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 Post subject: Finishing Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:10 am 
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Location: Boston area
Hi Everyone,

Over the past several months I've developed a method for finishing Shapeways puzzles that I have found to be quite good. I'm sure many of you have other methods that may work just as well (or perhaps even better), but I thought I'd share my method since I am very happy with the results, and it is quite easy to do. That said, here is how I break in, lube, de-lube, and sticker my puzzles...

Step 1: Assemble and do an initial break in. Twist the puzzle a few times on all axes to make sure everything works well. Here's a photo of a RotoPrism 2 after assembly and initial break in:
Attachment:
Initial Assembly.JPG
Initial Assembly.JPG [ 133.27 KiB | Viewed 1600 times ]

Step 2: Apply CRC Silicone Lube (here's a picture of the stuff):
Attachment:
CRC Silicone.JPG
CRC Silicone.JPG [ 240.12 KiB | Viewed 1600 times ]
Wear rubber gloves while you're working with the silicone or the black dye will run a bit and stain your fingers. Spray the inner mechanism of the puzzle first. Use the straw that comes with the can to allow precision spraying, and get as much of the spray deep into the mechanism of the puzzle as possible. Spray some in, turn an axis or two, and repeat many times. After this the puzzle should turn much more smoothly than before, but it will look splotchy on the outside:
Attachment:
Internal Lube.JPG
Internal Lube.JPG [ 114.93 KiB | Viewed 1600 times ]

Step 3: Spray the outside of the puzzle with CRC. This may seem like a bad idea, since the stickers don't like silicone at all, but it evens out the splotchy look, and gives the whole puzzle a nice, deep black "wet" look. Continue to twist the puzzle on all axes while the liquid component of the spray evaporates. Afterwards the puzzle will look like this:
Attachment:
Full Lube.JPG
Full Lube.JPG [ 136.45 KiB | Viewed 1600 times ]

Step 4: Now you've got a puzzle that should turn incredibly well, and looks beautiful, with a nice deep black finish. But the stickers won't stick to it at all. I did quite a bit of research on this next step, and tried out many different things including using a product that CRC recommended for breaking down the silicone to remove it from the surface of the puzzle. Nothing worked until I got the idea to use a high-power adhesive, and that worked amazingly well. So the next step is to wrap the puzzle in duct tape. Yep, you read that right, duct tape. Be sure to cover the entire surface of the puzzle, and press it into all the nooks and crannies that you can feel through the tape. When you're done the puzzle will look something like this:
Attachment:
Duct Tape Wrap.JPG
Duct Tape Wrap.JPG [ 194.37 KiB | Viewed 1600 times ]

Step 5: Wait overnight. A shorter period of time might work, but I've found that overnight definitely works, so I'm hesitant to try less time. Overnight gives the adhesive plenty of time to cure, and for the silicone and other chemicals to migrate into the adhesive. When you unwrap the puzzle, you'll see that a very small amount of the black color goes with the tape, but the puzzle should look as good as when you wrapped it, except that it will no longer have that very slick silicone feel. If a small amount of the duct tape adhesive sticks to the puzzle, just use another piece of duct tape to pull it off.

Step 6: Apply the stickers using a hobby knife. I actually just use a blade without the knife handle because it gives me more precise control, but use whatever method works for you. Be aware that all vinyls are not created equal. Unless you are applying stickers to a puzzle that has been polished, don't use "Economy Cal" vinyl (it's made by Oracal), unless you want to iron the stickers on (which I have not found to be very effective) or use superglue to keep them on. Most other vinyls, particularly "Hi-Cal" from LG, work great without any special treatment. Press each sticker into place as you go, and that should be all you need to do to ensure that they stick. Here's a picture of the finished puzzle with stickers:
Attachment:
Finished Puzzle.JPG
Finished Puzzle.JPG [ 171.3 KiB | Viewed 1600 times ]

Hopefully this little tutorial will be useful to some of you when you're assembling your Shapeways puzzles. Please let me know if you have any questions, or need any more information about any of the steps I've outlined.

Have fun, and happy puzzling!
Dave

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 Post subject: Re: Finishing Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:34 am 
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Joined: Fri Feb 08, 2008 1:47 am
Location: near Utrecht, Netherlands
Interesting method, but personally I would advise against using it. Silicone spray is not very nice and I would keep it away from the outside of the puzzle at all cost.
I find that if you first break in a puzzle very thoroughly (preferably before dyeing so it gets washed when you dye it) and then use a little bit of silicone spray on the internal mechanism, it will turn very well. There's no need to soak the entire puzzle, just a little bit is enough.
If you want to end up with a perfectly black puzzle, I would use a permanent marker to color the edges of the puzzle.

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 Post subject: Re: Finishing Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:33 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 31, 2009 8:54 pm
Location: Bay Area, California
The black spotchiness comes from the solvent in CRC. I've been using a pure silicone spray and it works great. The one I buy is intended for treadmill belts but it works just the same.

I too have had trouble getting silicone oil off the surface of the puzzle but I have found pure isopropyl alcohol and a cotton cloth works well. I use three. The first is totally soaked in alcohol and the puzzle gets very wet as I clean it. The alcohol isn't a strong enough solvent to leach the dye so this isn't a problem. The second cloth is just damp with alcohol and I can wipe the puzzle to the point where it is just damp. The third cloth is dry and mostly dry the surface of the puzzle with it. I finish up with a heat source to dry the alcohol that got into the grooves.

On a somewhat related note, I've noticed that lately Shapeways has been doing a very poor job of cleaning away powder. Lately I've been having to use my air compressor outside with a full face mask to clean parts. If you don't clean away the powder the break-in process is initially much worse.

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 Post subject: Re: Finishing Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:58 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2010 1:00 am
Location: Colorado
I have never had problems with silicone messing with the dye. When I get the parts I wash them in hot soapy water. Next I assemble and break them in. Afterwards again they are washed in hot soapy water. Upon drying they get dyed with RIT fabric dye. Spraying with CRC Silicone doesn't do any damage or discoloration. What am I doing differently than you guys?

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 Post subject: Re: Finishing Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:08 pm 
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Joined: Thu Sep 17, 2009 6:07 am
Location: Germany, Bavaria
TomZ wrote:
...Silicone spray is not very nice and I would keep it away from the outside of the puzzle at all cost.
...
After the stickers are on the puzzle, I have had no bad experience with lubricating from the outside, where I cannot avoid silicone spray on the surface.
So far, I have dyed two puzzles only and I used the black marker recommended by Tom. The result is very pleasant.
1. I clean the pieces, assemble the puzzle and break it in.
2. I disassemble it again and wash and dye the parts.
3. I reassemble it, iron the surface and put the stickers on.
4. I use an infrared lamp to heat the stickers. They stick very well afterwards (I have used Olivér's or Tom's stickers lately and do not know which vinyl brand they are using)
After the usage of the lamp the stickers look a tiny bit grainy because they follow the grainy structure of the surface completely.
5. I disassemble the puzzle again and lubricate the mechanism thoroughly.

After this process I had never problems again with stickers falling off. Even small stickers stick well.

When I revisit a Shapeways puzzle after a long time I spray usually more silicone into the mechanism without disassembling it again.

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 Post subject: Re: Finishing Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:34 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:43 pm
Location: Shelby Township, MI. USA
PuzzleMaster6262 wrote:
Spraying with CRC Silicone doesn't do any damage or discoloration. What am I doing differently than you guys?
I have had CRC Heavy Duty Silicone discolor even mass produced puzzles. I now stay far away from the stuff.


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 Post subject: Re: Finishing Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:37 pm 
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Location: Boston area
I should clarify that I have used this method on a few dozen puzzles now. I have found it to greatly enhance the look and feel of the puzzles every time. It has changed some puzzles that I thought might be too stiff to turn well into into puzzles that can be easily turned with one finger. The stickers stay on the puzzle as well (if not better) than on the original pre-lubed surface.

The reason I don't assemble puzzles to break them in, then disassemble to dye, etc. is twofold. First, some of my puzzles snap together, making disassembly impossible. Second, for my puzzles that screw together, I don't like to put the screws in more than once, since threading them into the holes multiple times can easily strip the threads. Once this happens, even using glue to help hold the screws in may not work. So I only ever want to put the screws in once, and leave them in place.

bmenrigh wrote:
I too have had trouble getting silicone oil off the surface of the puzzle but I have found pure isopropyl alcohol and a cotton cloth works well.
Are you using this method only on polished puzzles, or both polished and unpolished? I've found that with unpolished puzzles (which are the vast majority of the ones I've assembled), any attempts to wipe them down with a cloth results in a lot of lint to clean up. I did try alcohol, as well as a few other solvents (including one recommended by CRC) on unpolished puzzles, and the results were not good. That's when I tried the duct tape method, and found that not only is it a lot less labor, but it worked great.

bmenrigh wrote:
I've noticed that lately Shapeways has been doing a very poor job of cleaning away powder.
I've noticed this too, and have sent Shapeways several pictures of the problem. It's very hit or miss, sometimes they do a fine job of cleaning the parts, other times they're a mess. I've told them that they need to look into what changed in their process since this never used to be a problem. Hopefully they will improve things going forward, but please let them know every time you get an order that has excess powder. They can't improve unless they know it's a problem.

PuzzleMaster6262 wrote:
Spraying with CRC Silicone doesn't do any damage or discoloration.
The CRC doesn't do any damage, it actually gives the black dye a deeper, richer color (sort of a "wet" look). The splotchy effect I'm talking about is that deeper color relative to the slightly lighter black color that the silicone has not touched.

I'm sure there are other methods people use that they are just as happy with. I've found this method to work particularly well, and to be very easy to use with minimal time spent. The stickers stay on very well (I haven't had one fall off or slide out of place), but are not nearly as bumpy as when they are heated in place. On the other hand, they are not really bonded to the plastic as Konrad to indicates using his method.

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 Post subject: Re: Finishing Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 4:26 pm 
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Joined: Thu Sep 17, 2009 6:07 am
Location: Germany, Bavaria
David, what is the smallest sticker size you have handled using your method?
E.g. the little triangles on a Multidodecahedron have edge length 4,4,7 mm.
I'm pretty pleased how the stickers look on it. The grainy structure is almost not visible:

Image
The material is BSF from Shapeways. The puzzles I dyed myself have a deeper black.
You can click on the "thumbnail" to enlarge the picture.

EDIT: This puzzle is among the best turning puzzles I own, mass-produced or custom made or 3D printed.
It has not seen a single drop of silicone, so far!!!
Given its complexity this is really amazing.

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 Post subject: Re: Finishing Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 4:47 pm 
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Location: Boston area
Konrad wrote:
David, what is the smallest sticker size you have handled using your method?
E.g. the little triangles on a Multidodecahedron have edge length 4,4,7 mm.
I haven't applied any stickers quite that small, but some are close. I've applied triangles that are about 10x10x4mm, and almond-shaped pieces that are only 3mm wide at the center. They have all worked quite well.

Konrad wrote:
I'm pretty pleased how the stickers look on it. The grainy structure is almost not visible:
You're right, the stickers on your Multidodecahedron look quite good. And given how well fused they are to the plastic using your method, that certainly seems like it might be a good thing with this puzzle, since it would be quite the pain if an inner sticker were to start lifting! Some other puzzles I've seen where the stickers have been applied with heat have a much more pronounced texture.

David Pitcher wrote:
The material is BSF from Shapeways. The puzzles I dyed myself have a deeper black.
I've done both, but with the new Shapeways black, I've started simply ordering BSF. It's a far deeper black than they produced previously, and better than I've been able to make myself. That, combined with the time savings and not having to worry about getting black dye all over the place, I find the extra cost quite worthwhile.

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 Post subject: Re: Finishing Shapeways Puzzles
PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 5:18 pm 
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Location: Bay Area, California
David Pitcher wrote:
bmenrigh wrote:
I too have had trouble getting silicone oil off the surface of the puzzle but I have found pure isopropyl alcohol and a cotton cloth works well.
Are you using this method only on polished puzzles, or both polished and unpolished? I've found that with unpolished puzzles (which are the vast majority of the ones I've assembled), any attempts to wipe them down with a cloth results in a lot of lint to clean up.
Yes you're right, this is probably not a fair apples-to-apples comparison. I never have lubed a non-polished puzzle.

As you can see from these MD parts, there is nothing to catch a cloth to leave lint:

Image

The parts wipe down very well.

Konrad wrote:
EDIT: This puzzle is among the best turning puzzles I own, mass-produced or custom made or 3D printed.
It has not seen a single drop of silicone, so far!!!
Given its complexity this is really amazing.
Yes the MD is incredible. My print hasn't even been tumbled yet (the cobbler's children have the worst shoes) and it still turns great.

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