posts tagged with the keyword ‘3d’



As you may know, I finished my RepRap recently. But here’s the thing, you never really finish a RepRap. It’s a beast in need of endless tweaking. So yeah, it’s a never-ending project (if you want it to be) and I’m okay with that. I mean, once you get to the point that it works, you can start using it to upgrade itself. How many tools can do that!?

Of course you can actually make useful things, functional things, or just pretty things. There’s a lot a 3D Printer can do. I’ve only been at it for less than a year and I’ve still got a lot to learn.

So anyway, yeah, I’m really enjoying this 3D Printing stuff… so I figured, why not share it with others? So join us for the first Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup! We’ll be meeting on Sunday, July 1st, 2012 at 1:00pm. We won’t be at our space because we’ve partnered with our friends at UWM for this one! Show up at UWM’s Kenilworth Square East Building, 3rd Floor; Room 368 on 1925 E. Kenilworth Place.

If you’ve got a 3D Printer, bring it, or just show up and learn about them. If things go well and there’s interest, maybe we’ll turn it into a regularly scheduled meeting.

(More info? It’s also on the Milwaukee Makerspace site and you can RSVP on Facebook if you want to see who else will be there.)


Say goodbye to your mouse and keyboard.

The Leap Motion looks interesting. OK, it looks awesome. Sort of… I mean, I’m all for “new” interfaces for computers, but the whole “say goodbye to your mouse and keyboard” bit? I don’t buy it, and I don’t want to buy it. More accurate than a mouse? Again, I’m not convinced. And as for the “more natural” part of it, while it’s true I’ve been using my hands and fingers my entire life, I’ve been using a keyboard for more than 30 years, and a mouse for over 20 years, and at this point, it’s pretty damn natural. Nothing feels “unnatural” to me about using a keyboard and mouse. If something better comes along, I’d be happy to try it. The iPad does a really good job of using a touch interface, and for specific tasks, it’s wonderful, and much better than a keyboard and mouse, though I feel a lot of that has to do with how and where I use an iPad.

In the air

I’m not really sure how signing your name or writing in thin air is natural or better/easier that the alternatives. Sure, it looks like it could be fun, and I do see the possibilities for new things, but I made the joke(?) yesterday that what we really need is a method of using computers that requires us to keep our arms in the air for 10 hours a day. I know we should all use standing desks and be on the move, but I also really like sitting at a desk, supporting my arms, and using a keyboard and mouse. For the great majority of what I do with a computer, it works well.

Alright, with my complaining out of the way, I’ll heap on the praise now. I love this thing. The Leap Motion opens up some possibilities. We’ve played with 3D scanning using the Kinect and while it sort of works, it could be better. Hell, if the Leap Motion can do at least as good as the Kinect at 1/3rd the price, I’m sold. (Also, it’s not a Microsoft product, so it earns points there as well!) I can also see using the Leap Motion with Processing as a great physical computing device. Yeah, I’m excited. $70? That’s cheaper than some Logictech mice!

So while I’m not ready to ditch my keyboard and mouse yet, I can see some great possibilities in the Leap Motion. I’m not exactly ready to (pre-)order one yet, as it’s sort of vaporware at this point, and they don’t expect to ship until December 2012 or January 2013. That’s 7 to 8 months out, without any dates slipping. (Dev kits may be out in 1 to 3 months, so there’s a chance we may get a better idea of what it can really do at that point.) The pre-order thing makes it feel like a really long Kickstarter campaign, so I’m taking a “wait and see” approach on this. Things move fast, and who knows, within 6 months a competitor may come along with something better. Still, it’s damn interesting.


Convert all the files!
Thanks Tom!

It seemed like a simple enough request… While at Milwaukee Makerspace we were discussing creating snowflakes on the Laser Cutter, and I mentioned that there should be some existing art on, but it was down that night, so I jumped over to Thingiverse and found this snowflake.

As a bit of background, I’ve been pretty damn good at file conversions in the past. Audio, video, markup, raster images, anything 2D has been pretty simple. I mean, I’ve been using Photoshop since version 1.0.7. I know how to deal with that stuff… but 3D? It’s a whole new nightmare world!


The file was an STL, which is meant for 3D printing, but we needed more of a 2D vector file. I know how to load a DXF file into the Laser Cutter, so I figured I’m import this STL into Google Sketchup (via a plugin) and then export as a DXF (via another plugin) and that would be it.

Well, that didn’t work. (Oh, and by “didn’t work” I mean I was unable to open the DXF file in Inkscape. At this point I was still waiting to use the Laser Cutter so I didn’t get to try importing it on that machine. I figured that as long as I was waiting, I’d try to get a format I knew would work.) On to the next idea.

I exported the STL from Google Sketchup as a DAE file, and was able to open that in MeshLab. Once again I tried a DXF export, but that one wouldn’t open in Inkscape either. Argh!


So I made a radical decision… Since I could view the file in MeshLab, I just did a screen shot so I could get a nice, clean 2D version of it.


Of course if I had known I was going to do this, I probably could have just done it in Google Sketchup by altering the view… Still, the MeshLab method seemed solid.


I then took the screen shot and opened it in Photoshop, did a little editing, and converted it to black and white. (I considered creating paths, and exporting them, but at this point I wanted to go with what I knew (or thought) would work, and that meant getting a clean PNG file into Inkscape to convert it from a raster to a vector file via trace bitmap.


So finally, I had my SVG file! A vector file I could open in Inkscape and export as a clean DXF file that I was reasonable sure would open and work on the Laser Cutter…


Oh wait, at some point along the way I had created an OpenSCAD file, to test the other DXF files. They wouldn’t render due to some weirdness, but the new one I exported from Inkscape did. This made me feel a little more secure that this file would work.

So how did it turn out? I don’t know!

The Laser Cutter was in use making ornaments, and I couldn’t stay late enough to get a chance to use it.

And just to be clear… while there were many steps in the process above, the whole thing took about 20 minutes from the first file export to getting what seemed to be a good DXF file.

I’ve converted a lot of files in my time, but doing so for these CNC machine is proving to be a new challenge.

Of course half the fun is seeing if it will work, you know, on the machine… which I hope to test at some point. :)


Cow (Sketchup)

So back when I first used the MakerBot at Milwaukee Makerspace, my daughter asked me to make her a cow. (The kid likes cows!) Since my 3D modeling skills were not up to the task (and still aren’t, at least not for a cow) I found a cow in the Google 3D Warehouse and brought it into Sketchup.

It looked fine, so I exported it as an STL file and did a print. A very small print. It looked OK (but not great) and since it was small there wasn’t really much detail.

Since then I’ve looked at other files in the Google 3D Warehouse, but since most of stuff there is for screen display and not 3D printing, things tend to be very complex, at least in the well done models. More complex than might be needed for a 3D print, at least from the Makerbot.

I’m still pretty new at this 3D modeling stuff, but simplifying the model seems to be what we want. In the 2D world I’ve been doing the same sort of thing for 20 years, but in 3D? It’s new ground.

Enter MeshLab!

From the MeshLab web site: “MeshLab is an open source, portable, and extensible system for the processing and editing of unstructured 3D triangular meshes. The system is aimed to help the processing of the typical not-so-small unstructured models arising in 3D scanning, providing a set of tools for editing, cleaning, healing, inspecting, rendering and converting this kind of meshes.”

I’m mainly interested in using it to reduce the complexity of 3D models.

Cow Original (MeshLab)

Here is the STL file I created from the original cow in Sketchup, as seen in MeshLab.

Cow Reduced (MeshLab)

Here is the same file after reducing the complexity using the Quadratic Edge Collapse Decimation filter. I still feel like it’s a bit of black magic figuring out exactly what numbers to use, and what checkboxes to check, but this is what I used for this one:

MeshLab Settings

I’m fairly pleased with the results (though I haven’t tried to print it yet) but now that I’ve got a (loose) handle on mesh reduction, I’ll dig into the tutorials on YouTube from MrPMeshLabTutorials, including this one on Decimation.

(Of course I still wish MeshLab had an Undo function.)

Oh, and if you really want to 3D print a cow, this recently added to Thingiverse cow is probably the one you want. :)


Key Kitty

Recently I came across a link that someone shared for this story about the “Key Kitty” which is a cute little kitty shaped keychain that is also a weapon. With all the debate about weapons on Thingiverse, I thought I’d try an experiment.

So here’s what I did… using nothing more than the two photos above, I decided to try to clone the design, and create my own with a 3D printer.

Key Kitty Template

I took the photo of the pink Key Kitty above and created a greyscale version of it, and then imported it into Inkscape. I then traced around it to create a SVG file that approximated the outline. Now, the Key Kitty is a pretty simple object, it’s basically a two dimensional object with some height to it, so the process was fairly easy.

Key Kitty Test

At this point I printed out the SVG file at actual size to see how it would fit on my fingers. It didn’t have to exactly match the original, but it did have to fit right.

OpenSCAD Kitty

Once I tested the paper prototype and decided it was the correct size, I exported the design to a DXF file and imported it into OpenSCAD and extruded it.

Key Kitty STL

Finally, here’s the STL file of our Key Kitty Klone, ready to be printed. It will just fit on the platform of the MakerBot Cupcake. (And because someone asked, no… I had no plan to make it into an LED flashlight as well. I was just interested in copying the basic shape.)

So wait, where is the actual print? Well, the night I tried printing it was the night of many woes, and I had two failed attempts at printing it, and with a two hour print time estimate, I ended up not leaving the makerspace with a real printed object. I’m also not 100% sure I should share the files. I mean, there’s the whole issue of the legality of cloning products, and I’m not really sure I want to be a test case on this one.

But I figured I couldn’t end this post without a bit more research. I found references to, but there’s no web site, and it looks like the domain expired back in August 2011. I did find this great Key Kitty video from 2010 though. There’s also a Facebook page and Twitter account, both of which have had no updates for 10 months. For all I know, the company behind this product went bankrupt and closed up shop. Of course this just brings up more questions about cloning it. In the end though, I could just make some changes and call it the Key Bat or Key Bunny, or whatever… all it needs are some eye-holes for your fingers, and some pointed ears.

So here’s my question to you… What do you think about the cloning of existing products?

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