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Modular 3D Printable Containers

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Hello everyone :)


I don't know how many other 3D Artists we have in the community but hopefully the rest of you will find this interesting too.


These past couple of months I've been really busy updating my portfolio and branching out in the 3D industry (I am trained as a game artist & animator). 

Recently I found out that there are a couple of high end 3d printers at my sister's school. I approached one of the teachers and he offered to print some of my models. Unfortunately, most video game assets either aren't very interesting, or certain tricks are used which makes them unprintable. In video games we use a couple of tricks like normal maps to add detail which isn't actually there, and to save time most meshes aren't fully watertight. 


I spent a couple of days researching what has to be done to a mesh to make it 3d printable and thinking about what would be interesting enough to waste their plastic on. After giving it a bit of thought I decided that I wanted to make something functional and I landed on these containers. 


These are modular containers with interchangeable decorative inlays. Each container is 13cm tall and 10cm wide. They have two layers, a bottom layer for random small items and a top layer for SD cards. 


Each of the decorations takes somewhere between 1 to 1.5 hours to print and the boxes take about 10 hours each. Unfortunately because these are 3d printers owned by the school, and classes need to use them, we never got around to actually printing them :( But at least they make for interesting portfolio pieces. 


If you have any questions about software, the modelling process etc. just let me know :)





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Hi there!

First of all I really like those containers, the designs in the circular pieces look really nice, at first glance they actually remind me of the Medallions from Zelda Ocarina of Time :D I have some limited experience with 3D printing. I work as a PhD student in Mechanical Engineering, and you can get most things made by Technicians so long as you submit good quality drawings etc. I have had some parts made via Additive Manufacturing before now, however the way I created my models was via CAD software called CATIA, and you can export models as different file formats, and one of those is compatible with the software for the 3D printers. The technician can then open the file, and then create a "job" with the 3D printer where you can have lots of things printing at one time over the allowable surface area of the printing area, and that tends to get left on overnight because as you say some things take quite a long time. 

Now the thing is with this, programs like CATIA are *very* strict about the integrity of models, so the kind of tricks you mentioned to make things easier probably wouldn't be possible in CATIA, so if you had a model you were happy with in software like CATIA you'd probably be able to export the model as a file compatible with 3D printer software and then be able to do it. However, I imagine CATIA isn't an ideal program to use for something related to 3D design, it's very rooted in Engineering stuff. Anyway hopefully this is helpful in some way, and I hope you get to print some stuff, as well as getting to print the things you mentioned first too :)

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I'm glad you like them Sithicus :)

I've heard of CATIA before and it's definitely a very different workflow. Everything is measured so precisely and everything is done with booleans, it feels very rigid :P I've done something similar by modelling with curves where you also sketch out an object and then perform extrusions and bridges to end up with a 3D mesh. This is a pretty handy workflow for objects with a nice flow, like car bodies. 

For me the problem with booleans for things like sub-d and game meshes is that you end up with very poor topology leaving lots of unwanted n-gons and floating verts. But it doesn't seem like CATIA cares very much about this type of thing. I'm not sure how it does it, but Maya, Max, and MODO would all flip out if I tried to bevel the edge of an n-gon :P 

One of the main things that puts me off in CAD sofware is that you don't seem to be able to do much individual element (verts, edges and polys) manipulation. Having to draw out curves or create meshes for every boolean operation seems a bit tedious and overcomplicated for most situations. But then again, moving elements around you will also end up with much less precise meshes which is the whole purpose of CAD software.

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