Yes, Aggregate.Org has jumped into the world of making things.
Henry George Dietz founded a manufacturing company in 1947...
so it isn't surprising that, as a kid, Prof. Henry Gordon (Hank)
Dietz, his eldest son, grew-up spending a lot of time learning
drafting, machining, tool and die making, injection moulding,
and all the other skills associated with manufacturing. In the
late 1970s, Hank Dietz learned to program the Bridgeport Series
1 CNC Milling Machine, and ended-up writing various software to
ease the process of converting 3D designs into physical things.
In fact, Hank Dietz started out as a double major between ME
and EE.... So, the technologies for building things have always
been of interest....
Why did Aggregate.Org wait until 2013 to get involved in
making things? We believe that making things, even at the
hobbyist level, has finally become largely a computer
engineering problem. We're really good at those....
Presentation for Henry Clay High School STEM Club, May 11, 2016
A little presentation on computer engineering and 3D printing;
here are the slides used.
STEM presentation at Tates Creek Middle School, March 14, 2013
Professor Dietz, assisted by Paul Eberhart,
demonstrated our MakerGear M2 printing a Tates Creek logo medal.
Here are overview slides (PDF).
YMCA Black Achievers presentation at Lexington Traditional Magnet School, September 28, 2013
Professor Dietz, assisted by Paul Eberhart, demonstrated 2D
paper cutting to make parts for an operating iris card and 3D
printing using our MakerGear M2 to build a hingebox and a
printed-assembled prosthetic hand. Here are overview slides (PDF). This went well despite having
students actually build both the iris card and the hand, but the
iris card was difficult for students to assemble (using a
stapler might help?).
Our Making Equipment
The University of Kentucky has a manufacturing center with
extensive facilities. However, our group also has been
accumulating hobbyist-level equipment of our own. The
key devices right now are:
A Silhouette SD (Graphtec) programmable paper cutter. This
sub-$200 device is essentially 2D only, using a small blade to
cut thin material ranging from paper to thin plastic sheets.
It is certainly not a laser cutter, but it is surprisingly
effective on soft-enough materials; the angled edge of the
blade only causes significant imprecision on very small cuts
involving sharp angles.
A MakerGear M2. This $1800 3D printer purchased in Fall 2012
extrudes 1.75mm-diameter thermoplastic filament into very
precisely positioned plastic strands that bond to each other to
form a 3D structure. The strands extruded through its 0.35mm
nozzle can be any height from about 0.02-0.3mm, with positioning
accuracy around 0.01mm. The M2 is remarkably well built, with a
welded steel frame, thick waterjet-cut aluminum plates, and
steel linear motion rails -- all of which allows it to print as
fast as 150-200mm/s while still maintaining good print quality.
In Summer 2016, we upgraded our M2 from its original 12V system
to 24V and switched to an E3D (V6) head and Azteeg X5 mini 32BIT
Controller V3 with display. In addition to the lab M2, Professor
Dietz also owns one personally, which is an early 2014 24V
version now stand-alone thanks to a Raspberry Pi running
OctoPrint. We didn't expect the M2 to still be the top-quality
printer in its class years after purchase, but in 2016 it still
A Wanhao I3. This $400 3D printer purchased in Fall 2015
extrudes 1.75mm-diameter thermoplastic filament very much like
our M2 does. Wanhao has taken a pretty basic I3 design and
tweaked it for volume manufacture with a sheet metal frame; it's
nowhere near as rigid as our M2, but it's actually capable of
making good prints as fast as 40-60mm/s, which is faster than
most printers. After printing with stainless steel PLA that
eroded the original nozzle, we made a little upgrade, but that's
all we've done to it. This is our "sacrificial" printer; we use
it when we don't want to risk the M2.
A 3040T CNC mill/engraver. This is personal equipment of
Professor Dietz, but is still a resource for our group. Our lab
in Marksbury isn't really a suitable place for a CNC, otherwise
we'd have one of these $700 machines there too. It is nowhere
near as convenient nor flexible a tool as the 3D printers, but
it can machine to tighter accuracies than we can print, and can
handle a wide range of materials.
An HTPOW mini laser engraver. This is a very small unit, with
lots of limitations, but it is a 1000mW @ 405nm laser capable of
engraving wood, cutting PLA, etc. We've made a variety of
modifications, outlined in our Instructable, Making Your Mini Laser Engraver Safer And Better, which
includes some 3D printed parts posted as Thing
Paul Eberhart (who is not just a grad student in our group, but
also a long-time maker) has been posting photos of our
experiences with the MakerGear M2, etc., at this Google+ page. That can give you a more raw look at
what we've been doing....
It's also useful to have some idea of 3D printing cost.
Electrical power use is minimal, and so is "wear and tear" on
the printer, so cost is mostly in the filament. Both PLA and
ABS filament are generally sold in 1Kg spools with a typical
delivered price of around $45 each... but how much filament is
that really? Well, this site lists density of PLA as 1.25 g/cm3 and ABS as
1.01 g/cm3. That means you get about 800 cm3 of PLA or 990 cm3
of ABS in a spool, for a cost of $0.056/cm3 for PLA and
$0.045/cm3 for ABS (just to put this in perspective, Ponoko charges at least $0.86/cm3, so using your own
printer is about 15X cheaper). If you're extruding a 0.3mm
layer of PLA, that comes out to over 2m of extruded material per
penny, or about 4 cents/minute at our M2's (relatively fast)
maximum 150mm/s extrusion speed. Of course, per meter cost is
nearly an order of magnitude lower using 0.1mm extrusion.
Some Of Our "Things"
We've designed and built a lot of things. Here are some of them
grouped by catagory....
Puzzles & Fun Stuff
- Calibron Twelve Block Puzzle (Calibron 12)
A very difficult 12-piece packing puzzle
- Tunable Tolerance Tetrahedron Twist Timewasting Toy
A two-piece puzzle that's really just a funny-shaped screw
- Flat Neighborhood Network Puzzle
Build a cluster computer from six PCs and six network switches
- Hanging Gardens Replacement Playing Piece
3D-printing lost board game pieces
- Triangular Dovetail Joint Microbox
An apparently impossible dovetail, solved with a turn
- Flatfish-ish 3D-Printed Lure
A simple 3D-printed fishing lure
- 3D PRINT STRONG locking bracelet
A bracelet, but really a demonstration of how strong 3D-printed
parts can be; this simple clasp can hold 30 pounds! We use this
as our new filament test print...
- This Old TARDIS, 3D-Printed Parts
A TARDIS lock and key the 4th Doctor could love;
"Bigger" on the inside
- MakerGear M2 simplified toy model ornament/keychain
Simplified MakerGear M2 model
- Ring Area From A Chord
What is the area of the difference of two concentric circles if
the length of a chord tangent to the inner circle is 10cm?
- Triangle "Missing Square" Puzzle
Arrange the four pieces, no holes; rearrange, one hole?
- Sun Medallion
A sun that refreshes some Tangled memories...
- Die Puzzle
An awesome little puzzle making a die out of 9 pieces;
even the box for it is a puzzle!
- IEEE SoutheastCon 2014 Keychain
A simple keychain made for IEEE SouthEastCon 2015
- SC13 Aggregate.Org/UK 20th Year Refrigerator Magnet
Commemorating our 20th SC conference since we built the
world's first Linux PC cluster supercomputer
- SC13 Aggregate.Org/UK Dovetail Puzzle Keychain
An apparently impossible dovetail keychain
- Make fun not a gun
It is not a gun, but it is "A gun" keychain
- 3D-Printed Birdhouse, A Sign (version 3)
A "bird" + "house" birdhouse, improved version
- 3D-Printed Birdhouse, "bird" House
- 3D-Printed Birdhouse, A Sign
A "bird" + "house" birdhouse
- Tiny 4-Ball Maze
A sealed four-ball maze that's about the size of four pennies
Tools & Parts
- HingePliers (a metamaterials experiment)
An experiment in complex metamaterials design, inspired by
research at the Hasso Plattner Institute.
- Rackmount Stud Adapter Plate
A plate for adapting to Dell rackmounts
- Fencepost Solar Light Mount
Mount solar lights on a fencepost, rather than with a ground spike
- MakerGear M2 Ducted Fan Mount
Several alternative fan shrounds for the MakerGear M2 3D printer
- Improved Replacement for Reading Lamp Shade
This lamp shade has vents that the original didn't...
which is why the original failed
- MakerGear M2 Z Adjustment Wrench
The M2 has somewhat awkward access to the Z stop adjustment
screw; this odd-shaped wrench makes adjustment easy
- Double Cup Holder for a Porch Swing
Two drinks are better than one...
- Cup Holder for a Porch Swing
One drink is better than none...
- Mount for Impulse Sprinkler on Green Metal U Post
Mount your sprinkler a little higher
- Poster Display Monolith
Very neat little corner clips that allow building a display
monolith out of three 4x8 foot sheet in a minute or less; great
for poster display
- MakerGear M2 Printer Spool Holder -- 3/4" End Caps
There's a nice design for a MakerGear M2 spool holder, but the
rod is too thick for some spools; this allows a 3/4 inch rod to
be used instead
- SC13 Aggregate.Org/UK Page Holder
A useful little holder for individual sheets of paper
- Prosthetic/Robotic Hand Printable As An Assembled Unit Without Supports
Designed mostly as a demo, this uses our print-assembled hinge
to create a print-assembled prosthetic hand... which prints in
about 45 minutes on our M2
- HingeBox Printable As An Assembled Unit Without Supports
Our ever-popular print-assembled HingeBox;
as seen on Tested: Smart Cookie
- Hinge Printable As An Assembled Unit Without Supports
The inital demo of our print-in-place vertical-pivot hinge
- Versatile Stand for Nabi Jr
It's a stand! It's a handle! It's here
- Doorstop for Indoor/Outdoor Carpet
Shockingly more effective on indoor/outdoor carpet than
- USB Webcam Bracket for MakerGear M2
Simple mount for a $3 USB camera on a MakerGear M2
- Minolta/Konica-Minolta/Sony A Lens To Leica M Body (Techart Pro LM-EA7) Adapter
A lens to M body -- or autofocus using LM-EA7
- Canon FL/FD/FDn Lens To Leica M Body (Techart Pro LM-EA7) Adapter
FL/FD/FDn lens to M body -- or autofocus using LM-EA7
- Minolta SR/MC/MD Lens To Leica M Body (Techart Pro LM-EA7) Adapter
SR/MC/MD lens to M body -- or autofocus using LM-EA7
- M42 Lens To Leica M Body (Techart Pro LM-EA7) Adapter
M42 lens to M body -- or autofocus using LM-EA7
- Kiev 10/15 Lens To Leica M Body (Techart Pro LM-EA7) Adapter
Kiev 10/15 lens to M body -- or autofocus using LM-EA7
- Anaperture Single-Shot Anaglyph Apertures
Customizer application that designs filters that allow a camera
to capture an anaglyph stereo image in a single shot, or even
anaglyph stereo movies
- 3D-Printed Screw-In Front Lenscaps With Optional QR Code
Customizer application that designs screw-in lenscaps, with
optional text and QR code labels
- Camera Obscura for Canon PowerShot ELPH115IS
16MP digital pinhole imaging using an unmodified Canon PowerShot
- Bird's Eye Camera Stand
Mount for a Canon PowerShot to capture a 360-degree view in a
single shot reflecting the scene off a Christmas-tree bulb
- Kiev 10/15 Lens To Sony A7II-series Body Adapter
Kiev 10/15 lens to E body
- Focusing E-Mount For Ultrafast Lenses
Various special-purpose ultrafast lenses to E body; focus by
turning in a screw thread
- DupliHood: a 3D-printed slide copy attachment
An attachment that screws into the filter thread of a macro lens
to allow copying of slides or negatives
- 3D-Printed Screw-In Front Lenscaps
Customizer application that designs screw-in lenscaps, with
- Mount For Fisheye Converter Lens On Canon PowerShot A4000
IPIX 185-degree fisheye converter on Canon PowerShot A4000
- Minolta SR/MC/MD Rear Lenscap
SR/MC/MD rear lenscap
- Meade telescope to Sony FE/E-mount Adapter
Meade telescope to E body
- Kiev 10/15 Lens To Canon FL/FD/FDn Body Adapter
Kiev 10/15 lens to FL/FD/FDn body
- Minolta SR/MC/MD Lens To Canon FL/FD/FDn Body Adapter
SR/MC/MD lens to FL/FD/FDn body
- M42 Rear Lenscap
M42 rear lenscap
Making Your Mini Laser Engraver Safer And Better,
Here's how we modified our mini laser engraver to be both much safer and
and a significantly more effective tool.
Prosthetic/Robotic Hand Printable As An Assembled Unit Without Supports,
Here's our 3D-printed prosthetic/robotic hand for which all the
printed parts print assembled without supports in less than an
hour. You still have to thread some fishing line and rubber
bands through it, but from print start to working hand is easily
done in less than 90 minutes using a total of about $1 worth of
materials! Makes a great demonstration piece, although it would
have to be tweaked for use as a real prosthetic.
this cap is an easily-printable thread compatible with standard
metric M42x1. The outside is a grip pattern similar to that used
on the focus ring of many M42 lenses.
3D-Printed Birdhouse, A Sign,
A fully 3D-printed birdhouse the entry/donation to the annual
Birdhouse Display and Benefit Auction, May 24-June 2, 2013, at
The Arboretum in Lexington, KY,
3D Printed Maze,
This is a very small toy (not for young kids). This maze is
designed to take four balls, with the goal of simultaneously
moving all four balls from their start to end positions by
tilting the maze. It also is a nice demonstration of thermally
bonding a different material to PLA -- a sheet of overhead
transparency material is used to make the transparent cover of
Printable Camera Mount for MakerGear M2,
This bracket allows a $6 webcam to be very inobtrusively mounted
on a MakerGear M2 to provide a (low resolution) live video feed
of the part being printed.
Use Your Camera To Capture "3D" Anaglyphs
This describes how to capture analglyphs directly with a single
shot through a special anaglyph filter -- which is most easily
cut using a programmable paper cutter.
Our New Making Technologies
Print-in-place Hinges and Metamaterials
It started with Hinge Printable As An Assembled Unit Without Supports, but
continued with HingeBox Printable As An Assembled Unit Without Supports,
Prosthetic/Robotic Hand Printable As An Assembled Unit Without
Supports, and HingePliers (a
Our first print-in-place vertical-pivot hinge led to some other
applications and a horizontal-pivot version.. along with
treatment of printed parts as metamaterials
Trace2SCAD: Converting Images Into OpenSCAD Models
A simple tool to convert images into OpenSCAD programs
Welding Plastic With A Soldering Iron
Not much to say here, but it's a trick we use often.
This is particularly good for PLA, because very few
materials react with PLA, making gluing difficult
Thermal Bonding With A Clothes Iron
For building the tiny
3D Printed Maze,
we 3D printed the maze, but needed a way to seal the balls in.
The answer we came up with is thermally bonding a piece of
overhead slide material to the maze using a clothes iron.
It's shockingly simple, with heat set on around 2-3.
USB Webcam Monitoring Of MakerGear M2
This Instructable, Printable Camera Mount for MakerGear M2, explains how to
make a mount for a $6 webcam -- so it can be watched. I wish I
could say we only watch the M2 because it is hypnotic, but it
also is very common that prints fail. Reasons it fails
- Bad first layer (usually due to bad leveling of the base).
- Bad bond with the base causes part to slip late in construction.
- Twist in filament spooling causes feed to jam & extrusion stops.
Note that being listed as a reference here does not imply an
endorsement by the University of Kentucky... but our group has
found the following sites to be useful.
3ders.org list of 3D printers is probably the single most
comprehensive list of what's available, including prices and
lead time. Lots of good info at this site....
MAKE magazine's "ultimate guide to 3D printing" is a fairly
nice overview with detailed evaluations of many printers.
Unfortunately, the field is evolving so fast, and print quality
of so many printers is so highly dependent on minor tweaks, that
as a buying guide this isn't all that much help. It does at
least give one more realistic expectations: most 3D printers
still very slowly produce rather imprecise parts. Our MakerGear
M2 gets pretty much top scores on part quality, and just about
everybody who has 3D printing experience has been telling us our
M2 is simply outclassing their printers, but printing
precisely-dimensioned parts with our M2 is still somewhat hit-or-miss
(with most 3D printers, it seems to be
Thingiverse is one of the best repositories of 3D designs
that might actually be printable using additive extrusion. The
by MakerBot WWW tool hosted at Thingiverse is a bit of a
hack, using special comments to parameterize OpenSCAD files, but
it is darned effective.
Instructables is probably the site with the most detailed
instructions on making things ranging from Chicken Cacciatore to
snowmobiles. It is where we publish most of our "random" making.
OpenSCAD is software that processes a simple programming
language for defining 3D solid objects. There isn't really any
point-and-click editing support, but the tool seems more
reliable than most in producing 3D-printable STL files. The
system apparently uses extensive caching of portions of the
design to make processing of minor textual changes to the
program fast, although this also seems to make the tool want a
heck of a lot of memory space. (Then again, slicers seem to be
at least as memory hungry, so this might not be the performance
FreeCAD is a parametric 3D solid modeler that in many ways
should be all that OpenSCAD is an more... but it's more fragile.
If you don't have a design, but want to just build the design as
you build the model, this is a pretty good tool to use.
Blender is an amazingly powerful 3D creation studio... but
it is hard to learn and more oriented toward animated movues of
organic solid models than 3D printing of technically-precise
parts. We don't yet have anyone expert enough to really judge
how well it can do in building 3D models for printing.
MakerGear's homepage -- we bought an M2 because it had just
about the best reputation for the hot end, seemed very solid,
has a good build volume, and was relatively cheap fully
assembled. We have not been disappointed. From everything we've
seen since getting our M2, it really seems an excellent
contender for best in its class. Unfortunately, the M2 pricing
has gone up a bit.... Incidentally, MakerGear's black filament
(which they are usually out of) is stunningly black even in the
thinnest single layer -- it probably contains actual carbon
ProtoParadigm is a 3D printer filament supplier. They seem
to have very good pricing, but more importantly they have some
very competent articles posted overviewing things like the
differences between PLA amd ABS, etc. We haven't tried their
MatterHackers is another 3D filament supplier, also with
good pricing and two grades of filament: regular and "PRO."
I've just ordered several spools of the PRO 1.75mm PLA filament...
it at least looks good on their website.
The "unfortunately named
RepRaper.Com" has stunningly low prices on filament which,
after adding rather fast shipping from China, are still very
low. They clearly don't know English very well, but their
filament seems to print well. We have noticed that their
filament colors are not very strong, probably imposed with
organic dye. Blue and glow-in-the-dark blue are quite
transparent, and black is more of a transparent light smoke
color, until you get to about 1mm thickness. White seems to
be more solidly white.
The only thing set in stone is our name.