This instructable goes through how to design and print a variety of 3D models using a system called the ‘UCube’.
Note: I would love to eventually publish detailed instructions on how to make your own UCube, but since the design is still changing and improving, this post will gloss over a lot of those details and focus on how you can model and print 3D objects just by flipping a few switches.
This project was designed and built at the Craft Technology Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder: http://l3d.cs.colorado.edu/~ctg/Craft_Tech.html
Here’s a brief video overview of (some) what the UCube can do:
Step 1: The Basics
The pictures in this section follow a simple use-case for the UCube: defining the vertices of a model on the physical interface, selecting the convex hull of the active points through the software, exporting the .STL file of your model, and printing it out on a 3D printer.
The next sections will go through more complex modeling techniques and features of the UCube system. (You can do much more than make a cube).
Step 2: More Complex Modeling
The knot mode allows you to record a sequence of selected points on the UCube and draw a 3D path connecting those points. First, you select the ‘knot’ button from the sidebar (shown in pictures in the step). Next, activate (in sequence) the points you want the knot to follow – the software will build the knot in real time on the screen. If you make a mistake or change your mind, you can hit the ‘clear knot’ button and start again. If you want a closed loop kind of knot, click the ‘close knot’ button when you’re done modeling. You’re now ready to export your knot to and STL file and print it out! Sweet!
Step 3: Other Functionality
In addition to solid shapes and knots, the UCube software has some additional functionality that increases it’s flexibility and expressiveness. As mentioned earlier, the UCube can model splines through a path of points (like the knot, but with curves and without a 3D mesh to print out). The UCube also has an ‘edit’ mode whereby you can tweak the points of your shape by clicking and dragging them on screen. This allows the modeling of shapes with vertices that lie outside the structured grid of points that the switches default to.
Step 4: Notes on Building Your Own UCube
Much of the code and documentation can be found at http://benatwork.cc – and this is where future updates will live, until I’ve finalized the project enough to write an end-to-end tutorial to post here.