Jun 9, 2016 | By Tess

Once in awhile, we will come across a 3D printed design that, while admittedly not having any immediate function, is just too cool not to write about. This is the case with maker Kurt Plagge, who has designed a series of seriously stunning and modular 3D printed cubes. These are not just any cubes, however, as each piece he 3D prints is a fully articulated object, with parts that expand, move, and change the cube’s surface in a truly amazing way. And, whether you believe it or not, each cube was printed as is, with no post-assembly, and no glue or screws.

Iowa native Kurt Plagge, who has a varied background in studying architecture, graphic design, computer graphics, and 3D modeling, currently works in IT project management and security. While his day job does not deal explicitly with 3D design and printing, Plagge has continued to pursue additive manufacturing on his spare time, a hobby which he has turned out to be quite successful at. As the hobbyist maker explains, many of his past experiences, working as a draftsman, and making complex articulated parts from traditional architectural materials such as tiles, stones, and even cardboard prepared him for the world of 3D printing.

The maker, who now uses advanced 3D printing technologies like laser sintering and materials like Polyamide to create his intricate cubes, began his foray into the growing technology through 3D modeling software SketchUp. As he explains in an interview, “It astounds me that I can use a program downloaded for free from the internet, create something purely out of my imagination, send it off to a 3D printer, hold it in my hands, and it’s exactly what I imagined and worked on so long on, down to every last detail.” It is this aspect of the technology, he explains, that encourages him to design and create more complex objects, like the ones we see here.

The Articulated Cube 5, Kurt’s newest creation

Laser sintering 3D printing process

Plagge has certainly capitalized on laser sintering technology, which through its detailed precision, has allowed him to create his amazing fully 3D printed articulated cubes. That is, by having a laser sinter minuscule granules of Polyamide together to create the 3D model, exact spaces and precise gaps can be left which allow the cube to have moving and adjustable parts.

Of course, the process is not quite as easy as just removing the part from the 3D printer and having it articulate right away. As Plagge explains, the cubes are printed in their closed position, and after the print is complete it will usually take him several hours to remove the powder that is trapped inside the cube, and only after that removal will the parts be able to move. The design process itself, he says, can take him anywhere between 40 and 120 hours.

The Articulated Cube 4

The Articulated Cube 2 was 3D printed in Alumide

The amount of time, however, does not seem so surprising when you consider the amount of detail that goes into each cube. Not only built to be articulated and expanded, each piece of his 3D printed puzzle has a distinctive design, featuring small tongue in cheek details such as peace signs, or alien shapes, not to mention numerous architectural elements. Plagge explains that constraining himself to the cube format  and staying within certain bounds allows for these small intricacies to be realized. He says, “once I decide on a size, they provide a constraint so I can focus on the details and not concern myself with the infinite other shape options.”

Plagge has created a number of the 3D printed articulated cubes, each of which was additively manufactured in collaboration with 3D printing service i.materialise. Check each one out here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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