December 31, 2015

Pine A64 – My first Kickstarter

by Frank on

I finely took the leap of faith. Really, isn’t backing a Kickstarter project what a person is doing; hoping the project delivers and the money they just shelled out is not gone with the wind.

The Pine A64 is billed as “the world’s first 64-bit expandable Quad Core 1.2Ghz supercomputer, tablet, media center, and more… starting at just $15.”

Click here for the details on the Pine A64 and back it on Kickstarter.

I backed them at the $36 level. This will get me a Pine A64+ with the memory upgrade to 2GB SDRAM. On top of the expanded memory, I will get gigabit ethernet, 3.5mm aufio/mic jack, 4k HDMI, 2 USB ports. It also includes headers for a touch panel, camera, and LCD port. It seems the Pine 64 will be much more powerful than the latest RaspberryPi.

This tiny single board computer will accept up to a 256GB micro SD. The micro SD will hold the OS making the board capable of switching between operating systems just by swapping out the SD card and rebooting.

The Pine 64 team have been hard at work getting Android and Linux running. My initial plans is to eventually run Linux and try to use this board to run the CNC router I am planning to build. They have also been hard at work getting others involved to develop cases a person can 3D print themselves.

The Pine 64 project was so popular I wasn’t able to back at any of the levels for early delivery. As a result,I will be getting mine sometime around March 2016. My plans are to document my experiences with the Pine A64+ from unboxing to using it as the brains of my MPCNC.

Originally I had intended to build my own 3D printer from scratch. However, concerns about sourcing different parts from different sources, building the physical structure,  the electronics and firmware led me to purchase a printer kit instead.

This is not intended as a review of the printer I chose to purchase. I am a noob. Being a noob, I feel I could not intelligently review a specific product. However I can speak about my experience building the this particular printer and the lessons I learned from it.

I purchased the Geeetech Prusa i3 X on Ebay from seller 3dfun1313. I paid just under $300 with free shipping. The follow up emails I received appeared to come directly from Geeetech. They sent me via email a PDF copy of the build instructions. You can get the same from the Banggood US warehouse for $263.

The instructions are very easy to follow. Geeetech has also followed up with a series of step-by-step build videos. These videos follow the PDF instructions section by section and make very easy to get the printer built. There were only a few minor instances where the instructions got the something incorrect. These were limited to the incorrect bolts listed in a sections or two of the instructions and not mentioning where to install the y-axis end stop. The last page of the document points to a link on Geeetech’s wiki to setup the the software needed to run the printer. It was the wrong link, however I was able to quickly find the correct link.

In all it took me a couple of days, working off and on, to complete the build, setup the software, level the print bed, and print my first test object. It could realistically have been completed in one long afternoon.

Prepare for lessons learned!!!!!

Did I say I was a noob! After I printed my test cube successfully, I went nuts. I went to Thingiverse and found cool stuff. Some of the prints took several hours. I would cue them up, start the print and walk away. I was lucky for quite awhile and had some great prints. Until one did not adhere to the print bed. It came loose, hit the hot print head and attached itself. The result was when I returned I had a huge glob of solid PLA encasing my print head.

I also bought some cheap filament, another noob mistake. I started to get clogs. I would replace the nozzle and after a print or two I had the same problem all over again. I though it was the printer for the longest time. It didn’t occur to me until I tried new filament.

For a beginner expecting to get quality prints, a DIY kit is not the way to go. There is just way to much to learn and so many minor technical things to go wrong. These minor things will leave a beginner scratching their head with 1 or 2 possible conclusion. 1. Either spend way too much money replacing parts on the printer that do not really need it. Or, 2. Giving up on 3D printing early.

If you are a person who likes to tinker, a wannabe maker like myself, then the Geeetech Prusa i3 X is a printer to educate and learn on. When you have it tweaked, it has a great potential for high quality prints.

Print things to improve your prints.

Don’t go nuts like a did, find things to print with uses. Below are a couple for the I recommend.

Filament cleaner and oilier – Crappy filament and dust are a print nozzles enemy. You should always by quality filament. But in order to fight common house hold dust all it takes is a piece of sponge. Add a little virgin olive oil and use are able to clean and lubricate the filament as you use it. While a 3d printed add-on is not needed it does help. There is no shortage of Thingaverse, so you will have to do some searching to find one right for you. I think this filament cleaner is simple and useful. It can be added onto a printer with out having to remove the filament. I highly recommend it.


MK8 filament guide – The MK8 is a good design for first time 3D printer owner. It is simple to use and is easy to understand. My frustration with the MK8 came when it was time to load or change filament. I would have to remove the fan in order to get it to thread into the nozzle. I then found these guides and a task I dreaded became something I really didn’t mind.

DC heroes signs

by Frank on

My shop was been trashed for months now.

Why you ask? Life! My wife wanted new carpet through out the house. Everything got moved to the garage, aka my shop. Years and years worth of stuff crammed in boxes that will never make it back into the house. It was all stacked in the tiny garage. Then came Christmas, all the decorations got pulled down from the attic to take up the remainder of the space.

So where does DC Heroes come into the picture?

My best friend, pinned a link to these DC Heroes signs on Pinterest. “Even though my shop is trashed,” I thought to myself, “I can still make those as a Christmas gift for him .”  I used making the small signs for him combined with a Black Friday sale at Lowes as the justification to buy a new contractor’s table saw. Lord knows, I couldn’t even get to the table saw in the shop.

I decided I wanted to make 4 signs. My set included: Flash, Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern.




Paint symbols on Signs

Gather paints

The good thing about old comic book heroes is their symbols are all created using primary colors.


red – background

white – circle

yellow – lightning bolt

black – outline circle and lightning bolt


blue – background


Step x – Transfer templates to signs

I tried a couple of different techniques to transfer the template to the surface of the sign.

Method 1 – Chalk and trace

This was used for my first hero sign, the Flash