Tag Archives: Blender

Modeling Diary – Occoquan’s Mill House Museum

After the Occoquan Arts and Craft Fair, I was approached by the Occoquan Business Guild. This holiday season the Virginia Governor’s Mansion is celebrating Virginia’s localities. They invited counties, cities, and towns throughout the state to design an ornament for tree. I was asked to design the Christmas Ornament representing Occoquan!

Originally we discussed a replica of the old Ellicott Mill which was the very first automated mill in Virginia. But, the Mill looked to be particularly ambitious in the timeframe (end of October). So we ultimately decided to do an ornament based on the Mill House, which is a structure that still stands today and is home to Occoquan’s Mill House Museum. The Mill House’s shape seemed like it would aesthetically make a better ornament.

This structure also has an emotional connection to me and my family. My maternal grandmother worked at the Mill House Museum for many years.

I did some sketches and settled on a pretty literal translation of the Mill House. Since the Mill House is a stone structure, I recommended the final print be in Shapeways’ Full Color Sandstone. I felt its stone-like finish would be perfect for the ornament.

3D Printing - Mill House Museum  Original Sketch

Modeling – Base Structure and Details
For modeling, I used some reference photos I took of the building.

Mill House Reference - Front

Mill House Reference - Mill Side

The side of the mill with the chimney was tight for me to get pictures, so for that side I also used a reference photo I took of a model by former Council Member Dr. Walbert.

SMALL Mill House - Chimney Referene

One of the key features I wanted on the ornament was an old Mill Stone laying on the building. For that, I referred to good ole Wikipedia and its article on millstones!

Modeling – Mill House
I did all my work in the free modeling software Blender. The base model, the windows, the door, the brick trim above the windows and the chimney shape all went quickly and were pretty much done with cubes and basic mesh modeling.

3D Printing - Occoquan Mill House Museum -Mill House Start

Modeling – Physical Textures
And then I had the tricky part. The stone work and the brick work. Now, because we were planning on Full Color Sandstone, I did have the option of doing a UV Map and doing that details just through the colors. But I decided, I really wanted those textures to be actual textures. If we wanted to print the model in bronzeFill or plastic, I wanted the details to translate. I briefly researched Displacement Maps, but with the time clock ticking, I went with an approach I was more comfortable with. (One day I may look back and think, “Dude- you did this the HARD way!”)

All my physical textures I went with a height of 0.5mm. I have found 0.5mm details look good on my MakerGear M2– it’s big enough for the detail to be distinctive, but small enough that the printer doesn’t struggle with overhangs.

Modeling – Bricks
Bricks– I made a small cube as a brick and then used the Array Modifier to make a line of evenly spaced bricks.

3D Printing - Occoquan Mill House Museum -Screenshot - Brickwork

After I applied that Array Modifier, I did another! I made one row and offset it a little bit to get the stratified effect of two rows of bricks.

3D Printing - Occoquan Mill House Museum -Screenshot - Brickwork 2

Finally I used the Array Modifier one more time to make a big sheet of bricks!

3D Printing - Occoquan Mill House Museum -Screenshot - Brickwork 3

Modeling – Stones
For the stone work, I was partially a purist. I pulled up a new Blender project and traced out some of the real stones of the Mill House in Bezier Curves. And once I had a good selection, I used that mini sheet of stones to make bigger sheets.

3D Printing - Occoquan Mill House Museum -Screenshot - Stone Work

Modeling – Fitting the Brick and Stonework
To fit my stonework and brick work to the actual Mill House, I made little templates of the sides I wanted to work with. I started by making a template of the side I wanted the texture for. This would include window and detail cut outs where I did not want stone or brick. This took me a while to find a process I liked. I finally ended up with ended duplicating any pertinent vertices.

3D Printing - Mill House - Duplicate Vertices

Then I separated them into their own object by going to Mesh->Vertices->Separate->Selection.

3D Printing - Mill House - Seperate Vertices

I sometimes had to repeat with other objects (such as windows).

Once I had all the relevant vertices, I made a new face of what I wanted stonework for. From there, I used the Boolean Modifier and Intersection to cut my sheet of stonework into…a specifically shaped sheet of stonework.

3D Printing - Occoquan Mill House Museum -Screenshot - Intersection

And I ended up with my final textured piece that I could overlay over my Mill House.

3D Printing - Occoquan Mill House Museum -Screenshot - Intersection Aftermath

Modeling – Colors
With the Mill House, I didn’t have to create a UV Map for my coloring. I was able to do it all by the Materials tab for my objects.

3D Printing - Occoquan Mill House Museum -Colors

In a couple of spots, I assigned a different material to specific faces (like grooves in the Mill Stone)

3D Printing - Occoquan Mill House Museum -Color Faces

Modeling – Hollowing
To save on material cost I did hollow out my Mill House. It was an easy process– I Inset the bottom face and Extruded up.

Renders and Rework
Originally I did my shingles with an Subdivide, Inset and Extrude technique. It looked fabulous in my Mamie Davis Gazebo Ornament, but I did not like it in my Mill House renders.

3D Printing - Occoquan Mill House Museum - Sandstone Render

I went back and redid the shingles the way I did the bricks (so they were staggered).

3D Printing - Occoquan Mill House Museum - Sandstone Render - New Shingles

I met with my contacts and gave them a tour of the model and the renders and they loved it! The only tweak they had was to add a doorknob.

“That’s it!” I yelled enthusiastically!

The door had been bothering me all week. It just did not look right. As soon as they said doorknob– I knew that was it. That was the missing piece.

3D Printing - Occoquan Mill House Museum - Reshingled - Final

Test Prints
One of my concerns was the balance of the ornament would be off or that once printed, I wouldn’t be fond of the size I chose. So I did a test print on the Maker Gear M2. And….. I was in love. Even though my printer did not pick up the window panes and I noticed a few minor issues, I was impressed at how great all the detailing came out on my printer. I am so glad I went to the trouble to make that stonework and brick work physical details instead of just colors. As for balance– it balanced perfectly!

3D Printing - Occoquan's Mill House Museum - Test Print in White - It Balances

And for fun, I also did a version for myself in ColorFabb bronzeFill.

3D Printing - BronzeFill Mill House Museum From the M2

Final Print
My final print came out a little darker than I expected, but still very identifable as the Mill House. The most important part– the “customer” was thrilled! Phew!

Mill House - Top

And Now…
And now the ornament makes it way to the Virginia Governor’s Mansion! Exciting!

Carving My Pumpkins In Blender

We’ve done a number of faces now for my Glowing Pumpkin Pendants for the Fall Occoquan Arts and Craft Show. I thought I would go ahead and document my carving process in Blender.

Quick background– with the pumpkins, I print 1.5mm of ColorFabb Green. I next switch over the ColorFabb GlowFill for another 1mm. Finally, I end with Translucent Orange filament from MakerGear.

Cross Section of Pumpkin

What this all means is whatever face I’m using to carve out of my pumpkin template (be it through OpenSCAD, Inkscape, ShapeJS, or any other means)– I want the bottom to be right at the 2.5 mm mark. I want the hole to extend all the way down through the orange to the top of my GlowFill.

Although, not intuitive, this is pretty easy in Blender.

First I import my face (in .STL format) from the File->Import menu option. If necessary, I resize it to fit more appropriately on the pumpkin. Now the fun part– what’s the easiest way for me to make sure my face carving goes all the way to the 2.5mm mark?

  1. I switch to Edit mode.
  2. I click on one of the vertices that is at the bottom of my face.
  3. I go to Mesh->Snap->Cursor to Selected
    Blender - Positioning
    This moves my 3D cursor to that selected vertex.
  4. I switch to Object mode
  5. I go to Object->Transform->Origin to 3D Cursor
    Blender - Changing Origin
    This makes the point of reference for that object that very same vertex. This means when I am filling in coordinates for that object, it is using that vertex for the placement.
  6. Finally, at this point, I just change the Z position of my object (assuming I’m on Global) to 2.5mm.

    Blender - Setting Exact Coordinates

And there you have it— the bottom of my face I wish to carve out of the pumpkin is down at the 2.5mm mark, the top of my GlowFill layer. At this point, I can proceed with going to the Modifiers, adding a Boolean modifier and doing a Difference Operation on my pumpkin template and my face. (The difference allows me to subtract an object from another object).

Just to be sure, I do double check in Simplify3D that my orange process looks we expected. In particular, I don’t want to see a solid layer of orange covering up my GlowFill.

Simplify3D - Previewing Orange Layers

I haven’t had any trouble with ShapeJS and my Black and White PNG images. However, if I were ever to be concerned my pumpkin face did not have an even bottom, I could make sure the bottom was consistent by:

  1. Go into Edit mode
  2. Select all the vertices on the bottom of my face (I typically take advantage of Select->Border Select)
  3. Hit S (for Scale) and then Z for the Z-axis and then 0. This sets ALL the selected vertices to the exact same Z height, so I’m thoroughly ensured if one vertex is at 2.5mm, they all are.
    Blender - S Z 0

And there you have it— how I carve my pumpkins (for now).

Print Diary – July 28, 2015 – Spinus Tristis…. and an Ass-Kicking Danaus plexippus

Greetings! I’m currently prepping for a business trip, so this will be a quick entry.

American Goldfinch
I have a new 3D Printed bird to my collection. Spinus tristis, otherwise known as the American Goldfinch.

3D Printed Birds - Spinus tristis (American Goldfinch)

He’s my second favorite bird at the moment. I’m thinking of simplifying the white patches on his wings to make him match my FIRST favorite bird from the MakerGear M2– the Baltimore Oriole.

I’m getting quite a collection of little birds. : )

3D Printed Birds - Goldfinches and Orioles

Gah – Monarch Butterfly
I had this grand idea to do a Monarch Butterfly– it has the same color scheme as the orioles so I figured I could print them together. I stumbled upon a lovely Public Domain model by Liz Havlin. LOVE. It is exactly what I was envisioning, only prettier!

I thought I would just update the model a bit, to solidify the back and then add different face heights for my orange and white layers. Easy, right?


It’s been kicking my ass. And it’s not Liz’s model– her work is perfect, water-tight, non-manifold. I’ve been introducing issues to it when I add and extrude new faces. Gah. I will be victorious… just not tonight. : (

Print Diary – July 23, 2015 – The Orphaned Swans and the Lost Mobius Strip

One of the things I started designing this summer was for my cousin’s wedding. Like me, he is a computer programmer and like my husband and I, his nuptials also celebrated geek culture. Need proof? Final Fantasy was part of his wedding music and he wore Star Wars crocs during the ceremony.

I had tossed around numerous projects. His wedding was in held in The National Aviary. I love “Hearts in Nature” and have seen stunning photographs of two swans making a heart. It seemed like a perfect thing. I pulled up my Blender and started modeling my swans. My process was very similar to what you would find in
Jjannaway3D’s Modeling A Velociraptor in Blender Series.

3D Modeling - Swan

And then… I had a tough question… “Okay, now what do I make out of these swans?” Napkin rings (and the swans did look great curved)? Napkin holder? Hook for oven mitts?

Then I thought, “Oh, he’s into computers, how about I make them into a USB/Sandisk holder.” But then I closed my eyes and really tried to picture my cousin with these swans on his desk. I just couldn’t see it. I loved the swans– I was happy with where they were going, but they no longer seemed to be a good fit.

What *did* seem to be a good fit was a Möbius Strip. And how cool would that be? A Möbius Strip USB holder! *I* want one! My process of modelling the strip itself was very similar to John Malcolm’s Modeling a Mobius Strip Pendant In Blender 2.73. My cross section was a little more stylized (instead of a straight square). After I applied the Bend Simple Distort, I made placeholder cubes for my USB slots (I did that afterwards as I wanted them to retain their measurements and not get distorted during the bend) and voila! I had my model!!!

All along I intended this to be a Shapeways order, but I decided to give it a go on the MakerGear M2. I printed with 0.25 layers and 30% infill in my fabulous new Mint Turquoise Filament from ColorFabb (via PrintedSolid).

Six hours later, I had my print.

I was really digging the print lines on the top. I thought they were neat and added an additional pattern to the mix.

Holy crap, I thought, Maybe this isn’t a Shapeways order!

Mobius USB Holder- Top

Then I turned it over, removed the supports, and looked at where the supports were.

Yikes— Maybe it *is* a Shapeways order

Mobius USB Holder - Bottom (Before Sanding)

Some quick sanding with 120 grit paper, however, changed my mind completely. I didn’t even get to the 220 or 400 grit. After just that first sanding, my husband and I had to concentrate to figure out which was the top and which was the bottom. AMAZING.

“Where are the ‘after’ pictures,” you may ask. “Document your claim!” You may say.

Well, there aren’t any.

I let my kids play with it… outside…in the yard… where there is all this green shrubbery.

They lost it. Three adults scoured the yard and that Mint Turquoise filament has done an excellent job of concealing itself. Interrogations of the two year old and the four year old, “Do you know where Mommy’s green toy is?” was just as much of a dead end. I suspect it’ll be winter before I find it again.

A reprint is in my future (an advantage of 3D printing– you can always print another one). Regarding the reprint, ColorFabb has an amusing suggestion:

Playing with Shapeways’ CustomMaker Tool

A faux pas I sometimes make is I value my own designs based on how I perceive their complexity. I am continually surprised at how many people delight in the breastfeeding pendant. Now, it did take me months to make, but that was because I was tending to an infant and learning Blender. : ) It’s probably my simplest design… and the one that is purchased most on Shapeways.

This past May, I may have undervalued another design. With graduation season coming up, my Mom suggested we print some little graduation caps for some family friends. I wasn’t too enthused by the items on Thingiverse, so I spent about an hour one Sunday designing my own. I added a little bit of personalization to each cap by adding the graduate’s name on the top. In my mind– pretty simple. Hey, I did it AND ate a waffle at the same time. I didn’t even consider uploading it anywhere.

Grad Cap

But it turned out the little caps were well received, particularly with one high school graduate…whose friends suddenly wanted their own (two days before graduation). I just did not anticipate such a simple design would provoke such interest.

Last week, Shapeways announced a new pilot feature– the CustomMaker. I had set up personalized products before with Shapeways (School Bus Wine Stopper, Cancer Ribbon, Woven Heart Ornament). Previously, it was a fairly involved process where you would set up what variables you wanted to prompt the customer for. The customer would submit those details with the order. You’d manually make the model and upload it back up to fulfill the order.

CustomMaker automates that process– it modifies the model for you. Not only that, it’s much easier to setup and gives the buyer instant previews of how the product will look!

And I had just the model to test out the new feature! So this past Sunday (after eating waffles, it’s our Sunday tradition), I tried my hand at setting it up. It was super easy.

You can add a Text Box and/or an Image Box (where the customer can upload an image) to your model. You get to drag and drop and resize as needed, pick whether you want it engraved or embossed, and you get to pick the size of that detail (I went with 0.5 mm)

Shapeways Customizer

If you have a hard time visualizing or decided between engraving and embossing, you can click on Preview Settings.
Shapeways Customizer- Preview

The top of my graduation cap is angled. I was curious to see what the text would do about that. I was delighted to see the feature was smart enough to angle the text so it was flush with the top of the cap.

Shapeways Customizer - Angles Text

Then you simply Save Changes are you are ready! When the customer comes to my graduation cap page, he/she can fill in the text and the preview on the screen refreshes right away. With CustomMaker, the guess work is eliminated. The customer has an immediate feel for what he/she is ordering.

I went ahead and ordered one to try it out. It turns out, there was one very special grad I overlooked in June. I owe him a gift card… and a little cap to boot.

Shapeways - Customizer - Ordering

Wanna Learn More?
Check out Shapeways’ Getting Started with Custom Maker Tool Tutorial

Print Diary – July 14, 2015

M2 Lubrication
Today I did something scary (for me). My comfort level is more in the modeling and the software side, but the MakerGear M2 was due for some monthly maintenance. According to the documentation I received with the printer, I needed to:

Clean the X and Y linear rails, and the Z leadscrew, of grease, then apply a fresh coat to each – a dot of white lithium grease in each of the long grooves on the X and Y rails, and a dot in four consecutive troughs of the Z leadscrew; once applied, move that axis through its full travel multiple times to spread the grease.

Okay. So first step. I needed to confirm what I thought was the X and Y rails and the Z leadscrew was accurate. With that, I did some poking in the M2 Assembly Instructions. My conclusion seemed accurate (I’m happy to consider evidence to the contrary).

M2 Lubrication - Rails and Leadscrew

The M2 What’s in the Box manual that shipped with my printer helpfully had pictures of the Lithium Grease and the Applicator, so I knew exactly what supplies to use.

M2 Lubrication - Supplies

I did my dabbing.

M2 Lubrication - Z Leadscrew M2 Lubrication - Y Axis

Then I opened my Simplify3D, went to Tools->Machine Control Panel and then clicked on the Jog Controls tab. I used the various X, Y, and Z movements to move the printer around to spread the grease.

M2 Lubicration Process Via Simplify3D

It turned out to be pretty easy and not very scary at all.

Cardinal Progress
I did a test run of my two-color Cardinal. With a item like this, the point of focus is going to be on the top, so when I slice in Simplify3d, I give some scrutiny to the my top level (As opposed to say a 3D scan of a person– there the top of the object isn’t the center of focus). I noted with my cardinal there was an oddity in the top.

Top Layer - Cardinal - Why This Section

Even though that section was going to be all red, I didn’t want that odd texture in the mix. I wanted a nice, smooth surface for viewing pleasure. I’ve seen this issue before and I knew what I was up against– I didn’t have a completely flat surface where I wanted one.

I opened my modeling software back up (Blender) and the issue was I had a number of vertices that weren’t exactly the same as the others of that level. In the example below -0.00933 instead of 0. This caused the surface to not be exactly flat and when it came to slicing time, the printer has to translate that into layers. To adjust for the non-flat surface, part of the cardinal’s chest did not go as high as everything else.

Top Layer - Vertices

I adjusted my vertices to make them exact and make a nice flat surface. When I sliced again you can see the difference.

Top Layer - Much Better

My test print is coming along. The cardinal is cute, though this doesn’t represent my vision. He’s supposed to have red on his wing with just snippets of black poking through. I had a lapse of concentration during the last filament change to red and ended up mucking up the exchange by going the wrong way on the Z axis.

3D Printed Birds - Chickadee Has a Pal
The Chickadee and His Friend

Live and learn! Tomorrow is another day and another print. : )

Print Diary – July 13, 2015

Today in my printing adventures. Most of my endeavors were focused on printing multiple colors on the single extruder machine.

Victory Pictures of VT Logo
My first practice run was right before the July 4th holiday, I made a quick VT medallion in OpenSCAD using GlennLo’s awesome Virginia Tech Logo model. A couple of my Facebook friends commented positively on the item so I mailed a few out over the weekend.

Today, my friends were kind enough to post pictures of their new arrivals. It made me smile to see.

VT Arrivals

Modelling a Cardinal
Another multi color project I took on was making myself a chickadee. It was simple and cute and I’m smitten with it (I do have a version with legs that I printed last Thursday).

Now that I know how to do multicolor prints on our MakerGear M2, I'm plotting ways to make myself a chickadee (I'm thinking 3 colors - white, black and grey) #3DPrinting #3DModeling My 3 Color Chickadee Experiment on the MakerGear M2- Take 1.  My silver filament is a little translucent so I think I need to add some extra layers there.  Overall, pleased!  #3DPrinting

My Chickadee– Three Colors on the MakerGear M2

I decided I need some other birds to keep it company. I have aspirations of making a variety of species and maybe making a wreath. Over the weekend, I went through my Mom’s bird book and I have a bunch I’m eyeing. Since last week, I just got a shipment from PrintedSolid of new filament and one of the colors is Traffic Red, the cardinal seemed like a good option. It’s not the most intricate modeling, so I squeezed a little of bit of Blender work in here and there while the code for my day job compiled.

I’m excited about the wing detail. I’ve carved out some feather detail to show a peek of the black underneath. I think it’s going to look mighty fine.

Work in Progress - Cardinal