Thursday, 21 December 2017

BlocksCAD vs Tinkercad 3D Modelling - Christmas Fun

We've had a bit of Christmas fun creating Christmas tree models using our favourite beginner 3D modelling software. Tracy likes to code 3D models with BlocksCAD whereas Elbrie prefers to create with graphical components using Tinkercad.

We had a bit of a competition to design a Christmas tree using our favourite tools for 3D printing on the XYZPrinting da Vinic Jr 2.0 Mix colour printer. Our brief was to create a partially hollow Christmas tree using two different colours based on a quick sketch.

We should say that we both like both tools and can see different situations where each is a better fit. But as a go-to tool for quick modelling we each have a clear preference.

Why Tracy likes BlocksCAD

BlocksCAD allows you to create 3D models using drag and drop coding. Before BlocksCAD, OpenSCAD was my go-to tool. BlocksCAD is based on OpenSCAD and takes the same coding based approach to creating and combining geometric objects.

I now use BlocksCAD in preference to OpenSCAD because it's quick and browser based with a cloud account and I usually want children and beginners to be able to recreate the projects I make.

I'm not artistic and prefer the clarity and precision of a coding approach. I also love being able to parameterise models (like the furniture we made for Arckit.)

Why Elbrie likes Tinkercad

Tinkercad is a free online tool provided by Autodesk for 3D modeling and 3D printing. I've used tools like Autodesk and Google Sketchup in my Interior Design degree and previous work and so feel familiar with how Tinkercad works with shapes objects, workplanes and layers.

Its a great tool for kids to access and play around making 3d models. It's browser-based and you can create an account to save your work.

There's lots of different shapes and 3D text to drag and drop onto the work plane to create your design. You can resize and rotate the shapes either by dragging or typing in exact numbers. The align tool is very useful and you can group and ungroup shapes and make them hide if you're working on a specific piece of your design.

You can also generate your own shapes with code, a feature I have not yet explored, but I'm sure Tracy would love!

BlocksCAD Christmas Tree

The main Christmas tree is made from toruses that decrease in size and the bucket is created from toruses that increase in size. It was really quick to create these with consistent differences between the layers. BlocksCAD allows you to specify colours for different parts of the model so it was easy to see what the result would look like.

There are lots of cool ways to make stars in BlocksCAD but I didn't have the time to spend on them for this project (I could have used ones I'd created earlier as I have created a star project.) I just created a quick star from two triangles.

I took out a cone to hollow out the middle so that it would be quicker to print and also a cylinder so there's a hole through the bottom. I added a hole through the star on the top so the tree can be hung up as a decoration. 

I didn't take the time to parameterise the model for this quick make, but it would be easy to do so.

Tinkercad Christmas Tree

I've not made many 3d designs to 3d print (yet), so making this Christmas tree was a bit of a learning curve. There is definitely a difference between 3d modelling for a game or a graphic and 3d modelling for 3D printing. You need to design with the making constraints in mind.

My first attempt had a few of errors. For example, it had a torus shape as the base which made the tree fall over during printing. I discovered the base wasn't flat and wide enough to support the rest of the structure.

I used very similar shapes as Tracy (we didn't look at each other's designs until the end!) I made the container for the tree out of a tube for the base, an upside-down paraboloid and a torus for decoration. I created "hole" shapes slightly smaller than the solid shapes to create a hollow container.

For the tree, I used toruses which I sized and placed by typing in the exact sizes I wanted and used the alignment tool. (It's a VERY useful tool.) Again I hallowed out the tree using a paraboloid shape, which also provided the support for the star on the top!

It took a few iterations, but I finally got the design right for 3D printing.

Setup in XYZWare

The XYZPrinting da Vinic Jr 2.0 Mix allows you to print with two different colours of filament. You can blend the colours but for this project we wanted separate layers of colour. 

When printing in vertical layers of colour in XYZWare you just load the .stl file in and specify where layers start and finish. The Christmas trees were designed with this feature in mind.

The Results

The BlocksCAD Christmas tree took about 1hr and 15 minutes to print. The Tinkercad tree took about an hour to print but it was a lot smaller than the BlocksCAD tree.

BlocksCAD Christmas Tree

Tinkercad Christmas Tree

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