Tag Archives: 3D printing

3D Printing from Photogrammetry

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Blender

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What Have I Gotten Myself Into Now?

This was going be be a blog about using Blender to create 3D scenes. Sort of. I’m just barely starting to learn Blender, so it wasn’t going to be anything fancy or in-depth.

But, I went down a rabbit hole. Imagine that! I started with the ASDM Rock I photographed a few months ago (see my post PHOTOGRAMMETRY: 3D Models from Photos), and was going to try to add some sunshine, and animate the sun moving across the rock, and maybe in the future create some somewhat realistic looking grass around the rock. But, I got sidetracked and decided to try to 3D Print the rock. Not at full scale(!). Just a little plastic rock I could put on my desk.

Blender

OK, so what is Blender? From Wikipedia, “Blender is a free and open-source 3D computer graphics software toolset used for creating animated films, visual effects, art, 3D printed models, motion graphics, interactive 3D applications, virtual reality, and computer games.” Did you read all of that? Free. Open Source. 3D computer graphics software. Animation.

Blender is used to create everything from 2D and 3D still pictures to full length animated movies. Wow!

I’ve known about Blender for several years (at least). I’ve looked at it a few times, but every time the learning curve scared me off. But it can do so much. And FREE, so no big investment (except my time) to play with it. After playing a bit with Open Drone Map, creating 3D models from “just a bunch of photos,” I thought maybe I should look at Blender again. So for the last 4-6 months I’ve been watching tutorials on YouTube and LinkedIn Learning, being awed by what others have done with Blender, and wondering if I could accomplish anything significant with it.

Very brief recap of my blog on Photogrammetry: I shot 40 photos with my cell phone of this cool looking rock that is located in front of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum outside of Tucson, AZ. I then used Open Drone Map to process these 40 photos to create a model of the rock, and used Blender to do some very minor editing to eliminate the extraneous parts of the model. I uploaded the model to Sketchfab, where you can view it in all of its 3D-ness.

Starting with this same model, I used Blender to create a base and export it to an STL file, which can be used to print a 3D model. That sounds rather mundane, but I spent many hours trying to get the initial model ready for 3D printing. Several YouTube videos later, I managed to create something that would print nicely. I also added a little sunshine to the scene, just because I could.

For comparison with the printed model, here is one of the photos in the sequence that was used to create the model.

Rock at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Entrance
Rock at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Entrance

Here is the ASDM Rock, as rendered in Blender. I added a little sunshine to the scene, just because I could :-).

ASDM Rock, from Open Drone Map model, rendered in Blender
ASDM Rock, from Open Drone Map model, rendered in Blender

The final result? Here is my printed “rock.” I think it rather accurately represents the original rock!

3D Print of Rock in Photo Above
3D Print of Rock in Photo Above

A 3D Printed Thermometer Sensor Holder

When camping, I frequently would like to know the temperature outside our 2020 T@B 320S Boondock Edge trailer as well as inside. I purchased a “ThermoPro TP60S Digital Hygrometer Indoor Outdoor Thermometer” through Amazon (if you purchase from this link I’ll earn a small commission at no additional cost to you) and mounted the indoor module on the wall next to the Alde control panel using Velcro.

Now, where to locate the outside sensor? I placed it in the propane tank / battery box, just setting it on the bottom. This seemed to work fine. The outside temperature seems to be relatively accurate except when the sun is shining directly on the box. The only problem I could see was that the sensor picked up a lot of dirt, and occasionally some moisture from sitting on the bottom. I was also concerned about dropping something on it and damaging the unit.

I have finally gotten around to moving the sensor to a safer location. I figured I could mount it over the flange at the back of the propane tank / battery box and it would be safely out of the way. When the lid is closed, there is a small gap below the lid where the mount can sit without interfering with the lid closing. Using Fusion 360, I designed a holder for the sensor.

I first measured the width of the flange at the top of the box, and eyeballed how I thought I would like the mount to sit on that flange. I measured the sensor, and made a rough drawing of what I wanted. Then I created a test part in Fustion 360. I just made the end of the sensor mount and about 10mm of the body. That way I could print it in a reasonable amount of time without using too much plastic filament to test the fit. Here’s my first iteration:

Sensor Holder Test #1

I then tested this, and found that it didn’t hang the way I had hoped. It needed something to keep it from tilting.

So, on to iteration #2. I added a little leg to keep it from tilting.

This worked fine. Now that I had tested the hanger, and believed it to be correct, I added the rest of the structure in Fusion 360, and added holes in the bottom to improve air flow to the sensor, resulting in the completed sensor holder.

Available on Thingiverse at www.thingiverse.com/thing:4917124.

3D Printed Sundial

A few weeks ago I posted about designing and printing a simple 3D part. This post will be about a more complex object, using a different design tool.

I’ve wanted to build a custom sundial for my home for years. I have a book (actually, more than one) about designing sundials. The primary one I use is Sundials: Their Theory and Construction by Albert Waugh. This book has lots of information about various types of sundials and includes formulas for designing sundials. I have thought about designing and building a traditional sundial that would be mounted in my front yard, or maybe a vertical sundial on my garage door (which gets sunshine much of the day, but not late afternoon). But that hasn’t happened.

Now that I have a 3D printer, I decided I could make a small sundial (my printer’s print bed is only about 9″ across) using that. I searched for designs, but couldn’t find a sundial I liked in the normal places to find 3D objects to print. I found one that was OK on Thingiverse, but it wasn’t really what I was looking for. Time to design my own!

I wanted to be able to easily modify the sundial for different locations. After all, if I’m going to make a dial for myself, I’m sure I have friends that would like one. And I want to easily customize it to make different sizes.

The sundial I found on Thingiverse had the base and gnomon (that’s the piece that sticks up to cast the sun’s shadow) all in one piece, which made it rather bulky to send in the mail. I wanted something that could be made flat for shipping. So the gnomon needed to be separate from the base, but easily attached.

With all of these requirements, it seemed to me I needed something that I could specify parameters to make it easy to customize, and then based on these parameters do “a lot of math” (not actually so much, but sines and cosines, at least). This is a different way of design than using Fusion 360 or some other similar CAD program, like I did the for the protective feet in a previous blog post. I needed something that could calculate angles and create shapes based on these calculated angles. Is there such a thing? But, of course! There is OpenSCAD, “The Programmers Solid 3D CAD Modeller”. This tool is basically a programming language in which you describe shapes. You write a program, which can include parameters which are used in the calculations. Just what I needed for this project!

The first thing I did was to determine what parameters I would need, i.e., the values I would want to be able to easily change. Obviously, the latitude and longitude of the location where the sundial would be “installed” would have to be easily changeable. What else? How about the size of the base so I could designate whether the sundial would be a 3″ dial, or a 6″ dial, or some other size. Here are the parameters I came up with (as shown in OpenSCAD):

Sundial Parameters as shown in OpenSCAD
Sundial Parameters

In OpenSCAD, these are dimensionless parameters, but the sizes get interpreted in millimeters by my slicing program. So think of these as sizes in millimeters, except for the locationName, which is text, the latitude and longitude, which are degrees, and the timeZone, which is hours. So the dial described above is 120mm on a side, which is very close to 5 inches.

Here is a photo of the sundial base created by the above parameters:

Sundial Base
Sundial Base

Pretty simple, right? A Cuboid (a cube with unequal size sides) for the base, with another cuboid subtracted from it (the depression in the middle), a bunch of cuboids for lines added at various angles, and another cuboid subtracted from it where the gnomon will fit in, then some letters and numbers stuck to the top surface around the edges. Nothing to it! 🙂

And the gnomon is really simple. Just a cuboid the size of the slot it will fit into, and another cuboid to cut away the upper portion at the correct angle (the latitude of it’s location).

Sundial Gnomon

Once you print the base and the gnomon, the gnomon fits into the slot in the base:

Square Sundial Base and Gnomon

With the base and gnomon apart, they can easily be mailed in an envelope. I have sent several to friends in padded envelopes, which can be sent inexpensively, with no problems.

Of course, this all seems simple now. I’ve already done it. Actually creating the sundial took me several days of work to get it just right. A lot of that time was learning OpenSCAD (I’m still just a novice), and also deciding how I wanted my sundial to look. Not to mention getting the formulas right for the basic dial. It took some time to get the hour numbers to print correctly on the dial border. Some of the logic was like, “if the hour line intersects the top border (not the left or right borders), print on the top border (centered vertically), otherwise print on the left or right border (centered horizontally), but don’t print on the bottom border (because the location text is there).” There are still some edge cases where the numbers print in the “wrong” location (which depends on your definition of wrong), but they haven’t occurred often enough yet for me to fix the logic.

For the curious, the code for the Gnomon is:

difference() {
    translate([0,-gnomonDepth,0]) cube([gnomonBaseLength, gnomonBaseLength+gnomonDepth, gnomonWidth]); // Full gnomon
    //subtract linear portion above gnomon
    rotate([0,0,latitude]) translate([0,0,-1]) cube([gnomonBaseLength*4, gnomonBaseLength*4, gnomonWidth+2]);
}

You might recognize some of the parameters to the cube() function as input parameters above, for instance gnomonDepth and gnomonWidth. The other parameters to the cube function (like gnomonBaseLength) are calculated from the input parameters.

If you are curious about the code, or want to print your own Square Sundial, my “Square Sundial” can be found on Thingiverse at https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4802077.

Designing a Simple Part for 3D Printing

In a previous blog I told about my new 3D printer, and showed a few photos of it printing objects that I had found online. What else can you do with a 3D printer? You can design your own items to print, and those can be anything you can imagine. They might be purely decorative, or could be functional. Here’s something simple that is functional.

Julie has a basket that stands on four metal legs. Unfortunately, the little plastic feet that went on the legs have long since disappeared, and now they scratch the floor.

Simple solution: make some protective feet.

Fortunately, this really is a simple solution. I have some filament that I can print called TPU (thermoplastic polyeruthane) which is flexible but also tough. It sounds like the perfect material for this.

I measured the leg, and it was just a little under 19mm across. So I needed to design a foot that would fit over this 19mm square leg, hold up to some use, and stay on the leg. I decided to make it 2mm thick, as that seemed like a good thickness to not be too flimsy, yet not be overkill.

I use Fusion 360 from AutoDesk for most of my 3D designing. It’s free for hobbyists, and very capable. There are many other 3D design programs that would have worked, but that’s the one I’m most proficient with at this time. Maybe I’ll switch in the future. There is a great open source 3D design program I’m interested in playing with, but for this project I used Fusion 360

How would you go about designing a foot for this? It seems like a simple object, and it is. Just a cube with a hole in it. Like this:

I won’t go into any great detail about designing this, but will give some basic steps.

  • The leg is 19mm square, and I want the walls to be 2mm thick. 19mm + 2mm on each side makes 23mm. Draw a 23mm square.
  • Extrude that up 23mm, making a 23mm cube.
  • On the top surface of that cube, draw a centered 19mm square, leaving 2mm of the original cube on each side.
  • Extrude that down 19mm, subtracting this 19mm cube from the 23mm cube. That gives us the basic shape shown above. Note that by doing this we are left with a 4mm bottom. I could have reduced the height of the 23mm cube so that the sides and bottom were uniformly 2mm, but I figured a little extra material on the bottom would just add to the wear resistance.
  • Export this object as a 3D mesh, slice it, print it, and test it. I found that it fit, but was a bit loose, and probably would fall off over time.
  • Go back to Fusion 360 and tweak the internal (subtracted) cube to 18.5mm. If you’re paying attention (you were, weren’t you?), you’ll notice that the walls are now 2.25mm thick. I didn’t see any reason to go back and adjust this, although it would have been easy to do. At this point I believed I probably had a workable foot. In Fusion 360, it looked like this:
  • Kind of square-ish with sharp edges. Fusion 360 to the rescue. I “Filleted” (rounded) all edges, inside and out, with the exception of the bottom edges, which I “Chamfered” (cut at an angle). Why do the bottom different? Because 3D printers like mine have a problem with steep overhangs, and a fillet starts out with almost a 90° overhang, whereas a chamfer has only a 45° overhang and can be printed by most printers. Because this object is so small, it probably wouldn’t have made any real difference, but it’s a good habit to form when designing objects for 3D printing. I now have this, which looks a lot like the photo at the top of the page:

I think it looks good! Export it, Slice it, Print it. Test the fit…

It looks like a winner to me. It fits snugly, won’t fall off, and will protect the floor. The color? Just happens to be the color of TPU filament I have and a color Julie likes. Which is probably why I have this filament. 🙂

Watch for a future blog on designing a more complex object using a totally different 3D design program.