How to Make Almost Anything > John's class Homepage > 3D Printers


3D Printers: lightning fast


This fourth assignment we are to use one or both of the 3D printers and the 3D scanner. I designed 2 objects, one for each of the printers.


·        The Stratasys:

o       A glue-gun disguised as a sophisticated prototyping tool.

o       Allow a day to have it build something.

o       Allow a day in the ultrasonic bath to let the support material dissolve.

o       Make sure you check what the support material is set to before printing. It seems to often be set wrong

o       Export as .stl.  Make sure the object is a mesh with all manipulations already flattened.


With the Stratasys I made a part I needed for a demo: Something to screw into a microphone that held ultrasonic sensors. I made the file in Blender (which I stubbornly still use and even like – of course I’ve never used anything else). I learned some things about Blender:

o       Blender uses inches as its measurement. There might be a way to change this, but I never found it.

o       A cube of size “1” is actually 2x2x2.

o       A circle of size “1” has a radius of sqrt(2)

o       Know the “N”key – the way to put in exact measurements.

o       Build around the origin. It’s easier for manipulation.

o       It’s nice to deform objects by making lattices and making the lattice the parent <CNTL>P of the object…but how do you then flatten the object so the deformity stays when you export to .stl?


In case you haven’t gotten the hint, my piece didn’t come out exactly as I wanted. I lost some warping I had done. It also broke, because I had an area with almost no plastic…a result of having lost the warping.


Update:  in Blender to get lattice deformations to be part of the mesh and export correctly etc. choose the mesh object and hit <SHIFT><CTRL><A> as explained at


Here’s the blender file


Here’s a pic of the result, with some rubber grommets and a set of ultrasonic transducers installed:




And Here’s a pic of the object on a microphone:


BTW the demo works well. I’ll post a video soon.


·        The Zcorp

o       A great machine for those who wish they were archeologists.

o       A great machine for archeologists.

o       A great machine for those considering archeology as a trade

o       The results are fragile

o       Let things sit overnight if at all possible. They will harden.

o       Colors don’t come out well.

o       Exporting as .vrml is problematic for textures. Edit the .vrml and add the texture by hand ‘cause the python script in Blender ignores textures. Then load in 3DS max or in the Zcorp software to see what you have. The only way to change the texture is to actually change the .jpg itself. Nothing else works, no matter what they tell you in the .vrml specification.

o       Editing the .vrml. Here’s relevant code. Add what is necessary as necessary:

Shape {

          appearance Appearance {

            material Material {

              diffuseColor 0.5882 0.5882 0.5882

              ambientIntensity 1.0

              specularColor 0 0 0

              shininess 0.145

              transparency 0


            texture ImageTexture {

              url "eyepic2.jpg"


            textureTransform TextureTransform {

              center 0.5 0.5

              translation 0.6 0.5

              rotation 0.1047

              scale 1.5 1.5




I made an eyeball-like thingy to hold keys and change. My inspiration was Petter Alm’s eyeball, which I found here. I emailed Petter and got the 3DS file (which is very generous of him) but ended up using only the .jpg he sent for the texture. Here’s the .vrml.


Steps for using the Zcorp:

o       Clean the machine. Vacuum all the plaster

o       Hit the “spread” button and spray the distilled water over the cartridge stuff and suction cuppy thingies

o       Dry the suction cuppy thingies thoroughly.

o       Check the levels: plaster, binder, waste…

o       Flatten the plaster in the beds.

o       Make sure the build bed is below the top and the fill is near the top

o       If possible put something in the build bed (cardboard) so your piece has a platform for easy removal.

o       Choose from 406services in the computer menu “feed bed” or “load bed” or something like that

o       Clean again. Vacuum.


My object came out well in terms of shape, but it doesn’t look at all the way I intended because the colors are wrong. I need to wax it, then I will post pics.