BLOG POST #6: 3D Modeling in Virtual Reality

3D model designed in Google Blocks

I was lucky enough to score a Samsung Odyssey Windows Mixed Reality Headset at a good price around the end of last year. I’ve had a lot of fun playing Virtual Reality (VR) games with it, especially throughout the boredom of the coronavirus quarantine. As a creative individual, I began to question the capabilities of VR as a design medium. With a small 3D printing project idea in the back of my head, I set out to try and 3D model my vision in VR. I tried three different free applications to accomplish this goal: Kanova, Microsoft Maquette, and Google Blocks with varying degrees of success. Keep reading to learn about my project from start to finish!


3D Design

I’ve always had a fascination with all sorts of mechanical puzzles, the most infamous of these being the Rubik’s Cube. I remember the first time I got the cube in my hands as a kid, I was obsessed with it and spent months attempting to solve it. By now I’ve become a pro at solving the original cube, but there are so many other shapes that I’m still working to master! In the year 2020, one can now find huge communities dedicated to solving, collecting, and creating these types of puzzles. (One of my favorite communities is TwistyPuzzles.com.)

The reason I mention all of this is that some day soon, I plan to design and 3D print my own puzzle prototypes. But this type of project is a bit of a tall order. For example, here are the insides of the original 3X3 Rubik’s Cube:

Disassembled Rubik's Cube

That’s a lot of pieces! With this in mind, I decided I wanted to begin this artistic endeavor by emulating a more simple, mechanical fidget-type toy that had been sitting on my desk for a while:

"Wooden Twist Cubes" Toy from Amazon

There isn’t really a puzzle to solve with this toy, but there is something that feels good about making different shapes with it! Additionally, it essentially consists of a repeating block shape with a hole through it’s center and ridges on it’s sides, and an elastic string through each of the blocks to hold them together. It’s a pretty simple design, and something I thought would be fun to replicate and 3D print.

But I didn’t want to sit at my computer and use boring 3D modeling software! I wanted to enter a virtual world and sculpt the shape with my hands (or controllers)! The question was… Would this be possible? The answer? Kind of.


Kanova

As mentioned earlier, I worked with three different (free) VR applications that advertised giving the user the ability to create and export 3D models. Kanova was the first application I tried. Kanova describes itself as a “simple, easy to use, VR enabled, 3D sculpting application.” And I will say that it definitely does a great job of allowing the user to feel like they are actually sculpting and working with their hands. There were a multitude of tools like the chisel, that allowed me to create and subtract material in a design, but there was next to nothing by way of getting objects to snap together geometrically. This is definitely more of an application for 3D artists than, for example, an industrial designer. I’ll say that I really liked working with the mirror modifier… It was satisfying (and a bit trippy) to seamlessly make mirrored objects with one controller motion. Below you’ll see an attempt I made at creating a bicycle frame that turned into more of snail monster.

Carving out a shape in Kanova
Snail-looking shape created using the mirror modifier in Kanova


Maquette

The next application I tried was Microsoft Maquette. As a UX/UI Designer, I was particularly interested in using this application because, though still in beta, my research told me that it was one of the most user-friendly options for creating virtual environments and experiences. While I marveled at the detailed and informative onboarding process, and the wonderfully intuitive groupings of tools, the biggest issue I had with Maquette was that it just wasn’t really built for designing models. While the tool is obviously leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in the way of laying out scenes with already-created 3D models, it doesn’t provide a very robust set of tools for creating your own models, or snapping models together in enough of a geometrically relevant way.

Maquette onboarding screen example
Trying to snap two cubes together in Maquette
Arranging furniture in Maquette


Blocks

This left me to experiment with Google Blocks. Despite Google’s hunger for user data and taking over all technology platforms (a claim I can not strictly confirm), I have always loved Google products. They are usually simple, intuitive, devoid of major bugs, and free of charge (if you don’t count selling your soul). And in my experience, Blocks really held up to this experience. I wanted to create a simple geometric cube with some cuts through it, and with a decent amount of effort, I was able to achieve this.

My first efforts involved trying to create a cube and cutting through it as I mentioned above. But this wasn’t really possible, as there is an eraser tool in Blocks, but not a “negative extrude” option. Using the eraser tool on an object simply removes the whole object. So in order to make my “modified cube” design, I knew I would need to create “additively” instead of “subtractively”. I thought that perhaps creating a rectangular prism, duplicating it three times, and arranging them appropriately would get me what I wanted, but the “snap to geometry” feature (initiated by holding the trigger on your left controller) just didn’t work well with these shapes, so I ultimately scrapped this approach.

Trying to get objects to snap properly in Google Blocks

It appeared that there weren’t many options forward here. My desired model was a shape that I could have easily created using any desktop 3D modeling software. The problem I was running into with all of these applications thus far was the fact that none of them really had incredible geometry snapping abilities and most importantly they only showed units when scaling objects. It again appeared that the main focus of the applications was primarily creating 3D immersive scenes in VR, and not modeling…

Snapping cubes together in Google Blocks
Removing intermediary cubes
Extruding parts of cubes
Final 3D model

But I found a loophole! In typical Google-product fashion, there was a cool feature that the other platforms hadn’t implemented well. This was the extrude feature. When I created a shape, I found I was easily able to extrude features by finite units and snap them to other geometry. And so my final plan was born. I decided to snap 27 identical cubes together to form one giant cube, remove unneeded intermediate cubes, and then extrude as needed to achieve my design.

The series of images above should give you a good understanding of my process, but if it didn’t, all you really need to know is that the process was a little convoluted and unnecessary, there were times the “snap to geometry” features still didn’t work right at first, and the final model was a little janky because it was actually an amalgamation of several smaller models… But I made it work! And I have to say that there was something magical about shaping something in VR. It felt almost as if I was doing a wood-working project or some other form of applied art as opposed to just moving my mouse around on a desk. I was able to handle the model and move my body dynamically around it in space. It was exactly what I was looking for in this experience, and a whole lot of fun!


3D Printing

Exporting this model was a breeze, though Google requires that you first save the model to it’s 3D object sharing platform called Poly. After downloading my model from Poly, I was able to simply drag it into Cura, duplicate it a few times, and begin setting up my 3D print. To my surprise, there weren’t any issues with the model being incomplete or errant due to being created from multiple extruded cubes.

Single cube shown in Cura
Multiple cubes in Cura

Viewing the gcode simulation in Repetier-Host identified that the cubes I made may not have been perfectly shaped. In the image below you can see some slightly uneven textures on the tops of the cubes. But at this point, I figured “close enough”.

Gcode simulation of cubes to be printed

I set up the printer and let it go for a couple of hours. No real issues here other than an initial hot end clog that I quickly fixed with patience and choice expletives.

3D printing the model - first layer
3D printing the model - 75% complete
3D printing the model - print completed
Single 3D printed fidget cube

Removing the support material in certain places was difficult for a lot of these pieces, but it was nothing pliers couldn’t solve. From here, I started feeding a rubber band through the cubes.

Feeding rubber band through cubes
Rubber band fed through all cubes

And voilà! My creation was finished. As I hoped, the twisty toy worked just as well as it’s wooden counterparts!

Final fidget cube creation

So… can you model simple geometrically-tight things for free in VR? Yeah! Is there a widely-available and developed app that makes this extremely simple yet? Maybe not.

In the meantime I’m going to keep experimenting with Google Blocks and keeping up with features they add. I’m really interested in seeing what new things VR will have to offer in the way of design software. I expect UX/UI design to play a huge role in what will make or break these types of applications in the future. Imagine the feature-rich Solidworks for example being implemented fully in VR. It’s something that I think will require a deep understanding of the primary features of the application, and an outstanding onboarding process. Here’s to the future!

Squidward meme about the future

BLOG POST #5: 3D Printed Christmas Ornaments

Aside from minor adjustments made to already-existing models downloaded from thingiverse, I hadn’t really gotten a chance to print anything that I’d modeled myself before this past December. With Christmas around the corner, I had the idea to design and print some of my own ornaments for my family. It ended up being a really great opportunity for me to brush up on my Solidworks skills and tap into my artistic side. Geometric design is my favorite form of art, and being able to design in three dimensions and see the products printed was a very satisfying experience.

3D Snowflake

My first design was the biggest challenge both in terms of modeling successfully and in printing. The design essentially consisted of drawing a snowflake shape in one plane and then copying the sketch onto the two other perpendicular planes. Constraining the sketches to the origin of the original sketch proved to be a bit of a challenge, but I eventually figured that out with some help from the internet. I made the bold move of trying to print this model in one single piece which required a significantly large amount of support material. Going into the print, I knew it would have been wiser to model the different faces of the snowflake separately and fit them together using glue or some other method. But I really wanted to see how the printer would handle a complex part like this, and how possible it would be for me to remove the support material without destroying the delicate design. With some effort, I was able to remove all of the support material, but I did have a minor break that I needed to superglue back together. I think the part turned out pretty nice, and I think it is cool that it is a single structure.

Golden Spiral Seashell

The second design was significantly simpler as far as design and printing went. That being said, the seashell pattern that I created comes from a relatively complex geometrical phenomenon often found in nature called the golden spiral. To quote Wikipedia:

“Golden spirals are self similar. The shape is infinitely repeating when magnified.”

Fractals and these kinds of interesting shapes have always fueled my interest in design, and I’m glad I got to showcase that.

Basic Hollow Cube

This design didn’t take long to model, but I knew it would be a challenge to print because it contained large horizontal runs of suspended material. The print obviously required extensive support material, and it took quite some time to finish. Removal of the material was a breeze because of the simple geometry of the cube. I think my favorite part of geometric design is that complexity and simplicity can be equally pleasing. The design of this ornament is very simple in concept, but it may be my favorite of the prints.

Upward Spiral/Christmas Tree

I figured that the snowflake design was rather Christmasy, but I wanted to make sure that at least one of the ornaments I made would really bring the holiday cheer (ugh). The Helix/Spiral tool in Solidworks is a beautiful thing! After drawing a circle of a desired diameter, setting a height, and adjusting a few other parameters, there were only a few other finishing touches I needed to make to complete the design. I printed the ornament with supports throughout it’s structure. The part printed very nicely, and removal of the material wasn’t too difficult. Playing around with the piece as a spring is actually pretty fun too…

I think that about does it for this post. I’m looking forward to designing some more parts of my own and posting on here. I’m not sure yet whether they will be practical engineering designs used for some type of purpose or more abstract pieces like these ornaments, but time will tell. See you next post!

BLOG POST #4: 3D Printer DIY Upgrades

After much hard-work and determination, I can say I’ve finally finished making upgrades to my 3D printer. I will not lie, it was a long and arduous process… But I am very happy with results, and at the end of the day I had a lot of fun doing it! The purpose of making all of the upgrades was to increase print quality and reliability, to make the overall design of the printer more rugged and durable, and to eliminate printing odors by employing a ventilation system. I can not take creative credit for all of the upgrades I have made. The 3D models for the printed parts came from gracious designers on thingiverse.

Most of the upgrades are printed parts. Some of the others are electrical rewiring or additions, for example. Without further adieu, I am going to go through each upgrade I made including what it is meant to do, how easy or difficult it was to print and install, and how pleased I am with the results…

Circular Fan Duct

The purpose of printing this part was to replace the stock fan duct that came with the printer. The stock duct directed airflow at the printing nozzle, but only at a single angle. The Circular Fan Duct created by  Sjouke is meant to more evenly distribute airflow around the nozzle. Printing the part was simple enough and only took a couple hours. Installing the part was as easy as removing the stock duct, and replacing it with the new one. Did this upgrade make a difference in print quality? …maybe. I can’t say that I noticed an enormous change with this one, but it “feels good” to know that the airflow is being distributed a bit better.

Filament Guide & Extruder Button

The Filament Guide by jrwells was a very simple part to print, and it definitely made a difference in terms of ease of printing. With the part installed, I no longer needed to worry about filament getting caught on wires or other obstructions. Unfortunately, installation of the part was not as simple as I would have liked. As many of the comments on the thingiverse page mention, the holes in the part did not line up perfectly with the mounting holes on the printer. I needed to drill the holes out a bit wider in order to get the part to fit right.

The Extruder Button by dryas was also a very simple part to print, and installation was trivial. The button is basically a cap that get’s put on the extruder screw. This screw needs to be pressed in the process of changing filaments, and my thumb was getting tired of pressing on the extruder screw!

Power Supply Switch

In it’s default configuration, the only way to manually shut off the Anet A8 is to unplug it from the wall or plug it into a power strip from which you can shut it off with a switch. For this reason, I wanted to wire my own switch into the power supply. An added bonus would be to have a nice place for the switch to be placed. The Power Switch Holder design by vasilyd seemed like the best looking option. I bought the electrical switch referenced in the description for the part, and wired it to the power supply. When I went to test if the switch worked, I made the mistake of gripping the back plate of the switch and actually managed to give myself a nice 110V shock… That was a nice wake-up call. I quickly determined that this was why the printed switch holder was so important. The connector cable I used was conveniently nabbed from an old laptop charger. Attaching the switch to the printed part and the printed part to the bottom of the power supply was relatively simple, but fitting all of the wires inside of it was a bit snug. Overall, I am pleased with it’s look and functionality. No power supply issues or additional shocks to report.

Motherboard Case & Mosfet Wiring

My next undertaking was possibly the most satisfying, but also the most daunting. I wanted to print a case for the printer’s motherboard to house and protect it. In addition, I planned to wire a mosfet for the hot end to prevent the motherboard from literally frying. I had read several forum posts discussing the need to install a mosfet for the Anet A8 hot-end wiring because the connection points on the motherboard were really not rated for the amount of current running though them. (This is what you get when you buy cheap knock-off printers from China, and why I looked into upgrades in the first place.) So, the first step was to print the motherboard case, and then i would wire in the mosfet. The case design I chose was the Anet A8 Dual Mosfet & Motherboard Case by designzuk because it incorporated several great features (reset-button access, SD card & all ports access, removable cover, mosfet mount, etc.) and fit the profile of the A8 frame very well in my opinion. This design actually made room for two mosfet mounts, the other one being for the hotbed. I decided I didn’t need the hotbed mosfet as the consensus online was that this component was less prone to failure. The Cover Piece I actually ended up printing was modified by BerHerJohLin to include more direct 80mm fan mounting capabilities. Unfortunately, I ran into a snag when initially printing the cover because my Y-Axis belt slipped somehow and I had to start the print over… I was 3 hours in!!!

Above, you can see how the y-axis shifted. Unfortunately, when a print goes bad like this, there is really no choice but to totally start the print over. Fortunately, my second attempt went off without a hitch. I then wired the mosfet after consulting several online guides…

The mosfet doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference in printer operation other than the hot end getting up to temperature slightly quicker. Either way, I like to think I have prevented a future disaster. Feeding all of the wires into the case was pretty simple, but I made sure to take my time and do it in an organized fashion. Overall, I love the way the cover looks, and I’m glad I have something protecting “the brains” of my 3D printer. The increased airflow from the 80mm fan to the board also helps me sleep at night too. Unfortunately, I sometimes find it difficult to remove the SD card from the top of the case, but this is something I’m willing to deal with since everything else turned out so well.

Power Supply & Motherboard Fans

As you saw above, I installed a 80 mm fan on the motherboard case to assist in cooling the motherboard/other electronics. I also installed one on the power supply (using the already conveniently spaced grid holes) for the same purpose. I ordered these fans on amazon. They were meant to be used as computer fans, but I cut off the 2 pin connectors and wired them in parallel to the printers 12V power supply. It worked like a charm! Now whenever I flip the printer power switch on, the fans start continuously running. I like to think that this will keep my electronics boards running more reliably by removing heat.

T-Corner Frame Braces

Something I did not really like about the structural design of the Anet A8 was that during printing, I noticed the whole frame of the printer would “wobble” slightly. I knew there was no way this was helping print quality. A quick look on thingiverse confirmed that I was not the first to have this thought. The T-Corner Frame Braces by Electrico definitely did the trick in preventing this. I can confirm that this installation and the tensioners (which I’ll talk about in the next section) drastically improved my print quality. The two braces printed with ease and installed with relative ease. I did go full caveman at one point trying to push them into place, but it made sense that they fit snugly or else they wouldn’t serve their purpose.

X & Y Belt Tensioners

Installing both my X-Belt Tensioner (by slavomir11) and Y-Belt Tensioner (by freemark) really improved my print quality. I suppose that previous to this install, the belts were much too loose. For both tensioners, screws are adjusted in order to finely tighten the belts. This is much easier than trying to tension the belt with zip ties as i had originally done. There were numerous designs for Anet A8 belt tensioners on thingiverse, but I settled on these two designs because they were the easiest to print and install without modifications to existing parts. Some of the other x-belt tensioner designs required that the x-belt be shortened significantly by cutting it as an example. I did not want to go down this road because if the part did not work to my liking, I would have been left with a short x-belt that could no longer be used in its default configuration.

Y-Axis Chain Cable

Since I originally put the printer together, I had been looking for a clean way to manage the cables running to the hot-end and hot bed. The Y-Axis Chain Cable remixed by papinist looked like a good option for the cables running to the hot bed, so I went ahead and printed the parts. I found that connecting the chain links together was no problem, but the full chain assembly altogether was too rigid and  bent slightly one way. I remedied this by taking advice from the comments section on thingiverse. By placing the chain assembly flat on a cutting board in my oven at 170°F for about 4-5 minutes, I was able to bend the chain straight and make the chain links move more freely. Unfortunately, the installation of this thing was not fun. Rotating the bed 90 degrees wasn’t too much of an issue, but feeding the individual wires through the chain links was a tedious process. In addition, the frame mounting piece broke on me when I tried to install. I guess I should have printed with more infill… At this point I was sick of dealing with the thing, so I just super-glued it back in place. I do like the new look this component gives the printer, but I can’t tell if it was worth the trouble.

X-Axis Chain Cable & Z End-Stop Adjuster

The X-Axis Chain Cable & Z End-Stop Adjuster remixed by The_Random_Engineer was the design I chose for management of the wires running to the hot-end. This design also incorporated and improved the system for adjusting the Z-Axis End-Stop, making bed-leveling more convenient. Printing all of the parts for this design took several hours over the course of a couple days. If the installation of the Y-Axis Chain Cable seemed annoying, the X-Axis Chain Cable installation was even worse. Heating the assembly in my oven at 170°F for about 4-5 minutes as I did with the other chain assembly made it much less rigid. However, the main gripe I still ran into was feeding all of the wires through the twenty eight chain links. Every single wire was a struggle because the terminals at the end of each wire barely fit through. At times, I found myself forcing the wires through with a pencil. The other problem was installing the lead screw on the endstop part of the assembly. The hole was obviously not pre-threaded, so I had to do some gymnastics with my drill to get a screw into the hole. I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much, because this is what you get when you don’t design something yourself. Aside from all of the installation stress however, I am very pleased with the way this part turned out. I think that it is an elegant solution to cable management and gives the printer a professional look.

Glass Bed

Prior to printing on my glass bed, the first layer of my prints were often a bit rough and uneven due to printing directly onto painter’s tape. Adding the glass bed has been excellent for print quality, especially the first layer of prints. It was easy to cut the glass (which I got from home depot) to size and clip it onto the bed with small binder clips. The trick to getting great prints on glass is spraying the bed with hairspray and letting it heat up on the bed until it is tacky like glue. As an added bonus, finished prints can easily be removed by pouring a small amount of water on the bed. Hairspray is water-soluble, so prints are usually pretty easy to remove.

Ventilation System

I could make a full blog post detailing solely the construction of the ventilation system I made for my printer, but I’m not going to because it wasn’t rocket science. It took some time and know-how from my handy-man uncle, but from there I just cobbled together something that ended up working really well in removing printing odors. I ordered an IKEA Lack Table online per suggestions from the internet, bought some supplies from Home Depot, and went to my uncle’s garage to construct the beast. The fan I used to exhaust print odors to the dryer duct was actually an old re-purposed computer fan. I had concerns that it wouldn’t be powerful enough to really make any difference, but I have to say that it has worked extremely well so far! The fan is wired such that it draws power from the printer power supply. There is a switch on the outside of the enclosure that is used to engage/disengage this fan. Whenever I start a print, I simply route the duct out a window and turn on the fan. I also bought a cheap LED light strip with an on/off switch that illuminates the inside of the enclosure.

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As I said before, making these upgrades took more time and effort than I had originally thought they would. Persistence was key in making all of this work. If I could give any bit of advice to someone trying to upgrade their Anet A8, I would say that it’s important to be patient and take breaks from your projects.  I found myself rushing through things because I was eager to see them finished. This led to some tasks feeling like work. If you’re a nerd like me, you know that this type of project is meant to be fun and meaningful, NOT work. As a final thought, I’d say that I’m very happy I did all of this work instead of just spending a lot of money on a printer that already had all of these features. I feel that I’ve learned a lot more about the “science” of 3D Printing doing things myself, which I am very grateful for. Of course, now I’m going to brag and show you my full 3D-prototyping/gaming station… Until next time!

BLOG POST #3: Building My Own 3D Printer

Part of my January resolution to build my own PC was to ensure that it could handle some 3D modeling applications. The main reason for this was that I wanted to learn more about 3D printing, and be able to model my own items and produce them myself. For an inventive mind, this type of setup was extremely enticing.

As much I like state-of-the-art products, I am also kind of cheap. Initial research on top of the line 3D printers made my wallet quiver. After weeks of research, I stumbled upon what has been dubbed by the internet the cheapest 3D printer you can buy. This printer was the Anet A8. At a price point of about $200 at the time of my purchase (including shipping from China), this Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kit seemed to be exactly what I had been looking for. This printer boasted print volume dimensions of 220 mm X 220 mm X 240 mm (8.66″ X 8.66″ X 9.45″) and printed PLA (an organic substance that is becoming the 3D printing standard). The relatively low price point meant that I wouldn’t be wasting money if it was a disappointment, and the DIY aspect meant that I would be able to learn about exactly how the machine worked. In addition, the thing that really sold me on this model was the large online community of people who had reported good print quality for such a cheap 3D printer. This community proved to be useful in terms of troubleshooting too.

I ended up placing my order right before Chinese New Year, so I had to wait a few extra weeks for the printer to arrive. When it finally did show up, it was pretty clear that it had indeed come all the way from China:

The build process for the A8 was relatively pain free. Anet provides instructions on the mini SD card that comes with the printer, but also encourages the use of instructional Youtube videos that show you exactly how to assemble and calibrate your printer. These videos were what I used, in conjunction with recommendations from various forums/pages. Probably the best database for this printer was this wiki page. There were a few tips outlined in this wiki that proved to be beneficial to the overall design of the printer such as installing the H-Carriage Bed Mount properly. The full build took me about 2 days, and below are some progress shots:

The first print I tried was a test .gcode file from Anet simply labeled “Figure”:

It was extremely gratifying to see this thing I had built produce such quality prints! Naturally, I had to print a figure from my childhood next:

Overall, I am very pleased with the quality of the Anet A8 for such a low price point. Some of the materials feel a bit cheap, but you get what you pay for, and I intend to take very good care of my printer. Another cool aspect of a DIY printer is that there is always room for improvement in print quality. For example, one of the first items I plan to print for practical use is a new fan duct that will cool the printer nozzle more efficiently. This will hopefully make for better quality prints in the future because the plastic will set more consistently. I am looking forward to future projects that I can tackle with this printer and my new computer as a resource. The possibilities are endless!

BLOG POST #2: Building My Own PC

Right up until a couple of months ago, I considered myself to be a “Mac guy.” As someone who struggled in his early years using a slow Dell Inspiron Windows Vista laptop, I bought myself a Macbook Pro for college and thought I would never look back. The Macbook was extremely reliable and easy to work on throughout my college years, but I never really got to learn the ins and outs of how it worked. I worked on small upgrades for it, like installing more RAM and replacing it’s Hard Drive (HDD) with a Solid State Drive (SSD), but I still wanted to learn more about typical computer architecture. The allure of joining the PC master race became too great, and in January I decided I needed to put together a budget for building my own Windows PC.

After browsing through a couple of forums/internet community pages, it was clear to me that the first step in this process was going to be to determine exactly what this PC would be used for and what tasks would be the most resource intensive. This was not hard for me to figure out, because I could easily think back to the things I did on my laptop that slowed the system down or that I wanted to be snappier. I decided the main uses would be as follows:

  • Gaming
  • 3D Modeling
  • Basic Internet Browsing/Email

From here came the long and arduous process of determining which parts I needed for the build. I would say that this part was the most taxing for me, simply because I was very determined to find the best deals and sellers for the products I wanted. In addition, there was a bit of a learning curve with some of the terminology/specifications for different parts. Even when I did figure out exactly what I wanted to buy, in most cases I had to research whether or not different parts would be compatible with each other. Fortunately, there are several fantastic resources online for consolidating all of this. A few websites I would recommend are: logicalincrements.com, pcpartpicker.com, and blog.newegg.com. The most useful resource by far, however, was my friend who had already built his own PC. There is nothing better than being able to talk turkey with someone who already knows what they’re doing. It was great to be able to bounce thoughts and ideas off of him a find out his opinions on different brands as I went about my research.

Some of my biggest decisions for my build came down to the following:

  • i5 vs. i7 Intel CPU
  • RX480 vs. GTX1070 GPU
  • Air-cooled vs. Water-cooled CPU
  • 1080p vs. 1440p Screen Resolution
  • HDD & SSD vs One large SSD

Unsurprisingly, the top two decisions involved the biggest monetary discrepancies. I could go with an i7, but they were generally about $100 more than i5s. I could go with a GTX 1070 and 1440p monitor, but that would entail a large price hike as well. Ultimately, I decided that an i5 and 1080p was good enough for me. After all, this was my first PC build, and I didn’t want to spend too much and realize I didn’t need it. The other decisions followed suit, as I realized what was most practical for my situation/usage of the rig. You can check out what I ended up ordering here.

I have to say that actually putting everything together was really not too difficult. I watched a few instructional videos in preparation, but all parts came with manuals that clearly explained installation methods. The most nerve-wracking part of this process was seating my CPU, applying the thermal paste, and screwing down my after-market CPU cooler:

Even this, however, was really not so bad. You just have to make sure you don’t listen to internet trolls and do something like this:

When I was finally sure everything was correctly in place and plugged in, I flipped the power supply on. Everything lit up a beautiful red color, and the system BIOS came up. SUCCESS!

Constructing my rig and installing Windows 10 took me a full weekend, but I also took my time, was obsessive over cable management, and double checked instructions. I wanted everything to look as good as I knew it would perform, so taking any extra time was worth it to me. (For anyone wondering, I bought a Sit/Stand desk because I already sit all day at work. Maybe not ideal for gaming, but it suits my needs just fine.)

Here is are some photos of the guts of my completed PC:

I haven’t done any bench marking or overclocking or any other “cool gamer stuff” yet, but I plan to in the near future. My build certainly doesn’t represent a “top tier gaming rig,” but so far I am absolutely loving it’s performance. At the end of the day, the process of constructing the beast and seeing it light up for the first time was a huge thrill for me. Most importantly, I have learned a lot from this experience and am already excited about the prospect of building another PC!