A great application for 3D printing is to bring depth to logos and personal pictures for lithopanes. It is a fun method to extract a picture file for 3D printing, and even better if you could do it for free. In this blog I’ll explore a low tech method to turn an old blueprint into a 3D printable item.
While it is possible to do this with a wide range of CAD programs and photo editing software, I wanted to find a free method that I could use in a classroom with windows based systems.
This method is a great way to make household items like cookie cutters and trivets. You can also extracts maps for people with visual impairments by turning them into a tactile map.
For this my father asked me to make a trivet from the factory original blueprint of a logo for the Piper Aircraft Company. This picture is sourced from the factory original blueprint.
Black marker & pen, white crayon, document scanner/copier, MS paint and TinkerCAD account.
Prepare the Picture
The first step is to prepare the picture for scanning. For this example I had the factory blueprint logo. By itself it was grey and spotted, so it would not extract well in TinkerCAD. The extra black specks from multiple copies would also cause issues if they were not cleaned up in editing. This method works best when there is a stark black and white (B&W) contrast in the picture.
After making a couple copies, I use the black marker and pen to fill in all the grey areas of the picture. As a end result should have a strong contrast between the shape you want and any background noise. If you have a white crayon, you can also hide any smudges or ink artifacts on the picture. The cleaner the contrast now, the less editing and clean up you’ll have when you get the picture ready for 3D printing.
Scanning and Editing
Using a document scanner, I scanned the prepared picture as a .jpeg picture. I know that MS paint is maligned as the worst photo editing software, but I found it is great for this purpose. Using MS Paint I went through the prepared image, using the color match tool to fill in the fine details of the picture that I missed with the pen. I also used it to white out black spots and smudges that would show up in the extract.
Convert, Import & Design
The best way to convert this is to use image.online-convert.com/convert-to-svg to convert .jpeg file to .svg files. Using this free converter, I converted the corrected .jpeg to an .svg file that can be imported to TinkerCAD.
If you cleaned up your picture in the previous couple steps, the cleanup in TinkerCAD will be minimal.
For this project I just wanted to make a trivet from the picture. Using TinkerCAD I thickened the outer rim of the design, and added a base shape to make the design print in one piece.
End result was a trivet that was 3D printed on a base of colorfabb PLA economy (black base) and esun Brassfill. From the trivets I printed earlier I know that the metal composite filaments work well at protecting the dinner table from hot dishes.
From Picture to Print for Free
This process is great for teachers and those just exploring 3D modeling. I wanted a free way to turn old documents and pictures into a 3D printable item. I wanted a way for teachers to do this without using Photoshop or specialized software. Given that most schools run older MS office on their computers, MS paint is readily available for photo editing.
I know there are other methods to turn photos into 3D printable items, but I wanted to explore a bare-bones method that did not require specialized software.
If you have another free / low tech method you would like me to research, please let me know in the comments below. I may explore them in a future blog.
Disclaimer: The Piper rudder Insignia Detail (Compass Rose logo) is from Piper Aircraft Corp, Lock Haven, PA. Designed in 1950, this blueprint was donated to Tpoc,Inc by Piper. This design was modified for 3D printing under fair use for educational purposes.