Cocoon Create Model Maker Adventures

My two new Cocoon Create Model Maker 3D printers

My two new Cocoon Create Model Maker 3D printers. With LEGO Star Wars minifigs for scale and mystical protection. Bought from Aldi for AU$300 each. No dealing with deliverymen or postal services

Last week, the Aldi supermarket chain in Australia sold 3D printers. They’ve done it before, with a bigger and more expensive printer, but I missed out then. This time they were selling the Cocoon Create Model Maker for AU$300. I bought two. And 4 reels of slate grey filament.

The Model Maker is an Australian rebadging of the Wanhao Duplicator i3 mini. It has a smaller build volume than the earlier Cocoon Create printers, or my old Prusa Mendel kit. It comes with a specially set up version of the open source ‘Cura’ slicing software with all the settings carefully entered to make life easier for beginners. Using the latest and greatest Cura version, or any other slicing software of your choice, is just a matter of copying the configuration details across.

Model Makers don’t have a heated bed, but the small print area makes that less important than on a larger machine where warping is more of an issue.

The biggest thing is that they just work! Build quality is good – as in they feel like proper machines rather than a jury-rigged pile of plumbing parts and bits of old cars. Once I got the bed covered in blue painters tape and properly levelled, I really haven’t had to do much more than watch that the first layer went down securely. Then I just leave them to do their thing til I hear the distinctive sound of the print head retiring out of the way when the print is completed.

I’ve got to the point where if both printers aren’t printing, I feel like I’m wasting machine time! While I was walking out of Aldi with two printers and 4 boxes of 1kg reels of printing filament in my arms – wishing I’d grabbed a trolley on the way in – I wondered if I was wasting my money buying two printers. Given how constantly I’m running both printers at once, it was a great decision.

This small smiley face comes on the micro-SD card with the Cocoon Create Model Maker. It is printed on a raft – a thick but strangely flexible mass of plastic that sticks well to the print bed and makes bed-levelling less critical. Don’t use short bits of filament or you’ll run out part way through as I did here.

Second attempt. You can see that the top is porous – badly sliced. Sadly the folks who sliced the gcode also forgot to make the nozzle move away from the print when it finished extruding. That caused the mark that looks like he’s drooling from the corner of his mouth.

First I printed a ‘smiley face’ from the micro-SD card supplied with the printer. Then I installed the supplied version of Cura. Then I used Cura to slice one of my old calibration cube STL files and printed the resulting gcode. Baby steps to prove things were working properly and to finesse the bed height and level. Then I went straight for fun things from thingiverse.

Parametric Lego Duplo

Parametric LEGO Duplo compatible block (underside). I was impressed with the quality of the bridging - the way the printer prints 'in mid air' between two fixed supports. There was no noticeable sagging.

Parametric LEGO Duplo compatible block (underside). I was impressed with the quality of the bridging – the way the printer prints ‘in mid air’ between two fixed supports. There was no noticeable sagging.

Parametric LEGO Duplo compatible block (top view)

Parametric LEGO Duplo compatible block (top view)

Thing 1778 by Domonoky is a LEGO Duplo compatible brick generator. You pick the number of studs you want on top, and the software designs an STL file for you. I generated, sliced and printed a 2×2 Duplo-like brick. No Z-Axis Wobble! Yay! I couldn’t test the fit because I don’t own any LEGO duplo blocks. Never mind – onward!

OpenForge Stone Dungeon Edge Walls

OpenForge 2x2 walled tile with LEGO goblin for scale.

OpenForge 2×2 walled tile with LEGO goblin for scale. Yes, I should have focussed on the bricks at the back rather than the minifig. Sorry.

Thing 204629 by devonjones. This is more like it! I play tabletop games regularly with a club in town. Lots of the members hand-make and paint amazing terrain for their various wargames. Some of them buy and assemble laser-cut wooden building models. I wanted to make modular terrain for roleplaying games and tabletop skirmish games. Games like Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, 7TV – inch-high Spy-Fi, BattleStations, Robert E. Howard’s Conan, and the new Star Trek Adventures RPG.

Devonjones’ OpenForge terrain prints easily, looks great, and is really solid. Perhaps too solid. The pieces are designed to be compatible with the commercial Dwarven Forge terrain, which is gorgeous but expensive and heavy, and sits on thick bases. It is correspondingly difficult to store and transport. This also means that the OpenForge bases are thicker than I really need. Having the walls and floor permanently connected also means that I’d need a lot of storage space to hold a useful quantity of parts.

Z-Axis Optimized Dominion Terrain Tiles

Dutchmogul's ZoD tile system occupied by WOTC Star Wars Miniatures

Dutchmogul’s ZoD tile system occupied by WOTC Star Wars Miniatures

Thing 2528937 by dutchmogul. Dutchmogul provides some of the best gaming-related 3D-printable models on thingiverse. Brilliant sculpts of 28mm miniatures, creatures, buildings, vehicles, you name it. And several modular terrain systems.

The system I settled on was his Z-Axis Optimised Dimensions for 28mm miniatures. Walls, floors, and doorways all interlock together. Working out room and corridor designs is a fun puzzle, like designing with LEGO only much faster. It isn’t as solid  in play as the OpenForge system – the walls can be a little unstable if your printer’s tolerances are a bit off – but it is much easier to store, faster to print, and more fun to set up. I reckon I can get a decent amount of terrain stored in a wooden Twinings Tea box I picked up at a flea market and haven’t had a use for yet.

40mm Scifi Terminal Objective

40mm Sci-Fi Terminal Objective at 0.2mm layer height (front).

40mm Sci-Fi Terminal Objective at 0.2mm layer height (front). I’d like to try again at 0.1mm

40mm Sci-Fi Terminal Objective at 0.2mm layer height (back)

40mm Sci-Fi Terminal Objective at 0.2mm layer height (back)

Dutchmogul's ZoD tile system occupied by WOTC Star Wars Miniatures - Mon Mothma phoning home

Dutchmogul’s ZoD tile system occupied by WOTC Star Wars Miniatures – Mon Mothma phoning home.

Thing 2552113 is a clever remix by mr_mich of  PabloNada‘s 1/72 Computer Console and some bits of buildings and other sci-fi ‘greeblies’ from jdteixeira

To make the terrain look interesting, I needed furniture and people for a sense of scale. My first set of photos uses some sadly out-of-production Star Wars Miniatures from Wizards of the Coast, which I picked up second-hand from Jesse at the Lismore House of M some years ago.

Cobble Base for LEGO minifigs (25mm)

Thing 2325713  by haratu

I have a small collection of the also sadly out-of-production Character Building Doctor Who miniatures. They come with inconveniently shaped bases. When I took them off their bases and posed them in my little diorama, they fell over if I bumped anything. I’m clumsy, so they fell over a lot. The little guys have feet that are mostly compatible with LEGO minifigs. Mostly. If you’ve ever played with any of the LEGO-like toys on the market, you’ll know that only LEGO can build to LEGO tolerances. Everyone else can’t quite get the fit, and the material quality, and the ‘click’ that real LEGO gives.

So when I decided to make some printed bases to stop my Doctor Who minis falling over, I knew I’d have to do some test prints to get the feet to fit solidly. The default dimensions of  haratu’s cobble base printed a little too loose. If I picked up the mini by the head, the base would fall off. So I scaled it up to 105% in Cura and printed another one. That fitted, but was too tight. I didn’t want to stretch the plastic in the feet, so 105% was probably pushing it too far. I test printed at 101%, 102%, 103%, and 104% scale factors.

102% was just right, on both the Character Building figures and my real Lego minifigs. On a different printer, maybe one of the others scale factors would have been better. I then laid out a grid of 9 of the 102% scaled bases in Cura, sliced them as a job lot, and printed them in one go. A single base takes my printer 23 minutes to print at the settings I’m using. Printing nine at a time takes 3 hours 20 minutes – basically nine times as long. But I don’t have to stop what I’m doing every 23 minutes to take the finished base off and restart the printer. So my time is much more efficiently used by batch printing.

River Song on cobble base, using computer terminal to send emails in a quiet moment.

Now my little people can stand up, and the bases are the same colour as the rest of the diorama’s terrain pieces.

Dutchmogul has released printable STL files for miniature bases – Z.O.D. Starship Theme Bases (28mm/Heroic scale)  – that exactly match the terrain in his ZoD tiles. I really should learn how to modify them to have LEGO compatible studs. That’d look even better than the bases I’m using now.



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Updated Slic3r config file for version 0.7.0

For a while now I’ve been exclusively using Slic3r for converting .stl files to .gcode files, so I can print things on my home-built 3D printer. The current version of Slic3r is 0.7.0, and it does what I expect it to most of the time. I’ve been successfully experimenting with different settings for things like ‘Lift’ and ‘Retract Speed’ lately so I’ve updated the file I’ve posted as the Slic3r config page on this blog.

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Construction concerns

Gary wrote a detailed comment to this post, in which he described his experiences and frustrations with the mechanical side of building his Prusa kit. Rather than respond with another comment, I thought I’d write a post, covering his points.

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Fixing negative volumes with netfabb

I’ve blogged before about using Netfabb to fix problems in STL files, especially when I’ve downloaded them from Last night I had a problem that the desktop version of Netfabb wouldn’t fix. After spending some time searching for understanding, I found that the cloud version of netfabb fixed the STL automatically.

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Slic3r and Extruder calibration

Rich over at RichRap has just started a series of posts on using Slic3r for preparing STL files for printing, explaining the effects of the various parameters. His first article also includes some good info on calibrating your extruder output, too.

I’ve been faithfully reading his blog for a while now. Well worth following.

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What is that weird object in your banner image?

Bronze geometric sculpture in Brisbane

Bronze geometric sculpture in Brisbane

I realised that I’ve never posted the uncropped version of my banner image, or explained where it came from.

It is a cropped section from a photo I took of this wonderful bronze sculpture at the base of the Roma Street Parklands in Brisbane, the capital city of the state of Queensland, in Australia. Brisbane is my nearest big city, about 2.5 hours drive away.

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Purple Post-Punk Otter Rock

Pep the purple otter with his 3D printed bass guitar

Pep the purple otter with his 3D printed bass guitar

This is Pep. He’s a purple otter, from the TV show ‘Bear in the Big Blue House’.

We found him in an op-shop toy basket in a tiny town surrounded by desert and scorched wheat fields in South Australia. Since we already had both Pip and Pop, we realised his name had to be Pep. He’s now our constant travelling companion.

Recently he’s developed a desire to play rock music. Luckily, this bass guitar just appeared on Thingiverse. Thanks future-tinker! Rock On!

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