Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Wearable Arc Reactor

One of the best things about having a 3D printer is the ability to quickly print anything you need. Recently our landlord failed time and time again to remember that we needed a sink plug. My house-mate Ben took on the challenge of simply printing one and within half an hour we could wash up to our hearts content. If such a thing exists.

On the other hand of the worst things (as far as productivity and a social life goes) is the ability to print anything you want. Especially given the plethora of incredibly cool and yet generally pointless things on the wonderful website, Thingiverse.

It was here that I found a lovely design for Tony Stark's Arc Reactor from the film Iron Man. I saw it, and I knew there and then that I needed to make one. I printed the majority of parts in Black PLA, and the crystal in Clear. I get all my PLA these days from Faberdashery, it's reasonably priced and of a really high quality. I bought a selection of blue and white ultra-bright LEDs from eBay, along with a few resistors and a 9V battery clip, and did my best to remember how current, voltage and resistance interact with one another. It wasn't as straightforward as I remember it being. Eventually, a few blown LEDs later, and with a large burn on my thumb from where I'd tried to pick up some solder that, as it turns out, was still molten, I had my very own Arc Reactor.

Here's how it looks with the lights off. Pretty cool!

My thirst wasn't sated with that however. Another trip to eBay and I had a strip of elastic. 30 minutes on Google Sketchup and I'd designed a nice little belt strap. Taking a pair of scissors to old t-shirt, and my costume was complete. I was Tony Stark!

Unfortunately, no-one's having a party any time soon with a suitable theme.

Also, I can't grow a beard.

Prusa i3

My friend and now house-mate Ben originally introduced me to the wonderful world of 3D printing, supplying plastic parts, know-how and remarkable patience as he helped me assemble a RepRap Prusa Mendel. Ben remains my superior in all things projecty even to this day despite the time I've spent tinkering around. I thoroughly recommend that you check out his blog.

My Prusa Mendel served me extremely well, however around December 2012 I decided it would be fun to upgrade to Josef Prusa's newest addition to the printer scene, the Prusa i3. With a lot fewer parts than the Prusa Mendel, I was seduced by its simplicity and significantly larger build volume (the maximum size of part that can be printed).

In retrospect, fun isn't the first word I'd use to describe the process. Since the Prusa i3 is still in development, I later discovered that I'd have to redesign many parts myself to fit the components from my Mendel. The other challenge was sourcing the main frame, a large, precision cut piece of aluminium. Fortunately, working at a university has its perks, and I was able to coerce a not-to-be-named department into constructing the frame for me in exchange for a 5 litre mini-keg of Bath Ales Gem.

The Prusa i3 now works at least as well as my old Mendel, with the added advantage of being able to print nice big parts. I've already printed something that pushed it to it's limits, size wise. Here's a shot of the i3 on my 3D printing workbench, along with the Inspiron Duo which controls it and a rather sad looking chilli plant.

Project Timbo

I've decided to start a blog to document all my (reasonably pointless) little projects. I'll do my best to describe in detail what I've done so anyone reading the blog can have a go at making one of them themselves! I'll also try to provide lots of pictures! Many of my projects so far, and to come, involve 3D printing in some way. I've recently retired my Prusa Mendel in favour of a shiny new home made Prusa i3.