For far too long, I’ve been building a 3D printer. That is it’s own story, in some other post. It isn’t even finished yet, and because it’s more than 10 minutes old (quite a bit more), it’s already out of date. Still, it’s nearly done, and so I’m starting to look at the next step — what to print and how to make the models.
I once did a lot of work in 3D graphics, and I have a good spatial sense. What I’ve found, though, is that the 3D modeling world is very difficult to access. The approaches are, for the most part, very steep in the learning-curve department. I’ve been able to get some of it working, but very slowly. I haven’t yet decided whether it’s me or them — if there is a simpler, more direct (or accessible) approach that people are missing, or if I’m just resistant to existing models for some reason. I’m sure I will form an opinion…
At least in the free software universe there is one major bit of work: blender. I have tried to work with it several times, I keep thinking the problem must be me. But I’m becoming convinced that this software is just not built to learn. This is not helped by the fact that it doesn’t seem to like the Mac. The UI was built on PC’s, and it isn’t even accepting the standard Mac equivalents for multi-button mouse clicks. This makes the whole thing very hard to use from the start. Beyond that, it presents a zillion buttons and knobs with little focus on usability. For example, several other systems I’ve used (such as Sketchup and 123D Design) allow you to immediately type precise values when acting. For instance, if you create a new circle, you can immediately just type the radius. Blender doesn’t do that, or if it does, I can’t figure out how.
So far I found Sketchup to be fairly understandable but wholly unusable for what I’m trying to do (using ngons instead of meshes for solid objects makes boolean object operations painful). 123D Design looks much more friendly, but (a) kept crashing, and (b) seemed unable to be made less friendly for the more sophisticated. K-3D works OK, but needs a lot of UI work to smooth it (just to set the tone, it comes up with two simultaneous modal dialog boxes and you have to dismiss one before the other). And so on.
At least the search has given me a distraction from how much I’m not finishing the actual printer.