All the little things: launching commit history and likes

This week was about little improvements. There’s been a bunch of small things that have been bugging me, and with categories finished, I could turn my head towards fixing the little things on Cubehero.

We now have a really basic commit history listing, which means, you can see a history of the changes that happened in the project over time. Cubehero can do this because it’s built upon git, a distributed version control software. Version control, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is software that keeps every version of your project, so you can go back in time. It’s essentially a giant undo button for your project.


history of commits


However, much of the power of git is in the command line, and not yet exposed by Cubehero’s web interface. As I add more features, you’ll be able to access more of its power without learning command line git. For now, we can just see the commit history.

We can also now like someone’s physible project. You need to be logged in, in order to like something. Send people some love for their creativity and ingenuity. You’ll also noticed that you can now see descriptions of the project physibles when you hover over the gallery picture. With transparency. Awesome sauce.


like a project and description



There’s been a lot of little changes this week that may not bear mentioning at this time. Where we go from here, is working towards being able to share changes with each other. For any of the amazing projects above, I’d like to be able to fork (clone a derivative of) their project, make some changes, and then contribute back.

I’ve also been thinking about changing the format of these blog post / newsletter updates. Most of it has admittedly been announcements about Cubehero, but I’m thinking of writing more about how to help you with 3D printing or 3D modeling. The topics on the table right now are modeling with OpenSCAD, the benefits of version control, and a survey of hardware for 3D printers. Lemme know what you’d like to hear about! And always I welcome feedback, if you have any questions or comments. Thanks to @talpa and @fdefoy for the recent feedback!

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Posted in announcement

Cubehero busts out categories

root categories

For a long time, Cubehero didn’t have categories, since there was a low number of physible projects. However, by far, this was the most requested feature that you all have asked for. I’m glad to say that its here!

Categories can be assigned to a physible project by any logged in user. I will be moderating the assignments for the time being, but in the future, categories will be user-generated and user-moderated.

When you visit a category, there are subcategories and breadcrumbs to help you navigate up and down the hierarchy of categories.

sub categories

As simple as it looks, it took me a while to design and architect it. When it comes to navigation, it should be simple and easy as to be unnoticeable. If you have feedback on how it can be improved, let me know. I’m always open to suggestions. Enjoy!

Posted in announcement

“3D printing makes you a superhero” and other insights from Bay Area Software Engineers Meetup

BASE meetup

This week, I attended the Bay Area Software Engineers meetup on 3D printing. I haven’t really gone much to these things, because the information presented is usually pretty rudimentary. However, in spirit of talking to more people interested in 3D printing, I went to check it out for the night. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did I meet some cool people, but there were tid bits by the speakers that were interesting. I’ll share some highlights of each speaker, and then summarize my thoughts on some of the topics mentioned.

The first speaker was Ted Larson of OLogic. As the first speaker, he had a comprehensive overview of what 3D printers were. Good introduction for the uninitiated. Since there’s many articles on the web for beginners about 3D printing, I won’t rehash it here. Jeff McAlvay is the founder of Tempo Automation spoke mostly about the machine his company is making, which automates electronics board making.

  • Tempo Automation’s desktop machine places components onto etched boards.
  • It can do it regardless of the orientation of components and board by using machine learning.
  • In the future, the machine will also be able to etch the board, solder the components, and reflow them.
  • It’s typically hard to manufacture small runs of boards. Their machine is trying to enable faster iteration cycles of small runs of boards.

Espen Sivertsen of Type A Machines was up next. Out of all the talks, his was the most interesting to me.

  • 3D printers aren’t yet ready to be in every home. They’re slow and unreliable.
  • But the pace of the industry moves very fast. 6 months and everything changes.
  • Hence, he makes some predictions about what’s to come.
  • Printers will get faster, cheaper, more precise, reliable, and easier to use. Of the 100+ 3D printer makers, they’re tackling one of those problems.
  • 3D modeling software will need to be much easier to use. Mouse is unintunitve for this task, and gesture control might be better.
  • 3D scanning will get better to give people different options for modeling besides CAD programs.
  • Use of 3D printing in mold generation for secondary processes.
  • Global manufacturing will become local, where local kinkos will have 3D printers.
  • 3D printers in education is important. The mindset of the child becomes one of experimentation and learning it’s ok to fail.

Daniell Applestone of Other Machine Company make OtherMill, a desktop CNC machine. She didn’t talk too much about the machine, but talked about why people love 3D printing.

  • Why do people love 3D printing? 3D printing makes you a superhero.
  • There was really only 3 ways to become a superhero: 1) be exposed to radioactivity 2) be an alien 3) obtain technology and become a god. 3D printing was the third way to become a superhero.
  • Essentially, it’s about control and not needing other people’s permission.
  • The software component is going to be essential and important in making this possible.
  • Global becomes local, where people will solve problems in their local community because they know it best.

Lastly, we heard from Emmett Lalish of Microsoft. He’s the one that designed the screwless heart gears that many have printed.

  • 3D printing is not just 2D printing with another dimension. 2D printing was merely a stopgap in the way to disseminate information efficiently before we had the internet.
  • 3D printing makes objects, which is markedly different. But until we have augmented tactile sensors, 3D printers will fulfill a niche.
  • CAD software is abysmal. Hard to learn, written for engineers by engineers. This needs to get better.
  • There will never be one 3D printer marketplace to rule them all. Many different people have different niche needs.
  • 3D printers have many problems today that need to be solved, from materials, quality, speed, calibration, to usability, reliability, content, and geometry.
  • There are environmental advantages to using 3D printers, from less pollution in delivery of object, reusing the plastic, to biodegradable plastics itself.
  • Microsoft is working on making it one-click-to-print, and releasing a file format for 3D printing over STL, called 3MF. It’s an XML format that contains information other than geometry, like thumbnails and textures.

Overall, my thoughts on the talks were that they were deeper than the usual hyperbole from those that haven’t ever used 3D printers before. The speakers were practitioners firmly planted in reality, but also had the foresight to see what was coming. There are several interesting themes in the talks:

Faster iteration and smaller runs

There is a general trend towards making it easier to make small run of electronics (from 10 to about 500 units). Our global supply chains are mostly set up to take advantage of volume and mass quantities. Many manufacturing suppliers won’t talk to you if you want to make less than a couple thousand units. Being able to shorten iteration times doesn’t only change the speed in which you can deliver your product. More importantly, the shorter iteration times changes how you design from “ready-aim-fire” to “ready-fire-aim”. When you’re able to iterate at a small enough time-scale, you can try more things in the same amount of time, and as a result, you can more fully explore the problem space. A linear decrease in iteration time results in at least a polynomial increase in exploration. Hence, the types of things you can design will also expand in a non-linear fashion.

Without their permission

Having the tools to do things yourself with shorter iteration times not only means faster design speed and exploration of a problem space. You also didn’t need anyone else’s permission to make something. Recently, Alexis Ohanian of Reddit released his book “Without Their Permission“, which details the account of how he started Reddit with the backdrop of how the internet fosters innovation and creativity explicitly because you don’t need anyone’s permission to make something that helps others. Many of the tools people are building for other makers are along those lines. So far, I see many of the same core concepts that made the internet such a powerful force being implemented in the overall tide to make hardware more accessible to everyone.

A change in learning mindset.

Epsen mentioned that when kids used 3D printing, he found that they had a mindset for better learning–which was being ok with failure. This contributed to the boldness of their designs and confidence about their imagination. The mindset for effort, experimentation, and being ok with failure, will serve them well in the future, I believe. Our world changes at a much faster pace than it did before. There are jobs now that didn’t even exist five years ago. It won’t be surprising that kids now will be doing jobs that don’t even exist. Hence, teaching kids how to learn how they best learn is a valuable thing. But I find it’s also a shift in mindset and attitude to realize you can make objects to change your environment or solve your own problems. As a software engineer, we take for granted that we can write code to solve our own problems in the digital world. This is why there are those of us that fight hard for open source software and GNU/free software–so we can make those changes. Many other disciplines that use computers but don’t program them are noticeably lax in their imagination to solve their own problems in the digital world because they don’t believe they can change it. It’s quite empowering and freeing when you’re able to do so, and 3D printing affords the same power I have in the digital world, but in the real world.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

3D printers themselves aren’t the only things that need improvement. Complementary products such as 3D modeling can be much better. CAD software is abysmal, and it needs to be much easier to use. When Espen mentioned gesture control, I imagine it’s something like Tony Stark’s design system. Some of this technology already exists in the form of Elon Musk’s design prototype built upon leap motion, and in 3gear’s highly accurate gesture technology. And other prototypes that are on their way to production, such as Meta’s SpaceGlasses and Thalmic Lab’s Myo. We don’t yet have a universal gesture language to manipulate objects. What is the gesture for “create a hole”? Or “line this up”? While that’s surmountable, I think it will still be hard to design 3D objects with these platforms without haptic feedback. Until you can both see and feel the object you’re creating, I imagine there will still be a gap in intuition.

If you’d like me to write about or expand on any of the thoughts above, hit me up in the comments or on twitter and let me know. Until next time, have a good week!

Posted in analysis, event

Ever wanted to spray vodka in your mouth?

Looking around a restaurant, I saw different type of dispensers, from nozzles to pumps. That got me thinking, why there weren’t sprays? For something like ketchup, it’s obvious the viscosity would be too much. But what about vodka? Haven’t people ever wanted to spray vodka into their mouths?

Of course, Smirnoff would never endorse something like this, but with 3D printing, we can take our creativity into our own hands. So I designed an adapter so I can attach a sprayer on top of a Smirnoff vodka bottle. Behold!

everyspray adapter

It may not look like much, but awesomeness often come in small packages. The male end of the adapter fits a classic windex sprayer, and the female part of the adapter fits over a smirnoff bottle. So it looks like this:

everyspray on Smirnoff bottle

Now, decadent party-goers can have a new way to make a fool of themselves, shooting vodka at each other, and mostly missing the mouth. Or, if you prefer, an easy way to create a makeshift flamethrower (at your own risk)! And if that doesn’t really appeal to you, know that you can spray stems to help preserve flowers, albeit impractically.

As silly as this application may be, before 3D printing was available, it was just impossible to make something like this. You can remix and recombine the world around you in ways that was not anticipated by others. When you get use to the idea of being able to remold the world around you, the world looks very different. Because when you realize that everything in the world around you was made by people no smarter than you, you’ll feel compelled to make it better.

Want to download and print your own? The project is called Everyspray and hosted at Cubehero. If you have patches to attach the sprayer to other types of bottles, just submit files to the community.

Like post? Follow me on twitter.

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Posted in model

Cubehero launches support for all six creative commons licenses

Cubehero launches support for all six creative_commons licenses


I heard that some of you took issue with only having a single license for your physible projects. Now, you can set it to any of the six creative commons licenses. It’s available when you create or edit the settings for a physible project.

Don’t know which license to choose? I wrote up a Guide to Creative Commons Licenses up for you get up to speed on which license might be the best for you. 

Just chugging away at your feature suggestions. If you got more, just let me know.

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Posted in announcement

Cubehero launches OpenSCAD previews

openscad previews

It’s finally here. Besides rendering previews of binary and ASCII STL files, Cubehero now renders OpenSCAD files.

Now, you don’t need to compile your SCAD files into STL files in the repository to be able to see previews of the file.

I’ve got much bigger releases for you shortly. Thanks for your continued support!

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Agoras for everybody. Now you can connect over what you’ve shared

When we share our creations, we’re bravely putting a part of ourselves out there. We want to spread the joy of what we made, and have others give us feedback on what they love about it and to really connect over the love of making.

Last week, I released community agoras for discussing and giving feedback about Cubehero itself to start. Today, I’m releasing it to all project physibles. Now, you can connect with your fans and collaborators of your work. Start discussing issues, trade urls, and show each other what you’ve done.

Cubehero has a common agora for all project physibles of the same name. So if you fork a physible, you’re all part of the same community. If you’re the first to make a physible, you get the seed the agora.

Create an agora for your physible

Once it’s been created, everyone will see a link to the community on every physible with the same name. No more button on the side, but a nicely formatted link to the community.

Link to community agora for discussion

In a fresh new agora, create a topic and seed it with what fans of your project might want to talk about. Any user can create a topic and comment on it. Over time, you’ll get to interact with others with the same interest in building the same thing as you.

Create topics for your agora

We all like to express ourselves in the way we really mean, so markdown has been enabled for comments, and in the text topics. If you want bold, you can have it–but not to the detriment of others! We don’t need another MySpace (the old version) on the internets.

Use Markdown for comments!

And lastly, all the topics can be upvoted with approval, so the most interestingly new topic is at the top. Classic upvoting with rising and falling topics. This part is a bit of an experiment. Most forum software don’t use this algorithm for ranking the topics, but I’ve found it useful in finding new and interesting things. Let’s see how this pans out.

The classic upvote of approval

Let me know what you think about the new changes after you’ve tried it out. I’ve really enjoyed the feedback you guys have given so far. Let me know if you have any questions. Til next time, I’m still kicking out new features and benefits to help us all work on 3D printed projects together.

Posted in announcement