SparkWonder

3D printing without the 3D printer

compare-birds copy

compare-birds

There’s so much buzz around 3d printing and with good reason. 3d printing opens up a new world of possibilities the way that standard home printers did for desktop publishing. Just as we marveled long ago at creating our own newsletters, labels and posters, now we marvel at the possibilities of printing our own gadgets, toys, tools and more. As if magic, 3D objects can teleport themselves from our desktops to our desk top.

Not all of us have access to one of these magic devices but that won’t stop us from creating a little teleportation magic of our own. In this project we’ll use software, an ordinary printer and some poster board to transform a 3D model into a real world model. Your child can choose a 3D model on the computer seeing a 360 degree view, print and cut out the plans, then watch it come to life as they assemble the pieces. Finally, they can paint and embellish the finished piece to really make it their own creation. They’ll have a blast putting together this project and have a treasure to keep and display at the end.

The Process

Install software Choose a model Print the plans Cut the pieces Assemble

 

Step 1 – Install the Software

123d-make-logo

Lets start by installing the software we will be using. 123DMake is a free program for Windows or Mac that can take a 3D computer model and print out plans for piecing together a model of that object. The plans can be printed on paper to be cut out manually, printed directly to a CirCut cutting machine or sent to a service with will laser cut the shapes a mail them to you for assembly. We’re going to print the plans on paper and cut them out of poster board since this is the most interactive choice and doesn’t require anything special. You may also choose to cut your shapes out of cardboard or other thick material so long as you are able to cut through the material.

Find something to build

123dmake-browse
Time for some 3D shopping. 123D Make has a searchable library of user submitted 3D models that can be used for free. Let your child select their favorite model and lets start printing!

Print out the plans

eps-screen

Once you select your model it will open up in the 123D Make application. You can look at the model from all side by clicking and dragging the model around. Now it’s time to print out the plans. Go to file->print and a window will open with some options. There are a number of different construction methods for putting together the model but here we are going to use the simpler stacked layers method.
Now for the tricky part. In order for model to be sized properly you have to tell 123D Make about the thickness for the material we are using. You can use corrugated cardboard, poster board or just about anything that has some thickness and can be cut easily. Measure the material and enter the number in the xxx field. Press print and get ready to cut!
eps warning…

 

 

cut out the shapes

cut
Now that we have out printed plans cut out each piece. Trace each shape on your cardboard and cut the shapes out of the material. Each printed shape should have a number so be sure to write the number on the cardboard pieces.

 

 

 

Glue it together

bird-partial
Time to watch your object come to life! Stack the pieces in numbered order, gluing them together with elmer’s glue.

bird_built Here’s the almost finished bird… he’s just lacking the top feathers.

Paint and decorate

For the final touches break out the paint brushes and give your model some character.  Cardboard or poster board may not be the easiest material to paint but with a little effort and patients you’ll have a great looking final product!

bird_painted

Summary

There are other ways to use the 123Dmake app.  In addition to the stacked layers construction method, there’s also interlocking slices (much like those 3d tab-in-slot models you can buy at the toy store) and the complex Folded Slices approach.

folded interlocking

There’s also the option to send the plans to a company that will cut out the sheets from your material of choice.  Then you’d simply need to assemble them.  While this gives great results, it’s expensive and is sort of contrary to the DIY spirit of these projects.

I hope you have fun building your own model.  In an upcoming project I’ll go over scanning in your own real world object and sending it to 123DMake.

Please share your creation with us!  Head to the forum to discuss this project and upload pics of your own creation.

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