Thursday, 25 April 2013

3D Printed Greek Temple Project

The 3D Printed Toy we made
My 6 year old is very used to things being 3D printed. The buzzing of the 3D printer is a familiar noise in our house. He's used to requesting models from Thingiverse or getting his Mum or Dad to create something. (I'll share more of our 3D printing projects in future.)

We have also created 3D prints from his 2D drawings. But until now he hadn't designed a proper 3D model himself. For this project, I had to help him use the tool, but he decided what the elements would be, where they should go and how big they should be and together we built his first 3D model (and then got his Dad to print it.) He's now got a basic understanding how 3D models can be created for 3D printing. And he has been through the process of making and designing a toy for himself. 

I chose a project that could be created from 3D shapes. The modeling tool I chose is 3DTin, an online drag and drop tool with basic features that were adequate for our purposes. It's a bit fiddly to work with at first but it would definitely be possible for a motivated child to master it probably from around 8+.

I should point out that there is a free to use version but with this version all of your models are shared and you can't delete them. There is a premium version with more features if you get hooked.

Greek temple ruins My son is fascinated by ancient history. In particular the story of Atlantis which was originally told by Plato. The legend's Greek heritage means that the lost city of Atlantis is often represented with Greek architecture. We chose to model a Greek temple as that fits well with his interests and can be constructed from geometric 3D solids.

First we looked online for pictures of Greek Temples and found some great examples like the one in this photo. They are made from common solid shapes so my son could easily see how to create a model from 3D solids.

We simplified a bit so that we would have a result fairly quickly - I didn't want to make the first project too long and complicated.

Here's our attempt to model the temple in 3D Tin.  You can view this 3D Greek Temple model in 3DTin.

We started with the base creating cuboids and setting the dimensions. Then we used the alignment tools (they appear when you select multiple objects) to position them accurately.

Then we added the columns and the roof on top. The roof was constructed from two right-angled wedges (triangular prisms) joined together. (I'll add a walkthrough tutorial at some point as it's a good example for learning the basics of 3DTin.)

If your child is familiar with a 2D drawing tool or working with drawings in Powerpoint then the concepts will be quite similar for selecting and aligning objects.

Now we had to think about 3D printing our temple. Printing structures with large unsupported areas like the roof doesn't work well. The hot plastic will just drop into the space below. This was a good discussion to have with my son to help him think about the principles involved.

We decided to print the roof as a separate piece so that we didn't have to worry about support structure to hold it up as it was printed. And we lost the square caps at the top of the pillars as they would be difficult to print.

Base and Pillars
We made copies of the original model (Save As in 3DTin) and deleted the parts we didn't need to create a Roof model and a Base and Pillars model.

Then we exported the model from 3DTin as an STL file (a common format for 3D models.)

Next my son chose the filament for the print. There are stories about Atlantis maybe having a mysterious power source. So he choose glow in the dark filament.

And then his Dad printed the temple on our MendelMax 1.5 printer using slic3r and pronterface. It took about 1 hour and 40 minutes to print the two parts of the model.

The printed model measures about: 60mm x 40mm x 50mm tall.

It used about 2.5 meters of 3mm filament which cost about $1.50. You could certainly make it cost less by hollowing out the model, but that would have been more complicated (we'll look at doing that with OpenSCAD in a future tutorial.)

Here's the resulting glow-in-the-dark Greek temple. The columns didn't come out perfectly as some filament got dragged between the pillars. But it was pretty cool as a first attempt.

We could glue the roof on, but my son quite likes being able to take it off and pop a small toy inside.

The temple will now join my son's museum of precious objects under his cabin bed.

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