Sunny in Seattle

Most of the US has been chilled this week by cold front moving down from Canada. I’ve heard lots of reports from friends and family of snowfall. In Seattle the cold does not bring the snow, it scares away the rain. Seattle has had a beautiful week of sunshine.wpid-wp-1415993630530.jpeg

John Wick

Last week was the release of Keanu Reeves’ latest film, John Wick, which unlike 47 Ronin I actually felt it was worth seeing. The movie is about a normal guy so generic that they couldn’t give him a more interesting name than John. John is having a bad day which is made worse when Alfie Allen’s character comes into the picture, being just as much of a dick as his is on Game of Thrones, and kills his dog. To get even John goes on a rampage against Allen (who apparently cannot catch a break) who is hiding behind his father’s criminal organization.

This movie is not heavy with the plot, there is enough there to get the movie started and little bits trickle in fast enough that you are not questioning the characters actions. The real reason anyone would go see this movie, as with most Keanu movies, is for the elaborate action sequences. John Wick delivers. The is an abundance of extremely well choreographed action sequences as Keanu fights his way through the Russian Mob. The style of this movie was reminiscent of The Raid, where one martial arts master slowly works his way up the levels of a gun toting criminal organization.

I was pleased that a movie with a tone that is partly mocking Keanu’s kung-fu action movies went with a level of realism they did not need to. This move would have been as much of a blockbuster if their were explosions in every scene, crazy amounts of ammo and a busty sidekick but that’s not what they went with. The movie was exceptional at showing the need to reload weapons, the frailty of bullet proof vests, and that even the protagonist will miss a few shots. There were a few car chases all of which are reasonable. They even pushed a vehicle off a cliff without it exploding at the bottom. The show bets everything on the choreography of the fight scenes and its well places as they are extremely well done.

If you enjoy watching Keanu Reeve’s kick ass for an hour and a half then go see John Wick you will get exactly what you are looking for as well as a few scenes of puppies.

A New Dimension

Last week I revived a very special package, a box containing all the components I would need to assemble a printer. “Why would anyone what to build their own printer? Electronics stores are almost giving away ink jets these days.” This printer does not print with ink or paper, it prints plastic.


There are many types of 3D printers but the ones that have been making the most news are Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers because a combination of expiring patents and availability of precision parts had made it possible for anyone with some time to kill to build one. FDM printers work by heating plastic until it is soft and malleable then pushing it through a pin hole opening to form hairlike strands of the plastic. Motors and belts move this extruder around while it is pushing the plastic out which forms shapes. This is repeated over and over creating layers of a 3D object.

If you want something done right, you need to do it your self. Though this is not always true, its often applicable in the world of 3D printing. More and more people are making businesses out of selling and servicing 3D printers, most printers have no support other than the operator. That’s why its a good idea to build the printer one’s self and get a good knowledge of how the machine works, because eventually it won’t.
I purchased a kit from Makerfarm for a Prusa i3v 10. A printer in the popular open source Rep-Rap family. This kit came with almost all the prices needed for full assembly, I just needed a power supply and a piece of glass for the build plate. The assembly was fairly straight forward with every step of the way documented by YouTube tutorials. Putting in hours after work it took me a few days to get it ready to print.


The Printer nearly completed

First print

First print

The first print was a calibration cube, 24mm by 24mm by 24mm, and it took me three tires until I could get one to print completely. Printing this helped me troubleshoot and find anywhere that I may have made a mistake when building the printer. I had to deconstruct and rebuild the extruder because some part of it were not tight enough the first time.
wpid-wp-1414603536453.jpeg Once the calibration cube was completed, it turned out very nice. Often these printers require hours of tuning and calibrations before they will print anything decent. This Prusa i3v just need some bed leveling at it printed pretty well. Eventually I will go through all the setups and calibrations to get perfect prints but first I want to try something a little more ambitious than a cube.


3D printing a Star Trek com badge

I printed a few of these Star Trek com badges. A fan design that merges the styling of the new movie series with the com badges from The Next Generation. That’s pretty cool but I think we can do more.

Printing a Bust

Printing a Bust

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Though it didn’t come out perfectly I was able to print this bust from a 3D scan of a Greek statue. The entire thing took almost 6 hours to print but it came out pretty well. The spaghetti like string hanging off it are places on the statue, like the chin, where the overhang was too great for the rigidity of the plastic and the print was printing on air. To counter this prints with overhand are often printed with attaching support material.

2014-11-02 11.14.51With 3D printing one also gets a choice in the material to print with. The most common choices are plastics, specifically PLA a corn based plasic, and ABS you standard toy plastic. All the prints made from the white material are PLA. PLA is considered the easier print material to use because it melts at lower temperature than ABS, cools faster, and is completely nontoxic. PLA is more brittle than ABS and more sensitive to temperature changes, making it very good for display pieces but not for functional parts. To print with ABS a printer needs to have a heated build plate to keep the model warm while printing. Since ABS cools slowing than PLA a ABS print that is not heated will curl and bend as it cools, causing the print to fail.

My printer supports printing with both PLA and ABS and I also purchased a spool of black ABS plastic. Above is one of my first prints with it, a clip on bow tie.

3D printing is still in a state where it’s really only best for hobbyists, but it is fun hobby to have. This is not the home manufacturing revolution some say it will be, but it might be a baby step towards star trek style replicators, and I am glad to have a piece of the future sitting on my table.