Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Author Archive

3D Printing & Scanning – Grant Johnson

Before Building

The alien created, which was then added to further in Meshmixer

Before working on my final piece for this assignment, I had the opportunity to work with a variety of different tools/platform in order to try and create well designed, 3d printable models.

These various methods of developing models had their pros and cons — using iPads and scanners didn’t work very well, but I could see how this would be a super easy and convenient way to scan models if it was working 100%. Using the Kinect was very interesting, seeing how it captured motion somewhat accurately, but was prone to duplicating or leaving off fine details on a model. TinkerCAD was cool to use because it had a lot of very basic tools and simplified the modeling process down to its bare bones in able to kind of push you to think about how to make the things you want to in the most straightforward way. Using Meshmixer allowed me to shape models more carefully, as well as giving me the ability to analyze them in different capacities and discover problems that might make my models difficult/impossible to print.

The 3D model of myself captured with the Kinect!

I created a small alien model within class using TinkerCAD and a bust of myself using the Kinect and Meshmixer before I even began preparing for the assignment. Unfortunately, I don’t have the best possible pictures of what these ended up looking like because my Epique folder was deleted from the server and I lost the files because of that. But imagine the alien with more detail and horns and imagine the bust being more consistently filled.

Build Process

This assignment was quite the undertaking for me, but eventually I was able to persevere through it and make a prototype for a necessary object that I think is pretty cool. I experienced a lot of technical difficulties along the way, but in terms of my own design decisions (and decisions on what prompt I wanted to take on) there were also some things that snagged my build process.

The eagle I half designed, residing patriotically on his pedestal.

I originally started this project by deciding that I wanted to create a 3D print for the 2nd prompt, creating a cultural artifact. I had started the

A rough drawing of my initial and final designs.

design of an eagle on a pedestal that I planned on adding more shapes and edits to by the time we went to lab for our midterm report in. Around this time, I realized how difficult it would be to print the specific thing I wanted and how much care/time I would have to put into changing up my model. After thinking things over some more I decided to work on a different prompt.

A very rough beginning design for my sketch pad.

I decided to work on prompt #4 at this point, designing a custom-built object from scratch to serve some purpose in my life. A

problem that I consistently run in to is that I want to draw in bed often. This may seem like the type of problem that can be easily solved with a notebook or a hard object to lay paper on top of, but things

My design, a little more fleshed out

aren’t always that simple. One problem I run into is that I like to be able to use a variety of different gauges/colors of pens/pencils when I am drawing, and neither a notebook or a hard object really have a place to lay more pens when in the types of positions you lay in a bed in. I then realized I could create a tray that could hold multiple sheets of paper within a lipped area, allowing me to draw and store some drawings, while also having a surface to work on. This surface would be able to support pressure on it regardless of if it was laying on something or not, making it some what different from drawing on top of a book or something, for example. I also realized I could include a pencil holder and a tray for an eraser, all while keeping this drawing pad extremely light and travel-friendly. Finally, I decided to add the personal touch of writing a message to myself to keep on the pad at all times — appropriately, “Draw More”.

Adding the adjustments to the “Draw More” design

The TAZ crapping out on my 14 hour print!

I, at first, hoped to create this design using the TAZ, as it was the only printer I had access to that could print something as large as a piece of paper (8.5″x11″). After realizing that other people typically use it for larger prints as well (and these take a long time, therefore making it unavailable) and trying to use it myself (and having it fail on me), I decided to shoot for a slightly smaller final product. I created the same drawing pad, but decided to size down the tray so that it would fit typical 3″x3″ sticky notes. All other features were reincorporated into the design, with a slightly shorter pencil holder (my other one topped out at about 6″) in order to make the design printable on the Flash Forges. I also decided on making the “Draw More” come out of the pad in a way that would allow it to be more accurately printed (rotated along the Z axis).

My absolute final design for the sticky note sketcher.

I did all my designing initially within TinkerCAD and then would pull the files into Meshmixer to either slightly alter them, fix holes, or look for structural weaknesses that needed to be fixed. After multiple, multiple iterations I finally found a design that was pleasing to me and a machine that could print it out given its size and accuracy requirements.

Final Reflection

My final product, all printed out and in use!

All-in-all, I had a super interesting experience with 3D printing for the very first time. I obviously ran into a bunch of issues with being able to get tech to work properly, as well as be available enough to troubleshoot all the problems I was running into (I had a large midterm project due the same time as this assignment, along with a bunch of assignments in other classes). I also had a hard time specifying in on what prompt I wanted to take on and I definitely think that was kind of a process of just attacking 3D printing head-on. I understand the ‘iterative’ process behind 3D printing much more thoroughly after this assignment as well. I can see how 3D printing is definitely within the stage of just trying designs out for the most part right now, but I think that those designs, as simple as they can be, can be very successful in solving unique problems.

I think the process of printing itself is actually pretty simple, just time-consuming and hard to access in a way. The design of models and especially the process of refining models can be extremely tedious and is definitely a skill that I think would take some time to develop. I don’t think that there’s anything I would really change about how I attacked this assignment, as it really gave me a broad perspective of the different challenges you can run into with 3D printing and how to take those on in a variety of different ways. This was a really fulfilling assignment to receive a final product for! The link to my final design can be found here, as required by the prompt I chose:


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Copper Tape Paper Circuit Project – Grant Johnson

Build Process

Through our initial introduction to circuits and some prior knowledge, I was presented with a pretty wide variety of possibilities for a final product for this assignment. As per usual, my initial idea was more complicated than feasible — I wanted to use a person’s finger to complete the circuit in order to turn on the LEDs within my pop-up card. I wasn’t able to find much information on how to do this correctly (I did see some designs that said a resistor was necessary?), so I decided to simplify my design.

The initial cityscape which would be both carved and etched on a piece of paper.

I eventually came up with a design for the card in my mind that would depict Godzilla standing in front of a cityscape, at a distance, coming out of the water. I figured with how intricate a city silhouette would be (and how large the LEDs can be stuck through an average sized piece of paper) that I would take the lights and fan them around Godzilla, in the skyline, to both light him up and possibly make it look like he was charging up to fire his energy beam. After playing around with the LEDs some I found that I would need to use multiple batteries per series in order to get the voltage I needed. Using a voltmeter I also noticed that there was a voltage drop after the first LEDs in my circuits, which provided just enough power for the next LED over. I used a series circuit, so I am aware that if one LED burns out then the whole circuit of LEDs will drop.

My finalized circuit set-up for my Godzilla card. Here you can see the copper going down the hinge and series circuit structure I used.
My finalized cut out of Godzilla, as well as the city and the ‘reflection’ on the other side of the hinge.

After deciding on what I wanted to use the LEDs for and how I wanted my card to be designed, I cut out the shapes of Godzilla and a city skyline using Inkscape and the paper cutters. Once I had my cutout shapes and backing for my card, I realized that the best place for me to run my wire to make switches would be behind Godzilla on the hinge pushing him outward. I then ran the wire underneath the other half of the paper to where I had cut switches in the backing that stick out from the bottom of the card.

Everything ended up working pretty well in the end. I think that one main problem I ran into is how certain colors of light won’t work within the same circuit as others. I solved this by just bunching my lights in ways that complimented each other. Another problem was that when I hooked multiple LEDs into a circuit I had to double up on batteries, which made securing the whole thing a bit more difficult, but far from impossible.

…And the right-side lights!
…The left-side lights…
My final build…


Overall, I think this project ended up turning out better than I could have even hoped for. The process was a bit hard to conceptualize, but once you take some time to play around a little and try different things, you very quickly realize what the limits are and what you can do.

I think that if I were to redo my card I would try and place the horizon farther up from the hinge of the card because the way mine was cut ended up making that layer structurally kind of weak. Once it was all glued this didn’t matter, but I think it may just give a better quality to the card. I also think that my card would be better if Godzilla was just a teensy bit smaller, he kind of takes up a lot of real estate.

This project helped revitalize a lot of knowledge I had about electronics and circuits specifically, while also giving me the opportunity to use those skills to make something simple, practical, and fun. I would love to make more cards like this for other people — I think they would get a kick out of them.

The hardest part of this project is probably finding a way to mesh both your design elements and the practical elements of things like where am I going to glue parts together, where am I going to run wire, etc. I ended up having to string my wire across the “3d” hinge of my card because I found that the best place with how my background was cut out. Something that is fairly simple is the process of building circuits, but this can quickly ratchet up in difficulty depending on how many lights you want to add, how your switches work, the amount of electricity you’re feeding into the circuit, etc.

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Multi-layer Sticker Project – Grant Johnson

Build Process

My initial design, which helped me get experience with cutting vinyl and using Inkscape

The initial stickers I created for this project helped push me in the direction of my final product in a major way. Experimenting with images that were more complicated than a simple shape or silhouette proved difficult and made me decide that I would take simple shapes to make a greater image.

I inevitably decided on making a Valentine’s Day sticker for my girlfriend because of the timeliness of this project. She really loves chihuahuas, so I decided that a chihuahua on a heart would be the perfect image for her. I also wanted to create an interesting design using simple shapes, so I made a pattern of circles to overlay with a background color to help contain the sticker and extend beyond just being a two shape design.

The design process in this project was without a doubt the biggest time commitment for this project. Carving shapes out and thinking about how layers will be laid out took a while to ensure my final product would turn out both correct and in a way that would layer correctly.

The cutting process within this project is really satisfying to me and it’s super cool seeing exact shapes get spit out by the cutters. Making designs that are easy to extract from the full sheet is definitely a challenge and takes some experience with vinyl in order to pull off.


I think one important thing I learned from this project is how complicated things can get very quickly when it comes to multi-layer sticker designs. The first couple ideas I thought of immediately became so difficult to actually try and execute that I had to abandon them. However, it was a lot of fun to try and think of ways to make more simple shapes into more complex patterns and arrangements to make something that looks much more complicated than it really is.

I was also extremely limited for time during this project and I think that if I had more time (or the fab lab was open during different times!) I would have been able to create some even cooler stickers.

Learning more in-depth tools within Inkscape made me realize how similar it is to Illustrator and how it could easily be used as a replacement in a pinch.

I had a lot of fun with this project and it’s insanely cool to be able to create little designs/pictures of your own and put them on everything. I was happy with my final product and I hope my girlfriend is too!

And both of my final, printed-out products on my desk!
My final sticker design, ready to be cut!
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Storyboard Assignment – Grant Johnson

First Attempt

My first attempt, created in class. I was unable to finish, but started generating ideas of how I wanted the app to function.

For this assignment I decided to tackle the challenge of designing an app for the Fab Lab. My first storyboard was very simple and somewhat vague. After creating it and letting other people look at it I realized that I needed to be more clear in the functions and concepts I was trying to explain through the storyboard. I also realized I needed to set up the setting better as it was kind of difficult to understand in my original draft.

Second Attempt

My second, and more complete, storyboard. Notice the very evil looking star man at the end.

For my second attempt I tried to refine my first try and make sure everything I was communicating was succinct and well-defined. I was also able to then think of more unique and helpful features that could be baked-in to the app that would make it extremely helpful and inviting to those that are just learning about the Lab. I made use of a lot of text in this storyboard, but I think it is somewhat necessary for how complicated some of the things I am talking about are to visualize interestingly. In this copy I also tried to set up the setting better and make the flow of the storyboard more organized and easy to understand.

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Laser Name Tag Project – Grant Johnson

My initial design that ended up being the look I carried on

Build Process

Most of the initial design for this project I was able to do within lab on the first day. After being introduced to Inkscape, I was able to take some elements from various icons online and create a design that incorporated both my name and two images.

For the first print-out, I just placed this object in a file where the coffin would be raster and there would be a vector box around it that would get cut out. After seeing that in-person I decided to ramp up my design by adding vector cut lines around the coffin. I also decided to cut out the ‘bottom’ of the coffin as well and place the whole thing on acrylic. From there I got two-tone acrylic to work with so that my raster lines would be very clear in the final product. When cutting that out with the Epilog I created some small fires within the laser printer that kind of scorched my name tag. I think this was essentially because of the bottom piece getting cut out, but maybe changing my cutting settings would have also affected this.

My final two-tone product being cut

After finishing with that, I then cut out another piece of acrylic. This time, I used a piece that had a metallic finish on one side. After cutting all of that out, I then superglued the pieces together to create my final product. Lastly, I attached a magnet to the back so that I would be able to wear the name tag. Throughout the entirety of my project I used Inkscape, the Epilog, superglue, and a bar magnet set.


Looking at my final product, I’m mostly pretty happy with my work. I was able to create a name tag using the exact parameters in my head, I think from this point it would just be more of a process of refining what I’ve already done.

I think the two sheets of acrylic give the name tag a really cool sense of variety and depth which I was happy with. I think that it could definitely be cleaned off some more (glue stains worked away, white acrylic cleaned with Tide Pen or something).

Nothing in this project was really exceptionally difficult, but I was able to use a lot of skills that I already know from using image processing software to make a physical product which was really cool. I learned a lot, especially in regards to Inkscape and laser etching/cutting and the process that goes into that.

The front of my final product
The back of my final product
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