SPATA: shaving seconds and saving brainpower whilst 3D-modeling

If you’ve spent some late nights CADing your next model for the 3D printer, you might find yourself asking for a third hand: one for the part to-be-modeled, one for the tool to take measurements, and one to punch the numbers into the computer. Alas, medical technology just isn’t there yet. Luckily, [Christian] took a skeptical look at that third hand and managed to design it out of the workflow entirely. He’s developed a proof-of-concept tweak on conventional calipers that saves him time switching between tools while 3D modeling.

His build [PDF] is fairly straightforward: a high-resolution digital servo rests inside the bevel protractor while a motorized potentiometer, accelerometer, and µOLED display form the calipers. With these two augmented devices, [Christian] can do much more than take measurements. First, both tools are bidirectional; not only can they feed measurement data into the computer with the push of at button, both tools can also resize themselves to a dimension in the CAD program, giving the user a physical sense of how large or small their dimensions are. The calipers’ integrated accelerometer also permits the user to perform CAD model orientation adjustments for faster CAD work.

How much more efficient will these two tools make you? [Christian] performs the same modeling task twice: once with conventional calipers and once with his tools. When modeling with his augmented device, he performs a mere 6 context switches, whereas conventional calipers ratchet that number up to 23.

In a later clip, [Christian] demonstrates a design workflow that combines small rotations to the model while the model is sculpted on a tablet. This scenario may operate best for the “if-it-looks-right-it-is-right” sculpting mindset that we’d adopt while modeling with a program like Blender.

Of course, [Christian’s] calipers are just a demonstration model for a proof-of-concept, and the accuracy of these homemade calipers has a few more digits of precision before they can rival their cousin on your workbench. (But why let that stop you from modifying the real thing?) Nevertheless, his augmented workflow brings an elegance to 3D modeling that has a “clockwork-like” resonance of the seasoned musician performing their piece.

[via the Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction Conference]

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Turning the Raspberry into a CAD Workstation

Inventables has been working hard on a successor to the extremely popular Shapeoko CNC milling machine, and to bring digital fabrication to the masses, they’ve created Easel, possibly the easiest 3D design software you’ll ever use. [Sacha] was trying out the beta version of Easel and mentioned to the dev mailing list he was running his installation on a Raspberry Pi. One of the developers chimed in, and after a bit of back and forth we now have a workflow to use Easel with the Raspberry Pi.

Easel is a web app, but since the graphics, design, and g-code generation are handled locally, even the most rudimentary CAD suite would choke the decidedly low power Raspi. Instead, [Sacha] is using the Raspberry to grab 2D and 3D files, turn that into g-code for a machine, and send it off to a Shapeoko router.

Easel doesn’t yet have local sender support that works on Linux, so a separate piece of software is used to shoot the g-code over a serial port to the machine. That’s something that will probably be added in a later version of Easel, making a Raspberry Pi a great way to control router or milling machine.

CERN Shows Off New KiCad Module Editor

Photo from video demo of new KiCad module editor

CERN, the people that run a rather large particle collider, have just announced their most recent contributions to the KiCad project. This work focused on adding new features to the module editor, which is used to create footprints for parts.

The update includes support for DXF files, which will make it easy to import part drawings, or use external tools for more complex designs. New distribute tools make it easy to space out pads evenly. The copy and paste function now allows you to set a reference point, making it easy to align blocks. Finally, the pad enumeration tool lets you quickly set pin numbers.

CERN has already implemented a new graphics engine for KiCad, and demonstrated a new push and shove routing tool. The work plan for CERN’s KiCad contributions shows their long term goals. If you’re interested in what CERN is doing with KiCad, you can check out the CERN KiCad Developers Team on Launchpad.

After the break, watch a quick run through of the new features.

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faBrickation: Combining Lego and 3D Printing


While 3D printing gives you the ability to fabricate completely custom parts, it does have some drawbacks. One issue is the time and cost of printing large volumes. Often these structures are simple, and do not require completely custom design.

This is where the faBrickation system comes in. It allows you to combine 3D printed parts with off the shelf LEGO bricks. The CAD tool that lets you ‘Legofy’ a design. It creates directions on how to assemble the LEGO parts, and exports STL files for the parts to be 3D printed. These custom bricks snap into the LEGO structure.

In their demo, a head mounted display is built in 67 minutes. The same design would have taken over 14 hours to 3D print. As the design is changed, LEGO blocks are added and removed seamlessly.

Unfortunately, the tool doesn’t appear to be open source. It will appear for the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, so hopefully we will see more in the future. Until then, you can watch the demo after the break.

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3D Printering: Making A Thing In Blender, Part I


In case you weren’t aware, having a 3D printer is nothing like owning a real-life Star Trek replicator. For one, replicators are usually found on Federation starships and not hype trains. Secondly, the details of how replicated objects are designed in the 24th century is an issue completely left unexplored by TNG, and DS9, and only a minor plot point in a few Voyager episodes. Of the most likely possibilities, though, it appears replicated objects are either initially created by ‘scanning’ them with a teleporter, or commanding the ship’s computer to conjure something out of the hologrid.

No, with your own 3D printer, if you want a unique object you actually have to design it yourself. Without a holodeck. Using your hands to move a mouse and keyboard. Savages.

This series of ‘Making a Thing’ tutorials aims to fix that. With this post, we’re taking a look at Blender, an amazing 3D modeling and animation package.

Because we still haven’t figured out the best way to combine multiple blog posts together as a single resource − we’re working on that, though − here’s the links to the previous “Making a Thing” posts:

This list is sure to grow thanks to your suggestions on what 3D modeling software to feature, but for now let’s make a thing in Blender.

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3D Printering: Making A Thing In AutoCAD, Part II


It’s time once again for another part in 3D Printering’s series of Making A Thing. Last week was a short tutorial on the beginnings of making a thing in AutoCAD. This is an extremely complex software package, and in a desire to make things short and sweet, I broke this AutoCAD tutorial into two parts.

Since we already covered the 2D design portion of AutoCAD, part II of this tutorial is going to turn our 2D part into a three-dimensional object. Check out the rest of the tutorial below.

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3D Printering: Making A Thing With AutoCAD, Part I


Octopodes and useless plastic baubles begone. It’s time yet again for another installment of learning how to make a thing with 3D design tools. This week, we’re making something with AutoCAD. It’s an amazing piece of software that costs $4000 per seat. Hilariously expensive for any home tinkerer, but if you go to a university with an engineering program, there’s a computer lab with machines running AutoCAD somewhere on campus.

Last week we took a look at making something with OpenSCAD. AutoCAD is much, much different. Where OpenSCAD is sorta, kinda like programming, AutoCAD is just a digital version of t-squares, triangles, straight edges, and people getting uppity when you don’t call their drawing device a ‘lead holder’.

I’ve broken this tutorial down into two parts: right now you’re reading the tutorial on drawing 2D objects in AutoCAD. This weekend I’ll publish the transformation of 2D objects into a 3D printable part. Read on for how to create a 2D object in AutoCAD.

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