I officially finished all my school work since last week and finally had some time to think about my projects. There are two projects I started a while ago that I would like to finish off first. They are the Smart Turn project and the Gyro’clock project.
The only big thing left to do for the Gyro’clock is to make a case for it. This means that I am finally getting around to the 3D print scene. This is exciting because I am going to be learning a new trick that has lots of potential. But first I have to learn about making 3D models.
There are many software programs out there for making 3D designs. After some search I decided to go with FreeCAD mainly because it is fairly sophisticated. After spending some time playing around with it and watching some tutorials I am able to find my way around it.
My approach for designing a case was to import the board layout that I have already created in KiCad and then build a simple case around it. Importing a 3D model of a PCB designed in KiCad to FreeCAD is quite simple. But the problem is I didn’t have 3D models for all the components in my Gyro’clock PCB. Importing 3D models from FreeCAD to KiCad is not that straight forward since KiCad only accepts a certain kind of .wrl files only.
After doing a bit of search online I found a nice tutorial that explains step by step how to create 3D models for PCB components. The steps I followed to make 3D models for components in KiCad are
- Design the 3D model in FreeCAD
- Export the 3D model as a .stl (stereolithography) file
- Import the .stl file to Wings3D
- Add colour to the model
- Export the model as WRML 2.0 (.wrl) file
- Import the .wrl file to KiCad
- Scale and position as necessary
Here’s the complete 3D model of the Gyro’clock board:
After completing the 3D model of the board I imported it to FreeCAD. The case has two pieces. The bottom piece wraps around the board and holds the rechargeable Li-poly battery. The top piece is just a cover and snaps on to the bottom piece.
Designing the case in FreeCAD is just a matter of knowing the proper dimensions. Since I had a life size model of a fully assembled Gyro’clock PCB it was really easy. Of course I don’t know how well it will come out of the 3D printer yet. Since this is going to be my first 3D experiment I am not going to go super fancy.
Speaking of 3D printers I have already ordered one and waiting for it to arrive. It is a Reprap Prusa I3 3D printer kit and I found it on Amazon.ca for $420 (CAD). It is a DIY kit so it comes with more fun.