An Introduction to 3d Modeling with openSCAD

openSCAD screenshot

The standard openSCAD layout.

This summer I finally decided to try 3d modeling after reading an article in Wired magazine that laid out the process. I looked for an open source CAD program that would be straightforward to use, and that matched my design approach. I found openSCAD, which was perfect for me. openSCAD lets you write instructions for your designs, which I much prefer to designing with a mouse. Some aspects of openSCAD take some experience to understand, but it is still relatively easy to get started with the program.

Koch Snowflake Ornament

Koch Snowflake, printed in stainless steel

My first project with openSCAD was a holiday ornament based on the Koch snowflake fractal. It was a very satisfying project, which pushed me to learn a number of different aspects of working with openSCAD, and doing 3d design work in general. This introduction will focus on something simpler than this project, because fractals get fairly difficult unless you have some programming experience.

Next: Installing openSCAD


About ehmatthes

Teacher, hacker, new dad, outdoor guy
This entry was posted in modeling, openSCAD and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to An Introduction to 3d Modeling with openSCAD

  1. norbert rovira says:

    Hi, just stumbled upon your blog when searching for fractal examples applied in OpenScad.
    If you have some good resources i could check, let me know…

    But I was glad to see that we have same interests: mountains in addition to Tech.
    Check my blog..same picture style 😉
    Mine was over 4000m at Monte Rosa in Italian Alps…

    • ehmatthes says:

      I really like OpenScad, but it was not easy to build a fractal in openscad by itself. Parameters are not mutable in openscad, so they are not true variables. When openscad compiles your modeling code, all instances of a parameter take on the last value calculated for that variable (if I remember that correctly).

      I ended up writing a script in Python that generated openscad code to create a fractal. Knowing both languages, it wasn’t very difficult. There is a python wrapper for openscad, but I didn’t bother to use it in this case. If I were doing another fractal project, I would probably look for that wrapper.

      Going to the mountains is a great way to balance technical work! I like to go to the mountains, scare myself with the steep so much that I don’t ever want to go to the mountains again. At that point, all I want to do in the world is sit in front of a computer and build things. Then the weather clears, and I forget the fear, and it starts all over again. Not a bad life!

      • norbert rovira says:

        Right, the issue about variables…need to look at it. But I do not know Python…

        Regarding mountains, I also spent some scary moments which are compensated by the accomplishment feeling afterwards. I keep going, as you 😉

  2. I am an experienced designer with Solidworks, but I know how OpenSCAD works and I am awed when I see things like this created with it. Bravo.

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