Project: Design and 3D Printing of a Propeller; 3D Scanning of a (Clay) Hippo

Machine(s): 3D Printer, 3D Scanner | Material(s): Acrylic, ABS Plastic

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Official Assignment Description:
'* 3D scan an object
- extra credit: make the scanner
* design and 3D print an object (small, few cm)
- extra credit: edit and print an object that you scanned'

The potential for this week's assignment seemed huge! Until we learned the myriad pitfalls of 3D Printing and Scanning. So I scaled my dreams back and settled on 3D printing a propeller (which can be difficult to make via other methods) and 3D scanning a clay hippo named Henrietta (I just thought this would fun...and a nice exercise in working with .stl meshes). Below is my proces.

3D Printing

Step 1: Come up with a design that takes advantages of the unique strengths of the 3D printing process (e.g. able to fabricate complex and interlocking geometries that aren't well suited to molding and casting). I've been wanting to make a propeller for a custom electric ducted fan, and this seemed like an ok project. Make the design in SolidWorks (left) and export as .STL format (right).

Step 2: Send .STL to Tom for printing in Acrylic (left) and ABS Plastic (right). They even fit on one of my motors!

3D Scanning

Step 1: Find something fun to scan. Henrietta the Money-Saving Hippo (piggy bank) seemed like a nice object.

Step 2: Use Minolta 3D scanner and accompanying software to scan and combine images. From left to right: Setting range in camera; Henrietta before cleanup; Henrietta after cleanup.

Step 3: Do final editing. I used a free program called Netfabb

Tips and Lessons Learned

  1. The coolness factor of 3D printing is hard to overlook...but the current state of technology is a little dissappointing from an engineering point of view. It may be a few more years before 3D printed objects will be cost effective for bulk production...
  2. 3D scanning is also pretty neat (what better way to immortalize your figure in CG world?). But who are we kidding...stop wasting your time with the Minolta and go buy a Kinect.
  3. Well, if you insist on using the Minolta, the key to making your life easy is to (a) only do the minimum amount of rotations (I used four 90deg rotations) and (b) play around until the software's 'axis of rotation' is aligned with your actual part. If you take the extra time to make sure these steps are satisfied, the automatic merging of your scans will go well, and you'll have very little clearning up to do.

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