3DPrint your first model today!

Image for post
Image for post

I knew about 3D printing for many years, but never printed a model. I think the main barrier was not having access to a 3D printer. You may also not know how to start 3D printing. Here is how you can 3D print your first object today.

The first step in 3D printing is to create a 3D object. You can do this in various CAD software. I decided to use Autodesk’s Tinkercad. Tinkercad is an online application which you use in your browser.

You can start learning Tinkercad by using the tutorials on their site (see my recommendation next).

If you want, you can skip the tutorials and use a video tutorial that I used to create the object shown in this post ( I recommend this approach). The tutorial shows you how to model a number of similar napkin rings. The first one is good enough for your first 3D print. The image in this post is for the fourth variation (this link should go the right location in the video).

Here are the simple steps to model the fourth variation of the napkin ring:

  1. Use the twisted polygon shape generator to create your first shape
  2. Add a hole using a cylinder. Note that you can choose an object to be a solid or a hole.
  3. Copy the first shape and change the parameters
  4. Add the top block to create a clean boolean (cut). The block is also a hole.
  5. Align all the shapes on two axis
  6. Boolean (join) all the shapes

I was in Singapore and ran across a makerspace — One Maker Group. From Tinkercad, you can export a .stl file. I mailed the file to the printing bureau and got a quote of SG$ 10 (US$ 7 / ₹ 463). The rates depend on the time taken to print the object (I am not sure how they calculate the time) — The model was 40mm x 40mm x 33mm and the .stl file was 500 KB. You can also choose the materials and the colour. It seemed like I had a choice of white or black.

The object seems quite rigid. However, from what I read, you shouldn’t use these for long term use or for carrying any weight.

You can reduce the cost by creating a smaller object. You may also want to keep in mind that you can generate the .stl files of differing precision. Precision will change the printing time and cost.

You may be asked for the material you want to use for printing. You can ask the bureau for help like I did.

So what!!

3D printing has been around for a long time. So you printed your first model. So what!! What’s next!! Instead of SG$ 10 I could have bought a napkin ring for $1?

The big realization about 3D printing is how to translate an abstract idea or concept into a physical object. Although 3D printing has got a lot of attention in medical applications, for a hobbyist or home user, it opens up a world of learning. It’s the idea that you can think up things and see how the actual object looks like. The possibilities are even more for children, i.e., as they progress in school and learn. It’s not so much the technicalities of 3D printing or modeling, but more converting your (wild/creative/abstract) ideas into actual objects. It also helps that the technology allows you to create very complex shapes, unlike the constraints of machining.

I hope you print your first 3D model today!!!

Practical notes

3D printers are quite inexpensive nowadays. Before you purchase one online, I would recommend spending time modeling and printing models in a bureau. This may be even more important if you plan to purchase a printer for a child. Although the technology seems very futuristic and exciting, children may find their attention wavering — and there is nothing wrong with that.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on March 31, 2017.

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Software testing, project management, managing testers

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