This Week’s 3D Prints

Printing other people’s designs from Thingiverse is great, but my creative side is not satisfied with that. So, I’ve started trying to learn to do some 3D design myself. I started with Sketchup ( based on a friend’s recommendation. I was able to get the basics, but the behavior did not seem consistent to me and I found myself getting frustrated. I discovered TinkerCAD ( a few nights ago and have found it much easier to grasp. It’s letting me get going while I work to learn other, more robust, systems. I plan to do a post some other time with some tips for Sketchup and TinkerCAD.

My first custom design was a modification of a Duplo-compatible block design from Thingiverse. I added my son’s name to the side and it turned out well. He absolutely loved it.

I mentioned to my dad that I’d bought a 3D printer and he had a request. Someone had hit his mailbox recently and broken the handle. He found that the cost of a new handle was the same as the cost of a whole new mailbox, so he asked if I could print one for him. I found a good model on Thingiverse (, printed it, and it worked perfectly for him. This thing can be really useful!
With Mother’s Day coming, I saw this nice design featured on Thingiverse ( and just had to print one for my mom and my wife. It’s really amazing how this thing printed in place, yet allows the center pieces to spin.

These also led to my changing out filament for the first time. This printer makes it really easy if you use their cartridges.

Speaking of their cartridges, my black cartridge got to the point where the printer said it had very little filament left. I opened it up and it actually still had enough for a few more prints. I had seen some articles about resetting the chip so you can use third-party filament and decided to give it a try. I wired up a resetter using some wire and an Arduino Mini Pro, loaded the Arduino sketch code (, and it worked. I was able to use the rest of the filament on the cartridge. I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to use third-party filament or not. I’ll probably make a separate post about the resetting process too.
I have an Ethernet switch in one of our closets that provides fast, wired Internet to a few places in our house. It was a hack-job when I wired the house and put it in. Ever since then (around 7 years ago), I’ve wanted a nice recessed wall box to house it in. I’ve never been able to find what I wanted. Guess what? Now I can just make it myself! I designed the whole thing in TinkerCAD and exported it to STL. STL is the standard format used by 3D printer slicing software, which takes the 3D design and figures out what the printer needs to do, starting at the bottom and printing slices of the object to build it up. I loaded the STL into XYZware, let it slice, sent it to the printer, and it worked relatively well. I did print it in 2 pieces to prevent needing a bunch of supports while printing it. This is the first time I’ve really thought “you know, I can think up pretty much anything and make it a real object.”  It’s a very empowering feeling.  I’ll post pictures of it in place later.

Time-lapse of the wall box printing: 

One more thing… I’m working on a ventilation system for the printer. I printed this cool fan mount that slides right into the side of the printer and wired up 2 80mm computer fans with a switch and a power supply. I’m working on a 3D model that will go on the fans and convert it down to a 4″ dryer duct. That duct will then feed outside.

3D printer oil change

I was worried that my used 3D printer might not have been maintained well before I got it, so I decided to give it a bit of a cleaning. I used a copper-bristled brush to give the extruder nozzle and alignment sensor a good cleaning. Then, I wiped down all the rods inside and applied some white lithium grease to them and to the z-axis bolt thing. I also used a cotton swab to apply some of the grease to as many of the pullies as I could reach. The next time I tried to print, it failed (before starting) with a z-axis error. I was able to use jog mode to move the z-axis up and down, so I’m not sure what had gone wrong. After restarting the printer, my next print worked fine.