Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Adventures in 3D Printing

This year, my school purchased not one, not two, but five 3D printers.  All of them, the same model, the XYZ DaVinci Duo printer.  As an EdTech specialist, and self-proclaimed 'king-nerd' of the office, I chose to learn what I could to get them useable in learning activities in the classroom.

So... here is a bit of where I came from, and where I got to... and a few of the 'how-to-fix' things I figured out. Am I an expert?  Probably not.  But, this is what I learned this year.

STL vs CAD file

.STL files are a pretty standard file for 3D printing.  Basically, your 3D printer is printing lots of little triangles, stacked and arranged in different ways to build your model.  But, there are different types of STL files.  The XYZ printer likes ASCII STL files.  So, if you are downloading... conversion may be required.


Getting 3D designs made is a challenge, but there are a lot of tools.  A number of them come from AutoDesk for free.  Here are a few I like:


123D Design this Application is Mac/PC and iPad... and pretty good. It has lots of pieces that can be used as templates to create things like cars and airplanes, as well as regular shapes and lettering. Tutorials from AutoDesk are here

Google Sketchup probably just as easy as 123D Design.  I tended to stick to the 123D software, but a number of students at my school liked this application.


Why not design on a touch screen!  The interface is much more compliant for manipulating designs. I really like the interface of designing 3D objects on tablets, where laptops just are not the same feel.  

123D Sculpt+   Really, an intuitive application for creating objects in the round.  Tutorials from AutoDesk's YouTube Channel

123D Design discussed before, is also available for the Mac.  This app also allows you to save your STL files to a Dropbox account.

Both Autodesk 123D apps discussed, allow you to upload your designs to a free Autodesk cloud account.  Getting your designs off your tablet and onto your laptop is important, and AutoDesk makes it easier with their cloud service.  The Meshmixer application, discussed in the Printing section, allows you to download your files directly in the application. Or just by logging into your Autodesk account, and downloading your files.
Gravity Sketch This seems like a great app for 3D modelling.  It has much promise to create designs, without too much hassle.  I have tried it, but haven't gotten to the point of printing anything yet... Tutorials are here.


Tinkercad is another Autodesk product... This works online, and gives some good, and basic designs.  It does not have as fancy of an interface, but is a good product for younger learners, or possibly Chromebook users.  Here is TinkerCad's learning portal


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