Over the last year, I have been spending some time modeling sculptures and 3D printing them. This included some utilitarian parts for my racing drones, some photogrammetry-modeled classical sculptures (more on that another time), and some original sculptures. I’ve been pursuing simple expressive shapes, trying to avoid the 3d printing tropes that make everything look like clever, twisted meshes.
Kato is a result of that: a cat made from five ovoids, with character. After the initial prototypes in PLA and similar materials, I got nice material quality results with a woodfill PLA which makes the print feel like balsa. Biofila Linen, based on lignin, was another great choice, creating a hard print that does not feel like a plastic. I then uploaded the model to Shapeways, for printing in porcelain clay, which was then glazed and fired. The result is something entirely different from a home 3d print: a little sculpture. A heavy, solid, refined object.
The metal materials offered on Shapeways are interesting too. Those require a hollow model though, to keep things (relatively) affordable. I’m ordering some prototypes.
Kato can be ordered from my Shapeways store.
I have been using Shapeways’ printing services since 2008 or so for various projects. One uploads a model, picks a material, and receives a print in the mail, billed by the cubic centimeter of material, from plastic to platinum. Shapeways offers print material options and quality that can’t be matched by maker-level 3d printers. There also is an active community, and one can set up a store. What Shapeways does not have is curation. Everyone can upload and sell anything, as long as it prints well. This is, of course, the right thing to do. As a side effect, the art-related categories
are loaded with thrash – I mean to say: contain some things that are liked by people other than me.
Regarding Affordable 3D Printers
…In case you are considering getting one: I bought a used Makerfarm Prusa i3v on Craigslist. It was a great deal on a well-designed open source printer. The thing to understand about open source maker-level 3d printers is the following: they are not appliances. They demand a relationship. Using such a machine means experimenting, troubleshooting, tuning and upgrading software and hardware. A well-tuned cheap printer rewards the owner with great results (which hold their own against systems that cost five times as much) – until it doesn’t, and then circle starts anew. It’s a form of fun.