Bending / Forming a STL?

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Bending / Forming a STL?

Postby Jon Lawrence » 2014-Apr-Wed-12-Apr

I am working on a project for mothers day where I want to make a lithophane votive candle holder. I have successfully generated flat (4mm thick) lithophanes from photos in stl format (which print beautifully). Now I want to take those stl's and wrap them around either a cylinder or more of a spherical shape to create the votive. I would typically use Solidworks to deform the parts to the desired shape, but Soildworks SUCKS at manipulating large stl files, and I have to severely reduce the triangle count (MeshLab) to under 20,000 triangles just to bring them in.

Is there a free software out there (with a minimal learning curve) that will allow me to bend a stl around a specific shape/curve?

Blender comes to mind but I have no experience with it, nor do I know that it will do what I want.
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Bending / Forming a STL?

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Re: Bending / Forming a STL?

Postby evanalmighty » 2014-Apr-Wed-13-Apr

I thought solidworks has a steep learning curve, but blender is on a whole other level. I too am looking for a good stl editor.
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Re: Bending / Forming a STL?

Postby Jon Lawrence » 2014-Apr-Wed-13-Apr

evanalmighty wrote:I thought solidworks has a steep learning curve, but blender is on a whole other level. I too am looking for a good stl editor.

SolidWorks is actually very intuitive. That is a huge bonus. Learn a couple basics, then poke around from there and things tend to work as you would think they should. My benefit, I use SolidWorks all day every day for the past 10 years or so. Blender is NOT intuitive at all. I poked around a bit but never really had the time to invest.
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Re: Bending / Forming a STL?

Postby plexus » 2014-Apr-Wed-14-Apr

evanalmighty wrote:I thought solidworks has a steep learning curve, but blender is on a whole other level. I too am looking for a good stl editor.


I recently had a job to do where the client wanted a revision to an STL they provided. they wanted a cylinder cut made. I was able to use ViaCAD Pro, my current go-to 3D CAD app. Initially I could not select the STL as the object to cut. Once I ran it through netfabb to close it off (it wasn't closed properly) I was then able to make the modification in ViaCAD and export a new STL. Very very handy! It's great to have a CAD that can work with STL's as if they were just another object.
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Re: Bending / Forming a STL?

Postby Jon Lawrence » 2014-Apr-Wed-14-Apr

plexus wrote:I recently had a job to do where the client wanted a revision to an STL they provided. they wanted a cylinder cut made. I was able to use ViaCAD Pro, my current go-to 3D CAD app. Initially I could not select the STL as the object to cut. Once I ran it through netfabb to close it off (it wasn't closed properly) I was then able to make the modification in ViaCAD and export a new STL. Very very handy! It's great to have a CAD that can work with STL's as if they were just another object.

Is it able to deform or bend a part to a specific geometry?
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Re: Bending / Forming a STL?

Postby Jon Lawrence » 2014-Apr-Wed-15-Apr

Looks like Blender is up to the task, but is there a more user friendly option?

http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Doc:2 ... anced/Warp

300px-Manual-Part-II-Warp01.png

300px-Manual-Part-II-Warp02.png

300px-Manual-Part-II-Warp03.png
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Re: Bending / Forming a STL?

Postby plexus » 2014-Apr-Wed-16-Apr

Jon Lawrence wrote:
plexus wrote:I recently had a job to do where the client wanted a revision to an STL they provided. they wanted a cylinder cut made. I was able to use ViaCAD Pro, my current go-to 3D CAD app. Initially I could not select the STL as the object to cut. Once I ran it through netfabb to close it off (it wasn't closed properly) I was then able to make the modification in ViaCAD and export a new STL. Very very handy! It's great to have a CAD that can work with STL's as if they were just another object.

Is it able to deform or bend a part to a specific geometry?


Seems so. I brought this STL into the app, copied it, coloured the original red and the copy yellow. I converted the yellow STL to a "solid" and then used the bend tool to bend one arm 90 degrees at a 10mm radius. rendered and here is the result. very handy!
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Re: Bending / Forming a STL?

Postby evanalmighty » 2014-Apr-Wed-16-Apr

Thanks Plexus. I love solidworks, but I don't like how it can't work with STL files.
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Re: Bending / Forming a STL?

Postby plexus » 2014-Apr-Wed-17-Apr

evanalmighty wrote:Thanks Plexus. I love solidworks, but I don't like how it can't work with STL files.


I would expect more from multi-$1000 application. ViaCAD pro is $250 normally and now includes mesh modelling. only thing missing for me is parametric modelling.
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Re: Bending / Forming a STL?

Postby Jon Lawrence » 2014-Apr-Wed-18-Apr

plexus wrote: I brought this STL into the app, copied it, coloured the original red and the copy yellow. I converted the yellow STL to a "solid" and then used the bend tool to bend one arm 90 degrees at a 10mm radius. rendered and here is the result. very handy!

Can it handle stl's with 200,000 triangles?
So how long did all that take?
Do you know if the bending feature is available in the standard version?
I saw the deform function is only available in the pro version, is that the feature you used to bend your part? Working on a limited budget so it is difficult to justify a purchase of another cad program, but if I can get this gift together with the free trial version it may be worth an attempt.
How long did it take to get the hang of the software?

All kinds of questions this evening...
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Re: Bending / Forming a STL?

Postby plexus » 2014-Apr-Wed-20-Apr

Jon Lawrence wrote:
plexus wrote: I brought this STL into the app, copied it, coloured the original red and the copy yellow. I converted the yellow STL to a "solid" and then used the bend tool to bend one arm 90 degrees at a 10mm radius. rendered and here is the result. very handy!

Can it handle stl's with 200,000 triangles?
So how long did all that take?
Do you know if the bending feature is available in the standard version?
I saw the deform function is only available in the pro version, is that the feature you used to bend your part? Working on a limited budget so it is difficult to justify a purchase of another cad program, but if I can get this gift together with the free trial version it may be worth an attempt.
How long did it take to get the hang of the software?

All kinds of questions this evening...


Like all CAD apps they each have their own paradigm. Via CAD is no different. However it is pretty easy to use and all the tools have step by step instructions on what to click and why. The interface is not bad, as far as CAD programs go. For reference, I consider Blender to be abysmal and Cinema 4D to be a thing of beauty. So ViaCAD is somewhere in there. I like Alibre too. Its more like Alibre. ViaCAD has more useful tools.

I don't know if it can handle 200k triangles. I dont see why not except for speed. its a 64 bit app and its pretty fast.

How long did it take? here's what I did: import the STL, convert it to a solid (simple menu command), click the bend tool, click the object, click on one point of a line defining the axis its to be bent around, click another point to define the axis line and within about 10 second it was done.

It's not "deform". its "Bend". I am not sure of the differences between the two versions. Im using Pro 9.

I had been using Alibre which didn't take long to use and its pretty fun. ViaCAD is similar, more similar than other CAD apps, so I was able to get the hang of ViaCAD within a couple weeks of playing with it from time to time. I am still learning all the tools and options. So far its allowed me to do all the things I need and then some (like the STL editing... once you convert to a solid you can do everything you can with it as a normal solid like cut, boss, bends and other transformations. then export as an STL and thats it)
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Re: Bending / Forming a STL?

Postby Jon Lawrence » 2014-Apr-Thu-08-Apr

Thank you for all the information. I'll check it out!
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