3D Scanning – BQ Ciclop kit ordered

I have realized that I would benefit from having a 3D scanner. I ran across the BQ Ciclop scanner. What a great open source company. BQ Systems You can read about the project on the link.

I purchase the electronics and metal bits part of the kit for $156 including shipping from AliExpress. This is about half the cost on eBay and less still than Amazon.

I’ve read really good things about the scanner and it’s really a novel idea. I’m not terribly amused with the shield and board design and may pay it forward by redesigning that later.

For the time being I’ll kick back and wait for the kit to get here. When it does I’ll create some videos and reviews of it. Here is a picture of what is supposed to be in the kit.
The images of the kit are quite good…. It’s either a darn good copy of BQ’s board or a nicely manufactured Chinese version. Their ZUM scan ought to be combined into a Arduino board though….

The 3D parts can be downloaded from Thingiverse. I think I’ll print it in Translucent Blue PLA, which I have on-hand. 🙂

Fusion 360 material experiment – 3D printing

So I’m on version 24 of my 3D printed unobtanium part….. I keep tweaking the dimensions and re-printing. It occurred to me that Autodesk Fusion 360 thought I was working in Steel, when I’m actually working in plastic. ABS plastic to be precise. Fusion 360 is a really nice CAD/CAM tool that represents the future of software delivery. It’s cloud-connected which means I can work on my project from anywhere, but I still get the power of my 8-core AMD Bulldozer CPU with 3 24″ screens when I’m at my home office.

So I made the inner radius a little smaller. That is the part I’m working on. I then exported the STL 3D model as I always do. And then I went back and changed the part material from Steel to ABS Plastic. I exported that as 16mm ball cap v24-ABS. I put both of them in Simplify3D and we’ll see how it goes. The “steel” one is on the left. The “ABS” one is on the right. The question to be answered is does Fusion 360 compensate when exporting the STL for 3D printing? It’s 3D aware and creates beautiful, defect free STL files.

Here is a screen grab of the Simplify 3D. The thin red lines are the tool paths when not extruding.

And the answer is NO. Both versions are absolutely identical to each other.

3d Try Try Try Again

On the one hand, 3D printing holds out the promise of design it today, get it tonight. Somewhere along my toolchain I need to account for the shrink factor. Plastic shrinks when you heat it, extrude it, and cool it. ABS shrinks more than PLA. Fusion 360 (aka F360) thinks I’m working with Steel. In theory I could change the material, but I’ve been tweaking this design for so long that I’m not about to introduce a major change. I’m printing version 23, try number 2 right now. Try number 1 came off the print-bed. This normally indicates that it is time to spray some more “ABS Juice” which is simply ABS dissolved in Acetone. It creates a thin layer of plastic on the glass that allows the ABS being extruded to bond to it.

My particular project is probably about as complex as it gets because I want to control the outer and inner dimensions to create a friction fit on the outside and the inside. The outer friction fit needs to grab the tie-rod end and the inner friction fit needs to grab the ball stud. The combination gives me a way to rehab the 30 to 40 ball joints on my motorhome. All of which raises the observation that these iterations take lots of time. Just one more reason that 3D printing is probably not the future of Manufacturing, at least not in it’s current form. It is a great solution to custom or long-tail manufacturing. It’s also a great solution for niche problems, hobbyists, and tinkerers. I will be using it extensively for my circuit enclosures. I see it as one more value add that I can attach to an open source hardware project. The firmware, the board design, and the enclosure design available in case someone wants to leverage them.

In other news, my Prusa i3 RepRap printer has been performing flawlessly. I’ve been giving it a good workout this week. The Chinese linear bearings are a bit suspect, but I think a little 3-in-1 oil will keep them working good. I actually think a dry lube like Wonderlube would probably be better for them.

I’ve been looking at the 3D scanning arena as well. Ciclops from Spanish company BQ is a pretty neat solution. It’s a rotary table 3D scanner that you can build for around $150-$250. It uses 3D printed parts, some threaded rod, a Logitech C270 camera, a couple of laser line units, and an arduino to produce “dot cloud” scans. They even have some free software called Horus to go with it. The biggest issue I see with the whole design is that it leverages a quasi-custom Arduino with a stepper driver shield. I think this is clumsy and for projects like this it would be better to custom design a single board. It’s very tempting to design the board, build one for myself and release the design. Of course that shoots the whole “cheap 3d scanner” in the foot. There is nothing cheap about board design and iteration. However, when you install an Arduino in a permanent solution I think it should be on a dedicated hardware board. This eliminates the opportunity for bad contacts and makes it smaller.

Web hosting maintenance – retiring Azure CDN and re-configuring AWS CDN

While this blog does not receive tons of traffic, I still run it so that it could handle a ton of traffic. This means leveraging CDN or Content Delivery Network technology. There are a number of providers who offer this, but Windows Azure and Amazon S3/Cloudfront are two of the best and cheapest. There are higher performance options like Mirror Image and Akamai, as well as poor-man solutions like GoDaddy or Rackspace server hosting. Akamai is pretty pricey. Mirror Image used to be about $100/mo. I can’t see why anyone would use GoDaddy when Amazon and Microsoft practically give away high quality bandwidth for CDN hosting and have a huge footprint.

The motivation for me was that the author of the Azure CDN plugin had stopped developing it a couple of years ago. As WordPress moved forward I realized I was having some image issues and finding that my images were going to multiple places. I also had installed a couple of plugins for Amazon that did the heavy lifting of synching files. This was a great opportunity to untangle the issue and clean up my hosting costs.

I used Cloudberry’s free tool for Azure Blob Explorer and S3 Explorer to access and see what was in the buckets. They are two separate tools, but they are quick and free. I then copied the content down to my local drive so I could consolidate it. Then using WinSCP I copied the content back up to my home directory on the server. From there I copied it recursively over to the virtual host directory in var/www. Then I reset the ownership and permsisions. This gave me a clean and complete set of files. From here I was able to remove the conflicting and outdated plugins. I then used Blue Velvet’s URL renamer plugin to point everything at my main URL. This allows wp-super cache to work most effectively.

I then deleted the Azure Blob after verifying it was no longer being used. This will save me a $1/mo or something silly like that. Azure CDN had comparable performance to S3. I considered putting the origin-pull CDN on Azure, but it’s a pain to configure. The actual setup is fast. Amazon gives you lots of control, Azure just sets up a basic no-frills no-control CDN. This is a recurring theme with Azure and AWS. And of course Microsoft has their head in the sand when it comes to configuring DNS on their hosting objects. In the name of security they insist that you make some funky DNS entries to verify ownership. You have to do this for every single DNS entry you want to map. What a PITA! Both CDN’s do similar things… Amazon’s just requires more up-front planning and provisions in 15 minutes. Microsoft gives you fewer choices up-front, but takes an hour to provision. Hmmmm.

Next I turned my attention Amazon. I deleted my existing Cloudfront distribution. Cloudfront is Amazon’s CDN Product. Pricing is cheap and performance is stunning. One of it’s few limitations is only allowing a URL in one distribution at a time. So this means deleting the outgoing one and creating a new one. The old one was tied to an S3 bucket. Amazon S3 is the Simple Storage Service which is Amazon’s drive in the cloud and one of the older cloud services. Once the distribution was down I was able to create a new one with a setting called origin-pull. This means that when the file is requested Amazon will fetch it from the server if they don’t already have it. If they do have it they will check to see if it’s been updated before serving it. This eliminates the need to push files to S3 and reduces S3 storage costs to a minimum.

Once I confirmed that it was setup properly I was able to retire the S3 bucket. This will help get me to a mean lean hosting state that minimizes costs.

3d printing

I decided to purchase and build a 3d printer. I acquired a Prusa i3 RepRap series open hardware kit from Prusa Research. Overall it’s a nice kit that leveraged the open manual based Dokazuki.

For software I’m using Autodesk’s Fusion 360 which is free for Hobbyist and Startup use. Just click “download trial” and then you can register for startup/hobby use.

I did decide to purchase Simplify3D because I wanted more control over my models than slic3r offers.

At the end of the day 3d printing is simply 5 axis CNC.

Right now I’m using it to make some parts for my RV. You can read more about that at www.autobus.us. I’ll eventually use the printer to build enclosures for some of my electronics projects. I’m almost ready to start selling boards and working on electronics again. I’ve been working on a house remodel that seems to have become a second career.

bitly = brokely

Well, all was working until I posted… then the bitly plugin crashed the site. No amount of re-configuration would make it happy. Fortunately, deleting it was easy and fixed the problem. I noticed there was not a new version, so that suggests it wasn’t working well.

migration drama o rama

It’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been very busy remodeling my house. I do have lots of projects on my to-do list, so I’ll start posting again. I had to do some housekeeping before I started posting. First things first, my OS was failing to update. After digging into it, I realized the issue was that I needed to upgrade as I was running 13.04. A few hours later I realized I couldn’t upgrade and would need to reinstall. Thanks Ubuntu!

Fortunately, I host in Azure, so rebuilding is not a nightmare. First try was a colossal failure. The WordPress migration documentation sucks. I’ll cover that later. Second try was better, but still a failure. Third time was the charm, but I got stuck in the bear pit of security I had setup. I locked down my wp-admin directory with .htaccess. This creates a separate layer of security to protect the administrative functions. No site is totally secure, but you can usually make yours more of a hassle to break into…… which makes someone else more attractive.

It took me the better part of a day to migrate my site and update my files. That is awful and I can only imagine the headache a mere mortal would experience. I’m an IT professional with 20 years of experience and deep migration expertise. So if I am struggling, it’s going to a nightmare for most quasi-admins. Now, freely I’m not a Level 10 magician in Linux…. but I’m dangerous enough that the gremlins run at the mention of my name. lol.

One of the tools to success is keeping notes in a text file on how you setup a system. It aids the memory 12 months later when you have to re-do it. Always update these “recipes” and include references to where you found things so you can review again if needed.

Without much ado, here is my high-level recipe to migrate WordPress:
– Backup your current database and /var/www directory. Make a tar file of your /var/www
– If your host supports it, make a image backup of your server. This makes it easy to go back to that system state.
– Install new server, run updates.
– configure your virtual server and make sure it works.
– Install Apache and make sure it’s working. Basically follow the WordPress setup docs here, but don’t actually install wordpress or download it.
– Make sure PHP runs, install Mysql, lock it down, create a blank database with the same name and user/password as your old server.

– extract your tarball in /var and it will recreate your permissions and folder structure complete with usernames. You’re half way there.
– Login to mysql and import your database from your backup file.
– Your blog will run at this point. Check it.
– Now make sure you have backend access. If you have .htpassword enabled you may need to reset that up or disable the .htaccess file for wp-admin.

That’s it in a nutshell. The part about backing up is not in the damned WordPress CodEx which was written by a politician to apply to everything and be specific about nothing!