Adding magic to the mundane, one filament at a time.

Tag: camping

Music to Soothe the Savage 3D Printer

A Long Haul

It’s taken us two months, dozens of test prints, and several design reviews with the buyer, but we’ve finally finished the Jankó keyboard project that we started back in March!

But First an Apology

This week’s blog post is a bit late. Sorry about that! I got my second COVID vaccine shot (Moderna) on Saturday and it really wiped me out. Thankfully there was nothing super urgent to do for 3D Orcs, so I was able to take it easy and let my body recover from producing a bunch of very welcome antibodies. I’m now nearly back to normal, with just a sore arm left to tolerate.

Well, I guess I’m still tiring easily too, so today’s post will be on the short side.

The Final Stages of Jankó

Once we were finally happy with the key design, we still had a lot of printing to do.

Here’s the keyboard with most of the original keys, and just our few test keys installed at one end. But there are several new keys ready to go!

Because the Jankó keycaps overlap neighboring keys, they need to be installed in order from one end, so all of the original keys had to be removed first.

Here we’ve started installing the new keys. It was fun to see the offset black/white pattern start to emerge!

Getting close!

All keys installed!

It was awesome to see it all come together after so much work! But the best part was yet to come.

The Completed Jankó Keyboard!

Finally! Fully assembled and operational!

It’s very cool to see our 3D printed products incorporated into an actual functioning electronic device! And the customer is very happy and excited to learn to play it!

In Other News

One of the last things I did before my COVID shot wiped me out was play a game of Ticket to Ride – Europe. Like the last time I wrote about this game, we used several of our custom game pieces, making for a very eclectic board appearance!

This time I used green canoes from the Camping themed set, my wife used a set of black Christmas sleighs, my father-in-law used purple Steampunk roadsters, and my mother-in-law used the yellow heart themed set we gave her for Mothers Day.

Did you notice her spiral heart Train Stations? Those are new! So new, they’re not even listed as an option in Etsy yet!

Pursuing B2B

Aside from adding the spiral heart Train Stations, this week we’ll be turning our attention to exploring some B2B (business to business) opportunities. We want to see if some local small businesses are interested in buying 3D printed versions of their company logos, whether for their staff or their customers. Wish us luck!

Up the Creek

Canoeing Through European Forests

We’ve been continuing work on expanding our themed Ticket to Ride sets to include Train Stations for Ticket to Ride Europe.

This week we added fir trees to our Camping set! Grab a paddle and embark on a canoe trip across Europe, planting trees in place of train stations to claim the use of opponents’ routes to complete your destination tickets.

Another Halloween Reject

We also worked on a train station for our Halloween set, but again did not like the way the design looked when printed.

We’ve got another idea though, and we’ll keep working on it until we get something that looks great!

Hot Mess

We were slowed down this week with another in our growing series of 3D printer problems.

After replacing a clogged nozzle (which happens every couple weeks), our next few prints were ruined by extraneous globs of plastic appearing amidst the expected game pieces. At first we didn’t know where it was coming from, but then realized the melted plastic was oozing out from the top of the heating block, instead of staying inside and feeding down through the nozzle.

Finding the Problem

Further investigation (which involved disassembling the entire extruder assembly) revealed that the heat break had loosened slightly from the heating block. The heat break is a metal tube that connects the hot end with the cooling radiator. It also holds the end of the Bowden tube that feeds the filament into the hot end.

Here you can see the disassembled hot end. The Bowden tube (blue, coming from the top) feeds down into the radiator (black with air fins, lying to the left in this pic). The heat break (seen in the next image) connects the radiator to the heating block (silver rectangle object). The nozzle screws into the bottom of the heating block, and that’s where the melted plastic is supposed to come out. But I had a mess of melted green plastic all over the heating block.

Oh, and to make this all more fun, bear in mind that I needed to do most of this work with the heating block heated to 220°C (428°F), because otherwise solidified plastic glued everything together.

The Big Delay

Once I had it all apart, it should have been relatively easy to put back together, ensuring it was all screwed tightly into place. But the threads on the heat break were covered in plastic and had to be cleaned.

Cleaning PLA plastic off of metal parts is not easy to do. Unlike other plastics, PLA is resistant to most solvents, unless you get into some very harsh chemicals that need a fume hood and disposable gloves costing $40/pair.

But I didn’t necessarily need to entirely dissolve the PLA, just soften it enough to clean the part. Enter ethyl acetate. This chemical does need to be used in a well ventilated area, but at least it doesn’t cause serious injury at the slightest whiff. It does require patience though. I had to soak the heat break in it for 24 hours!

My Gear

Here you can see the cleaning station I set up. The heat break is that little metal tube near the middle with threads on one end. The ethyl acetate is in the jar – keeping the lid closed saved me from the fumes and also prevented disastrous spills. Once it had soaked for a good long time, the PLA flaked off relatively easily – you can see the bits of it on and near the paper towel. I got the bulk of it off by scrubbing at it with the brass brush, and then picked the last bits out of the threads using a tiny screwdriver. The magnifying glass and head magnifier were very helpful in seeing it close enough to ensure it was really clean.

This picture shows some of the other tools I used, including a syringe of thermal paste to ensure good heat transfer between the heating block, the heat break, and the radiator. The long tin in the lower right holds my spare nozzles, as well as several acupuncture needles which work great for cleaning out a clogged nozzle. Probably the most important piece of equipment is the huge cup of tea (Earl Grey, hot), which helped me stay sane while tackling the project.


I’m glad to say the printer is working great again!

And boy, I sure appreciated having a second printer running while I dealt with the problem! It meant production didn’t need to stop entirely for two days while I resolved the issue.

Up Next

What’s on the agenda for the coming week? Another attempt at a Halloween train station, more work on the Jankó keyboard, and project X. What’s project X? Well, it’s not really a thing. I just made it up to make it sound more mysterious than “some other project we haven’t decided on yet”. It might be a new version of the Collapsible Dice Tower, or it might be some pieces for a new game. Find out next Monday!

This Is For The Birds

A New Dice Tower

We launched a new version of our Collapsible Dice Tower this week!

This one was inspired by the game Wingspan. If you know the game, you’ll recognize the dice in the pic.

In fact, we had this in mind when we started designing our first dice tower. Like the cardboard dice tower that comes with Wingspan, ours can be disassembled and stored in the game box. That’s why we made it collapsible in the first place, and why we chose the size we did. Since we knew we were planning this Wingspan version, and we wanted to be able to use the same basic structure, we used the same design principles for our first tower.

We did the keep first because we anticipated the TTRPG (D&D) community would be more interested in dice towers and would find that style more appealing. But we’re very happy now to add the one we envisioned to begin with.

594 Game Pieces

Any guesses what that number signifies?

This week we received our biggest order to date. Twelve sets of Ticket to Ride game pieces! And two of them were for the Europe version, including train stations. All told, that came out to 594 individual game pieces, and really kept our printers busy!

Even better, the buyer liked our custom themed sets!

He bought four Halloween sets,

four Steampunk sets,

two Christmas sets,

and two Camping sets.

There’s going to be some fun game nights in that household!

More Train Stations

The train stations have been a popular addition to our Standard and Christmas themed Ticket to Ride sets, so we’re planning to add them to our other themed sets too. Which will we do first? Come back next Monday to find out!

Canoes and Tents and Snakes, Oh My!

Paddle Across the Countryside

As promised, we’ve expanded our new Camping theme in a couple of fun directions! First up was Ticket to Ride. We added a canoe as the main piece for this set, to replace the standard train cars. It also gets a tent scoring marker, and all looks wonderful on the game board!

Why Did it Have to be Snakes?!

Next we ported (or portaged!) the canoe over to join our other Catan pieces for the Seafarers expansion. We wanted a suitable pirate piece as a bonus item, and decided on a snake. Don’t let his cute look fool you – he’ll still bring your shipping route to a dead stop!

There’s Something in the Air

As we approach Valentine’s Day we thought a themed set would be fun, but the “something” in the air wasn’t love, it was water. At first we weren’t sure why several of our 3D prints were failing.

After attempting many unsuccessful remedies, we discovered that some of our spools of filament had absorbed too much moisture from the air, even though we always store them in ziplock bags with silica gel packets. They look and feel exactly the same, but they behave differently when heated and extruded in a 3D printer. Fortunately it’s not terribly difficult to dry them out. There are commercial filament dryers available, but instead we added a makeshift cardboard extender to our food dehydrator, and voila – dry filament!

We had to monitor the temperature carefully of course, because if it got too warm in there the filament strands would melt together and we’d have been left with an unusable mass of plastic.

Broken Bowden Tube

With the filament in good shape again, our printer decided to thwart us with a problem of its own. The Bowden tube is what guides the filament from the filament drive gear to the hot end where it gets extruded. Ours is the white tube in this picture. And one day in the middle of what would have been a successful print, it decided to break off inside the connector shown by the arrow. (We suspect it had endured some undue stresses over the past few months while correcting other problems.)

We were lucky that the break was so near the end, and the remaining tube was still long enough. I trimmed the end to even it off, and reinserted it. We were back in business, though we did order a new one to have on hand in case it happens again. If it breaks again, the current tube probably won’t be long enough to keep using it.

Feeling the Love!

Finally we were able to print enough of our new pieces to launch our Valentine-themed Catan set!

With that much love on the board, how could anyone steal your Longest Road?

More Valentines On the Way

In the coming week we plan to launch more Valentine-themed sets, and we’re also venturing into a whole new area that has nothing to do with board games. Intrigued? Come back next Monday to see what we mean!

Made to Order

Custom Catan Game Pieces

We’re thrilled to launch our first set of game pieces inspired by a customer request!

The Inquiry

It started with an Etsy message I received in late November. A woman was designing a custom Catan board for her fiance for Christmas, and wondered if I could make some custom game pieces to accompany it, including a cabin city, a tent settlement, and a bear robber. I was thrilled at the prospect! Custom design work is exactly the direction I want to take 3D Orcs Printing Company!

The Dilemma

Unfortunately this came near the beginning of the interruption I commented on last week. I expressed eager interest in the project, but sadly had to tell her that while I loved the idea, I wouldn’t be able to deliver anything until the new year. I wished her luck finding something suitable in time for Christmas, and thought that would be the end of it.

Enthusiasm Sparks Hope

I was happily surprised when she wrote back saying she liked the prospect of working with me because I expressed more excitement about the project than anyone else. She indicated that a January delivery might be workable, and asked for more cost information and next steps. We exchanged a few more messages and agreed on an approach.

Initial Design

I found some time to work on the design and delivered a first draft at the end of November.

To follow the Parks/Camping theme she had initiated, I decided on a fallen log for the Catan road (shown with a model of the standard Catan road for comparison).

The settlement became a tent as requested.

And the city became a log cabin (this one also shows the tree from our popular Christmas set.

And her idea for a bear as the robber was perfect. Look out, he’s hungry!

When she saw these designs she was thrilled, saying, “They look amazing!!!” “Seems like we’re on the exact same page.” and “Thank you SO much for bringing this to life for me!!!” Clearly I was doing something right.

Working out the Kinks

Test prints led to a few changes. The “skin” of the log became thicker, the door inset on the tent became deeper, the cabin became shorter and got thinner roof panels, and the internal structure of the bear was beefed up to prevent his head from popping off, which, while rather amusing, would not make for an enjoyable gaming experience.

Once the models were finalized, several were printed to create the photos for the Etsy listing.


Finally on January 7 everything was ready to go, and the Camping Themed Catan set launched!

We have high hopes for this set as we head towards camping season. Some people might find these pieces a fun diversion if covid keeps them homebound. Others, if their local travel restrictions and vaccination availability allow, might actually take these pieces along to play with on a camping trip. If you do that, we’d love to see photos!

Next Up

We’re currently working on several new items. We’re expanding the camping theme in new directions, we have some new holiday pieces coming, and we’ve just received some fun new filament to print with. Come back next Monday to see which of these makes it into our Etsy shop first!