Posted by on Mar 21, 2013 in 3D Printing | 0 comments

I recently left the Museum of Science and Industry in preparation for graduating from grad school and relocating but I really enjoyed playing with the new 3D printers in the Fab Lab while I was there. The regular 3D Printing workshop consists of scanning guests with an Xbox Kinect, processing their 3D meshes (hollowing and slicing them) and printing them on the MakerBot Replicator 2’s. Getting that process down and giving an effective workshop over a few weeks finally led me to want to create my own artsy 3D models much like those you might find on Thingiverse from whence comes many of the models in our lab.

Thank God we use open source software in the Fab Lab network. I had a load of 2D vector files created in Inkscape and already cut and etched on the laser cutter. My Eureka moment was realizing that it should be relatively easy to import those files into Blender and extrude the 2D lines into 3D objects. After a few online forum searches I figured out how to do so and finally used Blender for something practical for the first time ever. I can now claim to know basic modeling in the package. Afterwards I simply added my 3D model in MakerWare and I printed it out.

Take a look here at the complete sequence from the original 2D keychain cut out of acrylic to the 3D extruded version printed layer by layer with heated PLA plastic (Polylactic Acid or polylactide, its solid form after plasticization):

  • 2D file created in Inkscape.
  • Original acrylic piece cut from the 2D Inkscape file.
  • 3D file positioned in MakerWare to prep for deposition on the MakerBot 3D printer.
  • 2D Inkscape file extruded to 3 dimensions in Blender.
  • Edge view of my first original 3D printed piece.
  • 3D printed plastic prototype made from 2D vector drawing.
  • Lab ceiling lights reflection on 3D printed piece.
  • 3D print next to 2D laser cut.

So with nothing more than Inkscape and Blender which are freely downloadable I was able to accomplish two completely different projects with the same 2D vector file. One in 2D on a laser cutter and the other as a 3 dimensional piece which could stand as a prototype for a larger project are an are piece for its own merits.

My animation and making skills have come together in amazing ways with the introduction of these smaller 3d printers over the last few weeks. I'm excited to explore the possibilities even further over time as I become a part of the maker community in Louisville.

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