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 Post subject: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficiently
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 9:18 am 
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Shapeways is a very popular printing service for puzzle makers but their pricing model has an oddity: if your model does not have a density of at least 10% it is up to 2x more expensive to print. This means that puzzle makers have to solve the tedious problem of placing all their parts inside one STL file in an efficient way. I wrote PartStacker to do this for me. It takes as input a set of STL files and can automatically stack them in to a single STL file containing numerous copies of each input part.

I've decided to give back to this amazing community and release PartStacker for free, under the GNU General Public License. You can read more about the program and download it here: http://tomvanderzanden.nl/partstacker/

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:17 pm 
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Wow Tom this will save us all a lot of time. You should include a Donate button on the About menu, I'm sure that you'll get a lot of donations. I've tried the prog on some simple stl files (see attached) and they are all reported as having an infinite volume by PartStacker :shock:
Attachment:
Centre 1 (01).zip [10.49 KiB]
Downloaded 37 times

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:28 pm 
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Hi Tom, thank you very much :D

Your source code link is currently broken. I tried running your precompiled version with Mono however I'm getting an error I don't understand:

Code:
Unhandled Exception:
System.TypeLoadException: Could not load type 'PartStacker_Final.ModelViewerControl' from assembly 'PartStacker_Final, Version=1.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=null'.
  at (wrapper remoting-invoke-with-check) PartStacker_Final.MainForm:.ctor ()
  at PartStacker_Final.Program.Main () [0x00000] in <filename unknown>:0
[ERROR] FATAL UNHANDLED EXCEPTION: System.TypeLoadException: Could not load type 'PartStacker_Final.ModelViewerControl' from assembly 'PartStacker_Final, Version=1.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=null'.
  at (wrapper remoting-invoke-with-check) PartStacker_Final.MainForm:.ctor ()
  at PartStacker_Final.Program.Main () [0x00000] in <filename unknown>:0


I'd like to tinker with the code and compile it myself to see if I can fix the error(s) running under Mono.

Also, I'd like to make a donation if you'll accept them. A PayPal donation button on your page be nice.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:38 pm 
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Excellent tool! Haven't tried it yet, but I do admire the effort and the decision to open source it under GNU License.

If I recall it correctly, GitHub allows for a donation button now. It's also a good place to put your source code and allow others to tinker with it and send in patches and new features.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:39 pm 
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Gus: The file you uploaded works fine for me and displays a volume of 0,92cm3. Google Sketchup is notorious for producing some really sketchy meshes though. PartStacker does not try to fix your file at all so if there's a problem (inverted/wrong normals, non-manifold) the behaviour is undefined.

Bmenrigh: I fixed the source code link. I'm not sure if you'll have much luck with mono. To do the 3D rendering I'm using XNA libraries which I doubt are available anywhere other than on windows.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:56 pm 
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TomZ wrote:
Gus: The file you uploaded works fine for me and displays a volume of 0,92cm3. Google Sketchup is notorious for producing some really sketchy meshes though. PartStacker does not try to fix your file at all so if there's a problem (inverted/wrong normals, non-manifold) the behaviour is undefined.
Well, I always check my stl files with Meshlab and/or NettFab, and I also use a SkecthUp script to make sure that the parts are manifold. The main thing I have a problem with is reversed faces, but I'm sure that the sample part is OK. Anyway, if I load any stl file which is hollow with a hole to remove the unused WSF, its volume is shown as infinite. If I import an stl which is "solid" then everything is OK. If I try to do any packing runs on parts which as shown as infinite, then the program crashes.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:59 pm 
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Tom, what a gift! Thank you so much for releasing this!

-Eitan

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:02 pm 
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I've fixed the issue you were experiencing, Gus. ASCI STL files are culture specific and I've written the code for a Dutch system and American systems use a different decimal separator. I've uploaded a new version to the site.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:14 pm 
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TomZ wrote:
I fixed the source code link. I'm not sure if you'll have much luck with mono. To do the 3D rendering I'm using XNA libraries which I doubt are available anywhere other than on windows.
Yeah I figured the 3D stuff wouldn't work. My plan was to figure out what needs to be cut out. It doesn't strictly need a UI so my plan was to see how much of the UI needs to go in order for it to run under Mono.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 3:16 pm 
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TomZ wrote:
I've fixed the issue you were experiencing, Gus. ASCI STL files are culture specific and I've written the code for a Dutch system and American systems use a different decimal separator. I've uploaded a new version to the site.
I've tried this and it seems to work much better. I had some problems with parts showing negative volumes, but that was because all of the faces were reversed :lol: I tried it on my heptagonal prism puzzle at it achieved a density of over 13% straight away. Tom, it would be nice if the program displayed the bounding box size and density after packing all of the time, and not just in the dialogue box immediately after completion.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 4:36 pm 
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Wow, this is great! I'll definitely be giving this a shot tonight. Thanks a lot Tom!
And agreed on the need for a donate button.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 8:16 pm 
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bmenrigh wrote:
TomZ wrote:
I fixed the source code link. I'm not sure if you'll have much luck with mono. To do the 3D rendering I'm using XNA libraries which I doubt are available anywhere other than on windows.
Yeah I figured the 3D stuff wouldn't work. My plan was to figure out what needs to be cut out. It doesn't strictly need a UI so my plan was to see how much of the UI needs to go in order for it to run under Mono.

I can't get it working, even in a VM with 3D acceleration. XNA has pretty strict GPU feature requirements. I think if I get it working in my Windows VM I'll get it working on Mono too.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 10:59 am 
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Does anyone have any experience with the effects of reducing the quality of STL files in Solidworks? If I use the "coarse" settings, am I going to see major differences in the printed parts? I recall Oskar mentioning one time that he uses the coarsest settings for his puzzles, and hasn't had any problems. But I may be mistaken...

-Eitan

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 11:04 am 
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The lowest I have gone is a 20 degree angle deviation and a 0.08mm distance deviation. That worked fine with no noticable issues. You could probably take it further still.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 11:28 am 
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Interesting... Well, I've been playing around with the program, and I've managed to crash it already. :P It works through the first loading bar, then when it starts placing parts, it places about 50, then crashes. I think that it happens when it tries to expand the bounding box. I'm packing the 203 parts for my Radio Cube 3, so I'm probably taxing this program pretty heavily. :D

Any suggestions?

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 11:57 am 
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pirsquared wrote:
Does anyone have any experience with the effects of reducing the quality of STL files in Solidworks? If I use the "coarse" settings, am I going to see major differences in the printed parts? I recall Oskar mentioning one time that he uses the coarsest settings for his puzzles, and hasn't had any problems. But I may be mistaken...

-Eitan

I've done this to get the triangle count under 1 million on some of my puzzles like the MLC. What I've found is that when customizing, you can usually make the angle deviation up to 16 degrees without having issues in the model, and you can (generally) adjust the tolerance up to 0.15mm and it should still be fine too. Just be sure to look at the stl afterwards and make sure it still looks accurate.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 1:33 pm 
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pirsquared wrote:
Interesting... Well, I've been playing around with the program, and I've managed to crash it already. :P It works through the first loading bar, then when it starts placing parts, it places about 50, then crashes. I think that it happens when it tries to expand the bounding box. I'm packing the 203 parts for my Radio Cube 3, so I'm probably taxing this program pretty heavily. :D
After some investigation, it turns out Etian was trying to create a model with more than 3 million triangles. It's a simple case of not enough memory :p

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 1:35 pm 
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Hah! Well, here's the question, then. If I want to reduce the polygon count to 1 million, I'll end up with parts that look like this:

http://prntscr.com/1ko61w

Do you think this would be ok?

-Eitan

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 1:46 pm 
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pirsquared wrote:
Hah! Well, here's the question, then. If I want to reduce the polygon count to 1 million, I'll end up with parts that look like this:

http://prntscr.com/1ko61w

Do you think this would be ok?

-Eitan

How small is the part? If it's relatively small, then I don't see why it wouldn't be fine. Is the core in the mass of pieces you're packing? If so, I'd like to take a look at that too.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 1:50 pm 
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Here's the core after reducing the mesh by a factor of 3.25. Just for reference, it has a diameter of about 36mm.
http://prntscr.com/1ko91j

-Eitan

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 1:57 pm 
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pirsquared wrote:
Here's the core after reducing the mesh by a factor of 3.25. Just for reference, it has a diameter of about 36mm.
http://prntscr.com/1ko91j

-Eitan

If the core is 36mm in diameter, then everything should be perfectly fine.

Looking at the core I noticed that the screw holes aren't filleted. If you fillet those holes before shelling the core, I find it's much easier to screw in the centers.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:22 pm 
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benpuzzles wrote:
Looking at the core I noticed that the screw holes aren't filleted. If you fillet those holes before shelling the core, I find it's much easier to screw in the centers.
Most designers don't fillet the screw holes. Only rarely have I had an issue getting screws in.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:59 pm 
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You're both right. I rarely remember to do it, but when I do, it's certainly easier. :) Now, let's get this thread back on topic. This program is fantastic!!

-Eitan

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:57 pm 
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Like Brandon, I can't seem to get this working. I used the installer, and the application crashes immediately when I open it. I'm getting the following errors in Windows Event Viewer when I open the application:
Code:
Application: PartStacker_Final.exe
Framework Version: v4.0.30319
Description: The process was terminated due to an unhandled exception.
Exception Info: System.IO.FileNotFoundException
Stack:
   at PartStacker_Final.MainForm..ctor()
   at PartStacker_Final.Program.Main()
Code:
Faulting application name: PartStacker_Final.exe, version: 1.0.0.0, time stamp: 0x52069053
Faulting module name: KERNELBASE.dll, version: 6.1.7601.18015, time stamp: 0x50b83c8a
Exception code: 0xe0434352
Fault offset: 0x0000c41f
Faulting process id: 0x11c0
Faulting application start time: 0x01ce96dc8d72d873
Faulting application path: C:\Program Files (x86)\Tom van der Zanden\PartStacker\PartStacker_Final.exe
Faulting module path: C:\Windows\syswow64\KERNELBASE.dll
Report Id: cd5064f3-02cf-11e3-b68a-88532e11179a
Any idea what might be causing it?

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 5:24 pm 
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TomZ wrote:
windows

:( But thank you anyway.


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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 5:27 pm 
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will_57 wrote:
Like Brandon, I can't seem to get this working. I used the installer, and the application crashes immediately when I open it. I'm getting the following errors in Windows Event Viewer when I open the application

I was pretty certain it was a graphics issue but after a bit more Googling, it seems the error may actually be a target CPU missmatch. I'm not too familiar with .Net and Visual Studio these days but is seems there is an option to compile .Net to "Any CPU" (my guess is that it just compiles to MSIL) or to target a specific CPU. In the case of our error, I think it means the code was compiled for x86 but we're running on x86_64.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 5:57 pm 
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bmenrigh wrote:
In the case of our error, I think it means the code was compiled for x86 but we're running on x86_64.
I'm running 64 bit Windows 8 and I was able to get the program installed but when I try to run it nothing happens. I don't even get an error screen. It just returns me to the desktop. Maybe I'm having the same issue?

Thanks Tom... this will be a great help once I get it going,
Carl

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 5:59 pm 
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wwwmwww wrote:
bmenrigh wrote:
In the case of our error, I think it means the code was compiled for x86 but we're running on x86_64.
I'm running 64 bit Windows 8 and I was able to get the program installed but when I try to run it nothing happens. I don't even get an error screen. It just returns me to the desktop. Maybe I'm having the same issue?

Thanks Tom... this will be a great help once I get it going,
Carl

I'm getting the same problem on 64 bit windows 7, so it looks like I'm not alone.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 6:42 pm 
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pirsquared wrote:
Here's the core after reducing the mesh by a factor of 3.25. Just for reference, it has a diameter of about 36mm.
http://prntscr.com/1ko91j
Looking at that core makes me want to ask TomZ:
Would your program be able to prevent putting small pieces inside the sphere of the core? I forgot if your algorithm simply places parts at locations or if it "moves" them into place (which would prevent trapped pieces).

Dave

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 7:16 pm 
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DLitwin wrote:
pirsquared wrote:
Here's the core after reducing the mesh by a factor of 3.25. Just for reference, it has a diameter of about 36mm.
http://prntscr.com/1ko91j
Looking at that core makes me want to ask TomZ:
Would your program be able to prevent putting small pieces inside the sphere of the core? I forgot if your algorithm simply places parts at locations or if it "moves" them into place (which would prevent trapped pieces).

Dave



In the program there is a feature that controls the max size of parts that can be placed into other parts. 'Minimum hole' I think...

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:47 pm 
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I'm seeing the same problem (on win 64). Sadly I no longer have VStudio. Anyone using VStudio on x64 that could kick out a binary?

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 11:37 pm 
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not run on my Win8 x64 :(

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 1:45 am 
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Okay, I've uploaded a new version of the application, which hopefully should fix this. It turns out that the component used for 3D rendering (XNA) is only available as a 32-bit version. The program was compiled for both 32 and 64-bits windows but the 64-bit version could never run because XNA is not available. Since 32 bit applications can run on 64-bit windows, I've changed the compilation to produce only a 32-bit version.
It's strange since I am using 64-bit windows myself, so the program should have run in 64-bit mode but appparently it chose to run in 32-bit mode for some reason.

I've also added a new feature (after a request from Etian): to decrease the clearance between parts. Currently the program keeps a minimum of 1mm clearance between parts. I've added the ability to reduce the minimum clearance because after trying it, it turns out it makes a surprising difference in the stacking efficiency. The only downside is that the lower the minimum clearance, the greater the running time. Calculating a stacking with 0.5mm clearance will take 64 times longer than calculating one with 1mm clearance so use it carefully.

DLitwin wrote:
Would your program be able to prevent putting small pieces inside the sphere of the core? I forgot if your algorithm simply places parts at locations or if it "moves" them into place (which would prevent trapped pieces).
It is the first option but I came up with a little trick to prevent the problem you described: each part is approximated with a voxtel grid, but I do something smart to make it. I start with the grid entirely filled, and then I take an imaginary cube (of a specified size) which carves away at the part to approximate it's shape. Depending on how large you make the cube (the "minimum hole" setting from the program) it will not be able to get inside of the core so it will remain solid.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:32 am 
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It still crashes when I open it, and returns the same error message. Like most others running into this issue, I'm running 64-bit Windows 7.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:49 am 
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Could you make sure that you have the most recent .NET framework installed? http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download ... x?id=17851

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 3:03 am 
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I found the problem. You have to have the XNA framework installed:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=20914

Leave it to Microsoft to fail silently and not leave any hint at all of what the issue is. Not a single reference to XNA or any other missing library in the event log, much less a dialog box...

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 3:28 am 
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Packing successful :D The price went from $430 to $174. I'm not sure how the better-than-2x improvement is possible given Shapeway's description of their pricing.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 3:53 am 
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bmenrigh wrote:
I found the problem. You have to have the XNA framework installed:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=20914

Leave it to Microsoft to fail silently and not leave any hint at all of what the issue is. Not a single reference to XNA or any other missing library in the event log, much less a dialog box...

I discovered this after reading the readme file. Unfortunately, you also need to have Microsoft visualstudio installed, but I am lost on which version to install, as it looks like they are all for windows 8 or mobile. So, I doubt I'll ever be able to use this software.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 3:57 am 
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benpuzzles wrote:
bmenrigh wrote:
I found the problem. You have to have the XNA framework installed:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=20914

Leave it to Microsoft to fail silently and not leave any hint at all of what the issue is. Not a single reference to XNA or any other missing library in the event log, much less a dialog box...

I discovered this after reading the readme file. Unfortunately, you also need to have Microsoft visualstudio installed, but I am lost on which version to install, as it looks like they are all for windows 8 or mobile. So, I doubt I'll ever be able to use this software.



If you are using windows 7, do a search for "windows 7 visualstudio"

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 3:58 am 
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benpuzzles wrote:
you also need to have Microsoft visualstudio installed

I do not have Visual Studio installed. The redistributable package (linked above) is not the development framework but rather just the runtime binaries needed by code that uses XNA.

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Last edited by Brandon Enright on Mon Aug 12, 2013 3:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 3:59 am 
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You don't need visual studio or XNA game studio. Those are only needed if you want to compile yourself.

You will need the .NET and XNA redistributable packages though. I thought those would come with the installer but apparently they don't.
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/downloa ... x?id=20914
http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download ... x?id=17851

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:08 am 
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TomZ wrote:
You don't need visual studio or XNA game studio. Those are only needed if you want to compile yourself.

You will need the .NET and XNA redistributable packages though. I thought those would come with the installer but apparently they don't.
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/downloa ... x?id=20914
http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download ... x?id=17851

Thanks! I actually looked and saw I had Visualstudio already. I downloaded xna game studio and now it works! Thank you very much.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:20 am 
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Even with this program, I can't get 10% for my Crystal Trap. I'm going to add some extra parts and thicken the shells...

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:24 am 
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I installed the updated XNA and .NET frameworks, and now it works! I just tested it on one model, and now I'm doing some more tests to see how it compares to arranging parts by hand.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:29 am 
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will_57 wrote:
I installed the updated XNA and .NET frameworks, and now it works! I just tested it on one model, and now I'm doing some more tests to see how it compares to arranging parts by hand.
It achieved 13% density with the default settings on my model. After tweaking which parts were allowed to be rotated it achieved 15.5%. If you're really close to 10% it's probably worthwhile to play with settings to see what gets the best results.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 6:49 am 
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Anyone here who finds that saving parts for the program is quite hard? You need to perform body deletes, then save a part, then edit the body delete..... etc.

Its a great program by the way. I've gotten great results most of the time.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 7:01 am 
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Oh, I've found a bug. If you make a mirrored copy of parts, it does not add to the triangle count.

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 7:18 am 
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rubikcollector123 wrote:
Anyone here who finds that saving parts for the program is quite hard? You need to perform body deletes, then save a part, then edit the body delete..... etc.
What are you trying to accomplish? It's not clear to me what you mean by "saving parts".

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 7:25 am 
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TomZ wrote:
rubikcollector123 wrote:
Anyone here who finds that saving parts for the program is quite hard? You need to perform body deletes, then save a part, then edit the body delete..... etc.
What are you trying to accomplish? It's not clear to me what you mean by "saving parts".



I meant exporting from CAD as stl. For me, Solidworks saves whatever is on the file. There is no 'save selected part'. So getting individual files that PartStacker requires is rather inconvenient.

By the way, I just made a $50 price reduction of a puzzle with the program. Loving it so far!

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 Post subject: Re: PartStacker - automatically packs puzzle parts efficient
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 8:32 am 
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Actually, if I select one face from a part, I get the following dialog box when saving as STL: http://prntscr.com/1kt87l - have you tried selecting the part before hitting save as?

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