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Functional 3D-Printed Tape Measure 134

Posted by timothy
from the if-you-don't-smile-you're-doing-it-wrong dept.
First time accepted submitter Trep (366) writes "I thought Slashdot readers might be interested in seeing how my friend is slowly building a 3D printed toolbox. He's created a fully functional tape measure which is 3D printed as a single assembly, to follow up on his 3D printed dial calipers. This is a pretty novel design, with a lot of moving parts that come out of the printer completely assembled!"
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Functional 3D-Printed Tape Measure

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  • Useless (Score:4, Funny)

    by Niterios (2700835) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @04:34AM (#46556267)
  • Before a 3d printer becomes affordable? . I want one within $100 . straight USB to a linux box.
    • Re:How long (Score:4, Informative)

      by serviscope_minor (664417) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @05:19AM (#46556345) Journal

      Before a 3d printer becomes affordable? $100

      A while yet. The cheapear ones are around $800, some assembly requires. It's the velleman kit one, and while I've never used one, I've seen the results and they are very good.

      If you want cheaper, you can build your own. There are plenty of instructions online. The awkward parts are usually either 3D printed or laser cut out of ply or acrylic.

      I don't own one. I joined a collective where one is available. If you want to print, that's probably the easiest way as it will also come with people who can tell you how to use the printer well.

      straight USB to a linux box.

      they already do that part.

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        But that won't print you a tape measure. This was likely done with a UV printer, which costs quite a lot more.

        • by mspohr (589790)

          Peachy Printer is a $100 UV printer.
          https://www.kickstarter.com/pr... [kickstarter.com]

          • by jklovanc (1603149)

            Take a look at the quality [amazonaws.com] of the objects that can be printed by Peachy. It appears to use a very large beam with very rough placement. Just because it uses UV does not mean it creates the same quality. I doubt very much if you could do the tape or calipers on the Peachy.

            • That's one of the earliest prints, with pre-alpha hardware and software and practically no calibration. Now that the project is getting close to completion there are more recent videos [peachyprinter.com] demonstrating higher print quality.

              • by jklovanc (1603149)

                Still lots of horizontal lines, they call them z artifacts, and nowhere near smooth. They make references to what they could do but why didn't they just do it and show us the higher quality output.? Also why are all the objects they show less that a couple of inches on any dimension? Their video spends a lot of time blurring in and out of the objects they made and very little time in focus. It looks to me like they don't want people looking too closely at their output. Sorry but it is still a toy and nowhe

                • I think you're just being cynical. They're a small group whose specialties clearly do not include marketing, and they're perhaps overly fond of trendy video effects, like the blurring you mentioned. There are some clear close-ups of the objects from the video in the December Kickstarter update [kickstarter.com], however, and an earlier update from November [kickstarter.com] included photos of some additional prints.

                  None of this is to say that the Peachy is intended to compete with multi-thousand-dollar printers, because it isn't. It may or ma

                  • by jklovanc (1603149)

                    It's pretty remarkable, really, for a device they plan to sell for only $100.

                    The kit, that requires extra parts, is $100. The assembles Peachy is $400.

                    Another problem with the technology, and a reason for the small parts, is that it uses a steered mirror system. The laser will be coming from one spot and as the piece gets bigger horizontally the laser will hit the resin at more of an angle. The laser spot will be larger, no longer circular and angled near the edge of the tank. Higher priced printers move the mirror much like a plotter so the laser always hits the resin in the exact

                    • The kit, that requires extra parts, is $100. The assembles Peachy is $400.

                      These "extra parts" consist of some containers and a length of pipe. Not exactly hard to come by. You're mainly paying to avoid doing the assembly yourself (est. one hour, probably more for the inexperienced).

                      Another problem with the technology, and a reason for the small parts, is that it uses a steered mirror system. The laser will be coming from one spot and as the piece gets bigger horizontally the laser will hit the resin at more of an angle.

                      Agreed, though you could mitigate that somewhat, at the expense of resolution, by moving the laser assembly further away from the resin. But to each his own.

                    • by jklovanc (1603149)

                      Agreed, though you could mitigate that somewhat, at the expense of resolution, by moving the laser assembly further away from the resin.

                      It is also at the expense of accuracy as any error in mirror movement will be multiplied as the distance between the laser and the media gets larger. In effect you are just trading one error for another.

                      I am just really tired of people posting "but you can do it for cheap with this device" when there is no way that the cheap device will be able to produce the object. There is no way that Peachy would ever be able to produce the tape or calipers. The technology is just not accurate enough.

                      They have been play

          • The Peachy won't make that, it is too small.

            The consumer accessible UV printers don't do flexible items yet. I don't know what method the Connex uses, I guess it makes sense it's UV. So it may be a matter of waiting for the material technology to go down in price. The current cheapest I've seen is the material costs $50 a liter for a rigid material, and that material isn't very good that I've seen.

        • by Trep (366)

          Yes, this was done on a much pricier Object Connex printer. Some features, for example the pin joints on the tape, require pretty small feature resolution.

    • Before a 3d printer becomes affordable? . I want one within $100 . straight USB to a linux box.

      Be careful what you wish for. Hook one up to Watson ... and we're all doomed.

  • ...you can use a 3D printer to print a 3D printer.
    • by pspahn (1175617)

      ...err, wasn't that one of the selling points when they were still relatively underground?

      Seeing this tape measure makes me think of a few other ideas. It would be nice to print myself a new custom fly reel instead of paying for overpriced crap sold at some trendy Orvis store.

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        It can't print all the parts. Only some gears and stuff.
    • by _merlin (160982)

      Yo, sup dawg...

    • The joke at my local hackspace is that the only thing 3d printers are good for. Is printing other 3d printers.

    • ...you can use a 3D printer to print a 3D printer.

      Be careful what you wish for. Hook one up to Watson ... and we're all doomed.

  • How do you print a fully assembled item like that without the parts sticking together? Does it use some kind of dissolvable substance between the parts that is washed away afterwards?

    • The interface between the parts is made very thin (or left void to reduce clinging together during the actual printing), and you break it by hand after printing.

      • by Trep (366)

        I think that is true in some varieties of 3D printers. However, it is not the case for this one. No breaking is involved after it prints. However, my friend did say he spent 2 hours cleaning off the support material from inside the tape measure. Note that the support material probably means that all of the holes in the case are not just to show off the internals. If would be very difficult (impossible?) to get the support material out without those holes.

    • by Trep (366)

      Yes. What you don't see in that video is the "support material". This is a dry, gel-like, sort of "pasty" material that holds everything in place while it is printing. It is removed afterwards using a water pressure washer. Here's some photos of the process (not from the tape measure, but on the same equipment): http://imgur.com/h8E9Re5 [imgur.com]

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @05:22AM (#46556361)

    A great creation, made using a great new technology, obviously thought of by a bright mind, and it's graduated in... wait for it... inches.

    *Sight*

    I guess that's what sets the US and Burma apart: one of the two countries can make antiquated objects with 21st century technology. (No wait! Even Burma is switching to the metric system [wordpress.com]!)

    • by Dog-Cow (21281) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @05:31AM (#46556383)

      What are you sighting, and why are you trying to emphasize the event?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      But, if I switch from miles to kilometers, every drive would take over twice as long!

    • by RogL (608926)

      A great creation, made using a great new technology, obviously thought of by a bright mind, and it's graduated in... wait for it... inches.

      *Sight*

      I guess that's what sets the US and Burma apart: one of the two countries can make antiquated objects with 21st century technology. (No wait! Even Burma is switching to the metric system [wordpress.com]!)

      Inches / metric is not an issue. Give this a moment's thought.
      Just apply a scaling-factor to the design & print it, you'll have a metric version.

      His dial-caliper design already has comments at thingiverse giving the size to print at to produce a metric version marked in mm.

    • by rossdee (243626)

      I thought Burma was called Myanmar nowdays.

    • by gatkinso (15975)

      US instance an cling to the imperial system is indeed maddening.

  • meh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @07:56AM (#46556613)

    I like the caliper better. But really... the 3D printer folks need to stop printing things that clearly wont work well once they are 3D printed. For example, he's copied an existing tape measure... a device that has existed and has worked very well for well over a century. It's been perfected to the point that you can now buy one for less than a dollar just about anywhere. I'd think he should design an entirely new tool that does the same job but better... taking into account the limitations and advantages of the medium he's working in.

    I'm interested in 3D printing but I'm still unimpressed with the quality of the material it prints. When they get better, higher temperature plastics, or even some sort of metal alloy, I'll be a lot more interested. And yes, I'm aware there are $50k+ machines that can do that, but I mean machines for home use.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You want to go from 0-60 while skipping 1-59. This is still the R&D phase of life for additive manufacturing. It's going to remain more expensive and produce less durable goods right now. What you're griping about is the R&D that needs to happen on the people side of things: people need to get used to working up designs for additive processes. So, at the same time we're improving the actual printers, we're also improving the people who will use them. ;) You need to crawl before you can walk or run,

    • by swillden (191260)

      I'd think he should design an entirely new tool that does the same job but better... taking into account the limitations and advantages of the medium he's working in.

      That would require understanding the limitations and advantages of the medium he's working in -- and no one yet fully understands them. That is the point of exercises like this. He didn't print a tape measure because he needed a tape measure (duh), he printed one because he's exploring the limitations and advantages of his 3D printer.

      Doing that while simultaneously devising some entirely new sort of object would be a truly impressive feat indeed. I presume it's the sort of thing you do routinely, though.

      • Doing that while simultaneously devising some entirely new sort of object would be a truly impressive feat indeed. I presume it's the sort of thing you do routinely, though. Got links? I'd love to see genius of higher order than represented by this tape measure at work.

        I do and have. I've had a few of my tools/jigs featured in magazines (like 3) You'll have to take my word for it though. I don't care to link my slashdot account to my real name :-)

        Oh, and if software counts, I've got a bunch of that all ove

      • by jfengel (409917)

        I feel at this point that it's not just the creativity, but that the machines themselves just aren't ready to do much novel work. Their shapes are one thing, but more importantly, they are very limited in terms of materials. Most consumer objects rely on other physical properties to do their jobs: hardness, stiffness, toughness, flexibility, heat conductivity... frequently different materials in different parts.

        That's not to say that 3D printing has no uses, just that designers are working with one hand and

    • by heson (915298)
      I like the tape measure choice.
      It shows how advanced constructions you can do, and the limitations of such advanced constructions. As I understand it, it is fully functional right out of the printer. This is a little bit more advanced than "possible" but thats why it is cool.
  • by seven of five (578993) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @08:45AM (#46556713) Homepage
    Brilliant stuff. I wonder what kind of printer he used?
    • by Trep (366)

      It is a pretty high-end Objet Connex printer. He and I used to work together at a company that was very generous in allowing employees to use tools for personal projects. He still works there. One of the things I miss about working there is access to an amazing shop.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is 21st century whittling for OCD autistic nerds.
  • The submitter claims it's fully functional - but he obviously has neither ever used a tape measure nor actually watched the video. With no markings, it's just a cool ribbon and not a tape measure. And the narrator on the video even admits it's not fully functional because wear will cause increasing errors in the length of the ribbon. The non repeatability of the "dial calipers" readings lead to the same conclusion - neat art object, not a functional tool.

    • by Trep (366)

      It does have markings, actually. Though the video did not really make that clear. As far as accuracy...yeah, it isn't the most precise. But it is better than 1% accuracy. I guess by functional I mostly meant isn't a block that resembles a tape measure, but actually has a retractable "tape", moving parts, etc. No one is claiming you should replace your tape measure with this. It's clearly just a cool toy. I still kind of want one to keep on my desk though...

  • I was wondering how long it would be until we would start making tape measures in this country again.
  • the tolerances on cheap 3D printers are abysmal for attempts at precise parts or machinery, 0.1 - 0.4 mm (four to sixteen one-thousandths of inch)

    as aside, even in the realm of hobby cnc milling machines, it's always amusing to see the claims made in forums by clueless geeks for their rigs of their tenths of a thousandth of inch repeatable accuracy......no pal, more like 5 thousandths slop or more...

  • I'm a big fan of 3D printing, I am. And at the beginning of this video, I just thought this was the coolest thing. Well, except for a couple of things.

    Tape measures are widely available and inexpensive.

    This one is REALLY short (just over 4 feet), and it was comparable in size to a standard 25-foot tape measure.

    Worst of all, it's not accurate. It's off by a 16th of an inch at the maximum length, and it would only get more and more inaccurate, as the length increases.

    Other than that, it's perfect :) Oh, i

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