Thursday, September 11, 2014

The September Project, Part II

In Part I, I had looked over the assembled Bukito portable 3D printer, and identified a couple of adjustments we would probably have to make to the standard unit, but then I got cold feet about downloading the Win v.7 compatible software to my Win v.8.1 computer. Overnight deliberation didn't make me any more comfortable with the thought.

So I tabled the Arduino and Teensyduino downloads, and decided to look into 3D modeling software instead. The Apps table on the Deezmaker site gives plenty of options for building your own models, and it's something we want to do. 

To be honest, I had expected we would simply download a pre-existing file to test with, maybe the same planetary gear used at Deezmaker to bench-test the unit before they shipped it to us. But I'd rather explore the modeling software, and let the driver software decision rest for another day.


Working with my Chromebook and with the Chrome browser on my Windows system, I was attracted first to the TinkerCAD online software, which is listed as compatible with the Chrome and Firefox browsers. You supposedly can set up a free account, so I went there to try it out.

Oh, good! I thought. There are a number of tutorials here that I can watch before I dive into the process. But WHUH?! Click on any of them, and a little green label "DONE" pops up. No tutorial, just false completion. I tried opening a tutorial in a separate tab, and it stayed blank far too long.

So the tutorial doesn't work in Windows with my Chrome browser. I tried opening the site in Firefox next. No good. No difference. It doesn't give me any confidence about the software.


Blender comes in three "flavors": Mac, Windows and Linux. (With Linux support, I could conceivably run this on my Chromebook.) They also have Blender setup information listed on the Deezmaker site, so it's possible this is a tool that was used by the Bukobot development team. It's not only free, it's Open Source, which is usually a strong plus for me.

Problem is, it really isn't designed primarily as a 3D modeling tool, except on the way to developing animations. Yes, you can hobble the application so it does 3D modeling, but it seems like harnessing a Clydesdale to a Radio Flyer to do so. 

It also seems like a great place to get lost in the distraction of a neat application. Since I know I have a tendency to do this, I don't think Blender is a good choice for me.

AutoDesk 123D Design and Catch

These are two free apps (both proprietary) that let you build your 3D model from a CAD design space or by converting photos of an existing object, which is a pretty slick concept. 

We played with the AutoDesk software for a while as we were exploring which 3D printer to purchase (over 18 months ago now), and even paid to have a sintered porcelain print made from a test shape by a commercial 3D print source.

Many models and shapes in Thingiverse were developed using these applications, but it didn't really "click" for either of us. Perhaps they seemed much more Mac/iOS oriented.

Trimble SketchUp

The table says Trimble SketchUp was formerly Google SketchUp, so that bodes well. The site has a whole Knowledge access page that offers tutorial videos, several levels of Guides, a Help Forum, and other resources. They offer both free access and Professional pricing.

More than that, they have a philosophy of learning that accords with my own: " and explore! Right-click a lot, you'll often discover a shortcut menu..."

The tutorials are hosted in YouTube, so I subscribed to the SketchUp channel, and watched the first video. 

I think we have a winner.