3D Print Your Name with Cinema 4D

Photo of Rick Barrett

Instructor Rick Barrett

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  • Duration: 11:23
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  • Made with Release: 16
  • Works with Release: 16 and greater

Transform Illustrator vector artwork into a 3D-printed Nameplate.

Learn how to use Cinema 4D to create a 3D print based on extruded Adobe Illustrator artwork. This could be made into a simple nameplate, a keychain, cake topper, or some similar item. You’ll learn about setting project scale, pasting artwork from Illustrator, extruding, and orienting a model for the best print.

In this tutorial, you’ll use CV-ArtSmart to paste Illustrator artwork into Cinema 4D. You can easily install CV-ArtSmart via the CV-Toolbox.



In this tutorial, we're going to look at a very basic 3D printing project. And it's taking something that a lot of motion graphics people do all the time, which is taking some Illustrator artwork and extruding it. But in this case, I extruded it and sent it to a 3D printer, like you create something that could be used as a name plate or maybe a key ring or even a cake topper perhaps, if you added a few prongs onto the bottom of it. So, for this what I did was, started in Illustrator and I used a font that already sort of had joined letters in order to provide myself with a good starting point but then I ended up doing some little tweaks to join the paths together and smooth out those transitions between the letters. And actually this B didn't curl into the A at all properly. So once I was done with that, the next thing that I needed to do was get this into Cinema 4D. And my preferred method to get from Illustrator into Cinema 4D is always Cineversity ArtSmart. And that's not just because I built it. It's really easy to just copy the Illustrator spline here and go into Cinema 4D, and choose plug-ins ArtSmart, CV-ArtSmart, paste, and then I have my spline. And in fact, let me actually tweet the preferences so that it will center that artwork as I bring it in because that's a much better way of doing it. And so now, here I have my spline right there. Now this is in the XY plane, I actually want it to be in the XZ plane, flat on the ground because again, I'm thinking about the orientation of my object. If I was to extrude this like this, let's actually just go ahead and do that, I've got a lot of pieces here, that are just hanging out with no real support underneath them. But if I rotate this entire thing, flat on the ground, now you can see that, it's basically a trivial matter for the 3D printer to just print straight up. There's nothing underneath that's not supported, well, at least, not yet. I actually skipped a step though, I forgot to set my project scale. So let's do that right now. I'm going to hit control D and switch this into millimeters and change my project scale to .1 millimeters. And now we can see that this object is 43.79 millimeters big. Now of course, I'm an American, so again, I really don't have any clue what size that is. So, what I'm going to do is hit shift C and type toggle units, and I can see that that is 1.7 inches wide. So, that's roughly an inch and three quarters. I think I probably want this to be five inches, so, let's go ahead and select the path. And we're going to scale that up three times. And the main reason I'm selecting the path is just to make sure that I'm not messing with the scaling on the extrude because that could make it hard to deal with the caps and the filleting when I add those in just a bit. So, now we can see that the extrude is coming in at five inches or, for those of you who actually understand the metric system, it is 131.37 millimeters. We'll go in here to the extrude itself, and let's see how tall it is. Right now, we're 2 millimeters tall, which is pretty short. I want to maybe make this more like 10 millimeters. So, we'll go ahead and set 10 there. And one thing you'll notice is that it actually went down when I changed that. And generally, I'm going to want to work up, from the floor when I'm creating my 3D print. So, I'm actually going to make this -10 millimeters. And let's see, for those of us who are American, that's not quite half an inch, so about 3/8 of an inch tall. We're going to go in here into the cap and fillet section and I want to go ahead and add a fillet cap so that I get a little bit of grounding. We'll go ahead and switch back into millimeters. And what we have here by default, is half of a millimeter of a radius. Let's go ahead and increase that to one millimeter. I don't think a half millimeter is going to make a whole lot of difference, it's not going to be all that visible. We also have right now, a very linear fillet here, because it's just one step. So, we can go ahead and increase that to maybe like five steps on both ends and the default profile here, is convex. So, it's just directly grounded. I want to actually switch this to concave. Now, this is going to create a bit of an overhanging here on the bottom which could be a problem but I think we can probably get away with it in this case. Now, something you need to keep in mind, when you're creating your extrudes, is that by default extrudes in Cinema 4D happen outside of the profile. So even though without the fillet, this was 131 millimeters wide. Once I added the fillet, it actually made it 133, almost 134 millimeters wide because it's adding one millimeter around the profile on all sides. It also made it thicker, so it actually moved down into the floor one millimeter here. So keep in mind that by default, if you're doing something with precision, your sizes are going to get bigger when you add that fillet onto your extrude. You will see that a little bit more when we create the Go-pro accessory. In order to counteract that, you can turn on the constrain option, however, depending on your fillet radius, that's often going to create just a mess of your geometry. So, your best bet is to try and leave constraint off and the other thing you can do is go into Illustrator and actually offset your path inward before you bring it into Cinema 4D. And then when you fillet out from that, you will actually have the proper size. The next thing that we need to keep in mind once again, is that there is no phong in a 3D printer. So, this phong tag here, we need to go ahead and delete that. And now you can see that we've actually got a bit of stepping here around the edges. Now, depending on the resolution of the 3D printer, I couldn't tell you if this was really going to show up or not. This is probably pretty close to on the borderline of actually being something that you'll notice. Over here, the steps are a little bit bigger. What I like to do is select my path and go into the intermediate points. And rather than using an adaptive interpolation, you can use uniform or even a sub-divided interpolation to ensure that there is an additional edge, every, say .2 millimeters. And if I turn on the Gouraud shading with lines, you can see this a little bit more clearly. I'm going to put this back to .5 and then if I move this down to .2, or even maybe .1, you can see how those lines get a lot closer together. And if I go back into Gouraud shading without the lines, you can see that even though I don't have phong anymore, I still have a very smooth surface around the edges of these letters. The same thing goes with the steps of your fillet. That's another place where you may need things to be smoother and increasing the steps of your fillet. It looks like my five steps are actually fine, in this case. So with that, we're ready to export this file as an .stl. I'm just going to delete these. It won't matter but I'm just going to delete the nulls just to clean things up. We will save this file as barrett tutorial and I'm going to export this as an .stl. Once again, scale should be one millimeter. Hit okay. Now, we'll jump into MakerBot desktop and I'm going to create a new file. And I'm going to add my barretttutorial.stl file. It's going to prompt me to move it to the platform because you'll remember that with that fillet I actually ended up about a millimeter below the ground plane. So I'm going to go ahead and move that onto the platform. And we'll just double-check our scale here, 133 millimeters here, that matches what I had here, in Cinema 4D. So, I think we are pretty well good to go. You can position this where you want it on the build plate. And then you're going to want to go into settings. And every slicer is going to have some sort of settings, or in Simplify 3D I think it's called a process. And this is where you'll actually set the resolution of your print. So, the default resolution for a MakerBot print is .2 millimeters layer height with an infill of 10% and you can adjust this. Most 3D printers will go down to .15 or even .1 as a high quality print. And you can also increase the infill if you want to strengthen your model. And the number of shells also will strengthen your model. That's the number of layers it puts before it starts just using that honey comb structure to infill. I'm going to print with a raft because, especially to MakerBot, it doesn't have a heated bed and so the PLA material will actually start to curl up as you're printing it and then it basically will just make a whole mess of your 3D print. So putting a raft down actually gives the print itself something to stick to. The raft is sort of a thicker bottom layer that is fairly easy to peal off after you print. So, I'm going to go ahead and put a raft in this case. I don't have any need, in this case, for supports. And so, once I'm done with that, I can go and print directly to my MakerBot. And here's a little time lapse that shows how this piece looks as it's being printed. And of course, you'll need to adjust this step in the slicer and take it to 3D printer, depending on what 3D printer and slicing application you're using. And once this thing's all done, I have a nice little barrett name plate that I can put on my desk. Of course, you are not obliged to use my name when you do this project. You're welcome to create your own Illustrator artwork and print out your own name plate and stick it on your desk.
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