Category Archives: Modeling

Tutorial: Build a Customized Bose Bluetooth Speaker with 3D Printed Side Panels

Looking for a fun 3D printing project, or a nice gift for someone special? Bose offers a “BoseBuild” speaker cube that you can build yourself. And you can 3D print your own custom side-panels for it in whatever design you like.

At $149, the BoseBuild speaker cube isn’t exactly cheap (but it is a Bose speaker, after all). You can purchase the kit here.

Once you receive the kit, you can download the BOSEbuild Sound app for your smartphone. This contains a guided tutorial for assembling the speaker. The kit includes plain side-panels, as well as cut-out templates you can place over the panels to create interesting lighting effects (the speaker has multi-colored LED lights inside and can light up different colors in response to your music).

But to really customize your speaker, you’ll want to 3D print your own side-panels. 

Start by downloading the STL file for the side panels here. You can also download an STL file for the clips that hold the panels in place here.

Now, it’s time to customize the side panels! There are lots of ways of doing this, but here’s the approach I used:

Using Selva3D, you can transform any 2D image into a 3D STL file. I used this to convert our 3D Universe logo into a printable STL. Make sure to set the height of the STL file to a high enough value that it will extend all the way through the speaker side panel.

I found that the STL file for the side panels from Thingiverse had some odd artifacts in it when I tried to edit it in TinkerCAD, so I ran it through the MakePrintable STL repair service. The resulting file was clean but rather large, so I used NetFabb (free license for students here) to reduce the number of triangles in the STL file by a little over half. This reduced it to a file of about 5MB – small enough for TinkerCAD to handle without much trouble.

Next, open TinkerCAD, create a new design, and import the optimized speaker side panel STL file:

Then import the STL file of your custom design (created using Selva3D) and position it on the panel:

Now, select the object you just imported and use the upwards pointing arrow to raise the object above the workplane by 1mm. This way, the design will be cut into the speaker panel, but won’t go all the way through it.

Then, change the object from “Solid” to “Hole” in the Shape window.

Next, select both objects (CTRL-A on Windows or CMD-A on Mac) and click the Group button. This will result in our customized speaker panel!

Click Export to download the new STL file, and you’re ready to start 3D printing!

The BoseBuild speaker has internal lighting, so you’ll want to use a transparent filament for the optimal effect. I used Ultimaker CPE+ Transparent, but you could also use Polycarbonate, Nylon, or some other transparent material.

Now just clip the new speaker panel(s) in place using either the clips that came with the kit or your own 3D printed clips (in your choice of colors).

Now you’re ready to play some music!

Does 3D Printing Hold Promise for Detection and Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer?

G-quadruplex: Univ. of Alabama 3D Printing Lab created a groundbreaking DNA sequence that may help in the fight against cancer.
G-quadruplex DNA Sequence: Univ. of Alabama 3D Printing Lab created a groundbreaking DNA sequence that may help in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer: The Facts

Pancreatic cancer has been on my mind a lot recently, so I wanted to get the latest information and find out what hope there might be for improving the prognosis for this deadly disease. This post focuses on what 3D printing, specifically, offers.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth highest cause of cancer deaths, most often affecting people over the age of 65. It is one of the few cancers that is on the increase, and by 2020, it is expected to be the second highest cause of cancer deaths. It is difficult to detect and treat, and often it isn’t detected until it is too late to treat.

Pancreatic cancer is very aggressive. Five years ago, people with Stage IV pancreatic cancer lived a median 6 months. Thanks to breakthrough research, that time frame is extended to 11 months. For all stages, the five year survival rate is an average 5%, for Stage I, only 20%, and for Stage IV, 1%.

With a dismal prognosis like this, it is certainly one of the areas of cancer research that begs for discoveries and solutions.

3D Printing and Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Advances

3D print models. Models help researchers understand cancers better, allowing more targeted and effective treatment.

Dr. Rosalie Sears, Ph.D., a professor of molecular and medical genetics at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, prints models of cancer tumors, exact replicas of patients’ cancerous growths. These models allow testing in real time of how a patient’s tumor will respond to particular treatments. 

Another university, the University of Alabama, announced in February, 2014, the very first 3D printed model of a G-quadruplex DNA sequence, with its molecular structure.

G-quadruplex molecules are nucleic acid sequences and have been described as “a structure in search of a function.” Research has shown that “targeting G-quadruplex sequences with particular compounds can inhibit or stabilize tumors leading to pancreatic cancer.”

The 3D printed live model produced by the University of Alabama has proved “invaluable,” according to Dr. Stephen Ohnmacht of University College in London, a British collaborator in the project. Dr. Vincent Scalfani from the University of Alabama says, “The G-quadruplex 3D model allows us to observe all the symmetry, edges and angles inside of the molecular structure.”

As researchers are able to hold the intricate structure of the DNA in their hands, they are better able to understand it and plan how to target treatment.

3D Bioprinting. One of the most exciting developments in 3D printing that has potential for treating pancreatic and other cancers is Organovo and Autodesk’s alliance to develop “the sophisticated molecular design and simulation software required for engineering living systems.

Organovo’s 3D Bioprinter applies the concept of additive manufacturing to cell biology to convert the cells of a clinical tumor specimen into an accurate model of human tissue. The model will be used to test a promising pancreatic and breast cancer drug, greatly accelerating the test stage.

3D printed device to push chemotherapy drugs directly to tumor. Pancreatic cancer is typically very difficult to diagnose, and often by the time there’s a diagnosis, the tumors are intertwined with major organs and blood vessels.

A group at UNC-Chapel Hill has created “a device that can be customized for each patient via 3-D printing, potentially right in the operating room. It uses electrical fields to push chemotherapy drugs directly to tumors and has the potential to dramatically increase the number of patients eligible for life-saving surgery.”

The technique has been tested successfully on animals, and human testing will begin next year. A paper in the research journal, Science Translational Medicine (February 2015), describes the project.

Tissue engineering and organ regeneration. Possibilities for tissue engineering and organ regeneration are also part of the 3D printing picture of the future.

3D Printing and Pancreatic Cancer Detection Advances

The real solution for difficult, aggressive cancers like pancreatic and lung, however, lies in early detection when there is a possibility for treatment.

Jorge Soto, part of a team of scientists and technologists from Chile, Panama, Mexico, Israel and Greece, reports that this group believes  they have found a reliable and accurate way of detecting several types of cancer at the very early stages through a blood sample.

“The test is performed by detecting a set of very small molecules that circulate freely in our blood called microRNAs…This is a single non-invasive, accurate and affordable test that has the potential to dramatically change how cancer procedures and diagnostics have been done. Since we’re looking for the microRNA patterns in your blood at any given time, you don’t need to know which cancer you’re looking for. You don’t need to have any symptoms. You only need one milliliter of blood and a relatively simple array of tools.”

As Soto says in his Ted Talk, “This entire platform is a working prototype. It uses state-of-the-art molecular biology, a low-cost, 3D-printed device, and data science to try to tackle one of humanity’s toughest challenges.” The design of the 3D printed device is open-source to encourage community input and accelerate advances.

Imagine how many lives can be saved with a simple, effective blood test that allows early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer!

I’m curious, since the open source 3D printed device is already out, and the method is in place to test for several cancers, including pancreatic, so far…why hasn’t this low-cost equipment become part of every doctor’s office or at least every lab and testing become commonplace whenever blood work is done?

Has anyone else seen Jorge Soto’s TedTalk? Have you ever known anyone who might have benefited from earlier testing?

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Interview with Josh Goldstein, Founder of Parametrix

I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Josh Goldstein, founder of Parametrix. Josh comes from an architectural design background but is in the process of building a new business around 3D printing, utilizing his design expertise in new and creative ways. Like many others, Josh is finding new opportunities thanks to the empowering capabilities of desktop 3D printers. In getting to know Josh’s work, I became fascinated with the benefits of having a strong design skill set combined with a solid understanding of 3D printers and their capabilities. He has learned to design not only for aesthetics and functionality, but also for ease of 3D printing.

Can you please tell our audience a little about your background?

I’m a wannabe inventor from Denver, Colorado. In my youth, I spent much of my free time making robots. First out of cardboard, and later out of consumer electronics (VCRs, computers, stereos, toys). My dad even made business cards for me so I could impress my elementary school friends. “If we don’t have it, we’ll invent it” the business cards said.

After I was done electrocuting myself with the robots, I got into architectural design. I saw the demolition of a well-known Denver property and became interested in the life and death of buildings. which I saw as larger-than-life machines. I taught myself how to use digital modeling software and landed an internship with a retail developer in high school. I worked on the construction and design of a $300 million urban development project near Denver for two years before going to college.

I went to Kansas State University for my Master of Architecture degree. It’s one of the top architectural design schools in the country. It was there I learned to take 3D modeling and design to the next level – by using parametric inputs and algorithms to “script” a design
into creation, whether that be a08 18 Parametrix logo stacked_forweb-01 building, a piece of furniture, or a product. This ability to rapidly generate designs and patterns was what inspired the creation of my side project, Parametrix.


What inspired you to get involved with 3D printing?

3D printing brought out the inventor in me. Since I already had the skills to draw and script complex 3D designs, the ability to physically create the designs in my own home was the next logical step. I decided it was a worthwhile investment to buy a FlashForge Creator almost a year ago. It’s been simultaneously exhilarating and maddening. I have been able to design and fabricate useful and beautiful products with a foundation in architectural design, all while learning the capabilities and limitations of this new home production technology.

Besides being fun, I saw the ability to design and produce products at home as an opportunity to launch a small business, something I’ve always wanted to do. Select Parametrix products are now available at I Heart Denver, a mecca for local Denver art and design. 3D printing has enabled me to follow a dream.

What are some of your favorite 3D printed designs? Please share some photos, and tell us a little about each one.

With Parametrix, I’ve experimented with shapes and patterns to create unique and innovative home products. The ability to use parametric scripting means these designs are all based in mathematics and can be changed and adjusted in seconds, and 3D printed again.

IMG_6424_edited IMG_6405_editThe Parametrix Pen Holder is the first product that seemed worthy of retail sale. The original faceted version was the one that caught the eye of I Heart Denver, and allowed me to produce more products for the store. The faceted version has since been joined by the wireframe version, which takes its inspiration from Colorado Native American arrowheads and is designed specifically to print cleanly using FDM manufacturing processes.

final mountain range with plant whiteOf course, great product design isn’t simply about shapes and patterns. The Parametrix Planter is designed with a hidden drainage system. It hides the unsightly saucer behind the beautiful relief pattern and provides the plant with critical aeration. The Planter is a good example of high-quality design and function in one cohesive 3D-printed design.

IMG_6606_editedA final product worth mentioning is the Parametrix Denver Cityscape. Over 50 iconic buildings make up this beautifully-detailed 1:5280 scale model of Denver. An algorithm controls the rotation, scale, and placement of the buildings on the platform in order to maintain location accuracy but ensure visibility. On the bottom, I’ve included an engraved numbering system for each building which can be matched to a legend on our website, www.

Now that you’ve learned 3D printing, how are you leveraging your combined skill-sets of professional design and 3D printing?

Screenshot 2014-09-21 12.30.02I’ve learned how critical it is to keep designs flexible with 3D printing. The ability to quickly adjust a dimension globally for a particular product using the scripts I create saves so much time over drawing and redrawing geometry manually. I’ve learned a lot about flexible design and scripting through the process, and I translate these skills as an architectural designer. Keeping in mind that tolerances and dimensions may change affects how I look at the design process of buildings, structures, and spaces. Being able to maintain an idea while satisfying real-world considerations and limitations is key to flexible and successful design.

Do you feel that 3D printing technology is creating new professional opportunities? Please explain.

Absolutely. I think 3D printing will spawn a whole host of new markets. For instance, if a 3D printer becomes a common household appliance, maybe we’ll see more brick & mortar printer demonstration and repair shops. I think we’ll continue to see individuals and small businesses innovate to create a better printer, better accessories, and better filament.

I also think we’ll see businesses dedicated to some of the by-products of home 3D printing. Filament waste is a significant issue, and maybe we’ll see new markets to capture some waste and turn it back into profit. For instance, we’re already seeing a movement to recycle filament at home with the right machinery. Recycling printed objects is a sticky issue itself, and we’ll likely see municipal recycling programs taking a stance and educating people about where and how to dispose of tricky plastics like PLA.

Do you have any future plans or projects you can tell us about?

Now that I’ve got several products that are print-ready, I can focus on new directions. I want to start looking into robotics and kinetic design. Using a 3D printer to fabricate structural frames, skins, and mechanical parts and combining them with servo and stepper motors could result in cool robots or machines. I want to come full circle and return to my inventing and robotics work, this time with a design degree and more experience.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

WP_20140817_002I have high hopes for 3D printing, but I also have been frustrated by its limitations. The FDM manufacturing process imposes illogical limitations on design. For instance, the script that controls the wireframe pen holder specifically aims to keep the angles on the pattern very high, otherwise the bottom edges of the design get messy as the molten filament tends to warp and expand if the angle of an overhang is too low. Depending on the intelligence of the slicing engine, the very movements of the print head while printing may result in poor-quality prints because the hot nozzle will pull corners up and distort edges. I look forward to a time when I can design anything, regardless of angles and overhangs, and print it accurately at home.

I also think 3D printing is unfortunately far from ready for the average consumer. I’ve had to do a fair bit of research, experimentation, and tweaking with varying results. Obviously this comes with the age of the technology, but I look forward to a time when 3D printing is truly as easy as plug and play. The good news is, we’re getting closer every day.

BONUS: Here’s a time lapse video of the Parametrix Denver Cityscape bring printed on a FlashForge Creator X 3D printer.


For more information and for links to download STL files visit, please visit Parametrix at

Introduction to Fused Filament Fabrication Design

Barbara Busatta and Dario Buzzini, designers based in NYC, have created a free instructional guide for creating 3D designs that look exceptionally good when printed with consumer-level 3D printers.

By recognizing the limitations of Fused Filament Fabrication (specifically, imperfections or unwanted textures in the surface finish), they came up with a brilliant approach for overcoming this issue. The objects you see above and below are exactly how they look, straight off the 3D printer. I know because I’ve tested them myself! These designs have been released as open source, so anyone can download and print them.

Use their simple and effective design technique, then swap filament colors during your print (pause print, change color, resume print), and you can achieve results like this:

To read about their design approach in detail, please visit Pirate3D’s Blog

To download the “Machine Series” as shown above, please visit Treasure Island

3D Printed Architectural Design Brings an Idea to Life

As I’ve said before, 3D printing has the power to bring ideas to life in a very real way. Here’s an example of how well this works for the smaller ideas as well as the big ones.

For the last 4+ years, my mom has owned and operated a wonderful vegetarian café in Woodstock, IL, called Expressly Leslie Vegetarian Specialties. You can check it out here.

We recently discussed possibilities for creating a Health-Department-approved production kitchen in her home so she could prepare certain dishes on a larger scale than what she can produce at the current café.

She laid out a design for a small production kitchen that would fit in a corner of her basement, and drew the following for me as an illustration:

Initial sketch of a design for a small production kitchen
Initial sketch of a design for a small production kitchen

I decided to surprise her by not only designing a 3D model of her concept kitchen, but also 3D printing a physical model of it for her. So I did a bit of searching and found a free piece of software for designing homes (or rooms in this case) that is able to export in a standard 3D file format. Using SweetHome3D (link below), I put together the following according to her instructions:

Production Kitchen Design - 2D View
Production Kitchen Design – 2D View
Production Kitchen Design - 3D View
Production Kitchen Design – 3D View


SweetHome3D lets you export as a Wavefront OBJ file. But when you export a room by default, it does not include the floor, which I wanted in my print. To get around this, I created a “wall” but set it to only 2″ high and with X and Y dimensions slightly larger than the rest of the room. Then, I edited the properties for each object in the room to increase the elevation value by 2″ so it would sit on top of the floor. There might be a better way to do this in the software, but I couldn’t find it, and this worked well for my needs.

I then used Blender (link below) to import the OBJ file and export it as an STL file. From there, I brought it into Slic3r and prepared it for printing.

And here is the result:

3D Printed Model of a Small Production Kitchen Design
3D Printed Model of a Small Production Kitchen Design

As is common with objects with large, flat surfaces like this one, there were some problems with warping and delamination. I treated those the best I could by brushing on a bit of acetone to seal those gaps as they appeared, but some of the issues occurred while I was sleeping and are still visible in the final print.

After printing, I treated the whole thing in an acetone vapor bath (using a large deep fryer and a version of the method outlined by Austin Wilson and Neil Underwood here.)

A time-lapse video of the print can be found here.

The model I used for the 3D printed sign on the font can be found here. Model credit: Steven Morlock

SweetHome3D software can be found here.

Blender software can be found here.


3D Printed Marble Display Stand, Designed by a 10-Year-Old

I had a terrific experience today. Yesterday evening, my 10-year-old son came to me with a drawing of a display stand he wanted to make for his favorite marbles (yes, it’s okay to laugh at that). The marbles were of different diameters, and he wanted the stand to have a square base with cylindrical towers to hold each marble. He had very specific instructions on how tall he wanted each tower to be.

So, he went off to bed, and I started to learn some 3D modeling (which I have never done before, so please don’t laugh at my almost non-existent modeling skills).

Here’s what he gave me (I added in marble measurements so I’d know how to size each tower):

Initial Sketch of Marble Display Stand
Initial Sketch of Marble Display Stand

And here’s what I modeled:

3D Model of Marble Display Stand
3D Model of Marble Display Stand

So, I started it printing and went to bed myself. When we woke up in the morning, this was waiting for us:

3D Printed  Marble Display Stand
3D Printed Marble Display Stand

Zachary (my son) arranged his marbles and found that everything fit perfectly!


3D Printed Marble Display Stand, with Marbles
3D Printed Marble Display Stand, with Marbles

The look on his face when he saw this was priceless! I could tell that this made a huge impact on him. He had an idea, sketched it out, and then we brought that idea into physical form – from his head to the real world in just a few hours.

My wife and I homeschool Zachary, and it’s clear that 3D printing is going to be an important part of his education. It’s no wonder that schools and libraries across the country are installing 3D printers. Much like kids in my generation grew up with computers, Zachary’s generation is going to grow up with 3D printing. The thought of having a new idea for an object and then printing out a physical model of it may seem somewhat magical to us, but it will seem very normal to our children. Over time, this will help us as a society to become co-creators, rather than mere consumers.


A time-lapse video of the print can be found here:

And if for some strange reason, you want to print one of these for yourself, you can download the model here: (model credit: Zachary S.)