08 Mar

Mould Making

messy workshop

Last Wednesday I ran a small ‘Messy Workshop’, where I introduced several students to the processes of moulding and casting. I only had a short amount of time – around 3 hours. Within this I had to squeeze quite a bit in, so I  put on my best motor mouth for the occasion!

I brainstormed what I could include, and got some guidance from the tech in the casting room – I’ll create some basic moulds using the vac former, a silicone mould of the same shape in order to do a comparison of the two processes, and a couple of different resin types;  polyester (clear cast in this case) and Polyurethane (Fast cast).


After half an hour of me waffling on about the contents of each canister, types of facilities available, and associated H&S we created some basic alginate moulds and created a plaster cast of our hands / fingers.


This was pretty decent and took us to around 11am, when we took a short break – this allowed for us to give the plaster some time to cure. We were all rather hasty in our de-moulding, and lost a few fingers, most people thought this was the most distressing thing they had ever seen, whilst others found the whole thing rather hilarious!


Typical art college fayre!

After all that, we continued on to the resin room where we created the reproductions using the vac form moulds. I prepared several, but gave the option for students to create their own if they wanted to make more than one. I also showed the silicone mould off and we poured that one as well. Over the remaining hour, resin was mixed and moulds were poured.


Well, onto one of the real reason I made this a forum post, was to show off some nifty mould making processes I had a go at. Not only is the nature of these mid week workshops a way to get some cool stuff (mostly hard skills) introduced to students, but is also a way for me to indulge my nerd and try and create / explore new ways of doing the stuff we do already, which can all be summed up as making.

Tuesday was spent mostly drafting in Rhino 3D some nifty tile pieces, the kind of thing we might look at 3D printing one offs, and then going off to reproduces using a variety of casting mediums. (or maybe in the future, we will simply 3d print the lot?), anyway – I made a bunch of tiles.

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render 1

a typical process would be to create a plastic / wooden / Lego box to place them in to enable us to pour silicone over.

Well, now we’re in CAD and can 3D print the form, why not add a mould box into the mix, print it all out, and pour strait away.

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The next thing I went on to illustrate was the process of creating a shape from a two part mould.

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The parts for a two piece mould

All the components we went on to make on the Wednesday were simple one piece moulds, with an open back – this enabled us to quickly make some shapes. I created both side A and side B, in Rhino, as if they were made from silicone. The components also included the pour hole and the bleed lines already in place. This is something that you would usually create by submerging the parts 50% on clay and sculpting out the pour and bleed lines.

The next cool thing you add are the ball bearings / marbles, as these create locator pins for both side A and B, ensuring that you don’t miss align the mould and create a miss cast.

In the real world, that’s a days work (sort of ) and is also rather messy, you have to take precautions that you don’t get clay all over your original work. Once you have one side in silicone, you dismantle everything, take it all out – and then re construct the box; this time with the silicone and the part in the bottom, and now you can pour a new batch of silicone on the top (silicone wont stick to silicone) and your on your way to having a two piece mould. Sounds tricky? It is until you do it yourself!

Well – that will all take 2 days what with the cure time, if I’m lucky – and I only have 3 hours. I do have the benefit at this point to a couple of hours to prep for the session however. I think to myself, what if I were to take the workflow of creating the walls for my simple shape and turning it into its own mould box, and creating the mould box for side A and side B of a two piece mould?! Well – here goes. Mouldception.

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This is what the mould will look like, rendered blue to represent the silicone material! note the pour holes, bleeder lines and the positive and negative locators.

Everything went as planned! I created the mould boxes for side A and side B, poured in the silicone, and 12 hrs later, had the silicone in my hands.


The silicone parts visualised next to their respective mould boxes.

A quick pour of the parts and we can see how things turned out. the pour hole could have done with being a little larger – perhaps we can use a syringe to force in the material as the working time is around 1 or 2 minuets.


The two parts of the mould taped up and ready to pour

The bleed holes worked really well…. except for perhaps my positioning of them , I was still left with a hole in the first reproduction.

I was able to position the two together, make the pour, and 15 / 20 mins later I got the parts out. The striking thing here was how much they resembled the 3d printed parts!


The parts that I printed were done so on the ‘fast print’ setting so contain all the features of a fast 3d print – its really amazing how much detail is carried through the mould / casting process – and how many comments we got thinking the resin part was made by a 3d printer, as it had a similar weight, finish, and surface quality.

I’ll return back with some HQ images of the printed + resin parts later, so into the process I guess I forgot to document the later (more interesting?) steps!


Collection of moulds, in both PLA and silicone.


Plaster cast finger mountain





The two part moulds.

The principle is that you cannot cast material that goes hard (plaster / resin) into a rigid mould. So here you can see we played around and injected silicone into the PLA moulds.

In the silicone moulds of the same shape, you can see we have poured / cast the resin. the reproduction (minus the air bubble) is great! All details captured.


The two types of mould for the larger tile piece. The ‘Vacform’ moulds and the silicone mould. The silicone moulds (condition cure) are only good for the Polyurethane resins (fast casts) and the vac forms for the polyester resin (clear cast).



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Clear cast with pigments – and loosely mixed inside the vac form!

12 Oct

Delta Vases


One of the finished models.

Approx. 3.5 hrs each – running on spiral vase mode, at around 15mm/s in Cura.


Close up of the print in action.


Each scaled to ‘fit max’ in Cura, so its capped at height in this case, so each vase has the same height.


Finished, with MM to spare!


First go with LayBrick – no calibration or anything, so rather pleased with the outcome. Some strings, and odd bits, but maybe room for improvement down the line.


A closer, in process shot. The material shows a few blemishes, but overall smooths out the layers really well!

04 Sep

Kossel – some months in

I think a holiday was what I needed to get my head in the right place for this stupid printer!


Turns out the current Marlin forks have removed the probe feature, as its being reworked. I figured this out in the longest way possible – after around two days of calibrating my z offsets with software. I go to probe, nothing happens. I re compile my old firmware, i get the probe, but no soft end stops. Two weeks later, I just accept that, and use my screws as end stop offsets, and I have the probe back.

Other mods have been a new fan bracket thing for the hot end – it kept colliding into the X and Y towers – now they’re at an offset and fits well – what it hits now though, is the probe pillar, the little thing that puts the probe away after it completes its 22 point calibration!

Maybe I should go to FSRs, but that would mean that I have to undo / redo a lot of work – not happening anytime soon!

The fans are too good though, and my stupid heater cannot manage to keep temps. it got to around 180 despite the target being 210. I reached for my e – z fuse tape, and applied it – now its lovely and insulated, looks pretty decent also.


I’m running new filament, after printing a new spool holder, the thing can be left, I’ve gone shopping to return home to completed prints, its a good feeling! The filament looks good, I have printed around a third of the spool so far, and its been trouble free.




I did have some prints go bad, what looks like the z axis got some skipped steps (on a delta that looks like steps skipped in x / y), not sure why, I did some oiling, and then decided its due to the belts being a bit too tight. When the effector was dancing around doing small infills, it would be quite graunchy, so I slackened off the belts a little and that appears to make it nice and smooth. I ran some prints very slowly last night and the loudest thing was the fan on the hot end – its a very quiet machine.

I also got around to printing and installing the LCD cover – which makes things nice and tidy – it isn’t the nicest of models though…


I also had a go at using meshmixer to generate some rather intelligent support structures – unfortunately it fall off mid way through the structure – but due to the wonders of reprap, it somehow fixed itself when it counted!WP_20150831_17_13_42_Pro WP_20150831_17_38_46_Pro

I doubt i’ll get time for many more mods to be honest, but the list is still there


I know Mark uses this model on his i3 so thought i’d do the same.


IMG_3047 IMG_3048

Some more Grasshopper generate forms  – using the same two profile rails, I was able to modify the amount of divisions of the curve, then draw an arc between the two curves along the sub division. Data MAtching Arc with loft



These guys were printed flat, at 0.2mm and 0.3mm

IMG_3050  IMG_3049

I then re oriented them vertically – spiral vase mode. 0.2mm approx 10mm/s!

IMG_3067 IMG_3069 IMG_3070

Grasshopper vase, worked really well – apart from the undersides of the wibbly bits. I think I will re print, but at a much slower speed – you can see the errors just building up from a previous blip.



24 Aug

3D printing in glass!

Wired have an article on 3D printing in glass!


Photo by Steven Keating – http://matter.media.mit.edu/environments/details/g3dp#prettyPhoto

This is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Mediated Matter Group in collaboration with MIT’s Department of Mechnical Engineering and MIT’s Glass Lab.

The print nozzle is running over 1000C!

Check out the wired article and the MIT site for some great examples of their work.

As ever, tried to find a press image but couldn’t so if anyone objects to the use of the picture above, just get in touch and we will remove it.



25 Jul

3D printer lathe

A great paper on the creation of a 3d printer lathe hybrid type thing.



25 Jul

Southampton UAV

3D printed UAV lands on a Dorset beach!


A 3D printed aircraft has successfully launched off the front of a Royal Navy warship and landed safely on a Dorset beach.

HMS Mersey provided the perfect platform for the University of Southampton to test out their SULSA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Weighing 3kg and measuring 1.5m the airframe was created on a 3D printer using laser sintered nylon and catapulted off HMS Mersey into the Wyke Regis Training Facility in Weymouth, before landing on Chesil Beach.

The flight, which covered roughly 500 metres, lasted less than few minutes but demonstrated the potential use of small lightweight UAVs, which can be easily launched at sea, in a maritime environment. The aircraft carried a small video camera to record its flight and Southampton researchers monitored the flight from their UAV control van with its on-board video-cameras.

Known as Project Triangle the capability demonstration was led by Southampton researchers, making use of the coastal patrol and fisheries protection ship.

Professor Andy Keane, from Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton, says: “The key to increased use of UAVs is the simple production of low cost and rugged airframes – we believe our pioneering use of 3D printed nylon has advanced design thinking in the UAV community world-wide.”

It was back in 2011 that University of Southampton engineers initially designed, and flew project SULSA, the world’s first entirely “printed” aircraft..

With a wingspan of nearly 1.5 metres, the UAV being trialled has a cruise speed of 50kts (58mph) but can fly almost silently.

The aircraft is printed in four major parts and can be assembled without the use of any tools.

Watching the demonstration was the Royal Navy’s Commander Maritime Capability (Aviation), Cdr Bow Wheaton.

He said: “The Royal Navy’s Maritime Capability organisation is very interested in conceptual applications of unmanned and highly automated systems.

“We were delighted to assist the University of Southampton with development of their 3-D printed unmanned air vehicle and provide a ship for an embarked launch.”

Southampton alumnus, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas (Aeronautics, 1980) has championed the Navy’s involvement with Project Triangle, which resulted in the opportunity to provide a maritime platform for the test flight.

Adm Zambellas said: “Radical advances in capability often start with small steps. The launch of a 3D-printed aircraft from HMS Mersey is a small glimpse into the innovation and forward thinking that is now embedded in our Navy’s approach.

“It’s well known that our first squadron of remotely piloted aircraft have proven their worth in the Gulf, providing persistent airborne surveillance across huge areas of sea.”

He added that this trial helps explore how simple, automated systems have the potential to replace complex machines.

“We are after more and greater capability in this field which delivers huge value for money. And, because it’s new technology, with young people behind it, we’re having fun doing it,” Adm Zambellas said.




14 Jun

Kossel – first prints woo!


At Last!

Printing has happened! Sample model made in Grasshopper 3d and sliced in Cura using spiral vase (Black magic!)

Its a thing of beauty – well, the bits i’m showing here are anyway! The bits I cropped out are a bit wobbly looking – but that’s due to printer temp i’m sure 😉

building-vase-2  building-vase-4 building-vase-5


Today I went to SoMakeIT to get some expert advice  as it was their 3D printer build day as well. I saw them building their 4th cerberus printer, whilst bugging them to help me out.


One of my main concerns was the probing, and that seems to have been rectified! The 40mm fans on the effector were colliding into the X and Y belts, and causing it to skip steps and give very odd results. Some time later we found the part of marlin that allowed us to reduce the diameter or the probing, and now it functions as it should!

One oddity that happend was the extruder, it forgot how to turn! We swapped out the stepper driver and hey presto – its alive. Ordered a couple spare…

I also got some of the connections properly crimped, so I promptly ordered all the parts – I just got a model prepped and ready – only to get ANOTHER temp error! I think that i’m destined to fail, or, I should not assume my terrible wiring wont short at some point! So I turned it off and will wait to do it properly, again.

Will allow me to get the power switch installed, along with the LCD and SD Card functionality.

I should really address the amount of cables coming from the power supply also, would like to neaten that up.

I would like to add some LEDs to the build so I can see what is being printed – I might add them to the ZMin mounts as some kind of arm type thing…

07 Jun

Kossel – more like, blue smoke machine

Well, it has been up and down as far as the Kossel build is concerned – and mostly down at that.

I printed stuff! So at least I have that going for me…

I made a box – it came out surprisingly well! I started printing at 0.1mm layer height and that took ages, I got bored 15 mins into the build.


I resent the data at 0.3mm and that took 15 mins to complete – very happy with the finish, some slop on the corners though, due in part to the high temp of the printing and maybe some other variable.. thing is, I didn’t get that far into the dialling in of the printer – as I had sprung a leak on the hot end…Foolishly I didn’t bother to read the instructions in the E3D Wiki – which meant I skipped the final tightening of the nozzle to the heater block whilst at temp.

Video here: http://1drv.ms/1FIYkMP

This meant, once I cleaned and rebuilt the hot end (which wasn’t that much of a chore) – something had gone wrong, I had shorted out either the thermistor, or heater cartridge. Several boards later, and more blue smoke – I finally realise it was the heater cartridge as I don’t have any resistance on that part anymore. I have ordered a replacement and a couple of replacement FETs so I can repair my existing Ramps shields.

This will mean I have to re sleeve – again! so yeah, pretty frustrated – another week down the pan! 🙁

I also brought a new PSU, costing more than I would like to admit – as suggested by Mark. I picked up a silent ATX PSU and plan chop off unwanted cables, and to sleeve those cables I want to retain.

I have however brought some smallish lengths in wonderful jade, pistachio and grey via the lovely guys at faberdashery – and in order to use some existing woodfill, I just brought a new 0.6mm nozzle. I also brought, at great expense (and since found it cheaper on eBay) some laybrick filament – to simulate a clay / porcelain material. My aim is to get some tutorials done of Grasshopper, a plugin for Rhino, and create some interesting parametric derived surfaces – my justification for this build in  the first place!


30 May

Mini Kossel – it continues!

Will be posting this a bit retroactively as its very very very near completion!

That is, until something goes a bit wrong with the next thing that gets implemented!

I spent the bank holiday weekend putting in the hours – I loaded up a couple of different build guides to assist me – but most of it was pretty straight forward! The printed parts all fit, the only real headache was the sawing of the aluminium extrusions. I would strongly suggest either taking extra care when cutting by hand to ensure that the extrusions are cut to the correct length – or just get a purpose cut  set via ebay for a similar price than straight lengths. as a friend of mine said – you cannot put a price on ball ache!


Assembling the top frame mounts – very minimal clean-up required. The Ultimaker did a great job at printing these parts for me! I didn’t buy the flanged bearings for the belt guides – no idea why – so instead I am using bearings and washers. They are a bit noisy – so will have to gauge how annoying they are when I am printing to warrant replacing them with flanged bearings in the future.


A little bit further along and now the parts are assembled, at least for a dry fit. The colours look great IMHO.


I chose to add some stepper dampers to the build – its typical to get a song played at you by the printer whilst its doing its thing – but it gets old fast. These were about £5 each and more of an indulgence then really necessary. There are other out there made of lasercut cork sheet – but their cost isn’t that much less than these beasts.


Another shot of the top and bottom frame – with motors installed.


To create the rods for the delta I had to assemble the traxxis mounts and then bond them into the carbon rods. Wasn’t too much faff, I brought pretty decent araldite so that it would set quickly – turns out that I didn’t have any time left in the day and had to leave it overnight anyway! The other thing that is crucial is how long they are – I didn’t really focus on that – so will have a bit extra work to do in the calibration….


End of day one – about 4 hours in total as we spent a good portion of the morning faffing about in the car, followed by the eurovision party which stated at 6. The weather was great on the Saturday so started the build outside – I think there are still bits blowing around to be honest :s.


Start of day two – and I realise that the rails I brought only take M3 Cap screws and my extrusion starts from M4 – but really wants M5. So I had to improvise! Lots of M3 caps later with larger washers over a small washers – and then jamming it into the extrusion. I didn’t have much clearance and the nuts were on by a quarter turn, so a couple fell off during install – I must admit – I just carried on…hopefully it wont rattle too much when doing travel moves! I had to use a power drill to spin and tighten the nuts on the fasteners, as there as no purchase or bite on the smooth washers to the inside of the rail – most of them are tight now though! I possibly should have used MGN 15 – but that would have required remodelling the carriages…


The effector for the delta – pretty straight forward to assemble. Once again i’m using slightly longer bolts for no reason other than that’s what I have…


Mounted and installed with the timing belts – all standard. Except I got to use my matching cable ties! There is something to be said here though – and had I known this before (possibly through lack of research!) but I installed the rails where I was instructed – yet it starts several CM from the top frame,  I have at least 2CM extra space there now – surely I could have used that space for extra build volume?

Secondly – I spent a fortune on these rails – 400mm long. But due to the design – I dont have that length to build with.. So either A, I could have brought rails 250mm and saved some cash (they don’t exist as off the shelf purchase) or to extended the extrusion to 900 high, and mount the rails accordingly to get around 350 / full 400mm of build. In theroy its a simple swap – in reality – its a day to do that…so possibly wont bother!


here I am getting the wiring sorted – I brought the wrong size connectors from RS – so that was a bunch of money wasted! I opted to use female headers and solder my wires to those – a much more affordable method (and available to me without any extra purchases as I just raided the bits box).

The means I can slide them onto the pins on Ramps without any hassle!


The motors all wired up (X, Y, Z) – looks like doc oc from spiderman! What I didn’t realise was that now I started with the cable management – I had to continue – and that’s pretty much where the rest of Sunday and all of Monday went!


Its current form – my desk got really messy – and my usable workspace got less and less. I really should go tidy up but that’s not going to happen any time yet! its one of those things though, by front loading this, I wont have to re visit it later down the line, and when that involves a lot of soldering and connecting, re connecting, it worked out better I think in the long run.


One stupid oversight was the lack of mounting for my hot end – I was in a bit of a panic about it really as I don’t have any real tools, let alone material at home to fabricate anything! But, I do have my not yet calibrated Huxley on hand, and I quickly found a part on thingiverse and printed him out. Its a bit on the slide, but fits a treat! Its the white part in the above image. I have since taken it off, as I needed the space for the fan mounts and also, it pulled the hot end into the effector so well it created a very tight interference fit.


This was now Tuesday evening – meaning its eating it my evenings… I had hoped to have gotten it all sorted within the bank holiday – but that  went out the window with the amount of time it took to sleeve all the cables!

The above image is part way through the calibration stages – to ensure the machine knows where the bed is or some other stuff, like how long its arms are or something. The instructions looked very daunting – but I read through them slowly a couple of times and I think its pretty simple – very different to setting up a cartesian printer, also easier as I’m just following someone else’s hard work!

I did think though that it was a waste of time to continue with the calibration as I didn’t have the heated aluminium bed yet – so it would be fruitless – also it was late! I see a lot of videos on youTube that only print on glass – but I am going for the heated bed option. Whilst I don’t have much experience in printing ABS, I do have a couple of rolls of it, so that might save me a few quid in the future. Also, a headed bed on PLA is quite common now.



So I got onto fabbing one at work – I was planning on using the rotary table on the bridport mill – but was advised to use a jigsaw and the linisher to nibble and smooth it out. It didn’t take all that long really and surprised myself how close to the edge I managed to cut! There are only a few flats on the circumference, good enough for my needs that for sure :).


Just a shot to show it all really very close to finishing! I also made a plywood insulator for below the bed – so in all its a 10mm thick bed! I had to do something about that as I want as much build volume as I can squeeze out of it. Also in the above image was a bed holder I d/l and printed – but it didn’t fit my 170mm build area! Also the tongue that supports the bed was about 5mm so that just would not do!

I promptly measured around and figured I could drop the bed into the base of the printer – as the bed is only 170 across.

eds kossel bed

So they clip to the frame and sink below on the inside – and the glass bed will be a mm or so proud of that.They’re installed and look pretty good!

ed 1

I Dropped into an electrical shop on the way home today and grabbed some terminal blocks, this allowed me to get on with the Z probe – something that allured me to the kossel in the first place.  It took a while to figure out how the thing worked, and how long to make the probe – but its all installed now and really cannot wait to see it bopping around the bed to get my prints looking sexy!

Now I just have to find a day to go through the lengthy calibration process – I hope the build went well enough now to attain the finishes that made me want to build the machine in the first place! Maybe I’l do that Sunday… 🙂



16 May

Kossel Mini WIP

A few too many days off at Christmas and too many videos watched on you tube!

I started to put together the list – some key parts I would salvage off my older printer, such as the steppers (£50 for 5) and a power supply (£30). Other than that, will be a new beast!

BOM here:

I miss having an extrusion machine at home – so chose one that not only looks cool, but is small enough to fit a particular space on my desk, so the mini kossel is it!

I planned on taking my time with this project – buying some bits every month to distribute the costs, I don’t think its that expensive, but still – pacing myself 🙂


The BOM suggests that the machine will cost £300.

I did fancy using spectra line (cheaper than belts) and also using a fancy E3D Chimera hot end, you know, the one that dual extrudes with a very tidy footprint. Thing is, that was a £100, and would require me to get another motor and extruder set-up, which I don’t want to do just yet – also, printers are a faff to get calibrated, so I opted to  go for single extrusion, get that working(!) and then go for possibly upgrade when time and budget permits. I would really like to print with PVA support material!

For that reason, I decided to go for a ramps setup. I could have used my sanguinolu from my previous build – but will be fireproofing mself with the additional motor controller. Also, the thing was crazy adorable from ebay so just did it. I also brought the LCD panel but that thing hasnt turned up – its been like 4 months! The seller has also sent two replacements and they never appeared either – ah well!

I cheapened out on the Hot End and brought the E3DLite V6, so inc tax and postage it was about £35 – which is a steal for something as reputable as it is.. The extruder is a geared wades, suggested by RichRap as the best he has used, still. So wont be arguing about that.

I started printing the parts on my works ultimaker 2, and then students got in the way so I have yet to finish printing all the parts – almost there though! I brought the machine home with me this weekend so will be continuing to print through the night.


I am using Orange Fizz from Faberdashery, its printing really well at the moment! Its orange to match the Form1 it will be sat next to – so along with the extrusions they should be a good couple!

I have some white acrylic so one its all built might make some kind of bracket to put two panels on the machine, and maybe get an orange translucent door as well – will see how much I can be bothered. My argument for would be to enclose the machine, good for heat, maybe dull the sound a little….

I also went for the expensive Linear Rails, as I’ve always had a penchant for them.


They cost £75 for 3, so certainly the most expensive part of the build. You can go for an open beam runner style thing, but they look a little ugly and well, would potentially get in the way of the side panels should they get installed ever.

Thing is as of late, whilst waiting for the printer to become available – I got a bit carried away buying tiny cable ties and cool cable braiding – presuming I actually do a decent job of it, it should be the most coordinated kossel out there!



I still have to get some wire – was thinking of getting the wire that is twisted together, like an orange and a white, grey and white etc… not sure that that’s called? Also, I need to get them with female headers on as that’s how I’ll be connecting things to the ramps board (endstops etc)..anyone know what type of wire that is?!