Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cubify Sculpt - Emboss/Texture Maps: A Power Tool Combination

One of the problems I've had with previous sculpting tools I've tried is just how long it takes to make something useful in an educational setting.  If all we had were Push/Pull style tools, that would be true of Cubify Sculpt.  But, it's worth taking a look at the EMBOSS AREA tool and particularly the CUSTOM (with TEXTURE MAPS) option.

In fact, a good number are included with the Cubify Sculpt install, in the PATTERNS directory under the directory where Cubify Sculpt is installed.

Any black & white bitmap image having various levels of gray can be used with the Emboss Area tool.  The lighter the area, the higher the embossing action.  White areas will emboss the highest and black will not be raised at all.  The shades in between will be raised higher as the color moves to white and lower as the color moves toward black.


My main reason for exploring this feature so early is that a number of people have asked me about using the Cube / 3D Printing in an elementary school setting where the time allotted to teaching a 3D creation is limited.  At first, I was skeptical that Cubify Sculpt would meet that requirement,

But, the more I have explored the concepts of "TEMPLATES" (pre-designed basic shapes to be modified) and "Texture Maps" (pre-designed embossing stamps), the more I'm convinced that Sculpt would allow teachers to integrate 3D printing in just about any classroom.


From my high school days, one of my most consistent hobbies has been protozoology.  Some people watch birds, I watch protozoa.  In the late 1970's I taught Junior High Science and so it was natural for me to begin the exploration into how EMBOSS AREA could be used to provide a jumpstart for a student to design their own protozoa models.  For a future article, I will create a tutorial showing how the Texture Map was created and used.  But, for now here are images that show the Texture Map on the left and the final model on the right.

Amoeba Texture Map (Bitmap)

The above image was created in a 3D paint program.  Any, paint program can be used.  The important thing is that lighter areas will result in higher embossing and the black areas will not emboss at all.

Here is the above picture side-by-side with the resulting 3D object.

3D Amoeba Created From Texture Map

Here is another view that demonstrates the embossing a bit better. 

Amoeba Model at an Angle

The bumps in the surface were added after the emboss created the basic shape.  The embossing was done on the surface of a cube and then the cube was cut away using the REMOVE CLAY WITH BOX tool.  While the Texture Map was used like a stamp on the surface of the cube, there was still plenty of design modifications, such as lumps, bumps and indentations to the surface that the student could add.  Older students could have even created the Texture Map itself.  In fact, the Texture Map could even be created using a microscope image of a real creature!  Just convert the color image to black & white.

Finished Amoeba

The beauty in the fact that we can use gray scale images to create 3D features is that the images can be created in a variety of ways, including mathematically   Again, this isn't great art.  But, it DOES demonstrate the usefulness of Cubify Sculpt in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) program. 

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