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3D Modeling Update

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?

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Pac-Man Cookies

Cookie Cutters

Since I’ve been playing with the MakerBot at the Milwaukee Makerspace, I figured that I should print something useful, and what’s more useful than cookie cutters!

I got the idea from the GuruBlog CookieCutter-Editor. I ended up making the Pac-Man shape, which is the exact opposite of complicated. (Yeah, I’m saying it’s really simple.) I really just did the Pac-Man shape as a test, and after I posted it, Alex asked about the ghosts, so at that point I figured I had a bit more work to do…

Since I’m still dabbling in 3D modeling, and haven’t really nailed down a workflow yet, I decided to try something besides the CookieCutter-Editor. I ended up drawing the ghost in Photoshop, and then bringing it into Inkscape to trace it. I then followed this Inkscape to OpenSCAD dxf tutorial to convert the SVG into a DXF file, which I then exported and brought into OpenSCAD to extrude into a 3D model.

Printed Cookie Cutters

The Pac-Man shape from the CookieCutter-Editor had a wider edge on one end, which is what a cookie cutter should have. (You can see this in the 3D wireframe in the top image.) The ghost shape does not have this wider edge, because I don’t know how to create one yet! I solved this issue by printing the shape with a raft, which you can see in the photo of the printed cutter. It’s not the prettiest cookie cutter, but it certainly did work.

Pac-Man Cookies

And here’s our final product, the Pac-Man (and ghosts) cookies! My oldest daughter Emma did the hard work here. She made the cookie dough, used the cutters, baked the cookies, and frosted them. I was basically the “Technical Advisor” and showed her what colors to use, etc. She wasn’t 100% pleased with the outcome, mainly because she had to tweak the coloring and improvise a bit (Pac-Man is actually lemon-flavored) but she’s a bit of a perfectionist in the kitchen. :)

We’ll probably make more of these for BarCampMilwaukee6, and may throw a few more shapes into the mix if I get a bit time with the MakerBot before then.

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3D Modeling Applications

3D Modeling Applications

Well, the time has come… For years I ignored the third dimension, working only in 2D. Even then, I typically favored raster graphics in Photoshop over vector graphics in the likes of Illustrator. Of course the Egg-Bot brought with it the need to dig into Inkscape, and I’ve done well enough there, finding it useful enough for my vector-based tasks… but now comes…. 3D!!!

Now that I’ve got access to a MakerBot, I have this need to deal with 3D modeling software, starting out with converting formats, and eventually designing things on my own, and actually output STL files. So begins my journey, and a look at some of my options:

3DTin
I mentioned 3DTin.com in my last MakerBot post, and while it’s a great way to get started and have something usable in less than 10 minutes, I don’t know that it will be a serious tool for what I’d like to do. It seems to have no concept of converting formats. It’s still a great (although limited) tool, for what it is…

Google Sketchup
Our pals at Google have Sketchup (the free version) which seems pretty darn popular, and thanks to a few awesome plugins, I’ve been able to import and export STL files. (I haven’t tested the printing of any yet, but that will happen soon.) Sketchup confuses me. I should probably spend some time with a tutorial and figure it out. Is the free version limited? I know that they took out the ability to export DXF files in the latest version, and to get that back you’re expected to buy the pro version for $495. Yikes!

Blender
I must say, that without a doubt, Blender is one of the most confusing pieces of software I’ve ever used, and I’ve used Windows… at a large corporation even! I know Blender is powerful, and in the hands of @knellotron or another skilled operator, great things can be done. But even just trying to import and export a file was too difficult. The “File” menu kept disappearing!

123D
From the folks at Autodesk comes 123D. Windows only. I won’t even look at it unless they create a Mac OS X version.

OpenSCAD
Well, there’s always OpenSCAD, the “Programmers Solid 3D CAD Modeller.” But it’s all codey and programmey, and not visual, which may be cool for some things, but it’s probably not the best to start out with…

I even went so far as to fire up Processing and write code to output STL files via the unlekkerLib library, which is outdated anyway and I should be looking at the ModelBuilder library. Argh…..

So that leaves me with a “???” which should be obvious is a question to you: What do I do?