3D Printing a Farm House
The project to 3D print the mission in San Luis Obispo worked out pretty well, so I decided to create a model of my wife's childhood home. Just to keep things interesting, this time I decided I would make each floor a separately printed piece so they could be added and/or removed after production. Other than having to model the interior of the building, I didn't think it would add additional complexity. You know what they say, 'Go big or go home'...although apparently they also say, 'Ignorance is bliss!'. :)
The initial modeling was more difficult than with the mission because I didn't have any floorplans, nor did I live close enough to make measurements. I was able to find imagry from mapping programs that got me close. And I had plenty of reference photos to make up the difference. The biggest timesaver for this project was that I found an addon that has been out for a few years, archimesh. I was new to me though and was a great timesaver. Archimesh creates rooms, doors, windows, stairs, blinds, curtains, ... Apparently, it can handle just about anything associated with architectural modeling. Based on issues I've had in the past, I especially liked the ability to create siding as a mesh.
I started out with US Geological Survey (USGS) countour maps of the area to create 10-foot countours of a few square miles around the house. That was probably overkill for this project, but it was gratifying that the yard slope from those maps, essentially matched the reference photos. Based on sticker shock from trying to use too much material in the last 3D printing project, I scaled back the surrounding terrain from my original 1-acre plot to just enough to surround the house.
As with all my projects, there are plenty of lessons to be learned:
- Complex roofs are a pain: The first and second floor interior and exterior walls were simple with Archimesh. The complex roof caused some problems. Part of the problem was caused by not knowing the roof pitch. Added to that I tried to change the models roof pitch after joining the various sections of the roof. I would have been better off to start over from scratch.
- Non-Manifold Geometry is a four-letter word: Booleans are great for speeding up modeling, but they create the majority of my non-manifold geometry problems. There is the non-zero possibility that I am using it wrong, but for now I will blame the tool. The booleans to join the roof and to make holes for doors/windows created a lot of non-quad faces. Eventually I went back and re-worked most of the walls containing boolelan holes.
- Overlapping surfaces are from the devil!: Archimesh has an option to create baseboards in the rooms, which is an awesome option. Eventually, I combined the wall/floor/baseboard meshes for each floor into a single mesh. I could have saved a lot of headache had I planned on doing that from the start. Certainly Sculpteo, and I think 3D printing in general, does not work well with overlapping parallel faces.
- Creating multiple pieces that will fit together nicely post-production is really hard: For this to work well, the individual meshes must be well behaved. The meshes I combined for this project were certainly not well behaved. So I am relearning the lesson to plan for printing from the beginning and take the time to make well behaved models. Doh!
Again, I use Sculpteo for the limited 3D printing I have done so far. Their web site and service has progressed over the year that I have used them. They now offer a multi-color printing, which may be my next project. They provided a preview of the uploaded file based on a multi-color file format which looks interesting.
Because of the difficulty with combining meshes, I eventually postponed (that sounds better than 'gave up') the ability to print each floor separately. All my work on the interior walls will wait until another day to be unveiled. This has the added benefit of allowing the rain downspouts to be joined to the exterior walls, alleviating some of the concern over the small diameter of the parts. There is always a silver lining! :)
To finish it off, a side-by-side of one of the reference photos and a quick render: