Tuesday, 31 January 2012

You wouldn't download a car ...

... or WOULD you?!

I think the whole issue of copyright, patents, intellectual property and 3D printing is a fascinating legal minefield in the making. If you thought the book, record and movie companies take extreme measures to protect their publications from illegal downloading and sharing, how do you think they will react when they realise you can not only download the movie, but also download the plans to make your own DVD player and TV? (OK, my RepRap isn't THAT powerful - yet - but in 10 to 20 years - who knows?) Or how will the car companies respond when you can download the design for a tail light lens, wing mirror, or ventilation grille, instead of paying hundreds of dollars to buy "The Real Thing" (TM The Coca-Cola Company). (Making replacement car parts is already a real possibility - e.g. check out http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:13071 )

Recent reports http://blog.thingiverse.com/2012/01/25/things-on-the-pirate-bay/ of how The Pirate Bay now hosts 3D files ("Physibles") https://thepiratebay.org/browse/605 left me rather bemused. Hadn't they heard about Thingiverse http://www.thingiverse.com/ ? But of course, there is a crucial difference:

So far, Thingiverse is all about people designing their OWN things, and sharing them freely. On the whole, the uploaded parts are people's own creations, although I am sure there are instances of designs which potentially infringe on someone's IP. (Are you even allowed to mention the name of a certain fruity telecommunications device when you create your own "iP*d Stand"  let alone "reverse engineer" the dimensions for a good fit, incorporating a receptacle for the patented connector, and then share it with the world, thereby depriving the company which designs and builds the tablet from millions of potential after-market accessory sales!) Thingiverse seems to understand the whole concept of copyright and intellectual property: http://www.thingiverse.com/legal

However, I suspect it is only a matter of time before copyright / patent designs are uploaded to The Pirate Bay, who will no doubt argue that they only host a file sharing service, and they are nor responsible for what people choose to do with it.

I came across a fantastic article on the whole subject: "It will be awesome if they don't screw it up" by Michael Weinberg (November 2010): http://www.publicknowledge.org/files/docs/3DPrintingPaperPublicKnowledge.pdf
Download a copy, share it with  your friends (with full attribution, of course!), and let me know what you think. As Michael Weinberg so eloquently concludes in his paper:

*4*:$ .%$ (*)*(#06$ "*+9#)02*+#06$ *%/$ -*306$ ',$ 9##2$ *$ 8.(.-*%'$
Damn copyright laws! The bugger has gone and put DRM in his download, so I can't copy and paste his words! I guess you'll just have to download the paper and find out for yourself what he had to say!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Applying the Thumbscrews!

I have been having some problems with some of my prints ending up slightly skewed - the vertical axis on some prints has been slightly off-vertical. It took me a while to work out what was going wrong, and then I realised I had another issue - that my print bed needed levelling all the time, and I realised the issues were related: with all the adjustments I have made recently, I had ended up raising the print-bed quite a bit, and I didn't have a lot of compression left in the levelling screw springs. This meant some of the adjusting nuts were vibrating loose (needing constant readjustment), and the lack of compression meant the whole print-bed could rack over to one side, leading to off-vertical prints.

So, I needed a means of adjusting the levelling screws more easily, and so I could get some good compression in the springs, to keep everything nice and stiff.

The obvious answer was to install thumbwheels to make it easier to adjust each levelling screw quickly and easily.

Sure, I could have just downloaded someone else’s design like this http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:13807 or this http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:5246 or this http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:13065 – but where’s the fun in that? It's far more satisfying to design and print your own from scratch!

So I created a design in Alibre:

then I exported the STL:

And then I printed a set of 4 (in a single nested print).

They certainly make levelling my print-bed much quicker and easier. Will they stop it from vibrating out of alignment? I guess time will tell!

I have posted the design on Thingiverse in case anyone wants to make a copy: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:16428

Monday, 16 January 2012

At last - Vindication!

I have mentioned before http://julianh72.blogspot.com/2011/11/printing-without-computer-well-sort-of.html that while my kids think my RepRap Prusa Mendel is pretty cool, my "Significant Other" finds my whole RepRap obsession bemusing, to say the least. (But at least she knows where to find me - and it's not down at the pub!) She has been challenging me to "make something useful".

Well, last night, I did just that - and even she acknowledges it! Having returned from our holiday, our first action was to make good on our promise for the kids' Christmas present - we picked up a new Burmese kitten that we had chosen just before going away. Now, everyone knows that kittens like to play, and sometimes the best toys are things they just find lying around (ping pong balls, bits of string, the toilet roll hanging on the wall holder, etc). However, the opportunity to make a bespoke kitten toy was just too alluring.

A quick search for "cat toy" on Thingiverse turned up a few options: http://www.thingiverse.com/search?q=cat+toy&sa=Search

In particular, the "Mesh Ball in a Mesh Ball" looked like a great toy - and a great test of my RepRap's capabilities as well: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3493

So, I downloaded the stl file, and set it to print. A few hours later I had a really good model - and the cat loves it - it's just the right size and shape for a kitten to hook its paws in, and it makes a very pleasing rattle as it rolls around.

Happy New Year, everybody - and Happy RepRapping for 2012! May all your prints be awesome!