20141112

STLs and IGESs and POs, oh my

If you're wondering why I've been so quiet the past few days, it's because I'm largely in the boring part of this project.  I have one new photo that mostly shows off the smooth clamps, which is this:

New clamp front and center!  Notice how it's much smoother than the other clamp, and has a wider area for some bolt wiggle room.
The rest of this is going to be quite technical and with no pictures, but it's been quite interesting to learn about, so maybe it can help anyone out there who's looking to investment cast their own bike parts.

Theoretically, once I printed this in 3D it should have been fairly easy to move to casting - right?  That sounds reasonable enough.  

I was wrong.  I was very wrong.  Let me tell you why.  

1) Casting in steel is not something people tend to do in their homes
I had been hoping to find a local artist who can make these.  A surprising number of people have forges in their backyards (or basements!) and they cast their own things in pewter, bronze, etc.  Steel, however, requires a much higher temperature and isn't really a home based hobby type deal...I'm sure there are people in the world that can do it, but my hunting around resulted in nothing.  So I started e-mailing casting companies.

2) Most places require you to make the tooling
When I reached out to casting companies, many required you to pay to make the mold to pour the wax in - only a select few let you either supply the wax models, or can print the wax models on site.  A typical mold runs anywhere from one to twenty five....thousand dollars.  

3) Most places have a large minimum order
Once I was able to find places that allowed me to supply my own wax castings, I had to find one that would allow for prototypes to be made.  $50 a crown is a pretty sweet deal, but a minimum order of 100 was not something I could handle.  

4) Wax prints have a maximum size limit
Once I found an awesome company that would let me supply wax, I went to get some wax prints made and sent their way...only to discover many wax printing machines, like the ones used by Shapeways, have a max size limit.  My crown was too big!  I went back to speak to the company about whether or not they could 3D print in wax (fortunately, they could!).  Were this not the case, I would need to find another company that could print in wax - and they do exist, it's just another step - and have them provide the prints.

5) Files don't always play nicely together
The file format I'm used to working with, and used to submitting for prints anyway, isn't something that many industry level professional printers can read.  Most larger companies use something like Solidworks for precision, and I was working with an obj format.  Trying to convert an obj to an IGES file with open source software is a nightmare, so if you can work in Solidworks right off the bat...do it!!

After all of this, however, I can happily say that casting of steel prototypes is in the works!  They should take about a month to be complete, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they come out smoothly.  

I've learned a ton about this process, but it's by no means scared me away from future castings.  The people that have helped me have been amazing, and I'm really hoping to continue doing business with them in the future for more fork crowns and other related framebuilding parts.  The possibilities are endless!  

20141031

Happy Halloween!

There were some great Halloween festivities today at work, and my friend showed up with an awesome costume (that not enough people seemed to get, unfortunately!)

Though I'm not sure if he spent the day pretending he was Italian.

Even Moonboy is decorated!
Whether it includes a costume ride, trick or treating, or horror flicks, have a safe and happy Halloween!

20141030

Things I Find On My Commute: Sci-Fi Edition

Sometimes when I'm on the bike trail I let my mind wander a bit.  Often I'll be daydreaming and think I see a giant bird or a gnarly creature out of the corner of my eye, but it turns out to be a sign, or a log, or something.  So I was pretty sure my eyes were deceiving my on a recent ride into work - there's no way...that isn't...wait...

Yep, that's a Dalek.

"Can I please take a photo of you and your Dalek" is not a phrase I say very often.  
This awesome guy had built a full size, fully functional Dalek that he could pilot around.  It had a camera, voice changer, a motor, you name it!  And in my geeky excitement, I completely forgot the name of the artist who built it.  So, if you stumble across this Mr. Dalek Builder, thank you for the Dr. Who history lesson and the information about the Dalek building community!

"EXTERMINAAAAAAATE"
Things like this are one of the many reasons I love bike commuting.  Though I can't say I run into many characters from sci-fi shows, I can at least add a Dalek to the awesome-things-found-while-commuting list.  It's definitely one of the weirder ones on that list!

20141023

Happy Diwali!

My friend showed me the awesome bicycle henna he got, and I had to copy him...

And now my bike is covered in glitter.
It's a bit non-traditional, but the talented woman who was doing henna tattoos seemed happy to do this design for me.

Sorry for my absence this month.  I have been extremely busy with family related events, but I have made some progress on the 3D side of things that should be interesting!  

20141014

Headbadge Test Has Arrived!!

I have to apologize for being absent the past few weeks.  My regulator has again decided to throw in the towel, and I was waiting on the second test print of the Takhion fork crown to arrive.  With that shipment was another little test that I whipped up: a 3D printed headbadge.

Shown here on the top tube...it fits the headtube, I promise!
It's a bit small at the moment, but it fits the headtube nicely.  The plan is to get each one custom printed depending on the frame: some might be printed in steel and brazed on, while others will be printed in whatever metal is desired (and or matches the color scheme) and then adhered.  

The explanation behind the badge is that it's a reference to the weather symbol for nimbostratus clouds - dark, low lying clouds which have light to medium precipitation.  I wanted a design that would be easy to incorporate both the build itself and the paint, so I started using this as my logo of sorts some time ago.  Nothing is set in stone, so it might change in the future, but in the meantime I've become quite attached to it!

Once I can get back into the shop I'll test fork crown v2, and fingers crossed I'll get to move on to the actual casting stage!

20140921

Testing, Testing

I was able to put the crown to an actual test this weekend.

Put on the jig to test blade placement.  
This is a very rough quick test to make sure that the fork blades and steer tube fit in the crown (which they do - hooray!!).  What you see on the jig is a bit deceiving, as the crown was not automatically this perfect.  The material that this is printed in is flexible, and well...

Unless 80mm axles become a thing, this isn't going to fly.
I had forgotten to account for the angling out of the blades.  This is why I test things!

Also the jig shows the blades raked, whereas here you can see they're perfectly straight.  For this crown, the blades will have to be bent by hand, though I also have a version in the works that will allow for straight blade forks. 

Everything been adjusted and fixed in the model, and for the crown base it was mostly angles that I had to work on.  The clamps were a different story, and I had to make a lot of changes based on feedback (thanks Hrrundel!) but now they're a lot better looking and far more functional.  I'm going to do another check of the model and then send out a new iteration to print!

20140915

Takhion Fork Crown: Print 1!!

Well this is certainly exciting:

I really need a lightbox.
The first print of this arrived today, and it's pretty cool to be able to see and hold the real print after staring at it on a screen for so long! 

With working clamps!  
This rough print still needs to have its measurements checked and compatibility with fork blades tested, and once it's approved it will be wax printed for casting.  Unfortunately I won't be able to test it with fork blades until this coming weekend, but everything else can be checked and fixed before then.

The model is missing the textured edges that the original Takhion fork had.  I'm still trying to figure out if I'll put them in the final model or if it will be smooth.  
Only one clamp was printed because they're interchangeable, and these things are not the cheapest to print.  This particular crown was modeled to fit standard Takhion bars, but I still wanted to test them with 3TTT bars just to make sure things were lining up.

Success!
The final casts will be tapped for a bolt and have hinges installed in the clamps.  The upper clamps themselves will probably be 3D printed in stainless steel.

Passing the 3TTT test with flying colors.
This particular print is done with Shapeways' strong and flexible plastic for testing purposes.  It's based off of a Takhion crown, but the dimensions were referenced from a spare fork crown I had purchased from Nova Cycles.  The clamps have been slightly modified from the original Takhion clamps, but I want to try to have a version of those available to purchase in steel for those that need them.