3-D Printing: I still don't get it

The local city library has a public 3-D printing service. Walk in with the data on a stick and a few dollars, and walk away with your widgie.

What I don’t get is…how do I design my widgie? Say I want to make a little trinket to use as a personalized Monopoly token. I want it to look like a little horsie, rearing on its hind legs, on a little base so it won’t tip over.

How? How do I “sculpt” it, digitally? What drafting programs are there? I figure my first attempt would be amateurish and coarse, just as if I were to model it in sculpey, but with the digital picture, I can keep refining it.

How does this work? How do professionals sculpt the files for sale on the internet? (And there are some real cute ones out there!)

Say I want to design my own chess set? Say I want to make my own D&D miniatures? How is it all done?

Get a 3D modeling program. Blender is a popular one that’s free and open-source.

There are also libraries full of pre-made models for you to choose from and modify.
https://grabcad.com/library

Thank you both! I’ve downloaded and installed Blender, and, wow, grabcad is a treasure trove!

This is gonna be fun!

Blender is an awesome program, but it can be difficult for beginners to learn. SketchUp is an option if you want something simpler and easier.

One final note. Blender is great for solid objects like the Monopoly pieces you’re starting with, but you’ll need to look into a full CAD program if you ever decide to move on to projects with moving parts. I’m still researching those but I’m sure someone will be able to make a solid recommendation soon enough.

You mentioned sculpting, have a look at Sculptris. It simulates a ball of clay that you then use various tools to sculpt and shape. It’s easier for me than Blender.

Keen! More options! Thank you!

I have been using Google Sketch-Up for a while – since back when it was free – and I don’t see that it supports 3d printing. It’s lovely for drawing in 3d – useful for designing room layouts – or just making starships and castles – but it doesn’t seem to export to 3d printing files.

Maybe I’m using an older version?

Sculptris sounds like fun; I’ll have a look. Does it export to 3d printer files?

What are 3D printer files? What formats are typical?

Slight hijack: there’s at least one company – Hero Forge – that does just this; I supported their launch on Kickstarter a couple of years ago. They have an online tool that lets you design your mini, choosing from dozens of poses, weapons, and armor options, as well as different materials and sizes. They then send the 3D printer file off to a printer to create the mini, and ship it to you.

I C what U did there!

Whoa. I hope they have a Monopoly Dude figurine too, because they’re about to take all my $$$…

To get Sketch Up to export to STL or other 3D printer compatible formats, you’ll have to get some of the plug-ins available. I can’t remember the names offhand, but they’re available from most of the plug-in sites. Alternatively, you can use something like MeshLab to convert from one of Sketch Up’s native formats to 3d printer compatible.

It depends on your printer. Most common is STL, but a lot of printers now can handle OBJ and others.

A very welcome highjack indeed! Thank’ee! They do have some very nice combinations of features, one of those deals where the overall product line could span millions of possibilities!

TinkerCAD is a great tool too. https://www.tinkercad.com/

The particularly nice thing about it, compared to Blender, is that models that will load up in tinkerCAD will nearly always print correctly (IME). We have an UP! Mini at my work (schoolkids computer sessions), and an issue that I have had with Blender models is that you can make interesting complex stuff, but if you screw up and have one face pointing the wrong way, or a non-solid-object plane or vertex sticking out somewhere, the printer either gives you an incomprehensible error message, or produces spaghetti

Because a simple program like tinkerCAD won’t allow you the same amount of complexity as Blender, it’s a lot harder to accidentally make a thing that’s too complex to print. It also does some nice useful things that I think are very hard to do in Blender (at least, I don’t know how to do them straightforwardly) like cut the shape of one object out of another one. It’s not great for warping your object to make interesting curves though. Blender is great for that!

I used Sketchup recently, it worked great. I was restoring an old guitar and needed to replace a lost brand badge. I found a good photo on the web, traced in sketchup, turned it into a solid and fiddled with the model a bit, and now have a beautiful part. $20 to a printing service instead of $100+ trying to find an old one on Ebay :slight_smile:

I’ve been using FreeCAD, which is a basic parametric modeling software. Which is great for designing things with precise dimensions, repeating patterns, etc. like machine parts. And it’s free and open-source. I recently designed and made a wall mount for my Google Wifi router which turned out pretty nicely.

Blender is more of a free-form sculpting tool.

I have a few minis from them (my “reward” from supporting their Kickstarter drive) which are quite nice. Since I ordered them, a couple of years ago, they’ve greatly expanded both their range of poses and details, as well as their available materials.

Can you address the OP’s issue with getting Sketchup to produce files that can be used for 3D printing?

You can export your model as a Collada (.dae) file, which some 3d printers support. You’ll have to see what formats your library uses.