Strong opinions exist on both sides about OpenSCAD. The lightweight program takes megabytes of space, not gigabytes, so many people have a copy, even if they’ve never written a shape. Some people adore the text-only modeling language, and some people abhor the minimal function list. [Johnathon ‘Zalo’ Selstad] appreciates the idea but wants to see something more robust, and he wants to see it in your browser. His project CascadeStudio has a GitHub repo and a live link so you can start tinkering in a new window straight away.
Using SPICE to simulate an electrical circuit is a common enough practice in engineering that “SPICEing a circuit” is a perfectly valid phrase in the lexicon. SPICE as a software tool has been around since the 70s, and its open source nature means there are more SPICE tools around now to count. It also means it is straightforward enough to use with other software as well, like integrating LTspice with Python for some interesting signal processing circuit simulation.
[Michael]’s latest project involves simulating filters in LTspice (a SPICE derivative) and then using Python/NumPy to both provide the input signal for the filter and process the output data from it. Basically, it allows you to “plug in” a graphical analog circuit of any design into a Python script and manipulate it easily, in any way needed. SPICE programs aren’t without their clumsiness, and being able to write your own tools for manipulating circuits is a powerful tool.
This project is definitely worth a look if you have any interest in signal processing (digital or analog) or even if you have never heard of SPICE before and want an easier way of simulating a circuit before prototyping one on a breadboard.
If you don’t know what a print processor is, don’t feel bad. There’s precious few people out there still running home darkrooms, and the equipment used for DIY film development is about as niche as it gets today. For those looking to put together their own darkroom in 2019, buying second hand hardware and figuring out how to fix it on your own is the name of the game, as [Austin Robert Hermann] found out when he recently purchased a Durst Printo Print Processor on eBay.
The auction said the hardware was in working order, but despite the fact that nobody would ever lie on the Internet, it ended up being in quite poor condition. Many of the gears in the machine were broken, and some were simply missing. The company no longer supports these 1990’s era machines, and the replacement parts available online were predictably expensive. [Austin] determined his best course of action was to try his hand at modeling the necessary gears and having them 3D printed; two things he had no previous experience with.
Luckily for [Austin], many of the gears in the Printo appeared to be identical. That meant he had several intact examples to base his 3D models on, and with some educated guesses, was able to determine what the missing gears would have looked like. Coming from an animation background, he ended up using Cinema 4D to model his replacement parts; which certainly wouldn’t have been our first choice, but there’s something to be said for using what you’re comfortable with. Software selection not withstanding, he was able to produce some valid STLs which he had printed locally in PLA using an online service.
Interestingly, this is a story we’ve seen play out several times already. Gears break and wear down, and for vintage hardware, that can be a serious problem. But if you’ve got a couple intact gears to go by, producing replacements even on an entry level desktop 3D printer is now a viable option to keep these classic machines running.
STL files are everywhere. When there’s something to 3D print, it’s probably going to be an STL. Which, as long as the model is good just as it is, is no trouble at all. But sooner or later there will be a model that isn’t quite right in some way and suddenly project progress hits a snag.
When models interface with other physical things, those other components may not always be exactly as the designer expected. Being mindful about such potential inconsistencies during the design phase can help prevent problems, but it’s not always avoidable. The reason it’s a problem is because an STL file represents a solid model as a finished unit; it is not really intended to be rolled back into CAD programs for additional design changes.
STL files can be edited, but just like re-modeling a component from scratch, it can be a tricky process for those who don’t live and breathe this stuff. I’ll describe a few common issues related to STLs that can hold up getting that new project together, along with ways to deal with them. Thanks to 3D printing becoming much more commonplace, basic tools are within reach of even the least CAD-aware among us.
Give a man a fishing lure, and he catches fish until he loses the lure. Give a fisherman a 3D-printer, and he can print all the fishing lures he wants, especially replicas of those that are too valuable to actually use.
It may seem strange that some people collect fishing lures rather than use them, but when you look at [Hunter]’s collection, it’s easy to see why. Lures can be very artistic, and the Heddon River Runts in his collection are things of beauty and highly prized. They’re also highly effective at convincing fish to commit suicide, so rather than risk the originals, he and his dad 3D-printed replicas.
After modeling the body of the lure in Blender, they modified it with air pockets for buoyancy and located holes for attaching the treble hooks and lip spoon, which was fabricated from a scrap of brass from a rifle casing. The finished lure lacks the painted details and some of the charm of the original River Runt, but it has something Mr. Heddon couldn’t dream of in 1933 when he introduced it — it glows in the dark, thanks to the phosphorescent PLA filament used. That seems to be irresistible to the bass, who hit the lure so often that they got sick of taking pictures. See it in action in the video below.
[Hunter] and his dad have been busy exploring what 3D printing can do, replicating all sorts of Heddon lures. They’ve even got plans to design and print their own lures. But maybe archery is more your sportsman thing than fishing, in which case this PVC pipe compound bow or a recurve bow from skis would be something to check out.
You need to replicate a small part on a 3-D printer, so you start getting your tools together. Calipers, rulers, and a sketch pad at a minimum, and if you’re extra fancy, maybe you pull out a 3D-scanner to make the job really easy. But would you raid your kid’s stash of Play-Doh too?
You might, if you want to follow [Vladimir Mariano]’s lead and use Play-Doh for accurately modeling surface features in the part to be replicated. Play-Doh is a modeling compound that kids and obsolete kids alike love to play with, especially a nice fresh can before it gets all dried out or mixed in with other colors or gets dog hair stuck in it.
For [Vladimir], the soft, smooth stuff was the perfect solution to the problem of measuring the spacing of small divots in the surface of a cylinder that he was asked to replicate. Rather than measuring the features directly on the curved surface, he simply rolled it across a flattened wad of Play-Doh. The goop picked up the impressions on the divots, which were then easy to measure and transfer to Fusion 360. The video below shows the Play-Doh trick up front, but stay tuned through the whole thing to get some great tips on using the sheet metal tool to wrap and unwrap cylinders, as well as learning how to import images and recalibrate them in Fusion 360.
Run into a modeling problem that Play-Doh can’t solve? Relax, we’ve got a rundown on the basics for you.
What’s your favorite OpenSCAD command? Perhaps it’s
difference()? Or are you a
extrude() modeler? For me, the most useful, and maybe most often overlooked, function is
Hull() does just what it says on the can — creates a convex hull around the objects that are passed to it as children — but that turns out to be invaluable.
Hull() solves a number of newbie problems: making things round and connecting things together. And with a little ingenuity,
hull() can provide a nearly complete modelling strategy all on its own. If you use OpenSCAD and your creations end up with hard edges, or you spend too much time figuring out angles, or if you just want to experience another way to get the job done, read on!