Jan 29, 2015 | By Simon

If there’s one thing that the 3D printer marketplace is missing... it’s most certainly a steampunk-inspired 3D printer that is built in to a vintage suitcase.

For professional watchmaker and spreadsheet geek John Davis - who is currently just learning the “ins and outs of 3d printing” - creating an exposed gear and vintage time traveler-inspired 3D printer came naturally.

After deciding that he wanted to stain the wood of his Printrbot GO (which naturally comes in a wood suitcase housing), he decided that he wasn’t necessarily pleased with the results.

"I wasn’t thrilled with the color or consistency of the stain, partially because I just left it on too long and partially because birch plywood just doesn’t take stain all that great as I had read” said Davis. 



Struggling with finding a way to make his newly-stained have its own sense of identity, Davis began to look at how people perceive 3D printers as a whole and even compares them to other household items including televisions and microwaves.

“If you think of a TV, or a microwave or just a simple chair even, you immediately have a mental picture of what that is and then when you see one in real life you understand how the example you’re looking at diverges from the vague idea of a TV, a microwave or a chair that you have in your head.”

With consumer 3D printers though he argues, we don’t yet have a collective vision of “what it is” from an aesthetic standpoint both because the technology is still relatively new and because so many different companies have developed their own aesthetic regarding what a 3D printer should look like.  For example, MakerBot produces large black boxes with chamfered edges whereas Formlabs presents their 3D printer as a minimalist and futuristic aluminum box with a bright orange canopy on top. 

Since his Printrbot was naturally a wooden suitcase of sorts, Davis explored the possibility of mashing up the concept of an old suitcase with a 3D printer and came to the conclusion that a steampunk (or retro-futurist) aesthetic was what he wanted go after.  The reason came partially because he had an appreciation for gears and timepieces as a professional watchmaker, however he also wanted to include some old-school weather instruments to measure temperature, humidity and barometric pressure as a way of measuring the 3D printer’s performance.  After scouring parts for his build on both Amazon and eBay, Davis decided on a “nautical” antique weather station.   

“I did also consider the inclusion of a compass and/or astrolabe until I reminded myself that this is not actually a device for travelling through space and time. Not physically anyway,” he added.  

After disassembling the parts he needed, Davis drew up some mounts in OpenSCAD, 3D printed them, and mounted them to his stained Printrbot to finalize the steampunk aesthetic.

“Upon installing these arguably functional geegaws, I obtained some level of peace with this weird machine.  It’s still not quite there yet as far as adding spoilers, ground effects and tinted windows goes, but it’s close enough so as to at least hint at what it wants to be.”

Davis has continued to develop his Printrbot mod and you can track his build progress over at his personal blog.  


Posted in 3D Printers


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