3D printed wallets

I like small wallets. I also like them to hold plenty of cards, with at least 3 of them easily accessible. For this, the only available choices usually involves elastic bands that stretches with time and gets stuck in the pocket edge. I therefore decided to design and 3D print my own wallet, using a flexible TPE filament.

My first design had a classic bi-fold setup, with a separate bill compartment, 6 card slots but no space for coins. This worked surprisingly well, and I used this for a couple of months. Though being smaller than my previous, store-bought wallet, I wanted to go even smaller. I realized just how seldom I actually use cash, as there is hardly a store in Sweden that doesn’t accept cards. So I decided to skip the bill compartment and make a wallet with the smallest possible footprint I could, still being able to hold all the cards that I use on a regular basis. The result was a wallet with a size less that 97x57x12mm – about 75% of a deck of cards.

It has 4 easy accessible slots for the most common cards, and a recessed middle slot for folded emergency cash and up to 3 other cards – altogether more than the bigger wallet, not counting the bill compartment.

This is now my default wallet, and I use it daily in my front jeans pocket. After more than 2 months of use, there are so far no visible marks of wear or signs of deterioration. The fit for the cards are near perfect, and I never have to worry about dropping the cards – I can shake it upside-down without the cards moving, but can easily take out the cards when I want to.

This is free

If you want to download and 3D print your own wallet, I’ve made both the larger and smaller the models freely available at http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1363650

Big & small 3D printed wallets
Big & small 3D printed wallets
3D printed wallet. The skull logo is from Tarantino's "Death Proof".
3D printed wallet. The skull logo is from Tarantino’s “Death Proof”.
Minimal 3D printed wallet
Minimal 3D printed wallet

Frosty, the 3D printed Mini-ITX case

I made another computer case.

Frosty - fully assembled case
Frosty – fully assembled case

Our home server/HTPC broke down after close to 6 years, and it was time to replace it. Being me, I didn’t want to just buy an off-the shelf machine – where’s the charm in that?

This one is a little different than my previous builds. I didn’t modify an existing enclosures this time, but instead created one completely from scratch. 3D modeled and 3D printed based on nothing more than my own ideas and my own measurements.

I do like reusing and repurposing existing things, and I try to not get stuck in a throw-away mentality. This new case is however entirely made from renewable or recycled materials. The main body is printed using biodegradable PLA plastic (made from corn starch or cane sugar). The only other parts of the case consist of a power switch and an LED, both taken from the failing computer it was meant to replace.

I had an idea of a completely smooth case without any visible corners, with a single air inlet on the top connected to the CPU fan. A number of smaller air outlets near the bottom would force the airflow to spread out around the motherboard and the rest of the components. The shape would initially resemble a simplified cloud, but that quickly changed.

I was impressed with the layout, performance and tweakability of the Asus H81T Mini-ITX motherboard that I used for the 1-Up NES case mod, and decided to use another one for the new case. Most important was the fact that the H81 has a rear power jack that fits standard laptop power bricks, and I could pick up a used one from Dell on eBay that worked right away, no modifications needed.

I used a modeling tool that I already knew; Tinkercad – a free, browser-based online CAD tool from AutoDesk. It has limited functionality and performance, and I’m planning on learning a “real” CAD program soon (Fusion 360?), but I was eager to get started right away. After a number of versions and revisions, I had a rough printed version (5) up and running 24/7 for about a month. After a lot of checks, changes and tweaks, I finally printed the final version (8) on my heavily modified RigidBot 3D printer. By now the initial project name Fluffy had changed to Frosty, and the design would now look more like snow than a cloud. I made a snowflake design for the air inlet, which also serves as a fan guard.

After sanding I applied a few layers of acrylic clear coating to get more of a snow crust look. PLA is notoriously hard to sand as it melts and clumps up if you go too fast due to the friction. I only went up to 240 grit, which is why the surface isn’t perfect. If this was a job for someone else I would go to at least 800 grit, but as it will only be used at home this is good enough.

Bottom and top parts after sanding and clear coating
Bottom and top parts after sanding and clear coating
Insides before assembly
Insides before assembly

When assembling the computer, pretty much everything fit perfectly. I only had to drill the hole for the LED a tiny bin larger and use a scalpel to shave off about 0.2mm for the power switch.
Unless you have your ear right next to the computer, you can’t hear it running. Since I use an SSD, the only moving part in the computer is the CPU fan, and Intel did a fantastic job with making it whisper quiet – at least when enabling the Q-Fan control in the UEFI bios.
With the CPU on full load on all cores at 3.2Ghz, the computer is still almost dead silent and the CPU temperature is usually around 30°C.

All in all, I’m happy with the results. I’ve learned a lot and had fun doing so.

If you want to print your own, I’ve made the .stl files freely available at http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1241259

Outline of case functionality
Outline of case functionality
Power LED inserted
Power LED inserted
Power switch inserted
Power switch inserted
Empty case, seen from rear
Empty case, seen from rear
Fully assembled case, seen from rear
Fully assembled case, seen from rear
Everything in place except top cover
Everything in place except top cover
Everything in place including top cover
Everything in place including top cover
At it's current home, next to external HDD. Previous computer occupied entire shelf, hence the extra space.
At it’s current home, next to external HDD. Previous computer occupied entire shelf, hence the extra space.

The 1-Up

Ok, this was a while ago, but it was a fun project.

My wife (before we got married) needed a new computer. I had a non-working Nintendo Entertainment System in a box. As she is a big Nintendo fan, I decided to build her a special system.

I had three goals with this build, all of which were fulfilled:

A. It had to be powerful. Based on an Asus H81T board using a 3.5GHz Intel Core i3 CPU and a Crucial SSD, it’s fast enough for any games, videos and other tasks given so far. It boots in about 10 seconds.

B. It had to be quiet. The Intel stock CPU cooler is exceptionally silent, and you have to be very close to the case in order to hear it. This is the only moving part in the system.

C. The original controllers had to work. The end result is fantastic, if you are playing original NES games using an emulator, the controllers have the exact same feel as on an original system. Zero lag or other negative effects are experienced.

So, how to do it?

Step 1: Gut it.

Original NES case opened up.

Original NES case opened up. The procedure to unscrew and remove everything was very simple.

I wanted to reuse the original switches and joypad connectors, so I left them intact for the time being.

I wanted to reuse the original switches and joypad connectors, so I left them intact for the time being.

Step 2: Mod the case bottom.

In order to fit the motherboard with a mounted CPU and fan, every extra millimeter had to go. Motherboard mounting sockets were hot glued in place. The taped parts were later removed as well.

In order to fit the motherboard with a mounted CPU and fan inside the case, every extra millimeter had to go. Motherboard mounting sockets were hot glued in place. The taped parts were later removed as well, and a thin stabilizing bottom plate was installed.

Step 3: Mod the buttons.

The original button platform turned out to be to deep and would short the motherboard. So I came up with my own version, using flat key switches on a peg board, covered by shrink tubing after soldering.

The original power/reset button platform turned out to be too deep and would short the motherboard if left as is. So I came up with my own version, using flat key switches on a peg board, covered by heat shrink tubing after soldering.

Using a leftover IKEA bracket to hold the new switch board in place, I could shorten the original button shafts and reuse the original springs, giving about the same tactile feedback as the original buttons.

Using a leftover IKEA bracket to hold the new button platform in place, I could shorten the original button shafts and reuse the original springs, giving about the same tactile feedback as the original buttons.

With the new Power/Reset switches, I could fit the motherboard with about 3mm to spare. Original power LED was replaced with one from a previous PC case.

With the new power/reset switches, I could fit the motherboard with about 2mm to spare. The original power LED was replaced with one from a previous PC case.

Step 4: Mod the controllers.

I wanted to be able to use the original controllers, so I bought two controller chips (from http://www.retrousb.com) to convert the original controller signals to standard USB.

To retain original controller compatibility, I bought two controller chips to convert the original controller signals to standard USB.

Since I did not want anything extra sticking out the back of the case, I converted the standard USB connectors to onboard headers to fit directly on the motherboard.

Since I did not want anything extra sticking out the back of the case, I converted the standard USB connectors to onboard headers to fit directly on the motherboard. This also allowed me to minimize the length of the wires.

Carefully testing that everything worked as expected on another computer before cleaning up and isolating the controller mod.

Carefully testing that everything worked as expected on another computer before cleaning up and isolating the controller mod. No special drivers were needed.

Step 5: Fit the hardware.

Using JB Weld to fasten a small furniture angle to a disk bracket from an old MP3 player, I could attach an SSD to one of the original case's screw sockets in the exactly right position. A rubber strip was added to the top side in order to stabilize it and fit snugly to the top of the case.

Using JB Weld to fasten a small furniture angle to a disk bracket from an old MP3 player, I could attach an SSD to one of the original case’s screw sockets in the exactly right position. A rubber strip was added to the top side in order to stabilize it and fit snugly to the top of the case.

Everything in place, including a green LED strip around the case edges. I was able to find a 5V version (they are usually 12V), so I could tap the power directly from an onboard USB header without any power conversion needed.

Everything in place, including a green LED strip around the case edges. I was able to find a 5V version (they are usually 12V), so I could tap the power directly from an onboard USB header without any power conversion needed.

Step 6: Mod the case top.

As a computer needs airflow, I wanted to do it in style. Just drilling a grid or cutting open the sides were not an option. I put on masking tape, outlined a grid and drew up the classic mushroom from the Super Mario games.

As a computer needs cooling/airflow, I wanted to do it in style. Just drilling a grid or cutting open the sides were not an option. I put on masking tape, outlined a grid and drew up the classic mushroom from the Super Mario games.

After carefully drilling the holes, the shape became clearer.

After carefully drilling the holes, the shape became clearer.

After cleaning up and filing all the edges, the system was finally ready to be assembled and tested. All OK! OS installation in progress.

After cleaning up and filing all the edges, the system was finally ready to be assembled and tested. All OK! OS installation in progress.

All done!

LEDs connected and system up and running!

LEDs connected and system up and running! Power LED not yet connected in the picture.

She was very happy with the birthday present, and it has been running smoothly for over a year now. 🙂

The Volume Pill

The volume control on my guitar amp does not behave as I want it to.

Today it is like this:
Amp volume at 0 = (silence)
Amp volume at 1 = LOUD
Amp volume at 2-10 = LOUDER

This is a problem when using a distortion pedal without a dedicated volume control, as our very easily disturbed neighbors starts banging the wall at volume 1, and I sometimes want to play without headphones.

For the distortion to really kick in I can’t lower the volume knob(s) on my guitar too much either, so I had to introduce an additional volume control to take effect after the pedal.

In short, I needed to go from here:

[Amp]<--[Pedal]<--[Guitar]
to here:

[Amp]<--[Volume]<--[Pedal]<--[Guitar]

So I made a small volume controler using a 500k potentiometer and two 1/4″ jacks. I didn’t have a good enclosure at hand so I simply used an old plastic medicine jar.

The Volume Pill
The Volume Pill

It’s not pretty, but it works!

The Pedalboard Project

About two months ago I bought an electric guitar after a 17-18 year long hiatus. A cheap Les Paul copy that looks good but plays bad. 😉 I also bought a few effect pedals such as Overdrive, Distortion and Echo/Delay. And then a few more. I realized that I needed a pedalboard to avoid having to patch in everything and getting wires all across the floor whenever I wanted to play. I was looking at a number of the pre-made solutions and also a few custom ones before deciding to build one myself. Wanting to add some additional functions and a semi-retro style, I decided to go with wood as my material of choice. After measuring, sketching, drawing and calculating about two weeks I had a finished design. I bought two pine planks and began by drawing up lines for everything that were to be cut and drilled. I wanted an empty place on the right side where I could add additional pedals such as Wah, or as in the pictures below, a multi-effect pedal. After producing the rough pieces, I began sanding everything by hand. Since this is not going to be displayed on a pedestal in an art museum, I only went with 120 grain paper. The top parts were first glued, then drilled and screwed for additional stability. After a single layer of wood stain, I assembled the pieces using a piano hinge for opening the lid and a pair of chest clasps for fastening the lid when closed. Wanting something to carry the pedalboard with, I opted for IKEA ULVSBO drawer handles. While at IKEA, I also picked up the laptop support BRÄDA, which after cutting out a piece from a lower corner and flipping upside down was a perfect fit for the dashboard. Filing the corners and sanding it in a single direction made it look a bit like ebony. Adding all jacks, switches and panels, next up was the soldering. No biggie. Aside from power, I wanted 4 jacks on the pedalboard:

  1. Guitar in. Also used if you want to add additional pedals first in the pedal chain.
  2. Aux in. Will be sent directly to the output(s) so that you can attach your phone or audio player for jamming without it being affected by the pedals. I might add a separate booster/volume control to this later.
  3. Amp out. Also used if you want to add additional pedals last in the pedal chain.
  4. Headphones out. I might add a separate booster/volume control to this later.

The control panel has the following functions

  1. Main power. Powers the whole pedalboard on/off
  2. AC/DC. There is a 2x9v battery compartment (connected in parallel)  under the lid for powering the pedals with batteries instead of using an AC/DC adapter. This switch allows you to change power source on the fly.
  3. Pedals/Bypass. Allows you to send the Guitar in signal directly to the outputs, bypassing all pedals.
  4. Voltmeter. Very useful when running on DC power to see how much is left.

All power cables are detachable and reroutable. This gives you the option to power only one or a few pedals with battery power and the remaining pedals with the transformer. This includes the main power switch, voltmeter and LED strips. If running everything on batteries, it eats batteries fast – especially the Korg RP50 multi-effect – but it works! After adding some industrial-strength Velcro, it was only a matter of arranging the pedals how I wanted them, patching the audio signal and routing the power cables. I also added TDK ferrite cores around all patch/power cables to minimize electrical interference. Being only the second wood-based project I’ve done since I was 15, I’m quite happy with the results. What would you have done different? I am already thinking about version 2. 🙂