Dec 16, 2015 | By Alec

While we love next gen technology, there is something about those age-old artisanal crafts, such as bookbinding that is very attractive – it makes objects so much more precious and special. The only problem is that they’re typically very time-consuming and require a high skill level, so it’s only for the dedicated hobbyists and professionals. However, as Dutch craftsman Luc Volders explains to, there’s no reason why those age-old crafts can’t benefit from technologies like 3D printing without sacrificing their artisanal nature. And that is essentially what Luc Volders, who is a bookbinding hobbyist, has done. While he still does all the work by hand, he has found a way to use 3D printing to greatly simplify and speed up one of the most difficult aspects of the hobby: making embossed covers.

For those of you who don’t know what we’re talking about, an embossed cover is one of those book covers with an imprinted relief – often featuring an elaborate display depicting the story inside or even just artwork that emphasizes the special or valuable nature of the book. “One of the most difficult things to do as a hobby bookbinder is to make a cover with relief (also called embossed). I made some of them and it was a tedious job which I never really got right,” Luc Volder explains. “It involves tedious carving of carton in which a lot can go wrong and then you will have to start all over. This makes it very labor intensive. I made [the example below] by carving out the letters with a knife. Then I glued the artificial leather on the carton and pressed it in using the letters I carved out. It was minutious work and a mistake was easily made. Besides that my carving isn't the best so to say the least: the result was lousy.”

But Luc has many talents and is also involved in building, and playing with, 3D printers. Having built his own Prusa I2 in the past and now working on a delta 3D printer, he decided to try and find out how 3D printing could help. What’s more, he found that you cannot only use a 3D printer in bookbinding, it also makes the production of those elaborate covers far simpler.

Fortunately, he was happy to explain the process in detail. The first step, he explains, is to find the exact font or image you want to emboss on your book. “Best way to do that is just to search free fonts with Google,” he says. You then have to transport that image into 3D printing software, so the easiest thing you could do is simply take a screenshot of whatever font you want to use – Luc went for Janda Elegant Handwriting. Saving the cut out text as a JPG, he converted the file into SVG using a free online conversion tool.

Now it’s going somewhere, as this file can be opened in 3D printing software such as Tinkercad. “Create a new design. Next choose  import and import your SVG file. Now scale your subject and make sure that you adjust the height to a maximum of 2 millimeters. You can experiment with this but the height needs to be in pace with the elasticity of the material you are going to use to make your cover with,” Luc explains. That file can then be saved as STL and you can use your regular 3D printing steps to get a tangible result.

But it’s not quite done yet. After having let the model dry properly, glue the text to a cardboard surface, which will be the board. Let that set for a full day before getting your book out. “When the text glued to the carton is completely dry put glue on the complete plate. make sure you do not forget any corners or curves because we want the leather to stick very well to the carton. Now put the (artificial) leather on the glued surface,” Luc explains. This needs to be placed in a bookpress, with some pressing foam, for at least another 24 hours. And as tight as possible, of course.

While this does involve a few extra steps, the process is far less time consuming while the result is perfect every time. “You can use this with fonts, frames and drawings. Use it on book covers, boxes, gift cards etc. Use your imagination,” Luc adds. Perhaps perfect for a special Christmas gift?



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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