Dec 23, 2015

3D Printing Chinese Characters

My son is learning Chinese as a freshman in high school. For the holidays, he wanted to give a personalized gift to a friend who is also taking Chinese - so he decided a 3D Printed version of her name in Chinese would be worth a try.

Design Goals

The goal is to create an object - basically a name tag or placard - which will stand up on a desk. In this case, my son said he wanted each character to be it's own distinct object. This was a pretty basic idea - one which we've covered mostly in a prior post about 3D printing text - using extrusions of english text.  But what if the language or characters you want to print are not available in the text objects of your 3D modeling tool?

Design approach

I decided the best bet would be to use the "tracing" method with Google Draw to trace over the characters - creating sketches of each character, then extruding them into 3D objects. This is super easy once you can get an image of the characters into Google Draw. My son did this part by changing his keyboard language to Chinese, using Pinyin to enter the words he wanted, then using a text object in Google Draw.

Once the characters were on the drawing canvas, I basically just traced over them using the Polyline tool. Then, once the whole thing was traced, and after deleting the text object, I use the "download as SVG" option to get something my 3D Modeling tool can import (Autodesk 123D and Tinkercad both support .SVG files).

The Challenge

The name we were creating - Wang May Hua (in english) - is actually three individual characters (in Chinese) - but two of them were multi-part characters with parts which were not physically connected. Here was he main challenge - and basically I referred to all the learnings in my "3D Printing Text" post to make this work.

the two part character connected using small rectangles
I decided the end product should be the individual characters - in their positive form rather than negative subtractions from a block - standing up on a base. That dictated what process to use to connect the individual parts of each character.

Making it work

To connect the individual parts of each character I placed a small rectangle connecting the parts, but offset it 2mm lower than the surface of the characters so that it was less obvious.

To make the characters stand up, I added a base that stood out in front of the characters - about double the thickness of the characters - so my 5mm thick characters had a 10mm thick base, which when stood up would only be 3mm high.

The result came out quite nice - and while I started with objects which are only about 30mm x 30mm, my son is hoping we can "print these now around 10 times that size!". I guess that's a good sign.

1 comment:

  1. If I may ask, how did you get that font in Google Draw? Awesome build!