Choosing A Protocol


These protocols have their place in our current market and you will need to make a decision as to which will work best for you.


This protocol is dead.  Throw your X10 devices in the trash and move on.  This may be harsh to some but I will explain.  The X10 protocol accepts more interference than most and does not mesh well in the world of newer home automation.  It is unreliable in our time.  It had it’s place “back in the day”.  It’s time has lapsed.  Unless you want to deal with loss of communication, stay away. Rant over. Don’t waste your time or your money.


This protocol uses a “mesh” network.  This means that the range of your devices will increase as you add more devices.  Zigbee uses 128-AES encryption which is sufficient for most home automation uses.  The power consumption on these devices are are low, allowing them to work for years on end before needing battery replacements.  Zigbee has an operating range of 35ft with a max number of 65,000 devices.


Zwave also uses a “mesh” network so the reliability will increase with the number of devices used.  This protocol also uses 128-AES encryption making it very similar to the Zigbee protocol.  Zwave has an operating range of 100ft with a max number of 232 devices.


There will be tons of controversy here. Technically speaking, WiFi enabled devices should flourish in this category.  It should dominate in both range and number of devices.  What you will find instead is a flurry of proprietary applications for very specific devices.  What this means is that even though you purchased a WiFi enabled device you will still have limitations (Phillips Hue, Belkin, Wemo and many knock-off brands).  Devices that use this protocol can often find a way to communicate but at a cost of reliability.  I will explain this more when discussing which hub to choose.


I use Zwave, Zigbee and WiFi protocols in that order.  I’ve found that the best manufactures to date use Zwave instead of Zigbee.  I do have some Zigbee devices but only if they work with my current Zwave ecosystem.  The only WiFi enabled devices I have are ones that I’ve created myself or purchased at a very low price due to compatibility problems that I will discuss further.

Introduction To Home Automation

The phrase “smart house” is subjective.  Unless you live in a cabin in the woods, we all use some form of home automation these days.  Home automation is what YOU make of it.   For example, things can be smart even if they cannot be controlled by your phone while you’re away on vacation.  I consider anything that makes day-to-day tasks easier a part of home automation. The first air conditioner was created in 1902.  I imagine that would be a pretty smart device for that time period.

You didn’t come here for me to ramble about what the definition of a “smart home” is.  I do want to open your mind as to what you should consider smart. To get the best results, you need to understand the technologies that exist and how to implement them.

With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about control and how you will interact in a narrow view of home automation.  Specifically, let’s look at some of the popular inputs and outputs that we have access to.

Here are a few inputs:

  • Fixed Settings (Timers/Temperature settings)
  • Touch
  • Sensors (temperature, water, open/close, motion, GPS)
  • Voice
  • Radio/Infared
  • The internet
  • IFTTT (If this then that) – One action causing another action.

Here are some outputs:

  • Light control
  • Thermostat
  • Displays (Cell phone/ Tv / Computer Monitor)
  • Doors (open/close/locking)
  • Sound/Music
  • The internet (goes back to displays or used for logging)
  • Anything that uses electricity (yes, all of them).

When I first created this list I thought, “wow, that is it?”.  Unfortunately, the list doesn’t get much longer.  We are still in the infancy of home automation.  In the future, computers will anticipate movement or changes and do things for us.  Until then, we need to provide some type of input.  Our outputs are currently limited by our inputs.

You can connect the dots using different protocols.  Take the output of lights for example.  I have lights that are controlled by timers, buttons/switches, open/close sensors, motion sensors, voice and through inputs of other programs and actions.

Below are some of the protocols, or different methods for inputs to communicate with outputs.

  • The internet/Wi-Fi
  • RF (radio frequency; proprietary radio frequencies)
  • IR (infrared)
  • Zigbee (technically radio)
  • Zwave (technically radio)
  • X10 (technically radio)

The goal of the home automation section is to help you with connecting the dots for what you need and the outputs you want to control.  Simplify what you need and conquer.



There are many different types of materials, also know as filaments, that can be used with 3D printers.  Keep in mind that all materials do not work in all printers.  Please check with your printer specs before ordering or using a filament.

More materials and combinations and filament acronyms are being created each day so it can be a bit cumbersome to keep up with.  As of 2018, the cheapest materials to print are PLA and ABS.

There is a table in the wiki found here that has way more information about each type of material.


PLA (polylactic acid ) is by far the most commonly used filament in the 3D printing world at the moment.  There are a ton of advantages to using PLA.  The materials are cost effective when compare with others and the material is better for the enviroment becuase it is biodegradable.

The print temperature needed for PLA is typically lower than ABS and doesn’t have a gross chemical smell when printing.  Supports are often used when printing PLA but avoid when possible.   PLA has properties that make shards of it sharp and the material tends to snap instead of bending.

There are better consistencies of PLA being created that have shown to have been stronger than ABS in some cases.


ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is a widely used plastic in the world of injection molding becuase the material is tough and can take a beating.  If you are looking to make some small parts or for outdoor use then ABS may be your best option.  ABS is not biodegradable so anything you do not use will likely end up in the landfill.

The temperature needed for ABS is typically more than PLA and does emit a chemical burning smell while printing.  ABS is a material tends to bend instead of break and is very durable.  That is why you will see this type of material in car bumpers and lego bricks.

ABS has been know to curl or warp during printing.  This material is know to shrink and deform.  This is mostly due to the material and the type of printer being used.  Problems tend to occur more in open printers when compared to closed printers with a temperature control.


Cleaning filament is used to clear out the nozzle on 3D printers.  It is recommended that you use this periodically to keep things operational.


Yes, you can print wood in most 3D printers.  Wood filaments are typically made with PLA and a mixture of wood fibers.  An interesting property of this filament is that you can sand and stain it.


There are many different types of flexible/wearable filaments available including Nylon, PET, PP, FPE and PETT.  If you’re interested in this martial I recommend referring to the wiki for more information.

Glow in the dark/Transparent

There are several different options for a Glow-In-The-Dark or transparent material.  You can pick these up in large rolls of PLA.  I personally will avoid these because I plan on painting and finishing everything that I print.


There are tons of materials that can be printed that I will not list here.  As the technology gets cheaper, I’m sure we will be printing in glass and metal.  Dissolvable filaments are typically used to wash away supports once a print has completed.   Rubber and heat resistant materials have been created and the list grows longer each day.

Finding a Printer

You are going to need to ask yourself a few questions to determine what type of printer to buy.  What types of things will you print?  How large?  What types of materials are important to you? What kind of budget are you working with?

Obviously we all want a 3d printer that can spit out titanium models in a few minutes.  If you have that type of coin, leave us plebeians to our penny pinching ways.  My journey is under $500 including the cost of filaments.

MP Select Mini 3D Printer V2 – $220









This is a nifty little budget printer.  For starters, this printer can be had for as little as $190 with coupon codes if you’re willing to wait.  This  printer is assembled when you receive it.  It has a color led display, wifi-enabled, large support base, a heated bed.  For the price, it makes some quality prints compared to the larger and more expensive printers.  There are a few limitations with a smaller printer.   The print speed is 55mm per second and the max extruder temperature does not get as high as some other pritners.  The resolution is 100 microns with a build area of 4.7″ x 4.7″ x 4.7″ (120 x 120 x 120 mm).  This can print both PLA and ABS filaments although it is widely recommended that you only use PLA.

This will be our first printer of choice.  Initially, I liked some of the larger printers but space in my work area is important to me so I went with a smaller setup.  I will use this to learn and decide how I feel about 3D printing in the future.

Maker Select 3D Printer v2 – $299

This is the larger version of the mini Maker select and would be my ideal choice if not for concerns with workbench space.   Although it prints at the same detail as the mini it has many other advantages at around the same price.  This printer has a large print bed at 7.9″ x 7.9″ x 7.1″
(200 x 200 x 180 mm).  This printer can use a ton of different filaments including ABS, PLA, XT Copolyester, PET, TPU, TPC, FPE, PVA, HIPS, Jelly, Foam and  Felty.  The print speed is 100mm/sec and the max extruder temperature is higher than the mini.  Sadly, this does not have built in Wi-fi like the mini but all things considered is an awesome choice.   Head over to to check it out.


Creality3D CR – 10S 3D – $399 – $450

The CR-10 is a printer with a ton of community support.  It has user replaceable parts.  The aluminium frame helps keep the extruder steady when creating prints.  The printer area is very large at 300mm x 300mm x 400mm.  This printer costs a bit more and requires some assembly but I’ve seen some great prints come out of this machine.  If you want to get some of the best prints without spending more than $500 then this might be the path for you.  These can often be found on

YouTube is a resource

I find many ideas and answers to my questions just by watching Youtube.  I highly recommend following RCLifeOn.  He has some great information on how to choose a 3D printer.