3D Scanning Natural Forms

IMG_20190117_3D Scan EinScan Pro

This is a post about my new favourite toy – the EinScan Pro 2X Plus 3D scanner from Shining 3D. Why? Because it allows you to turn any object into a 3D model! And I can tell you upfront, it works REALLY well!

This is not the first 3D scanner from Shining 3D, which is a good sign that both their hardware and software has had time to mature. The EinScan Pro 2X Plus is brand new to the market, which means there are not many reviews at the time I’m writing, although you can find a brief overview from 3D Scan Expert and will no doubt see a full review from him in the near future. I’m not a 3D scanning expert, so am not going to dive into all the details here. I have used several scanners in the past and written a few posts, but this is the first that I have full access and control over and am currently using on a daily basis.

Enough with the introductions. One of my first experiments has been to 3D scan some challenging organic forms, including some shells which I picked up from the beach. The top photo shows one of these shells being scanned (we have the “Industrial Pack” turntable and “Colour Pack” upgrades for the scanner). The process is straight forward in the accompanying EXScan Pro software – a few basic settings about the detail you’d like to capture and press go. The turntable and scanner do the rest, and you can see the points being captured in real-time on screen. There is a bit of cleanup after the first scan to remove any points that aren’t needed (e.g. you can see in the photo some points around the perimeter where the scanner picked up an edge of the turntable), at which point you have your first scan.

This could be all the detail you need depending on your application; however, all you have is an outside collection of points, with no detail about the inside of the shell. So I then flipped the shell over and performed a second scan. The only difference from the previous step is that now there are 2 scans. Amazingly the software is proving quite intelligent at automatically aligning multiple scans, finding common points and bringing them all together. This doesn’t always work, and there is an option to manually align 2 scans by selecting 3 common points in each. I must admit the interface for this process is quite painful to use at the moment, so it’s always great when the software automatically does this. Overall the software is very basic, you really don’t have a lot of control – which can be both a blessing and a curse. You certainly can’t perform any sort of editing actions other than selecting and deleting points.

The final step is to turn all of the points (aka. point cloud) into a mesh suitable for 3D CAD software, or 3D printing. There is an option to create a watertight mesh, letting the software automatically fill any holes in the model. For this shell scan I only had very minor gaps which were nicely cleaned up and blended into the mesh. However, I have found with some other scans that if holes are quite large, or there are some messy overlaps in scan data, the software will produce some weird results – best to keep scanning to capture as much data as possible before creating a mesh, once you get to this step there is no turning back.

IMG_20190118_3D Print Shell

Best of all, being a watertight mesh, the file can be immediately used for 3D printing. But why simply replicate a shell? I always see large shells as decorator items in stores retailing for hundreds of dollars – and now I can 3D print them for a fraction of the price. This one was scaled up 500% and printed on a Wanhao Duplicator D9/500 – which is still working somewhat consistently after my previous post and firmware upgrades. I decided to print it in an upright orientation so that the 0.5mm layers are similar to the layers naturally occurring in the shell. Even though the print quality is still quite rough, I think this only adds to the natural effect.

The shell has been saved as a .obj file, meaning that it has all the colour information along with the geometry that would normally be a .stl file. I have shared this on Sketchfab so that you can have a closer look at the mesh in 3D using the above viewer. I think it’s a really great result, and hopefully you can see why I have called this my new favourite toy. It really does open up new opportunities (perhaps you’ve already seen some new experiments if you follow me on Instagram). Stay tuned, I’m sure there’ll be plenty more posts that involve 3D scanning and 3D printing in the future.

– Posted by James Novak

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Mashup-Yoda – Download For Free

Yoda Header

Recently I wrote a step-by-step tutorial for my friends at Pinshape about how you can use free software (Meshmixer) to combine downloaded STL files into your own unique design – this is called a mashup, or a remix. The tutorial is nice and easy to follow, and was just the start of my plan to create some really interesting designs in a series of mashups. You can find a full video tutorial and links to the written tutorial in my previous post.

Finally I’ve found some time to create mashup number 2, Mashup-Yoda! This design has taken a lot more time to create in Meshmixer, along with learning some of the more advanced tools and plenty of trial-and-error along the way. However it is based on a similar idea as the Mashup-Rex from the tutorial, combining a skeleton element with an external skin to give a cutaway effect to the creature. However, what might Yoda’s skeleton look like?

Yoda's_death

As you (hopefully) know from the film Return of the Jedi, Yoda’s body vanishes as he becomes one with the force in his death, so there is no way to know. But upon finding the Voronoi Yoda model by Dizingof on Thingiverse, it seemed like an interesting concept for this powerful Jedi, perhaps a more organic internal skeleton that was formed by the Midi-chlorians (some real Star Wars nerd talk!) that gave Yoda his power.

Nerd talk aside, as much as anything the Voronoi Yoda just seemed like a cool model that would be fun to combine with a realistic bust of Yoda, also available freely on Thingiverse. The 2 models are a great fit, with the main challenge being the slicing and dicing of the geometry in Meshmixer to create this organic looking, almost cyborg-like Yoda mashup. Mostly this has been achieved using the Sculpt tools and the Select tool to remove sections of the models and re-shape them to look like they were designed this way from the beginning.

20170625_Mashup-Yoda

I’ll admit that I did have some problems combining the 2 models into a single STL file right at the end in Meshmixer, probably due to the weird intersections between the models where I had pushed and pulled surfaces too far into a non-manifold object. I also ended up with a file size of about 87MB, a bit ridiculous for sharing online, and the normal reduction techniques in Meshmixer were just destroying the quality of the surfaces. So I ended up bringing the large STL file into Rhinoceros, reducing the mesh by about 75%, exporting as a STL, importing back into Meshmixer, using the Inspector tool to repair any little remaining errors automatically, and finally exporting a clean, 3D printable STL file. That’s a mouthful!

Now that the hard work’s been done, I’d love you to have this model for free so you can print it out, or even get crazy and try remixing my remix using some of the techniques shown in my Pinshape tutorial! I’ve uploaded it to my favourite 3D file sharing websites Pinshape, Thingiverse, 3D File Market and Cults. Choose your website, 3D print and share some photos 🙂

May the force be with you

– Posted by James Novak

Turning a 3D Printer into a Plotter

20160304_robot-picasso

My last couple of posts have been about the Robot Picasso Kickstarter I’m currently running, a project that developed after the failure of the Solidoodle Press 3D printer. It’s attracted some media attention from 3dprint.com and Digital Trends who have followed up the saga of Solidoodle, the company going bankrupt because of the failings of this one printer.

Given the success of the Kickstarter, which is over 300% funded with a few days still to go, I thought it was about time to show the special 3D printed part that has converted the 3D printer into a 2D plotter. I developed the part in Solidworks using just a few key measurements, in particular the 2 front screw holes and the distance needed for the tip of the pen to lightly touch the plate where paper would be stuck. It sure beats using rubber bands and sticky tape which is how the initial experiments began! You can check out the 3D model below.

This is something that you could create for any 3D printer since most extruders have some sort of screw holes that you could take advantage of (for example you can see them in my Cocoon Create printer in this previous post), or perhaps you could design a clever snap-fitting system similar to the tutorial I wrote for Formlabs last year which shows the step-by-step process to designing a snap-fit enclosure. As long as you can create a secure fit, you will be able to get consistent results using your 3D printer as a 2D printer (plotter). If you want to see the process of drawing with this attachment, just check out the Kickstarter video I put together showing the full process of Robot Picasso. It’s a fun way to add a whole new function to your existing 3D printer if you can turn a 2D drawing into simple G-code commands.

– Posted by James Novak

Enabled by 3D – Twisty Pen Grip

20160829_3D Print Pen Grip

It’s competition time at MyMiniFactory and I thought I’d use it as an excuse to spend an afternoon creating something new and simple to 3D print. The “#enabledby3d” competition brief calls for an “item that makes an everyday chore easier, or an enabling device, allowing those with disabilities greater accessibility.”

I decided to focus on something most of us take for granted – writing and drawing with a pen. If you have arthritis or some other sort of hand dexterity problems from injury or illness, picking up a cheap standard pen and using it can be frustrating, painful or even impossible. One option is to pay a lot more money for large diameter pens, or buy those slide-on grips which look ugly and draw attention to the fact that you may have grip difficulties.

So what I’ve created is a simple sheath that slides over the full length of a standard Bic pen or similar, significantly increasing the diameter of the pen and changing the geometry so that it may be more easily maneuvered. The sheath prints without needing any support material, and the cheap pen simply sides inside ready to use. What I hope is achieved by this design is something that not only enables people with hand dexterity issues, but something that is appealing to anyone – in this way the design doesn’t seem like an assistive device, but something desirable that someone might be using simply to stand out and be unique. Rotate the model around below to see all the details, particularly the spiral top.

If you like the Twisty Grip head over to the MyMiniFactory page to give it a like to increase my chances of winning the competition! Better yet, you can download this design for free and print it for yourself, or for someone you know who could benefit from it. As soon as the competition ends I’ll also post it to the other 3D printing file sites I normally use, but for now please help share this design and have some fun making it for yourself. Print in bold colours to stand out, or use different coloured materials to designate different pen colours – the choice is yours.

– Posted by James Novak

UPDATE 28/11/2016: The STL file to print this design is now also freely available on Thingiverse, Pinshape, 3D File Market and Cults. Enjoy!

A 3D Printed Furry Bear (and a cat or 2)

20160505_3D Print Bear Cats

This is a real blast from the past – the bear pictured in the photos is actually from a Solidworks model that I created back in 2012, long before I had my own 3D printers. Today I dug it up and decided to breathe some life into the little guy using my Cocoon Create 3D printer – sometimes I almost feel like Frankenstein!

By complete accident, he’s printed out with a bit of fur down one side! This is just where a small support structure which was building to support his ear broke off (the support really wasn’t needed anyway), and therefore the small amount of plastic which was then extruding into thin air became joined when the nozzle went to the main model. But a pretty cool effect that I’m not going to clean off. I remember reading about some researchers who had perfected 3D printing hair, I wonder if this sort of happy accident inspired them?

 

The other 3D print is a simple download from Thingiverse of the Cuddling Cats by PixelMatter3D, just a fun little print when you want to give someone a gift. If you’ve followed my blog over the last year, you’ll probably notice it’s not the first time I’ve 3D printed a cat – check out this other Thingiverse cat I printed which can make a really cool lamp.

– Posted by James Novak

3D Printed Enclosures Are So Rewarding

20160423_3D Print Enclosure

OK so some people might look at this and think it’s just a box, but when you stop and think that 2 hours ago this “box” had never before existed in the entire span of human history, and that it was made on my desk, with a printer, well that’s pretty cool!

That might be over-dramatising things just a little, but there really is something very rewarding about 3D printing a custom enclosure to contain your electronics. I have quite the collection now, for example an Arduino enclosure and a Wiiduino. In this particular case a custom PCB has been manufactured, and we need to contain it in something for trials, keeping all the wires and mess tidy and giving the appearance of a real wearable product as it one day could be.

20160423_3D Print PCB Case

The PCB is about the size of an Arduino Uno, with a lithium battery that needs to be housed inside as well. I started by modelling the PCB in Solidworks, just as I have done in previous projects. While many people would only bother creating a simple block model of the overall dimensions, I’ve gone to the trouble of accurately modelling all of the key components like LED’s, buttons and connectors as shown above. This means that in the enclosure design, I’ve been able to play with form, giving the design tapered edges to make it seem slimmer, and accurately place holes and details for the various components. In doing so, the first 3D prints fitted successfully, saving time stuffing around later. These were printed on my Cocoon Create, which is still going along nicely, thanks Aldi!

I’ve also opted to use 2 screws to secure the enclosure halves, as snap details on such small enclosures can be fiddly when using desktop 3D printers – if you don’t print them in the right orientation, they just snap off. With holes already placed on the PCB, it makes sense to use these to both secure the 2 shells, and hold the PCB in place. So you get the full picture, here’s the 3D model for you to spin around.

Lastly my tip is to always add some sort of logo or name to the enclosure – it just makes it really pop, and takes no time at all to add. Even a rough prototype should look good!

– Posted by James Novak

 

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

3D Motorcycle Licence Surround

20160313_Licence Surround

Now that I have my Cocoon Create 3D printer I can’t help but find new things to print for my bike! Since the bike is from 2007 the licence plate is a little bit shabby, so it seemed like a good chance to print a surround to tidy the edges up and also tie in with the other 3D prints I’ve done using this green PET+ material from MadeSolid. As you can see above, I chose to split the surround into 2 halves for printing, making it both easier to print (less chance for warping) and also easier to install. If you look at the Sketchfab 3D model below, you can see I designed a few hooks and details to secure around the licence plate, so being able to install it in 2 pieces made sense. There are 2 bolts used to secure the surround in place using existing holes on the licence plate, and the bottom split area was glued after being fitted for a seamless look.

While the final design works well, this one wasn’t all smooth sailing. The first print on the left in the image below didn’t quite fit onto the licence plate, so a few details needed to be changed in the Solidworks CAD model. The second partial print I tried printing vertically, rather than lying down, with the hope that it would require less support material. Unfortunately I had to stop this print as the surface details seemed to be getting worse as it printed, probably because of the height and inherent flexibility of the thin part the higher it got (a bit like a skyscraper swaying in the wind).

20160312_Licence Details

The third part pictured is the final successful part, printed lying down and using support material automatically generated in Cura (my slicing tool to generate the G-code for the printer) for the overhangs. While the visible surfaces look great, the detail picture on the right shows the messy underside surfaces which I’m not too happy about. This must be a setting in Cura that I’m missing and haven’t noticed in my previous prints on the Cocoon Create which have rarely required much, if any, support material. I’ll have to have a close look next time I print something requiring a lot of support like this – anyone have any ideas?

– Posted by James Novak

Motorbike Indicator Adapters

20160227_Bike Indicators

An issue with owning an older (well 2007 isn’t really that old!) motorcycle is that finding parts gets harder and harder. The previous 3D prints for my bike (such as rear peg plugs, key guard and mirror plugs) have really just been cosmetic, but after buying some sleek little LED indicators to replace the huge stock ones, I came across a problem – the fitting point for the rear indicators is specific to the shape of the stock ones, which is a really large cut-out and has nowhere to install the standard indicators designed to fit most bikes. There was also nothing online I could find ready to buy. One option would be to simply drill a new hole through the plastic mud guard, but this would leave the previous holes on show and mean that if for some reason someone ever wanted to put the stock indicators back on, they would now have these new holes to deal with.

No, not on my watch! My first idea started with trying to fit something from the inside of the mud guard, plugging the hole and providing a new point to mount the LED indicators inside of this. The problem was measuring this area, with other wires and complex shapes, it became quite challenging to get any accurate measurements. Since I’ve already used the green PET+ filament on the bike, I may as well make this indicator adapter a feature, and use the flat outside face of the mud guard to easily create a paper template as shown in the top left image. This was scanned, traced in Adobe Illustrator, exported as a .dxf file, and then imported into Solidworks to create the final 3D form. This might seem like a lot of processes, but is a really accurate method of getting a starting point for 3D modeling when dealing with flat surfaces using basic equipment at home.

The final 3D print pictured was done on my new Cocoon Create using 0.2mm layer thickness and took about 55 minutes to print. While the final design looks flat, there are a few tricky details on the back used to lock it in place with only 1 screw (thankfully the mud guard had a useful threaded hole for mounting). I will now be interested to see how well the PET+ plastic holds up out on the road – it seems quite secure, and the indicators are very lightweight, but who knows what can happen out on the road.

– Posted by James Novak

UPDATE: I am now trialing the use of Sketchfab so you can easily view 3D models of my work – check it out below!