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Adventures in Resin Printing

I have a 3D printer that I’ve been building for several years now – For a while I was working on it quite regularly and making all kinds of progress, but at a certain point family obligations started to demand more of my time and so for a period of about 3 years I didn’t work on the machine at all. I was meaning to get back to it for a while but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and for a while I couldn’t go to the makerspace where I store and work on the project at all. Between the frustrations I faced in the project, my inability to go work on it, and a general frustration in the modeling hobby and a desire to become a productive modeler again, I decided to buy a 3D printer that I could use to print models now, and which could complement the other printer later.
After a fair bit of deliberation I decided on a low-cost resin printer. The great thing about resin printers (even low-cost ones) is that they can produce very smooth and finely-detailed prints. I figured that once my other printer (the typical plastic-extruded-through-a-hot-nozzle FDM type) was done a resin printer would still be useful for common needs like hands, as most mecha kits’ included hands are garbage. I figured I could take the hands from my Zaku Kai model, which I created in Blender back in 2007 or so, and have a good starting point for a first print.
Unfortunately, I made those hands back in 2007 or so. They were terrible. I had to start over. It took me a while but I finally got the new hands to a state where I felt ready to print them.

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Eating a Whale, Eating the Horse, and the Elephant in the Room

My hobby pursuits have been in an extended slump. My last progress update on my Zaku Kai build was seven years ago. Stagnation in the hobby and an unfortunate encounter with Plamo King Jackass and his League of Pretentious Shitbags sent my self-confidence through the floor, and a horrible destructive mishap in my workspace destroyed my gear, making it even harder to get that groove back. In short, as far as my relationship with the hobby has been concerned, things have mostly sucked in recent years.
But when you fall off the horse, you have to get right back up and eat that horse.

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I did not have the place up and running in a week or so.

In my last post, way back in March, I briefly relayed the story of the basement flood that destroyed a bunch of stuff in my old work room, most notably a few significant pieces of gear like my computer’s UPS and my air compressor. I floated the rather optimistic projection that I could have the place “up and running in a week or so” – instead the process of recovering from that incident has dragged on for most of a year. But a lot has changed, too. I’ll talk a bit about where my 2018 went and then delve into my most recent efforts at setting up my new workspace.

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A Ranger in the Temple

Recently as part of an effort to improve my figure-painting skills for dioramas I’ve been practicing with various 1:35 scale military figures and gaming minis. I can’t quite say I’ve got the hang of it yet but I’m on my way, and now starting on the first gaming mini I intend to use for actual play:

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Blender models, Git repository

While working on various projects in the past I’ve created files I thought could be useful to other people: Generally speaking, I’ve shared these on the site simply by uploading them to the directories where I keep my web files. But for ongoing projects it’s more common for me to publish the files only when they are in a more or less final state, mainly due to the maintenance issues involved. To make it easier to share such files and the updates I make to them, I’ve created a Git repository on the site. My first additions to the repository are a set of models I’ve been working on in Blender:
Zaku Kai, GM Command, Hygog, and Alpha Azieru

The Git repository will be updated with new versions of the files when I make changes.
Scope-eye.net git repository
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Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, Movie Props

In early September I started work on a Halloween costume: We have baby twins, a boy and a girl, and during the pregnancy (before deciding their real names) I took to calling them “Luke and Leia”. So, my plan for Halloween was to dress as their father, Darth Vader.
In the end, unfortunately, I didn’t get the costume done in time. Still, I’ve had a great time with the project. Star Wars is a beloved classic, an elaborate, fully-realized fantasy. If you take it a small piece at a time, a lot of it is deceptively simple: Wooden plaques with coin slots and rocker switches, metal boxes with lights and knobs and pieces of hose… But in the context of the movie, these props become real.
As a scale modeler, hobbyist, and perfectionist I am used to working at my own pace, and building things to stand up to pretty close scrutiny. Movie prop makers, on the other hand, have to deal with tight deadlines, but often with more relaxed standards as well. With a two-month schedule for this project, I had to adapt my work to something a bit closer to the prop-maker’s style: work faster, not sweat the small stuff, and avoid going back to rework things I’d already done. And still I didn’t finish in time… But it’s been a fun project.

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GM Command project (and Sniper Ⅱ), Reactionary Design Choices, and the 1mm Rule

Earlier this year, Bandai released a new model kit of the GM Sniper Ⅱ, a design from Gundam 0080, a late ’80s anime that is practically “holy ground” to me. I was quick to angrily denounce the kit and start work on a CAD model of the 0080 GMs based on the original reference art for the mecha, to prove I could do better and as the starting point for a physical model in the future.

However, I was a bit surprised when I compared this “correct”-looking CAD model I had made to Bandai’s Master Grade kit. The two were actually far more similar than I would have imagined.

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Micro USB power connector for Nintendo 3DS

I bought a 3DS recently, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. But when I bought it, I was kind of shocked to learn it is sold without a charger. How can people be expected to continue to use their new portable game system after the first few hours of use without the means to recharge its battery?
The answer, of course, is that the proliferation of USB as a power port for small devices has rendered dedicated chargers largely obsolete. However, the system itself doesn’t have a USB connector: it has a proprietary connector. In a sense this isn’t a significant issue: third-party USB charging cables for the system are inexpensive online.
However, I did get a bit fed up with the situation: When I misplaced my charging cable, I couldn’t use the system. And if I took the system on a trip and forgot the cable, my opportunities to buy a replacement would be limited, and expensive. My phone, on the other hand, uses Micro USB cables. I can buy those for a few bucks at a gas station if I have to, and they’ll usually be among the cables supplied at charging stations. I love that convenience. So I decided to replace the system’s proprietary power connector with a Micro USB connector.
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My 3D printer project (“Cheezbot”) has been progressing at a slow pace over the past year. It’s not up and running yet, but a lot has changed since the late-2014 post I made when I had just powder-coated and assembled the frame.

Makeit Labs, where I store the project and do the majority of the project work, is roughly 45 minutes away, so I don’t get over there too frequently; usually only about once a week. Usually I try to go on a day when I can spend most of the day at the labs, so I get a good 4-6 hours of time in working on the project, with some additional time set aside for various things like printing things on the labs’ 3D printers, playing video games, helping to clean and organize the space in the wake of our recent move, visiting the local comic store and drooling over their substantial assortment of Gundam kits, etc. In the course of this project I’m also struggling with my limited skills on various tools I need to use, as well, so seemingly simple problems can be significant challenges.

But basically, since assembling the frame much of my effort has been spent adding laser-cut acrylic panels to the machine, installing the electronics package, and building the X/Y gantry which moves the print head.

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Target: SCGMC

In the months leading to the 2014 Southern California Gundam Model Competition I had some projects lined up for completion for the show. But in the last weeks prior to the show it became clear those projects weren’t going to be ready, so I decided it was time for a last-minute change of direction. I considered two options: the first was to complete my half-finished HGUC Geara Doga. The other was to start fresh with another kit: a high-quality kit with simple construction and paint scheme. I chose Plum’s Assault Suit Leynos kit. I started work on it about a week before the competition, and quickly dropped the Geara Doga in favor of it.
Finishing any project in just a week is a tall order. I tried it last year and failed: but even so, I did good work and made significant headway on the project. I felt I might have better chances of pulling it off this time due to the simpler paint scheme and construction. It still didn’t work out in the end, but I had a lot of fun with this kit. My initial impression of the kit was that it was way overpriced for what it is, but after working with it, I love it. I plan to buy another one soon.

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