Asking Yourself the Patent Question

Photo credit: Michael Neubert

As active owners of desktop 3d printers, we inevitably arrive at a point where we ask ourselves about pursuing a patent for something we have invented. Inventiveness is one of the intangibles emanating from frequent use of a desktop 3d printer. Inventions may be insignificant at the beginning; still, the potential for significant ones constantly looms in the background. The more we learn about our machines, designing prints, and 3d printing in general, the closer we get to creations we think are wholly unique. We find ourselves asking, “Should I get a patent for this?” To answer this question, we must determine if our invention qualifies for a patent and if it has commercial potential.

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Making Color Prints in Shapeways

DSCN2340Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working on some canisters I designed and 3D printed for spices. I made the canisters at the end of August and have been using them since then. My printer is incapable of making food-safe items, therefore my design intent was to keep my spices in the plastic bags in which I bought them. My love for the canisters has increased over the last couple of months. I like how they fit neatly in my cabinet, taking up a minimal amount of space.

I know this is not the best design for everyone because I showed them to my daughter and she said she does not want spices to be stacked on top of each other. Keeping this in mind, as I used the canisters, I wanted to take mental notes of any irritation I experienced by having to remove top canisters to reach canisters below them. It turned out that the only annoyances I experienced were due to not labeling some of the canisters properly. I labeled the canisters as part of the model before printing. I prefer the way this looks, but I can easily remedy my annoyance by placing a paper label on the canister.Elephant

Some years ago, I bought a small elephant for my daughter from Shapeways. I thought she would like it and she did. I began to wonder how the canisters would look if I designed them to be printed by Shapeways in color, similar to the elephant. I closed a Shapeways shop I opened around 2014, last year or so, but reopened the shop this year with a new name (that name may change in the future). Wonder led to action, and voilà, I adjusted my design. What I needed to do next was learn how to add color. Canisters

I found a video that demonstrated how to add color to a Shapeways print. I followed the instructions given in the video, but was not able to achieve desirable results. One of the frustrating things about Blender tutorials is obsolesces. The tutorial was made using an earlier version of Blender. I needed to find out what works with the latest version. Through trial and error, I found a method that worked and made a video (see below). Shapeways is running a trial now for printing more of the materials it offers in multi-colors with plans to fully launch multi-material printing in 2019. Sandstone is the only material it offers for color printing now. Since discontinuing porcelain, not any of its materials are food-safe. I will need to address this in another way, such as coating the interior of the canister, if I want to remove the spices from bags.

If you happen to visit my shop now, you will find canisters with no colors and simple cups with colors. What I have learned is that choosing a design for canisters from anything you can imagine is more difficult than choosing a design for a simple cup.

Free 3D Print Models That Are Perfect for Painting

I was doing my usual search of Thingiverse files today, when I found a gold mine of 3D print models that are great for painting. What is wonderful about these is that you can print them in whatever size you want and your print bed can handle. The models and photographs were created by Pmoews. Here are a few of my favorites.

Links – Pear Shaped Bowls, Sleeping Cat, Fat Cat, Turtle and Tortoise, Three Bird Models, Five Gourds, Seestern/Starfish

3D Print TV Stand/Cabinet Project

cabinet tv 1My October to November project is a TV stand/cabinet. I plan to make several similar cabinets to create a clean look in my small living room. I have modeled all of the 3D parts for printing. I may make adjustments to the design, such as adding dowels in the middle, but I won’t determine that until I print all of the bottom parts. I plan to print the bottom first and move up the sides.cabinet tv 3 2

The top of the cabinet will be 45” x 12” x ¾” Oak. There will be four 1” x 2” square wood dowels on the corners; 31 ¼ length. I will attach four steel furniture legs to the bottom. I checked the Sagulator and using the 45″ length is okay for my 22 lb. television.

Inspired by a short film I saw about Japanese furniture making, I have designed this project to use as little hardware as possible. There will be ¼” round wood dowels crossing throughout the PLA/PHA filament 3D printed parts. I have placed holes for short wood dowels to connect parts, depthwise. I found the lengthwise dowels served their purpose well in keeping parts aligned in the hamper stool. I wished I had used them more in that project.cabinet tv 2

PLA/PHA is not the same as wood typically used for fine Japanese furniture. I have mentally prepared myself to use wood glue or hardware to connect pieces if I find that my original plan fails.

I have a few more projects for which I have modeled parts. I will post about them in the coming days.

3D Printed Canister

I have fallen in love with 3D spiral vase printing! I designed and printed another object today. It is a canister for holding a few sewing supplies. The design on the front and back is a graphic I found on the web and manipulated in Inkscape.

The canister is stiffer than the world cup I made. I found that the beveling keeps it from squishing. The top fits snugly. If I can think of any other needs I have for another canister, I will certainly make one.