From Concept to Reality: 3D Design and Printing for the Common Man.

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3D printing has changed the way I think about how I interact with the world.  As I have learned to use the tools, I think a lot about how to use printing to make my world more functional, more exciting or just cooler!  Being able to make something that doesn’t exist or that costs more than I want to pay has been inspiring and fascinating.  And really, once you learn a few simple tools, it’s EASY and FUN!!

There are many ways to go about making 3-D Models for printing.  Some of these ways involve putting forth a lot of money into high cost software with esoteric control schemes and then a lot of effort into learning how to use them.  I don’t know about you, but I have neither in great surplus, so in the past several years, I have been exploring the easiest and cheapest methods available on the web to design and create things. 

This instructable focuses on giving you a crash course into the most simple ways I have found to get you making physical objects from your computer.

Tools needed to make a 3D model:
    • Computer (hopefully, you already have this)
    • Sketchup (with CADspan resurfacer).
    • Tinkercad (web-based).
    • NetFabb Studio (get the free version for repairs)

Basic Software for printing your 3D model:
    • 3D printer (Makerbot makes some great desktop models.  Not free, unfortunately)
    • Replicatorg (also free at Replicat.org)

I'm lucky because I have access to a 3D printer at work.  If you don't, there are several print-on-demand services that can make your models into reality!  If going this route, check out Shapeways, Sculpteo, Ponoko or i.materialise.  Even if you have access to a low-end 3d printer, don’t disregard these services.  If  you need more detailed / higher resolution prints of your designs, they could be the way to go.

Part 0:

Before we begin, it will be important to download and install the current version of Sketchup on your computer as well as get and install the CADspan sketchup plug-in. You will need to make an account to use CADspan, but it makes taking 3D models into a state that can be printed easy!  Sketchup will mainly be used for the “mechanical” model of this instructable.

Next, make a tinkercad account.  Tinkercad is a web based design program, which is easy to use and can be used for more “artistic” projects.

Although I tend to think about Sketchup as “mechanical” and tinkercad as “artistic,” either program can be used to achieve similar results, but the workflow of each program is quite different as you will see.

While not technically necessary if you don’t have a 3D printer, it’s a good idea download and install Netfabb studio basic which I use to repair anything that might be wrong with the model.  There are places you can send your models to be printed, so having this program is still a good idea if you are going to go from digital design to printed object.

Finally, if you do have access to a 3D printer, you’ll need the software to run it.  I use ReplicatorG.

Whew!  That’s a lot of installing!

On to the fun stuff!
zxqueb (author) 2 years ago
I should say, it's for the 3D design contest. I just saw that Digital Fabrication was a different one. I'll have to enter that one too.

Thanks for the heads up!

hats99942 years ago
This is a pretty good instructable, i think you should enter it in the digital fabrication contest.
zxqueb (author)  hats99942 years ago

That's why I put it together,actually. I have entered it and am waiting for it to be accepted!