A 3D – To – 2D Converter To Make Plots From STLs.

We’ve become used to finding models on websites such as Thingiverse and downloading them to print. After all, whose hackerspace doesn’t have a pile of novelty prints? How about printing them on paper? For the plotter enthusiast that can be particularly annoying. Never fear, [Trammell Hudson] is here with an online 3D to 2D converter just for plotters. [Trammell’s] creation makes a vector image suitable for a plotter while eliminating spurious behind-the-scenes lines.

Plotter drawings are the pen-and-paper equivalent of a vector CRT display, in which the graphics are printed as continuous strokes. Rendering a 3D model as a wireframe for a plotter requires the removal of any pen strokes that comes from the 3D space behind the surface in view. Loading various models into the web page seemed to do a pretty good job of this, though the ubiquitous Benchy 3d printer test model lived up to its billing as a torture test in taking several minutes to render.

As anyone who has followed the #PlotterTwitter social media hashtag will know, there is a considerable community of pen plotter enthusiasts who are pushing the boundaries of what their machines can do. [Trammell] has posted his plotter producing some of the work created with this tool, and we can see that it’s likely to work better with lower-poly models.

We’ve featured a lot of plotters over the years as they seem to be a popular project. If you’d like one then they can be made from the most available parts, including those scavenged from scrap DVD drives, or printers.

Put That New Resin Printer To Work Making PCBs

With all the cool and useful parts you can whip up (relatively) quickly on a 3D printer, it’s a shame you can’t just print a PCB. Sure, ordering a PCB is quick, easy, and cheap, but being able to print one-offs would peg the needle on the instant gratification meter.

[Peter Liwyj] may just have come up with a method to do exactly that. His Instructables post goes into great detail about his method, which uses an Elegoo Mars resin printer and a couple of neat tricks. First, a properly cleaned board is placed copper-side down onto a blob of SLA resin sitting on the print bed. He tricks the printer into thinking the platform is all the way down for the first layer by interrupting the photosensor used to detect home. He lets the printer go through one layer of an STL file that contains his design, which polymerizes a thin layer of plastic onto the copper. The excess resin is wiped gently away and the board goes straight into a ferric chloride etching bath. The video below shows the whole process.

As simple as it sounds, it looks like it works really well. And [Peter] didn’t just stumble onto this method; he approached it systematically and found what works best. His tips incude using electrical tape as a spacer to lift the copper off the print surface slightly, cleaning the board with Scotchbrite rather than sandpaper, and not curing the resin after printing. His toolchain is a bit uncoventional — he used SketchUp to create the traces and exported the STL. But there are ways to convert Gerbers to STLs, so your favorite EDA package can probably fit in to the process too.

Don’t have a resin printer? Don’t worry — FDM printers can work too.

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Hackaday Links: September 20, 2020

The announcement of Autodesk’s changes to the Fusion 360 personal use license terms this week caused quite a dustup. Our article on the announcement garnered a lot of discussion and not a few heated comments. At the end of the day, though, Autodesk is going to do what it’s going to do, and the Fusion 360 user community is just going to have to figure out how to deal with the changes. One person who decided to do something other than complain is Justin Nesselrotte, who came up with a quick and easy bulk export tool for Fusion 360. This gets to the heart of the issue since the removal of export to STEP, IGES, and SAT files is perhaps the most painful change for our community. Justin’s script automatically opens every design and exports it to the file type of your choice. Since the license changes go into effect on October 1, you’d better get cracking if you want to export your designs.

Over on Twitter, Hackaday superfriend Timon gives us a valuable lesson in “you get what you pay for.” He found that a bunch of his header pin jumper cables weren’t even remotely assembled properly. The conductors of the jumper wire were only loosely inserted into the terminal’s crimp, where apparently no crimping pressure had been applied. The wires were just rattling around inside the crimp, rather than making sold contact. We’ve covered the art and science of crimping before, and it’s pretty safe to say that these jumpers are garbage. So if you’re seeing weird results with a circuit, you might want to take a good, close look at your jumpers. And as always, caveat emptor.

The GNU Radio Conference wrapped up this week, in virtual format as so many other conferences have been this year, and it generated a load of interesting talks. They’ve got each day’s proceedings over on their YouTube channel, so the videos are pretty long; luckily, each day’s stream is indexed on the playbar, so along with the full schedule you can quickly find the talks you’re interested in. One that caught our eye was a talk on the Radio Resilience Competition, a hardware challenge where participants compete head-to-head using SDRs to get signals through in an adversarial environment. It sounds like a fascinating challenge for the RF inclined. More details about registering for the competition can be had on the Radio Resilience website.

You know those recipe sites that give you a few choices on what to make for dinner based on the ingredients you have on hand? We always thought that was a clever idea, and now something like it has come to our world. It’s called DIY Hub, and it aims to guide makers toward projects they can build based on the parts they have on hand. Users create projects on the site, either hosting the project directly on the site or providing a link to projects on another site. Either way, the project’s BOM is cataloged so that users can find something to build based on parts stored in their “Garage”. Granted, most of us suffer from the exact opposite problem of not knowing what to build next, but this could be an interesting tool for stimulating the creative process, especially for teachers and parents. It’s currently in beta, and we’d love to see a few Hackaday.io projects added to the site.

And finally, we got a tip to an oldie but a goodie: How to Build a Castle. No, we don’t expect to see a rash of 13th-century castle builds gracing our pages anytime soon — although we certainly wouldn’t be opposed to the idea. Rather, this is a little something for your binge-watching pleasure. The BBC series, which was actually called Secrets of the Castle, was a five-part 2014 offering that went into great detail on the construction of Gu├ędelon Castle, an experimental archaeology project in France that seeks to build a castle using only the materials and methods available in the 1200s. The series is hosted by historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Peter Ginn and Tom Pinfold, and it’s great fun for anyone interested in history and technology.

3D Printable Kinematic Couplings, Ready To Use

Time may bring change, but kinematic couplings don’t. This handy kinematic couplings resource by [nickw] was for a design contest a few years ago, but what’s great is that it includes ready-to-use models intended for 3D printing, complete with a bill of materials (and McMaster-Carr part numbers) for hardware. The short document is well written and illustrated with assembly diagrams and concise, practical theory. The accompanying 3D models are ready to be copied and pasted anywhere one might find them useful.

What are kinematic couplings? They are a way to ensure that two parts physically connect, detach, and re-connect in a precise and repeatable way. The download has ready-to-use designs for both a Kelvin and Maxwell system kinematic coupling, and a more advanced design for an optomechanical mount like one would find in a laser system.

The download from Pinshape requires a free account, but the models and document are licensed under CC – Attribution and ready to use in designs (so long as the attribution part of the license is satisfied, of course.) Embedded below is a short video demonstrating the coupling using the Maxwell system. The Kelvin system is similar.

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New (mis)Use For Lithophanes: Miniature Diorama Backgrounds

What’s better than a well-lit photo of a 3D-printed miniature? A photo of the miniature in a mini diorama, of course. [OrionDeHunter] shows off a clever technique that has something in common with old-timey photo stages and painted backgrounds, and (mis)uses 3D-printed lithophanes to pull it off. What [OrionDeHunter] does is use a curved and painted lithophane as a stand-in for a background, and the results look great!

Lithophanes are intended to be illuminated from behind to show an image, with thin areas showing as lighter and thicker areas darker, but when it comes to high contrast patterned images like brick walls, the same things that make a good lithophane just happen to also make a pretty good 3D model in the normal sense. No 3D scanning or photogrammetry required.

Here is the basic process: instead of creating a 3D model of a brick wall from scratch, [OrionDeHunter] simply converted an image of a brick wall (or stairs) into a curved lithophane with an online tool. The STL model of the lithophane is then 3D printed, painted, and used as a swappable background. When macro shots of the miniatures are taken, the curved background looks just right and allows for some controlled lighting. It’s a neat trick, and well applied in this project. Some sample images demonstrating how it works are just under the break.

Lithophanes were originally made using marble or thin porcelain, but a modern spin has been put on the technique with 3D printing. Enterprising hackers have even discovered ways to add color, too.

3D Printable Nameplates From Your Web Browser

It’s an unwritten rule that all proper pieces of shop equipment need a nameplate. Otherwise, how are you going to know what name to use when you curse it under your breath? In the old days these would have been made out of something fancy such as brass, but for the modern hacker that doesn’t stand on tradition, you can now easily outfit all your gear with custom 3D printed nameplates using this online tool.

Granted, it wouldn’t be very difficult to throw one of these together in whatever CAD package you happen to have access to. But with the tool [Tobias Weber] has developed, you don’t have to. Simply pick the font, the shape of the border, and fill in a few variables to fine tune things such as padding and base thickness.

Finally, enter your text and marvel at the real-time 3D preview that’s rendered thanks to the magic of modern web technologies. In seconds, you’ll have an STL file that’s ready for the warm liquid goo phase.

The huge collection of fonts are a particularly nice touch, ranging from delicate scripts to military style stencils. Depending on your CAD software, getting arbitrary fonts imported and extruded into a three dimensional shape can be tricky for new players. If we do have one complaint though, it’s that there doesn’t seem to be a clear indicator of how big the nameplate is going to be when exported. First time around, it spit out an STL that would have been 300 mm long if we hadn’t scaled it down in the slicer.

This project is very reminiscent of another web-based tool we featured recently. That one allowed you to make 3D printed QR codes which would whatever entomb in plastic whatever data your cold hacker heart desired.

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Generate 3D Printable QR Codes With This Web Tool

Since most people are carrying a camera-equipped computer in their pockets these days, QR codes can be a great way to easily share short snippets of information. You can put one on your business card so people can quickly access your contact information, or on your living room wall with your network’s SSID and encryption key. The design of QR codes also make them well suited to 3D printing, and thanks to a new web-based tool, you can generate your own custom STL in seconds.

Created by [Felix Stein], the website provides an easy to use interface for the many options possible with QR codes. Obviously you have full control over the actual content of the code, be it a simple URL or a something more specific like a pre-formatted SMS message. But you can also tweak physical parameters like size and thickness.

Once you’re happy with the 3D preview, you can have the website generate an STL for either single or multi-extrusion printers. For those of us who are puttering along with single extruder machines, you’ll need to swap the filament color at the appropriate layer manually. With so many variables involved, you’ll also need figure out which layer the swap should happen on your own.

Incidentally, this is an excellent example of where STL leaves something to be desired. When using a format like 3MF, color and material information could be baked right into the model. Once opened in a sufficiently modern slicer, all the tricky bits would automatically sorted out. Or at least, that’s what Prusa Research is hoping for.