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Thread: What is an STL?

  1. #1

    Default What is an STL?


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    We have been getting a lot of questions about our STL importer. The question most asked is "What is an STL, and how do I find/make one?" We've put together an explanation to help those unfamiliar with 3D software to gain some footing.

    STL is a common 3D file format. Just as there are many image formats (i.e. Jpeg, PNG, BMP etc.). There are also many 3D formats (i.e. 3DS, LWO, MAX etc.). STL is a free format, meaning it is not tied to any one piece of software. It is primarily used with stereolithography machines, also known as 3D printers. Since this format is free, most 3D programs will export to it, making it the most universal 3D format available. This is useful to our users, since virtually any 3D file type can be converted to a STL.

    To locate 3D files to carve, users can Google “3D meshes” or “3D models” and find many sites offering free models. Below are links to just a few favorites we’ve found:
    http://www.3dxtras.com/
    http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/
    http://www.3dm3.com/modelsbank/
    http://www.trekmeshes.ch/

    When searching for 3D models, there will be several formats available. Some can be easily converted to an STL with free software such as Meshlab http://meshlab.sourceforge.net/. These formats include, but are not limited to: 3DS, PLY, OBJ, DAE. Other formats require users to have the parent software program in order for those files to be opened or exported into STL. These formats include, but again are not limited to: MAX (3D Studio Max), LWO (Lightwave), SKP (Google SketchUp). For a more complete listing of 3D file types and their parent software, click here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...ts#3D_graphics

    To make STL files, there are many software packages available. These range in price from free to several thousands of dollars. For a good listing of 3D software programs and their pricing, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_comp...Major_packages. There are also software packages available to fit every skill level. Just do a little digging and see what makes a good fit for you.

    Please feel free to post other suggestions and tips on this thread to help build a resource of 3D knowledge for everyone.

    Happy Carving!

    CarveWright Marketing

  2. #2
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    Thanks for the information; it is very helpful especially with the links. Now can someone help with explaining how I make a 3D pattern or STL of something I have, what additional equipment I would need to buy, How I turn that into a pattern, etc. I don't mind the $300.00 if I can make my own patterns and not rely on others with the limited choices on the internet. No offense to the Trekies, but I have no use for a Borg star base. I can find a tremendous amount of uses if I can design the patterns for things I need or want. (ie. making a commissioned bust of people or items related to my area).

    $300.00 isn't bad considering I already spent $2000.00 on a machine I have to do all the repairs on (most of which I don't understand). This is the only machine in my shop of $100,000.00 in tools that I have to do major repairs on that I don't really understand. I think the STL/Designer pattern making would be a great tips and tricks. I don't think it will hurt the pattern depot that much. I have already received a tremendous amount of help from members such as BJBethke in making patterns and I will continue to do so.

    Now, if I have to spend $300.00 on the STL sofware, $500.00 on conversion software, and another $2000.00 on additional equipment, it may not be cost effective.
    Last edited by JDPratt; 07-28-2009 at 08:10 AM.

  3. #3
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    It really depends on your 3D modeling needs. Two of the lowest cost options are Bryce (http://www.daz3d.com/i.x/software/bryce $99.95, but do a forum search, some magazine issues had an older version included for free) and MOI (http://moi3d.com/ $195). I have not used either package, so I can't comment on their ease of use.

    With most 3D modeling software, you can slice the model up there. Then if you have to do any work/repair to the slice, you are still in the 3D package to use its tools for that. With Designer, if you need to edit a slice, that requires the $200 pattern editor, and might as well spend the extra $100 to get the probe/pattern editor. So you are really looking at $600 for a limited set of tools that are specific to a proprietary machine, and by the way, those software licenses are NOT transferable if you decide to sell the machine.

    Rob
    Last edited by HighTechOkie; 07-28-2009 at 09:24 AM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by JDPratt View Post
    Now can someone help with explaining how I make a 3D pattern or STL of something I have, what additional equipment I would need to buy, How I turn that into a pattern, etc.
    I have been doing a lot of research on this one. The problem with many of the 3D cad applications is that they are set up for engineering solutions.

    I purchased MOI and it is great for generating 3D models that I can slice and dice for the STL Importer. But is not so good for pattern making for carving.

    Depending on how much learning curve you want to spend depends on what package you want to buy.

    Several users here use either Z Brush, CorelDraw or Paint Shop Pro X2 to create patterns. This route is very time consuming and fairly difficult as you are trying to take a 2D image and convert it to a gray scale map, manually.

    Other users have purchased more organic packages like Lightwave or AutoDesk 3D max. These packages can create patterns but the learning curve is very high.

    There is one other route that you can choose that the learning curve is less steep and is more in line with wood carving. Purchase packages that are specially made to create carvings. These packages take 2D images and create height map data or .stl files for import into the designer.

    I have been testing out a package called MeshCAM. It will take a 2D image and allow you to raise the height of selected colors in the image. These images can then be saved as either height map files that directly can be imported into the designer or saved as .stl files and then imported into the STL importer.

    I have taken several images I have scanned and lightly manipulated in Paint Shop Pro and in a matter of minutes have a nice pattern in the designer.

    The drawback of MeshCAM is it retails around $500. (not really a drawback, see below)

    The ultimate package that I have played with is called Aspire, from Vectric.com, This package comes with over a 1000 images that can be used to create carvings, comes with great tutorials that walk you through the process of creating patterns. The package is fairly easy to use to make custom patterns. The images can be exported to either height map files or .stl files.

    This package is out of sight in price, near $2000.

    They make a 2D package called VCarve Pro that is just as easy but around $500.00.

    I really find that LHR has dropped the ball in coming out with a good machine that can cut very sophisticated patterns for a great price. But has not provided a decent solution for users to create their own patterns.

    [Rant On]
    Buying patterns from others is not the ideal solution. I would gladly pay $500 for a software package from LHR that will allow me a simple path to create patterns.

    I have paid $299.00 for the scan tool and will pay another $299 for the STL importer. That is $600. That puts me right in line for a package like MeshCam. That will create patterns fairly easily, read and write .stl files.
    and by the way will generate g code.

    But the LHR solution leaves me stranded, to spend more money to open up their interface just to buy a third party package to do things that their software cannot.

    [Rant Off]

    Thanks

    Joe

  5. #5

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    There is one other route that you can choose that the learning curve is less steep and is more in line with wood carving. Purchase packages that are specially made to create carvings. These packages take 2D images and create height map data or .stl files for import into the designer.

    I have been testing out a package called MeshCAM. It will take a 2D image and allow you to raise the height of selected colors in the image. These images can then be saved as either height map files that directly can be imported into the designer or saved as .stl files and then imported into the STL importer.
    Buying patterns from others is not the ideal solution. I would gladly pay $500 for a software package from LHR that will allow me a simple path to create patterns.

    This is what we call "Designer" that comes free with your Carvewright.

    option 1,

    If i was new to all of this i would get lightwave or Modo spend the 6 months to teach myself the ins and out of the software.

    option 2,

    You could hire a draftsman to layout your project in 3D have him save it in STL and purchase the STL importer.

    rapid prototyping takes a lot of time even if its called "rapid"

    LG
    Last edited by liquidguitars; 07-28-2009 at 01:42 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jpitz31 View Post

    I really find that LHR has dropped the ball in coming out with a good machine that can cut very sophisticated patterns for a great price. But has not provided a decent solution for users to create their own patterns.
    ...
    Keep watching.

    Quote Originally Posted by jpitz31 View Post
    [Rant On]
    Buying patterns from others is not the ideal solution. I would gladly pay $500 for a software package from LHR that will allow me a simple path to create patterns.
    ...
    All software is going to have a learning curve - especially 2½D relief and 3D modeling software. So, no matter what software comes out and no matter what it costs, I'm not sure if a decent modeling software product will necessarily fit the category of "a simple path to create patterns". Somewhat subjective. You may define the word "simple" a bit differently than the next person. It will largely depend upon the individual's graphic design ability and the amount of time spent practicing, to get a firm handle on how relief and 3D modeling tools work.
    Michael T
    Happy Carving!


    ═══ Links to Patterns & Resources for CompuCarve™ & CarveWright™ ═══

    Visit the CarveBuddy Website for Additional Exclusive Patterns and Resources

  7. #7
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    Default MeshCam


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    Thanks Joe for the heads up on MeshCam All I can say is WOW how simple to use.




    Jim

  8. #8
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    I think this thread is getting way off track, there is obviously a lack of understanding by some folks on how all the different parts of the system work together.

    Definitions -

    Pattern: A pattern is like 3D clip art, and Designer is optimized to allow Patterns and other design elements like carve regions, vector cuts, and textures to be easily manipulated and composed. Just like clip art patterns can be made by users themselves, downloaded from users that choose to share patterns they made, or even purchased from commercial vendors. Pattern creation is a art form just like drawing clip art. Just like Microsoft Word is designed to allow one to easily compose documents and include clip art, Designer makes it easy to compose carvings which include patterns. In the same manner you would use a paint program to create clip art you would use a 3D modeling program to create a pattern.

    Designer: Designer is the main tool for creating a model to be carved. It is designed to allow the user to create a project by combining various design elements, like patterns, carve, regions, etc. The generation of the proper tool paths to carve out the project is automatic allowing the user to concentrate on the creative process not the complicated details like feeds/speeds, step over, roughing clearance, peck drilling cycles G-Codes, and such that are normally associated with CNC work. It allows the user to go directly from Design to the machine. Built into Designer is the ability to import grayscale 'heightmap' images that are converted to a pattern. These 'heightmaps' can be created by a wide variety of 3D modeling applications.

    Pattern Editor / Scanning Probe: The Scanning probe allows you to scan a physical object and create a life size pattern from it. You can use this to replicate trim, etc. The probe comes with a software suite that allow to to not only touch up a scan but also provides tools specifically tailored to pattern editing. It is designed to be easy to use and specific to patterns.

    STL Importer: The STL importer allows the user to take a 3D model and slice it into pieces that can be carved out and glued back together to form a real 3D object.
    Happy carving , Jeff Birt

    Check out www.soigeneris.com for CarveWright Accesories.

    Home of the 'Carving in the Dark' back lit LCD kit!

  9. #9
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    Hello jpitz321,

    We're normally a friendly bunch around here and do all we can to help each other. I'll try to explain why some of us use other software (for the time being) to create patterns...

    The CarveWright System, at present, does not have the tools to create patterns that match the quality of most 2½D and 3D modeling software programs. Of course, you already know that and made that crystal clear!

    So for now, some of us use other software tools to do the job. I mainly use ArtCAM and Aspire since they are software products designed very specifically to create relief patterns for carving. I also own Z-Brush and will be dusting it off soon to create some OBJ 3D models which I will then convert to STL to start making projects using the new STL Importer. (I also own professional software such as CorelDRAW, Illustrator, PhotoShop, and a host of other graphics programs. I've been a graphic designer for over 20 years and already had most of my software long before CarveWright came along. In other words, it is an accumulation of software over many, many years.)

    It's sort of a one-step-at-a-time as far as the software and capabilities of the CarveWright System. Unfortunately, we can't have everything we want all at once. I wish that were possible, but it's not. It takes time to develop software and LHR is on top of the things we all want and some things you may not even thought of yet.

    Over time, I hope you will enjoy witnessing how the entire system matures. It is still very new. Personally, I find it amazing how far it has come already, but hasn't even 'scratched the surface' yet of what the system will become.

    In the meantime, it's your choice whether to spend your time and money on other software solutions for pattern making. Myself, I couldn't wait, so I did choose to go for it and am very glad I did.

    All the Best...now go have some fun and carve something!
    Last edited by mtylerfl; 07-28-2009 at 05:58 PM.
    Michael T
    Happy Carving!


    ═══ Links to Patterns & Resources for CompuCarve™ & CarveWright™ ═══

    Visit the CarveBuddy Website for Additional Exclusive Patterns and Resources

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    I found another good source for scifi models.
    http://www.scifi3d.com/

    It's got just about every Star Wars ship on there for FREE!

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