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3D design and 3D printing - Blender, TinkerCAD, FreeCAD and more

When starting out with a 3D printer many will just print creations from others such as the resources on Thingiverse. It is not too difficult to get started in designing your own creations.

There are a variety of tools available on Linux that support creating 3D models and then tools that can convert those ready for 3D printing. Some of these are explained in the projects below.

Some of the insipiration for these 3D projects is our G-Scale outdoor model railway. Other projects are related to cases for Raspberry Pi projects and games etc.

3D modelling with Blender and 3D printing

Blender is an open source 3D design tool. A drawing tool for creating 3D objects, animations and even games.

Screen shot 3D model created in Blender on a Raspberry Pi

This is a short talk for the Raspberry Pi Birthday 2018. It's about what Blender is and how it can be used as a tool when looking to create computer games.
There's also a presentation from a CodeClub meeting which talks about Blender and TinkerCAD.

2D Animations using Blender

As well as 3D modelling Blender can be used for 2D animations. In particular the new 2D animation workbench on Blender 2.8 and Blender 2.9 makes this much easier.

See the following article for more details, including how to use the Shader Editor to change the transparency of 2D images on plane.

3D CAD using TinkerCAD

TinkerCAD is a web-based 3D design tool. It runs in a web browser so can be accessed from a Linux computer as long as you have an active Internet connection. It's very easy to use for simple designs.

Screenshot of TinkerCAD used to create models for a 3D printer

3D design using FreeCAD parametric 3D modeler

FreeCAD is an open source 3D design program available for Linux and Windows. It is a 3D parametric modeler, which means that models are designed by adding constraints that determine the relationship between shapes and dimensions. This can make it difficult for beginners faced with a steep learning curve to learn the concept before they can put it into practice. To help make this easier I've created a beginners guide video which goes step through step on getting started using FreeCAD.

Electronics workbench breadboard holder designed in FreeCAD

Laser cut designs using FreeCAD, Inkscape and LightBurn

Learn to create laser cut enclosures for Raspberry Pi and electronics projects. This includes the steps involved in designing a wooden box, which has a sloping top with switches. The box includes interlocking tabs making it easy to assemble and nice and strong.

Laser cut box with sloping front for Model railway point controller Raspberry Pi Pico project

The design takes you through the main steps using:

  • FreeCAD (computer aided design)
  • Inkscape (vector drawing software)
  • LightBurn (Laser cutter control software)

Both FreeCAD and Inkscape are free open source software (FOSS), but LightBurn is a commercial paid for application. I'm not aware of a free alternative which works as well as LightBurn, so for now I am using the commercial software for that.

Minecraft Print - Create 3D printer models from Minecraft

Screen shot of the Minecraft Print application

A program for creating physical models on a 3D printer based on Minecraft designs. The program is designed in Python using mcpi to interface with Minecraft, Pyqt to create a graphical user interface for the user. The program then creates an OpenSCAD computer aided design file which can be used to create a 3D model suitable for 3D printers.


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Model railway departure sign (RPi)
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Creating 3D CAD designs in FreeCAD