First 3D Print – Projector screen replacement part

3D print - projector screen replacement part

3D printing has gaining popularity in the recent years, and since a few years ago, Richmond Public Library has had ‘MakerBot Replicator 2’ stations available for patrons to use to create their own objects. This week, I had the opportunity to use the 3D printers for the first time to print a replacement part for a projector screen.

Backstory

Some time in March, one of these plastic caps popped off the projector screen we use for youth ministry at St. Francis Xavier Parish, and disappeared. It turns out that this small part (about 1cm in diameter), is a critical component for the proper functioning of the projector screen. Without this tiny cap, the locking mechanism for the vertical support does not provide enough force to keep the screen up.

A side lesson learned here is when shopping for projector screens, it is much better to have physical notches and metal components on the vertical support instead of relying on friction and dinky plastic caps.

Modeling the replacement

I was lucky in that I still had one of the caps and that both caps were of the same shape so I brought the remaining one home with me as a reference. I was also lucky that the shape of the cap was that of simple shapes: a cylindrical base, hexagonal prism on top, and a cylindrical hole in the center. I chose Tinkercad to draw the model because it is free and easy to use.

Tinkercad screenshot - 3D model of projector screen replacement part
3D model of the projector screen replacement part in Tinkercad

With the help of a ruler and the remaining cap, the entire modelling process took less than 30 minutes (most of that was probably going through the Tinkercad tutorial). I then exported the result as an .stl file, which I brought to the library for printing.

Printing at Richmond Public Library

I joined a 3D Printing Orientation at the Brighouse branch earlier in the week. All patrons who are wanting to use the 3D printers are required to go through an hour-long orientation to learn about some basic software, print settings and the library’s 3D printing procedures and policies.

At the library, using one of the iMac stations, I loaded the .stl file into the MakerBot program for the staff to check over the settings and print time.

Previewing the print on the Makerbot app
Previewing the print on the Makerbot app

The staff then loaded the printer-specific file onto an SD card, and brought it to the printer, loaded the red coloured filament I requested, and started the printing process.

After about 15 minutes, the machine finished the print. It cost a total of $2.20: $2.00 for the timeslot (fixed blocks of 1.5 hours) and $0.20 for the filament material.

3D print - projector screen replacement part
The red copy on the right is a 3D printed replacement part for a projector screen. I chose red because it stands out better.

Installation

I originally was worried the hole might have been a little bit too small since it looked a bit smaller than the original, but it fit just right.

The hole fit the metal pin snugly.

Putting it all together, everything fit perfectly. And the screen is now once again in working order.

Fitting the cap and pin back into the lock, everything fit perfectly.

Conclusion

For $2.20, this was a cost-effective way to make a replacement for a simple part. I have no idea what the proper keywords are to find a replacement part online (what would you call this thing?). Even if ordering a replacement part was possible, it would probably come out more expensive and take longer to arrive.

The only test now is to see how durable the material is, as it does have to sustain some force for the locking capability. I did specify a 100% infill (should be solid inside), so hopefully it holds up.

Overriding Routing for VPNs on macOS

I have a Virtual Private Network (VPN) setup so that I can connect to my home network and use things such as my Synology file server when I’m not at home. This works most of the time when the IP address network of the local (e.g., Wi-Fi hotspot, etc.) doesn’t conflict with my home’s IP address network (10.x.y.0/24). However, I have come across some Wi-Fi hotspots which use a subnet of 10.0.0.0/8. The default route through the hotspot network is then used when I try to access my home resources, instead of going through the VPN.

Continue reading “Overriding Routing for VPNs on macOS”

Suspending Browser Tabs for Memory Conservation

If you’re like me and have upwards to 30-50 browser tabs open at the same time, you may notice that your computer becomes sluggish.  In my case this was because all the tabs still consume memory even though I might not need them for some period of time.  I still like to keep some tabs that I might need to quickly refer back to later.

I recently found a Chrome extension called The Great Suspender that automatically replaces the tab with a placeholder page after a certain period of time, optionally with a screenshot of what the page looked like.

An example of a suspended tab

With the click of the mouse anywhere in the placeholder, the actual page reloads.

The extension also allows you to manually suspend tabs if you know you won’t be needing the tab for a while, and whitelist certain pages or sites to never suspend automatically.

I’ve found I can save a few GB of memory, which could be nearly 20% of total my system memory.  Every bit counts!

Synology Hyper Backup Options and Pricing

The Synology Hyper Backup app allows owners of Synology NAS devices to easily set up backups to various cloud services.  However, one thing that isn’t shown in the app is the pricing of each service.  So here’s a pricing comparison (prices as of Aug 4, 2018).
  • Synology C2
    • Location: Frankfurt, Germany
    • 100 GB = €9.99/year (approx. USD $0.0100/GB/month)
    • 300 GB = €24.99/year (approx. USD $0.0081/GB/month)
    • 1 TB = €59.99/year (approx. USD $0.0058/GB/month)
    • 1+ TB = €69.99/TB/year (approx. USD $0.0068/GB/month)
  • Amazon S3
    • Location: Many, using U.S. (N. Virginia) to compare
    • Pricing: Complicated – only comparing standard S3 storage costs here
    • USD $0.023/GB/month (first 50TB)
  • Amazon Glacier – not supported in Hyper Backup, but there is a Glacier-specific app that can do this
    • Location: Many, using U.S. (N. Virginia) to compare
    • Pricing: Complicated – only comparing storage costs here
    • USD $0.0040/GB/month
  • Microsoft Azure
    • Location: Many, using US West 2 to compare
    • Pricing: Complicated – only comparing storage costs here
    • USD $0.0184/GB/month (first 50TB)
  • IBM (SoftLayer) Cloud
    • Location: Many, using US – East to compare
    • Pricing: Complicated – only comparing storage costs here
    • USD $0.0220/GB/month (first 500TB)
  • Rackspace
    • Didn’t have time to figure this out, but looked more expensive than the other options.
  • Amazon Drive
    • 100 GB = USD $11.99/year (approx. USD $0.0100/GB/month)
    • 1 TB = USD $59.99/year (approx. USD $0.0050/GB/month)
  • Dropbox
    • 1 TB = USD $99/year (approx. USD $0.0083/GB/month)
    • 2 TB = USD $199/year (approx. USD $0.0083/GB/month)
  • Google Drive
    • 100 GB = USD $19.99/year (approx. USD $0.0167GB/month)
    • 1 TB = USD $99.99/year (approx. USD $0.0083/GB/month)
  • hubiC
    • Location: Gravelines, France
    • 100 GB = €10/year (approx. USD $0.0097/GB/month)
    • 10 TB = €50/year (approx. USD $0.0005/GB/month)
  • HiDrive
    • Location: Germany
    • 100 GB = €5.80/month (approx. USD $0.0672/GB/month)
    • 500 GB = €12.52/month (approx. USD $0.029/GB/month)
  • SFR NAS backup
    • French website, didn’t translate to find out
  • HiCloud S3
    • Location: Taiwan
    • Pricing: Complicated – only comparing storage costs here
    • TWD $0.75/GB/month (approx. USD $0.025/GB/month)
  • Backblaze B2
    • Not supported by Hyper Backup, but can “sync” through Cloud Sync
    • USD $0.005/GB/month

Desktop Computer Upgrade

I last posted about my computer specs six years ago when I first built my VMWare ESXi Whitebox server.  Here’s an update to what happened to it:

From the software point of view, it was all and well for the first 2-3 years.  I had FreeNAS, Windows 7 and Windows 8 virtual machines running on it, and some lesser used Ubuntu virtual machines for playing around.  With the IOMMU capabilities of the motherboard, I even was able to get the GPU accessible by the Windows virtual machines to use it as a desktop and even play some games on it.

But there were some problems with the setup:  Although PCI passthrough through IOMMU allowed my Windows virtual machines to access the hardware, the reliability wasn’t perfect.  The main annoyance was that restarting the virtual machine would put the GPU in an unusable state, requiring a full restart of the physical machine.  Other than that certain hardware components virtualized together sometimes caused random issues.

The breaking point was in mid-2015 when one of the drives corrupted and I wasn’t able to boot my virtual machines.  Due to a couple factors including not having disk redundancy, the proprietary nature of VMFS (the filesystem used by VMWare on the disk) and the VMDK (the filesystem of the virtual disk), recovering data was difficult, if not impossible (I technically still haven’t completed the recovery process).  Luckily I had some data backups so I didn’t lose all my data.  Later that year I bought a Synology NAS which has taken care of my data storage since then, and I took backing up more seriously following the 3-2-1 backup strategy.  The incredible usefulness and utility of the Synology I’ve found over the past few years can be a whole other article!

Anyway. VMWare ESXi was a fun experiment when I had the time to fiddle and troubleshoot it.  Upon the rebuild I also tried KVM and Xen hypervisors to see if they had any better hardware virtualization with Windows guests, but couldn’t get anything working or stable.  Since the Synology NAS took care of my storage needs, I decided the way to go was just to rebuild the computer as a Windows desktop.

Over the years I’ve upgraded parts of the hardware, but up until last week the core of the system (CPU, motherboard, memory) has stayed exactly the same over the last 6 years.  Here’s the original spec list, with the upgraded hardware in bold, and removed hardware stricken out.

  • AMD Phenom II X6 1055T Thuban 6-Core 2.8GHz Processor @ $122.17
    • AMD FX-8350 8-Core 4.0GHz Processor @ $153.90 (2018)
  • ASRock 990FX EXTREME3 Motherboard (ATX, AM3+, DDR3, SATA3) @ $156.60 (2012)
  • Mushkin Enhanced Blackline Frostbyte PC3-12800 8GB 2x4GB Memory Kit @ $44.99 (2012)
  • Gigabyte Radeon HD 5450 Low Profile Video Card @ $14.99 (2012)
    • ASUS Radeon HD 7790 (2013)
  • Coolermaster Elite 350 Black ATX Case with 500W PSU @ $49.69 (2012)
    • Seasonic Gold 550W PSU @ $112 (2016)
  • Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB WD20EARS
    • Samsung 840 EVO 250GB SSD (2014)
  • Trendnet Gigabit Network Adapter TEG-PCITXR

I was and still am very happy with this build, considering the core of the build has lasted me thus far.  I think AMD provides a great performance and value to price ratio.  I hope the motherboard lasts just as long for the new processor!

Thanks for reading!