Dec 23, 2014 | By Simon

Although 3D printing has had a lot of exciting developments with new applications and materials, it's not very often where you hear about a designer, engineer or maker who has taken traditional 3D printing techniques and manipulated them into something truly revolutionary.

Artist and 3D printing enthusiast Mark Leonard, who specializes in custom interior work for high-end homes at Aztec, recently announced a how he used a complicated 3D printing technique to create a form factor that most people probably wouldn't imagine is able to be 3D printed: an entire broom including the bristles. While the actual body of the broom itself could be broken apart into smaller pieces to be 3D printed, the fact that he was able to print the bristles as well is simply mind-blowing.

In a Reddit post, Leonard further states that the project isn't about the broom, but the bristles, using a 3D printing technique called 'bridging':

"'s not about the broom. It's the concept of 3D printing fibers. I want people to come up with their own use of printing fibers!"

The technique, which Leonard also uses to create a paintbrush, is detailed in-full in a tutorial over on Spyder 3D. The Spyder 3D website, which is focused primarily on offering a platform for 3D print designers to upload and share their designs, has recently launched an online learning portal for learning about bridging and other complicated 3D printing techniques all spearheaded by Leonard.

"The global 3D printing community is connecting through Spyder 3D World and the knowledge sharing is expanding every day," said Joe Bloomfield, Spyder 3D World CEO. "This new section adds a technical perspective, provided by those who have learned from experience, to help enthusiasts achieve more with their 3D printers."

As for bridging and how Leonard has been able to achieve brush bristles on a 3D printer, the process begins by ensuring that your slicer settings are calibrated for the intended results that you desire. The height of each fiber should be set to whatever your desired print layer height is with thicker layer heights resulting in thicker bristles.

Using an 'end platform', which can be as simple as an offset rectangular block that is the same size as the area of the bristles, the material can be 'bridged' from the main body (either a broom base or the base of a paintbrush for example) over to the end platform with careful consideration being taken towards spacing the bristles so that they don't print against each other:

"Staggering each fiber column rather than having one on top of the other proved to yield better results than printing each fiber above one another," says Leonard. "It is best to have a fiber width and height distance from one another. For example, since the fibers we were printing was .4 mm x .2 mm, each fiber column was printed .4 mm away from the next and each fiber row was printed .2 mm away from the next."

Since the final prints are relatively thin, it is vital to use the proper print speed and temperature when using the bridging technique. As Leonard further outlines:

"To avoid shrinkage and cracking as a result of large ABS parts cooling too rapidly, we suggest that you only use fans during the bridging process with this type of filament. Settings that control when the fans are operational can be configured in most modern slicer programs."

His top recommendations include:

  • Adhesion is critical. As every strand adds more tension, the strands need to adhere perfectly.
  • Use a smaller nozzle and make sure it's clear because any clogging will cause the bridge to fail.
  • Adjust the slicing by managing the bridge flow ratio to control extrusion when the printer is bridging.
  • An end platform offset from the design object allows the bridges to connect.
  • Staggering each fiber column yields better results than printing each fiber above one another.
  • Z-Lift and Retraction settings must be set perfectly to avoid extra plastic expelling as the printer head travels.

"I learned so much from the open source 3D printing community and now want to pay it forward by sharing these techniques with others," said Leonard.

Here, you can see a timelapse of the bridging process in-action for another project of Leonard's:

While the broom and paintbrush designs are certainly impressive, they are not the first time that Leonard has used the bridging technique to help create compelling 3D prints.

Just two years ago, Leonard and the other artists he works with at Aztec were sculpting decorative interior elements by hand. Inspired by the 3D printing boom, Leonard then taught himself 3D modeling which he now uses today to create Aztec's interior decorations. The bridging technique has previously enabled him to create flexible and strong designs as a part of his work at Aztech. Learning how to 3D model and use these 3D printing techniques did not come easy, however.

"The 3D printer expanded the creative options we could offer clients, but the more complex designs created printing challenges, and it took months to develop the solutions," said Leonard.

In any case, it appears that Leonard has come a long way from his early days of learning how to use a 3D modeling program and 3D printer. Be sure to check out the rest of his impressive 3D prints that he has shared with the community over at his Spyder 3D Artist Profile page.

3D printed paintbrush


Posted in 3D Printing Technology


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AMnerd wrote at 12/30/2014 3:16:23 PM:

Nice! Finally an article that says what it means. The fact that the handle was not printed is trivial as it isn't the difficult part. Much respect to the creator of the broom.

3dKreashunz wrote at 12/25/2014 2:02:40 AM:

I did not print the handle!

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