Category Archives: Tech

Aldi’s Cocoon Create Touch

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Aldi is selling for the second time a 3D Printer – what a whacky thing to do right? It’s called a Cocoon Create Plus, and will be available for $499aud starting May 13. If you don’t want to read any further, the short version is that yes! It’s an extremely good value printer. If you are curious about using one, go for it. The printer has one minor flaw that doesn’t stop it from being recommended.

Cheaper ones have flaws and work needed to bring them up to this quality level, and with minor upgrades this printer can compete with a Prusa Mk2 – Which is going to be roughly $1200 to get over here.

I am part of the Committee at the Ballarat Hackerspace and have setup and experience with various types of 3D Printers and thought it would be handy to have some common questions and answers people have asked about it.

Is this printer worth it?

Yes. The price is very good value for what you get. For full disclosure, there are 3D Printers available from around $200 to well beyond $2,000. However it is very true that you get what you pay for. This printer is unique in that it has plenty of features to make it last for a while and work reliably, while being built in a way to upgrade a good amount cheaply if you desire to do more with it.

Price wise this printer would typically be $650 or more in Australia – these ALDI flash deals are usually good and in this case it’s true.

I heard that this printer isn’t safe?

This printer is a rebrand – so any problems that the original printer had this one does too. The original one was sold without proper insulation on the springs to the heated bed, which could potentially be a fire risk if they dug through. To give you an idea of how they handled it, here is the original safety notice.

Wanhao sent out washers to people they had on record, and you could ask them to send out some if you wanted and they would do so for free. In Australia, the distributers Winplus handled it well albeit quietly, shipping out these as requested.

To be honest though, having a 3D Printer meant that anyone was able to 3D Print their own fix – spring cups! I’ll update this incase anything new comes up – but I’m pretty confident any issues will be handled by Winplus quickly.

Will there be plenty of stock in ALDI?

Probably not. The nature of these deals are that they are once off.  This helps with the frenzy of people wanting to get a bargain when they go on sale. This item goes on sale May 13th, so you may want to wake up early for the Saturday.

The last time ALDI had a sale selling a 3D Printer, there were people waiting on the day of the launch running to go get the printer.

When that printer was on sale by the way, it seemed to typically be at the back, and not in the “glass cabinet” that’s usually at the front of the store. Lets see where it ends up this year!

How do you know what this printer is like already?

This printer is a rebrand, and the original is very popular. It has been solder under many different brands such as Makerselect (common in USA), Balco (Dick smith/Kogan) and Cocoon Create. The original maker is Wanhao and that name gets complicated quickly (Wanhao USA for example is also a rebrand and not the original people). Knowing this, you can look at the printers and see what’s already out elsewhere! For example, the previous printer last year at ALDI (The Cocoon Create)? It’s a Wanhao Duplicator i3. This printer was originally released in January 2015, before being sold in ALDI mid 2016. Plenty of time for people to have snapped up the alternate brandings and see what it’s like!

The reviews were very positive – the price point was great, the Steel frame means it will last a while, and the hardware while not top end gets the job done well.

This new printer is a Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus. This printer was released in January 2016. Specs wise it is almost identical with one major exception – there is a touchscreen on the front of the printer!

This means the control box is integrated to the printer underneath the heatbed for a neater look. This is mostly good except for two problems I’d like to point out –

  • When you use software to control the printer remotely, a screen is redundant
    • Octoprint is easy to setup if you have a Raspberry Pi laying around
  • Having it integrated inside the printer means you can’t safely use an enclosure to contain the heat – important to maintain consistent temperatures for materials like ABS,  which will warp when the temperature changes too much or there is a draft in your house.

I have the Balco 3D Printer. It looks like this!. This is the same with minor upgrades from ALDI’s printer last year, and very close to the one about to be on sale – with the exception of no touch screen and a seperated control box.

Can you make anything practical with it?

This is a common question, and it gets some sneers from actual users of 3D Printers. To them, of course there are practical things to print, but what’s practical is different to most people!

I may like a Toothbrush pusher, a soldering wire helper, small drones,  Other people may like custom cases to match what they will use it for. Some people like printing Trolley Coin jigs so they don’t need to put coins in to use a Trolley at the supermarket. Other people like making fun looking Pegs. Have a look around on Thingiverse, I think you’ll find both useless and practical things on there.

PS – Don’t mention Fidget Spinners (I don’t mind them!) in discussion groups online. They get angry.

Can I print a gun?

Sure, knock yourself out with this – a loaded gun ready to print.

While it is kind of possibly to do this, it’s not recommended – because of the strengths of the material you are using, if it does work, it will likely be a single shot weapon. If it doesn’t work…. well you may need to worry about a missing hand or worse.

3D Printing also has not enabled a new market for weapons to be made either – Materials from Bunnings or a blacksmith have existed for a long time to do the same thing and they have not got the same attention. Don’t fall for the media hype on this.

How does it work?

Remember Etch a Sketch? Where you could draw on a sheet and reuse it. Imagine doing that layer by layer stacked on top of each other, until you’ve made an shape. That’s 3D Printing!

You buy reels of plastic, which looks like Noodles. Plastic noodles. You feed this into a square shape (hot end block) on the 3D Printer, which then feeds it through to a hot part, that melts it as it pushes it through on to the flat bed on your 3D Printer. It cools down quickly and retains its shape as it moves around, which makes it appear like the printer is drawing plenty of lines and zigzagging to connect them together.

How hard is it to use?

An important preface – this field is still experimental. It’s not a kettle. Things can go wrong and the more you can troubleshoot or ask around online for help, the better of an experience you will have.

The printer itself is pretty easy to setup – in terms of using it when you’ve bought it home, you can be printing after about 15 Minutes of setup.

How do you make something?

Making something from scratch is the real meat and bones of it. In the long run, learning to modify or make your own objects is the real benefit or fun part of having a 3D Printer. Childrens shelf lock too small? Make one custom sized for your own drawers! You will make something using a CAD Program, such as Sketchup, Fusion360 or plenty of others. Some people like weird applications like OpenSCAD (if you like writing in code), Oculus Medium (if you like making things in VR), or Blender (if you are a Masochist) – and that’s okay!

Where do you get files from on the internet?

Everyone will tell you thingiverse. I’d agree. Seriously, go to that site now and type in a word. You’ll find someone has made something about it already.

There are plenty of more places to get 3D files. Feel free to suggest them so I put them on here!

It’s also a great place to share files you’ve made, as people can remix or you will get feedback on it. It’s nice to see photos of people printing out your creations!

Can I print Miniatures with it?

Yes, I’ve been asked this enough to have it’s own point. When printing things for your next D&D or whatever campaign, be mindful that anything you print, needs to be solid enough to not break too easily, and will need to be cleaned up and painted by yourself – this means a bunch of prep time, and steady hands for painting.

I’ll edit this part latter and show some pictures of some random designs I printed. I’ve found that under 50mm sized items, will lose enough detail for you to consider if it’s worth it.

More reviews

This wiki page will be updated surely with plenty more information soon. It’s an excellent resource to see if there are easy upgrades to do or stuff like that for it.

This Youtube video has been doing the rounds heaps. Its… okaaay I guess?

If you are on Facebook, this is a nice community of people around the printer that ALDI have rebranded – Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus users .

Tell me some more weird trivia about this printer in Australia

The distributer of this printer in Australia is Winplus. They struck a deal with Aldi who told them “We want an exclusive deal to sell a 3D Printer”. They complied and made the Cocoon Create. ALDI’s sale happens, and then things go quiet for a few months. Then Kogan suddenly has a printer that looks suspiciously familiar. It turns out that Winplus had created a new shell company, called Balco.

This printer was the first Wanhao Duplicator i3 V2.1 in Australia, and was launched for the amazing price of $399 and free shipping – what a steal!

To give you an idea of how much of a copy the printer is, go check out their websites: Cocoon Create and Balco . These websites appear to be almost identical with the exception of slightly different filament available.

Equipment for audio interviews or – what’s in my bag?

You can tell a lot from a person with the equipment he takes with him, and how it packs it up, so on request, I thought it may be a good time to go through what kind of things I would take to an interview with a focus on the audio component of it.

Portability is a big thing to me, as I often prefer to be able to take everything with me on foot. This limits me in a few ways. I do not have the ability to use powerful lighting or other high performance gear, because I cannot assume I will be able to work in a powered setting. The advantage it brings though is a lot of components can work on battery power, and I can get into very remote or constrained areas. Used properly the location can give your interviewee a more of a relaxed tone and help in a setup where you may not have assistance with you.

First off, the backpack:
Speck aftpack, before..

My photo does not do it justice, but the product photography on their page does. It’s called a Speck Aftpack.

Read on below the fold to see what madness lies inside!

Continue reading Equipment for audio interviews or – what’s in my bag?

Universal Stupid Bus 3.0

The following write-up is my experiences for some little known nuances which in the future can be a surprise which can make your computer date much quicker than you intended, with it not being able to handle some of the future devices which will be coming out to the Universal Serial Bus 3.0 Specification.

Many devices you buy now use the Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0 Standard and plug – keyboards, mice and even Hard Drive docks. It’s built to give a variety of gadgetry to be able to talk to your computer in a standard way. USB 3 Is a newer standard offered to give much more room for the neat future devices that need it.

The common item to think of when wanting to use USB 3 is for Hard drives – you will be able to copy files much faster to and from it with a USB 3 Device. Let’s backtrack briefly to find out the different kinds of USB 3 that exists in order to try and find out what went wrong.

Continue reading Universal Stupid Bus 3.0