• 3D Part II

    by Scott

    This past weekend I went over to TechShop with our industrial designer, Mike Murphy, to print out the latest design prototype for NoJack on the 3D printers there. We met Mike at the BeMyApp Hackathon (those things really bring so many people together to work on new ideas it’s amazing).

     What is TechShop you ask? TechShop is like a Chuck E. Cheese for grownup nerds. But instead of arcade games and cardboard discs covered in cheese (called pizza) it’s filled with all sorts of awesome toys for people trying to make things. It’s got everything from wood and metal-working tools to stations set up for textiles, as well as powder coaters, water jet cutters, 3D printers, and more. Members pay a monthly fee to access all of the tools on hand, and can take lessons in how to use them safely and correctly. It’s a great idea that has spread to several cities, and which allows creative, DIY-oriented people to do amazing things by providing them with tools that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive for them to purchase individually.

     But I digress. You probably noticed that above I said design prototype, because this one wasn’t a working prototype, but just one to give us a better sense for how the design will look in reality. We’re trying to make it look as sleek as possible (so you’ll want to put it on your high-end road racer), while trying to keep the price down (so you can afford to put it on your daily clunker). At the same time we have to balance this with other design considerations, such as making it impervious to blunt force attacks or being hacked at with sharp objects (by a panicking thief trying to disable it when the alarm starts shrieking, for example). So while the end design will get changed around and dictated by other considerations to some extent, we are trying to work towards something that looks streamlined and appealing as much as possible.

     I’ve talked briefly before about 3D printing on this site and our previous experiences with it, but let’s just say it can be a fickle mistress. One minute things are going smoothly, and the next the machine is basically giving you the middle finger as the motor whirs about at random spewing molten plastic all over the print bed. Since the prototype we printed this time has a curved bottom the printer starts by printing a loose scaffolding structure that the prototype will then be printed over top of, to make sure that it holds its shape. This scaffolding is then snapped off at the end to leave just the desired piece.

     This time things proceeded smoothly until the filament being fed into the extruder got tangled and snapped, and we had difficulties resuming the print from the same point. Since it was fairly early on in the print we decided to start over, this time printing the piece on its side with a more minimal scaffold underneath it holding it in place. This seemed to work a treat, and within three hours we had a finished design prototype to marvel at and to get further design ideas from.

     The next step is another round of design iteration, as we incorporate new ideas into the design to achieve an outer casing that is sleek and aerodynamic without compromising strength and robustness. Throughout the process we’ll be back at TechShop doing some more 3D printing and out getting user input and feedback on the design. So check out the pictures here and let us know what you think!

    You can check out Mike and some of his other work at his website: www.brainstormchaser.com

    And you can go to the following website for information on TechShops around the courntry: http://techshop.ws/

    And here’s the site for the San Francisco TechShop: http://www.techshop.ws/tssf.html


    The 3D printer shown printing the prototype sideways


    An image from the aborted initial run, showing the scaffolding being printed


    The extruder printing the prototype one layer at a time


    The finished design prototype