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 Post subject: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 3:22 am 
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A while back I ordered Eric's Vergo's Rex Skewb which I think is a really beautiful puzzle. I decided to pop it in a tumbler and polish up. The results are great. I finished tumbling the parts long enough ago that I don't remember the time I spent on each step. On the spectrum of light to heavy polishing this is a medium job. I'm actually in the process of making a video about how I tumble so I'll cover those details some other time.

Of course I took a VIDEO of the results:

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 5:48 am 
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Hi Brandon,

Those results are astounding. I might look into getting a cheap tumbler, or rigging one up. Yours is a vibration tumbler, do you see any pros or cons for a rotational tumbler in comparison for twisty puzzles parts?

Cheers,
Burgo.

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 7:57 pm 
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Burgo wrote:
Hi Brandon,

Those results are astounding. I might look into getting a cheap tumbler, or rigging one up. Yours is a vibration tumbler, do you see any pros or cons for a rotational tumbler in comparison for twisty puzzles parts?

Cheers,
Burgo.
Hey Burgo, thanks, I'm quite pleased with the results.

I'm pretty sure that a rotational tumbler will NOT work. I think it will round of the tips and edges without affecting the faces. It will probably destroy the pieces.

There are two types of vibratory tumblers and I'm pretty sure the inexpensive ones won't work. The inexpensive ones are "case tumblers" and are meant for polishing the brass cases for gun ammunition. The cases are rather light and the media they use is corncob or walnut shell. The tumblers are not designed to be loaded with heavy media such as silicone carbide. Their bowl is not meant to withstand the wear of grit. They are not designed to produced a toroidal vortex in the bowl to mix the parts and media. The parts will "float" to the top and stay above the grit. In short, the case tumblers will suck at polishing nylon and you'll end up wearing out the tumblers.

You really need a vibratory tumbler designed for tumbling rocks or finishing / deburring metal parts.

I have one Raytech Tumble-Vibe TV-5 and two TV-10. The TV-10 have double the capacity of the TV-5 and seems to wear down pieces slightly faster. In the states the TV-5 is about $120 and the TV-10 is about $260. You'll need about $50 in grit and another $30-$50 in porcelain spheres.

The startup costs for tumbling are high and the amount of work involved is higher.

I'm making a video of the entire process from start to finish. I'd suggest holding off on the tumbler acquisition until after you see how much is involved. I'm spending between 30 minutes and 2 hours every day tending to my tumblers (but I'm tumbling 6 puzzles at once across 3 tumblers). The cleanup and prep to move from one stage of the tumbling to the other can be significant. The shapes and sizes of the parts as well as the way the powder drain holes are design really have a big effect on the amount of work and babysitting that needs to be done.

If it weren't a labor of love it wouldn't be worth it.

EDIT:
To put a fair $$$ value on the work involved in tumbling, I think I would have to charge between $100 and $400 per puzzle depending on the size and complexity of the puzzle.

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:00 am 
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bmenrigh wrote:
If it weren't a labor of love it wouldn't be worth it.
Oh, but just those pictures are worth it for us. Absolutely gorgeous!

Be careful, you might just make a cast-puzzle snob like me fall in love with sintered nylon.

We just need a way for Shapeways to scale this process to be efficient.

Hey SW Brad, what do you think?

Dave :)

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 4:20 am 
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bmenrigh wrote:
The inexpensive ones are "case tumblers" and are meant for polishing the brass cases for gun ammunition.. They are not designed to produced a toroidal vortex in the bowl to mix the parts and media. The parts will "float" to the top and stay above the grit.
You were reading my mind here, because I thought about that. I was concerned that a rotational tumbler would damage the parts too. I look forward to seeing your videos. I'm starting to get the idea that I will be looking to get some other complex shapeways puzzles in the future and this could be a great asset. Is it very noisy, do you have it in the house or keep it at work? I mean, my patient wife might not be so patient if she is kept up all night by a rock tumbler.

Cheers,
Burgo.

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:27 pm 
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Brandon, that's incredible. I can't wait to see how the 3 puzzles you ordered from me turn out!

-Eitan

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:14 pm 
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bmenrigh wrote:
I'm making a video of the entire process from start to finish.
Nice!! I'm eager to see this myself as I've considered trying this myself. However there are a few concerns I'd have.

(1) Sticker adhesion. With my Shapeways puzzles I initially started using superglue on all my stickers to make sure the stickers stayed attached. I then moved to using a hair dryer and the results were great and much neater however I would occasionally lose a sticker as it would get blown away by the hair dryer. So I've now ordered a heat lamp and I'll give that a try. The question here is if the puzzle is smoother will the sticker adhere as well? The heated stickers and the rough surface I would think might actually help the sticker stay on as there the surface area is slightly larger and there would be more friction to lateral movement of the sticker.

(2) Is there enough material removed during polishing that the tolerances used for the Shapeway model need to be adjusted?

(3) At what stage do you dye the puzzle? Before polishing, after polishing, are maybe both?

(4) How would something like my Doctor Skewb core fair in this process? Being a 60mm cube would it even fit in the TV-5 or TV-10?
Attachment:
DScore.png
DScore.png [ 60.68 KiB | Viewed 2840 times ]


I agree the results look great but what I value the most is a puzzle I can play with and unless the turning is better and there aren't any added issues with stickers falling off, it will be very hard for me to justify the added cost. And time might be an even bigger factor. I don't have enough free time now to work on designs as I'd like but those pics make it oh so tempting.

Carl

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:24 pm 
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pirsquared wrote:
Brandon, that's incredible. I can't wait to see how the 3 puzzles you ordered from me turn out!
They will have to wait some time, your Helicopter Octahedron is being tumbled right now :wink:

I would buy another big tumbler so that I can do more puzzles in parallel but right now the limiting factor is the amount of time I have to handle 4-8 different puzzles at different stages in the process at once. I'm maxed out on time and adding tumbling capacity would not help.

The three coming probably will be finished 1.5-2 months from now. Stay tuned 8-)

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:01 pm 
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wwwmwww wrote:
(1) Sticker adhesion. With my Shapeways puzzles I initially started using superglue on all my stickers to make sure the stickers stayed attached. I then moved to using a hair dryer and the results were great and much neater however I would occasionally lose a sticker as it would get blown away by the hair dryer. So I've now ordered a heat lamp and I'll give that a try. The question here is if the puzzle is smoother will the sticker adhere as well? The heated stickers and the rough surface I would think might actually help the sticker stay on as there the surface area is slightly larger and there would be more friction to lateral movement of the sticker.
The stickers seem to stick better. On Eric's tumbled Master Pentultimate I applied the stickers with a lot of silicone oil still on the surface of the puzzle and in that case, after I placed them all I had to use a hair dryer to heat the stickers a pres them in better. The stickers are practically bonded to the surface now. Also, seeing the grain texture of the WSF material through the stickers kinda bugs me.

wwwmwww wrote:
(2) Is there enough material removed during polishing that the tolerances used for the Shapeway model need to be adjusted?
The short answer is no.

The long answer is that I've been given two "bad prints" that are so bad the pieces can barely be jammed together they are so tight. I have "rescued" the bigger pieces in the puzzle through about 2 months of tumbling. The smaller pieces in the puzzle don't wear as fast (lower mass piece == lower wear rate) and even after more than 90 days of tumbling the small pieces still haven't worn enough to make a good, working puzzle.

The longer answer is that you have some control over how fast the outer surfaces wear compared to the inner surface. If you under-load the tumbler (with pieces) but fill it with grit the inner surfaces wear at about the same rate as the outer ones because the pieces rarely come in contact with each other or the tumbler wall. The rate at which they wear is super slow though. To tumble the inner surfaces to change a tolerance by even .1mm takes weeks.

By increasing the piece to grit ratio the rubbing of grit between two pieces accelerates the weary of the outer surfaces. In fact, I have been tumbling with big heavy glass beads and steel shot in the grit in addition to the grit. This works great to accelerate the wear of the outer surfaces and once I discovered this I've been doing it on all of the puzzles since.

The trouble with accelerating the wear too much is that for the bigger heavy pieces, the tips and edges wear faster than the faces. This means you have to pull them out before the other pieces and let the other pieces finish. I didn't do this for one puzzle and ended up wearing through the tips on the corners :oops: . This was my fault and being to cocky about the process. I knew they were done days prior but I left them in thinking more time in the tumble while the other pieces finish wouldn't hurt.

If you were specifically designing a puzzle to be tumbled I think you'd want to do two things:
1) Reduce the fillets on the outer edges because the tumbling adds them. This gives you more time to wear down the faces and smooth the inner surfaces.
2) Avoid tiny holes that turn into grit traps or holes that will trap porcelain spheres. I had to buy an air compressor to aid in getting the powder out of some pieces.

wwwmwww wrote:
(3) At what stage do you dye the puzzle? Before polishing, after polishing, are maybe both?
I have been doing both. I have pretty good evidence now that both is not required. What is required is an extra concentrated dye bath for the dying after tumbling. Per the suggestion of another forum member, I'm now re-using the same dye bath over and over and it's working great and turning even worn tips that are super smooth and pure white a deep black.

You can see in my first two photos in my original post that the tips are a dark purple/blue. This is what happens when you don't use an extra concentrated dye bath. Out of the porcelain spheres those tips were pure white.

After those two photos I re-dyed the puzzle and it's as black as can be.

wwwmwww wrote:
(4) How would something like my Doctor Skewb core fair in this process? Being a 60mm cube would it even fit in the TV-5 or TV-10?
I'm sure the core will fit in the outer portion of my TV-10 tumbler. The issue is that for the Doctor Skewb I think the goal is more to wear the inner surfaces of it to automate the "breaking in" process. That is going to mean tumbling without any beads or shot so that the outer surfaces wear more closely to the rate of the inner ones. Those sharp points of the corners are still going to be favored for wear though so it's a piece that isn't going to ever be perfect for tumbling.

Two days in the tumbler would break the puzzle in though without leaving much of any visible wear on the core.

wwwmwww wrote:
I agree the results look great but what I value the most is a puzzle I can play with and unless the turning is better and there aren't any added issues with stickers falling off, it will be very hard for me to justify the added cost. And time might be an even bigger factor. I don't have enough free time now to work on designs as I'd like but those pics make it oh so tempting.
Hopefully I have address some of your concerns. Time is my biggest concern. But my goal is looks and turning quality. If your goal was turning quality only I think you could just load up the tumbler without any beads or shot and babysit it less. Most of the time is spent transitioning pieces from one stage to the next. Without the beads and shot there is more time between stages and the pieces wear slow enough that they don't have to be checked daily. You also wouldn't be tumbling the outer parts to completion. Once the outer parts start getting close to being done you have to manually check each piece type in the tumbler to make sure there aren't any hot spots wearing too fast. If you don't get the pieces close to that point the checking time is reduced. Also, could probably skip the porcelain spheres altogether if you aren't going for looks.

I have a 2-month (minimum) backlog of puzzles to tumble right now. At some point I'm going to need a break. Sometime after that I may offer a tumbling service. My biggest concern with doing so is the time it takes me. I couldn't charge a fair price that would still be affordable which means I probably wouldn't charge. I'm still on the fence about the whole idea. I suspect the demand for a free tumbling service would be unlimited so I'd need a way to manage that without playing favoritism or hurting feelings.

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Last edited by Brandon Enright on Thu Mar 08, 2012 12:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:12 pm 
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What is the purpose of the daily checks? What are you checking for?

-Eitan

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 4:43 pm 
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pirsquared wrote:
What is the purpose of the daily checks? What are you checking for?

-Eitan

That's a good but complicated question.

In the first few hours you're checking to:
  • Make sure you got the grit level right
  • For too much moisture in the grit
  • Insure the pieces are interacting okay with each other (more below)
  • Find out if there are any problems (more on that below)

A vibratory tumbler has a way of making piece interact with each other in really crazy unexpected ways. I've seen entire groups of 5+ pieces assemble themselves correctly and mostly stay that way because the grit gets jammed between the rails and grooves and makes pieces stick together. Unfortunately, there are crazy ways the pieces can interact that wasn't designed either. The worst is small pieces working themselves inside of bigger pieces. If this becomes to problematic you have to either manually separate the pieces every day or take the big pieces out and do them separately.

Also, sometimes you think that there will be problems that turn out not to be. For example, when I tumbled Ben's print of the Multidodecahedron I was sure the thin wires on some of the parts would be an issue. I was checking constantly to make sure I wasn't damaging them. The wires turned out to be a non-issue.

Once you get past the initial 24 hours and everything looks good you definitely don't need to check again for about 4 days. As you near the end of the stage though some of the things you'll check for include:

  • Buildup of too much nylon dust. This causes the grit to clump and makes it a lot less effective. For coarse grit you can vacuum it out while the tumbler is running.
  • Different sized and shaped pieces finish at different times. If the time difference is too much you have to check at least once a day to figure out which pieces are done and need to come out while others finished. You do this by piece type and no by individual pieces.
  • The fine grit provides a much more uniform smooth wear so you use the course grit to wear down the big structures like the aliasing / stairstepping of the print. You should check the pieces to make sure there aren't reasons to take them out before whatever you're trying to wear down is done.
  • On some pieces the limiting factor in how long you can tumble them is the edges / corners and not the faces. You want to wear down the face as much as possible without rounding off the sharp parts too much.
  • If you're trying to change the tolerances between two pieces because they are too tight you need to test their interaction of time to get a feel for how quickly it is improving. You need to judge this against the rate of outer wear to determine if you can continue to tumble them with the shot and glass.
  • Some pieces have a sharp point that sticks out and wears fast. You need to make sure you aren't wearing the rest of the piece at the detriment of the sharp point.
  • Pieces that get stuck inside of other pieces may not wear much so you have to check the small ones to make sure that being trapped inside of other pieces isn't hindering their wear rate.

Also, when I was starting out I had no idea what would work or wouldn't. At first I:
  • Checked constantly to make sure I wasn't destroying pieces
  • When I decided to switch to coarse grit I again checked constantly for fear that the course grit would grind the parts to dust in hours
  • When I first tried the glass beads I was checking constantly for damage
  • When I tried steel shot I checked constantly for damage

Also, the last time I thought "oh it'll be fine" I wore holes into the tips of the big corners. If I had been rigorously checking daily I would have known that those tips were wearing so much faster than the rest of the parts.

Finally, when you're tumbling puzzles for other folks and they ask you "how are the parts doing" the right answer is NOT "I dunno, they're probably fine but I haven't checked" :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 5:30 pm 
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Can Shapeways PLEASE get their act together and develop a way to polish BSF to save bmenrigh all of this effort! This looks like a fantastically complex process, but the results are amazing. Well done, and now all you have to do is to work out a way to make a mass-production line and reduce your price to almost zero :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 2:51 am 
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Hi Brandon,

Thankyou so much for your detailed posting in this thread. I think it would be impossible for you to meet demand offering a service. It is an accessible price for startup (not cheap, but accessible) for the moderate-serious shapeways purchaser 5-6 larger puzzles would cover the majority of the cost getting WSF `instead` of polished WSF or BSF. I consider myself probably moderate, so far I have 5 shapeways puzzles and I anticipate over the next few years it would become worth my while, I'm sure. The wealth of knowledge you are acquiring and posting is much more valuable.. teaching people to fish.

Cheers,
Burgo.

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PB 3x3 55sec Jan 2011 (When I was a kid 1:30 was speedcubing so I'm stoked).
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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 3:33 am 
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You've really made a science of this. Well done.

-Eitan

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:32 am 
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pirsquared wrote:
You've really made a science of this. Well done.

-Eitan
I tried to turn it into a science and found that hard data was too noisy. I bought a super accurate (1 milligram) scale to weigh each part and digital calipers to measure progress.

From the scale I learned that:

1) Each piece ways a different amount and the difference is greater than pre-tumble to post-tumble change for each piece. Since there is no way to mark pieces I can't monitor individual progress.
2) Moisture weighs a lot and the only way to take a consistent measurement is to bake the moisture out of the pieces first.
3) Grit weighs a lot and it's hard to get out of all of the crevices.
4) Fine grit packs itself into some of the pores of the nylon and never comes out. This adds a tiny sparkle to the surfaces after they have been tumbled.

From the calipers I learned that:

1) When .05 mm differences matter measuring a soft material can vary more than than based on how hard you push.
2) There is a lot of variance from piece to piece and from one side of a piece to another.
3) The tumbler takes off less material than the expected error in my measurements.

The only tests that seem to work well are the overall looks of the puzzle and how well pieces interact with each other.

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:38 pm 
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A while back I ordered a puzzle in polished WSF and dyed it black, hoping to get results similar to these. However, even after dyeing the parts three times, with the last dye bath being double concentrated and boiling for an hour, I was not able to get a solid rich black color. Does anyone know of a reason why the polished material from Shapeways might not take the dye as well as the parts shown in this post?

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:35 pm 
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I was able to dye WSFP a really dark black. But other times, even with normal WSF it comes out dark blue. (even after multiple dyes)

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:37 pm 
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David Pitcher wrote:
A while back I ordered a puzzle in polished WSF and dyed it black, hoping to get results similar to these. However, even after dyeing the parts three times, with the last dye bath being double concentrated and boiling for an hour, I was not able to get a solid rich black color. Does anyone know of a reason why the polished material from Shapeways might not take the dye as well as the parts shown in this post?
Hey Dave, I too have occasionally had trouble dying puzzles a deep black. In fact, the first two pictures in this post were before I re-dyed the pieces and if you view the full resolution image you can see that the edges and tips are blue.

I'm currently using a triple-concentrated (3 packs) dye bath and I boil the bath down until the tops of the pieces are sticking out. This can be more than an hour of boiling down to get it to that level.

I recently dyed a very large (in terms of surface area, probably 10x the size of the Rex Skewb) puzzle that had all of the edges and tips polished a pure smooth white. With the triple-concentrated dye bath all parts of the pieces are a deep black.

I have been re-using the dye bath and i continue to have great success with it. It has probably dyed ~8 puzzles now. I put a fair amount of work into reclaiming any dye that isn't in the pieces.

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 Post subject: Re: Polishing results for Eric Vergo's Rex Skewb
PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 7:56 am 
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I have found that sanded (or polished) WSF does not take dyeing very well, with parts having a mottled dark blue/black appearance. I think any overly aggressive treatment of the surface could cause localised heating which effects how the nylon takes up the dye. Perhaps this is why Shapeways do not offer BSFP.

The only surface treatment I have found which does give a nice black colour (after 20mins boiling in a normally concentrated solution) is to lightly brush the WSF with a wire brush with brass bristles. This removes any burrs, and does smooth the surface a small amount. After dyeing, I spray the pieces with THIN coats of clear lacquer, which gives the parts a slightly gloss finish.

All of this is still not anywhere close to as good as your polishing, but it is a lot quicker :lol:

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