My franken-code

So i have this little hobby, 3D Printing. You may have seen one or two (or fifteen) mentionings of it before. I love it, and I even make a reasonable amount of money on the side that covers the costs of my hobby and then some.

The one thing I love is numbers, tracking, and data all nicely packaged up in nice report with charts and graphs. Since plastic filament is the one main consumable in this venture, and it’s important to know how much filament you have left on a spool before starting the next print, I made a mildly complicated spreadsheet to help with this.

It’s a fairly straightforward spreadsheet. One tab holds the data for each spool of filament I own, another is a list of every print I have made over the last year (time spent, amount of filament used, profit/cost of prints, and so on. Lastly, a pretty little tab that shows cost/expenses, wear and tear on particular nozzle heads and other consumables. All in all it does the job, but the one thing that bugs me is that it’s just a spreadsheet. I want a web app that I can use anywhere any time, even mobile, to help make it easier (so I’m not batch logging prints days later because I’m lazy or was in a hurry) and more importantly one that supports multiple users so that others can use this same thing. I tried poking around on the web, but just couldn’t seem to find anything of the sort.. I find this kind of weird, but also may just be that due to some of the common search terms that have some crossover meaning here I might just have a blind spot in my google-fu.Screenshot 2016-05-28 22.12.51

Enter my project, AnvilTracker. It’s basically an attempt to convert the functionality of that spreadsheet to a Ruby on Rails app. The fun part?

I have no idea what I am doing.

Basically I’ve gotten it to a mostly functional state. It’s not pretty (virtually no styling or UX work at all has been done) and the functionality is basically 75% of the spreadsheet minus a few cosmetic enhancements. I more or less started off with following some tutorials, cherry picking stuff that did what I wanted (just had a different use case) and renamed some stuff, gave variables more contextual names, and commented things up properly. So far so good..

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I think the biggest thing from holding me back is the freaking UX. I don’t have the patience to learn CSS on top of everything else. I’ve also created a monumental backlog of features I want to add, learning them incrementally as I go. So far it’s going ok, but the backlog is getting progressively harder and sooner or later I’m gonna hit my skillcap… oh yeah, don’t even ask me about Unit Tests ok? 🙁

Anyone care to lend a hand? – Not for me.

So a few months back I saw that someone finally put together what might hopefully be the first awesome 3D Printing monthly box service. A fan of Loot Crate, I thought it should check it out and see for myself. There was still time to sign up for the inaugural kit before the deadline, so after mulling over the rather pricey (but understandable) $69.99, I committed.  After taxes though this brought it up to $76 and some change. :/

(It’s worth noting, we’re talking about a 1kg spool of filament, which typically retails for $30-50 plus shipping on said 1kg and other stuff, so the price didn’t seem TOO unreasonable at the time.)

This is what Maker Box touts:

  • A new specialty filament from only the top renowned and tested manufacturers including: Made Solid, NinjaFlex, Taulman3D, 3D Fuel, Form Futura, 3Dom and more!
  • Upcoming materials may include Glow In The Dark, Metal, Wood, Bronze, Carbon Fiber and Flexible Filaments.
  • Maker tools one would need for tinkering such as screwdrivers, scrapers, pliers, wrenches, duct tape, etc.
  • Fun 3D downloads, reference sheets and guides.
  • Exclusive deals on free apps, printers, website coupons, courses and more.

Unfortunately, there were quite a few delays leading up to the shipping, (though they were proactive in explaining the delays to weather, and promised a free gift to be sent out after delivery of the box.) It finally arrived however, and I have to say I’m pretty disappointed. Make no mistake, I’m not unrealistic… I expected like most monthly subscription crates for there to be a bit of wiggle room and certainly NOT to hit some kind of “wow this is worth way more than I paid” jackpot. That said, the results have been lackluster at best.

The box itself was packaged in what was clearly meant to be an attempt to be clever, and I applaud that. The painted on Maker Box name was witty and neat, though the actual execution left it looking messy and cheap. I am not a designer, and I am not well versed in how to critique the application of a design idea to function in a well verbose way, but I do know when something has “missed the mark” which this sadly did. I can tell what they aimed for, but sadly it fell short. (There’s also excess blue paint accidentally smeared over other portions of the box as well.) The mailing label was duct taped to the box, on only two sides, leaving the rest of the label loose and exposed. Anyone who has ever shipped something USPS knows this is a recipe for disaster, with the way they handle packages.

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Moving into the box, there were two flyers, one advertising something and the other being a code for 3 months service for Not terrible, but considering these are 2 of the 5 things in the box we’re running out of value real quick here. There was also a scraper, a common and much needed tool to remove stubborn prints from the bed, everyone needs one.. but really once you have one or two, you’re pretty much set. No harm in sending one, but it’s definitely of the exceptionally cheap variety and likely less than $1 or $2 in value at most, especially considering a very stubborn print will easily bend this type of metal instantly.

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Next up we have an interesting tool. It’s a hand held, I guess, hole boring tool? Hard to say really, especially since there is no literature at all tagged with it? After a little digging around, it turns out it’s a pin drill set. Quite neat, but not really useful for me and my applications. At first I thought it was a set of nozzle cleaning heads, but when I opened the case and looked closer I saw all the bits were drill bits… it’s neat, looks nice, likely of some decent value, but.. well, a miss in my book.

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Lastly we have the intended crown jewel of the box, a spool of filament. This one appears to be from 3D Fuel, and is a biodegradable Algae filament. Interesting for sure, but nothing to write home about, and I don’t really consider biodegradable PLA to be on par with say, Glow In The Dark, Wood, Metal, or other “alternative” filaments. That said, I *do* recognize it’s technically a “unique” filament, and currently I understand it is rather pricey compared to PLA as a result. Unfortunately however, even though I am signed up for the 3mm diameter plan (3mm and 1.75mm being the two standard formats) this filament is 1.75mm… making it completely useless to me unless I swap out a significant portion of the hardware on my Ultimaker 2 in order to support it. :/

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I tried to look up the filament to get a sense about what it is more, and a better understanding. There is a URL on the box, but unfortunately the site shows this when you visit it:

Screenshot 2016-02-19 14.25.41

Definitely not at all confidence inspiring… Even less inspiring is all my research I can conduct indicates this filament ONLY comes in 1.75mm, which means they more or less just said “fuck it” to everyone who signed up with a 3mm plan. Thanks guys.

In the end, I pretty much canceled my subscription about 5 minutes after going through the box. It was a neat idea and if they can refine the process down the road I may get back on board, but right now I really feel like I got far less value out of this than what I paid (especially when their site claims “The MSRP value of every box will match or exceed the price.”, and when combined with a clear disconnect between them and the customer experience, I just felt like this isn’t for me.

3D Printing a Cosplay “Sign”


For a bit of a “Throw Back Thursday”, (as all the cool kids are doing on the Internet these days), I thought I would share a little project I cooked up back in the summer.

My girlfriend is an avid cosplayer (as well as costume designer) and as I was making some accessories for her for Anime Expo I came upon an idea: She often has her photo taken, as many cosplayers do, and then typically exchanges business cards with the photographer in question to make it easier for them to tag her in their photos later. What if I designed and printed her something to help smooth that process?

My idea, was to design and print out a plaque that is roughly the size of a legal envelope, that had her name on it (which is the same name as her Facebook Page) as well as a QR code in the lower corner that goes to her page. Now, when she has her photos taken, she can pull it out of her bag and have them do one more quick closeup of her face holding up the sign, and when the photog is processing their pics they can easily scan the QR code or just reference the name on the card to know who she is.

For an added bit of personal touch, I did the design of the name itself in her own handwriting, by simply having her “sign” her cosplay name in my modeling software using my Intuous tablet. I printed it in two colors, a blue base (her favorite) and switched to a white filament for the raised portions to denote the border and her name. I then printed out an appropriately sized QR code, and bonded it to the sign by simply applying a layer of ModgePodge (this stuff is so amazing!) and that was it! I already have some ideas though on how I could enhance this a bit more for a Rev 2, by adding some space behind it to allow her to store some of her business cards for quick retrieval.

It’s an easy enough project that I think I might setup a process on-line to let other cosplayers order them from me as well! 😉