WTF, a low-poly goat?

20160322_3D Print Trophy

Yes, a low-poly goat. A few in fact.

These are 2 trophies that I’ve 3D printed for my second year class at Griffith University as awards for their current project designing lights for Yellow Goat. Nothing beats getting the students to work on real projects with industry, and adding an extra incentive with these trophies adds an extra competitive level and of course bragging rights for the winners! If you look back to one of the largest 3D printing projects I’ve tacked using desktop machines, the Mario Kart Trophy, you’ll see it’s not the first time I’ve used 3D printing to create a custom trophy. It’s turning out to be a great application of 3D printing since you can get really creative and produce them very cheaply (I wonder if trophy manufacturers are using 3D printing?). On the left is the trophy for the best design as picked by the team from Yellow Goat, and the trophy on the right is for the best team leader, chosen by averaging the marks of all team members and finding which team overall has the highest marks.

20160323_Rhino Low Poly

The 3D CAD modelling of this design was not as straight forward as most of the other designs on my website, so here is my workflow in case you’d like to try something similar (you don’t need the same software, just to understand the process):

  1. Trace the outline of the Yellow Goat logo (shown above right) in Adobe Illustrator. Export as a .dxf file, providing accurate 2D line-work to use in the 3D CAD model (you could just bring the image directly into your CAD software if you prefer).
  2. Import the .dxf file into Solidworks. Use this line-work to base your 3D modeling off. I also created some guide lines to ensure that my model would fit onto my desktop 3D printer without needing to scale later.
  3. Export the final model from Solidworks as a .IGS file.
  4. Import the .IGS file into Rhino. The model in the image above on the left is the imported model from Solidworks (yes you could just model the design in Rhino to begin with, however I knew I could get to this point much faster in Solidworks).
  5. Use the “Reduce Mesh” tool in Rhino to reduce the number of faces of the mesh. I reduced mine by about 93%, resulting in the low-poly model shown above. It’s also possible to do this type of low-poly conversion using the free software MeshLab, just click here to read one of my previous posts about how to do this.
  6. Because 93% is a huge reduction, the resulting mesh did have some gaps where the software didn’t know what to do, so was not watertight (manifold) and ready to 3D print. I manually cleaned up some of the edges and added some surfaces to fix this issue.
  7. Export as .stl and 3D print!

20160321_Yellow Goat

As you can see I still ended up splitting the large goat piece in order to minimise support material, printing the body piece upside down with the legs in the air and gluing the head back on later. It took a few prints to get the smaller goat right, the middle image above showing some of the messy surfaces I was getting from the Up! Plus 2 printer I used, surprising since it’s normally very good. The ABS seemed a little more sticky than normal as well, meaning the support material didn’t just peel away but had to be scraped and cut, making more of a mess. But third time lucky! I also downloaded the human figure from Thingiverse to again save some time, and it gives the effect I wanted anyway. A bit of chrome spray paint, a chipboard base and voila!

Check out the 3D model above for the full effect of the low-poly design!

– Posted by James Novak

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Infinite Possibilities

20150904 3D Lights

These 6 3D prints are the end result of a few weeks of work gearing up for Design Philadelphia, where I will be exhibiting this work along with the interactive tools that created it in the Crane Arts Center. If you look back to the first post on this topic you can see the original renders after experimenting in Grasshopper, or check out the video showing how these models can be customised using 2 Wii Nunchuck controllers, as you will be able to do in the exhibition.

20150827 Fortus PrintsThese prints were produced on a Fortus 250mc 3D printer, and took 94 hours! Why so long? Well the software that drives this printer has limited options, in particular there is no option to modify anything to do with the support material – as a result, it just puts support everywhere! It’s a bit of a waste, but I guess with these commercial printers you trade a lot of flexibility and control for reliability and quality. You can see in this image how the objects are entombed within support, which is removed by dissolving in a special solution. For comparison you can look at the original design of my Shattered Faceted Lightbulb which printed with almost no support material in only 4 hours on my Up! Plus 2.

The other thing you’ll notice is that the final prints are red – this was done with a few light coats of spray paint since we only have one colour of filament for the Fortus 250mc, but I was asked for the prints to be done in red by the exhibition curator. Often painting 3D prints seems to highlight any flaws and make the layers seem more obvious, however this time because of the high quality of the printer this hasn’t happened. Phew! I don’t think most people would even know they’ve been painted rather than printed in red plastic.

I’ll post some photos of the installation next month when Design Philadelphia kicks off.

– Posted by James Novak

Low Poly Fox from Pinshape

20150802 Low Poly Fox

This is a simple design downloaded from Pinshape of a low-poly fox (or cat), created by @steven_dakh. He has a whole range of different animals created in this low-poly style, and I needed something to run on a printer during one of my 3D printing workshops to both show how the printers work, and also talk a bit about resolution and STL’s. Also it’s always nice to print something new rather than my own designs, and introduce some new people to the world of 3D printing and 3D printing communities like Pinshape!

This model printed in 1:47 on an Up! Plus 2 printer using the 0.2mm layer thickness, and required no support material which is always great. I also scaled it down from the original which is quite big. There’s not much more that I can say on this one, just a simple print that can now be given as a gift to someone who loves cats (yes this relates back to a previous 3D printed cat I made!).

Note: like me, @steven_dakh is also on Thingiverse and you can download the design here if Thingiverse is your community of choice.

– Posted by James Novak

Shattered Faceted Light

20150726 Faceted Light

As featured on Pinshape’s ‘Pick of the Week

You may have already seen, or even downloaded, my Lightbulb Lampshade which I created a while ago to give a new lease of life to an old Ikea lamp. Now I’ve create a new version to fit the competition criteria of the latest Pinshape Design Competition for a low-poly design. Of course this means you can also download the file for yourself completely free, just click here to download from Pinshape, or here for Thingiverse 🙂

20150726_143212The model was printed on an Up! Plus 2 3D printer, using the 0.2mm layer thickness and minimal support material. As you can see in the image to the left, there really was only a small amount of support material generated in the middle to support the top section, and this broke away very easily. You can also see a small break near the bottom where the printer must’ve bumped the model as it was printing, but thankfully it kept printing. Overall it took about 4 hours to print. If you’re planning on making one, the minimum diameter inside the design to fit over your light fixture and light-bulb is 31mm – if you need it larger, just scale up the design before printing.

Faceted Development

Above you can see the process of creating the 3D CAD model, this time challenging myself to use Rhino for the complete development rather than my usual Solidworks. This was to create the more complex form in a shorter amount of time. From left to right the process was:

  1. Use Revolve to create the light-bulb form.
  2. Convert this to a Mesh.
  3. Reduce Mesh to create the faceted effect.
  4. Use the Line tool to connect the points of the faceted mesh.
  5. Use the Pipe tool to add thickness to the lines.
  6. Add some solid sections to fill in some of the gaps, then Join all the pieces into a single mesh ready to export to STL.

If you make one please share your photos back on Pinshape or Thingiverse so I can check it out!

– Posted by James Novak

Simple Facets in CAD

141229 FacetsAs I sit here in a food-coma following Xmas, the most I can manage is a bit of CAD experimentation since I don’t need to move! Continuing on from a previous post about using MeshLab (free software to manipulate STL files), I’m creating some basic forms in Solidworks (where I can perfectly control dimensions), exporting them as STL files, then turning them into faceted/low-poly 3D models within MeshLab.

While this won’t give perfect geometric control of the final shape, it can give a very quick faceted form relatively close to the original dimensions. Within MeshLab the above example is using the ‘Clustering Decimation’ tool (from the top menu go to Filters>Remeshing, Simplification and Reconstruction>Clustering Decimation). Within this setting, the ‘World Unit’ used for the image above was 15, resulting in 48 faces.

I’ve also had some success using this particular tool to reduce the overall STL file size of some complex forms, just takes some experimentation. However if you want to really control your faceted 3D model within Solidworks, check out an earlier tutorial I’ve written by clicking here.

– Posted by James Novak

Tutorial – Faceted (Low-Poly) Shapes in Solidworks

Faceted Pocket AllAnother design and another excuse to share some of my modelling process using Solidworks. This can be applied to far more complex forms to achieve that faceted or ‘low-poly‘ effect with as much dimensional control as you like. Of course there are a million ways to skin a cat (or model a Solidworks part) and this is just the best process I could think of for accuracy on this particular design I’m working on. Feel free to leave a comment about your own methods or tips, I’m no expert!

Step 1 Give yourself some orthogonal views of the overall shape you want to achieve. This includes the triangles that will be used for the facets. For this one I just used a front and top view.

Step 2 Create a 3D sketch and connect all your vertices. Of course you can move things around if you like, but connecting back to those first sketches you set up really helps control the 3D sketch, which are notorious for having a mind of their own.

Step 3 Create another new 3D sketch, and convert just 3 lines from the previous 3D sketch that forms a triangle. Exit the sketch and use the Filled Surface tool to create a flat 2D surface.

Step 4 Repeat until you have enough flat surfaces to define your shape. Always be on the lookout for a pattern in your design – any opportunity to use the Linear Pattern or Mirror tools will really save time, so in this example I’ve only had to model 3 surfaces which I can later reflect to generate the larger design. Then Knit the surfaces together. The coming steps are where there are a number of ways to proceed, including use of the Offset Surfaces tool or Thicken. However these always result in messy, uncontrolled edges, so I’m not a fan. Instead I have setup another 3D sketch, and drawn some lines back in the z-axis from the vertices of the knitted surface – this will determine the thickness of the part.

Step 5 Repeat steps 3 and 4 to create another surface that sits perfectly behind (or in front of) the first.

Step 6 On the front plane (or whichever plane is the primary view) convert the lines of the outside perimeter of the surfaces you’ve created. These can then be extruded into a large block – just make sure you continue beyond the surfaces you’ve created.

Step 7 Use the Surface Cut tool for both knitted surfaces, making sure you cut away the block in the right direction. You want to be left with a solid only between the 2 surfaces. In the feature tree you can then right-click on the knitted surfaces and hide them, leaving only the solid material on screen.

Step 8 The hard work’s over, now use the Mirror or Linear Pattern tools to expand your design. You can also add any other details (in this case some cut-outs) before using these pattern features.

As I said there are many ways to achieve this aesthetic, and many other programs that you can achieve faceted objects far quicker. But if like me you’re wanting specific control of the facets and dimensions (rather than simply taking a shape and reducing the poly count), this might be useful. Please leave a comment with any questions, or like the post so I know it’s been useful for you. Happy cadding (if that’s a word)!

– Posted by James Novak