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August 02 2012


Print & Build Your Own Free, Beautifully Detailed 3D Models

Having been enthused by the continuously dropping prices of 3D printers, I was recently checking out the latest models and making a decision on which one to choose when I had a moment of what can only be described as a nostalgic epiphany.

There I was, wishing I could build toy boats and planes and cars with a new 3D printer when I suddenly realised that it was already possible to do all of this and more with my existing printer!

As a child I whiled away hours building models of jet fighters, tanks and bridges from card provided by modelling packs and magazine part-works, yet ignored the fact that I had the tools ready by my side for creating similar models today.

What You Will Need

Not everyone will be equipped with the tools to build card models. First and foremost, you will need a printer that is capable of printing to card stock. How will you find this information? The best way is to check the manual – for instance, HP will provide this information in the Technical Information section, and the same is largely true of other manufacturers.

If your printer will not print to card, you can try printing to paper and then gluing this to the card, although the results are rarely as good. If you’re really daring, you can try building your project completely from paper, although typical printer paper is almost completely unsuitable.)

Your printer should, of course, have a full supply of black and coloured ink.

In addition, you will need a PDF application such as Adobe Reader as the majority of downloadable model template files are in PDF format.

For building your models, you will require scissors and a craft knife or box cutter, suitable glue for binding card, pins and paper clips to help the glue bind, and a firm, sturdy surface. You might also have a crafting board on which to do all of your cutting, useful for avoiding damage to your surface. A metal ruler is also recommended for cutting and scoring straight lines.

Download & Print Your Models

The first thing to do is find a website that provides models that can be downloaded and printed. Many can be found free – which is where you should start off, of course – but more elaborate and impressive models can be purchased, if you want to.

Check the list at the end of the guide for a good selection of suggested resources for card modelling.

Once you have downloaded your PDF, save it. This might sound obvious, but in this day of browser PDF plugins it is easy to lose track of what you opened and where (at least not without digging through your Windows profile files). If you make a mistake with the model you might need to print the template again, so this makes perfect sense.

It is also a good idea to preview the file in your print software before outputting to get an idea of what it looks like and how many pieces of card are required. When you’re happy, click the print button!

The Nitty-Gritty of Card Modelling

If you’re new to card modelling then you really need to start with something basic. This shuttle train is a good example of a low-skill, “introduction” piece that you should be considering.

This can be neck-breaking work, but the results can be amazing.

You will find a recognisable shorthand across all card modelling projects. As a rule of thumb, solid lines should be cut, whereas broken or dashed lines should be scored (the result of a lighter blade action, performed to enable the section of card to be folded). Occasionally some written guidelines will be provided, and in the best kits full instructions will also be provided.

The best approach, of course, is to be methodical. Begin by cutting out each of the pieces in turn, taking care to score where required and make the necessary indentations and cut lines and boxes internally with your craft knife. In most cases, curves and circles are best attempted with scissors.

Following this, position everything as you will need it. A quick read of the instructions will help you to do this, as well as familiarising yourself with the general pattern of the construction. Pieces and equipment should be spread across your work surface within easy reach. You can then begin crafting the item, typically starting with the bones of the model – the structure!

From this point on, the instructions will typically take you through the steps of adding the “skin” or outer surface, prepping any additional sections to the model or simply putting together some of the smaller pieces that enhance the model’s detail.

Different models can be built in slightly different ways, depending on your own preference and the requirements of the project. For instance, you might opt to start with the fiddly detail components; conversely, it might be easier for you to build the model in two parts before gluing it together. This will depend on the model itself, of course.

Where Can You Find 3D Models To Download & Build?

Building your own 3D card models is satisfying and enjoyable. The only real downside is the possibility that you might run out of card or ink!

You will find some good free card model templates at the following locations:

This is a fun and engaging pastime, one that is relatively cheap and ideal for keeping bored hands and minds busy during long vacations and summer breaks.

Let us know if you have built any card models, or if you have any additional resource links to share!

Mount Vernon Image Credit: Paper33d

March 01 2012


6 Tips To Get The Most Out of LibreCAD Free CAD Software

free cad softwareFinding good, free CAD software is not an easy task. There are plenty of great 2D CAD programs out there, like TurboCAD or AutoCAD, but how many quality options are completely free?

You could always try and use free drawing apps out there, like the ones that Saikat reviewed – but they will not offer the accuracy or features that 2d CAD software offers.

There is one free CAD software package that Angela briefly covered in 2011 called LibreCAD. In that article, Angela introduced you to the drawing pane, and how to start off creating some basic shapes and dimensions.

Since then, the software has been updated a couple of times, with the most recent update on February 8th, 2012. If you are hard up for cash, but really need high-quality 2D CAD software, I’m going to show you a few quick tips to take full advantage of what LibreCAD  has to offer.

LibreCAD is Free CAD Software You Can Depend On

LibreCAD is available for multiple OS platforms, including Mac, Windows or Linux – so there’s goodness here for everyone.

Tip #1 – Set Your Default Units to Save Time

The first tip is to slow down during the installation and select the default units that you’re most likely willing to use when you launch this software.

free cad software

This can save you a lot of time later when you open up new drawings – the software will automatically use the units that you prefer.

Tip #2 – Use Tooltips to Navigate the Button Menu

When you first run LibreCAD, you’ll find all of the drawing tools condensed into just a few buttons on the left side of the screen. Each of these tools contains the entire subset of additional tools. For example, when you click the “line” tool, there’s an array of additional tools that you can use to draw lines, and shapes that contain lines.
cad design software
The sign of well-written software is that when you hover your mouse over a button, it shows you a tool-tip of what that graphical button means. With LibreCAD, if you’re confused about the symbol on a button, just hover the mouse over the symbol for tips.
cad design software
No matter how complicated the function of the button, the tooltip will explain its purpose to you.
cad design software
As you can see above, I’ve started drawing the floorplan for a section of our house.

Tip #3 – Use Snap to Grid to Make Drawing Easier

If you’ve ever used non-CAD drawing software, then you know that creating straight lines and aligning objects on the drawing isn’t always easy.

open source cad software

In LibreCAD, you can enable snap-to-grid so that the lines and shapes you draw snap to the dot-grid, making it a cinch to align elements of the drawing as you go.

Tip #4 – Use Layers to Build Your Drawing

In my opinion, the best thing about drawing with CAD software is the fact that you can create “layers”, which are basically drawings that can be placed “on top” of other drawings. It’s soft of like a transparent sheet with specific items drawn on it, that you can add or remove on top of an existing drawing.

Use the “Layer” menu item to add a new layer to your drawing, and select a color for the objects in that layer.
open source cad software
Now, as you start drawing you’ll notice that all of the lines use the default color for that layer. As you’re working through developing your overall drawing, this is an excellent way to keep object types or larger components of your drawing well organized.

When you want to focus on that group of objects or just remove the confusion for the rest of your drawing, you can just add and remove layers so that you can focus more easily on the details.

Tip #5 – Use Text Throughout the Drawing

This tip really depends upon the type of drawing that you’re working on, but in most cases you really can’t have too many labels in a drawing. Labels allow you to spell out what objects are supposed to be, or the purpose for different areas of your drawings.

Text is really easy to add in LibreCAD. Just click on the Text button in the left menu, then choose the size, font and alignment.

open source cad software

When you’re done with the formatting, you can just place the text anywhere on the drawing that you like.

In this example, I’ve placed text in the same layer as the furniture, but a lot of people prefer to do all of the drawing text inside its own unique layer.

Tip #6 – Taking Measurements Inside the Drawing

Another really cool feature that is common for CAD drawing tools like this – but especially easy inside LibreCAD – is the ability to quickly measure lengths and dimensions right inside the drawing.

You can do this by clicking the line measurement tool in the left button menu, and then just clicking on two points in the drawing. The distance between those two points (using your default units – remember that?) prints out in the bottom status display pane.
free cad software
As you can see, LibreCAD is not only really easy to use free CAD software, it’s also highly functional. These six tips are only the tip of the iceburg. As you continue to explore the software and build your own drawings, I’m sure you’ll discover your own favorite features.

Have you ever tried LibreCAD? Do you have any of your own tips that you can share with other readers? Share your thoughts about the software in the comments section below.

Image Credit: CAD Software Via Shutterstock

April 22 2011


Learn How to Make Paper Airplanes With These Five Paper Craft Websites

craft websitesPaper airplanes have been as much a part of our growing up as has been the dream of flying. Many among us have taken this up further into a lifelong hobby. Learning to make paper planes is not just about creasing the paper at the folds and throwing it up in the air. It is aeronautical science at its most fundamental.

Making paper airplanes may also be about wasting time and having fun, but a general browse through the web shows that making paper planes is also a serious education. In fact, NASA uses it to teach kids all about aeronautics. Many other sites apart from NASA also have downloadable paper plane activities for kids. You also know that paper planes are right up there as a hobby when you have an iPad app called the Paper Plane Project on it.

Not all of us have an iPad. So, these five craft websites have to do for learning how to make paper planes.

Alex’s Paper Airplanes

craft websites

This is a great step-by-step guide on how to craft paper airplanes, paper helicopters and gliders. The paper planes are categorized as – easy to make, medium difficulty, and hard to make. The 25 varieties on view should keep you folding and flying away for ages. The site also contains a lot of YouTube video instructions on how to properly make the flyable models. Alex Schultz also has put up a page of other sites on paper planes; not all the links are on paper planes though. Some links are also broken.

Origami Kids

paper craft websites

If you want your child to start off building some paper planes on his own, then this colorful site for kids could be the destination. The step-by-step instructions with clear illustrations are kid-friendly. Some of the paper plane instructions are accompanied with video demos. Start of from the simpler models like Vortexes (or even a simple paper helicopter) and graduate upwards to a barracuda. There’s also an interesting section on Flight Simulators which are a collection of free online games.

Best Paper Airplanes

paper craft websites

The ten designs on view on this paper airplane site are copyrighted original designs. You will not come across names like Tumbler, Canada Goose, Duck etc on any other paper plane website. What I like about this site are the clean-cut instructions which take me from a simple origami design like the Zump to a complicated one like the Katydid.

The OmniWing

paper craft websites

The OmniWing is one of the first airplane designs I was drawn to. It is a basic airplane but a high performance one that can fly for a length of time in a straight line rather than a loop. It’s also a perfect office stress buster because it can be crafted from a single sheet of standard typing paper, and a little transparent tape. The site contains all the construction details on the plane along with videos. Later, feel free to graduate to the more advanced versions of this cool paper plane.

Airplane Collectible Net Resource

craft websites

This site is more like a directory which you can dive into for more links. It’s not only about paper craft but also about the complete universe of airplane modeling. The site lists free airplane collectible items on the web such as free airplane photos, free paper model kits and free online flight simulators. The paper plane design page has links and available PDF downloads (World Record Breaking Paper Airplane designs originally folded by Ken Blackburn). You might want to check out resources like the one on How to Make your Paper Airplane Fly Better that grounds you on the basics.

The five craft websites websites on view may not be visually appealing to those of us attuned to slick Web 2.0 interfaces, but when it comes to following a hobby, it’s the content that appeals. Are these some of the best on the web, or can you provide me and other paper airplane enthusiasts a few more?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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