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Parametric 3D Modeling with OpenScad

parametric 3d modeling

With OpenScad, you can custom print plastic parts using parametric 3D modeling under your control. You’ll be amazed.

If you spend any time looking for 3D printing models on Thingiverse, you must have noticed a bunch of customizable models. With these models, you can customize size and other features before creating your STL file for printing. Unfortunately, the Thingiverse customizer does not always work, or does so very slowly.

Most of the parametric 3D models on Thingiverse have been created in OpenScad. Unlike most CAD programs, OpenScad works with scripts rather than an interactive GUI. Some bright folks have created and uploaded these scripts (*.scad) files to Thingiverse for your use.

You simply install OpenScad on your computer, and download the *.scad file from Thingiverse. After that, you can customize these parts locally. Usually, you just have to modify a few parameters in the script to get what you want. And the results are amazing.

Above, you can see two uses I put to parametric 3D modeling. On the left is a worm gear set (50:1). Basically, you select number of gear teeth and radius of axles to hold the worm and gear. The result shown above is what I will attach to a stepper motor for my loop tuning capacitor.

On the right are a couple of custom GT2 pulleys. You will find these are quite easy to print on most 3D printers. You just select number of teeth and axle size, as well as gear height and type of captive nut you plan to use for securing these parts. My result shown above will be used to rotate my next loop.

Parametric 3D Modeling Galore

I have found some very useful parametric models including shaft collars and flexible couplers that I have used in the past. Also quite often print nuts and bolts, which are non-conductive.

Will these plastic parts perform as well as metal ones? Will they hold up over time? Well, maybe, depending on stresses and environment. And especially if you print using nylon filament.

Quite often you may use these plastic parts short-term while waiting for the “real thing” to arrive. And sometimes, parametric 3D modeling is the only way to get a custom part at low cost.

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