In this tutorial I'll show you how to create a 3D printed replica of an object. I will start by taking pictures of the object, converting the images to a 3D model using ReCap Photo, cleaning the model using Meshmixer, and then printing using a Lulzbot Mini (but any 3D printer would work).
For this project you'll need:
A camera (a smartphone camera is fine)
ReCap Photo by Autodesk (now part of the ReCap Pro program), available free to students with an Autodesk account or a free trial from autodesk.com/products/recap/
Meshmixer, free from meshmixer.com
Cura, free from ultimaker.com
A 3D printer
Step 1: Capture Your Object
First, take a bunch of pictures of your object (about 50) for the ReCap Photo algorithms to assemble into a model. I have used a model heart for my object.
- A small stand to hold the object off the ground is helpful for getting good pictures. My heart model here is already attached to a stand, but you can make a combined stand and camera rig using this tutorial.
- Try to capture the object from as many angles as possible, ensure the lighting is consistent, and the object is in the center of the frame. This helps the program make an accurate model of your object.
- Once you have started taking pictures, do not move the object at all as it could change the lighting and distance. Move around the object instead.
- Make sure your object is in focus in your pictures.
Once you're done taking pictures, place them in a folder and import them to your computer.
Step 2: Create the Model in ReCap Photo
Open ReCap Photo and select "Object" under the "Create 3D" tab. In the dialog find your image folder and select all of them by pressing Ctrl + A. Once the images are uploaded click "Create" and give your project a name. I recommend also checking "auto-crop" here because it helps to remove any background objects from your 3D model. Then click Start.
Wait for the project to upload until it says "Waiting in queue", and then you can close the window. You will get an email notification once the model is finished, if you are logged in to your Autodesk account.
For me this process took about 2 hours. This is a good time to go watch a movie on Netflix or get food.
Once the process is finished, you can download the model to your computer to edit it.
Step 3: Cleaning Up Your Model
Now we have the raw 3D model of our object. Click around to look at it and make sure everything looks accurate.
Remove any parts of the model you don't want in your final 3D print. In my case, ReCap captured the stand the model was on and the space in between the arteries at the top. These were easy to remove using the "Slice and Fill" tool under the Edit tab. For more complicated parts that need to be removed use the "Lasso" tool on the bottom bar to select the area, and press delete to remove it.
Now check for holes in your model where the ReCap software did not stitch together your photos properly. Any holes in your model can be filled in with the "Hole Fill" tool under the Edit tab.
There is a more detailed tutorial here showing all the other functions of ReCap Photo and what they can do.
Once you're done cleaning up your model, export it as a .obj file using the "Export" tab. Now we can edit the model further and clean it up for printing in Meshmixer.
Step 4: Preparing Your Model for Printing
Now open up Meshmixer and hit "Import" then select your model. Depending on how ReCap positioned your model, it may look a bit weird. As you can see, my model initially was upside down and underneath the floor. We can fix this using the "Align" and "Transform" tools under the Edit tab. Use Transform first to orient your model upright, then Align to snap the bottom of your model to the floor.
Because of the uneven shape of my heart model, I decided to split it in half using the "Plane Cut" tool to make it easier to print. If your model has a flat bottom or otherwise solid base, this isn't necessary.
You can also scale your model to the desired size using the Transform tool. In the "Scale" boxes you can type how much you want the model to be scaled up or down (2x, 1.5x). Make sure the "Uniform Scaling" box is checked so the dimensions of the model scale accurately. You can check the dimensions using "Units/Dimensions" under the Analysis tab. Meshmixer uses millimeters as its dimensional unit by default. If you change these make sure to set them back to millimeters before exporting otherwise your model will be really small in Cura.
Meshmixer has many tutorials for using the other tools that I didn't go over (sculpting new parts, smoothing, adding texture, etc.) here in the manual.
Now we can export the model as a .stl file to send to Cura for final preparations.
Step 5: Print Using Cura
Open up Cura and open your exported stl file. If you can't see your model, there's a good chance something is wrong with the scaling. Click the "Scale" button on the side and drag the arrows around until the model is the correct size again. If the model needs reoriented to the build plate, click "Lay Flat" in the Rotate tab.
You can also add supports to your model if needed using the "Support Blocker" tool. Supports ensure any overhangs in your model don't fall over or sag during the printing process.
Once everything is oriented correctly, click "Slice". This will convert your file to gcode which can be read directly by a 3D printer. You can now print the object directly through Cura if your printer is connected, or save the gcode to an SD card and insert that into the printer.
Now go print your object! You can see a shot of my heart being printed above.
Step 6: Cleaning Up Your 3D Print
Now that you have your 3D print, you can remove any supports using pliers or a utility knife. Sand the whole model with a coarse grit sandpaper to smooth it out and minimize the layer lines from printing.
You can also paint and decorate the model as you want. I decided to paint my heart to look like the original model it was copied from, but you are only limited by your creativity here.
Enjoy your miniature replica!