So, I had to create a handle for my umbrella because I wanted to embed a switch into the bottom of it. In order to do this, I had a couple of alternatives -- my first idea was wood, but it just didn't speak to the sci-fi part of me. The second idea was LEGO's -- wouldn't that be awesome?? I downloaded their design software and started to make sketches, but I was having trouble accounting for a change of thickness inside the handle and getting the specific colors I wanted (clear and gray tiles), which was going to involve multiple store locations. So, that left me with one last option -- 3D printing. It just so happens there is a 3D printer at my hackerspace and I had seen someone using it to print metallic light blue sharks (it was shark week, what can I say). I first researched possible handle options looking at "containers" on Thingiverse. I came across a great set of files called "Bayonet Containers" that seemed perfect. It had the cylinder like container, as well as a lid. So, with some help from my husband, we did some changes through SCAD and TinkerCAD. Neither of us are coders or engineers, but with these visual programs, it became easier to manipulate the file to get the exact dimensions needed. I think the funniest moment was when my husband couldn't figure out how to cut a hole in the lid, and it was me that figured it out. I said, "Hey, this is just like building in Second Life -- you just have to click on all the surface pieces and hover to find a center point! So, kids, you really can learn from gaming. Okay, that's enough of the back story, let's get to the action.
In hackerspace fashion we all pitched in for Chinese food while the machine churned, and yes, there were issues and we had to reprint the lid twice. I should mention that our machine was at MakerFaire, so it had taken some hits from kids . Anyway, one fail was because the plate was not hot enough and the object moved; the other fail was that the settings were not quite right. Luckily, Diego from Deezmaker happened to pay us a visit on the way home from the MakerFaire tour. He was able to troubleshoot our settings and the machine was back to being jolly in no time. Not a moment too soon, as it was time to print the main body of my handle which was going to skim the outer limits of the printer! Would it fit or would it topple??
This has been a fantastic learning experience, and I don't want to give away what my handle looks like put together yet. However, let me just assure you it is very lightsaber like. So, it looks like my sci-fi dream is slowly taking shape! My hopes are of learning how to fully operate the 3D printer in the future. I feel like altering the files was just half the battle, really understanding the quirks of the 3D printer settings and the environment it is in are part of the skillset. It was very important for me to keep this project open source, and now I can post my mod on Thingiverse and people can go to their local hackerspace and have it printed. It's the handle that keeps on giving. Anyway, group hug to the guys at Hive76 for letting a "light member" have access and a special thanks for David Morphin for being the 3D Printer Specialist. Your fave Venezuelan food is being readied.