My son Hawk loves to draw. He is always drawing cool robots and I archive them on a separate Instagram account. Recently he and I have dabbled in 3d modeling and I wanted to show him that his cool designs can easily be 3d printed.
1. Grab a Picture
Like I said, my sons draws a lot fantastical creatures that would make for an awesome action figure. A picture of family members can easily be turned into a 3d printed addition to your living room portraits. If you are drawing something specifically for this project, use dark and bold lines so it is easier to trace in the modeling software.
You’ve heard me talk about Fusion 360 a lot. It is a cloud-based modeling software package that allows the user to draw in 2D then turn those shapes into 3 dimensional bodies that can easily be 3d printed, used as project plans, sculpted like clay, or animated to show movement and interaction between parts. There is a wealth of knowledge online if you are new to 3d modeling, but this project will help get your feet wet. You can download Fusion 360 for free, after you create an account you can sign up for a free license if you are using it as a hobbyist. Of course, Fusion 360 isn’t the only modeling software available, TinkerCAD is a great 3d modeling tool that is geared for children and uses really basic shapes to introduce working in digital 3d space.
In Fusion, I used the Insert icon on the main toolbar to import my son’s picture, this will be the canvas that I’ll trace over. I then started a new sketch and selected the picture as my drawing plane. Use the Line tool to simply trace out the image, making sure to reconnect the ends of the lines to form enclosed shapes. Be sure to trace over all of the child’s lines, not just the outside. To ensure all of the details translate to extruded 3d bodies, each lines should be traced out.
Now that you have the traced drawing, it is time to add another dimension (Insert Intergalactic by The Beastie Boys)! Select the Extrude tool and highlight one of the shapes you made in the previous step. Use the little blue arrow to pull the flat drawing into a 3d body. Repeat this step until your model looks as proportioned as you’d like it to be. Once you have the new 3d version of the drawing, it is a good idea to take off the sharp edges. Tracing and extruding geometric shapes usually results in sharp edges and corners, if you are making this for a child, those edges can be problematic. Using the Fillet or the Chamfer tools under the Modify icon, you can select one or multiple edges of your models and either round them over or add a slight bevel to make the finished product easier to handle.
Slicing software is a go-between product that will convert 3d shapes into code the 3d printer will understand, called G-code. There are many slicing option available, I used Slic3r but one free version is called Cura and it allows you to readjust the size of your object, set the density of your printed piece, and add support material for any drastic overhangs. If you have a 3d printer, then you should already have the settings for your machine set up in the software, but if you are using a shared printer, confirm the build settings prior to saving the model. Fusion 360 allows you to export your model directly to a slicing software that you specify, it’s a really handy option that is found by clicking the Make icon.
Once the print is completed, carefully remove it from the build plate and assemble (if you used multiple pieces). If the joints are too tight, you can sand them until they fit together snuggly; if they are too loose, you can apply a few coats of primer and paint to close up the gaps. I chose to paint my model, and I did so by applying a few coats of filler primer and some spray paint. The paint left the joints a little tight, so I scraped some off the connecting pegs and it came together quite nicely. You can also chose to print your pieces in different colored filament so you don’t have to paint them at all. You can find many different types and colors of filament at Matterhackers.com.
Now Go Surprise Your Kids!
In conclusion, my son really loved the 3d printed toy made from his drawing. I was super excited to see him react to something that he created and that I made a reality. This could be the beginning of a whole line of specialized and one-off toys for you or your family. I hoped you enjoyed this simple exercise in 3d modeling and printing and if you are looking for more projects in that genre, check out more of my work.
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