The “Press The Button” Project

Pictured Above: Sam Samuel (left) and Nancy Macauley (right)

Route 2, a highway that cuts through campus, holds a degree of danger as students frequently cross to get to classes, dorms, extracurriculars, etc. Due to this, the campus provides three Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB), yielding the right of way to pedestrians. Despite their ability to increase the awareness of drivers, it is common for students to neglect pushing crosswalk buttons with the assumption that drivers will stop regardless. However, as implied in the signs posted by Campus Security Services (CSS), the vision of drivers may be impaired due to solar glare or lack of lighting. This may present a danger to students who fail to push the button before crossing. Due to these concerns, Nancy Macauley, a Campus Safety Services Officer with CSS, reached out to the Makerspace with a project idea that she hoped might encourage more students to “press the button”. 

Example of a RRFB on Campus

When I was first introduced to this project, I struggled with the direction CSS wanted to take, so I quickly set up a meeting to get a better understanding. I had my first meeting on September 29th where we discussed purpose, goals, and I shared a fair amount of criticism on the project from my perspective as a student. From there I concluded that:

  1. This project began in July with a previously 3D printed prototype button that CSS mentioned contained two holes and was purple; I took that information into consideration when designing a new button. Nancy had mentioned liking the previous design but, since several months had passed, she was  unable to  locate or show me the original prototype. 
  2. An engraving that read either “push the button” or “press the button” was requested on the design and if possible painted yellow or gold once completed.
  3. A total of 50 buttons were requested as a starting point once design was settled.
  4. Students would receive free ice cream from the local ice cream shop after receiving 3 buttons and a pizza voucher after 5 buttons. Because of that, we concluded that we would need a design that could be easily collected on a keychain.
  5. Given that this project is just starting to get its footing it still needs to be approved within CSS. 

From there began the start of my journey. I first inquired with the Makerspace manager about the original prototype button from when this project was first pitched. Unable to locate it, I began researching appropriate sizes and other button designs for inspiration. After sketching in my notebook, I made four variations of my first design on Fusion360. I created multiple versions on Fusion360 because I wanted to test varying heights in extruding. I also attempted to approximate appropriate hole sizings that would accommodate a standard-sized keychain. I then attempted to add the text engraving and that was more challenging than I had expected. I was unable to include the engraving because of the relatively small size of the buttons. My first designs ranged in size from 23 mm to 34 mm, and were inspired by clothing buttons.

First Button Prototype

Figure 1. First Button Prototype

I decided to keep the small sized button because it would print quickly, requiring only 13 to 15 minutes each, and would reduce environmental waste as I anticipated students might throw away buttons or lose them. However, given some communication issues on my part, and due to me being sick for a period of time, there was an overall lack of in-person meetings. After a quick email interaction, I left multiple printed versions of my first prototype at the CSS office and later received Nancy’s overall feel on the design. Since she expressed reservations, I decided to build another design in Fusion360. This prototype attempted to replicate the look of the actual RRFB buttons students press at campus crosswalks. 

Figure 2. Fusion360 Design

Figure 2. Fusion360 Design

Figure 3. Fusion360 Design

Figure 3. Printed Prototype









My attempts at implementing the engraving on the design included manipulating different methods of extrusion. According to the application ArcGIS, “extrusion is the process of  stretching a flat, 2D shape vertically to create a 3D object in a scene.” I first tried the inset and extrude combination method for the text which entails creating an inset on one of the object’s planar faces and extruding using that sketch to create a hole. When I extrude, I stretch it vertically inwards which cuts into the object. This would allow for the text to show as a hole. In the end, the surface area was too small for the Dremel DigiLab 3D45 printer to extrude, resulting in the text collapsing when I printed it. This also occurs when I stretch vertically outwards. This can be seen in figure 2 where the sketch of the text on the object’s planar face is raised by a height of about 1 mm. Extrusion actually occurs throughout the entirety of creation of the object! For example, to create the keychain portion of the object, a 2D sketch of an arc is needed to extrude the sketch outwards. Then the hole for the keychain is made by extruding inwards after making an inset on our previous sketch’s plane. Once printed on the Dremel, you are then able to insert physical objects (like a metal keyring) in and out of the hole, which was successfully done in each prototype.

In my most recent meeting with Nancy, I learned that she had envisioned a larger button — one more similar to the silver-dollar sized prototype she had first received from the Makerspace last July. Hearing this from her helped me explain how the loss of the original prototype, combined with having scheduled only two in-person meetings, resulted in my providing her with prototypes that were both smaller and different in appearance from what she had been expecting. We ultimately decided to put a temporary pause on the project and meet in-person again at the start of the spring semester. During Winter Term, Nancy will share the current project and seek feedback from the rest of the CSS Staff. And I have many more ideas and experiments to try to prepare for CSS’s first launch of this initiative!


3D Scanning: Trials and Tribulations

Pictured above: Our scanner setup. The camera and projector are used to take scans, while the dotted board in the upper left is necessary for calibration. The various items under the mount are just there to hold it up; since this image was taken, we’ve mounted the tripod to a more stable wooden board.

This semester I’ve spent most of my time trying to get our DAVID5 (bought by HP and since discontinued) 3D Scanner operational. The scanner is a neat tool that takes images of whatever object we put in front of it and stitches them together to create a 3D model, which can then be printed with the 3D printers. In the past, workers at the Makerspace have even used it to scan and print people’s faces! Unfortunately for us, those workers who knew how the scanner functions have since graduated, leaving me to figure it out myself. 

Coming into this project, I was told that the scanner wasn’t operational; nobody had even been able to get it past the calibration phase. Luckily, we had the manual on hand. I walked myself through the process for setup and calibration, and it actually worked! I even managed to take some rough images in order to create a full model.

Unfortunately, the computer we had running the DAVID software turned out to be not powerful enough to actually fuse together that model, and the whole thing crashed. To make matters worse, we couldn’t save any scans due to an issue with the license that kept us stuck on a trial version of the software. Luckily, the first problem was a fairly easy fix. We were able to get a more powerful used computer, and I used it to successfully put together a rough but complete model! 

The license has been a bit more of a struggle, however. It wouldn’t work regardless of where on the computer or USB I saved it to. We didn’t have a proper stand for the scanner components, so I’d been propping it up on random parts I found around the room. The scanner is also too high, so objects on the table aren’t fully in its field of view.

While working on this post, however, I made a great deal of progress on these issues. We now have a working license, a more stable stand, and a strategy to raise objects for easier scans. Unfortunately, these fixes have somehow led to more problems. Now, the camera isn’t working with the scanner software. Thankfully, the HP support team has been very helpful, so hopefully I’ll be able to get everything working and put together some cleaner scans soon.

Understanding Clogging with Relation to Various Filaments

The past month of working in the Makerspace has been a period of learning as I started to explore a new part of the Makerspace I hadn’t before: learning how to take things apart in order to fix them. My experience last year was primarily learning how to 3D print properly, especially skills such as calibrating the printer for a print, slicing a print, and changing filaments for different prints. This semester, as we tried out new types of filaments (3D Printlife Eco-Friendly ProPLA and Filamentive rPLA) and new print styles, I got the opportunity to learn how the gears in the hotend and extruder of the 3D printer work and how to go about fixing clogging is/sues that come along while printing. 

This month, I have focussed most of my time on unclogging and fixing printer issues. Since our Makerspace currently has 10 workers, it’s common for one student to start a print, and for another student to complete the print or fix a clogged printer. Whether it is opening up the motor to take out a stuck filament, I gained a deeper understanding of how the internal parts of the printer were working together. I began to be able to visualize each small part working together to create beautiful prints on the build plate (images below). 

This experience also allowed me to look deeper into the types of filaments we were using and how that was affecting the printer. For example, when we started using recycled filaments (1.75 mm Filamentive rPLA), it started to cause more issues with the Dremel Digilab 3D45 printer unlike some of the other types of filaments (3D Printlife Eco-Friendly ProPLA). Filaments with different tensile strengths (PLA has around 40-50 MPa, ABS has around 30 MPa) interacted with the hotend and extruder differently, since low tensile strength means it has less bend and needs more heat for it to print. This was the case when I tried using copper filament, as it started out normally but then would clog midway through the print. Changing the printing speed to 80%, the bed temperature to 10 degrees higher, and the fan speed to 100% to get the right proportion for the copper filament was key to making the printer print smoother. However, when it was the normal setting of 40-45 degrees bed temperature, 100% print speed, and 100% fan speed, the print wouldn’t stick to the bed and the printer was getting clogged more often. This experience allowed me to appreciate both the machine and the final product even more as a tiny tweak was able to create a much better print!

(Image: The first time I took a motor out to pull out a bit of broken orange filament stuck right in between the gears)

I also printed out various student requests for open-source 3D models available online. I sometimes found myself wishing the younger version of Himal had all these prints to explore when I was involved with 3D modeling in high school. The number of prints that are open-source today is huge. I’m glad I’m able to experience this joy today as part of the Makerspace, and I’m very grateful for this opportunity. Below are some of my favorite prints that I’ve printed and smoothened out by removing their support structures with pliers and using a precision knife to clean up smaller anomalies.

Overall, the start of this year has already been a lot of failing and learning. It couldn’t have been a better way to enjoy the work in the Makerspace. I’m glad to be able to share this joy with other students both by printing out their requests and showing them around the Makerspace!

How to Fix Clogging and Bed Adhesion Issues

So far, I’ve spent most of my time at the Makerspace fixing 3D printers. Here are some issues that I’ve encountered:


How to avoid clogging a printer:

Before starting any print:

  • Check that the outside of the nozzle is clean. If there’s any buildup outside, this may be a sign of buildup inside the extruder/nozzle.
  • Double-check that the filament type is suitable for this specific printer
  • Calibrate/level before beginning your print 
  • Ensure temperature settings are correct

How to fix an already clogged printer:

There are several ways a printer can clog. Only go to the next step if the printer is still clogged:

For the Dremel Digilab 3D45: 

  1. Turn on Dremel and press the “Preheat” option. Wait until the printer is preheated to the optimal temperature indicated on the filament. Press purge a few times until the filament comes out of the nozzle. If nothing comes out, go to the next step.
  2. Do a cold pull. Press down on the level and pull out the filament with pliers.
  3. Press the lever down and use the declogging tool to push down any remaining filament.
  4. Take out the stepper motor to see if there’s filament clogged there. Take out any remaining filament with tweezers. To learn how to do this, look at Option 4 in the guide below or see The Fine Art of Unclogging post.

For visual help, here is a step-by-step guide to unclogging the Dremel:

For Prusa MK3S or MK2S:

  1. While there is no “purge” setting, you can preheat the filament to melting point and then change the filament (the Prusa will use the other filament to push out the clog), which will generally unclog the extruder/nozzle
  2. If that doesn’t work, gently remove hotend using this guide (start on step 2):

Adhesion Issues of Model to Print Bed

Examples of bad adhesion to print bed:

  • Nothing is being printed, or there’s just a blob (no adhesion)
  • Model moves during printing (bad adhesion)
  • Sides curl up (OK adhesion but can do better)

To fix these problems, check for these things before you print:

For the Dremel Digilab 3D45, check the following: 

  1. BUILD ORIENTATION: When orienting your model in 3D slicer software, ensure there is as much contact as possible between the bed and the model. 
  2. CLEAN: The bed is completely clean and free of glue or dust, or filament. If it’s not clean, turn off the printer and wipe it down with alcohol wipes and let it dry.
  3. GLUE: Put glue from a glue stick on the bed area where the model will be printed.
  4. TANGLE-FREE SPOOL: Ensure no tangles or tension in the spool.
  5. LEVEL: When ready to begin your print, you must calibrate the bed to ensure it is level. You may do this by pressing the “Level” option on the screen. This provides on-screen instructions on how to level.
  6. TEMPERATURE: Ensure you preheat the temperature to the optimal temperature indicated on the filament in the “preheat” settings.


For Prusa MK3S or MK2S, check:

  1. BUILD ORIENTATION: When orienting your model in 3D slicer software, ensure there is as much contact as possible between the bed and the model. 
  2. CLEAN: The bed is completely clean and free of dust or filament. If it’s not clean, turn off the printer and wipe it down with alcohol wipes and let it dry. Note: there should never be glue on this printer.
  3. TANGLE-FREE SPOOL: Ensure no tangles or tension in the spool.
  4. TEMPERATURE: Ensure you preheat the temperature to the optimal temperature indicated on the filament in the “preheat” settings.
  5. CALIBRATE: Do a first layer calibration. To do this, press the knob, turn the knob and press “Calibrate” and then press “First layer calibration”. Follow this guide for a good calibration: