AbFab3D

Alan Hudson posted an update about the AbFab3d toolkit on the Shapeways forum. Since I’m a software developer I thought I would take a look to see if I could use this toolkit for making some designs for 3D printing.

You need to be a developer with Java experience to be able to use AbFab3D. The source code is available on Github. After I downloaded the software, I then built the toolkit using Apache Ant. The source code comes with various examples which you can run separately. Each example generates a “out.x3db” model file.

To view the models the AbFab3D site recommends using the standalone browser from the Xj3D project. I do all my development on OS X. Unfortunately, all the links I tried on that site for OS X versions of the browser were either broken, required a login or were for older Power PC versions of the Apple hardware. So I had to download the browser source code and build it using Ant. The documentation doesn’t appear to have been updated for years and is not up to date with the software. The Ant build doesn’t appear to build the browser and using make I get an error. After contacting Alan, he pointed me in the right direction; I was trying to compile the wrong browser code. I got the browser compiled and could then load a generated X3D file (you have to use the “fit to world” button second to far right bottom button bar to make the model initially visible).

The free Netfabb Basic program also supports the X3DB format if you don’t want to build the Xj3D browser. I can use Netfabb to export the model into a file format that Blender can import like VRML.

It appears that the only documentation for the toolkit is the generated Javadocs from the source code and comments in the sample apps.

I got errors with compiling some of the sample apps. I emailed Alan and he said he still has to update the older code.

I did get several of the apps working; here are renderings of the models generated:

“Boolean Ops” creates a cube and then subtracts 3 rotated cylinders from it.

booleanops

“Image Popper” creates a 3D model from a black-and-white mask image.

imagepopper

“Ring Popper” creates a 3D ring from a mask image.

ringpopper

I wanted to play with the voxel sculpting that was announced on the AbFab3D blog, but after I contacted Alan and he gave me some instructions to try, I still was getting errors. So with no formal documentation, most of the sample apps not working and not being able to do the new voxel features, I’ve decided to stop my exploration of AbFab3D for now. I’m still interested in other libraries that could let me do algorithmic 3D designs for printing.

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