Open Source – Creating a Breastfeeding Origami Owl Charm with Blender and Shapeways
A girlfriend of mine recently started selling Origami Owl. It’s a neat concept. You purchase a “Living Locket” which you can fill up with charms. Between exclusively pumping for 16 months for my first son and nursing my second son, breastfeeding has played a significant role in my life the last 2.5 years. It’s near and dear to my heart. Alas, Origami Owl did not have a breastfeeding-themed charm.
A few months ago, I had run across Shapeways, a company that will 3D print your models for you, and I really wanted to try something out with them. This seemed like a first very easy project to learn Blender and 3D printing!
I still have so, so, so much to learn about 3D modeling, so this post isn’t a tutorial. Instead, I will be referring to other tutorials and tools that helped me out along the way:
I downloaded Blender for free from Blender.org. I watched a few tutorial videos to start to learn the software. The tutorial that applied most to what I wanted to do the most was “Modelling with Curves” by BlenderNerd.
I did what the “Modelling with Curves” illustrated. I made a 2D image of what I wanted and then set that as the background to my grid. My 2D image was based off the Public Domain International Breastfeeding Symbol by Matt Daigle. I had to make some modifications to connect the Mom’s head to her body.
The International Symbol for Breastfeeding
Then I was able to use Bezier Curves to build my object.
I extruded it to give it volume and voila– my breastfeeding charm!
Now, I specifically wanted to learn Blender and 3D modeling. If you do not, Shapeways has a 2D to 3D Print Creator to make the model for you.
I had the medium silver locket which is roughly the size of a nickel. I decided I wanted to keep my charm no larger than 17mm x 17mm. I was also going to aim to have it no more than 4mm deep. I decided to treat one Blender Unit as 1mm and I scaled my object appropriately.
Converting to a Mesh
When I was satisfied with my curve, I converted it to a mesh. The command was Object->Convert To->Mesh From Curve/Meta/Surf/Text.
3D Printing Toolbox
To help me achieve my end goal of 3D printing, I downloaded the 3D Printing Toolbox for Blender. This helped me out quite a bit by highlighting trouble spots in my model, specifically Non-Manifold Edges and where my walls were too thin.
Almost immediately, I found out that tons of my edges were non-manifold. I didn’t know what the hell that was, but I knew it was bad. I did some Googling. Non-manifold meant it was an edge that did not connect to two faces. But… but…but… looking at my model, all those edges looked like they were connecting to two faces.
Looks can be deceiving! It turns out, I had vertices over vertices. So those faces along the side of my curve, they weren’t connecting to my breastfeeding curve at all.
What I did to fix it was just delete the duplicate vertices (which deleted my side faces) and then created new faces with the correct vertices that were hidden below my bad faces.
A big hat tip to the “Fixing Non-Manifold Models” tutorial over at Shapeways. Specifically, the video under “Open objects: coincident edges” was an excellent illustration of what my models issue was.
I also had an issue with thin walls. The Shapeways Material Comparison Sheet tells you the different specifications for each type of material. Sterling silver, for example, requires walls that are 0.6mm apart. The plastics, which I wanted to print my initial model on because it was cheap, required 0.7mm. The hole that made up the baby’s head…. well, it was too close to the wall that outlined the baby’s body.
I did some rescaling of my object and moving of the baby’s head to fix the issue (which I got to learn the Border Select for).
Export to STL and Upload to Shapeways
Once I had my Non-Manifold Edges and my Thin Faces eradicated, following the “Preparing Blender Files for 3D Printing” tutorial from Shapeways, I rotated my model 90 degrees along the X-axis and exported it to STL file. The 3D Printing Toolbox in Blender was warning me about “Overhanging Faces”, but that did not hinder my model from being accepted by Shapeways.
Thanks to all the tutorials and research, my model file returned no errors on its initial upload. If I knew that, I may have named my model file something other than “breastfeeding-first-shapeways-submission”. :) I was expecting multiple iterations and a lot of trial and error.
I ordered a version in Hot Pink Strong & Flexible Plastic and a version in Alumide. Because my models were so small, they were very economical – just a couple of dollars! I expected once I saw my prototypes I would order one in the more expensive silver, but I have found myself satisfied with the plastic versions.
A few weeks later, I had my breastfeeding charms, which fit perfectly in my Origami Owl Living Locket! So now I have a breastfeeding charm in my Living Locket! :) My camera had a horrible mishap this winter, so behold my charm via my cellphone camera. It currently hangs out in my Living Locket with birthstones for my two sons.
If you happen to want the Living Locket version, you can order one for yourself at Shapeways. I have a prototype of a pendant version on order that I should see in a few weeks. If all looks good, I’ll make that one available as well. Also feel free to download the model for your own projects! Go Public Domain!