsharpened pencils from the office supply closet: thing:653464 on thingiverse. I hope you have fun making large-scale things!

CubePro Trio

We recently got in a CubePro Trio from the folks at 3D Systems and while we’ve still got a lot of testing to do, we’ve started to run it through its paces.

It’s definitely a nice looking machine. Professional quality build all around. Matt N. spent some time setting it up and hit “print” on a rather challenging model (with tiny spires and everything!) The first print turned out OK, but as with any 3D printer, there’s probably a bit of tweaking (or reading of the manual) to do.

CubePro Trio

We’re excited to see what our members can do with this machine, and how it compares to the MakerBot, LulzBot, and Solidoodle we currently have in the 3D Printing Lab.

Stay Tuned!


Emma-O judges your cloud infrastructure.

Every now and then, a particularly hard storm hits an undisclosed datacenter in Virginia where a huge chunk of The Cloud faces off with actual clouds to see which one can keep electricity running through it the longest. Sometimes the data center loses, causing DevOps teams and assorted other developers to get calls and tweets from literally everyone telling them their site is down.

Usually this sort of apocalypse is indicated with a tiny icon on a web dashboard, visible only to the people already panicking and frantically reading up on High Availability and Multi-AZ Deployments. A little red icon doesn’t quite convey the gravity of the sky falling, so I figured the best indicator of cloud infrastructure status would be the Buddhist king and judge of hell, Emma-O (aka Enma-O aka Yama). I happened to have a scan of an Emma-O wood sculpture from a previous project at the museum I work at (btw we’re hiring), so I scaled it up a bit and printed a copy in transparent blue-ish PLA.

Emma-Ohnoes    Emma-Ohnoes    Emma-Ohnoes    Emma-Ohnoes

A box I quickly whipped up in Tinkercad for the electronics sits under a lid connected to a replica of Emma-O, Emma-Ohnoes, to his throne with some glue. Housing an Arduino Yún with a sketch using Temboo, it checks on our custom system health check page to see if the AWSpocalypse has begun. If it has, Emma pulses a vengeful red light. Otherwise, he glows a serene blue.


All’s well in the world.


The cloud is stormy tonight.

If you enjoy using Muromachi-era Buddhist art to let the office know the site’s down, the 3D models for Emma-O, the also-3D-printed base, schematics, and Arduino sketch are freely available online. The Arduino sketch is designed so that any URL you want to set targetUrl to only needs to return anything other than 200 OK in the HTTP response header, so it can also be pointed to the URL of a site directly to see if it’s up or not.

Download Arduino sketch on Github

Download 3D models on Thingiverse

Filament Spool

Early this year I purchased a Printrbot simple to have a printer I could keep on my desk at home. I didn’t need anything big, just something for printing pretty things and parts to fix stuff around the apartment so it was a perfect option.

While it has been a fantastic printer there was one drawback to it. That is that there is no place for the filament on the base model. There is an upgrade kit for the 2013 model (I am not sure it it works with the 2014 model that I have but I think so) that adds one on top but it was not really what I was looking for since it is only slightly adjustable width wise with some mods. Also I know me and I would knock it over.

Using some parts and scrap from around the makerspace along with several printed parts (it is always fun printing parts for a printer on the printer you are printing them for) I designed something that will fit just about any filament spool, holds the spool in such a way that the printer barely has to work to un-spool more, and can be used to keep the printer from spinning off my desk when it decides it wants to start shaking and walking while printing.

The parts are now up on thingiverse with all the instructions to make one of your very own.

TAZ is up and running!

As previously mentioned, we’re the proud new owners of a LulzBot TAZ 3, which features an impressive build volume of 298mm x 275mm x 250mm. I finally got some time on Saturday right before the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup to do a bit more testing with it.

We’ve got it loaded up with some 3mm blue filament that was provided by Coex, who graciously donated filament from one of their early test runs last year. We’ve not tried other brands yet, but we’ll get to that soon enough. The Coex filament required bumping the temperature up just a bit, but was flowing smoothly at 235.

If you’ve used Slic3r and Printrun (which is what LulzBot recommends) you’ll be up and running pretty quickly. LulzBot provides a bunch of Slic3r profiles for you to get started with the TAZ.

TAZ is up and running!

The design of the TAZ is really nice, with a mixture of extruded Aluminum, 3D printed parts, and laser cut parts, each being used where they make the most sense. The extruder is held into place with a French cleat style groove, and one bolt, which should make it easy to remove in the future if we need to do maintenance or repairs.

For Milwaukee Makerspace members, if you’re looking for more info or to get trained, check the wiki page. If you’re not a member, come to an open night Tuesday or Thursday at 7pm if you want to see the TAZ or ask any questions about it.

Sample print below. Not bad for a first attempt!

TAZ is up and running!

LulzBot… Soon!

LulzBot is know for producing and selling open source 3D printers, and in the spirit of open source, they do their best to give back to the community. In the past they’ve helped make Slic3r better, and more recently they’ve done a printer giveaway to hackerspaces… and yes, we’ve been chosen!

We are one of the LulzBot Hackerspace Giveaway 2014 Winners, and we’re pretty excited about it!

We (as a space) acquired a 1st gen MakerBot Replicator (the one with the wooden frame) and it’s served us well (ok, we never quite got the second extruder working, and it was down for repairs more than a few months last year.) Anyway, the MakerBot has been our best 3D printer to date, but with a LulzBot TAZ on the way, we’re really hoping to up our 3D game to include bigger and better prints, and hopefully explore new materials like Nylon, wood, and NinjaFlex. Being fans of open source ourselves (a makerspace is all about sharing!) it’ll be great to have a high-quality printer for our members as well as events like the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup.

Once we get the TAZ in and up and running, we’ll share the results. Thanks again, LulzBot!

Camera Accessory Mounting System

Those who know me know that besides being cheap (hey, it’s part of being a maker and being DIY) I tend to use cameras a lot. Well, on occasion camera related things break, or I’ll need a part that doesn’t exist yet, or exists, but it too expensive, or isn’t designed right, or whatever.

All of the issues mentioned above lead me to create “CAMS” the “Camera Accessory Mounting System”, which will be a modular system that allows me to mount things to cameras, and mount cameras to things.

The connecting pieces of CAMS are 3D printed, and design is happening in OpenSCAD. The other parts of CAMS consists of standard 1/4″ hardware, nuts, bolts, screws, etc. There are also knobs that fit onto the nuts to allow for easy finger tightening.

Camera Accessory Mounting System

There’s a wiki page for CAMS, which doesn’t have a ton of info yet, but you can also check out blog post #1 and blog post #2 about the arm.

March 3D Printing Meetup


Join us on Saturday, March 9th, 2013 from 1pm to 4pm for the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup! We’ll be hosting it at the new Milwaukee Makerspace located at 2555 S. Lenox St. in Milwaukee.

The Meetup group is over on, but we welcome anyone to come to the meeting and learn about 3D printing. We’ll have a few printers on-hand (as well as many printed objects) and will provide a nice introductory talk to the subject by one of our members. After that we’ll melt some plastic and create some real-world things.

This event is free and open to the public, so come on down at learn about 3D printing!

Frankie’s at it again…

Prusa i3

Looks like our old pal Frankie Flood is at it again! This time he’s building a Prusa i3 RepRap 3D Printer.

If you’re keeping track, he was building Prusa Mendels back in June, a Mendel 90 back in July, and a Rostock in September. I think he holds the record for the most 3D printers built in Milwaukee! (Or at least the most different models of 3D printers.)

(The Prusa i3 is the most recent iteration of a RepRap designed by Josef Prusa. It’s open source, which means you can download the design files, and build your own, and even make changes to it. Josef is also working on a new hotend which looks pretty sweet!)