Introduction: 3D Printed Christmas Ornaments
Hi, my name is Parnika Nammi, a student of Ms. Berbawy's wonderful Principles of Engineering class. This class has a SIDE project every year. You can check out previous SIDE projects here! This year, I thought to make 3D printed Christmas ornaments for my Christmas tree at home. The idea was to have the project completed by Christmas time, but the process took a little longer than anticipated.
This is the perfect project idea for a festive holiday season as well as a great gift to give to friends, families, or coworkers. There is something really special about creating your own designs and watching them come to life in front of your eyes. The possibilities for this unique project are endless and any design is possible to create.
Throughout this Instructable I will be detailing how I made my ornaments, and what I had also wished I had done in retrospect.
My inspiration came from Vladimir Mariano's Instructable of a Christmas Ornament on Fusion 360.
Step 1: Choose a Theme and Dimensions
Choosing a theme and color scheme are crucial to this project because it will determine how the designs will be related to each other. It is possible to make just one ornament, or a set of many ornaments that all share a common theme. Bringing the designs together through a preferred color scheme can make the designs much more aesthetically pleasing.
For example, having an all red colored Christmas set vs having a rainbow colored Christmas set might make all the difference when decorating your Christmas tree. On the other hand, themes can also be based off of characters or cartoons of your liking, which was my inspiration for almost half of my set.
Additionally, make sure that all of your designs are approximately the same size. If one design is 3 inches long, the other one probably shouldn't be more than 6 inches long.
This is a mistake that I made early on with my project, causing it to look inconsistent with the other designs. A nice, cohesive set of designs should have binding factors such as color, size, and complexity. However, since this is such a customizable project, anything can be possible!
The picture above shows how lack of color coordination and size conformity can cause some disruption in the overall grand scheme of the project. I had trouble with controlling the size because I should have paid more attention to my dimensioning using the Onshape software. Since this was my first time CADing, I think this is a nice lesson learnt: to always make sure that your sizes match up and make sense.
Step 2: Install CADing Software
For this project we can use Fusion 360 or Onshape CADing software. I personally used Onshape and prefer it over to Fusion 360 because it was much easier to navigate, and I was more familiar with the software after completing the Onshape Fundamentals Certification that we completed for my class.
I found that my version of Fusion 360 was also a slightly older version, so that might have been a part of the issue for my project.
For first time CADers like myself, I recommend Onshape, and Fusion for anyone with slightly more experience with CAD. After a month of trying to use Fusion 360, I was not able to produce a single design worth printing.
In retrospect, now that I am more comfortable with the commands, I might try giving Fusion 360 another shot for any future projects, but Onshape is still the one that I am definitely the most comfortable using. So, for more advanced CADers, either software will work just perfectly.
Step 3: Test Different Methods Once CADing
There are a few ways that we can CAD a design:
1. Create a design on your own
From start to finish, you can start by sketching a design in your notebook and come up with the steps as you go along. In the design above, I was able to use a combination of splines and extrusions to get the final result.
For this particular design, one must start by creating a circle of approximately 5 inches, and proceed to make splines in a curved manner, as shown above, using the spline tool provided. Then, we can proceed to offset the spline by a couple of centimeters, and connect the ends to create a piece that is extrudable.
After this we can extrude the splines to the bottom, leaving the circle we made with a design. After extruding the circle upwards and the splines downwards, we can proceed to make a hole at the top for hanging, which will be described in step 7. This process is described in more depth and detail in the next step.
2. Insert DFX or image file from internet and trace using splines
We can commonly find some sort of image online and use that by drawing splines around it to create the overall shape and then extruding it and finally adding the hole for hanging on top. I was only able to use this feature after I had started to gain more experience, so I would only recommend using this feature after familiarizing yourself with the platform that you are on.
3. Test different methods (revolve, extrude, etc.,)
The most important part about this project is to just have fun with it. There are so many functions and possibilities using this software.
I regret not playing around with it more in order to familiarize myself even further. I tended to stick to basic extrusions and revolving. However, if you are willing to test the limits, I recommend using other commands or combinations of commands as well.
A problem that I have encountered while working on this project was that it can be difficult to print objects using an FDM printer that are revolved, especially if they cannot stand on their own. I did not print one of my designs due to this issue, and I plan to print it on our classroom SLA printer.
Step 4: Initial Designs
This design was my first design using Onshape and the one that I am most proud of printing.
To recreate this design we can start by creating an outer circle and creating 1 singular spline in a zig-zag manner. Then, taking that same spline, we can mirror it to the other side of the circle. After doing so, we will be able to offset the 2 identically mirrored splines 5 cm away from each other, creating a 4 spline effect.
The next step would be to continue by connecting the ends of both splines on both sides. So we would need to connect the original to its offset spline and the mirrored spline to its offset spline respectively. Then we will be able to extrude the whole design, leaving the area where the splines have been left to be empty.
Finally, we will be creating that hanging hole by using offset 3-point curves and extruding it along with the extrusion of the original design. This step is described in more detail in Step #7.
If your design includes a revolve, note that the curves will be extruded separate from the design. Do not proceed to extrude both, or otherwise there might be some issues with the design itself.
I printed this design using the red filament shown in this picture, but it was a little bit stringy and not up to my standards. So, I decided to reprint it to my liking, using a green colored filament this time. Both of these ornaments were created using a PLA filament.
Although it might be quite simple to look at, this is one of my most favorite designs.
You can watch me explain this design in further detail by clicking here!
Step 5: Designs at Pointed Edges
This design was created using mainly the line tool at different angles and lengths, and mirrored across the x and y-axes.
I started with a construction line across the x and y-axes. Then, I proceeded to create a half-diamond like shape in one quadrant. Then, using the mirroring tool, I was able to mirror this across all quadrants, making it perfectly symmetrical. However, I was not able to account for the fact that it all seemed to be connected at a singular point, which I later learned was not a good thing.
Then, I proceeded to create 3 pointed edges towards the bottom of the design because I did not like how simple it looked without it. Finally, I created a hanging hole using a 3-pointed curve at the top of the design and offset that by 5 cm. I then took the whole design and extruded it upwards to 4 cm thickness and proceeded to print it.
This was one of the designs that was the most out of proportion and inconsistent since the size of it was almost double that of my smallest design. I proceeded to add a hanging hole using 3-point curves at the top as well.
This particular design proceeded to give me a lot of trouble. As it was my first time CADing, I was not aware that we were not allowed to create designs that connected at a singular point.
Ms. Berbawy warned me as soon as I started printing that this would not stick together as printing at a point does not work. So once the design printed it fell apart because a point is not strong enough to carry the entire design.
Knowing this, I had to improvise a little and change the original design.
In order to fix this dilemma: I had to round out the places that were connected at points. I did this by simply creating a regular circle around that point, deleting the point, and then extruding upwards. It is very important to make sure that all of the parts are connected before extruding because otherwise it might not work. The circle at the top of the design had a radius of 2 cm, while the bottom circle has a radius of 1 cm.
I proceeded to print this design again, and to my surprise, it worked! I was very proud of myself for learning how to troubleshoot a design that was made or connected at pointed edges.
Step 6: Snowflakes
This design was another one that gave me quite a bit of trouble. However, it also helped me gain some troubleshooting experience when it comes to CAD.
The first design was created by a long thread of splines. A snowflake's beauty comes from all of its imperfections. I easily could have created a design that was all perfect with circles and straight lines, but I wanted this design to capture the true reality of a snowflake.
Therefore, this design took numerous tries to get right. After effort after effort, I finally realized that using splines for the whole thing might be too hard. So, instead, I decided to make only a quarter of the snowflake and mirror that across the x and y axes in order to fill the other 3 quadrants.
However, I was not satisfied because then, all quadrants would have looked the same. That is not what my initial goal was. So, I made a few tweaks at each quadrant, in order to make them all look unique in their own ways. It turned out beautifully in my opinion.
This was not the only troubleshooting I needed to do with this design however. When I went to use PrusaSlicer to cut my design, I noticed that some parts were way too thin, and would have broke if I had gone ahead in printing it.
Therefore, this called for some help from my teacher, Ms. Berbawy. She suggested that I increase the thickness of the object on PrusaSlicer and see if that helps. We proceeded to print this in the filament Glacier Ice and it worked! So, if anything is ever too thin for your liking, try increasing the thickness or width, and it might work out, as long as all other aspects of the design will most likely not cause any trouble, like how my previous design did.
The second design, however, I wanted to try out the more pristine and symmetrical look, just to give it a try and to see if I had a preference afterwards.
To create this design I had to create several construction lines to later use as a mirror line. These construction lines were the x and y axes, followed by 2 diagonals at approximate 45 degree angles relative to the x and y axes. I simply created half of the designs using just the spline tool and then mirroring the design across all of the axes, making a full snowflake. Then I just added the hanging hole as mentioned in the previous designs, extruded to a thickness of 4 cm, and I was done.
Luckily, since this design was not created and connected at a point, it printed easily in the first attempt.
Step 7: Character Ornaments
Earlier I mentioned that picking a theme for your ornaments can make the process a lot more interesting, and make the end products look a lot more cohesive. I found that characters could be a potential theme, half way through my CADing journey. If I could go back and restart my entire project, I would probably just stick to making character ornaments because I found them to be the most exciting for myself.
When it comes to actually creating these designs, I used some of the basic tools on the software: lines, splines, and circles. All the shapes that are rounded off were created by the circle tool, while the straighter ones were created using the line tool.
The arms of the gingerbread man, however, was created using a line for the part of the arm that is straight, and was rounded off using a spline, in order to look more realistic.
One of my favorite tools on Onshape after this experience is the spline tool, because it can create anything from rounded off edges to an entire design on its own, and with one sweeping motion, whereas you would need many lines and circles to create one design.
Similar to all the other designs, all that was left to do at this point was to extrude upwards to a thickness of 3 cm, and I was done.
What is special about the gingerbread man is that I printed him using a Lulzbot, instead of a Mini Prusa for the first time. I did this because I thought that using Ninjaflex filament would have been a cool collection to my ornaments in order to show some variety.
The goal was to print the snowman in Ninjaflex as well, however the print did not stick to the build plate within the first few minutes of the print, slightly creating an error to the printer itself, so I had to go home and reprint it using a Mini Prusa instead. Overall, I think it still turned out amazing and I am really proud of myself for doing so.
Step 8: Making the Hanging Hole
The hanging hole at the top seems to be common amongst all designs. It can be used to simply hang on the tree, or a hook can be attached to the end of it in order to hang it.
Either way, the ornament needs to be hung somehow and the best way to do that is with a hanging hole.
To create this hole we start with a regular 3-point curve at the top or side of the design, or where it is most likely to be hung from.
Then, we will continue to either offset the same 3-point curve inwards/outwards by 5 centimeters, or we can simply create another 3-point curve outside/inside the original.
Then, all we have to do is wait until we need to extrude, and when we do, the inside of the curve will automatically be extruded out, making a hanging hole.
Step 9: Inserting Images/ DFX Files
Use the internet to your advantage! Google images should have a lot of images stocked up. It might be better to use websites that are known to have non-copyrighted designs for free usage.
Then, simply download safely, and upload into the Onshape software using the function that looks like a DFX file. Using the tools provided, we can use the spline tool to trace around the chosen image. As you can see above, I was able to take inspiration from a picture of a reindeer clipart that I found online.
However, this could also be useful to trace the design. You could potentially trace the entire design using the spline tool and then proceed to create two rings and extrude the outer ring in order to make a hanging hole for the ornament. Then, resume to remove the image from the background and extrude the entire design upwards.
After extruding the design created by splines, all that would be left to do is to print the final design!
Once that is complete, additive details such as a face can be added on top of the original design by creating a new sketch on top of the new design that has just been created.
Then, after adding these features using splines, or any other shapes, then we can extrude or revolve for a second time.
This process can be repeated as many times as needed and will determine the overall thickness of the design. Make sure that all of the designs are around the same thickness to avoid any disruption of theme.
Step 10: Prusa Slicer
Download Prusa Slicer with this link and import your design onto the build plate from Onshape.
Make sure to change the settings to 15% infill level and select the proper filament that you will be using to print your designs.
This can include PLA/ PETG/ Ninjaflex filament. I personally used all three of these at some point of my project and I really liked the way that the PLA worked.
It had a nice finish to all of the designs while Ninjaflex seemed to be more flexible, which is not a trait of common Christmas ornaments.
This is also the part where we can change the dimensioning to match that of the other designs. For example, at this stage is commonly when I changed the dimensions.
I was able to change the scale from 100 to 70 if it was too large or from 100 to 120 if it was too small. This way, I did not have to change individual dimensions and preserve the original design, although that is possible as well.
Step 11: Print and Enjoy!
Now, using these simple steps, we can print as many designs as we want!
The very last step would be to hang them on the Christmas tree and enjoy looking at ur creations!
Overall, this project was so much fun to work on and I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity. I must thank Ms. Berbawy for believing in me and this project and pushing me to do my 100% best in every aspect of this project. As a beginner at CAD I definitely had a few stumbles along the way, but I am very satisfies with the end result. I hope this was helpful and wish you: Merry Printing!