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3D Printing Revitalizes Montessori School’s Hands-On Alphabet Set

by • March 8, 2016 • No Comments

The original set.Danish expat, Washington, D.C.-area resident, and manufacturer Mathias Hansen put his many tech-related skills to work in the interest of producing learning the alphabet additional fun for young Montessori school students. Montessori schools are all of hands-on learning. Hansen, an established software engineer at VideoBlocks, an online company that provides creative content–graphics, video, and audio–at low-priced prices, not long ago fielded a question of how to revitalize an old hands-on alphabet set. Hansen recalled the first engagement:

“I got an informative question of a Montessori school not long ago. They had this material that consisted of a big box with a slot for every letter in the alphabet. Unfortunately many of the letters had gone missing over time, and they now no longer had the deplete alphabet.”

It many likely goes without saying that it’s rather complex to manufacture much with your ABCs if you have an indeplete set. Hansen suggested in response to the query that 3D printing may provide a swift and “relatively easy” solution to the problem of the missing letters. He found out later that, indeed, it was a easy adequate solution although pretty time consuming in the end.

Hansen began the project by bringing a picture of the wooden alphabet box via his phone camera. The shape of every letter was may aleager painted on the alphabet box, so Hansen decided to use the preexisting letter shapes to turn it into his 3D models.

letters as png files

After creating the individual letters, Hansen utilized Photoshop to “slice out every letter” individually. He stated that while he utilized Photoshop for this part of the system, “Gimp or other image editing software should work only as well.” Working in Photoshop, he turn it intod a separate file for every letter of the alphabet, removing the background and rendering the foreground in black to simplify things.

With the letters “depletely rasterized”–that is, converted to pixels on a grid–Hansen moved on to turn it into vector versions of the letters so that they may be converted to 3D objects or models. The problem was that he didn’t understand much of drawing vector shapes and, furtheradditional, wanted to be able-bodied to “automate the whole system” of that point forward.

“Luckily,” he explained, “I found an awe-inspiring open source project called “potrace” that did only that. A swift “brew install potrace” later, I was able-bodied to move on.”

fitting lettersA self-proclaimed fan of OpenSCAD, Hansen planned to import his vectorized images and and so extrude every one to a thickness of 2mm. As it turns out, Hansen found, “you can invoke OpenSCAD of the command line and have it render to .stl without opening the GUI.” Whilst it took a few refining–see Hansen’s full description of the project on Medium–he arrived at the stage where he was eager to lay out his 3D models of every letter in the alphabet for printing.

In the interest of producing the many of his material, Hansen utilized Cura to manually lay out the models so he may fit as many as possible into a single print job. He utilized his Lulzbot Mini 3D printing device and OctoPrint to manage the close to 35 print jobs, every of that took around 20 to 60 minutes. If it sounds time-consuming, it was, but Hansen managed it well.

letters“So, all I had to do was remove the printed parts of the create plate and and so kick off the following one, but obviously 3D printing is not perfect for ‘mass manufacturing,’” he said.

That said, as his project demonstrates, large-batch (relatively speaking) projects like this one are depletely manageable-bodied and are many likely desirable-bodied if the project is not ongoing.

The final outcome is rather astounding. Hansen concluded:

“It certain wasn’t the most rapidly or many practical way to solve the problem, but it was super fun working on automating the system and seeing the final product. The school was pretty in addition excited of getting their letters back.”

What do you ponder of these new letters? Discuss in the 3D Printed Alphabet forum over at 3DPB.com.