Friday, July 6, 2012

Designing for Makerbot using SketchUp- Get Started Guide

The Makerbot Arrives
A few months ago I received a mini-grant for a Makerbot for our library which serves a small 4 year liberal arts university.  While my excitement was met with some raised eyebrows and confused looks from some colleagues- I quickly realized that it was "on me" to figure the Makerbot out and ultimately implement the thing for student use.  While the summer days are burning away at a rapid rate, I have at least experimented and designed an original simple object which carried me through the process from design to 3D printing.

Using Google SketchUp for Makerbot 3D Design

I decided to go with Google SketchUp for the 3D design software and after a few minutes of watching some tutorial videos, I was on my way to designing a baseball holder for a MLB game-used ball that I had sitting on the mantle at home.  I used the free version of Google SketchUp for the Mac. 

There is one crucial plug-in that you must install on Google SketchUp 7 or 8 (I used 8) that will enable you to export your digital file to the compulsory .STL file format (that you will open in Replicator G).

The SKP to STL plug-in is available here and if you are on a Mac with 10.7 you will have to locate your Library folder which has been hidden for some reason by Apple.  Anyway, this video helped me locate the HD Library folder (I am a somewhat new Mac OS X user). Locating the Library folder on Mac OS X Lion 

Once you have downloaded and installed the SketchUp to .STL plugin and put the plug-in file in the right SketchUp folder you should find the "Export to .STL" option under Tools in Google SketchUp.

Run your STL through Netfab Cloud Service before Replicator G

The next step you want to do once you have a saved .STL file is to run it through Netfab Cloud Service (Beta) this really helped smooth out some of the design issues that occured within SketchUp and ultimately crashed my first build- with the help of Netfab my second print went smoothly.

Macbook Air Connected to Makerbot

Connect to Makerbot or dump .STL on to SD Card

It is nice to get all of the feedback when connecting to the Makerbot from your computer, though it seems a little more practical to just dump the final file from Replicator G on the SD Card and insert it into the Makerbot.  You can find the complete guide to using Replicator G at the link above and I found the program fairly easy to use and navigate around.
Simple but useful with raised lettering

While my design was simple and was not without flaws (I keep having one edge turn up even while using a raft or increasing the temp of the room) I did learn that the process from design conception to holding the final object in your hands (after a few hours work) is indeed possible and truly exciting. 

I am looking forward to having students experience this new medium in the fall and even hope to make it a part of a few related courses on campus.

Read an update on this academic library Makerbot.

*Information contained within these pages do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Schreiner University.

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