How to Make Almost* Anything | MAS.863

Ella Peinovich | M.Arch Level III, MIT







[.00_3D Modeling]


Digital Design and Fabrication Tutorial

Using Rhinoceros software, exporting to laser cutter, CNC surface sculpting,


Setting up a file

  1. Unit -When opening up a new file, establish your file size and choose ‘inches’ as your units.
    • Tip #1: Most fabrication equipment uses inches as a default unit, so it is best to create your files using inches. You will be able to convert this later, but it helps to establish the necessary level of detail needed in your model if you work in a one to one scale with your final product.
    • When importing a file, type in ‘units’ to pull up the properties panel and adjust the ‘Model units’ to ‘Inches’ and the ‘Distance Display’ to ‘Feet & Inches’ for both the ‘Units’ and ‘Page Units’ tabs.
  2. Viewports (default is four viewports)
    • At any time double-click on the viewport name to expand and zoom into a single viewport or back to four.
    • My user settings are to use the ‘wireframe’ appearance in all orthogonal view and ‘ghosted’ in perspective views. You can set this by right-clicking on the viewport name (in upper left corner of viewport) and clicking on ‘ghosted’.
    • Tip #2: ‘By Layer’ or ‘By Color’ organization is valuable once you begin to create more than one object in a single model, otherwise you can always select by object type (i.e. SelCrv).
    • Tip #3: Note that the construction plane (aka CPlane) is determined by the viewport you are in when you initiate a command, you can then freely
  3. Command line
    • If you are familiar with other CAD software you will find Rhino to be very easy to learn because the functions names are fairly universal. Most functions can be found by simply typing what it is you hope to make, like ‘Box’.
    • Always be sure to look at the command line, it will prompt you through the process of making an object. (i.e. ‘Box’ leads you to tell it ‘First corner of base’/ ‘Other corner of base or length’
    • Tip #4: Within command prompts I choose to type in a coordinates like 0,0 to place it at the origin, or you can click anywhere in your viewport.

Object Types

  1. Points (Points don’t render, used to hold coordinates when creating complex shapes)
    • Ortho/Osnap/CPlane functions
    • Tip #5: Best to understand the geometric properties of what you are trying to build and establish this points or dimensions so when you go to edit the objects you can easily navigate to the coordinates at the center of a cube or circle, ect…
  2. Curves
    • -open curve (aka ‘line’)/closed curve (like Circles)
      “Extrude”/ (Cap - or type C)
    • Tip #6: As you become more familiar with the commands you should try to learn Quick Commands.
    • Type in lengths or coordinates for accuracy
    • 'Cap' function used on extruded shapes creates a closed polysurface
  3. Surfaces (Poly Surface)
    • learn 'Explode' and 'Join' command
  4. Solids (Nurbs or Mesh Primitives (planes which looses geometric attributes/not very editable/used to export or import))


Editting Objects

  1. 'Select by Object type' command
  2. ‘Extrude’
  3. ‘Boolean’
  4. ‘Split’


Exporting Object

Rhino is great for its ability to easily export and import other file types, but open source software is available for most fabrication equipment and the FabLab Modules are becoming ever more user-friendly, find what is best for your purposes.

  1. To export to 2D laser cut machine or CNC profile cutting
    • from a close surface use ‘UnrollSrf’ command, un-clicking explode
      ‘SelAll’/ ‘ExtractWireframe’/ ‘ProjectToCPlane’/ ‘Join’
    • Tip #7: To clean up a line file you may need to ‘SelDup’/ ‘Delete’/ ‘SelAll’ / ‘CloseCrv’
  2. To export to CNC Surface milling
    • Scale Units
    • ‘Split’ based on depth of material (ShopBot does have function for splicing based on material function)
    • Export as STL file
  3. To Export to 3D printing
    • Scale Units
    • Join all
    • Create a mesh
    • Export as STL file