Using blender to make 3D font thingies to print at Shapeways

Posted in a how-to video here:


0:00 Intro
0:49 Choosing a Font
1:06 Blender the inadequate Intro
2:00 The “Fast” route that doesn’t always work
6:07 “Reliable” way
9:40 Deleting Inner Shells
10:43 Exporting to Shapeways via OBJ – No Texture
12:00 UV Mapping, Texture
15:31 Exporting to Shapeways via X3D – With Texture

Having now finished the video, it occurs to me that using a picture as texture would work very well with cylindrical or spherical mapping.

While in this video I’m focusing on printing at Shapeways, its possible to print at home – just export to STL.  However, Shapeways uses a different process which allows for filler material which makes supports a lot easier for this kind of complexity, compared to the FDM process I would use at home on my Solidoodle.

Video captured using Open Broadcaster Software; edited down using Premiere Pro.

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Posted in 3D
5 comments on “Using blender to make 3D font thingies to print at Shapeways
  1. Mike says:

    Hi, REALLY great tutorial. Couple of observations (not so much on the tutorial as much as MY results. Tried the letters T, M. Got strange results using All Star font. Tried converting it. Tried using Solid San Serif (such as Impact – Windows ttf). Got more of a carved than a cubic look. Tried adding a UV map and sending it to Shapeways. Also strange results. Tried using Inkscape – just a train wreck – too much tweaking and still no good results. Also, have been uploading to More expensive – like Shapeways a largely free site, pretty much same process, sign up – upload. But, on some uploads I get radically different (BETTER) success rate than shapeways, but, also costs more. Still, when shapeways bombs and sculpteo doesn’t, calls into question the processes. There’s also problems with fonts converted to mesh in Blender. Sometimes crap, sometimes not. Quite a while back, when I had money, I bought a copy of Swift3D. So, given the problems I was having with converted fonts in Blender (examples – Bending, Warping), I tried creating the font in Swift3D and exporting it as a 3ds format file over to Blender. Mostly I get better results. That at least suggests to me that there’s something wrong with the Blender method. BUT, Blender’s free. Swift3D is not. Just wanted to add my two cents. Thanks for sharing.

    • sunnywiz says:

      I’m sad to hear that it didn’t work as well for you. You’ve been very thorough, from the sound of it.

      a) are you familiar in blender of the trick where you select all, remove double, select none, select non manifold?

      b) if you have a sketchy (suspect) shape, are you aware of uploading it to the netfabb cloud service to get it fixed?

      Good luck! Oh, and my niece liked it, and I think i’ve signed up to do one for everybody this year.. that’s 16 birthdays.. i’d better get on it.

      • Mike says:

        It’s not quite that it “hasn’t worked out for me” as much as it’s been a learning experience as to what works (consistently) and what doesn’t.

        For example: With your 16 birthdays in mind, I’ve discovered that the letters A, B, D, O, P, Q, and R are problematic because they have disconnected holes in the middle (depending on how they’re rendered (the difference between the All Star font and a straight solid san serif font). Interesting that you chose the letters M and W because they both have three extending points that give them a certain amount of congruence that other letter combinations may not, as you’re no doubt going to find out.

        Thanks for the tip on Netfabb Cloud Service. Just got done trying it. As I’m finding with all my options, they ALL have their up side and their down side. Example, it’s REALLY hard to find a SOLID R UV mapping due to the hole in the middle. I used the letters E, R which also gave some mixed results due to the open space in the R reconciling itself with the E.

        One lady I know, her initials are Y, O. When I combined those two, it matches up quite nicely with the base form of most rings with a gem on top – neat.

        And, as mentioned, I find some of the headaches I’m having with Shapeways, go away with Sculpteo. I’m not sure what accounts for that. Perhaps Shapeways analysis is overly cautious OR Sculpteo simply has better methods seems like that, in some ways correlates to the differences in results, methods, and options of the different 3D modeling programs from free to high end.

        The more I work with text, the more familiar I am becoming with the limits and limitations of text (I’m thinking of doing a tutorial on this for Shapeways) as well as the possible workarounds – that letters touch, that they sit on a base thereby “connecting them”, or that they’re squished together side to side, top to bottom or both (look at the napkin rings for an example of that).

        All in all it hasn’t been entirely frustrating only that it, lately, has consumed a disproportionate amount of my time and attention due to the various limitations and problems to be overcome.

        Thanks for the tips. Hope all this is equally helpful.

  2. Mike says:

    Another tip, once you’ve picked a font in Blender, like a material, or texture, it’s available in a drop down list (for the font, it’s the down arrow next to the big F). You don’t have to keep going back to the original folder once you’ve selected and used the font (texture, material, etc).

    Also, if there’s a “+” next to the option, there’s the possibility of saving and creating presets.
    This is available under the Math Functions (for example).

    Last, there’s a program I learned about in searching for solutions to “wall thickness problems”. Art of Illusion (not sure if it works under Windows or Macs. I’m using Linux. Reason I mention it is because it has a “thickness” script. But it only works (Import limitations) with OBJ files. Not much of a problem since Blender and Netfabb (basic) will export (or import) OBJ files.
    As with all the other potential solutions – results will vary.

    Spent some time in the military learning how to work smart rather than hard.

    For what it’s worth.

  3. Mike says:

    Can’t leave without this. In Blender, pick your font, adjust your settings, for the NEXT letter, just hit “Shift D”, “Enter”. You’ve just EXACTLY duplicated the letter AND it’s settings, now all you have to do is change the letter. How’s THAT for saving time and effort?

    I’m not an expert, just a 59 year old with too much time on his hands…

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