Symmetric chamfered extrusion in OpenSCAD

enjoy the quality of the smooth, smooth taper

I like using OpenSCAD, but it has some limitations. While you can linear_extrude() 2D paths into 3D shapes, you can’t get a proper tapered/chamfered extrusion of anything but simple shapes that are symmetric about the origin:

// this is symmetrical …
linear_extrude(height=20, scale=2)square(10, center=true);

// but shift the same square off the origin and this happens …
linear_extrude(height=20, scale=2)translate([20, 20])square(10, center=true);

There are lots of partial attempts at fixing this, many of which end up with ugly results. Some of them even mess up the top surface, which is precisely what I wanted to avoid. My code uses the computationally-intensive minkowski() sum function to replace every vertex of a 2D shape with a many-sided pyramid.

Minkowski sums effectively replace every vertex with another shape, here making a rounded cube from a cube and a sphere:

minkowski() {

One feature of OpenSCAD’s implementation of the Minkowski sum is that the operator takes into account the second shape’s position relative to the origin. So if I take the same cube and apply the minkowski() operator with the same sphere moved away from the origin, I get:

// the same cube, but shifted by the power of minkowski()!
minkowski() {

So I can approximate a tapered extrusion by turning a 2d path into a very thin 3d plate (OpenSCAD’s 2D and 3D subsystems can never meet in the same output) and using a pyramid as the second argument to the operator:

// the component parts, before minkowski()

// thin extrusion of 2D path
linear_extrude(height=0.001)text(“S”, size=24, font=”EB Garamond:style=12 Italic”);

// a 30 degree pyramid with its apex at the origin
rotate_extrude()polygon([ [0,0] , [4, -8], [0, -8] ]);

You get:

minkowski() {
// thin extrusion of 2D path
linear_extrude(height=0.001)text(“S”, size=24, font=”EB Garamond:style=12 Italic”);
// a 30 degree pyramid with its apex at the origin
rotate_extrude()polygon([ [0,0] , [4, -8], [0, -8] ]);

In reality, you’d probably use a smaller taper angle, but the example is short rather than pretty. If you’re really picky about correctness, the process leaves the thin extrusion as parallel walls at the bottom of the shape, shown grossly exaggerated here for effect:

hugely exaggerated vertical profile

If you’re working in consumer-grade 3D printing and are using the standard 1 unit = 1 mm scale, the residual parallel section would only be 1 µm thick and way below any realistic layer height. Feel free to remove it, but be warned that this process creates so many facets that the difference() required to remove it will be very time-consuming for no visible difference.

Here’s the code: chamfer_extrude.scad – make sure to rename the txt extension to scad. Or, if you’d prefer, here’s a link to a gist: scruss/chamfer_extrude.scad

Put it in your OpenSCAD library folder, then you can use it like this:

include <chamfer_extrude.scad>; 

chamfer_extrude(height=4, angle=15, $fn=16)text("S", size=24, font="EB Garamond:style=12 Italic", $fn=64);
way smooth s

The library just adds some expected utility and tidiness to the above process. The source includes documentation and examples.

The Quirkey: chording USB keyboard

This may not look much, but it’s a test build of Vik Olliver’s Quirkey USB chord keyboard. I didn’t quite build it to Vik’s specs, which are here:

The Microwriter was a late 1970s/early 1980s gadget that was essentially a portable word processor. Unusually, its keyboard was a single-hand 6 key layout — the thumb did double duty — that was operated by chording multiple keys at the same time. Later on in the Microwriter’s life it evolved into the Quinkey, a chording adaptive keyboard for computers of the time.

Technology has moved on a bit, and the ability to wire up a cheap USB-capable microcontroller and 3d print your own case is here. I used an Arduino Micro on a breadboard and six Omron momentary buttons.

I didn’t quite wire it the way that Vik intended:

Note lifted pins to prevent useless buttons

The buttons are wired like this:

Pin      Button
======= =======
D8 Control
D7 Thumb
D6 Index
D5 Middle
D4 Ring
D3 Pinkie

This requires changing line 22 of Vik’s code from:

const int keyPorts[] = {8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 9};


const int keyPorts[] = {8, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7};

While there are great tutorials on “microwriting” in the original manuals on Bill Buxton’s site, here are the basic alphabetic set derived from Vik’s code:

●○○○○ : Space
○●○○○ : e
●●○○○ : i
○○●○○ : o
●○●○○ : c
○●●○○ : a
●●●○○ : d
○○○●○ : s
●○○●○ : k
○●○●○ : t
●●○●○ : r
○○●●○ : n
●○●●○ : y
○●●●○ : .
●●●●○ : f
○○○○● : u
●○○○● : h
○●○○● : v
●●○○● : l
○○●○● : q
●○●○● : z
○●●○● : -
●●●○● : '
○○○●● : g
●○○●● : j
○●○●● : ,
●●○●● : w
○○●●● : b
●○●●● : x
○●●●● : m
●●●●● : p

The astute reader may note that these are binary values (low bit to high) of the character positions in Vik’s alphaTable variable. And yes, that’s supposed to be preformatted text.

Happy microwriting!

Tact & Buttons

The right and wrong ways to connect buttons

Buttons, Tactile switches, Momentaries, Clickies, SPST-NO; call ’em what you will, but my world seems to be full of them right now. Wiring them or breadboarding them may not be as simple as they look.

Whether they are the tiny 6 mm ones of the less-easily-lost 12 mm ones, both types typically have four pins or legs, two on the top and two on the bottom. If your appear to have the legs on the sides, flip ’em 90°: they won’t fit in breadboard sockets the wrong way.

The pins on the left and right side are common, so connecting top left to bottom left won’t ever change state if you press the button. So use either the pins both on the same side or those diagonally opposed if you want the switch to work.

You can use these buttons on a common breadboard rail. You must remember to have only one button pin connecting to the rail; lift the other pin so it won’t connect. You can then use just one wire connected diagonally across the the common rail pin and you’ve got a working button. This is especially useful when using a microcontroller with built-in pull up resistors (that’s most of them these days).

If you connect both pins to a common rail, you’ve just made a SPST-AO (single pole, single throw – always open) switch. Those aren’t much use at all.

Constructible cushion pattern

Constructible cushion pattern

Constructible cushion pattern

As seen on a cushion in a Hampton Inn in Missouri. It’s fairly easy to construct the central motif:

12-point construction ftw!

The trick is that the central motif is rotated 30 degrees in adjacent versions.

The hotel’s hall carpet has a design based on the Breath of the Compassionate motif. Geomatric art everywhere!

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