# Printing surfaces from Maple?

Discussion in 'Software and Applications' started by LesleyRobinson, May 9, 2012.

1. LesleyRobinson New Member
I teach math, in particular, Calculus 3, which involves surfaces in space. I can make all sorts of 3d graphs in Maple, and I can easily export them to X3D or Collada.

I've just learned about 3d printing. I am just blown away by the idea that I might actually be able to produce 3d models that my students could hold in their hands. If I could make a model of an xyz coordinate system with a plane, or a paraboloid, or a space curve some how fastened in place on the xyz axis, this would be amazing.

Has anyone tried this? Any advice?

Attached Files:

2. gibell Well-Known Member
I have no direct experience printing mathematical models, but I suggest you look at Henry Segerman's store for a look at what is possible:

http://www.shapeways.com/shops/henryseg

I'm not sure if he uses Maple or Mathematica ...

-George Bell

3. stonysmith Well-Known Member Moderator
I think using 3d printing in the classroom is an incredibly good idea.

The trouble with 3d printing is that you can't print planes.. they must be a very thing rectangular solid, or to say it another way.. the must have "thickness".

I've attached a picture and a STL here to give you some idea of what I'm talking about.

notes:
1) You want to increase the number of points in your cone. The more points, the smoother a curved surface will be.
2) I would consider including an X,Y,Z axis with the model to help re-inforce the concept of position vs origin.
3) I would also consider printing the item in Full Color, assigning a different color to each expression.
4) The model here was designed for White,Strong, Flexible .. the walls are 0.7mm thick.
5) This entire model here is only 1" across. If you want larger "hand held" models of say 4-6", you're going to find that the prices are prohibitive.

4. stonysmith Well-Known Member Moderator
Here's the 3d model:

Attached Files:

5. LesleyRobinson New Member
How did you make the picture? I don't know what information is in the x3d file I posted, since I don't know how to view it. But your picture looks very much like the original Maple graph I made the x3d file from!

Yes, I agree, the x, y, and z axes should be part of the model to help the students understand. I think a 1 inch size would be very useful. I envision having a collection of models of different surfaces and perhaps space curves. Perhaps I could have them all mounted on a board, with their axes all pointing in the same directions. But not permanently mounted, so the students could pick them up.

I assume from what you wrote that you can do 3d printing in colour! That is amazing. If it can't be done in colour, I was thinking of painting the models.

I don't think it is a problem that the surface has to have a thickness. It would still give students the right idea.

If the surface touched the coordinate axes in maybe only one place, would that be enough to keep the surface fastened in place? If not, perhaps I could make a few other gridlines. Is it possible to make parts of a model out of a clear material? I was thinking that coloured axes and some clear gridlines might make the model more stable.
Having clear gridlines might also allow the creation of a model showing points in space.

I was also thinking that sometimes it might be good to include the coordinate planes (in a clear substance) as part of a model, so the students could see how a surface intersects the coordinate planes.

6. LesleyRobinson New Member
What is an .stl file? Is there a way to view it?

7. LesleyRobinson New Member

It looks as if he uses Mathematica:
http://www.shapeways.com/model/503264/hyperbolic-paraboloid. html

This is the sort of thing I had in mind, only I was thinking of a solid surface (rather than a grid) and I want to have the x, y and z axes as a part of the model, if possible

8. stonysmith Well-Known Member Moderator
STL is simply another file format simiiar to X3D

There is one incredibly simple way to view the STL.. upload it it your shapeways account. You are not committed to purchasing just because you upload a model.

9. stonysmith Well-Known Member Moderator
I could tell you but that'd let all my secrets out.
I took the X3D file, converted it to STL with Meshlab (a free program) then opened it with Truespace (a free program) and then added "thickness" to the two surfaces, and threw in the 3 axis markers, then colored the whole thing. As a file step, I wrote it back out as STL.
Note: this is just the way I work, there are MUCH simpler ways to deal with this if you're starting from scratch.

Yes, the material "Full Color Sandstone" is just that.. COLOR! the only difficulty with it for your purposes is that 1) it will require the planes to be even thicker than some of the other materials (it has a 2mm thickness requirement) and 2) FCS can be a bit brittle.. not sure it'd survive a 4 foot drop onto tile floor. You may be happier with the material called WSF because it is Nylon, therefore very strong and pliable... should last well in a classroom. It is pure white.. you'll need to do your own painting.

At this time, none of the materials are "clear". One of them (FUD) is "frosted" (translucent) but not optically clear. Aslo at this time, there's no way to mix multiple materials in a single model.

10. henryseg Well-Known Member
I use Rhinoceros 3D for almost all of my 3D stuff, with the python scripting interface for procedurally generating geometry.

The model generated by Mathematica is an example for an article I'm writing for the Mathematical Intelligencer on how to get into 3D printing for mathematicians. It's possible to get pretty far using Mathematica alone, but for fancier things I think you really need some more specialised software, like Rhinoceros.

-Henry Segerman

11. LesleyRobinson New Member
I've started using a combination of Meshlab and netfabb studio to attempt to get my Maple stuff ready for printing. I've had some success, although I haven't actually received anything tangible in the mail yet (some have been shipped)

Today I'm trying to upload a file but it is too big (it is about 93,000 KB). I'm not sure why it is so big. It doesn't seem particularly complex. In Netfabb added 3 small sphere and 4 cylinders to the objects I had produced in Maple. This seemed to increase the file size from about 3000 KB to 93,000 KB

It is much smaller as a binary file rather than ASCII, but it gets rejected by the server when I try to upload it in binary.

I have attached the file without the added spheres and cylinders (it won't let me upload the bigger file here, either. )

Attached Files:

12. gibell Well-Known Member
I would not upload ASCII stl files except on the simplest of models, they can be truly gigantic. Your attached file looks fine and does not contain that many triangles. You must figure out why your binary stl is being rejected, I have never had a problem with that (does it still have an .stl extension?). You can also compress your binary stl using PkZip and it will become even smaller. The largest models I have submitted are stl binaries, zipped ...

13. LesleyRobinson New Member
OK, I just tried uploading the binary files again, and this time it worked! (For some reason I thought we could only upload ASCII files).

14. LesleyRobinson New Member
The attached model is just a simple xyz axes with labels, and a ring attached. I am hoping I made it so that the ring will be movable. Does anyone know if this will work?

Attached Files:

15. stonysmith Well-Known Member Moderator
It's very likely that the model won't pass the "wall thickness" checks because the fonts are so thin. I would attempt it with a font that is approximately double the thickness. Another possible choice is to recess those letters instead of having them protrude.

16. Phxman Member
Lesley,

There are several free STL viewers. this is the best I have found, and it allows you to tumble and measure etc.