Have you thought of some clever uses for the Silhouette Alta® 3D printer? I’ve created a tiny little Zen garden that I want to share with you today. This can be customized in many ways, but here’s how I created mine.

Supplies Needed:

Step One: Set Up Your Alta

  1. In case you haven’t already done so, load your filament (instructions here).
  2. If necessary, calibrate your machine (instructions here). The flat base we’ll create that fills most of the print bed will look better if you can avoid warping.

Step Two: Print Rake

  1. In Silhouette 3D™, open the mini garden rake design (Design ID#268232) and resize it (with the locked dimensions at the top) to 2 inches long.
  2. Go to the 3D Print tab, choose your print quality, and send it to print. See this video for tips on adjusting print settings.
  3. If you are in need of some troubleshooting tips, you’ll find a great article here.

Step Three: Create the Garden Base Pieces

I decided to use Silhouette Studio® to start creating the base for my garden instead of working only in Silhouette 3D™. This is a great way to get the shapes you want that may not be available from the default shapes in the 3D software.

  1. In Silhouette Studio®, use the rectangle drawing tool and hold your Shift key to draw a perfect square. Draw or resize it to 4 inches.
  2. Create a copy of the 4-inch square off to the side (Alt or Opt + click and drag away a copy of the original square).
  3. With the copy selected, open the Offset Panel and choose Internal Offset. Adjust the distance slider to 0.100 inches, and click Apply.

  1. Select both the square and its internal offset, and make it a compound path (Right Click > Make Compound Path, or find it in the Modify Panel).

  1. You should now have a 4-in. square and a 4-in. square frame. These will become the base and sides that will be adjustable once opened in Silhouette 3D™.
  2. Save the Silhouette Studio® file to your hard drive (File > Save As > Save to Hard Drive).

Note: To save a few steps, in Silhouette Studio® version 4.2, you’ll be able to choose the Alta print bed as your cutting mat choice in the Page Setup panel. You’ll then have the option to open that 2D design in Silhouette 3D™ directly from Silhouette Studio® via Right Click > Send to S3D. (Version 4.2 was not yet available for the general public at the time this post was written.)

Step Four: Finish the Base in Silhouette 3D

Now it’s time to convert these 2D lines to a 3D design.

  1. In Silhouette 3D™, open the Silhouette Studio® file you just created. Select the Extrusion import option when given the choice.
  2. Select the squares and choose Ungroup from your icons at the top.
  3. Select each piece and resize individually to 3.25 in. square with locked dimension inputs at the top.

  1. Adjust the thickness of the flat solid base to 0.08 inches high (H) after unlocking the dimension inputs at the top.

  1. Adjust the height of the outer wall to 0.25 inches high (H). This gives you enough room to put some sand into the base, while the floor doesn’t need to be very thick.
  2. Arrange each piece individually to the center of the virtual print bed with the centering icon at the top. They should now look like one piece, perfectly lined up with no gaps or misalignment.

  1. Select both pieces and Group them together. This functions as welding for any overlapping objects in Silhouette 3D™.
  2. In the 3D Print tab, select your print quality settings and then Print.

Step Five: Create Your Zen

  1. Once the Zen garden base has cooled, remove it from the Alta’s print bed.

Tip: If you’ve got a tight seal against the platform tape, you may find threading a piece of paper underneath helps disconnect it slowly without damaging the platform tape. Sometimes that’s easier than using a spatula to pry it off if the design covers a lot of surface area. 

  1. Add sand, pebbles, shells, etc. to suit your personal taste.

  1. Don’t forget to use your rake to create designs in the sand!

I’d love to see how your Zen garden turns out. What will you put in yours?

This tutorial was created using Silhouette 3D™ version 1.0.179 and Silhouette Studio® v 4.1.468.