Importing External Models in a Rotary Project

Importing Full-3D models

This section will present the process of importing the Full-3D STL model into rotary project, using a table leg as an example.


There are two basic use cases when importing an external model into the rotary job. The first case involves bringing a model designed for this particular job in another software. Thus the dimensions of the imported piece may already be correct and it can be desired to use them for the size of project. The second use case is when importing a stock model that would have to be scaled to fit on particular machine.

Aspire uses following workflow that covers both of those cases:

  1. Setting-up rotary project
  2. Choosing file for import
  3. Orientating the model in material block
  4. Scaling the model
  5. Finishing the import

Setting up a rotary project

Create a new job using the Job Setup form. It is important to set the job type as rotary to ensure a proper import tool is used in the next step.

If the dimensions of the project are already known, they could be specified directly.

If it is desired to fit the model to a given machine or stock available, set both the diameter and length to maximum. During import the model will be scaled to those limits.

If it is desired to use the imported model size, any size can be specified at this time. During the model import the project can be automatically resized to match the model dimensions.

In this example it was desired to fit the model into a specific stock size with a Diameter of 4 inches and a Length of 12 inches. XY origin was set to centre.

Importing the file and orientating it

To start the importing process, use Import a Component or 3D Model tool from the Modelling tab

Make sure that the Imported model type is set to Full 3D model .

The first step is to position the imported model within the material. This step is necessary as this information is not present in the imported file. When the model was opened, the import tool chose the initial orientation, as can be seen below.

To help with orientating the model, the software displays a blue bounding cylinder. This cylinder has the rotation axis aligned with that defined for the material block and thus can be used as a reference. Its size is just big enough to contain the imported model at the current orientation. When the model orientation is changed, this blue cylinder will shrink or grow so it always contains the model. At this stage its exact dimensions are not important, as we are only interested in positioning the model correctly.

The software also highlights the rotation axis in red. This is particularly important when importing bended models. It is currently not possible to represent areas of model that are entirely below or above the rotation axis. This is the case in the example shown here. If the model was imported as is, the distortion would be created as can be seen below. Therefore it is important to position the model in a way such that the rotation axis is contained within the model.

The same model imported without distortion

The last guiding element displayed by the software is the red half arrow on the side of the cylinder. This arrow is indicating the position that corresponds to the center of the wrapped dimension in the 2D view. In this example the model is orientated in such a way, that front of the leg would be placed on side of the 2D view, rather than centre. Thus it is better to rotate model so this arrow points to the front of the imported model.

The import tool provides a few ways of adjusting the model orientation. The most basic one is the Initial Orientation. This can be used to roughly align the model with the rotation axis. This can also be combined with the Rotation about Z Axis.In this example the tool chose Left with no rotation. In order to align the front of the leg with the red arrow, one could use the Front and -90 as the Rotation about Z Axis.

Once the initial orientation is decided, further adjustments can be made using the Interactive Rotation. The default option - XYZ View - disables the interactive rotation. That means that the 3D view can be twiddled with a mouse. Selecting other options enables the rotation around the specified axis.

In this example, instead of changing the initial orientation to align the front of the leg with the red arrow, one could select X Model option and rotate the piece manually. When selecting single axis rotation, the 3D view will be adjusted to show that axis pointing towards the screen. If any mistake is made, it is possible to undo rotation using Ctrl+ Z

Notice that whenever the part is rotated, it is always centered in the cylinder. In this example it is not desired, since we need the rotation axis to be contained within the model. In order to move the model in relation to the rotation axis, one can use the Rotation Axis Movement

Similarly to the previously described tool, when Rotation Axis Movement is set to Off, the 3D view can be panned

Correctly positioning the model for importing may require a combination of the Rotation Axis Movement and the Interactive Rotation to achieve desired results with models that bend. It is important to make sure that rotation axis is hidden in order to avoid distortion. However it is also desirable to have the rotation axis being in the center of each segment of the piece to ensure tool has angle close to the optimal during machining. Usually it is also useful to rotate the model in view around the axis after the adjustment, as this allows us to inspect the model from each side without the need to disable the Interactive Rotation before changing the viewing angle.

It is important to understand that Aspire does not support 4-axis machining. That means that while the machined piece can be rotated and tool moves along the rotation axis and in the Z direction, it is not possible to move the tool in the wrapped dimension and thus the tool is always above the rotation axis and cannot be moved to the side.

This limitation is shown below. The first picture presents correct machining of the point. If the tool moves to another location though, the angle will be incorrect and even worse, the tool side will be touching the stock.

3-axis rotary machining, tool correctly positioned
3-axis rotary machining, tool side is touching the stock

Scaling imported model

Once model has been positioned as desired, its size can be taken into account.

By default the tool will assume that imported model is using the same units as the project. If that is not the case, model units can be switched. In this example project was set-up in inches, while imported model was designed in mm. After switching model becomes considerably smaller and a red cylinder, representing current material block is shown, as can be seen below.

At this point it is possible to specify the model size, in terms of diameter and length. This can be done manually by typing desired dimensions, or by fitting to material. If Lock ratio option is selected, the ratio between diameter and length is kept. One can also tick Resize material block option. If it is selected, the material block will be scaled to match current size of the model, after OK is clicked.

If it is desired to use model size as material block size, one can just make sure units are correct, then tick Resize material block option and press OK.

If it is desired for the model to fit material, one could click Scale model to fit material and tick Resize material block.

In this example model was fitted to material. Since in this case length of the piece is limiting factor and lock ratio is maintained, this results in model having considerably smaller diameter than material block. Hence Resize material block option was ticked.

Finishing import

After pressing OK the model will be imported as a component. It is possible to modify it as any other component or add pieces of decorative clipart onto its surface if desired.

It is important to keep in mind the distortion caused by the wrapping process. That means that wrapped toolpaths will match flat toolpaths only at the surface of the blank. The closer to the rotation axis (i.e. deeper) the toolpath is, the more it will be 'compressed'. This fact have a profound implication for 3D toolpaths. Consider the example shown below.

As can be seen if there is substantial difference in diameter in different parts of model, generating one 3D toolpath for whole model will result in wrapped toolpath being overly compressed. Thus it is usually better to create boundaries of regions with significantly different diameter and generate separate toolpaths using correct settings for each diameter.

Importing Flat Models

This section will present a process of importing Flat STL model into rotary project. Flat models are similar to decorative clipart pieces provided with Aspire and are supposed to be placed on the surface of modelled shape.

To start the importing process, use Import a Component or 3D Model tool from the Modelling tab

Make sure that Imported model type is set to Flat model

Again the first step is to select proper orientation of model. The tool will chose initial orientation and display model in the red material box. This box corresponds to the 'unwrapped' material block and its thickness is equal to half of the specified diameter of the blank.

If model is not oriented correctly, that is, does not lie flat on the bottom of the material box, as can be seen above, orientation have to be adjusted. To do that one can change Initial Orientation option and/or Rotation about Z Axis.

If imported model is not aligned with any of the axes, it may be necessary to use Interactive Rotation.The default option - XYZ View - disables interactive rotation. That means that 3D view can be twiddled with a mouse. Selecting other options enables rotation around specified axis.

Each rotation can be undone by pressing Ctrl+ Z.

Once model is properly orientated, units conversion can be performed. By default the tool will assume that imported model is using the same units as the project. If that is not the case, model units can be switched.

There is also model scaling option included. When Lock ratio option is selected, the ratio between X, Y and Z lengths are kept. Note that once model is imported, it will be added to project as a component. Hence correct placement, rotation and sizing can be performed later, after model is imported.

If the project does not contain any models yet, following message will be displayed:

Typically you could simply click Yes.The more detailed explanation about modelling plane adjustment has been provided in Modelling 3D rotary projects