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Easy 3d Printed Signs make Great Gifts

Remember when you gave your first gift? Most likely you made it yourself with crayons. If you were a little more advanced maybe even macaroni and glue was involved. Regardless whoever you gave that gift to probably loved it. Why? Because it was made by you and it was personalized for them. You probably don't want to break out the Elmer's glue and macaroni pieces for your next gift (assuming your older than 5 and I am betting you are if your reading this). But I have an equally simple project you can make on your 3d printer in a few hours with basic design skills. I made 3d printed desk signs with the recipients name on them for Christmas this year.

My Name... printed in ProtoPasta Carbon Fiber HTPLA

This is a simple gift that requires very basic CAD skills. I used Fusion 360 to create my models.

To begin you need to start a sketch and use the text tool to create the first word that will become the base of your sign. Pick a font you like and size the letters so that they are sized well. A little planning at this phase can simplify things later so consider what other words you want to add to the sign and consider the size of your 3d printers bed. You can always scale it later in your slicing program as well.

I wanted my signs to be as large as possible and only use the first and last name and the last names I used were short 6-8 letters long. The last names on my signs were used for the base and the text was between 1.5 to 2" tall.

Text tool in the Sketch Menu

The KEY to extruding text in Fusion 360!

Next we need to extrude the text. In Fusion 360 you will need to convert the text which is an image into a vector path that it can extrude. Right click on the text and click "Explode Text". Be sure you are happy with the font choice and sizing because it will be difficult to make changes without redoing everything from this point forward. You can edit the shapes of the curves which could be used for some cool effects, but changing the "font" is no longer possible without restarting the text tool.

I extruded my last names to 0.5" thick. Now we need to create a base that the letters will sit on and join them together. Create another sketch on the same plane that the letters were extruded from and create a rectangle that just barely touches the bottom of all the letters in the last name. I made this 0.25" tall for most of my signs. Extrude and use the "join" option to connect the rectangle base to the last name letters.

If you only want a last name you are done now. But if you would like to add a first name you can do this many ways. I tried a few methods myself depending on who the sign was for. You can simply make the base you just made a little longer and add the text in front of it for the simplest method. You can also attach a base to the top of the last name that will connect to the bottom of the first name text. Feel free to be creative and consider slanting your text at an angle. The key is to be sure to connect all letters to the base. You may also have to create connectors for letters like "i" to not loose parts of the text. Be sure to explode text and extrude the shapes out to the desired thickness.

Once you are happy with your 3d model you should have a single component that makes up the first and last name with any needed connectors to hold it all together. At this point you need to export an STL file into your slicer of choice. I use Simplify 3d.

After importing, I centered then rotated all the models diagonally to give myself the most space then increased the scale until the name filled the bed. For infill I typically went with low percentage (10-30%). The reason I varied the infill between models depended on the fonts I choose. For more delicate fonts with smaller details I went with higher infill percentages to be sure the name was strong enough to survive being removed from the build plate and some handling. Use the slice preview to be sure that each letter has sufficient infill to be reasonably strong. Layer height can be set to max for faster printing without loss of detail as the models are primarily simple extrusions. I set mine to 0.3mm layer heights which resulted in relatively fast prints (2-4 hours for each sign)

Another idea to add even a bit more visual interest is printing the models without any solid top layers. This will leave the infill pattern exposed. Be sure to use an interesting pattern like hexagons for this style of build.

Lastly this might be a great opportunity to use some of the more interesting filaments such as metal filled, matte fiber or carbon fiber filled. Obviously try and use the recipients favorite color and it is possible to print this in multiple colors if you change the filament mid-print.

This was a fun project that was relatively simple to make and print. I hope you have as much fun with this as I did and the sign recipients should love their gifts.

If your experience is like mine you may end up having to print more than you expected.

If you are looking for more 3d printed gift ideas before Christmas I released a video on my favorite 3d printed gifts. I have given a fair amount of 3d printed gifts. Check out that video for more ideas, most of the gifts aren't Christmas specific so you can give them any time.

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