28 February 2013

My Real Minecraft House

2013-02-10_20.56.00 In-game Screenshot

In my ongoing education about 3D printing I decided to explore the workflow from digital to IRL and what better way to do that than minecraft? For those who don't know what minecraft is:

  1. Welcome to 2013. Sorry you've been under a rock for the last few years
  2. Imagine a Lego set with unlimited blocks that you can share with friends.

The model I chose to build is an actual house that I actually made on an actual minecraft server for Nerdfighters appropriately named "Nerdcrafteria". It's a fun place and quite social as minecrafting goes. I highly recommend that people try it out.

Anyway I have a plot in a virtual town called "Laketown" and on that plot I had built my very first minecraft treehouse. You can actually go there and visit it. if you want at (-816,65,614)

I'm not a huge minecraft aficionado or anything and this house is definitely nothing particularly special but it was my very first attempt so it made for a good printing candidate.

Getting the model

Nerdcrafteria2-500 Ray-traced version

This was the bit that I was a little nervous about. After-all, who owns the content on a minecraft server? The blocks were laid by me, after all. I tried tweeting at the admins but no-one got back to me so after an attempt to ask for permission I opted to beg for forgiveness instead. After all, nothing on the forum rules specifically prohibited it.

The slogan of Nerdfighters is "Don't Forget To be Awesome" so I made a few assumptions including making sure that my intentions were honourable and that there was no risk of negatively affecting anyone else. I made completely sure that the bounds of my model only included bricks that I, myself had laid.  Fair use gets kind of tricky here but I figured that as long as I wasn't doing anything to cheat the game and since the blocks were already stored on my computer to begin with it was ok. All I did was find a way for minecraft not to delete the blocks when I logged off.

Once I had the level file I used a program called mineways to extract it into a model file that was useful to me. The export was a .stl file which imports nicely into ReplicatorG (if you want to go straight to print), Sketchup or your favourite CAD software.

You can see it pictured to the left rendered with an app called Chunky.

Sketchup

Now the fun part. I imported the mineways model into sketchup and, to my dismay, each minecraft cube was modeled as a separate object. Gross. Also my little house had an interior that I had no desire to model or print so after cleaning it up with the help of some great ruby plugins I had to open it up and pull out all the insides. It's kind of like making a jack-o-lantern but with vertices instead of goop.

Then I took a long hard look at my model and figured out where the overhangs were. I really wanted to avoid the need for support materials and rafts because it wastes a lot of PLA filament and because you need to carve away the supports afterwards and the results are always a little bumpy. Plus it's extra work. Did I mention I'm lazy?

So, based on the overhangs it looked as if I would have very little work to do if I used 3 separate pieces:

nerdcrafteria_house

I also hollowed out the back piece in case I wanted to get fancy later and make it a secret hiding place or put in some electronics or something.

Printing

Printing was a snap with the Makerbot Replicator 2. I used the quickest print that my makerbot could do with a 5% fill. The quickness of the print will give you a less detailed model but minecraft is entirely cubes so I figured it wouldn't matter much. The 5% fill was because I wanted it to be hollow but I still needed enough structure so the top surfaces wouldn't sag. Thanks Makerbot!

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Printing lessons learned:

See how it curls up from the table here? See how it curls up from the table here?

When printing large-ish objects with big, flat bases you sometimes see curling as the plastic cools. This is because the plastic gets applied at a high temperature and the rest of the model is not and wherever you have a heat delta you're going to notice expansion and contraction. Also the infill of the object can add inner tension and pull on its walls.

In the future I will try o add mouse ears to the corners: basically round, flat coin pieces to provide that extra stick in the corners and help it keep its shape.

Eco-friendly Electrics

I was shopping at Home Depot the other day and I came across some solar lights on sale for about $3.50. I immediately got a maniacal grin as I thought about my tiny little house being solar-powered.

The house itself has an eco-friendly edge to it because it's made with PLA which is a bio-polymer. Keep in mind that PLA still takes energy to make, however the raw stuff of it comes from corn starch and not dinosaur bones, so it's renewable. Also it biodegrades over time so as plastics go it definitely seems less evil. Post in the comments if you know differently.

Anyway, with that spirit in mind I set about making my house into a solar-powered night-light that I can use to find the bathroom when I'm stumbling through my apartment late at night.

[gallery type="slideshow" ids="2245,2249,2246,2254,2255,2256"]

Finishing

I used a standard acrylic spray paint to put down 2-3 white primer coats in preparation for painting. My friend Kevin had some paints lying around which he graciously donated to the cause and, with his help, on a saturday afternoon, two grown men painted a tiny house. I hadn't painted a model since I was about ten years old (it was a Star Trek TNG scale replica for those who care). In keeping with that, the results look like it was painted by a ten year old....chimpanzee. Clearly my calling in life doesn't intersect with the visual arts. I won't quit my day job just yet.

[gallery type="slideshow" ids="2262,2263,2261,2259,2258"]

So how much did it cost? All told, with 5% infill and including all the supports and rafts this object weighed: (40.3 +29.4 +74) = 143 grams. I get my spools for about $35 per kg so all told the final cost of plastic was about $5 CAD. Then add in electricity for about 1.5 hours of print time plus painting and $3.50 for the light I pulled apart to use as the electrics..... I figure the whole thing was still under $10.

Given the trouble of printing this single model I'm definitely not keen to start doing this as a living but it was a fun one-off project nonetheless and a great introductory print while I'm learning about 3D printing.

So what do you think? Was it worth the trouble?


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