posts tagged with the keyword ‘snowflake’


Snowflake Designers

For the Holiday Make-A-Thon at Milwaukee Makerspace we came up with the idea of using Snowflake 2.0 so people could design their own snowflake ornament that we would then laser cut for them.

We had two computers running and instructed people how to use the app. We had to make sure people didn’t overlap the lines, as each line would be seen by the laser cutter as a place to cut, and people would end up with a pile of little wood pieces instead of a snowflake. We also found a bug where you could drag a node off the screen and then not be able to reach it to drag it back. Besides those little issues, the app was great, and lots of makers had interest in download it and playing with it.

Oh, Lance did all the laser cutting, and he was kind enough to add the person’s name, along with “Christmas 2013″ to the back of each ornament, and a hole to hang them. Since it was a minimal amount of etching, and then just two vector cuts, things went pretty fast, which is good, because I think we made over 80 snowflakes!

Here’s a few of the designs people came up with during the event.








I’m tempted to dig into the code a bit and see if I can tweak things with Snowflake 2.0. Not surprising, but it’s been a year since I played around with snowflakes.


Tennis Man

Here’s a thing I’m calling (for lack of a better name) “Snowflakey”. The idea came from the Kimotion Arts store on Shapeways.

Kimotion Arts

Kimotion Arts has these neat 3D printed ornaments with an object arranged in a circle to make a snowflake-like thing. I dig it, so I decided to dig into it.

Bad Man

The first thing I did was fire up Inkscape and draw a really simple figure. It’s terrible, really, but I did it in less time than it took Inkscape to launch of Mac OS X. I created an SVG file, and then exported it as a DXF file, making sure I converted all the line segments into straight lines first. (Of course there were no curves in this drawing, but if there were, I’d convert them!)

Bad Man Flake

Once I had my DXF file, it was easy to pull that into OpenSCAD, and place six of them in a circle with the following code.

objheight = 4;
objcenterspacing = 20;
objrotate = -70;

for (i = [0:5]) {
  rotate(i*360/6, [0,0,1])
    translate([0, objcenterspacing, 0])
      rotate([0, 0, objrotate]) 
        linear_extrude(height = objheight, center = true) 
          import( "figure.dxf" );

The code is not the greatest… in fact there is probably much room for improvement, but it’s the first thing I got working, so I ran with it. My idea for the 3 variables at the top were so you could easily tweak them for different art. Sadly, as you change objcenterspacing and objrotate, they affect each other, so it’s a lot of back and forth between those two values. I also could not find a way to assign a filename to a variable, so your DXF will need to be named “figure.dxf” or you’ll need to edit the import line.

Tennis Man

Since my drawing was so terrible I wanted to try something else, so what better than Land recreation symbols 27, better known as “Tennis Man” by most people.

Tennis Man Flake

A few quick edits and I had this nice Tennis Man Snowflake for that special ball smasher on your list… (Notice the canvas size of 25mm wide by 35mm high. You can do what you want, but the OpenSCAD code will be expecting something close to that. Otherwise you’ll just have to tweak the numbers even more.)

Blobby Man Flake

I decided to try once again to draw something. This one took a little longer than a minute, but turned out just as terrible as the first one I did. Still, maybe you like “Blobby Man” as a snowflake.

Ant Flake

How about ants? This one is interesting. Maybe spiders would have been a better choice. (And yes, I know I could probably do the entire “6 items rotated” thing right in Inkscape, but that wasn’t the goal here.)

Horse Flake

What about the old nag? No, I’m not taking about your mother-in-law (kidding!) but this fine old horse from, where I get many of the SVG files I use. Export this as an STL file and you’re ready to print it on your RepRap!

If you’ve got an improvement to this OpenSCAD code, by all means, let me know. I’m still very much in the learning phase with OpenSCAD, so I do these things to learn, and because of that I’m open to any suggestions.


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. :)


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