Oct. 28, 2014 | By Alec

It goes without saying that 3D printing technology is a wonderful manufacturing technology that can be used to print just about anything. Any weird or original shapes and objects can be developed, as far as your imagination and creativity permits it. But what if that creativity takes you to seemingly hostile shapes, like cacti or microscopic viruses? Well sure, you can make these too. You could even make them edible, if you'd like.

That you can, has been proven by a very cool project by designer and artist Wei Li, the mastermind behind the Bold or Italic atelier. Bold or Italic works on a number of creative multi-media projects, including product design, art installations, set design, film and photography. As they stated, 'Bold or Italic combines provocative ideas and stimulating imagery to evoke eyegasms and metal warp'.

The San Francisco-based Li is a Product Design graduate from Stanford's, and seeks to push the boundaries of people's comfort zones with language and sensation. 'She hopes to evoke a direct emotional response from her audience and for them to become empowered enough to submit to their own fantasies.' And obviously, 3D printing is a great tool in such creative processes.

And this she has certainly achieved with the Dangerous Popsicles project. After all, who would want to lick a cactus or a sugary popsicle of HIV? Of course, these popsicles aren't themselves dangerous in any way, as it's just sugar and water in a shape that might be uncomfortable.

And that is what this project is all about: does our knowledge and preconceived notions about viruses and cacti affect our tastes and experiences? As they explained, 'Dangerous Popsicles are a collection of weird shaped popsicles inspired by cacti and life-threatening viruses. What will happen when we put these dangerous things on one of our most sensitive organs, our tongues? Does pain really bring pleasure? Is there beauty in user-unfriendly things?'

It's thus a thought-provoking and unique sensory experience. Do we taste with our tongue, or with our eyes and thoughts? Do the thoughts about MRSA, influenza, the chicken pox, Escherichia coli (colloquially known as e-coli) and HIV ruin the usually pleasant experience of eating a popsicle? Are we afraid a sugar-and-water cactus will sting us?

To answer these questions, the team from Bold or Italics heavily relied on 3D printing to develop these original shapes. Truth be told, the popsicles themselves aren't 3D printed. Instead, the Bold or Italics team used 3D printing technology to first create the shapes of the cacti and viruses.

These detailed prints were then used to create silicone molds, that served to create the frozen popsicles in. Fortunately, they shared all the steps on Instructables, so you can recreate your own if you'd like. Don't have access to silicone molds? Never fear. You can always 3D print some e-coli bacteria and use it as a paperweight. It would also make an interesting gift for anyone in the medical world.

Obviously, cacti and microscopic viruses tend to consist of pointy shapes, which can be challenging to turn into 3D models. This was finally achieved using the popular Rhino software, which also generated the STL files necessary for 3D printing. These files were then 3D printed using an Objet Connex 500 3D printer from Stratasys.

This resulted in a very detailed model, as can be expected from Stratasys 3D printers. As the designer commented, 'As you can see the model is very symmetrical, with a clear front and back (where the spikes are). So for our two-part mold the parting line will be the center line between the front and the back. If you're working with a more complex geometry, try to mark your parting line so that it avoids delicate details. Note that the parting line doesn't need to be on a flat plane.'

After the 3D printed objects were completed, these were used to develop casting molds. While this is a long and difficult process, you can try it yourself by following the steps shared in their Instructables. The team from Bold or Italics used Sorta Clear 40 to make the mould, that can be found in the web store from smooth-on.com.

After making the moulds, you can cast yourself some edible popsicles! As they went on to explain, 'Clean the mold thoroughly and wipe it dry with paper towel. Align the two parts and use some pressure on your hands to stick them together. Secure the mold with rubber bands.'

At this stage, you could give every virus a different flavor, as you can mix in whatever recipe you prefer. For these creations, however, a single recipe was used for all popsicles. After freezing for about 24 hours, they were ready to eat. As can be seen in the video, people were a bit intimidated by the virus-shaped popsicles, but we sadly don't know if the shape actually affected the tastes. What would a 3D printed e-coli popsicle taste like?

Also check out this short clip on the Dangerous Popsicles:

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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AMnerd wrote at 10/29/2014 10:26:21 AM:

You're eating silicone residue...

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