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  1. #1

    Assistance needed for a High School Graphic Arts Class to 3D Print, please reply

    Hi, my name is Howard Norris and I have taught Graphic Arts & Imaging for 27 years. I attended a vocational school myself and way back then (in the 80's) we were a paper and ink printing class. As time and technology has come and went, i have tried to remain current with design processes, software as well as output devices. Hot type gave way to Phototypesetting, to Apple computers, laser printers, full color digital printers etc. etc. 2 years ago a discussion took place that convinced me our class should be developing 3D technology and incorporating the technology into our curriculum. Here are some information about our class. All of our computers are Apple iMacs running Yosemite. We have the ability to download applications. We use the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite and our computers are networked into a large number of copiers, laser printers, wide format printers. Last year before Christmas our school purchase a 3D printer, Orion from a company called SeeMeCNC. We discovered that if we downloaded .stl files from websites like thingaverse we could 3D print . . . Hurray!!! During this initial learning we learned that using a program called Matter Control, we could load the .stl file, set up the printer with all it's settings (including extruder and print bed temps) and our 3D printing started. We had to learn the difference between PLA & ABS, the importance of a clean print bed as well as a trick using hairspray instead of glue sticks. Once we were able to print existing file, many of my students started asking -"when can we start creating and printing original designs?" To answer this I went back to web and resources (people I knew who had some 3D print experience) and even encouraged the kids themselves to find the answer. The first thing we heard might work, was to sculpt models in Sculptris. Once this program was available many of the students made a model but quickly discovered the problem . . . the sculpts could not be exported or saved as .stl files (which as I understand it are the only file formats that will print with Matter Control, and the Orion printer.) Later we heard recommendations about sketch-up NetFabb a wide variety of software that could create the original 3D model and/or save/export the model as an .stl file with correct polygons and supports. Unfortunately, perhaps because I didn't know what I was doing last school year ended and we still could NOT create and print original files. This may be a good place to say what specifically we were trying to accomplish. If we produced an original board game . . . we could print the game board on our wide format printer, we could print any paper items on our laser printers . . . but we could also produce game pieces and tokens with the 3D printer (even the dice). It would not be appropriate for our students to use designed by others. Our goal is to produce ORIGINAL designs. When this school year began, our school was able to purchase an HP Sprout, for the purpose of making 3D scans. The problem with getting new technology . . . all the bugs have not been worked out and there are limited resources. After the Sprout was set up, I discovered quality scans can only been done with a capture turntable which did NOT come with the Sprout. To make matters worse, one of the students lost the stylus for the touch screen (BUT I don't think the stylus is a big deal). Just recently I was able to order the capture turntable and stylus, which should be at the school very soon. From Christmas 2014 until October 2015 students printed a large number of downloaded 3D files. In October the extruder heating elements went bad and I replaced it. I found it easier to order and pay for the part myself then go through the school long order procedure. Our IT teacher suggested (in October) our class should look into purchasing the XYZ Davinci 3D printer. He suggested it was a better machine than the Orion and both printers could be powered by the Sprout at the same time. So moving ahead to now . . . We have the Sprout minus the stylus and capture table, we have a working Orion and a working Davinci. But the nagging problem still exist . . . and the reason I have joined this forum . . . what is the best way for my students to create an original 3d model and make it printable.

    Let me be very specific here. A young lady has a creature in mind, similar to a poke`mon animal. To make it 3D height, width depth what would be the best program to use? Working in 2D all my life I have trouble explaining this. If that same young lady has drawn and painted a character (2D) it seem reasonable to me, she CANNOT scan that image and put it into some program to make it 3D? It seems to me a computer generated model must be build (it sounds like scuptrus). When asking this question in the past I have been told sketch-up, but scretch up to me . . . seems to be too geometric and now round curved and smooth. I am at a complete loss as to what program we should use??? I should tell you that cost is an issue, because our budget does not allow for further spending until next July. So assuming some wonderful person out there in forum land provides me a software and perhaps some basic instruction or resources how to use it . . . what is the very best way to insure the polygon structure is accurate, supports are generated and most importantly HOW TO GET THE FILE CONVERTED TO AN .STL FILE FORMAT

    I am not lazy, but this learning something from scratch is very difficult. I am not a PC computer person at all. I have used Apple ALL OF MY PROFESSIONAL career and I only started 3D printing 15 months ago. I really want to learn how to do this, so I can provide that to my students, but I also have a family and other commitments that make sitting down to look stuff up very very hard. I am taking the time to type this on a Sunday because it really needs to happen and I hate thinking of the 3D equipment as boat anchors!

    Please, Please, please, please, please help me and my students out! My phone number at school is 513-932-5677 ext. 5286 my email at school is I would appreciate recommendations, step by step instructions etc. My student remain excited about the POTENTIAL this technology has, but I fear they will become disinterested should I not be able to answer these questions. Perhaps you don't know the answers, but you do know someone who might . . . please forward my information. I greatly appreciate you reading this long message and I hope and pray someone in 3D printing land can help us out!

    Howard Norris

  2. #2
    Staff Engineer
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Oakland, CA
    You are correct that it's not possible to create a fully 3-dimensional organic object in the round from a 2D image. The best she'll be able to do is a low relief, using a heightfield algorithm.

    It always amazes me that people spend a lot of money on 3D printers but refuse to pay a penny for the software that would enable them to use them to create parts of their choice. Yes, there are free programs out there, but no, they won't necessarily do what you need, especially not easily.

    For the young lady who wants to build a Pokemon (TM) figure, I'd suggest Cubify Sculpt . It's a Windows program, so your Macs would need to be able to run Windows to use it, but it uses a very intuitive "virtual clay" interface that shouldn't be hard for your students to master. The free demo will work for a couple of weeks, after which it's $129. It works best with the 3D force-feedback stylus, but it works okay with a mouse. It outputs STL files that should print without issues, especially if you run them through a program like Netfabb or Meshmixer to provide supports.

    If you need help with any of this, send me a message or give me a call (not too early in the morning...)

    Andrew Werby

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    A few things:

    1) As you found out 3d scanning is not consumer ready, stay way from it for a few more years

    2) There are two types of 3d modeling, organic and hard surface. "Sculptris" is an organic 3d modeler, it's the simpler version of Zbrush which is what movie and game artist use to create characters and creatures. "Sketchup" is a hard surface modeler, it's used to create mechanical and architectural models.

    3) Most programs, including sculptris, will both export "OBJ" file types, which you can convert to STL using an web based converter like this one:

    4) Autodesk has a whole line of free, simple 3d software aimed at the beginner market, they're 123d series. It's a great way to start: The great thing about these programs is that most of them work on ipad and android tablets.

    5) I suggest you also try out "meshmixer" it's free software from autodesk that allows you to create printable 3d models from a large library of source models (you can get very creative in how you combine them). It's also a great tool to cleanup and prepare your own models to be printed.

    Finally, stay way from Davinci 3D printer, it does not have a good reputation. Instead I'd suggest you look into printerbot, they have some very nice, inexpensive printers, designed specifically for school use.
    Last edited by djprinter; 02-01-2016 at 02:52 PM.

  4. #4
    Thank you for the input. I feel I have some direction now.

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