Category Archives: Technology

Ultimaker build: Days 3 and 4

(previous post in this mini-series here: Ultimaker build: Day 2)

The weather was too good to stay indoors and play with work on the Ultimaker all day yesterday and today, so we only spent like 3 hours yesterday to align the axis and get started with the software yesterday.

We even managed to print a thing:

Today was the tweaking day, so we were fiddling with parameters, trying to find a winning combination. We had to fix a leak between the heating block and the nozzle (if you’re building an Ultimaker, you should out some teflon tape between the brass piece and the nozzle, it will save you some trouble later on).

Once that was fixed, we could do some good prints. As I’m writing these lines, the machine is printing four feet for itself simultaneously:

Verdict at the end of this exciting project: The Ultimaker is a very decent machine. It can achieve great speeds and resolution. I think build time is short compared with the learning phase and getting familiar with the machine’s properties and behavior with different things to be printed. But that is something Frank will have to keep up with.

My journey with this nice machine is over, the next two days we will work on some other projects (and enjoy the beach). But now my mind is constantly busy with the question “how can I make money to get an Ultimaker” :D

Thanks for reading this mini-series, I hope it was informative/fun for you.

Ultimaker build: Day 2

(first post in this mini-series here: Ultimaker build: Day 1)

This is where I left it yesterday, a barebones frame:

And this is how it looks like now:

Mission accomplished! A complete Ultimaker, ready to go.

My eyes are closing so I can’t tell you much about the build process today, but the highlight was that Frank joined me and took care of assembling the heart of the system and the most delicate part: the extruder head! He also aligned the axis and set the belt tensions to the right levels (hard task that requires tons of patience).

With all the nechanics and electronics finished now, we can move on tomorrow to printing actual stuff debugging and getting it to work.

So, the goal for tomorrow is to get something correctly printed at the end of the day.

(Ultimaker build: Days 3 and 4)

Ultimaker build: Day 1

A good friend bought an Ultimaker, but he did not have the time to build it, and since he lives in a country I didn’t get the chance to visit (Holland) I offered to visit him and build it for him. So the challenge is to transform this:

into something like this (working):

This is not the first time I mount a 3D printer, a few weeks ago I helped mounting an Orca 3D printer that will be at the heart of the FabCafe in betahaus. A printer that is also based on the Reprap project, but with different engineering choices. Most significant difference I noticed so far is that the Orca (which is cheaper than an Ultimaker) uses water-jet-cut anodized aluminum plates for the structure, unlike the wood on the Ultimaker. It is heavier, and feels much much much (three times) more solid than the Ultimaker’s wood, which I almost broke twice when I fastened two bolds too much.

Anyway, I was patient enough to RTFM, verify the contents of the kit, and get tools and workspace ready. After two hours of work, this is the result:

So far so good, build instructions are very good (not perfect), and I haven’t encountered a problem so far.

One word I have to say in favor of a small tool I always laughed at, which is the Bosch IXO. This small electric screwdriver that I used to perceive as a useless gadget with the target audience: “desperate housewives”, proved to be madly helpful! It saved me at least one hour, if not more, of just screwing and unscrewing. Because it is so small and light, it fits this application perfectly. Thumbs up here!

 Construction continues tomorrow, with the ambitious goal of getting it up and running before dinner (maybe too high expectations), but we’ll see…

(Ultimaker build: Day 2)

Open source hardware and the free rider dilemna

It is no longer a secret that I am starting a little company that will sell open source hardware and software for energy monitoring. It is mainly based on the Open Energy Monitor project which is registered under the GNU general public license. Although I contributed to the development and promotion of the project myself, I often feel like I’m using other people’s work to make money.

There are now more than 960 registered members in the community, not all of them are active and quite a few contribute actively to the development of the project. But does that mean that the others are just passive members? free riders? is that fair?

I started toying with the idea of using an arduino to monitor electricity consumption about two years ago, and I found out that someone else (Trystan and Glyn and quite a few others) already started developing that idea and sharing their work and findings online. Sharing their work and code online does not only save other people (actually humanity in general) a lot of time and effort, but it also allows for a much wider scope of fellow tinkerers to review and improve that work.

This time and effort saved can be used in further developing this project, and this is what the famous “standing on each others’ shoulders” means. But what about people who benefit from this work and do not contribute with anything back?

I think that the free rider definition does not apply here, because since using this code and designs does not affect the creators negatively. They chose to share it with the rest of the world. All they’re asking for is credit and recognition. I think if someone uses open source without credits in a closed source project that would yield financial benefit, then we have a problem.

That’s it then! Problem solved! In theory at least, because in the open hardware world, things are a little bit different. Phillip Torrone from adafruit industries and make (yes he’s everywhere) wrote about it here, and so did Jean Claude from JeeLabs in a series of five posts, but I’m going to bring my two cents in my next post.

Stay tuned…

OSHW is not a blackbox

I bought this FTDI adapter some time ago from sparkfun, and I tried to solder the 3.3v jumper but I messed it up (that was long ago, and I wasn’t born a soldering ace :P)

Because this is an open source hardware product, the manufacturer put the schematics files online, so all I had to do is to go to the product page, see the schematics and find another way from my pin to the next voltage net. Then I just soldered a little wire, and that was it!

This is one of the reasons why I love the concept of open sourcing hardware (and everything in general): repairability. If I buy something with my hard-earned money, I should be able to repair it myself. It’s only fair to have the technical plans of the devices/machines we buy. After all, we paid for each atom in the device + for the R&D costs + a comfortable profit margin, why should the manufacturer keep secrets from us?

Thanks to this good practice, I could repair my adapter and give it a second life instead of throwing it in the trash. I think of all these electronics devices that are thrown away because they don’t work, when it could take just 5 minutes to repair them if they were open sourced. What a pity!