Oct. 15, 2014 | By Alec

Are you sure these are 3D printed? All of these beautiful insects have been printed in multiple parts. The last one, a Midge larva, consists of 14 separate components.

We've shared some amazing 3D printed objects recently, but have you ever seen creations as mind-blowingly impressive as these insects? They seem to be coming straight out of a Discovery Channel documentary, but that's not the case. Instead, they've been conceived by the incredibly talented Austrian artist and model-maker Klaus Leitl and his Form 1+ SLA 3D Printer.

Yes, this means it's definitely theoretically possible to recreate these highly impressive insects yourself, though you'll definitely need some experience and creative talents alongside one of these popular SLA printers. All of these showcase models have been closely modelled after nature itself – 'there is nothing better' – and enlarged up to 30 times in size. Some of these models are an impressive 53 inches long and consist of up to 22 separate components.

All this makes these some of the most awe-inspiring 3D creations we've seen, that definitely showcase the potential of the Form 1+ 3D printer. Leitl normally works for a number of (natural history) museums in Germany and Austria, where these wonderful models clearly belong.
Leitl explained to Formlabs that capturing details and collecting as many representations of the object in question is key to his success: 'I also draw sketches by hand using a binocular microscope so that I can recognize special features better and present them more clearly. Hand-drawn sketches are still the best way for me to really understand a model.' This information is subsequently used to create detailed 3D renderings using professional-grade software like zBrush, and Lightwave.

While being in this business for some time, Leitl only moved towards 3D printing rather recently. 'I've been interested in 3D printing for a number of years. But the price was much too high for the ordinary user. Since I was following the developments on the market, the Form 1 caught my attention on Kickstarter.[…] The transparent printing material was also especially important for me. So I became a Kickstarter backer.'

So far, and understandably so, Leitl has been very positive about the Form 1+ SLA 3D Printer, especially due to its relatively short production times. 'This is especially true of translucent models where a mold would have to be made. Since my models are usually checked by scientists, any corrections can be made much more easily and quickly on the computer. This reduces the amount of work quite a bit.'

Another great property of these printers is the easy reprinting options, which are obviously necessary for a perfectionist artist working with microscopes and scientists: 'I can build a model on the computer and print it out multiple times in different shapes and sizes thereby creating completely new, awesome, and impressive sceneries which would have been much more expensive or even impossible with conventional methods.'

How, as is the case with just about every 3D printer, these objects also need to undergo a post-printing phase. As Leitl explained, he has a particular process which gives his models that characteristic and impressive shimmering quality:

I use 2k epoxy glue to glue the individual parts together as needed. I think that the 2k epoxy glue holds better than laser (or light) cured resin. I sand very little and only where necessary, for instance, around the support structures. My models don't require a lot of sanding because I remove resin residues from the models in the IPA bath using a soft brush which also makes the surface a lot smoother.

The beautiful color schemes are realised using an airbrush (Schmincke, artists' colors), after which a finishing coat is applied. Depending on what Leitl has in mind, these can be a water-soluble acrylic coating, an enamel varnish or an extra layer of automotive paint.

In line with many reviews of the Form 1+ SLA printer, Leitl is very positive, and he shares some useful tips for other users:

When you use a new resin tank, run a small test print so that you can adjust the build platform precisely. It is important to check the model very carefully for any overhangs that may not have a support structure. In locations with a "suction cup effect," it is absolutely necessary to provide small air vents. Make sure the orientation is correct. When printing, use the smallest possible wall thickness and make a hollow print, if possible.

And finally, he advises everyone to perform cleaning and maintenance routines after each printing session. You can check out more of his inspiring designs on his website here.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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