Wednesday, May 4, 2016

3D Printing Fun

The semester, and grad school, is coming to a close for me. Included in this post are a few last projects related to 3D printing. The SILS Help Desk recently had an open house to try and introduce more people to 3D printing technology. To promote the event, I made a poster that emphasizes the creative aspect of having a makerspace. Anyone can make something with a 3D printer if given the opportunity. You don't have to be an artist to use the technology.

For the open house we had a print in process for people to see how our MakerGear M2 works. We also had Pronterface and Slic3r up on the Collaboratory computer to demonstrate how we process the STL files we receive and prepare them for printing. Both of these programs can be downloaded from the Web for free. In addition, we showed attendees example Gcode commands created from the STL file that provide the printer head with coordinates to direct its movement. Finally we had examples of unsuccessful prints and note cards explaining the problem we faced with each. Included below is an image with a few examples of problematic prints and their issues. I'm responsible for a few of these misfits, but I learned from them so I guess that's what matters. Here's also a good resource on troubleshooting some of the 3D printing problems many people come across. Attendance at our open house was good - it seemed like there was a lot of interest in learning more about 3D printing.

Beyond the open house, I also made a larger poster that will be hung in the SILS lab to help advertise our little makerspace. Even though the printer is entirely visible from the computer lab, very few people seem to know that we have one. Every time I made a print this semester and our MakerGear M2 started its musical electronic humming, people would always remark to me that they didn't realize that SILS had a printer. For the poster, I thought it would be fitting for the printed object to double as the symbol of SILS. I featured UNC's Old Well, the symbol of the university, with the acronym "SILS" in place of supportive columns. Since the SILS Help Desk has printed a model of the Old Well in the past, this made it an even more fitting object to select. Otherwise I simply had fun with shapes and colors using Illustrator.

Finally, beyond promotional materials, I have also continued to try making new prints. My favorite print so far has been a model of the Omotesando building designed by Toyo Ito and Associates. The actual building is in Tokyo, Japan, and was completed in 2004. The tree branches that compose the building's walls mirror its surroundings. Omotesando is a tree-lined avenue in the Aoyama district. The structure, composed primarily of glass and concrete, is home to Tod's, an Italian shoe and handbag company. I really enjoyed the building's combination of the natural and the urban.

In addition to being a beautiful building, the model can also act as a light since it is perfectly designed to fit a small tea light. I decided to insert one I had bought for jack-o-lanterns that changes colors. In order to capture the various illumination effects this light creates, I made a gif using Photoshop. Enjoy the colorful display below.

Lately I have also been "tinkering" with Tinkercad, but I have yet to create something of my own that's worthwhile. Other good programs for designing your own 3D models include 3D Tin and Cube Team.


Thanks to SILS for offering me the opportunity to explore new technologies through my work. Even though I was only at the Help Desk for a semester, I learned a lot. I'm so grateful for all that the school has given me and I'm looking forward to starting a new job soon (after a much needed break) and continuing to grow as a librarian and information professional.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Art Projects for the UNC SILS Help Desk

In the spring semester I started a new job as an Information Technology Assistant at UNC's School of Library and Information Science (SILS) Help Desk. One of the perks of the job is getting to experiment with new technologies. An Oculus Rift should be arriving at the Help Desk in the next week. Two games are included with our purchase - Lucky's Tale and Eve: Valkyrie. It will be fun to test out these games before setting patrons loose to use the new technology. Beyond unique gaming experiences, virtual reality systems like Oculus Rift have a variety of additional applications. They can also be used to envision space for architectural or engineering uses and for data visualization.

In preparation for the arrival of our Rift, I made a poster in Illustrator for advertisement. Using a unique font from and overlaying texture files made completing the project enjoyable and hopefully the end result is also visually interesting.

In addition to the Oculus Rift, throughout this semester I have had the chance to work with a 3D printer for the first time. The SILS Library has a MakerGear M2 printer. I made my first print, a Minoru Yamasaki-inspired vase of the DeRoy Auditorium, about a month ago.

This object was created from a STL file on Thingiverse using Polylactic acid (PLA) as the filament. While this design is largely decorative, 3D printing can also be used for more functional purposes. At SILS we have used the printer to create cord fasteners and hard drive (HDD) adapters. Beyond my immediate work context, 3D printers have also proved useful in the medical field in creating prosthetics. The Help Desk at SILS recently added a web page to collect printing requests from individuals affiliated with the school.  Printing requests we have received so far include a replica of the Elder Wand from Harry Potter and a small elephant. It will be interesting to see what other print requests come in. Hopefully I will also have the opportunity to try out designing my own STL file from scratch.

Finally, another art-related project I have been working on is creating designs for a USB that is the size of a credit card for SILS. The size of the memory card makes it so that it can easily fit in a wallet and not get lost easily. For the project I needed to include the SILS logo on one side and the school's tag line "Informed Leadership" on the other side. Included below are some of the designs I have come up with so far.

I am looking forward to learning more about 3D printing and the Oculus Rift over the next few months before I graduate this May.