posts tagged with the keyword ‘3d’

2011.11.14

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. :)

2011.10.18

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 keykittytv.com, 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?

2011.10.17

One of the promises of 3D printing is being able to print replacement parts to things around the house that break. Since I’ve got access to a MakerBot Cupcake at Milwaukee Makerspace, I figured I’d give this a try, not just downloading some object from Thingiverse, but actually going through the entire process of measuring, designing and printing a part.

Light Switch v1
Light Switch Button v1

I got out the calipers and measured the light switch to determine the size of the replacement part I’d need to create, and then I used Sketchup to design the actual object at the correct width, height and depth per my measurements. Since the original part was long gone, I had to estimate how it should be designed, so I just used my best guess.

My first attempt (version 1 above) may have looked good, but even if it was a perfect match to the original, the fact that it was a very small part, and had to be printed on a older model MakerBot meant that the actual print was terrible. The part was just 10mm x 12mm x 6.7mm. That’s pretty damn small.

Light Switch v2
Light Switch Button v2

Version 1 just didn’t work. The hole that was meant to slide over the shaft of the light switch was too short, ill formed, and not even close to round in the inside. So for version 2 I changed the circular structure to a rectangle with a hole in it, as well as making it a bit thicker all around.

Version 2 was definitely better than version 1, but the hole still wasn’t looking too good, and the top (where the MakerBot finishes printing) was pretty ragged. I figured I could sand it down flat though if needed, which is why I ended up making it taller.

(Oh, I should mention that with version 1 I just printed it at the makerspace and then brought it home to test it out. It would have been awesome to have a 3D printer in the house, because I probably could have just kept tweaking it until I got it right, but as it were, I printed one, took it home, and then there was a week before I could try the next version. So yeah, this is why you need a 3D printer at home!)

Light Switch v3
Light Switch Button v3

So right after I printed up version 2, I was concerned it still might not work, so I quickly tweaked the file a bit to make it taller, and to remove the hole completely, with the idea that I could drill a nice clean hole at the appropriate size. Version 3 looked pretty good out of the Cupcake. Not great, not amazing, but pretty good… at least in comparison to the others.

Light Switch
Printed Light Switch Button

So here’s our actual printed object. Yeah, it looks pretty rough around the edges, at least from this view. I ended up using the Dremel on the top to get it a bit shorter and smoother, and then drilling a hole that would allow it to fit on the shaft. Of course, I don’t have metric drill bits, so I tried to find something close. This was my first real attempt at using the Dremel or a drill on a printed part. It wasn’t great. The Dremel doesn’t react the same way it does to metal or wood. Do I go slower or faster or what? I’m not sure… As for the drill, I tried to just hold the piece in one hand while drilling it. That was not ideal. Perhaps next time I’ll use the vice.

I know that in the photo it looks pretty sad, but it actually worked, so cosmetic beauty aside, this was mostly a success.

Light Switch
Light Switch Button in place

Here’s the light switch button in place. We can actually use the light switch without pushing the tiny shaft anymore, which is good.

So in the end, this part, even with the failed attempts, probably consists of less than 5 cents worth of plastic. This is the beauty of 3D printing at home. To get a replacement from the manufacturer would have involved me contacting them, ordering or asking for a replacement, and then having that replacement shipped to me. Even if I ended up talking to some nice person who could put one in an envelope and mail it to me at no charge, the postage stamp alone would have cost more than the raw materials needed to make the part.

Oh, you may have noticed the hole in the button. Yeah, I drilled it a bit too much. Also, the red doesn’t really match very well. I’ll probably print it again in white, or maybe glow in the dark plastic, which would make even more sense.

2011.10.11

3D Model

In the last month I’ve made some progress in my 3D modeling education, so I thought I’d provide an update. (Besides my last post, I got some good feedback on Google+) Oh, and just a reminder, my interest in 3D modeling all has to do with creating objects I can produce with a 3D printer like the MakerBot or the RepRap.

So what am I using (or not using) now? Here’s the list:

Google Sketchup
I’ve made some good progress with Sketchup. A few tutorials (and a lot of playing around) has me creating actual 3D models. You’ll want the STL Importer and STL Exporter to deal with STL files. Sketchup is nice, and I’m sure I’ll end up using it more as time goes on, but it’s not the end of my 3D quest.

Blender
Urgh… I’ve made no progress with Blender. Haven’t even tried. I may just wait until we do a Blender class at Milwaukee Makerspace.

123D
Still no Mac OS X version.

3DTin and Tinkercad
I talked about 3DTin last time. I haven’t used it since, but it still seems like a great way for kids to get into 3D modeling. As for Tinkercad, it seems like a more advanced version of 3DTin. Make: Live covered Tinkercad in Episode 17 if you want to check it out.

Inkscape
Say what!? Inkscape is a 2D drawing application. I’m still using it. I’ll often open vector files (SVG) and export them to DXF files and then extrude those to 3D files. Here’s a great Inkscape to OpenSCAD dxf tutorial that explains it all.

OpenSCAD
I’m still just barely using OpenSCAD, mainly in conjunction with Inkscape as mentioned above. I need to dig in a bit deeper, as time allows.

So what else is there? Well, I found Pleasant3D, which isn’t exactly modeling software, but it’s what ReplicatorG might look like if it were a full-on Mac OS X application. I’ve found it useful on a few occasions.

The other one worth mentioning is MeshLab, which may have some uses when it comes to converting or transforming files. I haven’t created anything with it yet, but it sure looks impressive.

So that’s my 3D modeling software update… Anything new to report from your desktop?

2011.09.20

3D Printers

As you may know, I’ve been playing around with a MakerBot recently, and at first I wasn’t sure if it was just me, or if 3D printing was really starting to catch on… but now, I think it’s safe to say it’s catching on, and I’m pretty confident in saying 3D Printing is the Future.

I really don’t give out these predictions very often… Sure, I was an early adopter of things like blogging and podcasting, but this whole 3D printing thing is a “disruptive technology” that stands to change the world.

So with that, I’ll give a brief primer on some of the technology.

3D printing has been around for quite some time, but it’s always been very expensive, and a 3D printer was never a thing you’d have in your home. Of course, in the olden days you’d never imagine you’d have a printer in your home. Printing was something you paid a printer to do. It was complicated, and messy, and expensive. I bought my first ink-jet printer around 1999 and it was probably over $200. In 2007 I got a new one, and it was $110, and it even has a built-in scanner. Nowadays no one thinks that printing on paper with ink in their own home is anything special, so how long will it be before we think the same thing about 3D printing.

It’s fair to say that Adrian Bowyer, creator of the RepRap project, is one smart dude, not just for coming up with a 3D printer that can print itself, but for his ideas of how this technology could change the world. It’s also been said that the RepRap is “the invention that will bring down global capitalism, start a second industrial revolution and save the environment…” You know, in a good way.

Now, the 3D printing revolution is happening in a different manner than the “cheap desktop printer” revolution happened. For one thing, you can assemble all the parts for a 3D printer right now, thanks to the RepRap project and it’ll be cheaper (and some say “better”) than the affordable 3D printers you can buy today.

Yes, there are affordable 3D printers you can buy today!

MakerBot
The folks at MakerBot are sort of the granddaddies of the 3D printer arena. Their “Cupcake” came out a few years ago, and their newer model, the “Thing-O-Matic” is their current offering. They’ve got the most well known brand right now, and if you doubt 3D printing will be big, they just took a $10 million investment.

MakerGear
I hear nothing but good things about MakerGear and the quality of their products and support. Well, I do hear one negative… products are always out of stock! Besides that, I think MakerGear has some good offerings. Besides their own model, the “Mosaic” you can get full-kit for a Prusa Mendel RepRap. (You know, if it’s in stock.)

Ultimaker
New to the game is the Ultimaker, which looks impressive! Watching the videos, it looks like it trumps the MakerBot in many areas. If MakerBot is the established brand, I’m glad to see some competition coming in and forcing them to up their game. :)

BotMill
There’s also BotMill, which seems to offer two models, both based on the RepRap Mendel. (I don’t know much more about BotMill.)

The Others
There’s also the Buildatron and the Solidoodle, of which I know little about, and just today I came across the Origo (not available yet) which aims to be the first “reliable easy to use 3D printer for ten year olds.” That “reliable easy to use” part is the nut that everyone is still trying to crack.

Besides those commercial offerings is the real granddaddy of this whole thing, the RepRap. If you think of the MakerBot as Windows, and maybe the Ultimaker as Mac OS X, then RepRap is Linux. It’s DIY. You can build it yourself. You’ll spend a lot of time tweaking it. It’ll be cheaper, but you’ll have to figure out your own support. Sort of… Nearly all of the commercial units are based (somewhat) on the technology from the RepRap project, so if you want a name brand, and support, and a company behind it, buy a commercial unit. If you’re a hacker, or a maker, or cheap, build a RepRap.

I’ve got a lot more posts about 3D printing, and the RepRap specifically, so stay tuned!

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