Pretty Thing Number One

So once I started printing things, my sci-fi loving wife’s eyes sparkled (more than normal) and she had a “we can replace every plastic piece in the house with something custom” moment. What I love about her is this was immediately followed by “you could drive someone mad with real subtle changes, too”. Yes. Indeed.

She is also very artistic and has a good eye for design (she is a photographer after all). She asked “if I draw something, can you print it?” to which I happily replied “of course!”. She wanted a “robotic bug of some-sort”. She sketched out a few fly/bee/moth things and I challenged myself to figure out the new interface to Blender 2.59 (which is horrible at first pass, but after 15 minutes I “got it” and think it is better than before). I ended up with moth-bee — a pretty simple object built from basic primitives and some judicious use of boolean modifiers.


This was also a good time to explore various metallic finishing options — traditional leaf, paint-on leaf, and metallic enamels (model paints). My first print was too small so we leafed it with some copper leaf we already had. It was very promising. I went to Michael’s and got a whole bunch more options and started tests. We really liked the “Flat Steel” model paint and it looked good on the back of the raft. However, after painting two layers on the second, larger moth-bee, it looked — gray. Shiny gray. Not what we wanted. However, what it did do was serve a good “primer” coat before silver leafing. This way if I missed any leaf, or it gets scratched off, it would look like unpolished metal. Not a total waste. I also went ahead and got some pin backs to glue to the back to turn these into broaches.

By the way — when i designed the bug in Blender, I knew that the printer would make these great patterns on it’s own, just as it lays down the plastic. I purposely built in sloping areas and faceted corners to make neat designs. This adds to the “robot” part of the bug, IMO.

So this project met my wife’s desire to see how we could use the printer for something other than mundane objects, and my desire to print something! It also was the first opportunity to talk to a “normal person” about 3D printing, as the landlord of our studio space came by and was blown away — “my reality has been shifted”. Very much so.

So, another day, another object (two, actually) entered the world, birthed from a spool of plastic, a little bit of time, and some imagination.

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