So I've always wanted to build a mechanical iris, and this 3D design contest sounds like the perfect way to work the bugs out.

We'll call this step 0 (maybe? it is my first instructable...) - Research!  You need to figure out what you want to make and if its ever been made before.  What problems they have had, or success stories.  So hit up google images and search for mechanical iris.

the first image is what i actually ended up with!

Disclaimer:  I know the mechanical iris has been instructabled to death, but this is focusing on the CAD design of it, not the mechanism itself. 

Step 1: Draw It!

A 3D program is not a sketch book, make sure you have a plan before getting into it.  I generally use AutoCAD to do the first drawings.  I make a 2D drawing that gives the basics of the mechanism.  Each component of the mechanism gets its own layer so I can turn the others off and get a clear picture of what I'm working on.
<p>I used this site to design an iris: <a href="http://www.iris-calculator.com" rel="nofollow"> www.iris-calculator.com</a><br><br>It works it all out for you, and if you get the pro version you can even download the drawing and use it in whatever CAD program you use!</p>
I got all happy and ready to do this? Then i checked on this SolidWorks, its 100 bucks or more, any its not easy to just get you have to get a quote? Dude! This sucks. Is there a free version? I'm not going to make money with this?
It's not a free program. I use it because I took a class on it and they gave me a free copy. <br><br>Now that I know how to use it, I would probably buy a copy. It's worth it.
Ok, good luck with that? I can't and most people wont.
<p> I know I'm a little late to the party, but there are tons of open-source (Read: &quot;free&quot;) alternatives out there that work just as well as solidworks.<br><br>One of the best ones out there is called FreeCAD.</p><p> <a href="http://www.freecadweb.org/" rel="nofollow">http://www.freecadweb.org/</a></p>
Did you enter this in the digital fabrication contest that's running right now? I think that it's an excellent entry. Nice Instructable!
I did, but it was rejected =o(<br><br>I assume it's because I didn't actually fabricate it digitally, just designed it digitally and cut it out by hand.
Ah yes, sorry, that is a requirement of the contest. In any case, good work.
Thank you. <br> <br>I'll try again after i win the replicator and print it out!
It finally says I'm in the contest, VOTE FOR ME! WOO HOO!
Thank you so much, and this is a great post. They can be difficult to write, or organize, but each Instructable does so much good for our community of learners and makers!

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