I needed a sifter to remove some small pebbles from concrete mix, so I designed and 3D printed one. Now, like many things that get 3D printed, you don’t always get it right the first time. After testing the sifter I decided it needed larger holes, so. I started on version 2.
For version 1 I used Inkscape to quickly create a grid of circles (using the clone feature) and then differenced them from a circle. Once I had this done I exported as a DXF file and used that within OpenSCAD to create the bottom of the sifter. I added a ring and Bob’s your uncle. I use this Inkscape/DXF/OpenSCAD/extrude method sometimes, because it seems like the right way to do things, or because it’s pretty fast. But it’s not always the best.
The problem with the Inkscape/DXF/OpenSCAD/extrude method is that you have to go back to Inkscape and redo your DXF file if you want to make changes or tweak the design. This may not be an issue for many designs, but for some, I want the flexibility to easily change things.
So for the next version I redid the holes portion of the design in OpenSCAD. The great advantage here is that you can very easily tweak things like the size of the holes, and the hole spacing, and automagically see how it looks. (Note: in the image above you’re seeing the positive “solids” of the holes. In the final file I differenced them from another solid object to make them “holes” in the design.)
While the method of doing it all within OpenSCAD has advantages, the one way it suffers is when it comes to render time. I should note that in OpenSCAD you can choose how “smooth” circles are by applying a number between 1 and 200. It basically sets how many “sides” a circle has. You can typically use 100 and circles will look pretty circular, but you can also drop the number down to 6 for hexagons, 8 for octagons, etc. That said, at a setting of 100 rendering the sifter took nearly 15 minutes on my 6 year old MacBook Pro. Changing the circles to hexagons with just 6 sides took about one minute to render.
This is where The Cloud™ should save us, right? But while there are various versions of OpenSCAD running on public servers, no one is running a version that worked properly. And since OpenSCAD is a niche piece of open source software, I don’t know if this will change. But since there is a command line interface to OpenSCAD, maybe I can do complex renders on one of my more powerful computers. (Anyway, I’m getting off-topic, so let’s continue.)
Hey, it’s a sifter! Yes, I designed and 3D printed a sifter. I often design things and then print them overnight so I have them the next day. 3D printing is awesome, but it’s often not fast. I did consider trying to make a sifter plate with a drill press, and then I remembered I had a laser cutter, and considered using that, but ultimately I was not in a hurry and 3D printing one seemed like a good idea.
Speaking of good ideas, I’ve been looking at Tinkercad recently, and while I wanted to be convinced it wouldn’t be easy to do what I wanted, it actually was pretty easy to do what I wanted, so I redesigned my sifter using Tinkercad. The smart duplication feature made it fairly simple.
While I’m a bit more impressed with Tinkercad than I thought I would be, I still have the problem I had with Inkscape, that if I want to tweak some values, I need to redo work. In fact, I have to pretty much create a whole new model. For simple designs, this isn’t a huge deal, but it is a bit of a pain.
What’s a bigger pain is the fact that while I will always have copies of Inkscape and OpenSCAD to use, Tinkercad (and the files I create with it) may disappear. Tinkercad is own/run by Autodesk, and while it’s a great tool for beginners to get started with 3D modeling (without having to install any software) ultimately I’m concerned for its long-term existence (like any hosted/cloud service.)
I can easily edit the OpenSCAD files I created seven years ago, which is something that is important to me. That said, I do want to explore other software, because reasons, you know?