Files to Physicals

by techknight, published

Files to Physicals by techknight May 25, 2011
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Generate a 3D model from an arbitrary source of data!

This is my first attempt at an OpenSCAD script that takes an MD5 hash of a file as input and creates a unique physical object from it.

OpenSCAD doesn't have a lot of string functions, so it's not quite as streamlined as that, but it's not too bad.

I've written more about it at the Ponoko blog. Check it out: http://blog.ponoko.com/2011/05/25/openscad-project-files-to-physicals

(The example model is created from my copy of Sea Within a Sea by The Horrors.)


  1. Generate an md5 hash of a file

  2. Paste it into my script here to create an fp_data.scad file: http://www.obscenis.com/filestophysicals/

  3. Put fp_data.scad into the same folder as the main script and compile Files to Physicals.scad

  4. Export to STL

  5. Print!

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Interesting... Perhaps it is time for the 3D equivalent of a QR code?

One more example - Bre Pettis photo.stl is generated from this photo of Bre:

This is very cool indeed. You're basically rerendering from the abstract to the physical. Creating a language as you go. Of course I'm not sure there's coherance, meaning, do like things look similar, but it's obviously not necessary. That might be an idea though. If you reserved some number of high order bits to hold information about the kind of thing the info represents, then similar things might have a chance of taking somewhat related forms. Pictures are corkscrews, audio files are pyramids, etc.

I really like this expansion of OpenScad.

Hmm.. That would be really neat to be able to glance at the output and say "that's a song". Since there isn't a straight path from original file to OpenSCAD variables it couldn't be automated just yet.. But maybe on the web form where you paste the MD5 I could add a dropdown for "media type", and that would add a few extra flags into the mix.

Would you recognise a Rick Astley YouTube video before you followed the link? Think of the lives saved...