Tuesday, 12 February 2019

A Simple Start

It's been too darned cold in the unheated conservatory to consider 3D printing until today.
I have a small collection of business cards which usually end up in an untidy pile on the desk.
Then I keep knocking and scattering them on the floor.
I had been looking for a simple idea for my first 'from scratch' 3D design.
Previously I had only used designs downloaded from various sites.
A little box to keep the cards tidy seemed like a good place to start.

First task was to come to terms with v0.18 of FreeCAD to design the box.
Essentially it is made starting with two solid cubes.
One is enlarged to make the outside walls of the box.
The second is made slightly smaller to make the inside walls.
The small one is fitted inside the larger one and the program told to cut out the smaller one.
This makes the hollow box to hold the cards.

(2019-2-12 10.36.52 am)

The idea was to save that as a .stl file for the next process but FreeCAD refused to do that.
Fortunately there are lots of export choices so I tried saving it as a .obj file.
That worked.

Next I loaded the .obj file in Ultimaker Cura and told it to slice the design to make the instructions needed by the 3D printer. It will instruct the printer what to do on each 0.2mm layer.

 (2019-2-12 10.44.25 am)

That was saved as a .gcode file and transferred to the 3D printer on an SD card.
Reel of grey PLA filament loaded.
Finally the long wait as the printer strutted its stuff to create the box.


It took 3 hrs 16 minutes to print.



Job done.


  1. Brilliant John. I am sure I've exported stl.fies from FreeCAD. stl is as standard as it gets, obj. files are for if you have textured them...I think.. Mind you the number of video formats there used to be, containers and formats. A nightmare it was, every smart arse had there own. Whatever; the Boolean whatsit in FreeCAD is ten times easier than it is in Blender.
    Good job.

    1. Adrian. Thank you. All the videos I've seen about exporting .stl have been for v0.17 When I try in 0.18 I fill in name.stl but nothing gets saved. Maybe a glitch in the latest version? Also the mesh workbench seems to be faulty in 0.18 as the save stays greyed out. Maybe just a fault with the Mac version.

    2. John. I'm sill on v.17. It worked fine last week. You are running posh pre-release stuff. I can attest and sympathise, it is a nightmare but it is free. Nothing much you can do till the coders catch up. The posh ones are not much better. SolidWorks can be a real pain.

    3. PPS. Mesh has never worked for me either. I guess it must and I clicked wrong along the way.

  2. PS> stl. should be there in export. I'll download it and have a look see.

  3. A big step forward, John. Just think of the possibilities . . . .

  4. Wilma: Plenty of possibilities. Maybe not the ability to carry many through ;)

  5. My friend has one, that occasionally wakes his wife up as it chugs away overnight

  6. Fantastic piece of kit. No doubt with endless possibilities. Now what else do you need?

  7. Dave: Need? Not sure, but I keep looking at the laser engravers / cutters.

  8. John, we bought some coasters at a craft fair made with laser cutters and the detail is incredible.


Thank you for visiting. Hope you enjoyed the pictures. Any comment, or correction to any information or identification I get wrong, is most welcome. John

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