Nov 15, 2015 | By Tess

The sky is the limit for what can be created using 3D printing technology, as we continue to see makers and innovators from around the globe develop incredible devices and designs using additive manufacturing. One of these innovators, PhD student Laura Devendorf, has recently taken this creative freedom to a whole new level as she has created a 3D printer that can be used outdoors, under the actual sky.

Devendorf’s project, entitled “3D Print En Plein Air” is an exploration of digital fabrication and its environments. Typically, digital fabrication processes such as 3D design and printing are done in front of a computer in a lab or at a desk, in relocating this process to the outdoors and into nature, Devendorf has made an effort to challenge and engage the senses of the maker. As she explains, “The project explores ways that we can get out of the lab, engage our senses, and combine digital manufacturing workflows with the vibrance and unpredictability of the physical world.”

3D Print en Plein Air is essentially a portable 3D printing easel that can be set up whether you’re in a field, backyard, mountain, or forest and combines aspects of 3D printing technology with handcrafting. In order to work, the system uses the easel, a laser guide and mobile app, along with building materials such as clay and other sculpting tools. The mobile app can capture images of the surrounding environment and turn them into ready to make 3D models. Once the desired 3D model has been achieved, the data from it is sent to the laser, which guides the maker’s hand by tracing the path a 3D printer would take to additively manufacture the object. Using a remote control button the user can tell the laser when they are ready for the next building step.

The Instructables guide explains exactly how to build and assemble the 3D Print en Plein Air system for anyone interested in taking their maker skills into nature, combining additive manufacturing technology with the hands on approach of sculpting.

The first steps consist of adapting a painting easel to fit the components of the 3D printer. The modifications include making a support for the laser mount, making a build platform, which is not unlike a print bed, and assembling the laser guide housing. Once the easel has been properly adapted, the electronics and laser guide can be assembled and placed into their housings.

The parts necessary to build the electronics consists of the following:

  • 5V Arduino Pro Mini
  • 2400 mAH, 3.7V Lithium Polymer Battery
  • Adafruit PowerBoost 1000
  • 4 Button Radio Receiver
  • 4 Button RF Remote
  • SparkFun Blue SMiRF Silver
  • Rocker Switch
  • Laser Diode
  • 2 x HiTech HS-55 Servo

The diagram below details the assembly instructions for the wiring.

For the laser guide, which is responsible for moving the laser to show where to build the object, the parts necessary include:

  • 2 HiTec HS-55 Servo motors
  • 1 Laser Diode
  • 1/4" 20 Hex Nut
  • Custom 3D Printed Pan Tilt Bracket
  • 4 Screws (to attach servos to bracket)
  • 4 Hex Nuts (to attach servos to bracket)

The detailed process of this assembly can be found on the Instructables page.

Once the assembly and wiring of the electronics and laser guide are completed they can be easily placed within their housing compartments which have been built into the modified easel. From there, the Arduino code can be uploaded to get the laser going, though some modifications and fine tuning may have to be made in order to get the laser pointed at the center of the build platform.

The next steps consist of installing the app created by Devendorf, and setting up Bluetooth to get the app running. Devendorf used Cordova to build the app, and has included the code necessary to run the software on your device in the Instructables. Once the app is running on a device it functions to convert images captured through the smartphone’s camera into 3D models using the following parameters: profile, number of sides, and twist.

In her use of the project, Devendorf used clay to build up her object by pre-rolling the material into coils between 5-10mm in diameter. With her material prepped she gradually built up her object layer by layer, just as a 3D printer would, following the moving laser on the build-platform until the object is complete. A video of the process can be seen below:

Laura Devendorf is a PhD student at the UC Berkeley School of Information and completed her 3D Print En Plein Air project as a part of the Autodesk Artist-in-Residence program, which allows for artists and makers to develop their projects in a creative environment and eventually share them with the DIY community.



Posted in 3D Printer



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John Q wrote at 12/10/2015 5:11:27 PM:

No matter the scene she makes the same little square piece of clay. Seems like a waste of time.

itsnotlevel wrote at 12/8/2015 5:05:44 PM:

Yeah....I dont get of the purposes of cnc machines are the accuracy and automation of making a part. This just a laser telling the person what to you dont have to think. If youre making stuff with your hands, thinking and creativity are things you would

yzorg wrote at 11/16/2015 2:28:12 PM:

Now this changes everything! From 3D printing back to Laserguided clay-modeling... by hand. yay!

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