Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Break it Down and Build it Up

We on the programming team are busy at work building the basis for the program. Part of this includes breaking down existing code for reference. Another 3D printer on the market is the B9Creator - an open source project that uses many of the principals we hope to use in our design. Because it's open source, we're able to see the various methods and algorithms used. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we plan to examine B9Creator's existing code to get an idea of how to proceed and give us an idea for a starting point.
This isn't an easy task, however. As with any large application, there are many lines of code, each integral to the program's operation. Luckily, we've been able to reach out to the author of the original code and have received advice, explanations, and tips. We're nearly done, and are preparing to start writing the code for the basic printer, adding new features and improvements as we go.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Subject to Testing

For the past two classes, the materials team has been testing one of our possible resin options on multiple materials in order to see what material the resin best cures to. We cured the resin using sunlight and tested wood(just for data), aluminum, steel, PVC, PMMA, and Lexan. We found that the resin left behind residue on the non-metallic materials and that on aluminum in particular the resin cured strong, but was removed with relative ease. This has made aluminum our first contender for material to make the z-table from.
We also performed some small tests to see how well new resin cured to resin that had already dried. We found that the resin cured and bonded just fine without any separation on the surface, but had a slight visible internal seam where the new resin bonded with the dry. This should not be a problem when projecting, as each layer will likely be exposed to UV almost simultaneously with the layer adjacent to it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


In recent activities, the marketing team has continued it's research on 3D Printers, and started finding consumer feedback from 3D printer users. In the past, a lawsuit had been found regarding a patent issue, and because the patent doesn't expire for three more years, it has been a high priority to find a patent lawyer who could assist in confirming that our product would not interfere with any patents and will work pro-bono. We have contacted a few companies and are going to continue researching. The next task the marketing team is focusing on is, of course, the most important - finding a product name. For the time being, it will remain a secret, but stay tuned for the announcement. in the next few weeks, the marketing team will focus it's efforts on gaining more consumer feedback and searching for mentors for each individual group, so any problems that we run into, there will be someone to answer.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Is Two Better than One?

Today in class we debated and discussed the pros and cons of having two projectors in the machine versus one. Having two projectors would set our machine apart from any other machine and would double the build space available for the user. However, by doing this, we would also be putting the programming team in over their heads with having to convert and rewrite all the necessary algorithms to project the image. Also, we run the risk of having the projector mash up to be even one pixel off, ruining the whole printed file. From the hardware and materials standpoint, more resin would also have to be used in order to cover the surface area of a larger resin pool.
One the other hand, using only one projector would essentially be recreating the machines on the market already. The only thing that would potentially set our machine apart are a bunch of small software and hardware features. Such features could include a more user compatible interface, templates for quick printing, a drainage system, a self contained final curing compartment, and many more things. Having only one projector you are automatically making your build area smaller and the machine would become desktop size, a pro for many people. What we are left to think with though, are these features any reason to buy our printer over any other?

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Basic Building Blocks, Legos

Over the past two weeks the Elementary Engineering group has been working on creating mock lessons to demonstrate to teachers how engineering can be integrated with common core standards. The mock lessons that we are creating are for the fourth grade lego pilot classroom at  Geyser Road  Elementary School. We have assessed the fourth grade curriculum and have planned two pilot lessons. One lesson integrates English and Engineering. This activity includes reading a play, writing an alternate ending, and then creating a Lego Machine that is able to lift objects into trees. The second activity encompasses Math and Engineering. In this activity, students will follow a tutorial to make a “smart spinner.” They will then experiment with various motor powers and see how the motor power affects the time the object spends spinning. After this using graphing skills and their ability to multiply and divide they are able to draw conclusions from their experiment. Within the next two weeks, we are also planning a meeting with the Lego Pilot Program teachers to introduce them to the Lego Pilot technology and walk them through our Lego Lessons.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

User Friendly

The software team has completed some objectives, and we are now looking through code of an existing open source project to see if there is anything we can improve on, and researching how we can get stepper motors to work with our printer . We are also making a custom user interface that is designed for touch screen. The image seen to the right is the interface we have been designing, using circle buttons to make the the objects on the interface more accessible to the average user.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Divide and Conquer

LeftThe build team has been split up into two groups to help maximize the efficiency of our work. The first group is dedicated to creating a prototype of our printer on Autodesk Inventor. The second group is in charge of figuring out the actual materials needed for the machine and then purchasing them. The materials team has just purchased a projector to test, some resin, Z table material, and Sylgard 184 (a nonstick coating substance). Once we acquire all the materials, we will want to test curing different resins on different materials. Also, we will want to test the projector and explore the possibilities of a stationary dual projector system. Using some open source material, the three teams will also consider combining forces to create an auto calibration system for the projector. We hope to have all these items tested by mid November at the very latest so that way after the team gets back from eating turkey and pie to their hearts content, we can get working on the first real prototype.

Monday, October 14, 2013

It's Elementary!

A chronic shortage of engineering students threatens America’s role as one of the world’s leading innovators. Without bright young minds preparing to solve the problems of tomorrow, our country is left without a diverse group of critical thinkers to resolve pressing issues. In addition, countries such as China and India have far surpassed the quality (engineers with advanced degrees and patents) and volume of engineers that America produces. With education reforms and new test oriented standards, creative thinking and problem solving are becoming less focused on in the classroom, further impeding the creation of American engineers.

Our solution to this pressing problem is to start engineering education in elementary school. When children are ages five to nine their brains are still rapidly developing. Everything they do is new and exciting and they are constantly exploring and problem solving without even realizing it. Similar to the ease at which young children can learn a second language, engineering skills are best taught at a young age. In a way, children are engineering informally all the time by playing with blocks or Legos. By encouraging these explorations in elementary school, we can keep students’ interests’ alive. Describing their activities as "engineering" when they are engaged in the natural design process can help kids develop positive associations with engineering, and increase their desire to pursue such activities in the future. In addition, starting in the lower grades will help level the playing field for minority students who have historically been underrepresented in engineering. Above all, engineering at the elementary level will lay a foundation for all students in important subject areas, and help to generate the next generation of problem solvers and world leaders.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Evaluating the Market

The marketing team is working hard on researching and understanding pros and cons of certain features of the B9 creator and Formlabs Form 1 machine. Through the use of forums, we can see what current users are boasting about as well as added features they wish the printer could have. This information allows the build team, especially, to have a better understanding of what should be included in our printer. Also, the marketing team is researching the lowest cost of the necessities of the project, such as the actual DLP projector we will need to use in the machine. In the near future, the marketing team will be contacting individuals to obtain feedback on 3D printing to find out what they want, what the need, and what they can live without.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

An Electronic Update

The electrical team has just started working on the electronics subsystem of the printer.  As the electronics team, we have to work closely with the build and programming team to make sure our system will integrate with both the hardware and software designs.  We’ve already created a list of constraints and goals for our part of the final design, as well as a list of major parts that we have to order and use in the final product.  We also are beginning to look at how everything is going to work together, and we will soon be making a diagram to show data and current transfer throughout the product.  Since we all have a little bit of electronics experience, we are going to start looking at how the microcontrollers work, and we will be doing some research to find out how the system is going to work. On a progress note, today in class, we tested the projector successfully and will be taking steps from there.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Behind the Scenes in the Machine

The software team is currently researching the software and computer chip we will use to build the prototype. We are looking at different graphics libraries to use and are planning to reverse engineer the rapid prototyping software. The computer chip we plan on ordering is the BeagleBone Black, which runs on Linux. For the project, it seems that most of the programming will be in python, a coding language. As a form of communicating outside of the classroom, we are using are using a website called to organize our work. So far, this system seems to be working really well for the group.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Scaling Down

One of the large parts we want to keep in mind for the printer is the size of the machine. We need to make it a reasonable size to increase the marketability of it as a product the average consumer could have. Our target is to keep the length of the printer under 1.5 ft. We have found a smaller DLP projector to use and will not be using a mirror system to project the image onto the resin which will also scale down the size. Knowing these size constraints will play out to be very important during the course of the building of the machine. This project is a case of bigger is not necessarily better.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Build Board

To help stay organized throughout the course of the year, the build team has set up two different "Build Boards" to help keep us on track. The first board is strictly for any ideas regarding the project. The ideas can be anything under the sun and will stay on the board for us to keep in mind during the year. Currently our ideas include little things about what we might want the machine to be able to do. The next board is a "to-do" list which will help monitor our progress. The first column in this four column set up is for the facts and constraints we need to consider before completing any task. The next column is a list of what we need to do. As we begin working on something, the post it note in the to do section gets moved to the in progress section, and finally to the completed section. The other teams will also come up with similar methods to this in order to track their project and stay organized.