Archive for the ‘Maker Tips’ Category


As a followup to my previous tip, I was asked how I get my prints to stick to my build platform. My MakerBot Replicator 2X has a heated aluminum build platform that is coated in Kapton tape. ABS will still okay to this material, but it is not perfect. To help my prints stick better, I was the build platform with acetone before each print. I make sure I do this just before I start the job. Using a paper towel, I ensure there is nothing left on the platform. This also leaves a thin coating of acetone. Hitting print just after I finishing cleaning (but with a preheated bed and extruders), the first layer of HIPS or ABS sticks well. Since many of my prints are for complex parts, there is almost always a HIPS raft. Acetone is a solvent for both ABS and HIPS, making the first layer extra sticky.

I tend to use a fair bit of acetone with this process. I typically get my acetone from Walmart. Acetone is commonly used in nail polish remover and they typically sell large bottles.

If you’re having issues with prints sticking to the print bed, give this a try.

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I get a lot of questions about 3D Printing. Lots of people ask what printer I have or what materials I use. As you can see in the photo above, I have a MakerBot Replicator 2X. My printer is a few years old now, but it has a heated build platform, dual extruders, and a closed in shell. While it lakes the bells and whistles of wifi and an app, it more than meets my needs. Follow me after the break to learn how I use my printer and how to use dissolvable supports! (more…)


My favorite building platform is LEGO. I have boxes of LEGO Technic. I frequently build robots and then take them apart. To make finding the right part easier, I sort most of my LEGO. The image above is a small stash of my sorted LEGO Technic parts.

There are three stages to my sorting scheme. First is what you see in the picture, little bins holding small quantities of parts. I typically use these bins to build a model as they are handy and portable.

Bins work well for small amounts of parts, but if your addicted to LEGO like I am, you probably have way more parts than you can fit in bins. Inside the cardboard box you see in the photo (and several others around my apartment) is a similar assortment of parts, but in bags. Each type of part gets its own bag and these bags hold the overflow of parts. For larger projects where I need a lot of one part, I will usually pull the bags and keep them handy. Some parts, like LEGO Technic pins, I keep in soda bottles. I find it is easier to fill up a 2 liter bottle with black friction pins and pour from that. Bags have a nasty habit of friction pins all over my work area.

My last level or sorting is something I affectionately call MUL or Miscellaneous Unsorted LEGO. MUL is typically a box (or now 3) of past projects or sets I have parted out to get sorted. A few times a year (and I am in the middle of one right now), I take all my MUL parts and sort them. Most of the time parts go directly to a bag as I like to keep my bins stocked.

While I sort parts by type, I do not sort by color. While I would love to have that much organization, it simply isn’t practical for me to spend the time parting things out that far. I also do not have that many parts on hand (although I’m sure my brother, parents, girlfriend, and apartment maintenance manager would disagree).

I enjoy keeping my LEGO parts sorted and organized. It lets me build without having to dig for a part. This is just one method of organization and I know many other AFOLs sort their bricks as well. It is software a work in progress as it has evolved over time. I am always open to new sorting ideas!

Hot glue is a maker’s best friend. Regardless if you’re creating a costume for Dragon Con or mounting some electronics, hot glue is an essential tool. Recently my hot glue gun died and it was time to get a new one. I found this inexpensive glue gun on amazon for around 20 USD and it arrived today!

My old hot glue gun was a simple low temperature model that took small glue sticks. However, it came in handing in securing cables (FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition  teams know what I’m talking about!) and holding electronics in place. This time I decided to upgrade to a variable temperature model that can take larger glue sticks.

There is something to be said for high temperature glue guns. Experimenting with this new tool, I discovered that higher-temperature glue seems to be more durable and hold better. I am really interested to see how this affects attaching electronics to 3D printed parts. The glue temperature is not warm enough to melt ABS or PETG plastic. More experimentation is needed to fully understand how I can best utilize my new hot glue gun. I am far from an expert in hot glue, but it is an important to have a hot glue gun handy when making. You never know when it might come in handy!

20160928_211917679_iosEveryone knows they should read the manual. But let’s be honest, we don’t. Maybe it’s because you’re already an expert in that new gizmo you just bought or maybe you just don’t have time. Rarely do we want to follow instructions unless something is really wrong.

For a maker, the manual or instructions is a great source of creativity! I love reading LEGO instructions. I learn new building techniques that help me make better creations. For example, a bot I am taking to World Maker Faire this weekend has some components that are modified from a LEGO set. I built the part according to the manual and then decided to enhance it and tweak the design to fit my project.

This works beyond LEGO sets. Remember that radio I took with me to the Caribbean? I modified the schematic to add in the transistor. I could have also made other tweaks to change frequency or power output.

So the next time someone says RTFM, don’t feel offended. Look at it as an opportunity to learn something new, a starting point for your own creativity, or a solution to a problem.

Maker Tip: Label Your Tools

Posted: September 21, 2016 in Maker Tips
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One of the great joys of making is building things with friends. However, sometimes tools end up going home with the wrong maker. Typically in the rush of cleanup, tools get misplaced. Labeling tools is an easy way to ensure they end up going home with the correct person.

This lesson I learned from my grandfather, a master plumber. He would work on job sites with multiple other trades. Keeping track of tools was very important, especially moving from job site to job site. Most of my tools have been passed down to me from my grandfather. Many already are marked with my grandfather’s last name and my middle name, Jesse. As I have acquired new tools, like the work light pictured in this post, I have kept the tradition of marking my tools with “Jesse”. Using the same name makes it easier to keep track of tools and even though he lives nearly a thousand miles away in Ohio, it ensures he is part of every project I make!

 

I wanted to start a new series on things I have learned while making. I figured this would be a good place to start. Always start a project with a clean makerspace!

Making things always seems to clutter up my desk. From tools to parts to test equipment, things quickly get messy. While cleaning up after my last project, I snapped a quick pic. This is my desk after cleaning up most of the mess. I still have my work lights hanging (you can see the cables), but the desk is mostly lean.

Cleaning up after a project is really a good idea. A clean workspace/bench makes it easier to find parts and tools. It also ensures you have the room required for your project. While my makerspace is a spare room in my apartment, you might have a full shop or garage. Cleaning might be more involved, but well worth the effort!