What 3D software do I use for Architectural models suitable for 3D printing?
August 23, 2009 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Hey all. Similar questions to this have been asked, but I think my formulation is unique. I am trying to model some stone walls for architectural models. I need the stone texture to show up in 3D so it will print on a 3D printer. I am not sure what the best 3D software to use for this application.

I started out using Blender, but after many hours of use, while I can build some basic shapes, I can't get the textures right. I am beginning to think that learning Blender in order to make the simple shapes I want is like learning Linux in order to try and write a letter to grandma.

I also tried Rhinoceros, but have bumped up against the same basic problem. While I can figure out how to make basic shapes, I am having a real problem getting textures mapped on to them. It is important to note that the textures must be "real" 3D as opposed to mapped on jpegs. The texture of the stone must actually print in a stereolithography machine.

Anyway, I am not even sure what the right questions to ask are, much less which software is right or how to go about doing what I want to do. I am willing to do the work to learn the appropriate program(s), but, at this point, don't even have a clue as to which path to start down.

Hell, the right thing to do might be to just hire the work done. Then again, if I want to make changes later, I can't make them myself.

Any advice would be much appreciated.

Btw, I am male, using Windows XP pro in a PC. I can be contacted via the e-mail address listed on my MeFi page.

posted by Yellowbeard to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
From what I've seen, 3D printers have a certain default granularity to the finish, so you might just be needing to model the joint lines between the stones. You're going to need a pretty fine mesh on your object if you want to put in any dings or chips.

Try the forum at shapeways.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:06 PM on August 23, 2009

Procedural stones in MojoWorld.

Something I came across a while back but have never gotten to experiment with, unfortunately, so I can't give feedback.
posted by XMLicious at 2:17 PM on August 23, 2009

Just mapping the textures as a material won't do it, as that doesn't affect the actual geometry, just the rendering.

You could do this in 3ds Max by applying a "Displace" modifier using the textures. You'd need a fairly fine mesh so the stonework would show up, as the modifier acts on the position of the mesh's vertices. This is a fairly simple process.

I don't think Rhino has any analogue. Don't know about Blender.
posted by signal at 2:33 PM on August 23, 2009

Oh, and Max has a procedural stonework map, which are easier to work with than bitmaps. It's called "Tiles", I think.
posted by signal at 2:34 PM on August 23, 2009

Seconding 3ds Max. I have a friend who does all his 3d work in there.
posted by kylej at 10:39 PM on August 23, 2009

AFAIK you can't do this in rhino or blender except by modifying a mesh by hand. signal has the right idea for 3ds max. You need a tool to translate the texture map into physical deformation of the mesh. If you need this to have any significant level of detail, it's going to make your model file lots bigger.

I worked at an architectural modelmaking shop for several years and even with the tools at our disposal, we would have balked at the idea of modeling actual stone texture in the STL file. What scale will this be printed at? Could you print the model with a flat surface and add the texture by hand with a molded polystyrene plate or something? It just seems like a lot of work.
posted by Chris4d at 12:02 PM on August 24, 2009

Response by poster: My understanding is that displacement maps will do this. I am hoping this is correct.

Scale is about Engineering 1:5, and the models are not super big.

I think I may hire this done by someone who really knows what they are doing. Thanks for the help!

posted by Yellowbeard at 6:41 PM on August 24, 2009

My understanding is that displacement maps will do this. I am hoping this is correct.

Like I said above, in Max it's a modifier called Displace, not a displacement map within a texture. The first one affects geometry, the second one not so much.
posted by signal at 8:44 PM on August 25, 2009

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