It is an exciting time at the MPS, as we have recently rolled out an experimental 3D printing project. Currently, MPS West sports a new MakerBot Replicator 2X in addition to a 3D scanner and computer system. The world of 3D printing is relatively new, especially on the consumer level, and the vast majority of potential users have no idea where to begin with their 3D ideas. Fortunately, there is an easy solution to get users started in the world of 3D printing: Google SketchUp. Google SketchUp is a powerful yet easy-to-use 3D development program that makes it easy for users to design objects with little background knowledge. I am going to show you how to get started with Google SketchUp Pro 2014 (installed on all MPS Lab computers) and be on your way to your first 3D printed masterpiece.
First, open up Google SketchUp Pro 2014 and expand the “Template” tab. Scoll down to the “3D Printing” template and choose your units (either inches or millimeters).
After you click “Start using SketchUp”, you will find yourself in a window that looks like this:
This is your workspace. As you can see, there is a bounding box labeled “Makerbot Replicator 2X.” This visually represents the maximum dimensions our 3D printer can print. Do not make your project extend past any of these boundaries. It will be too big! Luckily, Google SketchUp uses the Replicator 2X template as a default, so you can immediately start working.
Before I begin, I would like to show the full toolbar. To do this, select View>Tool Palettes>Large Tool Set.
Now you have the full toolset which looks like this:
One last thing to be aware of before we begin. Below is an image of SketchUp’s help window. It will appear on the right of your screen when you open a project. Click on any tool and it will give an animated representation with instructions on how to use the tool. Pretty neat! Click on all the tools and get an idea of what they do.
Now, let’s begin our first 3D printing project! With a little inspiration from my colleague Suyash, we are going to make personalized keychains.
To begin, go to Camera>Standard Views>Top. This will give you a top down view to begin your project.
Select the rectangle tool and draw a rectangle of any size. Once you are done drawing the rectangle, immediately type “3,1” (that’s a comma) to make a rectangle 3” long and 1” wide. You can do this to dimension any shape! For example, if you wanted a 3 inch square, type “3,3”. If you want to dimension a circle, draw it and type a dimension for the radius. It’s that simple.
Here’s what you should have so far.
Now zoom in to your selection by using the scoll wheel on you mouse, or right click on your rectangle and select “Zoom Selection.”
We are going to add a half circle to one end for the keyring hole. Select the 2-Point Arc tool. Next, click on the top right corner of your rectangle. Follow that with a click on the bottom right corner. Move your mouse outward until it locks to a half circle. A small text box and line should appear to indicate you have reached this point. Here is how it will look:
Click one final time and the half circle should turn grey.
***This is a good time to note that when drawing shapes or figures, SketchUp likes to help use guides to align endpoints, midpoints, center-points, and half-circles among other things. Use this to your advantage to make symmetry and lining your shapes up a breeze. Play around with it a bit. Different colored dashed lines will appear to serve as guides.
We are almost ready to create a 3D shape. Before we continue, select the line separating the half circle from the rectangle. It will turn blue. Delete that. Now you will have one unified shape that looks like so:
Now we are ready to make this keychain 3D! Select the Push/Pull tool or press “P”.
Press “Command+7” or select the “Iso” view from Camera>Standard Views. With the Push/Pull tool still selected, click on your shape and move your mouse upward. Pull the shape any distance and click once more to set it. Type in “0.25” to make the thickness 0.25 inches. You can change this value if you would like to make it thinner or thicker.
Now you should have a 3D shape that looks like this:
We are going to use the offset tool to create a small lip around the keychain.
Press “F” to select the offset tool, or click on the tool 2 spots directly below the Push/Pull tool on the large toolset. With the tool selected, click on the top face of your keychain. Approach one of the edges until a lip is created:
Click once to set the lip, and enter 0.1 on the keyboard to make the lip a 0.1” thick.
Now we need to give the lip some depth. Select the Push/Pull tool (P), and click on the inner face. Once selected, push downward to create a sunken area as shown below.
Click to set. Enter 0.1 to make the recess 0.1 inch deep.
Our next step is to make the keychain hole. We want to make it nice and centered, so we need to utilize the built in guides I mentioned before.
First, zoom in using the scroll wheel or one of the zoom tools so that the semi-circle fills most of your screen. Next, use the Orbit tool (O), which has a red and green arrow on it, to orbit around so you can see the inner lip of the keychain. Your view should look like this:
Select the Circle tool or press “C”. These next steps are important, so follow carefully.
Find the endpoint of the circle. It should turn green and appear as shown:
BEFORE you click, hold the “Control” button and move your cursor inward until you intersect an imaginary line where the base of the half-circle used to be. It will look like so:
When the green and red lines appear, click to place the circle. Extend outward and click once more. Type “0.125” to make a hole with an 1/8th inch radius.
NOTE: If your circle is a different shade of grey, it is on a different layer and is not on the correct face. It will not extrude correctly. Re-do the previous steps and make sure you are using the BOTTOM EDGE of the lip for your guide, not the top.
Actually, you know what? 1/8th inch is too big. Let’s learn how to resize shapes. It’s simple. Click on the edge of the circle so only the black edge turns blue. Right click or Cmd+Click and select “Entity Info.”
In the radius box, enter your desired radius. Let’s set it to 0.1” so the hole is 0.20 inches in diameter. Now your hole has been resized.
Time to extrude the circle so you have a hole for your keyring. Begin by selecting the Push/Pull tool. Only click on the face of the circle and pull down towards the bottom edge of the keychain. Hover your tool over the bottom edge until a red “X” or dot appears. They should either say “On edge” or “Intersection.”
This means you have extruded the hole through the entire object and reached the bottom face. This is what you want! Once you see this, click again and your hole should be complete.
It should look like so:
We are almost done! Let’s add a personalized touch to the keychain.
Select the 3D text tool (it looks like the letter “A”). A dialog box should appear. Select the “Fonts” button so your display appears as shown:
In the box on the right, pick your desired font. Also, in the top right is a box for the length of your text. Set it to “0.75” so it will fill the length of the keychain. Close this box but leave the “Place 3D Text” box still open.
In the “Place 3D Text” box, type whatever you want to be on the keychain. Make sure the “extruded” box is checked. Finally, set the extrusion depth in the box directly to the right. I set it to “0.125”, but this is up to you. It sets how thick the text will be. Once you are done, click place.
Hover your text over the keychain. Align it where you want. Before you click, make sure there is a little blue dot that says “On face.” This ensures the text is actually on the face of the keychain and not hovering in space. It looks like so:
And voila! Your first 3D project is complete! Here is how my final product looks:
You should save the SketchUp project itself, but 3D printers cannot use this file. To create a file that the 3D printer understands, go to File>Export STL. A dialog box should appear. Under “Export Units”, make sure it is set to “Model Units.” File format has 2 options, ASCII or Binary. Either will work, but we have had better success using “Binary,” so select that for now. Save it to somewhere easily accessible because you will need to access this file once you come to use the 3D printer.
The actual 3D printing process is beyond the scope of this blog post, but Chip Bobbert has compiled a fantastic Wiki on our 3D printers. He has a wonderful “How-To” on setting up the printers and printing something for the first time.
Check it out here:
Good luck and happy printing!