Jan 20, 2016 | By Benedict
One of the most exciting aspects of 3D printing is its ability to unleash the creative potential inside technical-minded people. 3D printing technology requires a computer-literature mind, but combine that technical skill with artistic freedom and wonderful things can happen. Just look at the story of Vicky Somma, a Virginia programmer who has created a range of stunning 3D printed ornaments after taking a chance with 3D printing.
When Vicky decided to try her hand at 3D design, her computational experience gave her a big head-start. Tackling 3D design software Blender proved a simple task for the experienced programmer, who was able to design a 3D printed charm for her favorite locket. Not having a 3D printer of her own, Vicky sent the design off to Shapeways, who printed the design before sending the physical object back to Vicky in the mail. “That was enough to get me addicted to 3D printing,” the maker said of that exciting formative experience.
Vicky continued to employ the services of Shapeways until April 2015, when her supportive family surprised her with Simplify3D software and her very own 3D printer: A MakerGear M2. With these tools at the ready, Vicky was inspired to create even more 3D printable designs, which she could now print in her own home. At first, the promising maker 3D printed bits and bobs for family and friends, but she soon realized that her wares were good enough to be sold. Following this epiphany, Vicky soon designed a range of decorative magnets, coasters, ornaments, and other keepsakes to sell on Etsy and at local craft fairs.
The largest body of work within Vicky’s 3D printed output is her “3D printed aviary”, a collection of 3D printed bird designs which can be hung around the house, on bird feeders or anywhere the owner chooses. Many of these delightful avian 3D prints feature several colors, despite Vicky’s 3D printer having only a single extruder. The secret to this colorfulness lies not in painting the printed flock, but in clever software manipulation: First, Vicky creates multiple print processes within Simplify3D, one for each filament color. Then she uses Layer Modification settings to tell the 3D printer to start and stop at certain layer heights. For example, take her monarch butterfly design: the first process would print the first few millimeters in orange, then stop so Vicky can change filament. The second process would print the next few millimeters in white, and so on until the object is complete.
Discovering this technique has opened up a world of creative possibilities for Vicky. “Before, I would manually pause the prints to change filament colors, which meant I had to stay pretty closely tethered to the printer—less than optimal when you are parenting small children,” she explained. “Now I let my process run and finish on its own, and I start the next color on my time. It’s made me a much more engaged mother to my 4-year-old and my 2-year-old!”
3D printing her virtual creations has earned the talented maker some extra cash, but has also given her something more important: A sense of empowerment. Vicky even has some words of advice for amateur makers looking to follow in her footsteps: She recommends keeping a spreadsheets of prints, in order to keep track of what works and what doesn’t.
“Don’t be afraid of failed prints,” she adds. “This is not a medium to be afraid of failures. This is a medium to embrace failure! Everyone has them. Everyone. Even super-high tech companies with industrial printers have them. Still afraid of failed prints? The only sure-fire technique I’ve found -- get yourself a toddler. They don’t care if your overhangs are sloppy or if you have a stringy print. They’ll play with everything—good prints, bad prints, rafts, support material, skirt remnants, you name it. Everything is a successful print to a toddler.”
With Vicky’s 3D printed birds flying off the shelves, there are clearly opportunities out there for amateur designers to make a quick buck through 3D printing.
Posted in 3D Software
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