I am looking for a way to generate 2D horizontal templates for manually carving an object. My thought was to produce an STL of the model, generate the G-code, and then transform that into slices. Appreciate any suggestions for where to start. I'm not afraid of getting my hands dirty with python, R, matlab, whatever.

  • $\begingroup$ Steve did you find great tips from Trish to be good suggestions for start, as well as me? Would you like to accept their answer as resolving this question, or found even better approach? If you still look for different sugestions - could you share any additional details? $\endgroup$
    – octopus8
    Feb 2 '21 at 4:26

Carving decorative patterns?

If your templates needs to be used like one does a stencil, that's doable... but paper-thin is not as you can't make that with an FDM printer.

But if you allow 0.2 or even better, 0.5 mm thickness, it is as simple as making a vector graphic, importing it into a suitable CAD package, then extruding it to the relevant thickness, and sending it into the printer.

If you really need it to be thinner, invest in a vinyl cutter, and use the same vector graphic to cut a foil template for one use. Upside: you could use the vinyl to etch the patterns in metal.

Carving figurines?

Yes, that's possible too, even easier! Make a 3D model of the finished object in a CAD or 3D modeling software. Either cut up the model right there and export each slice as STL for the printer, or export the whole model and use a secondary software such as MeshMixer to do plane cuts onto the model.

The slices should be at least 0.5 mm thick to allow handling.

It might also be a good idea to use the same model and cut it from a cube, which then is sliced up - that way you get a pattern to press against the outside of the model.


I would approach following way. I saw interesting example of using Autodesk Fusion 360 to generate moves (G-Code) for carving in vertical slices. Fusion generated moves like for CNC tool in "parallel mode". You can see details in the video 3D printer cutting styrofoam like CNC router (software setup is presented at 11:00-14:30). Steps/settings important for manual work would be:

  • selecting parallel strategy
  • steup length and width of tool - reflecting "depth/width of slice"
  • check the simulation
  • create NC program - creating the G-Code file

I think that even if really working manually, the benefit of such approach would be that you focus on one layer/slice at time, and carve in one depth from the top of "material block" to the line defined be two points (the move in G-Code). The trouble could be actual number of such "G-Code lines": there will be probably too many of them, e.g. to measure each by hand and draw on the sufrface. But maybe this could be reduced with resolution (and quality). You could try to use any G-Code visualizer to project lines (of given single layer/slice) with beamer on the material sufrace.

The depth (real width of slice) could be controlled only manually, to avoid carving too deep.

The video uses parallel carving strategy to work in vertical slices. "Adaptive cleanring" strategy could be used to work horizontally.


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