Millercat Catalytic Converter Shield Experience

I don’t really want my catalytic converters stolen. I can DIY a replacement setup with racing cats and exhaust tubing, but I’d rather not. Plus I recently had my truck prowled – they got about two dollars in quarters and some covid masks, and I’m still mad about it.

While researching cat shields for my 4×4 Tundra I found rave reviews for the Millercat cat shield. “Direct fit,” they claim. “Works with the TRD Pro skid plate,” they say. One video even included where to drill holes in the frame for rivnuts (rivet nuts/ threaded inserts) so we can use the rear shield extensions on our not-2018 to 2021 Tundras. “This is perfect!”, I thought.

I’ll start with the Pros: the company was very fast to respond to a silly question I had (which is answered on their site, but I’d simply missed it). I ordered the shield for my Tundra (plus rear shields) and for my partner’s 4Runner. The shields arrived quickly, both main shields are very sturdy aluminum and they’re cleverly flat packed; the security fasteners give it dimension. Additionally the fasteners are installed from the “up” side of the shield, so removing them from below should require drilling. Note these are not tamper resistant torx fasteners, they’re a five lobe design with a pin in the center. That’s great because they’re harder to find but it did mean I had some issues installing these “security torx” fasteners, as they’re referred to in several places, when my actual-factual security torx keys didn’t fit in a cramped space.

The Neutrals: the website “recommends” the AVK rivnut tool. For the 4×4 Tundra this is not really “optional”. I tried to raise the transmission and there is no way I’m getting my two-handled rivnut tool in that space. Save yourself the headache and spend the $20. The video that you’ll find on YouTube if you look for this topic is “easy mode”. The 4×2 Tundra without TRD Pro skid plate should genuinely be a 30 minute install.

The not-so-goods: The instructions indicate there should be a “R” and “L” on the side pieces to help with ensuring the correct side; I could not find any markings. The photos and sketches in the print instructions didn’t really help me understand the situation any better. The “easy mode” video referenced above was very helpful in this regard. Yes, this *does* work with the TRD Pro skid plate. But the instructions are silent about how to do that. I’ll add my experience below. The rear shields are disappointing. They are thinner than the main shields and they don’t extend as far back as I would expect. If they were any longer Millercat would have to include nuts with handles welded to them to reach the end of the bolts in the crossmember. I’ve seen that done for bolt-on rock sliders, and I imagine something similar could work here. I also think they may have shipped the wrong part for the passenger side; I cannot rotate, flip or turn it in any way to get the holes to line up. I hope customer service has a prompt response.

Overall I give this 3.5 stars. Harsh! I know. But the shield is $520, the rear extensions are $70 plus there’s shipping. The instructions are not easy to follow and they offer no guidance for installing with skid plates. I may have a wrong part. Not-really-optional tools are left as optional. What could have taken an hour took almost 3 with frequent trips to get additional tools and re-re-reading the instructions. The saving graces are that this is the same sturdy material as my skid plate and the fasteners are both hard to get to and an unusual type.

To install the Millercat shield on a Tundra with the TRD Pro skid plate:

  • Assemble the main shield and side plates before starting
  • Chock the rear tires (on the rear side), jack up the vehicle from the lift point on the skid plate and support the vehicle with jack stands or adequate platforms under the tires. The jack will need to be removed from the lift point.
  • Insert the provided rivnuts in the holes indicated in the print instructions, in the rear-facing side of the rear crossmember
  • Remove the 17mm bolts from the tow hooks and set all that hardware aside
  • Loosen the 12mm bolts at the front of the plate about 1/4 inch. Do not remove.
  • Fully loosen the 5mm hex bolt at the lift point
  • Remove the long 12mm bolts from the sides of the skid plate
  • *Carefully* fully loosen the 15mm bolts at the rear of the skid plate. At this point the plate should drop enough that the entire bolt has come through the crossmember. Watch your head.
  • Use pliers to hold the retaining washer and unscrew the 15mm bolt. Set the bolt, washers and nuts aside for later use. You will not need to reuse the tube sleeves if you have them.
  • Tighten the 5mm hex bolt on the skid plate lift point, leaving about 1/4 inch of the bolt showing
  • Replace the long 12mm bolts on either side of the skid plate, leaving them slightly loose
  • Slip the front end of the cat shield over the rear end of the skid plate; the shield should be between the skid plate and crossmember. The skid plate will support the front of the shield.
  • Align the rear of the shield with the holes in the rear crossmember and attach with long M8 bolts and the provided nuts
  • Fasten the two smaller security bolts to the rivnuts in the rear-facing side of the rear crossmember
  • Reuse the long 15mm skid plate bolts to sandwich the skid plate and shield to the front crossmember
  • I had to hold the washers between my fingers, contort my hand, drop the washer on the “up” side of the skid plate, turn my hand over, retrieve the washer then place it over the end of the bolt. Repeat with the nut.
    • I strongly recommend using a bottle jack and some wood spacers to help hold the plates up while you’re fiddling with the fasteners. There should be a jack under your rear passenger seat if you haven’t already found it.
  • Tighten all 12mm bolts, the 5mm hex bolt and replace the tow hooks using the 17mm bolts
  • END
Millercat Catalytic Converter Shield Experience

I Earwormed Myself . . .

Quarterly planning is in full swing and my manager said he thought he was done with Q4… maybe. Of course, The Song That Never Ends got stuck in my head as “this is the plan that never ends . . .”

The only way to get this earworm out of my head is to code it out (because listening to 20 minutes of the 10 hour loop didn’t do it).

function song(end = false, onAndOn = true, goesOnForever = true){
  if (!end) {
    console.log('this is the song that never ends')
  if (onAndOn) {
    console.log('it just goes on and on my friend. \n Some     
    people started singing it not knowing what it was.')
  if (goesOnForever) {
    console.log('and we\'ll continue singing it forever, 
    just because . . .')
  } else {
    return 'whoops!!'
  return song()

You can run that in your console if you want, but it’ll just hang your browser until the call stack is exceeded… but maybe the earworm was the call stack all along!

I Earwormed Myself . . .

Chrome Canary Extensions (MacBook)

This is something of a ‘note for later’. For some reason my entire side menu (the three vertical dots) was missing from Canary. The following solution both gave me access to the extensions, but returned that menu.

To access extensions in Chrome Canary go to the URL bar and type chrome://flags then search for extensions. There’s a switch we have to flip now for the “Extensions Toolbar Menu”; enable this option. Now you can go the list via the triple dot, More Tools > Extensions. In this screen there’s a triple bar “hamburger” menu that includes a link to the Chrome Web Store.

Chrome Canary Extensions (MacBook)

Bought Two Suits Online

My partner and I are hosting a Roaring 20s 2.0 party on NYE, and we want to look the part. She has a great sequin dress and headpiece, and while I have some pieces that evoke the 1920s, it wasn’t a cohesive look. I decided I wanted a new suit.

TL;DR: BD Tailormade is terrible. Mediocre quality. It doesn’t fit at all. has been amazing.

But, I’m 6’4″, 50″ chest, 48 around the belly button, 39 where I wear my jeans, large thighs. No one near me carries anything that looks remotely 1920s, which meant either local tailor or try my luck online. As it happened, an ad for BD Tailormade crossed my path, promising perfect fitting suits in three weeks for under $200. What’s not to like for something I planned to wear a handful of times and needed quickly?

I liked how the fabrics looked, and I carefully read the measuring instructions: provide chest, around the belly button, waist (where you wear your jeans) and “hips” (which in retrospect I think they’re asking for a seat measurement based on their example photo). They specifically and clearly state: do not add any amount to these measurements. They claim that they add two inches, then a little is subtracted when they make their cuts for their “tailored cut” suit for a “perfect comfortable fit”. Don’t add anything, that I can do (can not do?). While I could have done without the orangey-red buttons, I entered my measurements and the order confirmation email hit my inbox. All I had to do was wait.

The next day I received an email confirming my measurements (“size confirm to ensure the well fitting”). I know that I’m basically two different people stacked on top of each other, so I immediately responded to confirm my measurements.

The day it arrived I was super excited, and my friend was with me when the DHL package was dropped off. I ripped open the bag, cut the tape on the box and unfolded the razor sharp edges of the fabric that had been ceremoniously crammed into the cardboard. On with the vest and… it wouldn’t button. Deep breath and the top button buttoned! but the other was entirely a no-go. OK, let’s try the jacket. Ab-so-lutely not.

I was beside myself. It was Dec 15 and I had sixteen days to find a suit that fits. I also needed to return this ill-fitting mess of fabric.

Google. Google. Google…. ah, is this what I need? made similar claims to BD Tailormade, one difference being that TruClothing only sold stock on hand… and they could DHL next-day-noon ship! AND THE SUIT WAS ON SALE!

Not wanting to get burned again I erred on the side of too-large. My 50 chest was listed as a 48 suit at the other place. Here I went up a size, to their largest size 52, to accommodate their “somewhere between slim fit and regular fit”. Measurements: check. Paypal: check. Order confirmation: check.

It was a long 72 hours. I came home from work to find a DHL bag on the porch, tore it open, and found a suit, on a hanger, in a suit bag. Immediately this was a different experience. Cautiously I tried on the vest: form fitting. The jacket: perfect. The pants: I should have ordered longer, but that’s on me.

With that settled I turned my attention back to returning my suit to BD Tailormade. My contact, Brady, became expectedly mum once the topic of returns came up, the same day their suit arrived. At this point it had been three days without instructions for returning the suit, so I opened a Paypal dispute. After two more days I escalated the dispute and the next day received a response: I would get the return address when I provided a shipping label number. What?

We went back and forth like this for another day and I eventually got a return address. DHL doesn’t do “slow”. $114 shipping for a $150 suit. USPS does do “slow” but I’m skeptical of their ability to get this returned suit to Fujian province without requiring buckets of import duties (yes, I plan to state that this is “RETURN CARGO” as instructed by the seller). The online estimate is $90.

While I figure out what I’m going to do about the return, I’ve been wearing pieces of the TruClothing suit. Everyone loves the vest and jacket (I wear them as separates). If the NYE party goes as well as we’re hoping, I may be wearing tweed suits for the next decade.

Bought Two Suits Online

Manual Mesh Leveling for The Ender 3 3D Printer

[2020, Feb 9 edit: I am not a C-family programmer by trade, and in the first published version of this article I neglected the octothorpes in from of some of the “define” commands. They are completely necessary. If you tried these instructions and had issues, please ensure you have the corrected code.]

Leveling my 3D printer beds is not how I derive enjoyment from this machine. When I saw this video pop into my subscription page on YouTube I was instantly curious about whether I could do this with my Ender 3 . Despite using borosilicate glass beds on both my machines, I find that they are not perfectly flat (or the aluminum bed underneath the glass is warping) so I’m expecting that having this setting available will make the overall process less cumbersome. I will be writing these instructions for the TH3D firmware on an Ender3 with the V1.1.5 motherboard, though the standard Marlin build will be roughly the same.

For folks who don’t want to watch the video, mesh leveling is the process by which the printer will move the print head to some number of locations on the print bed (9, 16, or 25). You’ll check whether it’s at the height that’s desired (using paper or a thickness gage) and adjust the print head up or down in 0.025mm increments using the control wheel. These incremental adjustments are saved to the EEPROM and the board will calculate how much up or down it needs to move the Z axis to keep the nozzle at a uniform height above the print bed. If you’ve seen a BL Touch sensor, it’s doing this same process, only you’re the sensor.

It turns out it’s really easy to do if the circumstance is correct. There are three things that you’ll need: 1) The V1.1.5 motherboard (or whichever motherboard is being used when you read this) or 1A) an Arduino to act as a bootloader*. 2) a copy of the firmware you’re using. I prefer TH3D’s firmware, and they have a great set of tutorials for updating the motherboard. And 3) You’ll need the Arduino IDE (which not-coincidentally comes in the TH3D download)

Once you are familiar with the Arduino IDE and have flashed your board once or twice (to get accustomed to the process) you’ll want to open the Configuration.h file in the firmware package. Use the find/search tool to look for “MANUAL_MESH_LEVELING” in the file. The // in front of an instruction tells the compiler to ignore that line (this is referred to as commented code). Remove the // in front of #define MANUAL_MESH_LEVELING. This adds the option for mesh leveling to the printer’s menu.

Next search for “PROBE_OFFSET”. In TH3D you’ll find:

#define X_PROBE_OFFSET_FROM_EXTRUDER 0 // X offset: -left +right [of the nozzle]
#define Y_PROBE_OFFSET_FROM_EXTRUDER 0 // Y offset: -front +behind [the nozzle]

Uncomment both of these lines. You’ll also need to add

These lines tell the leveling code that we’re using the nozzle itself (0 offset) as the location where the leveling value is being set. If we had a BL Touch, then it would be some distance X and Y away from the nozzle head, and the probe will be some distance Z above or below the actual nozzle aperture.

TH3D users can skip the next few settings in the video, Marlin users may need to set them (again, depending on when you’re reading this). The video instructs us to find “mesh_bed_leveling” as a setting. If you’re using Marlin, you’ll need to uncomment that line. The video also tells us to look for the “grid_max_points_X” which TH3D doesn’t include. Marlin users should be able to set this to 3, 4, or 5 to check 9, 16, or 25 points on the bed. LCD_BED_LEVELING is also a convenience setting that Marlin users will need to uncomment.

That is all that’s needed for firmware changes. Flash your build to the motherboard, and when it’s finished turn on the machine.

  • NOTE:
  • the TH3D instruction video for Creality printers uses the CR-10S and tells you to use Board: Arduino Mega 2560 and Processor: AT Mega 2560
  • The V1.1.5 board is a Sanguino 1284p that also uses the AT Mega 2560 processor
  • Also double check that you have only #define Ender3 uncommented; otherwise the Arduino IDE will try to flash the settings for a different printer
  • Do not have any of your slicer software running. For some reason that messes up the ports and you may get an error that the COM port is not available (this primarily applies to Windows users)

Go to Control and turn on the bed heater. I usually print at 65C for PETG, so I turned it up to 70C to ensure maximum bed-warping foolishness. In the Prepare menu you’ll now have a Bed Leveling option. Use your gage of choice (paper, thickness gage) to check that the nozzle is the proper distance from the bed. If it’s too high, turn the knob left and lower the height. I sometimes turn it way to the right to raise it some then work my way back down. I also try to not look at the numbers on the screen, instead focusing on the feel of the gage between the nozzle and bed.

When the settings are where you’d like them, select Store Settings from the menu. Then open your slicer and go to the area where you update your G Code. After your G28 command (home all axes) you’ll want to add M420 S1. This tells the slicer to use these z settings each time you start a new print.

That’s all there is to it. Run your favorite bed level test file to double check that it’s doing what you expect. Once it’s laying down the first layer to your satisfaction move on with printing other fun and useful things.

Manual Mesh Leveling for The Ender 3 3D Printer

base64 Encoding Pitfall

A picture is worth 1000 words, but let me start with the context. We are updating some config files in our deployment and we need base64 encode our user:pass as the token. My team isn’t allowed to do our own updates to production; we’re required to schedule releases with DevOps and provide them with a RunBook of step-by-step instructions. Here’s what I wrote, and note that I’m writing this piece because there was a process failure:

Image of python instructions to base64 encode a string.

My intern was able to follow these instructions to curl the API endpoint, so I figured all would be fine when seasoned professionals put their hands on the instructions. I suppose “figured” in the last sentence is a synonym for “assumed”….

DevOps notified us that they completed the process. I identify that we have a failure connecting to the service that the token is supposed to grant access to. When we asked about the JSON that was added to the config file, we’re told DevOps copied the return value from the encoding:

Image: screenshot of the response from DevOps that they did not copy the return value as directed.

By which they meant they copied all of “b’SooperSekritToekin'” from above.

As the author of the doc, where could I have been clearer? Would color have helped? I probably should have added a step (despite always getting pushback for doing so) that would have eliminated the need for the user to selectively copy something. For future reference, this is what the base64 encoding instructions will look like:

$ python3
>>> import base64
>>> t = base64.b64encode(bytes('username:password', 'ascii'))  n.b. do not forget the colon between
>>> print(t.decode()) 
# SooperSekritToekin  <-- copy this
base64 Encoding Pitfall

Fixing Pinterest’s Pin Builder

I’m trying to get my kitchen and dining room remodeled. The designer wants me to save ideas to Pinterest. Sure, no proble…. wait, what’s this?

I’m trying to save an image to my board as a new pin. That worked last week. Tonight, all it will let me do is add an image from my computer. But the ‘Save From Site’ button is still there. Clearly something is amiss…

So I fixed it. Locally anyway. It looks like someone moved the input field outside of the parent div and that made the input think it had ALL the vertical room, instead of sharing with the button.

I made a board with screenshots, here:

If you know how to contact customer support at Pinterest, or have an email to a dev on this team, let me know. It probably should be triaged as a blocking bug as it’s a regression and there’s not a workaround… but it’s an easy hotfix.

Fixing Pinterest’s Pin Builder

Pro-tip for Interior Designers

My partner and I are looking to remodel the fairly standard mid-century house we’re in. I’d call it a cratfsman, minus the more charming aspects of the textbook examples. Actually, I call it “Seattle two-story blueprint #4.” It was the brainchild of a guy who was sufficiently knowledgeable, but as we’re learning he didn’t have great follow through. There are a lot of places where he obviously stopped following any kind of plan and left something as “good enough.” What’s prompting this remodel quest is that he really, really liked to keep his spaces separate. Even the dining room and living room, which are connected by a 10 foot opening, feel like they’re entirely different spaces.

This means we’re looking for a designer. Which is hard. We paid several hundred dollars for a walk-through consultation that resulted in: move the kitchen to the other side of the house, take out all the interior walls. When I said “we don’t have a half million dollars to remo the upstairs” they replied, “you don’t have half a million dollars worth of square footage. This is $300K, tops… wait, are you saying there’s a downstairs?” Yikes. Now that we’re back to this project of renovating our forever-home we’re all over the internet.

So I clickbaited that this would be a tip, it’s really a plea: designers, please don’t exclusively feature the chateau, the log home, the mid-century modern with cathedral ceilings… I guarantee 90% of your potential clientele are not in that position. I get that you only have to design ONE house each year if it’s on Mercer Island, but goddamnit I want my house redesigned, too.

I want to see what you did in a kitchen with just under eight feet of vertical space. How did you turn a 200 sq ft kitchen from one-ass to the room where friends and family can congregate -while- dinner is being prepared – without tripping over the guests? What did you do for the living room that always feels small, despite being 300 sq ft? How did you manage the odd angles of a half-assed “breakfast nook”?

So if you could do me this favor, I’d really appreciate it. And I’ll hire your cousin the contractor.

Pro-tip for Interior Designers

Comparative costs for 3D prints -or- why high school chemistry is useful

Greetings! I recently purchased a resin 3D printer and got to thinking, “how much -does- it cost to print a miniature?”. I printed the same* mini in both resin and PLA plastic to get this started. It’s a skeleton from Fat Dragon Games that is designed to be printed without supports. I weighed them on the same scale, which displays three decimal places, so I’m fine taking an accuracy of two decimal places. (*Ok, they’re not 100% the same. the resin mini -does- have the thicker spear, and I think the skull was reworked a little as well. This is the upgraded model from FDG in response to people saying the end of the spear was breaking off during PLA printing.)

Resin on the left, PLA plastic on the right

Let’s start with the easy case, a FDM printed mini. FDM printers operate by pushing a plastic filament into a block that has a heater (to melt the plastic) and a nozzle (to direct the flow). The hot end deposits a layer of filament in very much the same way that frosting is piped onto a cake, then moves up a fixed amount to do the same with the next layer. This mini was printed at 0.12mm (120 micron). With FDM, there are no losses to speak of when I print a mini directly on the build plate, and if there are supports required, I can easily weigh those to consider them a part of my final cost.

The PLA-pro that I buy is currently $23 on Amazon (affiliate link if you want to check today’s price) and the rolls are 1kg. Simply moving the decimal place indicates 1g of filament is 2.3cents. Hooray for easy math. The PLA print weighs 1.97g so the PLA mini costs roughly 4.5cents. Four. Point. Five. Cents. This means for the price of three molded plastic minis I can print an army of about 180 skeletons.

Resin prints are formed from a bath of the resin goo. The build plate descends into the reservoir, UV light cures a layer of resin to the build plate, the plate moves up then back down to within some small distance from the bottom of the reservoir, UV light again and the process repeats. For this skeleton I printed each layer at 70micron (0.07mm). When the print is finished there’s some amount of resin that needs to be washed off the mini, and there are some losses when the resin is filtered during its return to the resin bottle. I’m going to say this is an ideal project where “only a little” of the resin spills out of the reservoir during cleanup, plus the film of partially-solid resin that surrounds the mini and is removed during post-processing combines to be 20% of the final weight. (This is partially based on conversations online regarding resin print costs in industry). I don’t know that’s an accurate value, but it’s a) within reason and b) easy to work with for math.

One thing I didn’t consider when I bought the Anycubic Photon is that resin, a liquid, is sold by weight? volume? Umm… I’m not sure. I know I pay $24.99 for a bottle, but the Amazon listing shows it’s both 500ml and 500g. Typically resins are sold by weight, and we found the cost of the PLA print by using weight, so let’s do that again, and we’ll say this resin costs $25/500g or 5cents/g.

For those of you a little rusty with your chemistry, density is mass divided by volume. 1ml (milliliter) of water ideally weighs 1g (gram), which means its density is 1g/ml. Note that 1ml is 1cm^3 (which will be handy to remember in a minute). Intuitively I considered that UV curing resin cannot have the same density as water, simply because there are lots of things that make up this goo. So I looked up the spec sheet to find that it has a liquid density of 1.1g/cm^3 and a solid density of 1.184g/cm^3.

So, let’s figure out how much this skeleton cost in materials. I have a mini that weighs 3.22g and has a reported solid density of 1.184g/cm^3. But I didn’t put solid resin into the reservoir, which means I need to do a density calculation if I want to be accurate about this. And let’s be honest, we’re talking about 3D printing miniatures for Dungeons and Dragons… we’re freaking nerds so we’re curious about the accurate measurement!

I need the volume of the mini to find the weight of the liquid resin so I can figure the cost per gram. density is mass/volume, so volume is mass divided by density. For the solid: 3.22g / 1.184g/cm^3 = 2.72cm^3. Now I take this volume and multiply it by the solid density to get the mass of liquid resin: 2.72cm^3 * 1.1g/cm^3 = 2.99g liquid resin.

Gut check – does this make sense? I assume the volume stays the same, only the density of the material is changing as a response to exposure to 405nm UV light. A more dense material for the same volume will weigh more.

Let’s add 20% to the liquid mass as described above to get our total liquid mass used in this project: 3.58g. At 5cents per gram, the resin skeleton cost a whopping 17.94cents. That means I can only print 47 skeletons for the cost of the Reaper skeletons listed above.

Rhetorical question: is this a reasonable comparison if we’re only printing 28mm miniatures in the Dungeons and Dragons medium- to large-size? Or, which printer should you buy if you only want one?

The Ender 3 that I listed above has a couple upgrades, in particular to the build surface. I prefer a glass build surface, and I upgraded the extruder gear (hob) on my machine. The machine linked is roughly $260 and I added about another $40 in parts to mine (here’s a link if you want a more bare-bones machine if you also plan to do these small upgrades).

My Anycubic Photon was purchased on sale for $340 and I have added nothing to it. I continue to use the included USB drive despite knowing it’s probably garbage, and I’m still using the resin and FEP sheet that were included in the box. Today, the machine is closer to $450.

I don’t think there’s a reasonable argument that the resin print does not look significantly better than the PLA print at the distance that picture was taken. This print is 100% on par with models that are available commercially, and I dare say they’re better because the spear isn’t all wobbly (I’m looking at you, Reaper). The resin prints cost more, oddly because the prints weigh more, not due exclusively to resin costs (though that’s what I expected coming into this). The resin printer’s layer height has a useful range of 20micron to 100micron. The print time on the resin skeleton at 70micron was about five hours. But! I can fit ten six* skeletons on the print bed and I can print them all at the same time for no additional time cost; the printer illuminates everything in a layer at the same time. On the other end, large prints, like a two-inch-tall section of terrain will still take five hours, at 100micron and I’ll have to add development time to hollow out the model and add holes to let uncured resin seep out.

* I did check how many minis I can print on the Photon’s bed and six is really the max because I print at a 40 degree angle, leaning back.

The resin printer lives in the garage because the smell is really powerful (think tire store, or cheap Chinese tools). It sits inside a disposable aluminum turkey pan in case the resin spills. I have to wear gloves and eye protection when handling anything that may have uncured resin on/in it. Each print has to go into an isopropyl alcohol bath for initial resin removal then a second alcohol bath to ensure the partially cured resin layer has been removed. Then each print goes into a UV curing chamber for at least 10 minutes, as do the paper towels I use to clean up, and the filter funnels I use when returning resin to the bottle. This translates to roughly another $60 in expenses for post-processing.

The FDM print, compared to commercial models looks pretty good. Put some paint on it, put it on a table in a room that’s lit for D&D and I suspect no one will know it’s a 3D print unless they already knew it was a 3D print. The miniature took roughly 90 minutes to complete. Each additional mini adds about 105% time because there’s time lost waiting for the print head to move from one mini to another. The FDM printer’s layer height has a useful range of 120micron to 320 micron (0.12mm to 0.32mm). This means the mini shown above is about as good as it gets with FDM but I can print larger pieces like terrain without it taking all day for a single two-inch-tall tile. I can swap out the nozzle for something larger, which gives me a higher top-end for layer heights and the slicing software knows it can push a wider bead of filament. The opposite is not true, unfortunately. I spent many many hours trying to make a 0.2mm nozzle print layer heights of 0.04mm (still 20% of the nozzle’s diameter) and could not produce reliable results that look better than what you see above. Mostly the issues came down to the filament clogging in the nozzle.
FDM printers also have a larger range of bed sizes. I printed the pieces for this Tiamat model at 150% of the original, and each wing is twelve inches, which just fit my build plate.

The FDM printer lives in my basement and I’ve had two of them running during game nights in their cabinets and no one knew they were working until I mentioned it during a break. I can handle bare filament and printed filament with bare hands. FDM prints are ready to go as soon as the print head stops depositing plastic.

If I had to have only one I would have an Ender 3, despite really appreciating the larger build volume of my CR-10S. But the Anycubic will be fantastic for printing “special” minis like player heroes, bosses and military vehicles that require high detail to fit the game. If I need more minion pieces, like skeletons, they’re going to be printed on an FDM.

Comparative costs for 3D prints -or- why high school chemistry is useful

Galvanize Data Science Prep, pt 2

Hey, so guess who forgot to write an update last week? The course has been great, I highly recommend it. Part 2 was released yesterday (Wednesday, the course concludes Friday). [edit: and an update to Part 1, see the list below] Pt 2 is intended as a primer for students who are enrolling into the data science intensive, and looks like it expands on the topics covered in the prep course. The instructor won’t be available after Friday, but the slack team will still be active, and the other students have been helpful whenever there’s a question posted. Here’s what’s additionally on offer:

  • Git Primer
    • Primer, Concepts, submitting work to the instructor
  • In-terminal Editors
    • Vim
    • Nano
  • Object Oriented Programming
    • Terminology
    • Classes
    • Initialization and ‘self’
    • Methods
    • Magic Methods
  • Pandas
    • Pandas Series
    • Panda DataFrames
    • Merging DataFrames
    • Split, Apply, Combine data
    • Visualize Data with Pandas
    • File I/O
    • intro to Exploratory Data Analysis
  • Interpret functions as integrals and derivatives
    • Mathematical Limits
    • Derivatives and rates of change
    • Integrals of functions
    • Connection between derivatives and integrals
  • Linear Algebra 1
    • Matrix Inversion
    • Systems of Linear Equations
    • Vector Similarity
  • Linear Algebra 2
    • Linear Algebra from a Geometric Perspective
    • Linear Transformations Overview
    • Rotations
    • Changing Dimensions
    • Eigenvectors and Eigenvalues
  • Statistics and Probability
    • Random Variables
    • Distributions
    • Estimation
  • Back in Part 1 SQL was added some time this week
    • Database Structure
    • Populating a database
    • Writing simple queries
    • Writing aggregate queries
    • Joining tables
    • SQL style conventions

So wow, that’s a lot of ground to cover. It looks like a really good expansion on the topics in Part 1, and I’m looking forward to going through that material.

The modules I outlined in my previous post have been generally good. There are some aspects where there isn’t a clear line between A and B. In a lot of ways that mimics my experience in engineering school; a primary difference being that I now have the web to look for explanations of things that aren’t making sense. Back then I could reread the textbook, review my crummy notes or try the math tutoring center (if it was open and if I could get over my anxiety about asking for help). I’m much better about using the resources that are available to me.

Now I have a plethora of examples to look for one that makes sense to my brain about how a particular math operation should work. There are some aspects of using NumPy that simply need practice and repetition, but fortunately I’m comfortable and experienced with googling my code problems.

So far there’s only been one challenge (end of module) problem that I’ve called shenanigans on. It required using a technique that was discussed and we were given two basic practice problems to see how it works. The question in question required recalling this technique several modules later, then applying said technique to a new method that behaves very differently from anything we’d encountered previously. I was able to figure it out, but it felt like the learning was less about how to use the method and more about deep-diving on problem solving. This question was either a success or not, depending on their intended outcomes.

Having the instructor has been really helpful. I’m new-ish to Python and how the syntax parses. Having someone to pair with to review my code and tidy it up was fantastic.

I’m looking forward to finishing this first probability module today. As I’m able to continue with the new material, I’ll make some new posts to compare these “deep dives” with the modules in the first section.

Galvanize Data Science Prep, pt 2