Wednesday, January 15, 2020

3D Printed Feline Entertainment

Drawing of the dispenser courtesy of and BrianEnigma
This Christmas "Santa" got the kids and I a very beginner level 3D printer. I figured it would be fun to play with and maybe even somewhat useful. So far it's been a couple of keychain phone stands and some attempts at little plastic things I've been selling on eBay, trying to be my own supplier. It's been a fun little hobby so far, but what to print?

Enter the Cat. Jack has been hanging out with me for the last 18.5 years. My ex-wife and I got him shortly after we moved to California so I could do the grad school thing in the fall of 2001. Most of the time he's had a dog around to keep company and make out with under the coffee table. Some seriously intense inter-species grooming has gone on under my coffee table over the years.

These last few years though it's been just him and I on the days I don't have the kids. I like to try to satiate potential his potential boredom on occasion. After a recent perusing of a few online pet stores for entertaining toys I began to wonder if anyone had printed cat toys.

One great, easy to use, resource for things to 3D print is Thingiverse is an open sharing platform for 3D printing designs. In a way it is similar to, a place to get free/donatation-based images for blogs, etc., but is entirely 3D .stl files.

A quick thingiverse search brought up a neat looking cat treat dispensing toy. The lure of treats might keep Jack a little more interested. I would have tried for something of a catnip dispenser, but the cat is immune to the stuff. So I downloaded the files, converted them to the gcode instructions that 3D printers work from and 10 hours later (it was an overnight print job), voila! The cat had a toy.

Next time I might pick a brighter color.

 It took a little cleaning as prints usually have a lot of exoskeleton-like support structures so that, for instance, the holes don't collapse or deform. the end result looked pretty sharp. Treats fit inside nicely. To hasten their release for the first little while, I'm cutting them in half. 

"Dude, wtf, just give me the treats"
Jack is starting to take notice, but needs a little coaxing. He definitely already knows to be around when I'm rolling or shaking it. I may try to tweak the design to make it spherical and more easy to bat around. Next on the list I may have to make an automated laser pointer for him to chase during the day and for me to play with an arduino kit and some servo motors. :)

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