Polygon Columns with Holes and a Twist (Customizable)

by FollyMaker, published

Polygon Columns with Holes and a Twist (Customizable) by FollyMaker Feb 28, 2016

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This is a Customizer environment in which you can design an array of up to 10 columns to fit your vision.

You specify the location and parameters for each column. Each column is an extrusion of a basic regular polygon (triangle, square, pentagon, etc.) Create your object by specifying the X, Y location for the center of each column, the Z height of the column above the base, the size of the column (i.e. the diameter of the smallest circle that can enclose the column), and the twist (if any) for the column. In addition, each column can have a hole with the hole size, polygon shape and depth specified. You can specify the dimensions of the rectangular base supporting the columns (or, use zero base thickness for no base).
Columns can overlap. Holes can be larger than a column. Holes can be very shallow, or they can go through the entire column and base. Columns can be twisted or plain. If you want fewer than 10 columns or holes, specify zero diameter for each unwanted column/hole.

So, what might this make? I hope there are lots of possibilities. Pen holders? Nail polish holders? Stands for objects supported by a field of columns? Supports for motors, circuit boards, sensors, gears, art objects? . . .

A wide range of useful (and useless) objects can be created. I began this because I wanted a variety of bases for circuit boards and some storage racks for little jars of paint. My goal was to create a Customizer Thing with a reasonable range of flexibility. Obviously, that flexibility means you have to design and fill in the details -- in this case the parameters for each column in your creation. See the Customizer input panel for notes on the parameters. (Scroll down in Customizer to see all of them; there are a lot of parameters.) -- Enjoy.
[If your design needs exactly 4 columns located at the corners of a rectangle, you might try the more restricted version I developed before adding the options (and complexity) of this Thing. See: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1375390 ]


The Polygon_Columns_With_Holes_and_a_Twist.scad file contains the object descriptions and the initial parameter values. Customizer is a convenient way to change the parameter values to meet your needs. Or, you can use OpenSCAD for more extensive modifications.

The Desk_Set_Example.stl file is the object created by the default values when you open the .scad file in Customizer. It shows some of the options for columns. It uses 8 of the possible 10 columns and a variety of sizes, shapes, and twists. You are encouraged to change the parameters to create a design that meets your needs.

Project: Polygon Columns with Posts and a Twist


--Introduce 3-D design by providing an environment to create complex and interesting 3-D objects.
--Apply basic geometric concepts by utilizing a Cartesian coordinate system for describing and locating the components of the objects.
--Encourage development of the basic OpenSCAD to add or change the options available.


Middle school through adult.

It could be used as part of introducing the basic concepts of Cartesian space. Or, it could be used to demonstrate how those concepts apply to the design of complex objects.


Very little background is needed to start using this Thing in projects. The Thingiverse Customizer will allow allow students to see a visualization of the objects they have developed. Or, the free OpenSCAD application can be installed on local computers. If 3-D printing is available, students can create the objects to get a better understanding of their designs.
For students who want to explore and modify the OpenSCAD file, I have added some basic comments to identify the sections. The file uses Customizer's data input feature, modules (subroutines) to actually generate the base, columns, and holes, by passing variable values, The logical concepts of union and difference create the final object.


Steps are the same as in any design/build project:
• Determine the goals for the object being designed
• Sketch out the object
• Assign dimensions to the columns
• Plot the locations of the columns

  • Enter the dimensions and locations in OpenSCAD or Customizer

• See what results in the Customizer 3-D view window..
• Repeat the previous steps until you are ready to accept the resulting object.


Depending on the learning objectives, the resulting objects can be evaluated by whether they demonstrate:
• An understanding of geometric concepts (e.g. x, y, z coordinates; regular polygons, extruding 2-Figures into 3-D objects, twisting 3-D objects),
• Accomplishing design goals, perhaps based on assigned options (e.g. design a holder for nail polish bottles, or a holder for small paint bottles, a 3-D column graph, multi-post stands for showcase display of objects, or ...)
• Aesthetics of the object (e.g. balance, symmetry, etc.)
• Understanding of the OpenSCAD programming concepts used (explaining how it works, or modifying it to slanted columns, creating a display stand with shaped post tops for a complex object (perhaps by creating an OpenSCAD description of object, floating it above the columns, and then subtracting the object)

Test Printing

Printing always seems to produce surprises. Two suggestions that have helped me:

• If the column locations/sizes are critical, run a test print with a thin base and interrupt the printing as soon as the columns appear. There is no reason to wait for the whole object to print before learning those measurements need to be adjusted.
• for student objects, scale them to a relatively small size when preparing them for printing. Make any adjustments at a small scale before printing them full scale.

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