I wrote earlier about my move from YouTube versus PeerTube. My new videos will appear on both platforms but I’m also remastering my old Solvespace videos. These videos were all 720p which isn’t ideal for a tutorial. Having most of the material of the videos available I’m recreating them in 1080p. When I’m done I’ll only upload these HD videos to PeerTube. The videos take a lot of time to create and I’m currently very busy so the videos appear irregularly but whenever I have time I’ll make them.
The latest video that I remastered is about the Geneva Drive. A wonderful project to design and 3d print. I redid part of the screen recording because either the original was gone or wasn’t good enough. For this video I used the latest version of OpenShot (v2.5.0) but I’m unfortunately still having issues with this video editor. For the next video I’ll return to Shotcut which is currently my favourite free and open source editor. Here is a link to the video if you want to see it on PeerTube.
When I tried to embed a PeerTube video here I found that the WordPress embed block is not suitable for this purpose. Apparently PeerTube is not (yet) whitelisted by WordPress. Also it appears that iframe tags, my other option, are blocked by WordPress because of security reasons. That’s a bummer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I made a series of video tutorials and CAD challenges. You can find them on YouTube with the links below:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.