Print your own cases, part 10 of 10

In the previous post and the post before I showed how I repair my models before they’re ready to print. The final step is actually uploading the model to Shapeways. This happens to be the most exciting part since it will tell you if there are any flaws in the final model.

I already had a lot of problems repairing the model and had to remove a small piece of it to make it manifold. But there are other problems that might occur when uploading a model to Shapeways. One of the more annoying things are loose parts that are too small to notice immediately. However, those very small parts might prevent the model from being printed because they’re smaller than the minimum bounding box. And you have to pay extra for multiple parts so you just don’t want those small, loose parts!


And as I said, it has some very small, loose parts! These are actually caused by the chosen hair style, which seems to have strands of hair flying around her head. 

It would have been nice if Shapeways had a feature to remove these loose parts but all it does is tell me how large they are. One main part of 12.4×7.6×25/5 cm and three parts that are smaller than a tenth of a cubic millimeter. Those are the ones that prevent this model from being printed successfully!

So at this point I should actually fix this by choosing a different hair style. But I will use the MeshMixer trick again of separating all shells and then just remove all parts that seem too small to use. All small parts would already be too small to really get noticed so removing them won’t have much effects. Well, except in Shapeways, where the removal of the small pieces will hopefully result in a printable model.

2016-04-20 (1)

Uploading to Shapeways is a slow process which can take minutes before it is done. And even after the file is uploaded, it could still take some time before it is completely ready to be printed. But it is needed so Shapeways will show me where the loose parts are that need to be removed. To do so, I need give Shapeways to render the image for me that will display them for me. And one part is on her left front and the other two on her left back side of her head.

But it is easier to remember that I should not use this hairstyle for 3D models in the future. But for now, I will just try to fix this model without going back to Poser.

So, how do I fix this? Simple. I will go back to OpenSCAD and adjust the floor panel. I then import it again in Poser and give it the exact size and position as the old version. I will then change Anarani’s hair to a better hairstyle and go through the whole process again. And while it sounds like a lot of works,once you’ve done these steps over and over again, it becomes about half an hour work, including the time needed to wait for the system to render or calculate things. I won’t create a new artistic rendering, though. But the new model will be uploaded to Shapeways.

And once the upload was successful, I started noticing that the strings of her bikini top weren’t very visible in Shapeways. So, as the last fix for this model, I removed her top. The result was finally printable!

2016-04-20 (2).png

But the wall thickness is still a reason for the model to be rejected. Fortunately you can specify that you wanted it printed anyways when you order it, thus it will be printed. Problem is that it has some risky areas that might not print well. In this case, the skirt, the scarf and the hair will cause trouble.

A price has also been calculated. Including taxes, this model will cost me $101.86 if I want it. Right now, my budget prevents me from buying it, though.When 3D printing is a hobby, make sure you have a budget set aside for the amount that you can spend on these prints, else you’ll end up broke before you know it!

The price is reasonable for such a large figurine. Do keep in mind that it’s over 25 cm tall! I did save on the price by having the other two dimensions as short as possible, thus conserving machine space. I also made it hollow, which also reduces the costs. But the container for my device is still very large.

2016-04-20 (3)

Machine space is one important factor when printing in white plastic. The system is calculating a small, extra area around the model that would be off-limits for other printed items. When the model gets printed together with other objects, this space is important to make sure no two models get fused together! But the price of the model is based on the volume of the model and the machine space needed.

Now, the objects with the smallest machine space would be a sphere. Thus, the round shape of the box is saving me some space, even though it is big. It is actually the back panel that adds extra machine space, since the area between the panel and the model is added into the math.

Fortunately, they do calculate it very precise and at one point, the space between back panel and model is wide enough to allow a hole, else it would have been a bit more expensive. But Shapeways will tell you how much space it actually needs.

2016-04-20 (5)

Because I made a hollow mode, the material volume is quite low! White plastic costs $0.28 per cm³, thus this is only $18.44.

But the space costs $0.21 per cm³ and that adds up to $64.24. Add $1.50 for the start price for a single part print and I have a total of $84.18 excluding taxes. Taxes are 21% so the total price according to my calculations is $101.86.

So, what makes the 3D print so expensive? Mostly machine space, although that can be reduced by avoiding space-wasting areas in your model. Here, removal of the back panel should have saved me a bit of space. The space between her arms and legs are also added so because she’s standing on a plateau and holding an object, two ‘rings’ of print material are created and the space inside that ring is added to the material volume.

Put the legs wider apart could have saved some machine space, if it would be wide enough to allow a hole through the leg-ring. The same applies to her arms.

This model would actually cost $63.38 if I would print it in sandstone since you only pay for the material volume in sandstone. Sandstone does cost $0.75 per cm³ but because the model is hollow, that would basically be that 65 cm³. So it would be great to have it printed in sandstone, except for one major problem… Sandstone requires thicker materials. Supporting walls must be at least 2 mm and unsupported walls have to be even thicker!

2016-04-20 (6)

The heatmap of wall thickness shows how much of the model is at risk of failing when printed in sandstone. In this case, almost the whole Anarani part. The box itself also has areas that are too thin. Only the back panel seems to be strong enough!

Would other materials be an option? Considering the large size of the model, most materials would not qualify because the model is too big for the printers to handle. Metallic plastic would be an option but then you still pay for material volume and this plastic is more expensive than white plastic. $164.87 is quite a lot.

Frosted Ultra Detail is another option but even more expensive at $284.11 so I won’t even consider that as an option.

Stainless steel is an option but like sandstone, it has too many thin areas so it won’t print in the end. And for the other materials, the model is just too big…

I have created Poser models in colored sandstone, though. But these models are solid and I had to be real careful to avoid any thin parts. Especially hair and fingers turn out to be vulnerable. And the model needs to be strong enough to carry it’s own weight and is extremely vulnerable when it is just printed since the sandstone is still soft. Like the wet sand that’s used to make sandcastles.

Print your own cases, part 9 of 10

In the previous post I used NetFabb to repair my model. I will also show an alternative option here.

Since the repair in NetFabb went wrong in the previous step, I will do a repair using MeshLab instead. So I open MeshLab and import the hollow model. I also use the menu options ‘Render/Show non manif edges’ and ‘Render/Show non manif vertices’ to show the non manifold parts of my model.

If the geometry is non-manifold then that means that it cannot exist in the real world. In general, it means there are pieces that are disconnected or don’t fit perfectly. Those need to be fixed. And as the image shows, my model seems to have a lot of those, especially in the floor plane.

2016-04-19 (19)

I first start to fix the non-manifold edges. I use ‘Filters/Cleaning and Repairing/Select non-manifold edges’ to select them all and then I delete the current selection of faces and vertices. And when I do that, this happens:

2016-04-19 (20)

It removed a large piece of the floor plane!

So, I start over again with MeshLab and use ‘Filters/Cleaning and Repairing/Select non-manifold vertices’ and ‘Delete selected vertices’ instead. This needs to be repeated several times but it does the trick. The floor plane stay solid while the model is repaired. But it still isn’t enough. So I have to try to repair it with NetFabb again and this time I do an automatic repair but before accepting the repair, I select the triangles that cover the floor plane and remove them. That way, the floor plane gets its border back. Since it will have repaired most other issues, this will be the version I use for further attempts to repair it.

So, one solution would be to redo the whole model from the beginning. I would need to fix the floor plane, import it in Poser again, set it to the proper size, export all from Poser, remove the textures and merge all parts, rescale, cut and then try to repair it again. But as it turns out, there is another solution to remove that floor plane.

MeshMixer has an option ‘Edit/Separate shells’ which can be used to split the whole thing up in loose parts. I can then join all the parts again minus the floor plan. The floor plane is just cut away while keeping her foot intact. This is then exported again and repaired. And since the whole model was already manifold except for the floor plan, there isn’t much to be repaired to begin with.

This is what the model looks like now:

2016-04-19 (21)

The floor plane would have given her a better look and a way to stand on her own, but this is why I added the back plane with magnets anyway. The connections will be weaker, though.

The last part is printing the 3D object.

Print your own cases, part 8 of 10

In the previous post, I scaled my Poser model and removed the ruler. It is now time to do an automated fix.

2016-04-19 (17)

Once a model leaves MeshMixer, it is almost ready to be printed. However, when using the services of Shapeways it is always a good idea to check the model for any potential errors. This is where I use NetFabb Basic. 

In NetFabb I get my last view before I accept the model as something that would print well. As you can see, this is the hollowed model with two holes on her butt. They are large enough so any excess plastic can be removed from the model. But once you receive the 3D print, there can still be some excess material inside so you will still have to check if it is clean inside.

Hollow models have a challenge, since they increase the amount of polygons considerably. Where you just had only an outside, you now also have an inside. Sure, it is less material but Shapeways has a limitation in the number of polygons that are allowed. Fortunately, this model doesn’t go above that maximum.

It can also happen that the file size is larger than 64 MB. Shapeways can’t upload files bigger than that. That can also be solved easily by adding the file to a compressed .zip file and upload the .zip file. (Unless the .zip file is also larger than 64 MB, in which case your model is too complex to print.)

Repair is quite simple. I click on the red cross in the toolbar to initialize the repair options. I select ‘Automatic repair’ and then ‘Default repair’ and then just wait until it is done. Once done, click ‘Apply repair’ and have the old part removed. Then you should have a fine result.

However, in my case, something went wrong and the floor panel with its border became a solid block. This happened:

2016-04-19 (18)

And this is why you should repair it first in NetFabb, because Shapeways would do the repair in almost exactly the same way! In most cases things will go well but here I prefer to use MeshLab instead to repair the model manually.

I did try some manual repairs in NetFabb but they keep filling this floor plane so NetFabb doesn’t work as well as I hoped for this model.

Is there a way to fix this problem in NetFabb? I don’t know and might have to buy the professional version to find out. However, NetFabb happens to be too expensive for the rare times that I need it.

Still, one way to fix it is by redoing the OpenSCAD model and then start all over again from Poser until this post. I would need to remove the old back panel from the Poser model and put the new one in place at the proper size. I would then have to do all steps over again which is a bit annoying. So I will try again with MeshLab and if that fails, I’ll try some other solution.

In the next post I will show an alternative solution to repair models using MeshLab.

Print your own cases, part 7 of 10

In the previous post I cleaned the Poser model and made it a single object. Now comes the part where I start to scale and cut, and occasionally hollow my object.

2016-04-19 (13)

To start, open the .stl file from the earlier post in MeshMixer. And it will probably look like this:

Now, that is a minor annoyance. I will need to rotate and resize it first. I choose ‘Edit/Transform’ and do a ‘Rotate X’ for 90 degrees and put ‘Size Z’ to 600 mm which is the exact length of the ruler. Once it has the proper scale, I export the file to the folder 4 and import it again, replacing the current object in MeshMixer. I need to do this because MeshMixer gets a bit confused after resizing and the model looks ugly in the view. There’s nothing wrong with the model, though. It’s just MeshMixer having a bad render engine.

2016-04-19 (15)

Next, we will cut the ruler away. Using ‘Edit/Plane cut’ I rotate the cutting plane vertically and move it to somewhere between the model and the ruler. It will look something like this:

And once I click ‘Accept’, the ruler is gone! It is that simple. And now I will also be able to tell the exact sizes of my model. It is 124x255x76 mm in size. Slightly larger than expected.

So I’m going to add a simple trick to cut the amount of material in my model! I’m going to make her hollow! Using ‘Edit/Hollow’ I will get several options to make a hollow model. This will save materials and thus make the print less expensive. But it will require a few holes in the model.

2016-04-19 (16)

I set ‘Offset Distance’ to 1 mm since that’s thick enough. ‘Solid accuracy’ and ‘Mesh Density’ are set to 512 to get the best details and ‘Hole Radius’ will be 3 mm to allow good holes for excess materials to be removed from the hollow inside. And this also shows why you should remove the teeth, inner mouth, tongue and gums if the model has her mouth closed! Those parts would fill the inside of her head if they were still there. By removing them, there’s a slightly bigger hollow space.

I put two hollow openings on her butt, since her skirt is already covering that area. If she was wearing panties or a bikini bottom, those holes might not work out as well because the clothing adds an extra layer which the hole won’t go through. MeshMixer makes good hollow objects but they aren’t always perfect.

I don’t have to make the box or back panel hollow since they are already thin enough.

So now the model is almost ready to be printed. However, there can be some hidden flaws that need to be repaired. In the next post I will apply some automated repairs before the model is ready to be printed.

Print your own cases, part 6 of 10

In the previous post I created an artistic rendering of my model. I will now use 3D converter to remove the textures and unwanted parts and to turn it into one solid part for further processing.

Now, we will export the Poser model to a Wavefront .obj file. I generally use a numbered file structure where the first folder (1) will contain all the Poser models that I want to print. The next folder is the export folder where the exported Poser models go to. I have even more folders with the 8th folder being used for all models that are ready to upload to Shapeways. And the 9th folder has everything that I have uploaded as backup. So when I upload a model, that uploaded file will also be stored in this folder.

Only folders 1 and 9 are permanent. Once a model is successfully uploaded, I remove the related files from the in-between folders. They’re not needed anymore.

So I start to export my model to folder 2: export. The .obj file will have references to any textures used but I’m generally not interested in textures. Still, if you want a print in colored sandstone then you should do a second export to the Collada .dae file format. Then you will have a sub folder with all textures used in your model. Put those textures together with the .obj file and the .mtl file into a compressed .zip file and upload that compressed file to Shapeways for printing in colored sandstone. However, tools like NetFabb, MeshMixer en Meshlab tend to remove textures if you’re not careful. This makes scaling a bit difficult.

So, why not export to just Collada? Well, the problem is that Poser has a bad implementation of the Collada file format. While it is supposed to export things correctly, it has flaws preventing you to import the model in some other tool. Much of the parts of your model will be missing if you try. Which is why I only use it to get all textures together and not for further processing of the model.

2016-04-19 (9)

But this time I only want a white, plastic print so textures can be removed.

That’s what the model looks like in 3D converter. The OpenSCAD objects had no texture so they have random colors. But the cane, shoes and bikini have textures that 3D converter can’t find.

The first step is ‘Layers/Make All Opaque’ which I use to change all transparent areas. You can’t 3D print transparent areas anyways so make them opaque. And once you do that, you will notice the eyes losing their textures too. Why? Because Poser has two transparent objects in front of the iris and eye, which are meant to be used to add reflections. These are the Cornea and eye surface and once removed, you will see a normal eye again.

Next, use ‘Tools_2/Set White As Color For Textures’. to make all parts nice and white beneath the textures. Then, use ‘Tools_2/Erase Textures on All layers’ to remove all the textures and you should have a nice, white model. Or, if you forgot to give all parts a white color, you get this:

Anarani for blogpost
2016-04-19 (12)

This is not a big problem anyways and we will fix this once all parts are merged.

At this point, I start to select the parts that I want to merge. All other parts will be removed. So, deselect all parts and then select only those parts that you clearly need, like the face, body and the OpenSCAD objects. Keep in mind that the cornea and eye surface need to be removed to have a more detailed eye. And if the model has her mouth shut, you can also remove the gums, inner mouth, tongue and teeth.

Eyelashes can be selected and look good on large models, but will hide the eyes on smaller models. I decided to hide them in this model. But make sure you select the ruler since you will still need it!

Her shoes have small flowers and petals, which could become loose shells in Shapeway so those are also removed. Then choose “Merge Select” from the bottom buttons to merge all parts that you have selected. This makes one part from all of those parts. And at this point you can save the file as a StereoLithography .stl file in binary to continue processing in the next step. This export file will be in my 3rd folder.

In the next post I will scale the model to its proper size and remove the ruler.

Print your own cases, part 5 of 10

In the previous post I created a Poser model and a few OpenSCAD models and joined them into one. But before I continue to manipulate them to make them ready for 3D printing, I wanted to do an artistic rendering of the model, just to show off! This means that I want a complete background with water, trees and other stuff and the model in the middle of it all, well-lit and looking cool.

While it might seem a waste of time, it does give one extra view on your model before you continue processing. It will look okay but the OpenSCAD objects will not have any color. Problem is that painting those object cannot be done in Poser or OpenSCAD so if you want a specific coloring of those objects, you will need a special tool to do so.

2016-04-19 (4)

Modeling in Vue is quite easy. You just import the Poser model and then you put it where you want it to be. But once imported, you should turn down the highlights of the Poser model, else it starts to shine, which isn’t pretty. So, select the complete Poser model in Vue and click “Edit all materials” to change the highlights. 

Vue now has a value of 50% for my model. This is actually the highlight of one part of your model and not all parts! But if you change this value, it will change it for all.

2016-04-19 (6)

Since it has the value of 50%, I can simply overwrite it with 0. If it had been 0, I would have chosen the value of 1 instead.

I have already removed the ruler from the list of parts in Vue and I can easily find the other pieces that I’ve created because of their names. Unfortunately, Poser tends to name all figures “body” while all properties keep their old name. And that’s a bit annoying.

Often I will rename those parts but this will just be a quick render so, skip it.

Since I lack the tools to paint the OpenSCAD models, I will just pick a few from the materials that Vue already has. I decide to pick grass for the back panel because it always looks good to have a model walking on grass. And I pick dark smoked glass for the box. The cane will be gold, making it shine.

Next, I check the materials that are provided by Poser. The dress, for example, has a zipper which uses a reflection map. I hate those, because Vue does a full 360-degree view of everything if I want to. Reflection maps are a poor alternative for real reflections.

2016-04-19 (7)

I also decided to change the color of her bra. This won’t replace the texture but just the color. And I decide to pick an orange trim and green cloth, both pastel-tints.

2016-04-19 (8)

I also decide to put the sun in the background to create a kind of ‘eye in the sky’ so I also need a second light, which I put at the location of the camera. To get it there, I just select the camera, which will put it in the center of the views. When you add lights or objects, they will be put at the same place. Thus, the light is at the location of the camera!

And a quick preview of the image shows me that it will look good. So let the rendering start!

Now, one reason I use Vue to create an artistic image is because it allows me to use a transparent material for some of the more complex objects. In this case, that would be the box with its round shape. With the image rendered at a large resolution I can check the box for possible flaws, if I want to use it again with another model.

In my next post I will show how I clean the model using Accutrans 3D. In the mean time, this is what the rendered artwork looks like:

Anarani for blogpost

Print your own cases, part 4 of 10

In my previous post I created a round container for my electronic thermometer and now I need to add it to my Poser model. But I also need a special stand for Anarani to stand upon, with a back panel for a couple of magnets. Lets immediately start with the OpenSCAD script:

    cube([60, 60, 6]); 
    translate([28, 0, 0]) cube([4, 3, 160]);
    translate([20, 1, 10]) cube([20, 2, 20]);
    translate([10, 1, 140]) cube([40, 2, 20]);
    translate([30, 1, 20]) rotate([90, 0, 0]) cylinder(d=12, h=1);
    translate([20, 1, 151]) rotate([90, 0, 0]) cylinder(d=12, h=1);
    translate([40, 1, 151]) rotate([90, 0, 0]) cylinder(d=12, h=1);
    translate([3, 3, 2]) cube([54, 54, 5]);
    translate([30, 1, 20]) rotate([90, 0, 0]) cylinder(d=10, h=2);
    translate([20, 1, 151]) rotate([90, 0, 0]) cylinder(d=10, h=2);
    translate([40, 1, 151]) rotate([90, 0, 0]) cylinder(d=10, h=2);
    translate([30, 2, 150])
    rotate([270, 180, 0]) height = 2) {
      size = 7, 
      font = "Harlow Solid Italic", 
      halign = "center", 
      valign = "center"

This isn’t very special. A floor plate with an edge and a pole with two plates which will hold the magnets. As you may notice, there is no connection to the box that I created in the earlier post. That connector will be something from Poser. All you have to do now is to convert these models to WaveFront .obj files and you can import them in Poser. So, let’s combine them with Anarani! And this will show a few issues with importing in Poser.

Anarani for blogpost II_0001

When you do import models in Poser, prefer to enable “Percent of standard figure size”. The reason for this is that the standard figure size is extremely small, compared to the imported objects. I will scale them anyways once they are imported and because their size is relative to Anarani, I can use integer values between 1 and 100 to scale them. Otherwise, I would need to scale them to very small numbers with fractions.

Now, to do a proper scaling, I will use the ruler to measure the height of the opening in the temperature holder, which should be 46 mm. I will then use the ruler to scale the back panel to the proper size, thus having it synchronized with the size of the box.

You could wonder why I don’t combine all three parts into one .obj file and import that one, but when I do that, it becomes just a single part. And I need to move them around, so that isn’t very practical.

So I end up with my model looking like the image on the right. The temperature box is too big and the ruler is extremely small. The back panel seems to be okay, though. But first I will have to put Anarani in a nice pose. And reconsider the clothing she’s wearing, since not all clothes will print well on Shapeways. (Hint: if a piece of clothing is transparent when you look at it from a specific angle in Poser then it will not print very well!)

The next step is trying to make everything fit. Since the box is quite large, I decide that Anarani will hold it above her head, thus making the model even taller. I don’t want it to go in all three directions because that would require more machine space, thus making it more costly. The final height will be about 22 cm and it’s 75 mm wide and about 60 mm deep. (The sizes are from the bottom panel and the box.) The ruler is set up vertically so I can use that to scale it to the proper length, which would be 60 cm. I will then cut away the ruler from the model and thus have the exact height, although I don’t think the width and depth will change much from my prediction.

Anarani for blogpost III_0001

Anarani will look like this image. One foot on the floor panel and a second one against the back panel. Both feet touch these panels so they should be connected, although the support will be tricky.

The ruler has moved towards the back and will be used in one of the next steps to set the proper scale of the model, before I will remove it.

The box itself is held up by her arms. Here, the hands will need to touch the box to make sure that connection is strong too. But they can’t connect too well, else the fingers will disappear.

To get things at the proper size, I started with matching the ruler to the length of the back panel, which was 16 cm. I then used this to scale the box so the vertical height of the opening is 46 mm. If I did the math well, my device should fit just nicely.

Anarani for blogpost IV_0001

I have given Anarani high heels to wear and replaced her top with a bikini. This bikini top has a clothing thickness property allowing me to set the thickness of it, thus making sure it prints better.

The skirt she’s wearing is also special, since it is one of the few skirt models I have that has both an inside and an outside. Most clothing props for Poser tend to just cover one side and the render engine is smart enough to come up with the other side, if it needs to be rendered. But when you want to print those props, then the thickness is unknown and the repair function of Shapeways will actually fill it all up, thus turning the inside of a skirt into a massive block. With this skirt, I still have a skirt that you can look under.

I won’t tell if she’s wearing a bikini bottom!

As an extra support for the box I used a cane prop from Poser and put it to the proper scale and thickness. It should add stability to the whole thing. making sure the bottom plate doesn’t bend over due to the weight of it all. Since there will be magnets on the back side, that bottom plate would not be supported and thus bend. This cane also required me to make Anarani bend slightly. After I put the hands in placed and locked their place, I moved her hip to the side and started to bend back her abdomen and chest to go near the cane again. Next, her neck was bent away from the cane and her head back to the cane so her neck and head (and hair, ear) would not touch the cane.

To make sure it is well-balanced, the whole box is in the center of the floor panel so it doesn’t matter that Anarani is leaning on her left foot. Gravity works downwards so the model won’t tilt to the left or right. Also, the border on top of the floor plane was added to make it stronger without making it much thicker.

I used a cane because the box is higher than the back panel. The cane adds a few more cm to this height. Add to this the height of the box (50 mm) and you get close to my estimation of 22 cm in total.

In my next post I will render the model in Vue, with some interesting textures, just to show what it will look like.

Print your own cases, part 3 of 10

In the earlier post I created a ruler so I can make sure that my box will have the exact size that I have specified. As I said, Poser loses this information, forcing me to fix the scale of the export file once I’m done with the model in Poser.

Mini Digital LCD Indoor Convenient Temperature Sensor Humidity Meter Thermometer Hygrometer Gauge

The device I will use is this thermometer that’s also shown on the left. (Image from AliExpress.) And the first thing I will have to do is measure it to get the exact dimensions. This is tricky because if you get the dimensions wrong, it either won’t fit or will be too loose to fit.

AliExpress does mention the size (3 cm x 4.8 cm x 1.6 cm) but these turn out to be incorrect! So, never assume the site will have exact measurements! Worse, this device has a small border that’s slightly bigger than the case itself, allowing a nice fit, but I need the size of the box, not the border. So, I take my ruler and start measuring the box. I end up with 45.75 mm x 25.9 mm x 13.5 mm. So, that’s the shape I need in OpenSCAD, which I will subtract from the real container.

The container itself needs to be hollow and must have enough space to contain the device. And for this one, I want a container that is round. That adds more complexity but it will look better. And I want my name on it, so people know it’s mine!

Making this shape isn’t difficult but you need to play around a bit. I did create the clock as a block to subtract from my shape and I did this to make sure that it fits. Especially the back should not have any holes from the corners of the device, otherwise, it won’t fit.

However, to create these oval shapes in OpenSCAD you need to create a round cylinder and a round sphere and then resize the width, height and depth to the required dimensions before subtracting the box. This slows down the rendering slightly, especially if you use high details.

And in the top of my script I use ‘$fn=250;’ which sets the detail level to a reasonable level. Simply put, OpenSCAD can’t create round shapes but can make a close estimate by using triangles and squares in a curve. With a value of 6, my shape would actually be a six-sided model. With 250, the round shape is actually made of 250 small, flat panels. Since I’ve set it to be 75 mm wide, those panels will be barely noticeable. Do keep in mind that the 3D printer won’t be able to make round shapes either so the value of 250 will be small enough to match the print resolution of Shapeways. But if you polish it, the shape will become more round.

Now, the script:

module Box(){
  translate([-23, -13, 0]) union(){
        translate([0, 0, 0]) cube([46, 26, 14]);
        translate([-2, -2, -2]) cube([50, 30, 2]);
        translate([23, 13, -0.1]) rotate([180, 0, 0]) linear_extrude(height = 2) {
          size = 10, 
          font = "Lucida Console Regular", 
          halign = "center", 
          valign = "center"
        } // text
      } // union
    } // difference
      translate([-2, -2, -3]) cube([50, 30, 2]);
      translate([0, 0, -3]) cube([46, 26, 14]);
    } // difference
  } // union

  resize(newsize=[75, 50, 27.5]) union(){
    cylinder(d=75, h=2);
        translate([0, 0, 2-75/2]) cube(75, center=true);
      } // union
    } // difference
  } // union
    translate([0, -19, 1]) rotate([180, 0, 0]) linear_extrude(height = 1) {
      text("W.A. ten Brink", 
      size = 4, 
      font = "Lucida Console Regular", 
      halign = "center", 
      valign = "center"
    } // text
  } // union

This time I did not create a separate method for the texts simply because I use only two texts of different sizes. Creating a module for that would require an additional parameter and the text function isn’t that complex.

I first create the box including a border and make it look a bit pretty. I make sure that the box-part that needs to be subtracted aligns to the center of the X-Y plane and lies against the zero Z plane. The border will stick out anyways but it allows me an easier way to put it in the proper place. Because of this, I don’t need to translate the position of the box.

Please, do notice that the text on the box is offset at 1/10th of a millimeter because else a thin piece of those numbers will become part of the rendering! Those would become loose parts so I need to add an offset. This is something you have to do when you do into the negative parts. I should actually do the same for the border but actually like the small line that it adds. It won’t be really noticeable when printed, though. But in the 3D software it will be visible as a thin line.

The dimensions of this box are 75x50x27.5 mm which is a bit large. Then again, the device itself isn’t that small either.

Like the ruler, I uploaded this model to Shapeways to get an estimate of the price and looks. It has slightly more volume as my ruler but the price is more than double of my ruler! The reason for this is because the price for plastic is determined by the volume of the model and the machine space that it takes. And although my ruler was long, it was also thin and not so high, thus it did not need as much space as this model.

In my next post I will combine this model with my model Anarani. In that post, I will also create the platform for Anarani to stand upon, although that won’t be very special.

Print your own cases, part 2 of 10

In my previous post I mentioned that I need a ruler to use with my Poser models. The reason for this is very simple. When you export a model from Poser, the proper size of the model isn’t written correctly in the export file. Poser is a great application but it has troubles doing a proper export. As a result, you might think your model is 20 cm high but it happens to be just one millimeter. Why? Because Poser doesn’t write proper measurements.

Now, things are simple when you know what size your model is supposed to be. If you want your model to be 20 cm high then you just rescale it in MeshMixer and you’re done. However, if you have a box or case as part of your project, chances are that the model will be bigger in all directions than this box. The box might be 5 cm high but the model is 20 cm high. How to fix that problem?

Well, the solution is simple. Create a model of a ruler with tags for centimeters and millimeters. Make it very long so it will be longer than your model. And when you’re modeling in Poser, use the ruler next to the object that you need to have at a precise size. Scale the ruler so the size of the object matches the desired length. Do not scale the object to fit the ruler, though! You won’t need to.

When you have set the ruler to the proper scale, you can continue to work on your model. Make the ruler about twice the length of your model, which is 60 cm for me. When you do an export, keep the ruler part of the model but move it to the side or back so it can be cut away with MeshMixer or NetFabb. This will allow you to set the proper scale in MeshMixer to 60 cm as the height (or width, depth) of your model.

I want a simple ruler with small tags for millimeters and longer tags for centimeters. I also want the numbers for centimeters to be on the ruler so I don’t have to count. And I will number all the centimeter ticks too, just because I can.

$fn = 50;

module SetTag(number){
  linear_extrude(height = thickness) {
    size = width/2, 
    font = "Lucida Console Regular", 
    halign = "center", 
    valign = "center"
} // SetTag

cube([length*2, center, width], center=true);
  cube([length*2, thickness, width], center=true);
      translate([i, 0, (width-1)/2]) cube([1, thickness, 1], center=true); 
    } // for
      translate([i, 0, (width-2)/2]) cube([1, thickness, 2], center=true); 
    } // for
      translate([i, 0, -(width/8)])
        rotate([90, 0, 0]) SetTag(str(i/10));
        rotate([90, 0, 180]) SetTag(str(i/10));
      } // union
    } // for
  } // union
} // difference

I created a special module to place the text on the ruler. I generally copy and paste it from my other projects since it defines my default settings for handling texts. You don’t need to do this but it makes the call to the text function easier.

I create two cubes for the ruler. One happens to be a thin part which makes the whole ruler solid. The other fattens the ruler so I can carve the ticks in the ruler without making parts too thin. This would allow me to even print my ruler, if I want to.

I’ve set up several variables so I can make as many rulers as I like, although the rendering can be a bit slow for long rulers. There are ticks carved for every 2 mm but you have to be aware that the middle of each tick is the exact place, not the left or right side of it. The zero tick is exactly in the middle, going half a mm in both directions. Keep this in mind since the ticks at 30 and -30 will be half the size of the other ticks. When you use the ruler to measure things in Poser, measure from the zero tick, not the ends of the ruler!

The numbers are at the proper spot, with all negative numbers on one side and positive numbers on the other.


This ruler is very long but that’s the purpose of this ruler. I have uploaded it to Shapeways – Ruler and it is available there for about $7, excluding postage and taxes.

In my next post I will create the case for the thermometer.

Print your own cases, part 1 of 10

It’s about time I started blogging again and this time I just write a series of 10 parts explaining how I create small, plastic cases for all kinds of stuff. For example, like the battery container in a earlier post.

I like to use my 3D printed models as cases for my own electronic experiments. I’m still experimenting but things can be quite interesting this way. The things you create this way are unique. No one else has something like it, unless they can use your model to print their own cases. And this time I’m going to create a case for an electronic thermometer/hygrometer that I bought from AliExpress for € 1.28. And I want a pretty girl model to hold it up so I need to create a second structure to add stability to the whole model, since it would be top-heavy with the device high up. I will solve this by including space for a few 10mm round magnets that I have so I can put the whole thing against my whiteboard.

So, I will have a flat bottom with a small back panel that holds space for the magnets and a beam that will go up to give more support to the box. This beam will also hold a magnet on the top to better stick it against my whiteboard, else gravity will turn it upside-down. (Been there, done that!) An extra cylinder will connect the box to this beam so the model will be quite stable. That cylinder will need to be added in Poser since I don’t know where the box will be when I create it.

Anarani for blogpost

But because I need exact measurements I’m also going to create a model for a ruler, so I can scale the ruler in Poser to synchronize it with the dimensions of the case. Why? Because Poser doesn’t create export files with proper measurements so you need to rescale them afterwards! Since I know the length of the ruler and since it will be the longest part, I should be able to fix the scale again to the proper length.

The model will be Anarani, who happens to just look pretty and I have printed her as a model before. She’s a small elvish character and she’s one of my favorite cyborg models. However, for this post I will use her without the cyborg parts. Anarani will be standing and holding the case at around her chest or higher. This means that the model will be tall and thin and I will later explain why that’s a good thing. (In short, it’s less expensive…)

So, with the model in my mind, I will also make an artistic rendering of the model just for the fun of it. It’s not complex but you will need to add textures to the case.

So, what software do I use?

  • OpenSCAD to create the model of the case. This is a very useful tool since you will be writing scripts with exact measurements and can generate very complex things from basically simple components.
  • Poser Pro for the Anarani model, since I want the case to be held by a pretty elf and that’s too complex for OpenSCAD.
  • E-On Vue for the artistic rendering of my model.
  • Accutrans 3D to remove unwanted parts from the model and to remove all textures and merge all parts into a single model.
  • MeshMixer to set the scale of the model and to make it hollow. Meshmixer can also be used to put the model correctly upright, facing in the proper direction.
  • NetFabb Basic to do some more, automated repairs. Especially important when working with Poser models since Poser models aren’t made to be printed but rendered.
  • MeshLab as an alternative solution to repair models.

And finally I will send the model to Shapeways where it will be printed in white plastic. Other materials are also possible but white plastic tends to be the cheapest and strongest material. You can use sandstone and even colored sandstone, but sandstone isn’t very practical if you have small details like fingers, toes, noses, etc. Sandstone is great for making e.g. a bust of a model at a large size. However, sandstone requires walls of at least 2mm thick. Plastic can be as thin as 0.7mm…

In the end, I want to have a 3D printed model of about 20 cm high that I can put against my whiteboard and it will tell me the humidity and temperature.

So, that’s the plan. Let’s get started in part 2!