Is that what you are looking for?
Not really. I need to add a path to the outline only. When you object>expand it shows all the points involved in the 3d effect. I've used the pathfinder and use make compound shape but that eliminates the fill color and only shows the stroke or shading color.
Still not working. I'm taking a simple letter and using the 3D bevel and extrude effect. When I try adding a stroke to the object it turns my 3d shading into that stroke color. Let's say I want yellow letters with a black 3d shading thats easy but when I want to put a path along the outline of the object that's where I'm running into trouble. If I expand the object I get vector paths that show all the shading areas. All I want is a simple path along the outside outline of the object that I can stroke with my contour cut color. Thanks
My instructions above should provide that for you.
You need to apply your 3d effect, then group your text object, then add a new stroke to that group using the appearance panel and move it below the "contents" (which in this case would be your 3d text)
I do this every now and then and I haven't perfected it, but this should work for you or at least give you some direction. Assuming you are having different colors for the foreground letter and extruded back:
Start by not shading your text when you extrude it. So in the extrude window put "No Shading" for Surface at the bottom.
This will make everything the same color. Next what I do is I use the direct selection tool to select the "front" of the letters and copy them, make a new layer, then "paste to front" on the new layer. That gives you a separate layer for the letters from the extrude. The reason I copied the letters is because generally it's easier for me to have a solid layer of vinyl when I lay my next layer on.
So what you do then is go back to the initial layer with the extrude and change the fill color all to the same and then select all of it and Unite it. That will give you a nice outline to cut with your cutter, usually. This doesn't work perfectly for me, sometimes letters don't unite even though they're the same color.. I haven't figured that out yet.
If you take these steps it will give you two layers one for your background color and one with your letters nicely separated, just how you need for your cutter.
Jesseham had the idea but what will work better than a stroke is a new fill.
You create the 3D text
you group it.
then add a new fill and drag it under to the contents.
then give a Effects>Path>Offset Path with a setting say of 1 pt or say 2 pts
With the preview on you will see your results and they will be what you are looking for without hidden sections.
If you want the stoke method you can try to use the align path to the inside of the stroke but I think the stroke will not be consistent as it will be with the fill and offset path approach.
What I did to solve this puzzle is Copy, Paste in front, Expand Appearance of the pasted in front text,
Path Finder Add to Shape Area,
Option Direct Select only the outside shape vectors surround the words,
Stroke this vector with the cutting color of your choice and delete all the other stuff you don't now need (Everything execpt your surrounding vector and the live 3D type.
Now you have a surrounding vector to send to the plotter.
I tried this and it looks like it works until I put it in VersaWorks for my roland printer/cutter (VP-300). Then when I view the cut lines within the program it shows the cutting path where there are paths associated with the 3d effect. Im surprised that this is so difficult, all I want is a simple stroke around the outside of my 3d text lettering. I did put the new fill under the contents which gives the apperance that it's right, but doesn't work for this application. Thanks
If you need the path to be a separate object, you'll want to work off a copy.
Expand appearance, ungroup until nothing is grouped and then pathfinder->join