Hi everyone, I am new here and hoping I am putting this in the right place. Please accept my apologies now if I am not: I'm trying to figure this out as I go and hope you will be patient with a newbie as I do.
I am exploring the purchase of an x-carve and have some specific projects in mind. To ensure a good investment, I am attempting to 'build' one or more of these projects in software from start to toolpath, on the theory that if I can figure that out, the x-carve will be put to good use. If I cannot figure that out, it may not, and it is a lot of money, so I am taking it slowly.
As background, I am a serial prototyper of things and systems. Among other activities, I have in the past several years learned how to design circuit boards and use a reflow oven to bake parts onto them, taught myself two separate programming systems (R, Meteor) so I could learn how to build a software feedback loop for a live internet-based telemetry system, and recently wrote a tutorial based on a disconnected set of forum posts and online hints for how to install an open source automated licence plate reader software package onto a raspberry pi. I have a github page (amstanley) which I sometimes post things on and am active on twitter at @amstanley.
My interest in an x-carve stems from a perception that the materials available to home 3d printing systems are very limited: the things I would like to make are probably better expressed in metal, wood, and stone. This will indicate to you that I am pursuing artistic use cases, not engineering use cases, and evaluating the product and its ecosystem on that basis.
The workflow I am iniitally trying to understand is a 'found object' workflow. This workflow is core to the 3d printing world. The workflow consists of these steps:
- find an object and create a model of it using a sensor like a http://structure.io/ to generate a digital representation
- utilize one or more software tools to manipulate the digital representation to meet the constraints (build volume, etc) of the target physical renderer
- generate the instruction set required to enable a physical renderer to instantiate a new physical object from the digital representation.
- share the resulting digital files for others to then use and alter for their own purposes
- download digtal files created by others and either render them directly, or incorporate them into another work
I am writing the workflow definiton purposefully to be vague about details as I want to make it clear:
- I don't care particularly which sw tools actually get used, only that they be where-ever possible open source
- I don't care which platform is used to share files and create community value from work performed, only that such a capability exists.
- However, I do care that I be able to access and utilize the largest possible library of already available work to kickstart my activities. This means in particular that I believe I need to be able to utilize already created 3d models which are available from Thingiverse and elsewhere in .stl format as a basis for subsequent work.
In an attempt to understand how to enable this workflow, I set a specifc task to create an architectural accent piece from an existing .stl file on thingiverse. I randomly chose http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:456203 : I have a thing for antiquitites and would like to create bosses, tiles, and bas-relief panels based on works of antiquities. The challenge I set my self was to download the associated files, flatten the work so the work was contained within the 65 mm z-height of a 1000mm X-carve, and generate a toolpath to create a door boss (square tile in middle of the door) with a representation of the head of the person from the original work in the middle of it.
I started this project on Friday night. It is now Sunday evening. As I look at my laptop (it is a macbook air) I see that in the last 48 I have installed OpenSCAD, Inkscape, Extrudy, GIMP, Fusion 360, Blender, Meshmixer, and Memento; I am on try #7 within Fusion 360 of generating a workable representation;
I have watched about 2 dozen video tutorials of various kinds;
I have read about 100 forum posts.
I think a viable repeatable workflow might include
- downloading the .stl,
- importing it into Meshmixer and cutting the head off to reduce the size of the model,
- loading the result into either blender or memento and remeshing it to reduce the polygon count,
- importing that into Fusion 360 and then converting it into a body,
- and then manipulating the body so it can be incorporated into a CAM toolpath generation workflow.
Every time I try it, I get into the middle of the Fusion 360 part and I get totally and completely lost at the part where you import it and turn it into a body so you can futher cut it and shape it into final form.
I know it can be done as several tutorials I have watched or read refer to the process for doing it. None of them seem to contain step by step instructions for how: they just say you can do it, and then show a slightly different workflow, which just confuses me further. I'm pretty sure it is something simple I am just not getting, but I have exhausted my self and my available time to beat my way through it this weekend.
I thought maybe this was a Fusion 360 learning curve issue, but when I looked, the Fusion 360 educational materials do not seem to explcitily explain how to do this. Amazon contains no books for Fusion 360. The online tutorials do not, at first glance, seem to be helpful without a lot more digging.
Then I started questioning whether there might be another tool, an easier process, and I realized that I was down a rabbit hole on Fusion 360, and working pretty hard to convince myself that an x-carve would meet my needs. SO I stopped what I was doing and I sat down to write this instead.
I've read a lot of posts in the last two days about .stl support, about easel, about unspoken suspicion or downright unwillingness to support files from Thingiverse, about how mesh-based models don't render well, about how the need to support this found object workflow is not a need the core x-carve constituency has expressed. These posts make me sad, because at its heart the found object workflow is really a tool to reduce or eliminate friction on the path to user delight at the feeling of holding a physical artifact that they have made. Whatever you may think about Makerbot and how that all worked out, they did get this part absolutely right. They understood that delight is the real product: the x-carve, or makerbot, or whatever the tool on the webpage is may be what you are selling, but it is not what customers are buying. They are buying an opportunity for delight, and this is a perfectly legitmate way for them to try to get to it.
In all of the posts I have read, the common elements seem to be:
- a desire to utilize .stl as a file format of orgin
- an identification of easel as the Inventables software strategy to eliminate new user friction
- an admission that easel won't satisfy this more complex use case, meaning it cannot enable the delight the customer is seeking
- a set of random suggestions on how to move forward, usually involving a lot of FUD regarding the utility, wisdom or desirablility of achieving the objective, none of which is actually very helpful.
- a sense of disappointment, sometimes but not always expressed, that the x-carve is not living up to (what may be perceived to be unreasonable) expectations.
Hence this post, and my (apparently far from) simple request:
Can someone please post a step by step written, repeatable, tutorial detailing how to utilize the original material found at http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:456203 and take it from download through generation of a CAM toolpath that will render it as a door boss, with detailed explanations of each intermediate step taken? Bonus points for a video IN ADDITION to the written tutorial.
I am sorry, I cannot offer a $$ reward for this: If I can understand this then all of my $$ is going for an x-carve. You will have, however, my gratitude and the gratitude of everyone coming after me from the 3D world, for explaining how these universes can be joined together, and the knowledge that you have reduced the suffering of all of us who have approached this product in hopes of doing this or a similar thing. There seem to be a lot of us, and we will be grateful.
Sorry for the long post. I hope you will read it in the spirit in which it was intended: honest feedback and a request for help in reducing the friction preventing me from buying and enjoying the tool. If you hacve made it this far, thanks for reading.