Adding 3D fonts to OpenSCAD

Programmatically personalize objects with custom text

OpenSCAD fonts

Last week I made some promotional glow-in-the-dark bottle openers (based on Starno’s excellent bottle opener) for Site 3’s anniversary party. I used Blender to add some lettering, but it was a pain because I’m not really used to working with the Blender UI.

Lucky for me, there’s now a solution for generating 3D text in OpenSCAD: the OpenSCAD Font Importer 1.1 by pipakin. It’s still under development (and requires a bit of compiling) so some users may not find this to be an easier solution, but it’s a must-have if you love using OpenSCAD.

Here’s how to get started.

These instructions will work in general for whichever platform you’re using, but specifically I’m using Mac OS X 10.6. (In my experience, when compiling open source projects like FreeType under Windows, there can be… hiccups. :) )

Download these packages:

Install and compile:

  • - Install Python
  • - Extract freetype-2.4.5.tar.gz
  • - Extract freetype-py-0.3.1.tar.gz
  • - Open a terminal window and do this:
    • > cd ~/Downloads/freetype-2.4.5/
    • > ./configure
    • > make
    • > sudo make install
    • > cd ~/Downloads/freetype-py-0.3.1/
    • > python setup.py install

Create a font file:

  • - Pick a TrueType font already installed on your system, or download a public domain one from FontSpace and copy it to your Downloads folder
  • - In your terminal window, do this, changing HelveticaLight to whichever font you chose:
    • > cd ~/Downloads/
    • > python full_ddump.py -f HelveticaLight.ttf -o FontHelveticaLight.scad -m FontHelveticaLight

Okay, you’re ready to use the font. All you have to do now is add “include <FontHelveticaLight.scad>” to the OpenSCAD file you’re working on, then create each individual letter by calling FontHelveticaLight() like this: FontHelveticaLight(“A”);

Now you can move and transform the text as you like, and personalize existing models as you see fit. Here’s hoeken’s chunky bottle opener with text added:

Woo!

The rendering process can be slow, so if you’re doing more than a few letters pipakin recommends generating your string as a separate model and merging it in later. Be sure to read the instructions at http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:9551 for more options to control font size, spacing, and pre-generation of full strings of text.


Derek Quenneville is a 3D printing evangelist who posts weekly on the Ponoko blog. Follow him on Twitter @techknight.

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