Clearly in order to make any use of 3D printing I will need to be able to create a 3D model; which in turn requires 3D modeling software. My hope is that using a modeling app I could at least plan out any sculpting project; even if I never intend to have it reproduced.
I was poking around the internet to see what kind of workshops/tutorials I could find related to sculpture. I did find a few things of interest; one of which was a short series of beginning modeling tutorials for kids.
It looked like a good place to get my feet wet with modeling. The classes used Blender as the modeling tool. So I did some digging into the software. One important feature for me is that Blender has very low hardware requirements compared to other 3D applications (I’m not currently in a position to upgrade my hardware). With a little digging I found that there are a ton of other online tutorials; so that check-box is checked.
Looking over the feature set I saw something called “sculpting organic subjects”. Not quite sure how that differs from other types of modeling but it looks like it could be useful for planning out sculpture projects. In addition, Blender now comes with it’s own rendering app (called Cycles).
It looks as though Blender can do way more than I’ll ever need as far as 3D modeling goes but can it be used in 3D printing? What what I’ve found so far is that Blender does support the base file format called STL (they also support a format called X3D that looks applicable). There is a file standard, used in 3D printing, called Additive Manufacturing File Format (AMF) that Blender doesn’t seem to currently support. It looks like it may be possible to export a Blender file to this format using a third party add-on. Since the file format requirements vary among printers I’m not too worried that any work I do in Blender can’t be utilized for printing. If Blender can’t natively support the requirements of a given project, then there is likely a way to import it into another program that can convert the model into a useful format. Here’s a item that described what this person went through to convert his Blender model into a 3D printed object.