Tag Archives: 3D design

3D Printing and the Arcade Machine

So here is a bit of an interesting problem that I was able to solve with the help of Hacker Lab’s 3D printer.

So as I posted earlier, I’ve been working on an homebrew arcade machine and had to scrounge quite a bit of parts for that cause. It turns out that one of the Joysticks i managed to lay my hands on was missing a vital component, the plastic actuator that engages the microswitches on the bottom of the stick assembly.

Now, I had one good joystick with all the components and the other which was missing this plastic part. (Technically, it was missing an e-ring and a spring as well, but a quick trip to Home Depot remedied that issue.) ¬†As I’m mulling over possible solutions to this problem – Do I really want to order this tiny plastic part? Do I really want to wait on it to come…it hits me. I have access to this amazing 3D printer. I can measure it, model it, print it. Problem solved.

It took 2 tries but I’m happy to report that I was able to print my replacement part and the joystick is holding okay. Things like this are what 3D printers are excellent for. With a little bit of creativity and unchained thinking, you’d be surprised at what applications you could come up with? What could you do with this tech?

Pacific Rim

pacific-rim-posterI saw Pacific Rim awhile ago, and loved it. Now when I say I love movies like this, it always comes with a caveat: I don’t expect too much. I have basic expectations, and as long those are filled I’m happy. With this movie, I wanted to see giant robots beating up on monsters, and I got that. (For the record, I would have liked a little more robot action, but I will take what they gave me.) Whenever I see a movie like this, it always appeals to the tech geek/engineer/nerdy little kid inside of me. One of the many cool things about the times we find ourselves living in is that the tech exists to do really amazing things in the entertainment realm. I can gripe about corporate soulessness and greediness all I want to, but at the end of the day with a flick like this just shut up and take my money. I recently read an article that detailed the “post-mortem” of Pacific Rim, and what it means for (possible?) future cinema of this type. I link to it because I think it’s a spot-on analysis of the movie, it says what I want to better than I would.

Going back to that engineer inside of me, whenever I watch a movie like Pacific Rim, I am always constantly evaluating it on its technical merits. How good does it look? How detailed does it get? Is this at least partially conceivable? To most, this might sound mentally tiring, but I enjoy it. In seeing this movie, I was blown away by the detail and sense of scale. That effect was magnified that I (generally) make my bread working in 3D mechanical design. So not only am I blown away by the final effect, but also because I have some appreciation for what it takes to create it.

Recently, the work I’ve been doing with 3D printing and related tools has really served to further illustrate how the lines blur between 3D mechanical design and 3D graphic art/design/animation. If you didn’t know, there is a lot of crossover. Autodesk, a leading company in all things 3D, produces various software that handles 2D/3D design in varying ways. There is AutoCAD, which just about everyone has heard of, and many mechanical engineers like myself know intimately. While primarily 2 dimensional, AutoCAD does have 3D capabilities that I’ve become more familiar with recently. Autodesk also makes Inventor, which is pretty good 3D design software from all reports I’ve heard. Next is Maya, widely known as go-to 3D graphic design software.

One company, three applications. Each accomplishing a different task, or rather similar tasks in different ways. I’ve been putting a decent amount of time in to learning 3D graphic design and animation software, Blender specifically. (Hey, it’s free.) The differences in the object creation workflow have been my greatest hurdle. (I thought it was all 3D, right?) However, the truth is that while the end result may be similar, the process that I go through to design-let’s say…a giant robot, is quite different from how a 3D graphic artist would approach it. And tools are built with that idea in mind. The challenge is learning to adapt to the differing methodologies. I’d like to think I’m good at it already, but this 3D creation rabbit hole is pretty deep…