Makeathon

As I look back on 2016, an event that I hosted in July stands out as the highlight of my activities with my startup business, Pintstein.  I worked really hard to promote the event to teachers by putting up posters in the break rooms of  the schools I substitute taught at and making content on websites like edutopia.org and teacherspayteachers.com.  In the end, only two teachers participated in the event but my other social media advertising efforts resulted in 6 kids attending my 3D printing and laser cutting makeathon.

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The first kid I want to tell you about is Amdi.  Amdi used TinkerCAD to design a donut action figure called the Mighty Krunk.  I was really sad to see how many errors and glitches Amdi experienced with the TinkerCAD design software.  Most of the time TinkerCAD is user-friendly but Amdi’s experience makes me wonder if a software that relies less on the internet should replace tinkerCAD as the design software that I teach in my 3D printing 101 class.  I was so happy when Amdi finally powered through glitches and got a file that he wanted to print.

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Getting to see a child’s face after something that has only lived in their imagination becomes a physical object is so much more rewarding than any of the money that I make.

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Brandon also designed an action figure called “Grand Robo.”  The file that Bandon gave failed the first couple times I tried to print it because there was a slight gap between the body and the shoulders of Grand Robo but it was easy enough for me to fix them and then get Brandon a successful print after the makeathon was over.

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Kyra had to go to a soccer tournament but she had one the most ambitious designs of the event.  Kyra wanted to make a figurine of her dog.  We surveyed what is already out there on thingiverse and none of it appealed to Kyra so we talked about how I would design a dog from scratch.  My favorite design software is Blender.  It is not user friendly and it is not a CAD program but Blender thinks in the language of STL files better than anything else I have come across.  I was astonished to see the design that Kyra made the day after her soccer tournament.  I think it would take me 6 hours to make this low poly dog design and Kyra had never played with Blender before I the event!  I don’t know how much her architect father helped with the design but I am impressed by what she made in a software she had never seen before.

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If you don’t like the blocky look of it maybe this will improve your opinion: there are tools that allow you to smooth low poly designs like this, I just don’t know how to do use those tools yet.

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Niko had his heart set on laser cutting some sweet designs into a skateboard.  I was nervous about the paint on the skateboard but we worked through the basics of running the laser cutter on some clean plywood that I had left over from other projects.  We made a plaque with the design on it instead of getting it on the skate board during the event. I hope Niko was able get his skateboard etched on the laser cutter after the event.

screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-8-52-01-amHarrison designed and laser cut a box for his grandfather.

 

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Lila wanted to make a mask so I taught  her how to make the design in TinkerCAD but it turned out to be bigger than any of my print beds.  I digitally cut the design into three pieces and printed them individually.

Remember how I wanted the Makeathon to be for teachers but only two Teachers showed up?  Amber and Elise were planning on bringing kids from North West Passage High School to the Hack Factory to make things and sell them in the school gift shop.  I taught Amber and Elise how to 3D print and laser cut key chains with the North West Passage logo on it.

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In July I got engaged and in October I got promoted at Boston Scientific.  I have been putting less energy into growing my company, Pintstein, since the Makeathon but people who have an idea but don’t know how to make the design or people with a 3D printer that needs repairing have been contacting me occasionally. I make sure that I serve the business that finds me but I am not putting time into trying to generate business at the moment.  I fully intend to renew my efforts to bring Bioinformatics to market after my wedding in October of 2017. Only a fool doesn’t listen to feedback and the feedback I have gathered over the last 2 years tells me 3D printing is not going to pay the bills for at least a couple years.

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I am not certain that the world is a better place because of my attempts to get my bioinformatics kits to market but every 3D printing class I have hosted and 3D printer I have repaired has allowed others to achieve some of their dreams.  Entrepreneurs have a hard road, thinking of the service that I provide people who want to learn 3D printing is the grit that keeps me going.

The Ring

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“I don’t want a 3D printed wedding ring!”

“Just wait until you see it and then you can turn it down.”

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The love of my life dislikes my 3D printers and my attitude that I can make nearly anything with my printers. But Maria changed her mind about a “3D printed” wedding ring when she saw my “sketches” of the engagement ring that I was going to make her. I spoke with several businesses about how to manufacture my concept of a ring with the center diamond held in a castle. Buschosky Jewelers was the most helpful and they were able to sell me a showpiece with the understanding that I was returning it for a custom made piece. Maria thought the showpiece ring that I proposed with was perfect and she was even more delighted to hear that my “sketch” of a Hogwarts-Disney hybrid castle was going to be made by professionals.

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3D printing is also frequently called rapid prototyping. Because printers are now cheap, each designer can have a printer on their desk and just churn out prototypes of the latest iteration of their design. The 3D printer can save time by allowing the designer to play with the prototype and understand it in a way that he could not understand it on a computer. The final design was produced by Sauli Buschosky with a software that I don’t own because it costs more than a thousand dollars but I was able to give him 3D prints of my concept that helped me transfer my creative vision in much the same way that most artists use 2D sketches to transfer creative vision.

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The Polished Ring
The Polished Ring
3D printed wax ring (SLA)
3D printed wax ring (SLA)
Raw Casting of White Gold
Raw Casting of White Gold

Branding and Selling Yourself

A month ago, I attended a lecture on social media for entrepreneurs. The most surprising piece of advice Ben Theis said during the lecture was to not use your facebook page or other social media page to constantly sell your product. Why spend time maintaining a page if it is not to sell your product? Defining the flavor of your brand is one of the most artistic parts of starting a business. People don’t want to see ads constantly show up in their facebook feed any more than they already see ads. What people do want to see is insightful, funny or just novel information. So use your facebook page to broadcast information relevant to what your business does. Try to build a following of people who will come back time and again to see what new insights you have for them today. Then when your company is having a sale, you have a following of people who might get excited about supporting the business that has given them so much information.

Modern Keyboard With Colored Social Network Buttons.

Advertising on the internet is often referred to as a pay to play game because you cannot achieve the highest levels of success without paying Google, Facebook, ect to give you preferential treatment but moderate levels of success can be achieved without spending a penny. In a little over a week I am hosting a Makeathon designed to help people learn 3D printing and other cheap fabrication robots. I have done everything that I can think of to get the word out there. My target audience is teachers and librarians because they have the most potential to help kids get access to 3D printers (my mission is to get kids access to this time expensive but resource cheap technology). So I started by posting flyers in the teacher breakrooms of schools that I substitute teach at.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 9.23.51 AM.pngBut then school ended in May and I had a long time to prepare for my Makeathon and promote it so I started focusing on how to use the internet to spread the word. I thought that going to websites teachers  use (Edutopia and TPT) might be a great strategy but it didn’t pay off for some reason.  However content that I put on Twitter and Facebook did reach a lot of people.FacebookSuccess

Facebook, WordPress and Youtube provide content generators with some pretty cool tools to help authors evaluate the success of various attempts at creating compelling stories.Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 10.38.51 AM

If you are still reading this post, you are really interested in my story, or you are thinking about starting a business and looking to me for information.  I am not an expert.  My business is not making money but I can connect you with the people who are helping me become an expert (for free).

IN0316LFM01-web_80553I was at the gym and a Business magazine caught my eye.  Inside the article titled: Go ahead, be evil.  I found this advice-If being ruthlessly successful even at the risk of being evil helps you get through the dark nights of starting a company then do it. If being a force for good is what gets you through the dark nights of starting a company then do that.

Certainly not the advice I would give an entrepreneur but then I don’t profit from that entrepreneur’s existence the way that Inc.com does, so I am not motivated to help the evil ones exist as much as I am motivated to help people who believe they are a force for good.  I made an existential choice a couple months before I dropped out of graduate school. I had spent a year on an experiment that was not going to be publishable and my advisors were putting a lot of stress on me to come up with something publishable. My advisors did not know that my data was not publishable yet and I could see a clear path where I could falsify data and have a much better life (at least for a year or two). I spent a couple days contemplating if I wanted to build a career in science on a lie eventually came to the conclusion that I would rather perish than publish false results. There may be times where you look at things that I say and feel that I am a horrible salesman. Odds are good that I saw a way to say my sales pitch in a more compelling but less accurate manner. I make deliberate choices not to be the best salesman that I can be. I would rather run a company that never turns a profit than run a company that succeeds by being a snake oil salesman.

2/11/17 update- Did you know that facebook hands out coupons?  They gave me a $10 coupon to post an add on Facebook so I shared a heartwarming video that only marginally promotes my business but definitely builds my brand.

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Hope is not a Plan

I can live without anything; except hope and dreams. Put me on a desert island and I will spend my time finding a way to hope for survival and a way to make it back to my loved ones. Pintstein is my way of hoping that I still have something to give back to the Scientific Community. My time in graduate school was a grueling experience where I did course work 20 hours a week, researched fruit fly egg laying choices for 20+ hours a week, taught and prepared anatomy labs for 20 hours a week while earning $18,00 a year. Eventually I lost all hope that I could successfully complete a PhD with Aimee Dunlap as my advisor. Most PhD students in that situation change academic advisors but the criticisms that I was receiving from my advisors left me feeling worthless. It took me 2 years to get accepted into a graduate school and maybe that is because most of the people I applied to could see that I was not well read enough to make it in the publish or perish environment of science.

ChurchillWinstonNow I have a great job working in a Pacemaker Battery Factory for $27,000 a year. HR says that my labor saves an average of 8 lives a day and I am a leader to the 2nd shift Bradycardia Production team using my STEM knowledge to keep our equipment operating reliably. Additionally, working only 40 hours a week leaves me energy for my startup company. I can survive like this for the rest of my life if I have to. So I have hope for the future.

I started Pintstein to make Bioinformatics Kits (specialized organic chemistry kits for decoding the language of life). 3D printing has been a great way to make functional prototypes but the marketable product is going to need to be made with injection molding. I have done a lot of networking to learn how to make molds with CNC machines or how to contract the production of my Bioinformatics Kits with injection molding from a company like Protolabs.  I don’t feel like the networking I have done has gotten me any closer to a plan forward.  Tom Hazard says, hope is not a plan but I wonder, is tenacity a plan? I start my 3D printing classes by telling people that I am self-taught and as such, I am not an expert yet but I still feel that I have acquired a low budget super power. If I want something badly enough, I can make it. It might take a lot of time and be made out of cheap plastic but I can make my dreams into physical objects.  I want my Bioinformatics Kits badly enough that I will eventually bring them to market. It might take a ridiculous amount of time, it might never turn a profit but I will do it. Entrepaneurship is a form of artistic self-expression just as much as writing a novel or composing a symphony. Working on Pintstein gives me hope. Working on Pintstein is my therapy.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 12.47.48 AMIf you would like to see my Bioinformatics Kits contact me and schedule a private meeting. I am not publicly disclosing my designs until I have filed a provisional patent or until I am 99% certain that I will not patent my Bioinformatics Kits but private meetings do not hurt my ability to patent my designs.  I want to build a list of interested parties who might support a kickstarter campaign to fund the “tooling” necessary to make my Bioinformatics Kits with injection molding.

3D Printer Extruder Jams

Extruder Jams are a frequent and perplexing problem with FFF 3D printers. The gears can get clogged with plastic, the hot end can get clogged in many distinct ways and your EPROMS might not be accurately telling your machine how much its motors need to turn in order to push out 100mm of plastic.  But FFF 3D printing is still a great option for prototyping your ideas if you have free time and want to save money.

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I’m not enough of an expert on extruder jams to feel that my advice is a better guide than some of the other guides out there already but I am enough of an expert to hold your hand or fix it for you (if you are willing to pay for my time).

Customer: I’ve been having trouble with my printer.  This is the printer I have https://www.amazon.com/Monoprice-113860-Select-Printer-Filament/dp/B018GZBC3Y/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1465878994&sr=8-3&keywords=monoprice+printer

It is not extruding any more.  I was able to print things smoothly for a little over a month then I started having trouble.  I print on painters tape and occasionally used glue sticks if parts weren’t sticking to the bed.  When it stopped extruding I was able to get it working again by reloading the filament but then it seemed to strip the filament so I wasn’t able to feed it through or remove it.  I removed the end of the extruder to try to clear the filament.  I cleared some but I have not been able to load the filament since then.  I have tried using a guitar string to clear it but I haven’t had any luck.  What other things could I try?  Thank you for any insight or advice!

Pintstein: You are describing one of the hardest and most common printer malfunctions.  Your printer probably has multiple issues but only one root cause.  To get your filament to clear again try setting the temperature 20ºC higher than your normal printing temperature.  Once the hotend is hot, depress the spring and pull up on the filament. If the filament is too stuck to change filaments, try not depressing the spring, pulling up on the filament lightly, and using your print software to have the extruder retract filament. If you still can’t change your filament you are going to need to disassemble the extruder.  I can help people do that in person faster than I can describe how to do it.
If you can change the filament we can diagnose the root cause of your problem.  Clean every part of the gears that you can before putting in the new filament.  That stripped plastic inside your gear teeth could be your problem. Extruder jams can be caused by the temperature being too low so why not increase your extruder’s temperature 5ºC above your normal printing temperature.
Now use a micrometer or ruler to measure 125mm of filament.  Open your software and ask the extruder to push out exactly 100mm of filament.  If you are left with an amount of filament other than 25mm write back to me with a description of what the extruder looked like when it was trying to push filament out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUPfBJz3I6Y

Many make and models have a spring that can be tightened or loosened.  If the spring is too tight, it can cause that filament stripping that you described.   My Monoprice dual extruder’s spring cannot be tightened and loosened so I will assume that your Monoprice Maker does not either.

If your printer is now able to extrude accurate amounts of filament, let’s make sure the printing temperature is set to the right temperature for your filament. Download this file and print it.  changing the temperature as it prints.  If the print becomes “beady”, as in looks like a string of beads, your temperature is too low and the optimum temperature is probably 5ºC above that.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POaL2GGBHGM
My Printrbot develops extruder jams after I have done A LOT OF PRINTING on it and the steps I just described above allows it to work for a little while but buying a new hotend has been the most successful way to get it back in good working order.  I now have 3 old hotends for my printrbot and am putting off buying the 4th in the hopes that I will find a magic way to revitalize one of them by spraying teflon inside the hot end or something.
Keep in touch and pay it forward! The additive manufacturing revolution is about giving people with free time, the information and skills to make plastic objects from their dreams.
I struggle to generate social media content. Is It alright if I use our conversation on my blog similar to the way I posted another conversation on my facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/Pintstein/posts/1738226519775217

Customer: You can use this conversation on your blog.

I think I have actually tried all of that before.  I gave it another shot but still no luck.  Are there parts I should look into replacing?  On your website it says you can send a tech to look at the printer, is this the kind of problem a tech could take care of and maybe also show me what I’m doing wrong?  I work as a maintenance tech so I feel like I should be able to fix basic things but I’m very new to 3D printing.

Pintstein: Yes, this problem could be solved by having a technician come out to your location and run through everything but Pintstein’s technician is not able to carry every single part for every single make and model of 3D printer. So you should order a replacement hot end before I come to your location.  I’m 90% certain that the replacing the hot end will get the machine back to good working order if another step does not.  My labor costs $50 for a 2 hour visit and $15 for each hour after that.

I have been struggling to find a replacement hot end. Could you send me a photo of your extruder so I can confirm that it looks a lot like this but is black instead of blue? http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/12V-0-4mm-Single-Nozzle-3D-Printer-mk10-Print-Head-Extruder-Extra-Throat-Tube-0-3mm/1737229_32311314664.html
Where are you located? I’m in Saint Paul on Grand Ave.

I Needed to do my Part to Save the World.

A year and a half ago I was confused why I was not happy. I believe that the meaning of life is “love and work”. In 2015 I finally had a stable job that paid $27,000+ per year and there was a strong potential that I would get promoted. I also had recently met the lovely Maria Hull. I had filled the huge holes in my life created in 2013 but there was still something missing.

As I thought about what I was missing I realized that my world was burning. Wars, extinctions and other catastrophes seem to be happening with increasing frequency and what was I doing about the catastrophes? I worked in a Pacemaker Battery Factory which is actually one of the more meaningful jobs I’ve held (HR says my labor saves an average of eight lives a day). But I was unhappy because I knew that I could do so much more to make the world a better place. I began prototyping a series of toys that are going to make it much easier for students to become literate in the language of life.

dna-a-summaryI started reading everything I could about 3D printing and design. I tried to find local resources teaching about 3D printing but short of enrolling in a course at a university, there was nothing. The Twin Cities Makers and Nordeast Makers did not respond to my emails for weeks so I resolved to buy my own 3D printer. It took me a week to assemble my first printer and then another week to calibrate all the settings and get useful prints out of it. In that third week after my Printerbot had arrived I was amazed at how much I could accomplish. Many of the more complicated things that people had been telling me I should do when 3D modeling were irrelevant if you were not using an SLS printer.

TonyStarchIn these early days I was certain that if I just put in enough time, all of the mysteries of 3D printing would reveal themselves to me and I would be able to lead the manufacturing revolution. My goals have had to become more realistic since then but I am two or three months away from being free to publicly disclose the bioinformatics toy that got me started on this whole journey.

I am prototyping a series of kits that will make it much easier for students to become literate in the language of life. Organic molecules interact in complicated ways that I was able to understand fairly well by just reading textbooks and looking at pictures but I saw a lot of my fellow students struggle with complicated topics in protein folding and DNA mutations. Textbooks try to depict 3 dimensional structures and forces in 2 dimensions. Printing 2D representations of organic molecules was the most cost effective method of teaching at the time I was in school but 3d printers have become really cheap. In biology, the 3 dimensional structures that molecules fold into determines the way that those molecules function.   Having a kit that models the shape and charge properties of DNA and other organic molecules will allow students to understand how tiny differences in genetic coding can result in big changes in function. Give me your contact information if you would like to hear about the launch of my kickstarter campaign to get the DNA kit made with injection molding in two or three months.

This might sound obscure or nerdy to laymen but trust me, students trying to learn how genes become proteins will find my bioinformatics kits very useful and the possible inventions that can come from a better understanding the language of life are endless. The first thing I am going to use my bioinformatics toy to invent is “new RuBisCo” a protein that will stop global warming in its tracks.

The Cambrian Explosion of 3D Printing

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542 million years ago most of the known animal diversity came into being in the geological blink of an eye! If that sounds like creationism rather than Darwinian evolution it is only because I was being dramatic in my word choice.   The Cambrian Explosion was a period of less than 25 million years where all animal phyla are suddenly distinctly recognizable in fossils. I personally believe that the cause of this dramatic “leap” in evolution was that HOX genes made body design complexity more easily modified by mutation but this blog is not about my mad theories or the Cambrian explosion. I want to use the Cambrian explosion as a metaphor for this period of rampant creation in the 3d printing market place. To make that metaphor, I need to tell you one more thing about the Cambrian Explosion. Not only did the recognizable ancestors of sponges, starfish, worms, coral, lobsters and a tiny worm-like organism with a backbone, that would give rise to humans and all other vertebrates appear in the geological blink of an eye, there were also many organisms that clearly have no descendants in our modern day life. For instance, Opabinia, a lobster like organism but with 5 eyes and a clawed proboscis (like an elephant’s trunk).

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Okay there was a lot of diversity, but what does that have to do with 3D printing? Well, right now there is a dizzying number of 3d printer manufactures in the market place. 3D Systems and Stratasys are the giants in the 3d printing market but I am not sure they are going to weather the turmoil of this rampant creativity. If you were in the Cambrian period that five eyed Opabina would have looked like it was winning the evolutionary arms race because they were a lot more common than that funny little worm that gave rise to humans and all chordates.

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I have been weighting if I want to buy a higher quality printer, Flash Forge Creator Pro. I feel fairly confident that any 3d printer that I buy now will be obsolete in 5 years. My printrbot simple maker has already been made obsolete by the printrbot play. I find myself telling people that I like my printrbot more than my M3D but I can not fully endorse the printrbot play because I have never actually seen one in action. But don’t take my word for it, Make Magazine rated the printrbot play best for schools.

My 3d printers allow me to prototype the designs and teach myself 3d modeling but I feel fairly confident that in 5 years any FFF printer will be seen as an old clunky machine that you only use if you don’t have access to the nicer CLIP systems. I feel like I know that buying new nicer is hardware not going to pay for itself by improving how many people ask me to print things for them. My current hardware allows me to test my ideas and motivate myself to model objects that I want but can’t find at the store. The software skills that I am developing might generate more revenue for my company than any of the actual designs that I am prototyping and considering patenting/copyrighting.