Almost Instant Replacement Parts



3D Printed Motor Mount For TekSumo

Ever crash, something you bought from Hobby King or other overseas importer and then have to wait a month for replacement parts? Well if you have not, you are probably not flying hard enough. But, getting those parts can be a pain and take you out of the air for weeks.

One of the reasons I was so interested in 3D printing was the ability to design and replace parts rapidly. Granted, the way the 3D printer market is now, it will never be economical. You would have do print 400 $5 parts to be in the black and that is not including the plastic. So if you do this you need to be in to for the journey of exploration, not looking for a deal.

The motor mount on the TekSumo does the job, for a while. If you bought the Teksumo because it was cheap (as I did) you probably did not invest in a folding prop (again my position). This mean after 3 landings or so the mount starts to break down. I tried hot gluing the thing together, but that was just prolonging the inevitable. The mount was trash.

In fact while I was designing the replacement, my wife threw out the balsa mount wreckage thinking it WAS trash.

This post is not really a how to but if you want to build your own you will need:

  • A 3d printer (Makerbot Replicator 2)
  • PLA or ABS filament
  • Design software (123d is what I use)
  • Micrometer

Or a 3D printer and my designs from Thinkaverse. Which are linked below.

The general process is:

  1. Take very detailed measurements of the mount
  2. Build a mental picture of what it looks like
  3. Create a 2D drawing(s) of the object
  4. Take the object into 123d
  5. Move the object to Makerware or other slicing software
  6. Print

3D Printed Motor Mount For TekSumo

In step 3 you need to be noting subtle things like thrust angles. What at first glance might look like a 90 degree junction might actually have a 3 degree deflection. Your micrometer should pay for itself.

3D Printed Motor Mount For TekSumo


If you did everything correctly in design and something is not wrong with your printer, you should be pretty good. I was really happy all the screws lined up with the correct holes.

3D Printed Motor Mount For TekSumo


Once I fly it I will see if the thrust angle needs to change. I designed it with the default 3 degrees down. I usually have to trim the wing quite a bit especially with FPV gear.

3D Printed Motor Mount For TekSumo

It ended up working out, but the holes for the wires could have been larger.

3D Printed Motor Mount For TekSumo


It maybe possible to take additional weight off this thing, but I don’t think its that much heavier than the original. If there is one criticism of this wing is its CG is very sensitive. If it was not for the CG issue I would think about mounting the ESC on top.





3D Printed Motor Mount For TekSumo

If it turns out to be weak I can increase the infill percentage. Basically the walls you see are not solid they have a pattern in them. The infill is not something you design, its something the slicing software creates. Basically if you picture the advanced settings on a traditional printer, same thing. I did not notice any flex when I as working on it, so at this point I don’t see the advantage of adding the weight.

3D Printed Motor Mount For TekSumo

3D Printed Motor Mount For TekSumo

If you want to make one, you can down load it from thingaverse.


Replicator2 is Now Alive!

After what felt like a crazy long wait, the Makerbot is now making things. I have to say that Makerbot’s support really came through on this one. They sent me a replacement rear panel (which was damaged in shipping) and a new nozzle/thermal bar assembly. Funny enough new Makerbots were announced this week at CES 2014. As I found out, one of their upgrades, the snap on snap off extruder it a big design and repair improvement.

This is the repair I had to do:

What I found strange is just about every component in the extruder assembly can disconnect from the umbilical thing that goes to the motherboard. That is except the thermocouple.

Another interesting thing on the mother board / mighty board, whatever they call it, has connections for a second extruder. Could the difference between the Rep2 and the 2x simply be the second extruder?

Makerbot Replicator 2 mighty board


Anyway, I am pumped this thing is working. I still find it hard to believe it actually works. So far the first prints are looking good.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Fail Out Of The Box

The Makerbot Replicator 2 is something I have been lusting over since it came out. There is some debate over if it is actually the best on the market. That depends on what plastic you want to print. They certainly have excellent marketing and a large first mover (or maybe printer) advantage. Even if Makerbot is not the “best” printer on the market, they definitely have the only real support organization, as I sadly had to find out.

The central promise of Makerbot is you sit this thing on your desk and then you unleash your creativity on the physical world. They are marketing this as if this machine is ready for prime time. The word on the street is maybe this is not yet ready for the consumer market but it is really good. My machine arrived damaged and faulty. So maybe that is bad luck, we will see. Anyway, here is the unboxing and setup:

Ever crack open a complicated product and the manual is on the bottom. Apparently that has happened at the Botcave too, because the manual is on top and slightly to the right.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Box

What you can’t see here is a gash in the back of the box. Looks like UPS or Amazon banged it into a corner. From what we could see from the outside, everything looked ok. Probably because the Makerbot itself was wrapped in plastic.

 Makerbot Replicator 2 box

Top and bottom this thing is well protected.

 Makerbot Replicator 2 Shipping Damage

Ouch. There was the first problem. Luckily this is superficial damage. The back panel, actually all the panels are some sort of super foam board. When I told Makerbot support about the crack, they said they would ship out a new one.

 Makerbot Replicator 2 Accessories box

The accessory box was neatly packed. Just like an ink jet printer the first ink/PLA is free but it’s a smaller size. Mine came with transparent PLA.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Power Supply

This was an odd one. The power supply was double boxed. Looks like Makerbot are getting the power supplies overseas, which is not a big deal. Wonder why they are double boxing them?

Makerbot Replicator 2 Build Platform and Blue Tape

The build plate. Some sort of Lexan or acrylic. I have read that there are problems with these being warped. I did not notice an issue. Makerbot also included several sheets of blue painters tape. Is there any market that 3M wont get into?

Makerbot Replicator 2 3d Printed Packing Parts

The Rep Rap, the machine that the Replicator 2 evolved from was focused on producing its own parts. That seems to be a common theme in the 3D printer world. If you read Chris Anderson’s book Makers, he talks a great deal about mass customization vs mass production. So I was not surprised to find 3D printed parts in the box, I was surprised that the parts were pieces used for shipping. The blue thing is a 3D printed spacer that was held on by that zip tie.

Makerbot Replicator 2 3d Printed Packing Parts

This 3D printed shipping component, holds the extruder tracks and belt in place. This one might make a little more sense to 3D print since it a very custom thing.

Makerbot Replicator 2 3d Printed Packing Parts

Makerbot Replicator 2 3d Printed Packing Parts

The blue spacer, especially since there were two of them seems like something that could have been easily mass produced. I would love to know where that tipping point for production actually is for something like this. Maybe shipping components make more sense to 3D print after all because they are only used for shipping and then discarded. While functional components may need to be replaced so you will need to produce more. Example, the carrier for the build platform is injection molded plastic.

Makerbot Replicator 2 PLA Spool Holder

This is the PLA spool holder. It works but loading PLA is kinda a pain.

Makerbot Replicator 2

And there it is, ready to be powered on for the first time.

Makerbot Replicator 2

Ohhhh… Such LED.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Screen

I have to say that the screen and the buttons still give this thing a home brew feel. Thats not a bad thing. Everything is functional. If I did have to grumble about something it would be the screen is hard to see when you are standing over the machine.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Axis Stop

These little boards give the machine the ability to calibrate itself. The for each axis the machine moves to the limit and bumps one of these. In early videos of Replicator 2s I vaguely recall these boards being black. I wonder if they went with the standard green PCBs for cost reasons as they scaled up manufacturing.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Axis Stop PCB Closeup

Close up of the endstop board.

Makerbot Replicator 2 LED Lighting

There are those LEDs. I love the way the machine communicates its temp/readiness by color. Great idea, whoever came up with that.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Leveling Build Platform

Leveling the build platform still seems to be the major pain point in this technology. This is not an easy process. When I talked to Makerbot support they indicated that its a bit of a science and has a lot to do with environmental conditions. I wonder how long until a self leveling platform hits the market?

Makerbot Replicator 2 Heating Extruder

Its so nice that it actually gives your progress on this. Pre-heating sounds like something that will take a while. The extruder hits 230 degrees C very quickly. If only my oven heated up this fast.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Loading Filament

Loading up filament for the first time.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Loading Filiment

Looks like Makerbot did some testing at the Botcave. They used green.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Looks like they tested with green

Makerbot Replicator 2 Progress Screen

First print. The Replicator 2 tells you the % complete, the time elapsed and the extruder temp.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Printing Mr Jaws

There is Mr. Jaws.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Printing Mr Jaws Side View

The first few layers.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Mr Jaws, something has gone wrong

Hmm… the first print and something is really wrong. Mr. Jaws looks like he was made by a very talented spider.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Fibrous Print

That is not good. They layers have not adhered, there are gaps, PLA was just kinda all over.

Makerbot Replicator 2 Fibrous Print

The bottom few layers actually look ok.

3d Printed Mr Jaws Printed With Jammed Nozzle

From the side not so much.

So after screwing around with the machine for a day and a half trying to figure out what was wrong I more or less settled on the nozzle being plugged somehow. When I start a print the machine does ok for the first few layers but then the motor starts to skip. If I run the load filament script the filament comes out ok for a while and then starts to stutter and the skipping starts. When I push the filament though manually it gets to the point where the filament bends rather than going through the nozzle.

Makerbot’s troubleshooting site says if the PLA is curling up toward the nozzle when extruding starts, call them. No other steps are given. This was happening on my Replicator 2.

Lucky for me, I have a Microsoft store near by and they carry Makerbots and PLA. So I went to the store and got a spool of black PLA. While I was there I also asked the rep to extrude a bit of filament that I could take with me. When I got home I ran through all my tests with the black, same problem. I also checked the diameter of the filament coming out of my machine. It matched the filament I got at the Microsoft store.

I called Makerbot support the next business day and they agreed something was up with the nozzle after walking through several diagnostics. They said they would ship out several new components and a new rear panel.

Now I am waiting for the components to show up. The repair is no small job. I will post on that after I have completed it.

It seems 3D printing, although getting closer everyday is still a bleeding edge tech. I knew that going in so I am not surprised by the problems. Still Makerbot is targeting the prosumer market. They explicitly call out engineers and architects as potential clients. I doubt professionals want to spend time messing with a temperamental machine. I hope this machine can live up to its promise.



Toolbox Tuesday: Cross Lock Tweezers

Cross Lock Tweezers


If you have not noticed I have a ton of devices for grabbing small stuff. This is more of the same, but with a twist. The cross lock makes the default mode closed. Thus like a hemostat, there is some grasping function without the need to be actively manually manipulating the device.

I find myself using these and hemostats for similar functions. They are infinitely handy when you need to hold a small wire in place while you solder it.

I got mine from Sparkfun. As always Amazon has a good selection, especially for those of you with Prime.



Toolbox Tuesday: Straight Edge (aka Ruler)

straight edge


If you don’t have one of these, you are beyond my help. But GOOD NEWS! You can get one.

Purpose: to cut things in straight exact lines. Or measure things. Or draw straight lines.

Where to get: Basically anywhere. Or Amazon.


ToolROLL Tuesday: A Roll Up Tool Bag – It Will Make You Popular With Women


First of all I have to admit this was totally an impulse purchase. But I had been trying to problem solve something like this for a while.

Here was my problem: I need to hack on something rc or otherwise but I am not in my office. So I have to throw all the needed tools in a box and cart them to the project. Not to mention that in my office things are not particularly organized anyway.

Originally I had planned on purchasing a toolbox. But browsing the various home/tool/fishing stores I could not find something that I felt like buying.

Then Sparkfun released the roll up tool bag. I was ordering a bunch of stuff from them anyway on they Cyber Monday sale so I threw this in to get free shipping. I walked away feeling like I got it half off counting the savings from not paying shipping. If I worked for Sparkfun I would have been fist pumping saying, “look what I upsold”.

I guess if you are a Prime snob, Amazon has options too.

Back to the tool roll. I like the fact that everything is laid out flat. No tiers, no rummaging, no black holes.

toolroll closedI was worried that once rolled up things would still find a way to escape. So I shook it profusely from various angles. Everything seems ok. Nothing has escaped yet.

The way I know its really good? When I unrolled it on the kitchen counter, my wife was like, “oooohhhh I want one!!!”. So there, the roll up tool bag will get you female attention.

With that, I might as well stop blogging, what else could I possibly give you?


How to Damage Your Brand On YouTube, Hobby King Style

Are you out to battleship your own brand? Do you have problems and want to make them worse? Well, special thanks to Hobby King for giving us a great template on what not to do.

YouTube is something like the second largest search engine on the planet. Companies all over have a major hard-on for using it to reach new and existing customers. And with good reason. Everyone watches youtube videos, there is a niche for every interest. The barrier to entry is seemingly very low. Where else can you provide highly detailed information about your brand or product in an engaging, easy to consume format? However, its not a great savior. Youtube, like reddit or twitter, can just as easily take away what it has given.

First some background. HobbyKing is probably one of the largest rc hobby companies in the world. They are the WallMart of this market. They export all or most of their products from China. Because they are a low cost player their quality can be very suspect and you need to be careful what you buy from them.

For instance, their Nano-tech batteries, NTM electric motors, original Bixler plane, Bixler 2 plane, and TekSumo flying wing are all extremely cheap and very good. However some of their other products such as servos, any hardware kits (the metal they use for screws is universally terrible) and any electronics are highly suspect. You  get what you pay for. $2 servos are great for some applications but as I have previously written really cannot be trusted. Generally Hobby King products come with no warranty, no documentation and historically their shipping times and backorders have been crazy long.

They are also known for knock offs. They have done low quality Arduino clones and Ardupilot APM 2.5 Autopilot clones. Their Orange RX is a crappy copy of Spektrum’s radio system. Even the revered Bixler is a clone. Admittedly the Bixler is the rare case where the clone is better. Early kk multi rotor stabilization boards were not good but got a lot better, probably after Hobby King realized how big the multi rotor market actually is. A topic for another post is how they love to use open source projects and give no credit. That is probably one of the greatest sins you can commit on the internet.

So in short, Hobby King has a sketchy reputation. Everyone buys from them because they are cheap but their quality is known to be questionable*. In the last year or so it seems Hobby King has been trying to elevate it’s brand. They are putting a lot of effort into positioning their Durafly models as quality. They are making bigger deals about documentation/instructions and pushing products to regional warehouses.

Then this gets posted:

I queued the video to the good stuff. As you can see the rudder falls off the model.

There are problems with this video, the model falls apart, there is a camera man in a shot. Why would you post it? This should have been a reshoot from the beginning.

As you would expect. They get torn up in the comments, see the image below.

I am sooo confused by this. If I was the marketing person who approved this I would not expect to keep my job. Its a double reinforcement of the low quality standards. You have the direct problem with the model and then you have the quality of the video. These guys do so many of these product videos, I don’t understand why this one is so bad.

The defense is that the model is dry fit (not glued) and thats why the rudder fell off. That is 100% bull shit. It may be true, but again why would you post it when the video actually makes your product look weak? Laughably, at the time the rudder falls off the commentator is telling us how the control surfaces use ball joints, aka a higher than normal quality.

All of this leave us with the question, if you cannot QA your marketing, how are you QAing your products?

So the take away is when you have a reputation problem the burden of proof is a lot higher. Assuming you want to change your image, you are going to need to do things 5x better than standard. Circling back to social media, the medium will quickly take back what it gives you. The power of easy sharing, especially with the new comment system, makes messages and reputations propagate (literally) at light speed. Welcome to the intertubez.  Weak shit like this really sets their brand back.


All comments on HobbyKing Daily   HK EPP MXS Xmas   YouTube




*The internets were excited about their new pulse jet. However early reviewers discovered that the welding and shape were not acceptable.


Xbox One: Still Buggy But Will Be Awesome – First Thoughts After Two Weeks

Xbox One

After much waiting the Xbox One is finally here. I did not pre-order the Xbox One. I guess some part of me had enough distain for Microsoft to not go total fanboy pre-order. I debated getting the PS4, but in the end that was not really an option. I already was part of the Xbox ecosystem and I like the games available on the platform.

I figured, being a mass market product that is expensive, (also made by Microsoft) there would be no difficulty getting one shortly after launch. Basically I was wrong. Not sure why exactly. The way I wanted it to go down was, Me walking into a Best Buy, the Xbox would be there, I would be there, my credit card would be there and I would nonchalantly buy it. All the while expressing my unwillingness to go out of my way to buy a Microsoft product.

In reality because I am a hopeless early adopter and my wife also was excited to get one, I pestered the local Target and Best Buy. Lucky for me I got an email from Amazon saying they had them in stock. Boom Prime, and it showed up two days later.

Xbox One

The unboxing was nothing special. More or less what you would expect from any big company that is not Apple.

The setup is of course easy. Thats why you get a console after all.

And then the bugs started. Oh the bugs. Or maybe they were features. A black screen that lasts 5 min with no indication of what is happening? Probably a feature.

Xbox one home screen

This thing has Microsoft stink all over it. There is a learning curve on the OS. Its unduly complicated. When I say that I expect a device in this class to be Grandma compatible.

It has multi-tasking which is absolutely amazing. I inserted Forza, then went to watch Netflix and Hulu while it installed. However there was fail. Both Netflix and Hulu crashed during the installation. Speaking of install, there is a green progress bar that appears on the home screen over the app that is installing. However it is not immediately obvious that it is a progress bar. Can I get some percentages please?

So back to cool stuff. Once the Forza install got to 20% or so I was able to start playing the first racing series. Very cool. After finishing that series, I was told the others needed to finish installing. OK, how? Enter my single biggest tech pet peeve, error messages that don’t give you enough information. iMovie 10 is probably the worst offender. Anyway, I assumed that retuning to the home screen would resume the install. I was correct, but with no percentages I basically had to walk away from the Xbox and come back to see of the progress bar had moved.

xbox one home screen

Is it me or is this metro? I don’t mean is looks gay by is actually hetro, I mean that lame ass UI that Microsoft is pushing these days. That would be insulting to people of all sexualities and phobias. To be fair I think it looks good on a phone, I have zero desire to poke my laptop screen. Seriously the FSM gave us the guys who invented the mouse for a reason.

Xbox one controler

Speaking of user interface. The new controller is excellent. Might still need some mods to fit my hands. Also because I can’t stop and wont stop modding. But this seems to be a master work. Im sure I read about this somewhere but the vibration feedback is a lot better. The sticks seem smoother. The triggers are even better.

OK MS, nice work. Im going to go out on a limb here and guess that the controller designers were the furthest away from the “Microsoft Experience” marketing shit storm. As a marketing professional I see what your doing there MS. Please just leave the Xbox teams alone they are the only thing that will save your company in the next 10 years.

In other marketing fail. One of the flagship launch games is Forza, a car racing game. I tend to think traditional controllers suck for this. I would love to have a wheel. Microsoft apparently agrees. They made a big deal about some new way of doing force feedback. Good so far, where is the fail? the wheel set that includes pedals will be released until FEBRUARY!!!!! After the christmas shopping season and probably after many people have moved on from Forza. Maybe its not so bad, Im sure the next Forza will be the real masterwork. Since the devs will have time to understand the Xbone at that point.

Xbox One Controller Underside

Look mom, no battery pack. Really this controller is excellent.

Xbox One

Im not sure what to say about the Kinect. Still seems gimmicky to me. I was really impressed by the first version. Cool hardware but I don’t think devs really know what to do with it yet. Aside from slapping it on robots, that part is obvious.

During setup it did go though a process to listen to its own sound. So I am hopeful that using the Kinect as a communication device will be a lot better this time. In the past if you had your connect mic on, everyone else listened to your audio. Which I think was annoying for them, but I would not know.

Xbox One Mute Button

Speaking of mute buttons. The stock headset plugs into the controller at the same place the old one did. And there is a large mute button in thumbs reach. Again, nice work controller team.

Microsoft jabs aside. The problems with this seem to be software and I am sure they will get worked out. I am really looking forward to Titan Fall and Thief. If you can get your hands on one. I think you will end up very happy.

Toolbox Tuesday: Curved Tweezers

Curved Tweezers


When you work on electronics or RC things you end up chasing around tiny parts A LOT. Lucky for me, with my glasses on seeing the various parts is not a big deal. Grabbing them on the other hand. Major pain.

For reasons I have a hard time describing, the curved end makes these much easier to use. I think because it moves the subject just far enough away from inline with the tweezers that its easier to see and use. Additionally I find myself using these to start screws a lot. Basically holding the screw with the tweezers, head to the interior of the curve, then placing the tweezers against the item being screwed and holding while I work the driver with the other hand.

Im not sure how you would work on ultra-micro models or helicopters without these.

I got mine from SparkFun. However if you are in a rush. Amazon is aways a good choice. For somewhere between $2 and $6 these are essential.

Toolbox Tuesday: Wood Carving Knife



Xacto Wood Knife

When you are hacking foam planes you carve up a lot of foam. I have several knifes on my bench but the Xacto wood knife is the one I always end up reaching for. I am a big fan of the bird beak shape. For long cuts it seems to grab and track better then a straight razor. Also when you have to remove glued on objects, the hook shape seems to reach in better.

Plus I like the thick handle.

For $11, its a handy work hoarse.

Xacto Wood Knife