One of the greatest discoveries made by the participants of our trainings and workshops in 3D printing is the existence of the Microsoft’ 3D Builder App and the fact that with its help everyone can easily and quickly create 3D models. I have already written a lot of articles about this simple application on the pages of our websites, however the reactions of the people we train clearly confirm my belief that whatever I wrote them, it would always be too little…

In this tutorial, we will design and print a keychain, using a graphics software for bitmap processing, 3D Builder, one of the most popular slicers – CURA and the Ultimaker 3 3D printer. We will focus more on working on the graphics software, where we will prepare files that are the basis for working in 3D Builder and CURA, where I will describe two useful options – smoothing (“ironing”) of the prints and automatic pausing of the 3D printer during work.

The tutorial will include a graphic theme from the legendary and groundbreaking album “Jane Doe” by the band Converge. Although for the vast majority of readers neither the band – nor its “legendary and groundbreaking” album says anything, the contribution they made to the development of extreme sound is undisputed and undeniable. Without going into too much detail – the album was 61st on the Rolling Stone list of the best albums in the history of heavy metal music and 1st place on the Loudwire list of the best metalcor records (a genre that Converge de facto created). There are even lectures on this album at the renowned Berklee College of Music.

The album cover was created by Converge singer Jacob Bannon and set a new trend in the design of album covers on the punk and hard-core scene. And the famous girl from this cover will be the subject of this tutorial.

On the website of the official Converge store, we can find such a metal pin:

On its basis, we will prepare our gadget… For work we will need:

  • graphics software for bitmap graphics – I will use Affinity Photo
  • 3D modeling program – I will use 3D Builder, which you can download from Microsoft Store for free
  • program for preparing models for 3D printing – I will use CURA 3.4.0
  • 3D printer – I will use the Ultimaker 3
  • two filament colors – I will use PLA Ultimaker in black and silver.

STEP 1 – preparing bitmaps

In Affinity Photo, I open a photo of the metal pin. I’m also adding a new layer to work on.

Using the “wand” tool, I mark the white background around the pin.

In the “select” menu I choose “invert pixel selection” – now only the pin is selected.

I go to the newly created layer and fill it with black. This will be the basis of my gadget pin. I save it as a .JPG file (e.g. jane_doe_background.jpg).

I move the layer to the bottom under the photo layer. I am creating a new layer on which I draw Jane’s face. I use the “select” tool for this. I do not mark the entire surface at once, but I do it in fragments so as not to start all over again in case of a mistake.

I mark each piece of the surface and fill them with white color.

IMPORTANT NOTE! The original photo has a lot of minor flaws – it makes absolutely no sense to try to recreate them, because they will not come out during 3D printing, or worse, they will spoil the final visual effect. This is a general rule in the case of this type of project, where we have to make compromises between the detail of the project and what we will finally be able to print on a 3D printer. And although all we do is recreate someone’s work, at this point we have a tiny field to show off and the final appearance of the detail will depend on our decisions.

Finally, I turn off the visibility of the first two layers and invert the colors with the CTRL + I keyboard shortcut. I have the second layer of the tag ready, which I save as jane_doe_front.jpg.

STEP 2 – building the 3D model

I open 3D Builder and choose the OPEN / LOAD IMAGE option. I start with the background – jane_doe_background.jpg.

I’m turning off the textures and changing the reverse.

I import the second file exactly the same way – jane_doe_front.jpg.

The objects are not adjusted to each other – I have to lift the top layer a bit up.

I set the dimensions for the pin: 80 mm high and 2 mm thick. IMPORTANT NOTE: the bottom layer is 1 mm and the top layer is 2 mm. I position both layers at the bottom of the stage with the “embed” option.

Finally, two last things. I add a circle with the “torus” shape …

… and merge all three objects together. I export the file as .STL.

STEP 3 – preparing the model for 3D printing in CURA

I open the newly created .STL file in CURA. I choose PLA as the material, set the layer height to 0.2 mm, and leave the filling to the default 20% (it does not matter, because the gadget will be 100% filled due to its low height). The default runtime of the Ultimaker 3 3D printer is 00:52. Material consumption is 8g.

The pin will be flat, so its surface should be of the best quality. To achieve this we will use the “ironing” function – after the last layer of the model is finished, still hot printhead runs over it “dry”, ie without extruding the filament, smoothing its surface. The function is run in the advanced settings section “CUSTOM”, in the “SHELL” section. The model will look nicer, but it will print almost half an hour longer – 01:18.

What to do if we do not see such a function in CURA? We have to turn on its visibility … Generally CURA has several hundred advanced functions, however, for the sake of mental health of beginners and less advanced users, Ultimaker disables their view by default. To enable them, you must either click the gear that appears on the bar with the name of the section, or select PREFERENCES / CONFIGURE CURA / SETTINGS in the main menu.

The pin will have two colors – the background will be black and the face will be silver. I can achieve this by either using two printheads and two materials, or simply change the color halfway through the 3D print. In CURA I set an automatic pause – to do this, I select EXTENSIONS / POST PROCESSING / MODIFY G-CODE in the top menu.

I select the “Filament change” function from the drop-down list. The change will take place on the sixth layer, i.e. when the 3D printer prints the first face layer.

STEP 4 – 3D printing

I start 3D printing with black PLA. After printing 6 layers, the 3D printer pauses and I change the filament to silver.

You can already see the first effects of “ironing” – eye sockets, nose, mouth and chin are already finished.

The 3D printer adds layers of silver filament …

And finishes the job.

You can download .STL file from here.

The technique is very simple and may be used in various of projects…

Paweł Ślusarczyk
CEO of 3D Printing Center. Has over 15 years' experience in buisiness, gained in IT, advertising and polygraphy. Part of 3D printing industry since 2013.

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