My Wife, a lifelong crazy for cats lady, and I were playing Moose Farkle with the neighbors. It's a super simple but super fun game involving 6 dice in which the one pip has been replaced by a Moose. Wife asked for a set for Christmas, knows there's also Penguin Farkle, so asks if there's a Kitteh Farkle can she have that please.
I have a look around the Internets, but no Kitty Farkle. Then it hits me. Dice are really easy to 3D print, I can MAKE Kitty Farkle. I remember a cartoon my wife drew of a cat that I thought was really cute and used that to make her her very own, personalized-by-herself Kitty Farkle set.
For this project you'll need:
- Free account with Tinkercad 3D design site
- Pixelmator or Adobe Photoshop
- A free account with Selva3D or some other way of creating a 3-D render of a 2D drawing
- Exacto Knife
Oh, and you'll need a Formlabs Form2 Resin printer, around 4,000 Bucks. What? You don't want so spend $4,000 dollars on a set of six dice? Then find someone near you who can print resin on 3D Hubs and pay them to print it for you.
This was my first real design-to-3D-Print project, and it was super easy with a short learning curve.
Step 1: Capture Your Drawing
I loved my wife's self portrait of herself with the kittehs, and thought I'd use that at first. But the detail was way too fine to render well on such a small surface. You want something that's made of blocky shapes as fine lines are just not going to show up well.
I took a photo of the drawing, put it in Pixelmator, cropped down to just the cat. Converted it to black and white with the Image > Color Adjustments > Black and White tool. I then inverted the colors with Image > Color Adjustments > Invert.
Everything in white is going to be a hole the depth of a dice pip. As the drawing started out as a line drawing, I needed to re-invert the color of the arm crossing the body, the neck line, the paw print, and the whiskers that crossed the face: they would have been white on white in the solid version of the drawing.
Save in as high a resolution as you can.
Step 2: Convert 2D Drawing to 3D .stl File
I'm sure there's a free way of turning a 2D drawing into a 3D .stl file, but as a newb I stumbled upon Selva3D: it's a super-simple two-click upload, you see the 3D render and can roll it over, inspect it, zoom in on it, if you like the result you can download it for $2.50. They take paypal. Boom. Done.
Step 3: Find One of 27 Billion Dice Designs You Like...
Now head over to Tinkercad. Create a free account if you don't have one. Find a Dice design you like (make sure it's licensed for modification) or modify the one I used and click the "Tinker This" button.
Now you probably want to watch the video tutorials about how to position a workplane on the surface of the dice and how to edit in Tinkercad. You'll get the basics in literally 10 minutes. The concept of the workplane can be hard to get your head around at first, but your task is simple: you want to position the workplane on the "ONE" pip, select it, ungroup it from the rest of the design, and delete it. BE CAREFUL when you ungroup the pip that you don't ungroup anything else. It's easy to accidentally move the whole design while ungrouped, and trust me, you don't want to do that.
Once you've removed the one pip, you want to import your drawing's .STL file. Use the Import function on the right hand panel. Rotate until it's properly aligned with the workplane, and drop it into the surface of the die. You may want to use the measuring tool to get the depth right -- it should be equal in depth to the pips.
Step 4: Save and Print and Wait for Delivery...
Download the .STL file.
Go to 3D Hubs and find a place to print your design. 3D Hubs is a network of 3D printer owners and commercial 3D Printers who print on demand either as a profession or in down time. There's a huge range of options for a job like this since it's small enough to send in the post you can print anywhere. But have a look if there's someone in your neighborhood where you can print your job, stop by to pick it up and maybe have a cup of tea and a chat. This is frontier times for 3D printing, and there's some interesting networking to be done.
Material. If you want cheap, you can print in ABS without problems. Resin is a bit heavier than ABS and has a nice, Dice-like feel to it. I went with Resin.
Upload your file and get a quote for printing it 6 times.
The hub I used, Omni Hubs in Boxtel near my home in Amsterdam, were absolute champs. My first .STL was awful -- really low resolution, and the guys there showed me an image of what it would look like printed, talked me through how to improve it, and just generally went the extra mile to ensure I got a quality print.
Three days later, my dice arrived. EIGHT of them, as the folks at Omni Hubs thought it might be handy to have a couple extra, and it's always easier to run additional copies than do a second set up. No charge. Spirit of Christmas. Sweeeeet. Now it was time to color in the pips.
Step 5: Fill the Pips With Sugru
If you don't know Sugru, you're missing out on the duct tape of adhesives. It's a mouldable, play-doh like insulating substance that cures to a flexible solid rubber-like consistency. I used an exacto knife to press it into the cavities. Use the BACK of the knife to scrape the excess off the surface -- be very careful not to knick the surface, as you'll get Sugru in there and see the imperfection. Use a paper towel to rub away the surface excess. For pips that have a sliver missing where the sugru pulled away, just rub your thumb into it: that'll generally work to smooth it to full circle. If not, press a little more Sugru in there. You'll need to work relatively fast -- by the time I was on the 6th die, the Sugru was starting to cure to the point it would pull out of the cavities as I scraped the back of the Exacto knife over the surface.
Step 6: E Voilà! Kitty Farkle!
I found a perfect old silver box at the local junk shop and snugged the dice in with packing foam. I'll put it in a box with an Arduino Christmas present Mystery Enhancing Noisemaker and place it under the tree, which will be blinking Merry Xmas in Morse Code.