Plastic for my 3d printer, and how long it lasts.

The 3d printer kit I ordered can print several types of plastic. The 2 that are currently frequently used are ABS and PLA. PLA is a biodegradable plastic made from corn starch (http://www.cupdepot.com/PLA-FAQ.htm). ABS is a plastic that is food safe and ok to use in aquariums and such. PLA is also food safe but being biodegradable I am unsure about its suitability in an aquarium.

Being that I have the laBOREtory I think it’s only suiting that I do an experiment. I’m going to test ABS and PLA with the liquids in the list below. I am unsure if I want to do this by printing small cups or by placing pieces of filaments in glass jars. Either way I’m going to test each of the following for compatibility with plastic and see how long it takes to dissolve.

  • coke
  • Mountain Dew
  • hot water
  • aceetone
  • isopropyl
  • salt water
  • sugar water
  • baking soda
  • bleach
  • lye
  • wd-40
  • milk
  • drain cleaner
  • gasoline
  • testors glue
  • lemon juice
  • Hydrogen Peroxide

 

I could just look up the solve the solvent had ability but that would be too easy. http://capolight.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/solvent-compatibility-and-plastics/

What am I missing?.

3d printer ideas for custom aquaponics fittings

I am seriously excited about getting my 3d printer. It’s been a week since I ordered it, so 1-2 more weeks according to the confirmation email I got.

The printer can print in ABS. This can be a stinky plastic to print, but I’ve plans for making a fume hood for the printer that vents outside through the basement window. ABS is considered a food safe plastic, which means it should be safe to use in my aquariums.

I could do things like print out custom aquarium decorations, which I am likely to do. However, I am really excited about the prospects of printing out custom aquaponics fittings.

There are a couple of ‘fiddly bits’ in aquaponics, such as the bell siphon. When they work, they work great, but they can be a serious PITA to get that stage. There are people who have done a lot of original research on how to make the siphons start and stop easier such as Affnan. However, he has access to parts I can’t get locally. Now I will be able to print them out for myself!

Another item I would be able to print would be a tipper. It’s best explained in the video here.

I can print out a tipper that is shaped exactly to the space that is needed to fit into the grow bed. If I need a long, narrow unit, I can print that, a short squat one, I can do that too.

I can print out meshed safety cages to keep baby fishes out of the siphons at will. No more needing to attack PVC with a drill to poor effect!

I am terribly excited about all of this..

I ordered my 3d printer last weekend.

I’ve been following the RepRap movement (DIY Rapid Prototyping machines also known as 3d printers) for at least 3 years now. MSOE had several of the commercial units that I drooled over frequently, but never got a chance to dig deeper into. Thus, I’ve been aware of the technology for nearly 15 years now. But it’s been 3 years that I’ve seriously considered actually owning one for myself. I’ve not jumped in for fear that the learning curve is a bit too steep for me. Electronics, mechanics, software programming, etc.

Until now.

The 3d printing world has evolved very quickly to the point where you can now purchase ready-to-run (RtR) kits, and fully assembled ready-to-run hobbiest level products. The technology that most people are focusing on basically is a robotic hot glue gun melting rolls of weed-wip string (to use a very simplistic view of the process).

I was fully intending to purchase a Makerbot.com Thing-O-Matic (ToM) with this year’s tax returns. They seem to be the current high-publicity player in the RtR and fully assembled scene. They are basically kicking butt and taking names when it comes to press coverage. However, when I had enough money in the bank, I couldn’t order the machine I wanted. They did a little too good of a job, having all their printers listed as out of stock. (Although, as I write this post, I can again order the ToM from their website. Oohps, silly them. Their loss.

A panicked and sent a couple of messages to a fellow in-the-works 3d-print-fan. He sent me a couple of links for places to start looking for good alternatives that where in my price range.

I settled on a style called a RepRap Prusa Mendal. This is basically the current most popular of the ‘hacker’ or ‘tinkerer’ machines. The format is about 3 years old now, so it’s pretty mature as far as these things go. Most of the bugs have been worked out of them, and there is lots of examples of other people building them and having solved the problems you are likely to encounter.

I looked around, and I could find kits that I could order NOW from India, Singapore, and Ohio among other places that listed them at higher prices than I was willing to pay. The one from Ohio was the most expensive of the ones I considered of course, but came with stainless steel hardware, brass bushing instead of plastic ones, quality bearing sets, and the like. They also appeared to have the most responsive tech support of the three. Additionally, it seems like lots of people are buying individual component kits from them and using them on other maker’s machines, which is a good signal as to their quality.

So I ordered a Prusa Mendal RepRap kit from MakerGear.com.

2-3 weeks for delivery… I feel like a little kid on Christmas eve but on groundhogs day… for 14 to 21 days…

People ask me what can I do with it. I read online that this is like a similar question 30 years ago when people asked what can you do with a personal computer… Why, anything I want!

First off, it can print out all the plastic bits that are used to make itself, so I will be printing a set or two of those for myself for spares. Instead of buying all those cheap plastic bits called kid’s toys, I will print them out for my little girl – no lead paint in these! And in a few years, she can design her very own! I can print the wall grommets so I can run the TV wires through the wall to hide them – these only cost a couple of bucks to buy, and probably half that to print, but I don’t have to burn gas to go get them. A big one for me is that I can start printing some custom fittings for my aquaponics setups.

I see these 3d printers as another disruptive technology. As big of a deal as Ford’s Model T and the production line. 100 years later, we have the technology to get away from the mass produced model of making things. We can make a lot of the little things we need in our own homes again. This is a really big deal.

I can see that by the end of this decade, I will have a recycling & manufacturing center in my basement. I will sort and wash my recyclables and put them into a machine the size of my fridge (or smaller) and out comes useful things, on demand.

How do I know I am going to have one of these things? Because I am going to make it for myself..

Sub Irrigated Planter (SIP)

Tonight I made a sub irrigated planter. These are pots that hold water under the dirt and let the pot get watered from the bottom up. Supposedly this gives you better roots as they grow deep, towards the water as opposed to staying near the top.

I built mine using recycled ‘stuff’. The pot is a round plastic tote that was on the deck when we bought the house, so it’s a bit weather beaten, but still in good shape. The tray is part of the plastic back from a rear projection TV I am parting out for parts for other projects. The fill tube is a bit of PVC pipe. The wicking fabric is the only part I actually bought for this project.

Cut out black plastic from the back of a rear projection TV
Cut out black plastic from the back of a rear projection TV

I traced the bottom of the tub onto the black plastic, and made a larger circle around the tub circle to cut along. I then cut tabs up to the tub circle.

Bend the edges 90 degrees so they form legs
Bend the edges 90 degrees so they form legs

I used a heat gun to heat up the plastic and bend the tabs up. These will for the legs of the tray to hold the tray above the water.

It doesn't have to be perfect, just good enough.
It doesn't have to be perfect, just good enough.

 

Cut four slits
Cut four slits

I cut 4 slits a little wider then the saw blade of my jigsaw.

Feed 2 pieces of Thermolam (or somesuch) through.
Feed 2 pieces of Thermolam (or somesuch) through.

The fabric gets cut into strips and fed through the slits.

Make sure the pieces are long enough to touch the bottom
Make sure the pieces are long enough to touch the bottom

Make sure the fabric is long enough to extend all the way to the bottom of the tub. They need to be able to touch the bottom so they can wick up every last drop of water.

Drop the wicking base into the container
Drop the wicking base into the container

The tray gets dropped in feet first and tweaked to fit. This was just a tad to big, but I got it worked out to fit.

Drill a hole for the fill tube
Drill a hole for the fill tube

I then used a hole saw to cut a hole for the fill tube.

Put all the pieces together
Put all the pieces together

The bottom of the fill tube isn’t flat, it was cut by drilling may holes – this makes sure that water can flow out the bottom easily.

The bottom may not sit perfectly flat or well, but that's ok
The bottom may not sit perfectly flat or well, but that's ok
Drill an overflow hole just below the bottom of the wicking tray
Drill an overflow hole just below the bottom of the wicking tray

It’s important to have an over fill drain hole. You don’t want water to get up to the dirt level or you will drown your plant roots.

Put some pea stone around the edges to address the varied height of the tray
Put some pea stone around the edges to address the varied height of the tray

My edges where less than perfect, with a low spot, so I used pea gravel to add some drainage and make sure that the dirt stays above the water level.

Fill the center with damp potting soil making sure to get good contact with the fabric
Fill the center with damp potting soil making sure to get good contact with the fabric

Dry potting soil won’t wick water from what I’ve read, so make sure the dirt is moist.

Fill the rest of the way and plant
Fill the rest of the way and plant

I used most of a new bag of potting soil, and some old stuff that I had but never used. This is a large container, so I am hoping it’s big enough for more than one tomato plant.

I now have a large pot that I don't have to water very often
I now have a large pot that I don't have to water very often

The pot is to go on the deck. Tomatoes and basil. Hopefully they do well, right out the kitchen door.

 

Tonight I made a sub irrigated planter. These are pots that hold water under the dirt and let the pot get watered from the bottom up. Supposidly this gives you better roots as they grow deep, towards the water as opposed to staying near the top.

.

Sliding Glass Door Insulation

I have a leaky sliding glass door. No, water doesn’t poor in every time it rains, cold air comes in. I don’t know why, by my apartment sucks – it pulls air in from the outside.

So, I decided to insulate my sliding glass door. I looked at the sliding glass door insulation kits for $13, but that renders the door useless. I thought about doing just the glass, but that doesn’t really stop the leaks, just reduces the cold air falling off the window from being in contact with such a large, cold surface.

So, I build a double pain, plastic door.

Using my favorite stuff… Duct tape!

temporary wooden frameI used a bit of scrap lumber I had to build the frame. I had kept a bundle of edge that got trimmed of some one-by at some point in the past.


duct tape joints in a temporary wooden frameThe joints are just duct taped together. This is a temporary structure, so it’s fine by me.

duct tape hinge in a temporary wooden frameI created a duct tape hinge by leaving a gap in the wood when I taped it together. This allows the joint to hinge. Clever, I think.


double sided tape weather strippingI have moved this messed up roll of double sided tape, foam weather stripping from WI, to FL, to IL. I am such a packrat. It is a sickness. I can make cool things by scrounging around in a closet. **grin**


winter insulated sliding glass door Here, I have the whole set up installed. The window isn’t usable for looking out anymore, but that’s not a big deal, the drainage ditch in the yard and street aren’t that grand of a vista anyhow.


hooks used to hold the frame to the wall I used some small hooks to hold my contraption to the wall. I just screw them down until I can twist them and they will hold the frame snug. I used the weather stripping for both sealing and also shimming the frame out so the hooks would hold it snuggly. I put these around the right hand half, including on top.


hooks used to hold the frame to the wallOn the left hand side, by the slider, I put just a single hook. I use this as the ‘latch’ as I can give it a quick twist, and the frame can open up on my duct-tape hinges. I can now use the sliding glass door, even though it’s covered in 2 layers of plastic sheeting.

How cool is that? (ugly as sin, too, isn’t it?)

The blinds close to hide the whole thing, so it look just fine from the inside..