More about 3D Printing and free software…

So… I have been experimenting with a couple of new free software packages for 3D modelling with the eventual aim of 3D printing something.

The first software I tried is also (in addition to my last post) by AutoCAD, it’s called Inventor Fusion and it’s available from the Mac App store, or from here…. There is a full description of the package there as well as the requirements … however, in a nut shell, it is based on drawings which you then can turn into 3D models. It isn’t quite so immediate and easy as 123D Design (see last post) although the ability to punch holes in a slab is a nice little addition to the 123D toolbar.

The files are saved as .f3d files, and, I’m not sure where you go from there as I wasn’t really interested at this point in pursuing this. It seemed to me that Sketchup was a good deal easier to use, and I didn’t like that much either.

However, Sculptris was or is, right up my street, being more interested in organic shapes.
Sculptris is by Pixilogic (of zBrush fame) and is a poor man’s zBrush…. or you could say a training software for it.

The great thing which it has that Blender doesn’t is the way that the “grab” brush immediately creates loads of new triangles when you start to stretch a branch (for example). [Those that have tried to stretch stuff in Blender will know what I mean].

Now, it is designed for you to be able to switch over immediately to zBrush with the press of a button… except, of course, I don’t want to pay $700 for zBrush.

The files are, consequently saved as .sc1 files… hmmm… they want to make a living after all..


It turns out that there is a huge document that you can wade through to find out how to convert… I only just started…

..but at least I have the sketch tree in Blender now…. and given enough time I may get the hang of the conversion.

But…it is not all plain sailing after that either…

This is a model which I did, eventually, export from Blender as a .stl file to a printing company.. and the prices, as you see, vary a lot depending on the material used. [11 Euros is about $11]…
Alumide is like concrete, it’s aluminium ‘sawdust’ mixed in with a resin, and cheap. The polished plastics and acrylics mostly come in black and white, the colours which are offered are spray-on paint, not very impressive and very expensive. Transparent acrylic is the most expensive of all, it seems … but then it is in RL too.

So… my immediate conclusions were…

1) A base or stand made from Alumide may be an option when you consider the cost of more hands-on moulding, involving mould-making, silicon rubber, resin and paint.
2) Transparent components could be worthwhile doing if they are more complex than a mushroom, simple items will work out expensive compared to old-fashioned making…. although there is a huge time saving once I’ve mastered the software.

….and, generally, it looks like I will continue pursuing the options of 3D printing [especially now that my Non-Virtual resin is taking so long to set in this cold weather]

… and I’ll keep reporting back..



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