For many years I designed hardware: Plastic injection molding, metal stampings, turned and milled parts, PCBs, etchings, the works.
Nowadays I am a software developer at Onshape working on expanding our surfacing toolset.
When I make hardware (rarely) it’s usually on my laser cutter, which only cuts 2D parts but cuts them very carefully. So when the Onshape internal design competition started, I wanted to try something a little different, something inspired by Lovepop, a Boston-based card company that makes exquisite gift cards. They are not a customer, yet, but I’m hoping they’ll read this blog post and sign up for a trial!
The Result: Papercraft Benchy
(and the FeatureScript Tools to Make It)
Most CAD tools aren’t specifically designed to make papercraft! But in Onshape, designers aren’t limited to just the provided tools. Everyone can write their own tools using FeatureScript and share them with the community.
But first I had to design the model.
If you are a 3D printing enthusiast you already know why I chose this little tugboat, but if not: Benchy is a 3D printing rite of passage. It is a handsome little vessel with a lot of difficult-to-print features, making it the perfect model to evaluate printer performance. While my papercraft project doesn’t quite qualify as 3D printing, it was a natural place to start.
While Benchy models are everywhere, they are all STL files, a venerable and ancient format that represents 3D objects approximately, with surfaces composed of many thousands of small triangles:
This is similar to how video games and movies represent 3D objects. Modern CAD, on the other hand, uses boundary representation to define and store points, edges, faces, surfaces, and the topological relationships between them – a more sophisticated, more powerful, and much more complex approach. This difference is the foundation of modern parametric CAD and makes all our fancy tools possible.
While Onshape works well with STL, I needed a true surface representation in order to manipulate, section, slice, and lay out the slices of paper. A triangular approximation like STL just wouldn’t work. So I jumped into Onshape’s Surfacing tools and went to work. If you want to take a look at the model and see how I modeled it you can find it by clicking the button below.