For a while I wanted to try this new world of 3D printing, but didn’t have any useful project in mind and my motivation faded away. Though last weekend, while I was going to setup the umbrella on the balcony, I realized that my installation would be lot better if I had the right part. Let me explain the setup. Instead of buying a large and heavy base, I simply attach the pole to the ramp. As the ramp is a bit higher, I need to create a certain distance between the pole and the ramp in order to be able to plug and un-plug the umbrella. Always leaving the umbrella in place is not an option due to strong winds. So the setup is simply a U shaped bolt, with a metal plate, two knots and something between the ramp and the pole. That something was last year a simple peace of wood, which was very shaky in the end.
Like any other project, I started googling. Obviously I wanted to do this work entirely from Linux and using OpenSource softwares. I stumbled across a really simple way of create the part I needed. The idea is simple, you draw the 2D shape of the part and then give it a depth. Now all you need is the tools. To draw the 3D shape, I found that Inkscape was quite nice. It works well in millimeters and you can do shape subtraction. The resulting shape is a rectangle minus the pole (a circle of 38 mm) and the bar (a square of 10 mm). To make sure it fits, the circle was enlarged to 39 mm and the bar to 11 mm, with the exception that the bare must not be entirely inside the part otherwise it would be loose. You can find the the SVG is here.
The next step is to make a 3D model for this part. This is really easy using an Inkscape extension that produce an OpenSCAD file. Then from OpenSCAD you simply export into STL format. This format is commonly supported by slicer application. Now, this isn’t the last step. In order to print the part, you need to convert this STL into GCode. This is a format that describe the path that the printer will use to print. That GCode is often specifically configured for your printer. As I don’t own a printer, I headed to échoFab, a FabLab near my work office in Montréal, and the first in Canada. At the Lab, they already have the slicer Cura configured for their printer to produce the GCode. The rest was very straightforward with the help of the people in the Lab.
After two hours of printing, I finally got the parts and could install the setup. Enjoy !