In this assignment you will write Python code to generate an STL file
for a rubber duck, which you will then 3D print. The duck is
described using a set of nine parametric equations for ellipsoids that
generate a beak, eyes, head, neck, body, wings, and tail. Your code
will create a triangular mesh to approximate the surface of each
ellipsoid. These meshes will be written out as an STL file.
Technically this is not a valid description of a 3D object, becauses
the meshes overlap rather than forming a continuous surface. But in
practice, slicing programs can deal with these imperfections, so your
STL file can be printed.
The 2D Case: Approximating An Ellipse
Let's start with a simpler 2D case of an ellipse centered on the
origin whose major and minor axes are aligned with the coordinate
axes. Such an ellipse can be described by two parametric equations
for the x and y coordinates, where the parameter θ
varies from 0 to 2π:
x(θ) = A cos(θ) y(θ) = B sin(θ)
The constants A and B determine the shape of the ellipse: they are the
lengths of the semi-major and semi-minor axes. If A is larger than B
then A is the semi-major axis, otherwise A is the semi-minor axis. If
A equals B, then the shape is a circle and A is the radius. If we
want to move the ellipse off of the origin we can add in offset terms
x0 and y0:
x(θ) = x0 + A cos(θ) y(θ) = y0 + B sin(θ)
If we want to tilt the ellipse so its major and minor axes are not
aligned with the coordinate axes, we could introduce additional terms
in the equations, but this won't be necessary for our purposes.
To draw the ellipse, we use the equations to generate a set of points
(xi,yi) by stepping θ from 0
up to 2π. We can then draw lines to connect adjacent points. Here
is an ellipse defined by A=2 and B=1:
Since our goal is to generate a triangular mesh, we will instead
use the points to generate a set of triangles. Each triangle will
have one point at the center of the ellipse; the other two points will
approximate the edge:
By using a smaller step size dθ we can generate more points and
get a finer approximation to the true curve:
Here is sample code ellipse_example.py to generate the
ellipse and write out the STL file ellipse.stl. This code relies on the stlwrite package.
After writing out the triangles as an STL file we can examine it in
MeshLab. Play with the mode buttons at the top of the MeshLab window
to view the triangulation with or without shading.
The 3D Case
The higher-dimensional generalization of an ellipse is called an
ellipsoid. In 3D an ellipsoid can resemble a football. There are
three parameters governing the lengths of the axes, which we'll denote
A, B, and C. We'll be using spherical coordinates for our parametric
equations, so instead of a single angle θ there are two angles,
θ and φ. θ ranges from 0 to 2π as before, while
φ ranges from -π/2 to +π/2. You can think of these
parameters as longitude and lattitude, with φ=+π/2 being the
north pole and φ=-π/2 being the south pole.
The 3D parametric equations for an axis-aligned ellipsoid are:
x(θ, φ) = x0 + A cos(θ) cos(φ) y(θ, φ) = y0 + B sin(θ) cos(φ) z(φ) = z0 + C sin(φ)
For any given φ value, the steps of θ trace out an ellipse
(a parallel of lattitude) parallel to the x-y plane. For the next
lattitude value, φ+dφ, there is another ellipse just below it.
If we pick two adjacent points on the first ellipse, and the
corresponding two adjacent points on the second ellipse, we'll have a
quadrilateral surface patch, as in the diagram above. The Python code
for generating an STL file will automatically split this quadrilateral
into two triangular patches.
The only exceptions are at the north and south poles, where
φ = ±π/2, so cos(φ) is zero, so x =
x0, y = y0, z =
z0 ± C, and the ellipse becomes a point. In
these two special cases our surface patches connecting level φ
with level φ+dφ are triangles instead of quadrilaterals.
Given this explanation, write a Python function get_ellipsoid that
takes parameters A, B, C, x0, y0,
and z0 as input and returns a list of triangular and
quadrilateral surface patches. You will need to use a nested for loop
to iterate over values of θ and φ.
Test your function by writing out the patches as an STL file and
viewing the file in MeshLab.
Note: the order of vertices should be clockwise to indicate which side
of the patch is the exterior surface of the object. If you get this
order wrong, Meshlab will render the patch as flat black instead of
Describing the Duck
Here are the parameter values for the nine ellipsoids that describe the duck:
You should write all nine ellipsoids into the same STL file. The result should
look something like this:
Modify the parameters a bit to customize your duck. Print out your
duck on the 3D printer of your choice.
What to Hand In
Collect the following into a zip file and submit via AutoLab:
Your Python source code.
The STL file that is the output of your code with your modified parameters.
A screen capture showing a rendering of your generated STL file.
You can use Meshlab for the rendering, or you can use some other
program, such as the Cube Client program.
Also post a photograph of your 3D printed customized duck to
Last modified: Sat Feb 13 14:34:11 EST 2016