There’s a whole bunch of great Open Source 3D printing tools out there. Many of them rely on you being able to be comfortable drawing complex polygons – either with a mouse, or programatically.
For more complex designs, it’s often easier to take an existing image file and turn it into a 3D model. So that’s what I’ve done with The Lab’s logo. It’s pretty easy.
First, convert your image to a black and white PNG. I did this using GIMP. Image -> Mode -> Greyscale. Then Image -> Mode -> Index -> Black and White.
Once that’s done you can use some Free Software called PNG23D which, as the name suggests, allows you to convert a PNG file to a 3D file.
Once installed, run:
1 png23d -o stl -w 100 -d 5 logo.png logo.stl
This tells PNG23D to create an STL file of width 100 and height 5. You can, of course, adjust this to suit your own parameters.
After a few seconds, you’ll have an STL file which you can view in something like MeshLab. It will look something like this:
By inverting the image and running a different command:
1 png23d -v -f surface -t x -l 2 -w 100 -d 5 -o stl logo.png logo.stl
It is possible to get the logo on a “bed”. Handy!
Can we make it a bit more exciting? Sure!
I cut a circle around the logo, filled the background in black, I then ran a Gaussian blur over the image to smooth out the rough edges.
I then ran:
1 png23d -v -f surface -t 0 -l 32 -w 100 -d 5 -O 1 -o stl lablogo.png lablogo.stl
This command says that the transparent colour should be 0 (that is, anything which is black shouldn’t have a height).
Which, when printed, looks like this…