This is my 2nd attempt to get this project going through an instructables contest. Please vote and help me make it real!
My 3d design is an extrapolation of something I've been making for many years now, what I call Word Towers. For those, I use Microsoft's word art to lay out 2 vertical words with overlapping letters, and then carve those words into the adjoining faces of a square stock piece of hardwood, usually about 1.5" x 1.5" by about 6" tall (depending on the number of letters) I've made dozens of personalized versions like the wooden examples shown below for friends and family, as well as many other custom designs for auctions and local shops. For a while now, I've been working on broadening that concept to make a triple word tower, with 3 interwoven words on a hexagonal cross section.
I used Sketchup for my proof of concept, and have made a few test models that I would love to see a makerbot produce. In fact, a 3D printer or 5-axis CNC mill may be the only way to make these solid! The design can work with different font styles, words of different length, or even differing language sets (I'd love to try playing with some kanji or heiroglyphics!)
To begin, I make a hexagonal column, and subdivide the faces into a grid so I can lay out the letters I want.
Next, design your letters as simple or complex as you want, but try to make them blocky enough that they fill as much of the face as you can. the more negative space you have, the more chances there are that some of your detail on the adjoining face won't fit. once you have them the way you like, I'd recommend saving a separate file here, just in case you find something that doesn't work down the line. Then, remove all your extra gridlines, including the lines between the conjoined letters on each face. you want each word to be a single unit made of one plane.
now comes the fun part. using the push/pull tool, extrude each word back through the others. drag them back a ways beyond where the original hexagonal column was, so you can keep a point of reference during the next step. Then, Select all, right click, and choose "intersect faces". This will add lines to each place the planes meet, and give you the central merged form you're after.
Now for the really tedious time consuming part: the cleanup. Once you have your merged central form, you need to remove anything that blocks your view of each word's silhouette. I suggest working from the outside in, viewing each word head on and then changing perspective frequently to make sure you're not taking off the wrong polygons. Once you have the outline done for each point of view, you'll have an easier time clicking through the interior space of each letter. Take your time, and rotate often to get a better understanding of each part's connection to the rest of the shape. (I used a different batch of words and fonts here, so you could see the orientations of the different words more clearly)
Once you've got each outline clearly visible from front and back, you're done! From here you can export or convert your file into whatever you need to be able to make it a physical reality. if you don't have a cnc mill or 3d printer, you can use a program like pepakura designer to turn it into a printable cardstock model, like I did for my physical prototype. Each set of words can go together different ways; you may need to swap faces to maintain support. For example, if you have a "C" and and "L" sharing the same part of the sculpt, they both leave a lot of negative space on the right side that may not show the detail of whatever 3rd letter you have there. (for my model, it took a couple tries making the vertical part of the "L" wider before the full arc of the "D" would show) Some of the applications I've thought of for this were for parents with a new child, or as a wedding gift, getting the bride and grooms name with the wedding date in the middle. Or you could go more generic, make a "Power/Wisdom/Courage" tower if you're a fan of the Legend of Zelda game series! The possibilities are wide open!
Runner Up in the
3D Design Contest