Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Inventions to Make Cardboard Construction Easier

I have come across two products that would make cardboard/recyclable construction creations (especially for younger kids) much easier without all that scotch tape, staples, and box cutters.


Strawbees securely connect to straws to allow them to move and build crazy contraptions. After watching the video, I was sold. The opportunities are endless: bridges, masks, even a lantern fish that actually works! They come in sets ranging from $20-$80 through their store with a $15 standard flat rate shipping. I bought the $40 box which includes 368 connector pieces.  Could I have printed out my own on a 3D printer? Possibly. I'll have to see when the kit comes in. We have LOTS of straws at the library that I discovered after cleaning the craft closet.  They could be left out on a makerspace cart for students to explore on their own time or built into an already designed program. This will be used in our Tinkering Tuesday STEM programs as well as our drop in building programs (which have integrated Lego club and STEM together by leaving out K-NEX, KEVA planks and other building materials in addition to Legos for wider appeal).  A case for strawbees is it could easily eliminate the need for building with food (think the marshmallow challenge, spaghetti challenge or toothpick challenges whatever you call them) while still learning design principles.



Makedo

The next one, shamefully, we have had in our craft closet for a while now and just rediscovered, Makedos. Makedo are "strawbees" for cardboard. Makedos also include tools like a safe cutter for cardboard (although a bit jagged finish). They got a makeover since we purchased them, with a new screw capability and a screwdriver tool.  The older models are being sold in kits on amazon or you can purchase the new screw kits through their store which range from $12.50-$480 as they are marketed to classrooms. They are also testing a free 3D printing gallery to make hinges and other items. Most of the programs I did this summer involving cardboard could have incorporated these. I could have had real working hinges on the car doors to swing shut in my Superhero Cardboard Drive In or "Lair" building project.


As part of the Global Cardboard Challenge, participants came together using Makedos to make a maze.  The challenge occurs every fall. It is set for October 10th this year, same as Star Wars Reads Day.



Imagine the possibilities together? Storm trooper cardboard costumes? Deathstar maze? Make your own Podracer? Then add electronics littleBits or arduino to make something light up or make noise? Say R2-D2 perhaps?


The one drawback to either of these items is what happens when the kids want to take their creations home? Based on the price, do we let them? If you had a ten kid program and gave them their own $12.50 Makedo kits it's only $125.00 for the entire program with the idea that kids could explore and create more at home. The alternative idea could be a $12.50 supply charge from the patron to fund the program. I'm going to say no for now but promise to display them somewhere prominently until I see sad faces that I cannot resist anyway. 






Monday, September 21, 2015

3D scan and print yourself

Posted by our talented Simmons Graduate School intern, Tyler Kenney:

3D scanning has come to the library, and with it the ability to 3D print yourself.  By using an Xbox 360 Kinect and simply spinning in a chair, you can scan and print a bust of yourself.


To get started, make sure the Kinect is plugged in (into the computer and into the wall) and launch Skanect, which should be located on the iMac's desktop.  With Skanect launched just click 'new' (the default settings will work fine), and then 'start' - shown below:

After clicking 'start' it will bring you to this screen:


Now is when you want to correctly position yourself.  The white box outline shows the area that will be recorded.  Grab the mouse (you will need it later) and position yourself accordingly.  With the mouse on your lap, click the record button (the red button with a black center).  Once it starts recording, stay as still as possible and slowly rotate the chair with your feet 2-3 times.  When you are done rotating, click the button again to stop recording.  It will now mesh the scan together, and once it finishes doing that go to the 'Process' tab.  From there you can use 'Fill Holes' to fill in the gaps and holes that would otherwise make printing your scan impossible.  

As shown below:

After selecting 'Fill Holes', make sure 'Watertight' and 'Very Low' are selected, and then click run.  You can select a higher 'Smoothing' setting if you wish, just know that the more it is smoothed the more detail you will lose.  After filling in the holes and gaps, go to the 'Share' tab and select 'Export Model'.  Export it as an .stl, make sure the 'Scale' is set to millimeters or inches, save it to the desktop, and then you can import it into Tinkercad and clean it up.  Note: the scans will import at an extremely large size, when importing into Tinkercad scale it down to 15-20%.  It can be further scaled down and printed within the Cura software.


Have an Xbox 360 Kinect of your own?
Want to set up your own 3D scanner?

What you need:
Xbox 360 Kinect
360 Kinect AC adapter
Computer
Skanect

For Windows users it is incredibly easy.  Download the Microsoft Kinect SDK 1.8 and the latest version of Skanect.  After that, plug the kinect into the wall and into your computer.  The computer should download the rest of drivers automatically.  Launch Skanect and start scanning.

Mac users will have somewhat trickier time.  The Mac will not automatically download the drivers, and the Microsoft SDK will not work within the Mac operating system.  You can, however, follow online tutorials for setting up drivers that will work.  Tutorials for setting them up can be found here and, under 'Build Intructions', here.  These are instructions for setting up libfreenect, also known as OpenKinect, a set of open source Kinect drivers.  
Alternatively, users can try to set up their Kinect by following this tutorial.  
If libfreenect or the blog post instructions by themselves do not work (Skanect will be unable to detect a scanner/sensor), complete both of them.  The iMac at the library completed both (Mac OS 10.10) and it works.

You may also want to update your GPU drivers, just follow the links from the Skanect site.  
Shown below:


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Using Tinkerplay app for 3D printing action figures


In just 15 minutes (besides the fight I had with our laptops not having a .zip file extractor) I was able to create a 3D action figure using AutoCad's Tinkerplay app for the iPad. That's the easiest part.

Tinkerplay, from the makers of Tinkercad, comes with already made parts that anyone can select to build a customized action figure in minutes. Although the options are a bit limited, tinkerplay could be a jumping off point for kids interested in designing their own toys with connectable parts.


Once the app is opened,you are brought to a blank plane. The top right corner allows you to select each part. The outer line of the wheel are the available options, while the wheel before displays the location of the part (head, chest, feet, hands).
Once the grey part is selected merely drag it with your finger onto the plane.
A simple tap of your finger on the part will bring up deleting or moving options.

Once you have built your figure, press the bright green button on the bottom to turn it into parts that can be printed.
From here, you can downscale your print with the plus and minus buttons. By adding your printer to the blue gear on the left, it will estimate your total print time (incorrectly in our case) and show presets for downloading files. We have a library Dropbox account, so we allowed tinkerplay to work with our Dropbox and it deposited the file in .zip format. Press the green button again to download it. Once the .stl files were extracted from our desktop computer, we put them into Cura (our Ultimaker software) as two large print jobs for the first try. One print job with half of the pieces (including torso parts which were the most intricate) would take 10 hours to print with supports, longer than we're allowed to print since we'd have to leave it on overnight. I know there must be some advanced settings in Cura that I'm missing which might have shortened the time. Email me if so! 


So we broke up the jobs, it took over 10 hours to print the 15 separate pieces for an overall height of 6.5 inches (160 mm). I also tried doing much smaller parts shown in red (.75 in /20mm tall for each legs) as opposed to 1.5 in/40 mm tall and without supports the job didn't finish properly for a total of 3 hours for half of the robot to complete. The parts were really hard to put together due to size and I began to break pieces trying to attach them.



If you had a class of 4 or 5 kids using Tinkerplay instead of previously mentioned Tinkercad, they could easily be finished in 10-15 minutes, with limited design learning, and you are spending 40 hours printing parts. So in a class setting, I wouldn't recommend using Tinkerplay although the end product is pretty neat I have to admit. Perhaps it would be more efficient to print out a multitude of torsos, legs, and arms beforehand and have the kids design the heads in tinkercad? Or maybe only print 2 arms and leg pieces instead of 4?  Our next project is trying to use the X-Box Kinect to scan our heads and we'd have mini mes! 

Times:
head 52 minutes
torso (2 parts) 4 hrs 10 minutes
small arms (4) 21 minutes each
legs (4) 38 minutes each
hands (2) 23 minutes each
feet (2) 30 minutes





Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The marriage of art and technology

We finally had our Grand Reveal for our Arduino Garden Wall last Thursday and it was fun seeing the reaction from youth and adults alike. Some found the Garden Wall perplexing, "What is this doing here?" Some found it delightful, "You had youth, an artist, and an engineer working together on this?"

Bringing over our Ultimaker2 and having it running a loop of bracelet-making was also a big hit.

Because the artwork is on a rolling partition, bringing it up to the Reference floor was not a huge problem. We had made sure there were no delicate wires dragging and no reason why we couldn't fold it up fairly close to get it into the elevator.

Because it is so colorful and the visuals Sally Dean created are so delightful, it can hold up to being turned off most of the time and still be a visually pleasant addition to the surroundings.

We will keep it in its current location for a few weeks and then move it back against a wall near to the Digital Media Lab where so much of the on-going creation happens.


Inviting the local community cable TV crew in to cover the event as fun as well.  They totally understood what we are trying to do and were very enthusiastic about spreading the word.

Kevin Osborn came fully tricked out on his LED glory and gave the philosophical underpinnings of why Tinkering is an important All-American pastime to be encouraged by schools, libraries, parents, clubs, etc.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

3D Printing Etsy Store: Empowering Local Crafters



Looking for a fun way to empower the local crafter? Check out Etsy, an internet based shopping website that allows anyone to buy and sell their hand made merchandise. 3D printed materials still count in the "hand made" universe. All you need to do is set up a shop and take pictures of your work. If someone were to print with our $1 an hour charge, they could make earrings for a product cost to them of $1-3 (based on size), use a dremel or small drill to make a hole, and go to Michaels, or another local craft store, for the stainless steel earring hooks and you are in business for profit! (beware of copyright infringement such as printing items from Nintendo, Disney, etc.)

This is from Fish3Ddesigns, which prints using a Makerbot Replicator 3D printer in PLA. It sells for $22.00 on Etsy plus shipping.

I'd be interested to hear from an Etsy shop owner how good business is but with such a low start up cost it would be worth a try anyway.  Just another way to show libraries helping to empower local entrepreneurs and crafters!