New Project – Any Guesses?

I’m working on about a half-dozen projects at any one time. I’m modeling an airship, while also updating my TB3 rocket, while printing a Liberator space ship while planning on various household improvements, and other 3D printing things like Adventure Team insignia, and a project box for a circuit board I bought which converts files from Commodore 64 drives to PC files, and back.

But this is my latest project. Any guesses what you think this may be? (It’s not finished, of course.)


Fred’s Head

Fred Fields is a colleague and friend. He’s an amazingly talented artist. A while ago, Pete Anderson, another talented colleague and friend decided he wanted to model Fred’s head. (I didn’t ask.)

When I saw the model, I thought that this would be an ideal thing to print. So with Pete and Fred’s permission, I got the file and printed Fred’s head, a 4.5″ tall print, in .15mm mode, which means it prints 10 layers for 1.5mm in height. This print took 6.5 hours.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



It is not without its problems.

In fact, when the print got to the shoulders near the neck, some scaffolding it had printed to support the ears fell over and I had to pause the print. I glued the scaffold back in, revealing to me an amazing thing: This printer can repair scaffolding. By printing the current layer where it is supposed to go, if there is anything supporting this level, even if it’s out of place, it will support the printing of it in place, and if for some reason it isn’t perfect, it’s there to support the next layer better, and over a few layers, it can actually be back printing fully perfect scaffolding. I have to say – that surprised me.

But the pause may have caused some heat differences, because around that point, at the back (thankfully) there is a stress crack that you don’t see in these photos.

I will be printing this again, one without a crack, hopefully, for Pete, another one for Fred (so I can retrieve the cracked one) and one for me.

The Print Shop Is Closed (sigh)

Here’s the setup:

I have several designs to print and I’m in the middle of printing two 8″ Liberator space ships from Blake’s 7. My wife is away for a full week. My daughter is busy all day. I’m home alone, it’s the 4th of July. I also have Friday (the 5th) off and the weekend to myself and my printer. I’m going to print about 50 different things this weekend alone, in combined print runs.

I printed 10 pieces of the Liberator, and was modeling a display stand for my Blade Runner Blaster. I withdrew the white filament and was feeding in yellow when it failed to feed. Instead, the feeder motor just knocked over and over… The filament will feed in about an inch, then it just stops.

I know clogged nozzles happen, so I removed the nozzle and gave it an acetone bath. But I knew right away this was not the problem because I tried an Extrude with the nozzle missing. The filament still would not feed.


So I fire off an e-mail to Afinia, but of course it’s the 4th of July. No one is going to answer. I figure I’ll get a reply on Friday, but it seems they must have given everyone a second day off. Hey, that’s why I’m home today as well… so then it’s Saturday and Sunday.

The upshot is the one thing I was planning on doing this weekend – this long four-day weekend – is gone. I’ve been planning this for weeks, and it’s just … poof!

Anyway, until I hear from Tech Support, and see if I can fix it myself or if I have to send it in, The Print Shop Is Closed.


I’m a big fan of Blake’s 7, as is a friend of mine. He asked if I could print a Liberator, the space ship the rebel band discover and inhabit, and I said “Already downloaded, man!” Thingiverse has a Liberator that looks to print rather nicely. It is not terribly detailed, but if this print is successful, I may add detail later and reprint. Originally it was modeled to print at about 19″. I’m going to print it at half-scale and see what I get. Later, I may do the full 19″ model.


This post will be updated as I go, rather than start a new post. This is tonight’s effort: (July 2, 2013). I took the Fuselage Front Spike and am printing it twice at .5 scale, at .2mm, Normal.

I tried this part first because it has a thin spike. This may not print well, and if not, I will have to load the model into Maya and scale the spikes outward so they thicken. But until I print this test, I won’t know that. Here is the printing record:

Fuselage Front Spike

281 layersThese numbers will represent a PAIR of parts, for making TWO Liberators.
3.2 grams of ABS
22 minutes

Ok, color me impressed. Here is the pair of Front Nacelle parts hot off the printer. It printed the spikes! (Close-up they are a bit rough, but it printed them!)



You can see the struts are a bit rough. Not unexpected. I’m a bit surprised they came out this good. I may later model holes in the pieces and use some other material for the thin struts, since there are four of them on the model, and they will be quite delicate. I think I may try to find some metal wire to replace them. It will require re-printing these pieces, but that’s not painful.

Fuselage Front

291 layers
20.1 grams of ABS
1 hour, 41 minutes

And here it is (two copies) next to the Front Nacelle:


Fuselage Main

210 layers
15.9 grams of ABS
1 hour, 25 minutes


You may notice fine spiderweb-like hairs stretching between the two pieces. This would be bad if it was on the actual piece itself, but it isn’t. The vertical lines you see in front and on the sides are support scaffolding for the holes that are in the side of the fuselage. Since those holes are horizontal, there needed to be some support material to support the roof of those holes. Think of the roof of a cave. So those support scaffolds print very quickly since they are so tiny, and the print nozzle goes between them very quickly, forming these hairs. It does not do it between regularly printed parts, usually (an exception for cheaper filaments melting at too hot a temperature.)

But those vertical scaffolds just tear away to form clean clyinders.

How stupid! I realize as I test-fit these together, that these Main Fuselage pieces must have been printed at .4 scale, not .5. I must have fat-fingered the scale value. They are too small! Have to re-print!

So I reprinted them in what must be the most boring print ever – Two vertical, unfeatured cylinders, 2 hours, 41 minutes. Zzzzz. :-)

Next up (tonight):

Fuselage Rear

278 layers
27.5 grams of ABS
2 hours, 12 minutes

I decided since I needed so many of the pins used to connect the pieces, I’d print six of them with these two rear fuselage parts. However, one pin fell over and it caused some downstream printer errors. Here is the result: (I have already removed the pins from the board.)


See the hairs coming out of the one on the left? That’s where the print head tried to print a sixth pin, finding nothing, it left filament on the air, trailing it to this piece. A little X-Acto knife work and you would never notice.

Here are the parts as they are now:


Nacelle Front and Nacelle Spikes

Liberator_Nacelle_Front_preview_featured Liberator_Nacelle_Front_Spike_preview_featured

Printed two each of these last night. As expected, the spikes came out about the same as the front spike. But it does highlight the need to remake these thicker for a smaller print, probably with holes so I can fit in toothpicks or something else. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nacelle Middle

206 layers
27.0 grams
1 hour, 41 minutes

These printed without issue.

Nacelle Strut

166 layers
2.8 grams
21 minutes

I printed six, so triple the time and grams above. I wanted them done so I printed them all. It highlighted some issues: Where the pegs have holes, the scaling down thinned the walls so much that the holes showed through the printed walls, leaving gaps. Not sure how that plays out when assembling them. We’ll see later.

Here’s what I have done now:


But I had a problem. I was getting ready to print something else in a new color when the nozzle head jammed. I withdrew the premium natural color you see here, and extruded in a yellow. I’ve done this dozens of times without issue. However this time the extrusion didn’t work. It pulled the filament into the head, but then the feeder motor began a clicking noise, like it couldn’t advance the filament. I withdrew it again and checked the manual.

It’s vague on what to do in this situation. It does give instructions on how to remove the nozzle if it’s clogged, but I removed it and tried to extrude again, but it still got stuck. So the problem is in the feeder, not the nozzle, even though the nozzle could use a cleaning.

I sent an e-mail off to Afinia, but this being July 4th, no one will answer it today. There goes my evening of printing stuff.

Oh well… so for now:


Afinia got back to me on Monday, today, after a four-day weekend, with a PDF file showing exactly how to unclog the feeder mechanism. Not wanting to void the warranty, I certainly did not poke around with this machine on the weekend. But when I got home this evening, I took the head off, took it apart and fixed it.

For the second time, Afinia has fixed my printer by e-mail.

So tonight I continued printing Lierator parts. I wondered what color to print the “green globes” in, since I had no green. I was thinking blue, but the ugly neon yellow I had seemed to have an internal glow about it, so I went with that for now. When I get green, I’ll reprint these and replace them.

So tonight I printed four of these, two for each copy of the Liberator I’m making:


127 layers
14.5 grams
1 hour, 38 minutes

This is the end result. I printed these twice, so I have all I need.


 July 10 Update

I printed four Nacelle Spikes and two Nacelle Middles last night. This morning I printed two Nacelle Rears. This completes one model, leaving only two more Middles and Rears to print for the second model, which I will print tonight.

All that will then be left is the pegs to connect all the bits together, and the display stands. I’ll start on that as soon as possible.

Until then, here’s a photo of all the parts (minus the pegs and stand):


So with all the parts printed, including all the pins I need (and the small ones are small!) I printed the display stand:

Display Stand:


239 layers
13.0 grams
1 hour, 11 minutes

So with this done I used clear binary epoxy resin to glue it all together, which was a bit more of a challenge than anticipated due to the pin size. I had to use a metal tool to widen some of the holes a bit, and clip some of the pins. And when gluing one engine onto the body the pair of pins just broke, so I just had to hold it, hoping the alignment wasn’t too bad, until the epoxy hardened. It’s ok, but it’s off by a degree.

Here’s the first final completed Liberator.


And now for a tally for two models:

Total ABS Used – 263.8 grams
Total Time – ~25 hours, including the pins

The Afinia White filament costs $45.00 for 700 grams (plus shipping, but let’s leave shipping out of this for the exercise.)

$16.96 to print a pair of these. Not at all bad.


TB3 v1.0 Built Up!

I put the parts together for my TB3 rocket homage to Thunderbird 3 a few nights ago.

Since angles were not perfect, since my tab-and-slot modeling wasn’t designed (yet) to fit snugly and form perfect angles, some pieces weren’t a perfect fit after gluing, so I had to Dremel down some connections, I’m very happy with the result:


Here, again, is the concept, so you can see how closely I got to it. (Remember, the numbers will not be printed.)


From these parts:


Space 1999 Eagle Launch Pads

When I was a teenager, a friend of mine had a model kit of Moonbase Alpha from Space 1999. It was amazing. It was a model kit built on a landscape about 20″ across, about 14″ tall, and on it you glued down the various concentric buildings of Moonbase Alpha, and 3 Eagle Landing pads. Well in the last decade or so, ERTL re-issued that model kit, and I have one.


The landscape parts suck, so last year I spent some time making a 20″x20″ styrofoam moonbase landscape so I could make this kit up right and frame it in a shadow box for my wall. I had this ready to put together when one of my cats destroyed my lunarscape with her claws… grrr. I have to start over.

But the interesting thing is, upon looking at actual plans for Moonbase Alpha (readily available online) show that there are in fact five landing pads, while the model kit supplies only three.


Other than the landing pads being a bit too large, and the Eagles (six tiny Eagles came with the kit) were way too big, this was a lovely model kit, and could make for a very nice display.

But the problem was, in order to make this model properly, you really needed two more landing pads.

I spent some time last year with a binary molding putty and a binary resin, casting landing pads from the mold I made, but they were flawed. It was around that time I first realized you could get 3D printers for less than ridiculous prices, and my first thought ever about what to print on a 3D printer was these extra landing pads.

So today I modeled a landing pad, and made some improvements on the original. One problem with the originals is that there was no docking neck and the “house” was inaccurate.


So I fixed that and printed this:


The one on the left is the ERTL model. The one on the right I modeled myself and printed at .15mm in Normal mode with Premium White ABS plastic. (The white makes detail harder to read in photos, but it’s really not bad.)


Since this model kit is hard to find these days, and people want to build them up accurately, I may actually be able to sell some of these on eBay. Not sure if they will pay for themselves time-wise, (the amount of time I have to spend printing) but selling a few of these may allow me to buy a bit more filament.