Friday, August 30, 2013

Cubify Sculpt and the SpaceNavigator

Good News!

The SpaceNavigator 3D Mouse device from 3DConnexion works well with Cubify Sculpt!!!

I had noticed that the Options Dialog had a tab for "SpaceBall Device".   Since I knew that the original SpaceBall had been discontinued, I asked Sculpt Support if that feature would work with the SpaceNavigator that seems to have replaced the original Spaceball.  They indicated that it would.

So, yesterday, I ordered the SpaceNavigator from B&H Photo and it arrived today!!!  That was a big surprise since I expected it no sooner than next Tuesday.  B&H Photo must have UPS trucks lined up at their loading dock because that was amazingly fast shipping from New York to Kensington, MD!''

I will include a short demonstration of the control that the SpaceNavigator provides in an upcoming tutorial.  It's going to take some practice to isolate just the motion I want without affecting other motions.  But, I can already see that it is a great investment and works quite well.  The speed with which it works can easily be controlled either from Sculpt or in the SpaceNavigator control form.

Control Includes...
  • Pan Up and Down
  • Pan Left and Right
  • Zoom In and Out
  • Spin
  • Tilt
  • Roll

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cubify Sculpt Tutorial #3: The Beauty of Emboss Area and Texture Maps

I mentioned Emboss Area and Text Maps in a previous post.  I expect to explore these two features in many more tutorials.  They are SO powerful and make adding ornamentation SO easy that it truly makes designing in Sculpt child's play!

When I first heard that the president of 3D Systems was committed to the democratization of 3D printing and design, it was difficult to know if it was a sales slogan or a fundamental core value.  With the introduction of Cubify Sculpt, I now know that it is definitely a fundamental core value and a true commitment.  Cubify Sculpt has the potential to bring 3D design to just about every age group and just about every level of technical competence.

As an educator that taught from 1st grade to high school students, I always hoped that someone would create a product that could be used at the elementary level as well as the higher grades.  While younger students might not be able to create great works of 3D art with Cubify Sculpt, I am convinced that the feature set WILL allow them to successful create nice objects to be printed on a 3D printer.

Cubify Sculpt has the potential to be a major tool for school projects in STEM, Art, Geography and other disciplines.  In this video we show how a simple 2D STENCIL and TOPOGRAPHIC MAP are easily turned into Texture Maps to create reasonably complex 3D features. 

As you can see, a simple paint program can be used to create a tool to be used with EMBOSS AREA to complement any shape.  The fact that Texture Maps WRAP make them particularly powerful.

Cubify Sculpt has exceeded my expectations in a HUGE way.

Cubify Sculpt Tutorial #2 - Setup and Potter's Wheel Simulation

I'm simply amazed that I have been able to actually complete some demonstration projects so quickly in Cubify Sculpt.  I can assure you that this would not have been possible in any of the other sculpting applications I've tried to learn in the past.

One of the first upgrade features that I asked for when I first opened Cubify Sculpt was the ability to manipulate the clay in the fashion of a Potter's Wheel.  Well, it turns out that we can do just that using some hot keys or, I hope, by using a Spaceball type of device.  I've been told that the SpaceNavigator device can be used to spin objects with one hand as the other is used to sculpt.  But, we don't have to wait until a SpaceNavigator arrives to test the concept.

It turns out that the ARROW KEYS can be used to spin the object a specified number of degrees and by holding down the ARROW KEY we can do so continuously.

Here is a video that shows the concept!

The image used for the video preview is the SpaceNavigator.  I have ordered one and should have it by next week.  I was under $100 and I am looking forward to seeing how well it works!

The combination of being able to start with an STL, like the chalice, which is VERY easy to create in a CAD program; but, slow to create in a sculpting application and the having the ability to quickly add features while spinning the piece is a VERY powerful capability.  The ARROWS and other Hot-Keys are good things to explore.

I love it!

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. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The NOT AN ARTIST Cubify Sculpt Tutorial!

It's a good thing that I don't embarrass easily.  Because, when people see what I'm able to achieve in Cubify Sculpt some are going to fall on the floor and laugh their heads off.   Yikes!

But, let's put things in perspective.

A LOT of us that are interested in 3D printing are not great artists.  We simply want to be able to have some fun and create some objects that we can print on our 3D printers.  My gift, if I have one when it comes to most 3D applications, is that I am tireless when it comes to trying to figure out how they work so that I can help others, with more artistic talent, become more productive faster.  I get the technical aspects if not the artistic aspects.  :)

As you may already know, the whole reason that I became interested in 3D printing was because my oldest daughter IS a very talented clay sculptor and it was frustrating to watch some of her best work crack in the kiln after weeks and months of work.  So, it was natural for me to explore 3D printing and 3D early sculpting applications... beginning with MudBox.

Now, there was nothing wrong with Mudbox.  But, it simply was not easy enough for either of us to be comfortable with it.   While we abandoned Mudbox, we clung to hope that we WOULD eventually find a virtual clay program that we COULD grasp.

I think we have found it.  And, that is Cubify Sculpt.  So, Cubify Sculpt is very important to me on a personal level.  I may not make great art with it.  But, I know some people who just might.

Admittedly my first samples are going to be crude.  But, they are nonetheless important in demonstrating to me just how important it is to pursue Cubify Sculpt as far as possible.  I've only had it a few days and am happy with where I am in the process of scoping it out.  Of course, I'm aiming a bit lower than I hope many of you are aiming.  And, I am looking forward to what YOU will be able to achieve in Sculpt.  But, here is my first attempts at creating with a goal in mind.

Potato Man

I knew that my best bet was to aim at creating something with big features.  Having consulted to Hasbro, I knew the perfect subject.  I love Mr. Potato Head!

Potato Man Created with Cubify Sculpt

Green Monster

I spend about a year working with a wonderful program for children called Cosmic Blobs.  While not a true Virtual Clay Sculpting program, it was wonderful at creating mythical beasts and funny monsters.  So, it was natural for me to see what I could do with Sculpt when it came to weird monsters!  Green ones, in fact.

Green Monster Created with Cubify Sculpt

Perhaps the reason I liked Cosmic Blobs and Cubify Sculpt is that I THINK like a seven year old!

Again, these don't put me up there with the best 3D artists in the world.  But, they do tell me that I can have a LOT of fun with Cubify Sculpt and, perhaps, eventually do some very nice things.

In the meantime, I will be exploring the tools in Cubify Sculpt and inviting any and all to come along for the ride.  So, here is Tutorial #1, Introduction.

P.S. I was very flattered to see that someone already gave this video FIVE STARS between the time it was uploaded a little while ago and just now as I selected it for this blog.  I hope that means that everyone interested in Sculpt will find it helpful!

I urge you to give Sculpt a try.  Be sure to look for the FREE STL files link on the Sculpt Download page.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Cubify Sculpt - At Last We Can Edit STL Objects

I've been playing with Cubify Sculpt for the last couple of days.  My schedule hasn't allowed me to complete an indepth review.  But, I can tell you that I like it.  And, one of the most compelling selling points is that it finally gives us a way to customize and modify STL files that we find on the web.

It's easy to miss; but, 3D Systems has provided some free STL "Templates" on the same page where you can download the Trial version of Cubify Sculpt.  So, be sure to scroll down to the free STL link so that you can check out how well Sculpt works on STL surfaces.  Nice.

I should be able to post some Cubify Sculpt tutorial videos in the next day or so.

To be honest, modifying objects built in other 3D packages is probably how most of us will use Sculpt.  While an experienced person may be able to create amazingly complex characters, etc.  Mere mortals probably will find that building the bulk of the object in another 3D package and then using Sculpt to give it a more organic form is probably the most efficient use of Sculpt.  Sculpt will become and important part of our design workflow.

Once you have used Sculpt I think you will agree that it's not an either/or question when it comes to finding the best way to create those objects we want to print.  I will demonstrate how to integrate Cubify Sculpt with Moment of Inspiration to enhance objects in a way that would be tough to achieve in a CAD like environment.

It's going to be fun!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cubify Sculpt is Released!

First a little history...

Around six years ago, when I first became interested in 3D printing, it was obvious to me that the then current batch of software tools was daunting for mere mortals.  So, when Mudbox was released I instantly hopped on it and created a blog to document my learning progress.


As you can see, if you clicked on the link, I didn't get very far.  There was nothing wrong with Mudbox.  It was a wonderful product and artists could do amazing things with it.  But, I'm not an artist.  So, it was just an exercise in pain for me.  So, reluctantly, I moved on to something else.

That something else turned out to be exactly what I needed at the time.  A truly simple 3D interface that relied on using tools to manipulate the surface and shape of an object.  It was a product designed for children... making it perfect for me!  And, again. I started a blog to document my owning learning process for other new users.  This time the result was completely opposite of my Mudbox experience!

Cosmic Blobs Blog

I loved every minute of working with Cosmic Blobs.  It was a totally different experience than I'd had with the much more complex Mudbox product.  At the time, they had a "Pro" version called CBModelPro and I also tackled that with gusto with another blog!

CBModelPro Blog

I enjoyed these programs immensely.  But, unfortunately, the surface modeling technology upon which they were built was limited and as the models (and users) became more complex, the programs would grind to a halt.  So, the company behind these products pulled the plug.  They are no longer supported.

Along Comes Cubify Sculpt

I do not know, as yet, how I will fare with Cubify Sculpt.  But, in the few hours since I downloaded the trial, it appears to be very promising.  While it APPEARS to be very much like Mudbox, I can already tell that it has a much simpler interface with just the most critical tools and the most critical adjustments to those tools.  I don't expect to be overwhelmed when trying to learn it.  But, if I am, you will be the first to know.  For, I do plan to document my learning process with videos.

In the meantime, here is an introductory video that Cubify has released to help give you an idea of how it works!

And, here is the LINK to where you can download the 14 day trial or purchase it. 

Personally, I am REALLY looking forward to trying it!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Thingamajig Only Scratched the Surface of USPTO's Educational Outreach!

I have to admit that I was completely in the dark about the work that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was doing to promote creative thinking through its Office of Education and Outreach when I was first asked if I would participate in the Thingamajig Invention Convention.

What I didn't realize is that the USPTO Office of education and Outreach programs go beyond simply participating in an occasional special event.  It turns out that they have focused on 3D printing by bringing in students from area schools to engage them in the entire conceptualization, design and printing process over an extended period of time.

Moreover, this effort also extended on an international level through an exchange program whereby visiting Korean students joined U.S. students in joint 3D printing workshops. The Korean students were visiting the US as part of a program sponsored by the Korean Intellectual Property Organization and  Korean Invention Promotion Association.   The American students were summer camp participants from the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.  This is wonderful on so many levels.

As anyone knows that has read this blog, I firmly believe that 3D printing is NOT about printing out cheap plastic objects.  At its heart, 3D printing is about releasing the creative energy in all of us by allowing us to realize, in a concrete form, the ideas that our brains conceive.

As I got to know more about the work of the USPTO Office of Education and Outreach, it was clear that their mission is committed to that same premise on a grand scale!!!

OK.  I'm pretty conservative when it comes to the government spending my tax money.  But, if there was ever a program that I can get behind, it is the outreach efforts that I have just now discovered that are being done by a very creative and innovative team of public servants.  NOTHING is more important to me than having EVERY student come to the realization that ALL of us have marvelous brains and that ALL of us can learn how to use those brains to do amazing things.  This IS the focus of the USPTO team that is responsible for outreach among students and learners of all ages.

On top of all these hands-on programs, the USPTO Office of Education and Outreach, along with the Office of Innovation Development joined with the National Science Foundation and NBC Learning to produce an 11 part series called Science of Innovation that is available online to schools and home educators.  Number 9 in the series is titled "Science of Innovation: 3-D Printing"   Here is the segment on YouTube. 

Lesson plans are available on the Science of Innovation site.

Now, I want to say something important about the work of the USPTO Office of Education and Outreach.  For my practice teaching in college I was assigned to work in a kindergarten in an inner city mission in Washington, DC.  I was astounded to learn that most of the children had never even seen a pair of scissors and had no idea at all how they worked.  I had expected scissors to be a part of every home environment for young children.  It was not.  Not all children have the same start in life.  I have never forgotten that lesson.

It would be a huge mistake to see the efforts of engaging kids in "maker" projects as simply fun activities for kids.  From my work with YouthQuest Foundation in the Freestate Challenge Academy I have come to see these kinds of mentoring as having tremendous potential for being life altering for students engaged in designing and printing 3D objects.  A kid that may walk in with a nagging feeling that they are a failure can come to realize that they CAN be creative and successful at doing things others consider "hard" and when that happens it is entirely possible to completely alter the path of that student's life and choices.  I have seen that first-hand in an extremely powerful way.  So, the USPTO has won a new fan.  If ever there was a case to be made for investing money to save money it is in efforts like these and I applaud them.

So, my joy at being involved in the Thingamajig Invention Convention now goes well beyond the event itself.  I will continue to follow their work and seek out stories for this blog that demonstrate what 3D printing is all about.... growing brains!  :)

The Cube Travels to the YMCA Thingamajig

As I have mentioned multiple times, one of the things that impresses me about the Cube 3D printer is how well it travels.  And, this makes it easy to say, "Yes!" when asked to be a part of educational events for students.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Office of Education and Outreach has participated in the Thingamajig Invention Convention as part of it's educational outreach mission.  And, this year they wanted to introduce 3D printing to the students that visit their booth.  I was very happy to agree to help out by bringing some Cube 3D printers to the event as a volunteer participant.

For a local event, Thingamajig is huge.  It was held at the Prince George's County Equestrian Center in the Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.  YMCA centers from DC, Maryland and Virginia bring in thousands of students to participate in the event.

The Cube factory is located in northern Virginia and I knew that every Cube that is built is tested by printing a shoe.  With the popularity of the Cube, this means that they have LOTS of shoes.  They make for very popular handouts at events as I'd learned from distributing them at previous events.  So, I took a short trip to pick up some of these coveted 3D printing examples for the attendees.  It's too bad that I only had room in my car for about 500 shoes because the crowd was so huge and the 3D exhibit was so popular that we ran out of shoes in just 2 hours! 

Here is a short video that captures just a few minutes from a wonderful day spent introducing the wonders of 3D printing to a whole new generation of inventors, mentors and parents.

The YMCA Thingamajig is open to the public and if you live in the Washington, DC area and have school aged children, I'd urge you to put it on your calendar.  A similar event is going to be taking place in Silver Spring, MD on September 29th, 2013.  The Cube will be at the Silver Spring Mini Maker Faire to be held at the Silver Spring Civic Center that is presented by the Kid Museum.