All of the modeling software written for the Tactile Universe makes used of Blender, an open source 3D modeling and rendering program. In this post we will be going over how to set up Blender for the use of our software. For the most part I will not be covering how to navigate/use the user interface, to learn about that check out some great tutorials from Blender Guru and CG Cookie.
Step 1: Download the software
To begin, download and install the latest version of Blender from https://www.blender.org/download/ (currently v2.79b), and download the latest version of the Tactile Universe’s software from our GitHub page (currently v3.4). This download will be a zip folder containing the various scripts and plug-ins needed to make models. The
README.md file contains a description of each file.
EDIT (Feb 24, 2020): For Blender 2.80 or higher make sure to use v4.0 or higher of the plugin. New features have also been added since these posts were made, updated version will be available soon.
When you open blender you should see the following default scene:
Step 2: Changing the User Preferences
Now that we have Blender working we need to adjust some of the user preferences. These can be found by going to
File > User Preferences:
Step 2.1: Increase the font size
I find that the on my laptop the default font size is quite small. To increase it go to the
Interface tab and under
Display increase the
Scale to the value that works for you.
Step 2.2: Change some input settings
You will likely only have to change these settings if you are using a laptop with a trackpad, or a keyboard that does not have a numberpad. First Go to the
Input tab. If your keyboard does not have a numberpad check the box next to
Emulate Numberpad, this will treat the regular number keys on your keyboard as if they were coming from a numberpad.
If you are using a Mac trackpad instead of a mouse check the box next to
Natural Trackpad Direction to activate proper detection of multi-touch events used to navigate around scene (NOTE: this option will not show up for Windows).
Step 2.3: Activate Import Images as Planes plugin
Next we will had over to the
Add-ons tab to activate the `Import Images as Planes` plugin. This plug in will allow us to import an image as a texture applied to a plane, the starting point for creating a 3D galaxy. Use the search box in the upper left of the window to find the plugin and then activate it by clicking the checkbox next to it.
Step 2.4: Install and activate Emboss Plane plugin
Next we will install the Tactile Universe’s custom plugin for making models:
Emboss Plane. Click the
Install Add-on from File... button at the bottom of the window and navigate to the
emboss_plane.py file you downloaded from our GitHub page. Once selected, click the
Install Add-on from File... button.
Finally we need to activate the plugin in the same way as the previous step. Once activated click the
Save User Settings button to make sure these settings are remembered the next time you start Blender.
Step 3: Creating a startup file
You may have noticed when you first opened Blender there was already a cuber, light, and camera in the scene. This is not very useful for creating tactile models, so we are going to delete them an create a more useful startup file.
Step 3.1: Deleting the default objects
First we will delete the default objects from the scene. Move the mouse into the 3D viewport (the large section in the middle of the screen), press the
a key twice to select all the objects (once to de-select all object, a second time to select all object) followed by the
x to prompt you to delete the objects, click
Delete to confirm their removal.
Once they are removed we will move the 3D veiwprots camera to a more useful position. Press
5 to enter “orthographic” mode (this adds a useful measurement grid in top-down view), and
7 to enter top-down view.
Step 3.2: Using real world units
Next we will set up Blender to use real world units. Most 3D printers will assume that the files will use the scale
1 unit = 1 mm. Blender defaults to
1 unit = 1 m, we can change this by going the
scene tab in the right hand side of the UI. Set the
Metric with a scale of
Step 3.3: Save the file as the Startup File
The final step is to make this the new startup screen by saving it as a
Startup File. Go to
File > Save Startup File and click
Save Startup File on the confirmation screen that pops up.
The setup is now complete and you are ready to start making tactile models. Keep an eye out for our next post that will go over how to use the Emboss Plane plugin.