“Red Special” Ray Gun now with Display Stand

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As I posted before, my Red Special Ray Gun has been quite popular. I’ve printed a bunch now for people, but the one thing I keep hearing is “Boy, it would be cool if it had a display stand.”

Now it does.

I combined elements of the original gun, along with a very retro-Atomic-era style to complement the lines of the original, basically ripping part of the barrel off entirely.

I like it with the red rings, but I also found that black works well:

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New Ray Gun: The Constitution Class Phaser

Come on, admit it. You’re pissed you didn’t think of it:

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I have long thought that the body of the U.S.S. Enterprise (a Constitution Class Federation vessel), has a secondary hull that looked like it was originally intended to be the phaser weapon used in the show.

Slap a handle on it, and done.

So I finally did. After many years of sketching it this way, I finally did it.

I downloaded a model of the Enterprise from Shapeways (which I will replace with my own model later) only to adapt it to my hand-phaser concept.

St. John’s Row Houses Brooches

As seen in the past, I have done some jewelry pieces for my wife (and a couple of other family members) but it struck me I could make something marketable to a Newfoundland tourism audience, and so I set out to make a slightly whimsical take on one of the things that now makes St. John’s, Newfoundland world-famous, it’s delightfully coloured row houses, seen below.

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One of my friends lives in one of the three above – I never remember which one.

I lived in one on Queen’s Road for several years.

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New Ray Gun – The Ice Breaker

My latest ray gun: The Ice Breaker

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It all started with this, one of the most elegantly-shaped things I’ve ever seen in a museum. At the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, an exhibit came by of retro-futuristic design. This item really struck me.

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From this I created a very closely-contoured version and did a test print. I modeled it way too big. But here it is, without alteration. The aperture at the top I made a cap for but it’s not shown here. That cap will eventually have electronics, hopefully. But for now, it’s just an opening.

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This version has a spring in the trigger. Eventually I would use magnets.

I decided I would keep this version, but I also wanted to see where I could take it in a more futuristic Buck Rogers world. So I added a fin, recontoured the handle to make it fit better, and shrunk it down. I also added a more “ray gun” nozzle.

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The body is printed in three pieces, and this version is glued together. The plate is still there, but now has a dorsal ridge that fits in line with the dorsal ridge on the other pieces. It fits nicely and snaps off when needed.

This is version 3:

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I bought a cranberry red filament (the bright red is nice, but a bit – toy-like.) I printed it at .8 the size of the original bulky one. Fits nicely, and feels great.

I will later show the construction, which shows how the three main body parts are joined by a 1/2″ diameter 7″ galvanized heavy metal bolt and nut. I even printed my own tool to screw in the bolt because a standard socket tool would not fit.

The handle screws to the body with four #4 Black Oxide 3/4″ screws, and the bottom cap of the handle screws on with one of those. The handle has a cap so I can put two carriage bolt shafts in there for weight.

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I had modeled apertures for up to four more bolts for weight, but it’s nicely weighted without those.

And for now, in the panel opening I have placed a greeble object, a dummy object covered in nonsense to appear like it’s a circuit board.

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Exchangeable Emitters

My friend Matt said “Hey, you could probably swap the front and back, and make different pieces that fit.” The apertures for front and back differ, though, and while I could make them match, I wasn’t sure I’d like the new proportions, but the replaceable emitter idea stuck.

I immediately modeled five or six alternative emitters, and I’m quite happy with them. I have one or two more done that I have not yet photographed, but those are variants on these.

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Rocket Pastiche! The Bradbury

A very loyal and regular customer of late keeps sending me images of rockets he’s found on the internet. And UFOs. He and I share interest in the retro design aesthetic.

Here are the latest forays into 3D printed rocketry:

The Bradbury

Ray Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles” was a TV mini-series based on Ray Bradbury’s anthology about mankind colonizing Mars.

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My friend send me images of the models used in the show:

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He was hinting rather strongly that he would like a couple of these. So I made them.

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Bradbury-For-Scale

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The interesting thing about this rocket is that the mini rockets on the ends of each wing rotate. They rotate in order to stay parallel to travel vector when the wings scissor outward. I modeled my version landed, and even included the gangway tube.

But not satisfied with that, I modeled a version with scissor wings. I sent the three rockets to my friend (he bought two), the scissor-wing version being a bonus. I didn’t take photos. I’ll print another one later showing the scissor-wing action.

Interestingly, my friend has been in contact with the man who created the original rocket prop and he’s quite interested in what I’m doing with my models. He offered to animate the CGI model I created.

Quick Kitbash #1 – Jetpack from Flame Trooper Pack

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Oh dear, Hasbro, what have you done? Your once fine fully articulated 12″ figures have become the stuff of nonsense. You can’t even bend elbows to hold the nicely molded rifle you put in with your Stormtrooper figures which are now hard plastic shells with almost no movement at all.

That said, I bought the Flame Trooper with a purpose in mind – at least your accessories are still useful.

Note: the flamethrower backpack!

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I knew immediately that this had potential!

Materials and Tools

You will need:

  • 1 Force Awakens Flametrooper 12″ Figure
  • 1 Dollar Store Chess Set – cheap, hollow chess pieces
  • 3/8″ Black Braided Elastic (from Fabric store)
  • Wire cutter
  • X-Acto knife (or sharp blade)
  • Binary epoxy cement
  • Drill or Dremel

That’s it. Literally.

Step One

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Gather your gear. Note that here, I have two white and two black pawns. This is for a second option I will discuss later, but will not do here in this tutorial.

The larger black pieces are the King and Queen. Make sure you use the two largest pieces whose bases are identical. This may turn out to be the Bishops or the Rooks. Doesn’t matter much. You can also use the white ones for this, but I found with the nice black/white contrast already on the flamethrower fuel pack, the black looks nicest.

Step 2

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Using either an X-Acto knife, carpet knife or wire cutters, cut the body off the base of the King and Queen.

Step 3

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These will end up covering those hex bolt protrusions on the bottom of the flame pack.

Step 4

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Cut a slot about 1/4″ or less in the base. Note on the jetpack there is a pipe-like channel that prevents a perfect cone from fitting over the rounded tank. This slot will clear that space.

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Two jetpack cones ready to attach.

Step 5

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Mix half and half clear epoxy cement carefully with a toothpick.

Spread some on the inside rim of the hole and slot you cut into the bases.

Attach them, making sure the slots fit over the protrusions on the tank, with the hex bolts as centered as possible.

Step 6

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Cut the base off the black pawn.

Epoxy it to the base of the white pawn, base to base.

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Jam (with friction, or you can epoxy it if you like this method) the flame hose into the head of the white pawn as hard as you can.

Step 7

For now, the last step is to remove the peg that is used to insert the pack onto the Flametrooper figure. Use wire cutters.

NOTE: There is a metal bolt inside the peg. The wire cutters can cut through it. Otherwise, use the dremel.

The Harness – COMING SOON

Here it is, without harness.

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If you think a one-handed control (with gimbal joystick head) is goofy, we can make a dual handle control using cording and two pawns, drilled into the body of the fuel pack.

The elastic braiding will be strung through the rounded tubular frame on the inside of the pack, using the Dremel and a drill to make an aperture for it. Using heat to seal the ends of a length of braiding, we will use small screws with washers to secure the ends to the pack.

WERBLZ ARE HERE!

WERBLZ_LOGO

They came to Earth from whatever Oort cloud or Nebula in which they were born – created – formed – hatched? – in search of a better place. First, they came as they were. Needless to say, they thought they were doing rather well, socially. They thought they were fooling us. They thought they were fitting in. But with exposed brains inside jars of gas they didn’t exactly make the social scene. And their unfamiliarity with that pesky gravity, they just didn’t stay put.

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Soon aware that they were not blending in as well as they thought they were, they tried something else: BERDLZ!

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Though this new ruse failed initially as well, they vowed to keep trying. They observed humans going about the course of what they called JERBZ! and took hints from those activities, hoping these new guises were more successful.

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And they vowed to keep trying.

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WERBLZ are available on my ETSY store. Not all designs will be available right away. Waves will roll out as I can make them ready.

ETSY Description:
They came to Earth from whatever Oort cloud or Nebula in which they were born – created – formed – hatched? – in search of a better place. First, they came as they were. Needless to say, they thought they were doing rather well. They thought they were fooling us. They thought they were fitting in nicely. But with exposed brains inside jars of gas they didn’t exactly make the social scene. And with their unfamiliarity with this pesky new gravity, they just couldn’t stay put.

Try as you might, however, you just can’t knock them down. They will just get back up and try again.

Comes with colorful Gravitronic Stabilizer! (Colors vary.)

Each WERBLZ is designed, 3D printed in bright, colorful ABS plastic, and assembled by Sean Huxter.

NOTE: THESE ARE NOT FOR KIDS. They are made from small parts, and each contains a 1″ metal carriage bolt head for weight/werblaility, and held together by Krazy Glue!

 

GI Joe Jetpack V2.0 – The Evolution of the Cotswold Heli-Pack

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My latest project for Cotswold Collectibles is one they have been after me to do for a while now, ever since I showed it to Greg Brown at the Dallas GI Joe Convention.

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(Cross-eye stereo pic)

But I was very concerned that certain aspects of the design were fine for me, knowing what I know about it, but I was very hesitant to sell it to others due to extreme fragility in more than one aspect of the design.

 

Breakable Design

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The harness, which is a hard pipe harness that hinges down over a body and clips into place using two swing-arms and c-clamp clasps, is very clever, and works perfectly. But unless you are very careful, it can break incredibly easily.

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Then the clips that hold the engine housings onto the body are also relatively breakable. It might take some force, but they could break because they were printed vertically.

When you print a thin cylinder on a layered 3D printer, the layers fuse, but those layers are never as strong as a single layer is. A cylinder printed upright will snap like a twig very easily. The same cylinder printed sideways will be very hard to snap but will also not be very round.

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It’s a trade-off. I created the first jetpack to look good, and not be terribly strong.

 

How To Fix It So I Could Sell It

How could I change the jetpack to make it so that I could confidently sell them without worrying someone would easily break it?

 

Harness

First, I harkened back to the Backpack Drone Carrier which I designed a couple of years ago. It held my aerial drone, and was a solar charging base as well as a launch pad for it. This used a harness made from elastic straps, and 3D printed connectors and strap adjusters. When I designed that, I wanted nothing to do with sewing. A complicated elastic harness might mean sewing strap bits together. I came up with a way that does the whole thing with one continuous length of elastic strapping with no sewing at all. Just heat-fusing the ends so they don’t fray.

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The jetpack was in itself an homage to, and a continuation of, the backpack GI Joe Action Pack sets of the past, especially the Turbo Copter. Those used straps as harnesses, either flexible plastic or elastic, clipped to a chest piece with metal clips.

Since that worked rather well, I thought I might be able to get away with that for the jetpack. So when I began work to completely redesign the jetpack, I had this new harness in mind from the beginning.

I created holes in the body that the strap would go into. I also designed it to screw together with 3 simple screws, but those screws would also clamp the elastic in place. I used a sawtooth strip on both the cushion seat and the front of the body piece to sandwich the elastic tightly, and it would not slip. Screws then go through the elastic to hold it in place on the body. Where the elastic folds in half, it fits into the chest harness piece and is clamped in place again by two screws.

PIC OF INTERIOR SHOWING TOOTH STRIPS AND HOLES FOR STRAPS – apologies. I still don’t have this pic!

The ends of the elastic are then fed into the strap adjusters and strap clips which fit nicely into the chest piece for an adjustable – and practically unbreakable – harness that I could now be confident could be sold to collectors without fear.

 

Engine Housing Clips

The original design printed the rotating engine arms upright, which makes for a perfectly smooth cylinder for easy rotation. However, that meant the clips that held the engine housings in place could be broken if enough force was applied. The layers could snap, breaking the clips.

So the solution was easy. Print the arms upright as usual, but make the clips separate pieces printed sideways. Sideways, the layers are both flexible and very strong. It would be practically impossible to break these new clips. They would get glued into the arms for a solid hold, and again, this makes the design much harder to break.

 

Complete Redesign

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My original jetpack was bulky and clunky and not terribly smooth. This was fine for a prototype or proof of concept, and it served me well. But again, not something I thought was aesthetically pleasing enough to sell. So I came up with a new concept which was much smoother in overall design, a bit smaller, and would have smaller engines, and would fit into the Adventure Team Vehicle without the racks I had designed, (though a quick redesign of the racks made those useful again anyway.)

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I began with tessellated cubes and used lattice deformers to warp the shapes into something cool and resembled my concept.

I soon had this ready:

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I was able to take the functioning part of the thumbwheel and arms directly from the old model without much alteration, except to make them a bit smaller.

I redesigned the engine housings just a bit to allow for the hub and spokes to work better. Those were incredibly hard to assemble as they were, and were not feasible as originally designed.

I was going to print the struts (spokes) flat in order to make a stronger central hub overall, but I didn’t want to lose the smoothness. So I deepened the slots the struts fitted into on the hub, and then created sliding slots for the assembled struts into the housings so they could slide into place, rather than be snapped into place awkwardly and with some danger of ruining the parts.

 

Why The Hub Bub?

Why the hub at all, you say?

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The engine housings themselves were designed to mimic the Dyson concept: air being pushed into the housing, and then pushed out through a ring around it, using an aerodynamic shell to funnel the air into a stable column. This, exaggerated to jet power, would provide enough lift for a human. It does not require that hub or struts.

The hub is there so when you remove the housings for storage or carrying, those can clip to the body. They are completely non-functional, though I did put a jet intake vent on it for looks.

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Problems With The Thumbwheel

The thumbwheel provided an issue. Originally designed to snap together very tightly, and not easily comp apart (so you could pull the engine housings off without fear of pulling out the rotator arms) this new version was giving me difficulties in assembly which involved a clamp to push the arms onto square posts on the thumbwheel.

However, I found that the thumbwheel bent during assembly and the arms would never snap fully onto the posts.

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I knew why. The post that goes “through” the thumbwheel actually was not a solid post. It was a shell and a part of the thumbwheel. So when you pushed hard on both posts, the thumbwheel itself collapsed a bit and the clamping process could not get the arms fully onto the wheel.

I could fix this by printing the thumbwheel with denser support, but I think there’s a better solution: Design the post solid, and make it exactly the same size as a hole in the thumbwheel. The 3D printer would see these as two solid walls and not make a solid of them, but print them almost as if they were two parts. This would mean clamping the arms onto the posts would be easier because the post would be solid, and not just look solid. It should work.

 

Sellable Product

With these changes made, tested, iterated on and approved, I was able to start printing.

One of the other original reasons I was a bit hesitant was that this thing took a long time to print. Scaling it down a bit helps, and having two printers certainly helps. And having a fairly nice lead time before they would be needed helps. I believe printing 30 of these won’t be too bad. It may take more than a month, but would be worth the time.

I’m eager to get these into the hands of collectors and gauge their reactions. I anticipate a quick sell-out of the first run.

 

Approval

I sent the jetpack, along with a dark green ATV rack-mount for it, (along with some color swatches I printed along with my own designed carabiner) to Greg for approval. The upper brass liked it apparently, but liked the rack mount so much they wanted to offer it up at the same time as an optional companion piece. So now I have to print some of these as well.

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Luckily there are only three individual parts, each have to be printed twice, and the pins four times each, in order to make one working rack. The two main parts are symmetrical so they work on both sides of the vehicle cargo bay, but with one part’s leg reversed. It’s quite a clever design if I do say so myself. The same legs work on either side of the tilted bay, but each one angled upward and the platforms snap to the legs.

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Of course the finished rack will not be in green, it will be in black to complement the ATV and the jetpack.

 

It Ain’t Always Easy

I was once intereviewed by an Afinia PR person. We chat on occasion and she loves it when I show her my latest 3D printed thing. She once asked me how often I get failed prints. I replied “Almost never.”

And that’s true. Sure, it happens sometimes. I’ll wake up, check the printer and find a huge hairball, but that is remarkably rare. Just a shade more often, I may get a print that has somehow caught on the print head and forced the print bed to skip, causing an offset.

The most frequent issue (and this happens more than I’d like, but still fairly rarely) is stress cracking. This is when the layers don’t fuse as strongly. I get it on some filaments even at my highest heat setting.

So it was frustrating to find out that when I had printed about a dozen of the body fronts for this project, a closer inspection showed me that I only had 3 good prints. Sigh. And it seems to happen mostly on my H480. Less so on my H479. The H480 just had its print head replaced a few months ago. You’d think it wouldn’t lose heat.

Anyway, it’s all part of the 3D printing process, and I’m just glad it’s a rare event.

ADDENDUM: On stress cracking. Yes, I sometimes get some depending on heat, but the frustration I was experiencing printing these jetpacks, I now realize, had to do with me buying a batch of old, outdated filament. I bought a 3 pack of yellow Afinia Premium ABS filament from a third party vendor on Amazon. It was when I was using that that I had so many jetpack bodies with stress cracks. I should have known there was a problem. These reels did not come in boxes, but in their mylar sleeves, which were scuffed up and buckled badly like these reels had been sitting in someone’s warehouse for a loooong time. I then ordered some fresh ABS from Afinia and did not experience that stress cracking.

I felt I should clear that up.

 

Final Words

Cotswold released the catalog, and here it is.

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I created 30 jetpacks and 25 ATV racks, my thinking was about half the people who buy the jetpack would have a vintage ATV in their collection, so I figured 15. We kept getting orders, so Greg Brown at Cotswold kept upping the order until we got to 25, almost a 1:1 ratio.

Not bad.

We are currently working on future projects! Keep your eye on this space.

UPDATE: I created a blueprint and instruction sheet for the Heli-Pack:

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