The BQ Hephestos2 (3D printer), nine months later

After nine months I can say that I’m satisfied with the BQ Hephestos 2 printer. It’s easy to print with and easy to maintain. It doesn’t come with a heated printbed which I consider a shortcoming but for PLA and Filaflex the printer works fine.

Introduction

It’s been nine months since I received and assembled my BQ Hephestos 2 printer and I think it’s time to share some of the experiences that I had with it. For those who don’t know the Hephesthos 2 it’s a 3D-printer that is based on the Prusa i3 design with a thick steel frame and almost all metal parts. It’s not cheap but it’s a well designed, high quality 3D-printer with a large printbed. It does have it’s shortcomings but more of that later.

Continue reading “The BQ Hephestos2 (3D printer), nine months later”

Switching from FreeCAD to Solvespace?

Solvespace is a good addition to the existing open source 3D CAD programs such as OpenSCAD and FreeCAD. If you want to try a truly free 3D CAD program but are intimidated by FreeCAD because of it’s steep learning curve and OpenSCAD because of programmers-like approach certainly should give Solvespace a try.

Introduction

For my current project, a laser engraver, I initially choose FreeCAD as my 3D CAD program. I had some excellent experiences with it so it was the obvious choice for me. However contrary to previous work this project required a lot of CAD assembly. This is where I became frustrated with FreeCAD. Assembly in the current version (0.16) just isn’t well implemented unnecessarily extending my time spent with FreeCAD. The next version of FreeCAD (0.17) will have a separate assembly workbench but I wasn’t willing to wait for it’s final release.

When reading the Hackaday website I came across Solvespace. Given the problem that I have with FreeCAD I was immediately interested. Solvespace is a parametric modeler just like FreeCAD. The interface looks archaic which put me off a little at first but I found it surprisingly easy to work with. The last month I worked intensely with Solvespace v2.1 and I want to share the experience that I had with the program.

The Solvespace GUI looks archaic but is easy to work with.

Working with Solvespace

Solvespace is a lightweight program. It loads fast and runs very smooth on my aging iMac (5 years old). I have encountered an occasional crash with Solvespace however FreeCAD appears to be more prone to crashes on my iMac. I also noticed a small delay in Solvespace while dragging parts around in a complex assembly.

The Solvespace user interface is static throughout the program whether working in a 2D sketch, an extrude or an assembly. The GUI and the keyboard shortcuts don’t change throughout the program. This means for instance that constraints can be applied the same way in 2D and 3D making it easy to work with Solvespace. FreeCAD on the other hand has a dynamic user interface with multiple workbenches each having a different tool bar and functionality. I found that each FreeCAD workbench has it’s own learning curve making it harder to learn than Solvespace. With all these workbenches however FreeCAD offers much more functionality than Solvespace

Solvespace allows the model to be dynamically manipulated as long as it’s not fully constraint, both in 2D and 3D. This can be very helpful while studying a model or looking for its best shape. This is impossible in FreeCAD or OpenSCAD where a model can only be changed by entering other discrete values for the parameters (not to be confused with the animation options in OpenSCAD and FreeCAD).

Assembly in Solvespace is very easy often taking only a few mouse clicks. Two parts must be oriented and constrained to the same direction. A point of each part is selected and the parts are connected at the selected points. That’s it. This method works fast and I haven’t encountered any problem with it. When working in an assembly of multiple files a change made in one of the files propagates to the assembly. This is a very powerful features when working with complex models because it’s creates a consistent environment where it’s sufficient to make a change once instead of keeping track of multiple files. Apparently FreeCAD has a similar feature but getting it to work is far from trivial for me.

The laser engraver that I’m working on. It’s a rather complex project mith multiple parts but assembly is real easy in Solvespace.

Other 3D CAD programs offer functionality like chamfer and fillet. Solvespace doesn’t have this and that’s a shortcoming. Often chamfer and fillet are used for aesthetics and if necessary I can do without that however if you do need them regularly Solvespace isn’t for you. It also impossible to extrude along a path a functionality that is for instance used to create a thread. Creating a true thread is therefore impossible however if it is able to mimic a thread by drawing a sawtooth sketch and revolve it.

I 3d-printed numerous models that I had designed with Solvespace. I exported the models as .stl files and used Cura to create the nessecay G-code before printing them. I encountered no problems with this workflow and all prints came out as expected. I therefore conclude that Solvespace is a good companion for 3d-printers as long as the shortcomings of the program are taken into account.

Support

Community support is very important in open source software.¬† Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate of experienced user it’s vital to be able to get help. This can be tutorials, forums, irc or mailing list. Solvespace has support although it’s not as abundant as with FreeCAD. This is probably due to the smaller user base of Solvespace. The Solvespace tutorials are good but they are few in number and the documentation is adequate but not as polished as FreeCAD’s.

An active development of the program is also important not only for bug fixing but also with new features in new releases. Solvespace has a small but active developers team which is fine but it also makes the project vulnerable. If the main developer decides to abandon the project the user is left empty handed. FreeCAD appears to be having a much larger group of active developers decreasing the chance that the project will be abandoned.

Solvespace’s forum is a good place to post questions about the program. Replies are quick and to the point.

Conclusion

I really like Solvespace, it’s lightweight, pretty stable and easy to use (especially if the user is familiar with the concept of sketching with geometric constraints). I was able to create my models very quickly. I used the keyboard shortcuts often. They are easy to learn because they are limited in number and are consistent throughout the program. Besides the limitations such as fillet, chamfer and extrude along path, Solvespace lacks a lot of the nice-to-have (or need-to-have for some) features that are available in FreeCAD such as the path-, arch- and drawing workbench. This may not be a problem for many more casual users because Solvespace is focused on geometric constraint solving and assembly.

Solvespace is a good addition to the existing open source 3D CAD programs such as OpenSCAD and FreeCAD. It’s not a FreeCAD replacement because it lacks a lot of the features that come with FreeCAD. However if you want to try a truly free 3D CAD program but are intimidated by FreeCAD because of it’s steep learning curve and OpenSCAD because of programmers-like approach certainly should give Solvespace a try.

Make a Photography Light Box of cheap material (part 1: design and 3d print).

DIY frame for a Photography Light Box. I designed a 3d printed three way connector to assemble the curtain rods for the box.

Introduction

My wife has a lot of stuff she wants to sell online and asked me to create a sturdy but cheap Photography Light Box. The dimensions of the different objects vary, so I wanted to be flexible with the dimensions of the light box. We came up with a simple idea to create a three way connector that connects curtain rods. The frame will be covered with white bed sheet cloth kept together with velcro. At the local hardware store I found plastified steel curtain rods. These were the cheapest I could find but are still very strong. Continue reading “Make a Photography Light Box of cheap material (part 1: design and 3d print).”

DIY Lego Cabinet

Making a woorden Lego cabinet for all this minifigs is easy and cheap. You do need a laser cutter for this project.

Introduction

My sons have large Lego minifig collections but most of it is lying in a large box. The older son wanted a cabinet so he could display (part of) his collection better. These cabinets can be pricy as I found out so I decided to make one myself. I’ve done some laser cut projects recently, such as the Darth Vader Chest Box and the Valentine’s Heart, so I decided to use the same technique for the cabinet. Continue reading “DIY Lego Cabinet”

Using Filaflex to improve my cooler

Filaflex is excellent material to improve the audio cooler that I made earlier. The material is very flexible and surprisingly strong making it perfect for sealing purposes

Introduction

A week ago I finished my audio cooler. Although I was happy with the result improvements could be made (as is always the case). Most important I didn’t particularly like the console on the side of the coolers lid. This was a 3d printed part of PLA that I glued to cooler with a superglue. This was far from ideal because of the space left between the printed console and the cooler . Another improvement could be made by the way that the speaker was fitted to the lid of the cooler. The speaker was directly attached to cooler with four screws again leaving some space between the two. I already had some FilaFlex filament but hadn’t used it yet. Because of the elastic and flexible properties of Filaflex I figured that I could both fix the issues with the console and the speaker.

Left the cooler with improved speaker and console and right "old cooler" with printed part of PLA filament.
Left the cooler with improved speaker and console and right “old cooler” with printed part of PLA filament.

Continue reading “Using Filaflex to improve my cooler”

Audio system for cooler almost finished

A made a 3d printed enclosure for the audio components that fits in the coolers lid together with a simple console to operate the audio

Introduction

A couple of weeks ago I started to make a tiny audio system for our cooler. In my previous blogpost I described all the audio components that I chose for this project. I wanted the components to be small since I didn’t want to waste too much space in the cooler. With the audio components in hand I could design other parts for the audio system. I needed an enclosure for most of the audio components and a simple console to operate the audio. The parts were 3d printed with my Hephestos 2.

The complete audio system in the lid of the cooler. Most components are placed in the 3d printed enclosure.
The complete audio system in the lid of the cooler. Most components are placed in the 3d printed enclosure.

Continue reading “Audio system for cooler almost finished”

More designing and 3D printing

putting my 3D printer to use

Introduction

The last couple of weeks I’ve been busy mastering 3D modeling programs and bringing my creations to life with my Hephestos 3D printer. In this entry I’ll share some of my creations and how they were made. For 3D modeling I started with OpenSCAD in the beginning of this year and later started using FreeCAD. The reason for using FreeCAD is that with more complex design in OpenSCAD it is easy for me to get lost in a large script. Yes, the learning curve of FreeCAD is steep but eventually it’s easier for me to create more complex models in this program than in OpenSCAD. For simpler models I still like OpenSCAD better. Continue reading “More designing and 3D printing”

Case for a FM-radio (Velleman MK194)

Making good use of a 3d printer

I have a MK194 radio kit from Velleman and turned it into a radio some  time ago. The radio looks pretty cool with all the electronic components visible but the wooden case was awful. I therefore decided to build a new case for it. Of course I want to use my Hephestos 2 printer from BQ to make this case.

First I designed a case in FreeCAD. I use FreeCAD for a couple of weeks now, together with OpenScad, but this is the first design with multiple parts that I create with it. After several iterations I finally decided to have a design consisting of three parts. A box, a support plate for the radio PCB and a lid. The radio fits into the support and the lid which are then screwed onto the box.

radio_case
Design for the radio case made with FreeCAD consisting of three parts (the red part just represents the MK194 PCB). I made a nice radius on the lid and the MK194 fits nicely between the support and the lid.

Continue reading “Case for a FM-radio (Velleman MK194)”

What to make for Valentine’s day?

Looking for an idea for Valentine’s day. Look no further.

What to make for Valentine’s day? A bare perfboard with a Valentine’s chaser (basically a 555-chip, 4017 decade counter and a handful of leds) doesn’t look too impressive. That’s why I made this heart shaped wooden box with a laser cutter. Both printboard and battery fit nicely into the box. Three bolts, nuts and washers to finish the job.

The file for the laser cutter (.svg) can be found here.

And here is a 3d printer file (.stl) of a little dock for the heart.

 

The Darth Vader chest box is almost finished

Introduction

The last month I’ve been working on my Darth Vader chest box. I’ve designed and built my own circuit with the Holtek HT8950A voice modulator, I create a laser cut case and designed 3D printed parts for the chest box. Since I had to learn a lot of new techniques, e.g laser cutting and 3D printing, this is by no means an easy project for me. With the project in it’s final stages now some design problems turn up that need fixing.

Soldering the board.

This week I soldered the components to the board. First I soldered the voice changer components and made sure this part of the circuit is working. Next I soldered the amplifier. I tested the total circuit and it worked the first time which is always a joyful moment. I find the Adafruit perma-protoboard very easy to work with since I’m able to copy the layout from the breadboard. Next I grouped all the buttons that operate the HT8950A on a board and soldered them to a piece perfboard. The buttons on the perfboard fit nicely into the laser cut side panel that I already made. Operating the chest box is easy with this (a major issue with my previous chest box).

Soldered perma-protoboard and breadboard side-by-side.
Close-up of the soldered board with the HT8950A voice changer chip on the right and the LM386 amplifier on the left.
Operating the voice changer with this panel should be easy.

Design issues

Last week I made 3D printed parts for the front of the chest box. Unfortunately I found that these parts didn’t look good with the laser cut box. The plastic parts just didn’t do justice to the laser cut plywood. I therefore decided to laser cut all the parts that sit on the from of the box with I think is aesthetically more pleasing.

Another problem arose with the female audio jack connector that I need to plug in the microphone. The thread of this 3.5mm connector just isn’t long enough to be fitted onto the 6mm thick plywood. I designed a container to solve this. The audio connector fits into this container and the container is screwed to the case. Hopefully this container solves the problem.

Container for the audio jack connector created with Openscad. The container, screwed to the chest box, will keep the audio connector tightly to it’s place.

Yet unsolved problems

  • I need to attach a nylon belt to the chest box. I’m thinking about popper snap fasteners attached to the belt to open or close the belt.
  • The HT8950A works fine with a proper audio signal as input but the microphone that I have, a small electret microphone, doesn’t give any audible output (except for noise). I assume that the signal is to weak and therefore needs amplification.